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Letters to the SF Site

The SF Site tries hard to keep our numerous lists -- on everything from Conventions to Author Pages, Role-Playing Games and great Web 'Zines -- as current as possible. But frankly, we can't do it without your help. If you find an SF site or sites we're unaware of, or (God forbid) a dead link in one of our existing pages, please don't hesitate to let us know.

To: Neil Walsh
From: Lou Aronica, Publisher

The Many Shapes of Ray Bradbury

Lou Aronica
Photo: Gary Kane
Thanks for your thoughtful recent review of Ray Bradbury ["Bringing Back Bradbury"; SF Insite, Mid-June 1998]. I'm sorry you felt that our publishing plan wasn't particularly reader-friendly, but I'm afraid it's the best we can do with what we have to work with. As part of our deal in bringing Ray over from Knopf, we were able to acquire the hardcover rights to some of his classic backlist. In 1999, we will publish hardcover editions of Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes and The October Country. Unfortunately, we can't publish most of these books in paperback, as Bantam and Ballantine own those rights. As you know, we did buy the paperback rights to Something Wicked This Way Comes and have already published that edition.

The books we are publishing in trade paperback are books that neither Ray nor I felt would sustain a significant audience in hardcover. We're doing a trade edition of Green Shadows, White Whale in the fall and then Earth is a Lonely Business in early 99. Our feeling here was that his readers would appreciate beautiful trade paper editions rather than mass market editions.

With the original Bradbury books we are publishing, our plan is to first publish these in hardcover, followed a year later by a mass market edition and ultimately by trade paper editions in our trade paper format.

I know this seems like a patchwork publishing program, but it really is the best we can do. Under the best circumstances, Ray's books would be available in uniform hardcover, trade paper and mass market editions so readers could choose how to collect his work. Unfortunately, since these rights are with different publishers, this isn't possible.

[Lou Aronica, Senior Vice President and Publisher of Avon/EOS, is one of the most respected editors in the business. While at Bantam he created the much-respected Bantam Spectra imprint, and also launched the hugely successful Star Wars book program in the early 90s. He also started the groundbreaking Full Spectrum anthology series.]

Thanks for the info. I think Neil was speaking for many of us at the SF Site in voicing his collector's frustrations with the variant versions of Bradbury's work, so it's good to hear that there's rhyme and reason behind it after all. Now, can you do anything about Bradbury's films?

To: John O'Neill
From: James Van Pelt

A WorldCon Proposal

I read your homage to short fiction in the magazines [Love, Money, and the Future of Science Fiction Magazines;" SF Insite, Mid-May 1998] with much interest. I've written some on the problems of publishing ("Publishing, Perseverance and the Urge to Write" available in the writing section of the SFWA website), and have had a ton of conversations about the topic of the story market with most of the writers I know.

Most, of course, bemoan the loss of these markets and talk about the difficulty of publishing, but no one seems to believe anything can be done about it. Like global warming, the decline in the markets seems inevitable.

Art by Bob Eggleton
What I've begun to propose is that everyone interested in short fiction should become a freelance subscription salesman for their favourite magazines. What the magazines need to survive is a large, reliable subscription base. If the current magazines made more money (through subscription and advertising), then it would encourage some of the better semi-pro mags to move into the pro ranks and encourage the formation of new magazines.

Heck, if WorldCon was a bit more visionary, they would make part of the membership fee cover a subscription to a magazine (that would be 6,000 new subscriptions at one shot).

As much as short fiction is a labour of love, it can hardly grow without more support. If we want to continue to have quality magazines, we have to provide the support. Their subscriber bases have to expand, not shrink. SF writers and fans can do more through their efforts than any single magazine publisher can do through their marketing departments.

Afraid we couldn't agree more. The short fiction magazines are critical to the health of the genre, and their steadily declining readership over the past decade has put them in a precarious position. Your suggestion to mobilize on a personal level is perhaps the most logical we've yet heard. Like the WorldCon plan, too.

Still, as John O'Neill notes in this week's editorial, the current crop of magazines has never published better work. We think it would be a mistake to portray the magazines as a charity case. There's still plenty of life in them yet!

From: Rick Norwood

A Quiet Little Chat

I would like to see you either add a chat room of your own, or recommend a reasonably polite, literate chat room for SF chat.

[Full disclosure time: Rick Norwood is the author of the SF Site's Media column, Babylon 5.1.]

For quality SF chat with an adult audience, we highly recommend Cybling, at They have regular chats with genre luminaries, including hosting chats for Asimov's and Analog, and their moderators are top-notch. We like 'em, and you will too.

