'alt.clueless' opening comments by Rich Lynch; title 
  illo by Sheryl Birkhead
You can see by our colophon that we now have another way of receiving letters of comment on Mimosa. Earlier this year, we decided to subscribe to a local service that offers access to the Internet world-wide computer network. For the $150 a year that it costs, we can send and receive electronic mail all over the world. As a comparison, for $92 a year, we rent a one cubic foot hole-in-the-wall at the Germantown Post Office for hardcopy mail (and we still have to buy stamps).

But there's more. By subscribing to the Internet, we also gain access to the Usenet discussion/user/news groups. For those who aren't familiar with Usenet, here's a brief, oversimplified description: think of a fanzine or amateur press association (apa) which you're familiar with and that's centered around a single, discrete topic. Now, imagine that, instead of appearing as a set of stapled pages, it exists only as a series of text files on some remote computer (but one which you can still easily access through your own computer's modem). Now stretch your conception of this fan forum: instead of appearing every two, three, or six months, imagine that it appears daily, hourly -- or even that new articles and letters of comment (or their equivalent) are constantly being posted by the large number of readers (including yourself). Finally, envision that instead of just one electronic apa on one specific topic, there are hundreds, on almost every topic you can imagine. That's Usenet.

If you think that there is probably lots of information available on Usenet, you're right -- too right. If you need information on any specific topic, chances are there's someone in one of the user groups who'll have it. But there's far too much in Usenet for any one person to be able to assimilate. Luckily, each of the several hundred user groups has a descriptive name that identifies it with a specific topic, which makes it easy to decide which groups not to bother with.

It turns out that there are several sf fandom-related user groups (such as rec.arts.sf.fandom) available on Usenet, as well as other related groups devoted to separate aspects of the science fiction genre, like movies and books. Besides these sf-related newsgroups, I regularly browse through other groups that have ongoing discussions of interest. In the sci.energy user group, for instance, there's postings of interest to my professional alter ego of Program Manager of Advanced Power Systems at the U.S. Department of Energy. But there are also quite a few newsgroups devoted to recreational topics like television, movies, sports, cooking, music, and crafts.

There are so many user groups on Usenet, that, quite literally, there's one for practically any subject you can think of. Looking through our Mimosa mailing list for this issue I note that Lon Atkins, for instance, might be interested in the sci.aeronautics group, while Lynn Hickman might be more attracted by alt.pulp. Eric Lindsay may already know about the aus.sf group, while Terry Jeeves might like to browse through the soc.culture.british discussion group and Marty Helgesen might be drawn to the soc.religion.christian group. Arthur Hlavaty might be tempted to check out alt.sex.wizards, while Timothy Lane & the rest of the FOSFAX gang could very well be mesmerized by alt.fan.rush-limbaugh. Dean Grennell could get into rec.guns, and we all might find out some things about our favorite pastimes in rec.collecting and alt.beer.

You name it, it's there. There's something for just about everybody on the net, all the way from sci.astro.hubble to *shudder* alt.karaoke. It ranges from the prosaic (talk.philosophy.misc) to the undescribable (alt.exploding.kibo).

With all that information bombarding you from every direction, maybe it's unsurprising that there are people who seem to be overwhelmed by it all. It's pretty often that you come across a posting for, say, information about Star Trek in a discussion group about upstate New York (one instance that comes immediately to mind was the person who kept complaining about the postal service in the alt.fan.letterman group). It turns out there's a special newsgroup intended for these terminally fogged-in people: alt.clueless. Now, whenever Nicki or I come across a person who's life appears to be ruled by the laws of chance (and there seems to be a lot of these, lately), we say to each other, "There's someone who belongs in alt.clueless."

# # # #

And here we are with a new issue of Mimosa. It doesn't seem like it's been more than a dozen years since the first issue. I didn't have a clue back in 1981 that we'd still be publishing all these years later; I remember all too well that it took us five years to even get the second issue out. Since then, preservation of fan history has become almost a crusade, and a driving force for continuing to publish. Right now, there are still far too many bits of history out there that need preserving to even consider putting the mimeograph out to pasture.

Actually, though, there is one thing that might affect our future fan publishing intentions -- the cost. Commercial printing, at least here in the Washington, D.C. area, is just too damned expensive to even consider (I think that all the quick print shops here must be in cahoots with each other). So for now, that means Nicki and I have to drink a toast every New Year's Eve to the continued good health of our ancient Gestetner. And we've also got to hope that a supply of the soft-and-fuzzy paper (which is still the best stuff available for mimeo) stays available.

But speaking of soft and fuzzy, I've got to make sure I leave enough room for the Chat cartoon below, and this looks like a good place to stop. Now that we've got e-mail service, I'm looking forward to seeing some of you on the net, perhaps to talk about fan history and preservationism. Don't, however, expect me to speculate about what the next dozen years might hold.

On that topic, I'm clueless...

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Chat cartoon by Teddy Harvia
Title illustration by Sheryl Birkhead
Chat cartoon by Teddy Harvia

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