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Letters to the SF Site

We love letters. They make us think. They make us laugh. They make us sit up and take notice, and get a payment in before service is disconnected.

Mostly, though, we enjoy hearing what you have to say about the SF Site. No publishing enterprise can survive long without paying close attention to its audience, and we're no different. If you've got a comment or thoughtful suggestion, or if you just want to complain about that durned dead link, we want to hear about it.

A Fine Example of Reviewing

From: Dave Duncan

Dear Wayne,

Many thanks for your wonderful review of The Gilded Chain (last issue). It gives me great pleasure to know you enjoyed the book so much, but I really want to compliment you on producing a fine example of how a review ought to be written. Far too many reviewers don't have a clue; if you want a really

horrible example of how NOT to, check the one Kirkus Reviews perpetrated on this same book. It's reprinted in its entirety on AMAZON.COM (unfortunately). Of 21 lines, 18 are a chapter by chapter regurgitation of the entire plot, leaving no reason at all for anyone to want to read the original. Whether or not the reviewer enjoyed the book becomes immaterial when he has spoiled it for everyone else.

Thanks again. I am taking up a collection to buy me a new hat...

Books by Canadians

From: Phyllis Gotlieb

I just wanted to mention other books of mine that may be out of print but are available in Canadian libraries: Sunburst, 1964; O Master Caliban!, 1976; A Judgement of Dragons, 1978; Emperor, Swords, Pentacles, 1980; The Kingdom of the Cats, 1982; Son of the Morning and Other Stories, 1983; The Kingdom of the Cats, 1985; Heart of Red Iron, 1989. Still in print: Blue Apes (story collection) 1996.

Thanks for the correction. We've added this new list to our page on Canadian authors (at

A Word from Steven Barnes

From: Steven Barnes

Hi, Guys -- Steven Barnes here. My web page is: Any biographical stuff is available on the page, or lemme know what you need. Thanks for having such a great page!

Thanks for the update! We've added this to our author's list.

A Review of The Blending

From: Sharon Green

Dear Mr. Francis,

My editor at Avon forwarded your review (Series Review: The Blending, by Robert Francis, August 1998) to me, and I'd like to thank you for being so nice. I've been getting a lot of
email about the series, quite a bit from people who have never read anything of mine before. That, of course, is because of the marvelous Tom Canty covers; it makes me feel really good when people say that I've justified their presence on my books.

I had to tell you, though... your one complaint was fully justified, but I'm sorry to say that the relationship between Tamrissa and Vallant still has a way to go before it gets straightened out. Both of them have private issues that need to be dealt with, and that kind of thing takes time. I don't know if you'll be interested, but I've done the page proofs for Book 4, Betrayals, and I'm about to offer them at auction on my web site. The book itself won't be out until next February (or the end of the first week in January, if they do as they did last time), and so many people are howling about the delay that I thought I'd give someone a shot at reading it early (and help *myself* financially at the same time). If you like, you can tell your readers about it. If not, at least *you* know.

The delay, as I keep telling people, was *not* my fault this time. I turned in all five volumes two years ago, and when Avon came up with their weird publishing schedule I told them I would not make any effort to protect them. They used to put my series books out every six months, but now things have apparently changed.

About your online books list... I'm selling online books at my web site as well, the continuation of the Diana Santee series. There are also more of the Dray Prescot series by Alan Burt Akers (Kenneth Bulmer) available from *his* site. I'm a fan of that series, so I thought I'd mention it.

Entertainment Weekly's 100 Greatest

From: Andy Heidel


Entertainment Weekly
Thanks for your article that appeared on SF Site regarding EW's top 100 (SF Insite, Mid-October 1998: "100 Greatest Works of Science Fiction"). I agree with you. You can't rate cross mediums in a top 100. That's like oranges and alligators. The only thing they have in common is Florida.

Keep fighting the good fight.

Andy Heidel
Avon Books

From: George T. Dodds


Like with most lists of the best SF, even by science fiction conventions, or Locus, or similar organisms, 80% of the titles are from the previous 20 years. This is very similar to the top 100 professional hockey players of all time list that came out a couple of years ago: not a single player from the era 1880-1910 made the list. Now, admittedly the game was a bit different, but, like baseball, the game hasn't changed significantly in its basics.

One problem is that virtually nobody except aged specialists like Sam Moskowitz and Everett Bleiler (check out his just published book on science fiction in the Gernsback years, from Kent State University Press) actually read the early material, and of course, twisted individuals like myself. Unfortunately, more so than for horror or fantasy, science fiction is a medium that ages poorly; few people nowadays can put themselves in the context of the time Wells or Verne wrote. I often cringe when people tell me about how wonderfully original the aliens are on such shows as Babylon 5 and the latest Star Drek incarnation, when the French author J.H. Rosny (author of the prehistoric novel Quest for Fire) wrote an entire novella about three- sexed sentient crystalloid entities in the mid-1880s. Besides the fact that his Les Xipehuz and La Mort de la Terre (c. 1910; with ferro- magnetic life forms) remain the best portrayals of non-anthropomorphic non Earth-based lifeforms I have ever read, and are years ahead of Weinbaum's "A Martian Odyssey" (c. 1928), the fact that he wrote in French and close to a century ago, leaves him completely ignored.

Similarly, I very much doubt that this wonderful "Top 100" list even mentions the early French filmmaker Georges Melies, the man who originated science-fiction films. Well, enough ranting, except to say that these lists are mostly bunk. One such list, however, that I have found to be particularly well done is titled something like "333: A List of the Best Imaginative Fiction", published in 1953, and compiled by Donald M. Grant (now a fantasy publisher), some guy named Joe Crawford, and one other. Of those titles I have been able to find (some are now terribly rare), there hasn't been a dud in the bunch. Another problem these days is that no publisher has put together a program of reprinting classics in widely available paperback editions -- there is nothing like the old Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series that Lin Carter edited.

Oh, and while I'm at it, my other pet peeve -- Mary Shelley's Frankenstein as SF. To me it seems to be one of those works that has been assigned to SF in hindsight. While Mary Shelley was a well-educated woman who associated with equally well educated people like Byron, Shelley, Polidori and the like, I think that Frankenstein, like the other works that came from that famous horror writing contest, was just that: a fine example of English Gothic horror fiction, which happened to incorporate elements we later termed SF. I very much doubt that Mary Shelley's intent was to highlight the dangers of emerging medical technology, but rather the position of a visible outsider in the society of her day.

From: Steve Hockensmith


I found your piece very restrained and well reasoned... a much more effective response than going ballistic. Well done.

Steve Hockensmith
Editor, Cinescape and X-Files Magazine

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