From: Damien Broderick

Another Look at The White Abacus

I was charmed and irritated by Jean-Louis Trudel's SF Site review of my novel The White Abacus [Mid-May, 1998], and appreciated his thoughtful, generous comments. I was especially gratified by the space he allowed for readings other than his own, not always a feature of commentaries that have queried the playful 'ficto-critical' postmodern cast of the book. It was also pleasing to be read by someone with the insiderly knowledge to pick up gags like the Godwin reference :). I disagree, of course, with his framing remarks concerning hermeneutic/deconstruction-influenced fiction and criticism; there's a great deal more in the play of these perspectives than a simplistic insistence that art is lies, or construct, or in need of (yawn) defamiliarisation.

Art: Carl Lundgren
I wonder, for example, if Mr. Trudel was conscious at any point of one of the serious jokes at the heart of The White Abacus. My 1980 novel The Dreaming Dragons, which has had more attention than most of the rest, is teasingly sub-titled "A Time Opera." Clearly one could get some mileage out of seeing The White Abacus as "A Space Opera" -- literally -- and one in the mode that Brian W. Aldiss dubbed 'widescreen baroque'. Grand opera frequently recirculates earlier cultural topoi; I am doing this, for fun & profit, with both Shakespeare and SF tropes. May I suggest having another look at the music in the book, the explicit role played by references to Tristan and Isolde, and the way the narrative dynamic opens... in an Opera House, aloft, suffused in an aura of blowsy film music from the early, mid and late 20th century.

[Damien Broderick is an Australian author and editor whose works include the novels Sorcerer's World, The Judas Mandala, The Black Grail, Striped Holes, and the anthologies The Zeitgeist Machine, Strange Attractors, and Matilda at the Speed of Light. He obviously listens to very different music while reading than we do.]

To: Dave Truesdale
From: Bruce Holland Rogers

The Truesdale Files

Nebula Awards 32
I don't really have a quibble with what you said [SF Site review, Nebula Awards 32], but I do want to point out that a trend toward one sort of writing or another in the marketplace or in the awards system may not reflect deliberate choices by the writers.

That is, I write what I feel compelled to write. (Or, sometimes, what I think would be fun to write.) If my SF tends toward literary tastes, that's at least partly because I am a writer who does literary fiction, SF, fantasy, mystery, and experimental fiction. I wear a lot of literary hats, and when the science fiction hat is on top, I'm still wearing all the other hats underneath it. My literary fiction probably has traces of my pulp interests, and my pulp fiction is literary.

The science isn't foregrounded in my work because, even though I love science, science as a subject doesn't interest me. The nature and fate and experience of the soul interest me much more. The experience of loving and dying, the experiences of friendship and betrayal and engaging work, the problem of evil, the liberation of trust... these are the things I'm most interested in. Science is part of the world that I live in, the reality that I'm working with. The conventions of SF and fantasy let me set up my fictive world, but the explorations that I conduct there are philosophical, ethical, religious... because those are my main interests.

I'm going on at length about a small point. There may be people who make marketing decisions and "change the direction of SF" by changing what gets published. But for most writers, we write the stories that interest us.

At the same time, the opposite is true. You are exactly right, and here's why:

Sensawunda may be something that we all get in sufficient doses of NOVA and the Discover Channel. Those of us who are sensawunda junkies may be getting it from real science more often than from SF. And we look for something else in our science fiction.

I'm rambling. SF has changed directions as a cultural phenomenon. But from my perspective, my own story took the turns it did because of who I am, not because of where I want to take SF. I'm just one guy. I can't take SF anywhere. I'm just glad that the market conditions are such that a writer like me can get published at all!

Bruce Holland Rogers is the author of a number of short stories recently reviewed at the SF Site, including work in Warrior Princess and Black Cats and Broken Mirrors.

From: Lori L. Bloomer, Role-Playing Games Guide

First, let me say congratulations on running a site with timely and enjoyable content in a great format -- I was very impressed by your site!

I was perusing your quite thorough list of role-playing game links and noticed the Mining Company wasn't included, so I'm sending you our URL... the Mining Company Role-Playing Games site is located at

Thanks for your time!

Lori L. Bloomer, Role-Playing Games Guide
The Mining Co.

Thanks for the note. The Mining Company is one of the best SF-related sites out there for book and game lovers -- we're happy to recommend it. Keep up the good work, and we'll keep sending readers your way.

Next issue

Next issue Rodger Turner returns with the latest installment of his Reading List series, this time with a comprehensive look at the popular author of The Engines of God and Moonfall: Jack McDevitt. We'll also have reviews of the best new fantasy and SF on the market, including Factoring Humanity by Robert J. Sawyer, Frederik Pohl's O Pioneer!, Gardner Dozois's latest Year's Best volume, and the long-awaited new book from Kim Stanley Robinson, Antarctica .

Be sure to join us on July 15th. We'll be here.

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