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Bento 7 - "immigrants"

Welcome to Bento 7!

Welcome to Bento, the Big Little Fanzine, the fanzine where science fiction fandom and gay square dancing meet. Bento 7 is a Bento Press production from

David Levine and Kate Yule


A man and a woman stand on a gangplank, about to descend into the teeming throngs of the street below. Their clothing and accents mark them as foreigners. A banner overhead reads "Welcome to Windows 95."

"Papa, I'm scared."

"I'm scared too, Mama. But we had to come here, you know that. There were no jobs left in the Old Country. But this... this is the Land of Opportunity."

"I know, I know. But there are so many people here! And everything moves so fast!"

"One hundred and sixty-six megahertz! That's progress! In the Old Country, we had barely sixteen megahertz, and not one-tenth the hard disk space. Here we have room to breathe! That is why there are so many people here—because there is room to grow! And everything is so cheap here! Look CD-ROMs for only thirty dollars!"

"Cheap? Five thousand dollars it cost us to come to this place! And we had to leave behind all our possessions, all our treasured memories!"

"Not all. Some of our documents are compatible." He pats his tattered suitcase. "And we will find new applications—clean and bright, and full of features!"

"But we barely speak the language! Where will we get money for new applications?"

"I am a trained UNIX engineer, Mama. There is always employment for a man with a good head on his shoulders." But there is worry in his eyes. "Anyway, the language here is not so different. It could be worse—five years ago there were no icons here, no menus, no windows. We would have had to shorten our names! But today, you could almost imagine yourself back in the Old Country." He puts on a brave smile and hugs Mama around the shoulders. They descend into the street.

*    *    *

"Any luck today, Papa?"

He stomps the snow off his boots. "I'm afraid not. So many books I saw! But all so poorly written! And nothing for a man like me. Windows for Dummies, they have. Windows for Idiots. Windows for Morons. Windows for Pinheads they have! Happy little comic books with pictures! This much I learned in my first week off the boat. Where is Windows for Mac Wizards? Why is there no Windows-Macintosh, Macintosh-Windows Dictionary?"

"Here, have some more online help. It's really quite good."

"It's not bad. But I find it unsatisfying. First, you must know the question to ask, and if you do not have the words to ask, there are no answers. I would rather have something I can browse by the fire in the quiet evenings. And the online help will never warn us about the bugs."

"Bugs." She shudders. "So many bugs here. How can they stand it?"

"Mama, Mama... you know we had bugs in the Old Country."

"Yes... but at least we knew where they were."

He stares out the window into the falling snow. "We knew before we came here that it would be difficult. So much to learn! In the Old Country, it was easy because we grew up there. Life was so simple when we were first starting out. Though it got more complex as we grew up, we could learn each new thing as it came along. But here we have twenty years of history to learn in a day!" He squares his shoulders and turns back to Mama. "Never mind. How was your day?"

"Not so bad. I worked with Windows before we came here, you know. Of course, Word isn't WordPerfect...."

"I'm sorry, Mama. I don't like it either, but everyone says we need to learn Word. It's the only way our children will have a chance for compatibility."

*    *    *

"Mama, are you asleep?"


"I can't sleep. I was thinking about Michael. And Ken and Peter, and Allan and Margie. All our old friends. We might never see them again."

"Don't say that. We might see them tomorrow."

He sighs. "Even if we saw them tomorrow it wouldn't be the same. Back in the Old Country, we were comrades in adversity. How we would laugh as the wind howled through the cracks in the door! But now I have abandoned them. I have become the enemy."

"Oh, Papa. You aren't the enemy; you're just a man who got out while the getting was good. Remember how hard it was to find new software back home? I had to stand in line for hours for a word processor, and we all had to share one spreadsheet. Here the stores are full of software. I'm sure Ken and Michael would understand. They may even join us here someday."

"I doubt it. Can you imagine Michael here? No, we will have to make new friends."

"But the people here are not as friendly. This country is so big! We were so few back home, we all had to pull together, work together. Everyone worked the same way. Here everyone is different, and if you are no use you will soon be tossed aside. Look at poor WordPerfect! No, you mustn't forget your old friends. You should write to Michael in the morning."

"Yes, I will write to Michael." He snorts. "I think I still remember how to use BinHex."

"Good night, Papa."

"Good night, Mama."

*    *    *

"Mama, come look at this! I have connected to the Lands' End Catalog website!"

She enters, drying her hands on her apron. "Oh! What a pretty dress! And so colorful!"

"We could never have seen this back home. We had so little bandwidth, and everything was black and white. Now, my love, you will never have to settle for text-only again!"

"We could have had color if we wanted it. And a better modem."

"Yes, but here everyone has color and fast modems! And this is only a small part of the World-Wide Web. Wait till you see the rest! Sounds! Movies! Virtual realities! All for free! Truly this is the Land of Opportunity!"

"Hmm." They browse the site for a time. "I suppose I could get used to this." She turns to him with a smile. "Dearest... there's something I've been meaning to ask you."

He raises an eyebrow. "Oh?"

"Now that we are settled here in the New World, do you think we could perhaps think about... pubbing another zine?"

"A zine? A zine of our own? A new issue? Here in the Land of Opportunity?"

"Yes, sweetness!"

"Oh, Liebchen!"

They embrace.

*    *    *

Bento 7 was produced on a Micron Home MPC with a 166-MHz Pentium processor, 16 MB of RAM, 2.1 GB of disk, a Wacom ArtPad II tablet, and a Hewlett-Packard LaserJet 5 printer. Software used included Windows 95, Microsoft Word 7.0, FrameMaker 4, and a motley assortment of image-editing programs. Our faithful Mac IIcx, on which previous Bentos were produced, has been put out to pasture in the attic. —DDL


I woke up this morning to the sound of my alarm not going off.


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