Challenger - Return Home   A Science Fiction Fanzine   Spring/Summer 2003


 THE
IS
OF 

         Artist: Steve Stiles, copyright 2003

 
 
The Moon itself is different from the land downunder.

I am not kidding. When you’re south of the equator, when you’re in the wonderful magical land of Oz, the Man on the Moon doesn’t peer down and to the left as he does in America. He looks right at you. It’s a bit disconcerting. It’s wondrous.

La belle Rose-Marie and I spent three splendid weeks in Oz - Australia - as the U.S. delegates to the 2003 Australian National SF Convention, courtesy of the Down Under Fan Fund, DUFF. And yes, the sky is different there. You see stars you’ve never seen before. You see Alpha Centauri. You see the Southern Cross.

It was ... well, wondrous. We still coast high from the joy of the experience - and stagger under the tonnage of our gratitude.

We’ll be writing up and publishing a detailed, illustrated report on our journey as part of our duties to DUFF. We’ll be conducting auctions, raffles and sales of various Sfnal goodies to restore the fund for the next lucky winners. All this will occur in time.

But here and now in Challenger - issue #18, summer of 2003 - we can express a bit of our joy and let spout some of our thanks.

Thank you, Bill Wright, for our picnic at Hanging Rock - even though we almost never made it down. Thank you, Robin Johnson, for the Batavia in Fremantle, and the quokkas of Rottnest Island. Thanks for the fresh bread and crash space, Cathy Cupitt and Scott, and for everything connected with Swancon, thank you, Craig Stephenson. Thank you, conventioneers, for fetching the ice for our party, and thank you, David Cake, for showing us koalas and kangaroos - at last.

Lucy Sussex, Julian Warner, ten thousand thanks for letting strangers use your house while you were away. Thanks several times to Alan Stewart, for meeting us at the Melbourne airport and taking me to the footy game.

Thanks - again, and forever - to Craig and Julia Hilton for the futon, for the fire fountains, for showing us the platypodes and even “Ron Jeremy.” Donna Hanson, thanks for sharing your birthday dinner, for Alpha Centauri, and Bello Camillo, and to Tony’s sister Pat Gibbs, thanks for the elegance of Parliament House and the majesty of Tidbinbilla.

A volley of thanks to Nick Stathapoulos for enduring unexpected visitors for the second week in a row, for giving us Sydney, its Opera House and Botanic Gardens, not to mention Mr. Squiggles. How can we ever thank Marilyn, the Pride of the Blue Mountains, for her magical home, or Sue Batho for the cliff overlooking the Jamison Valley and Mount Solitude, or the both of you for the trip “just up the road” to the home and gallery and spirit of Norman Lindsay?

Of course, there are dozens - hundreds - millions of Australians more to thank, and much much more to thank these few mentioned for. (Boy, is that a sentence. Is that a sentence?) Basically, we thank them being themselves, the funny and friendly folks of Australia, a country where cleanliness, warmth, humor and affability reign, a country of pretty turf, amazing critters, heroic history, and let’s hope, a grand future.

Oz is!


My urge is to turn this whole issue of Challenger over to the Australian trip. We brought back so many great memories, so many fine photos (we’d’ve had more if my camera would have worked consistently) that restraining myself has been almost impossible. So you’ll find at least one article and several pages of pictures that I probably should have held for the DUFF report. But there is more. Loyal Chall pals Mike Resnick and Greg Benford chime in with travel stories of their own. Poet Michael Estabrook, E.B. Frohvet, Trinlay Khadro, and Terry Jeeves - not to mention our lettercol chorus - add immeasurably to the mix. And although I’d rather not, I must relate a story bound to bring the whole issue down to Earth. But before we get to all that, an event and a eulogy, tightly connected ...

On June 3, 2003, a TV clip aired show called The 100 Greatest Movie Heroes and Villains of All Time. The American Film Institute had polled its members for the listing. Not expecting much of either sense or sensibility, we watched it off and on, mainly to see where our favorites ranked.

Of course, the finest of all movie characters wouldn’t show at all. How would you classify Charles Foster Kane? But many terrific cinematic people fit in nicely - for instance, Will Kane , Gary Cooper’s invincible marshal from High Noon (and Charlie’s grandfather?). We watched and wondered, who would be at the top?

My two favorite movie menaces, Hannibal Lecter and Norman Bates, came out first and second in AFI’s villains listing. I would have reversed that ranking, but maybe AFI felt that Lecter could make Norman cry. Okay, what about movie heroes? James Bond, to my astonishment, ranked third, behind Indiana Jones. That, I felt, was ludicrous. We waited for the announcement of the top spot. Rose-Marie mentioned a name that we hadn’t heard yet, but I refused to believe that the movie people could have that much subtlety, sensitivity, and class. Then the familiar theme from To Kill a Mockingbird came on ... and I was abashed.

The American Film Institute had named Atticus Finch as the #1 film hero of all time.

That character changed my life. I saw To Kill a Mockingbird in 1962, when I was 12 years old. Atticus’ speech to the jury started me thinking that someday I might want to be a lawyer. Watching the film on tape for the thousandth time, just recently, I noted how beautifully the role was played - the way in which Finch said his simplest, yet most resonant line, “I’ll take the case”; how the actor allowed an edgy nervousness to infuse the courtroom scenes; how humanity never seemed more attainable than in the scenes with Scout, Finch’s daughter - and I felt again the call to justice not as an ideal, but as, in Finch’s words, “a living, breathing reality.” I remembered that, no matter how poorly I practice it, mine is a profession to take pride in. To Kill a Mockingbird and Atticus Finch set me on its path.

Californian, Berkeleyan, liberal, gentleman, Gregory Peck died on June 12, 2003. Californian, Berkeleyan, liberal, someday a gentleman, I try to honor him whenever I defend a guy.

 

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