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Letters to the SF Site

With an ever-growing readership at the SF Site, there has come an ever-increasing chorus of readers asking to be heard; to voice their opinions, to find help in looking for that lost book title, and to keep us informed.

This is what came over the wires to us at the SF Site over the last two weeks. If you have anything to add to the discussion yourself, mail us at We'd like to hear it.

Yahoo, Satanism and Gaming

I'd heard about the Yahoo category that apparently linked role playing with satanism before, but I hadn't looked into it very far. A closer look proved to be very interesting...


From: Stephen Mendenhall

I just noticed something disturbing about Yahoo's categories for games. Look where they include role-playing games. Does it bother you how they list RPGs? Who should write to them to comment? They might not listen to me, would they listen to you?


Stephen Mendenhall

Thanks for your email. I'd heard about this little 'classification' before, and decided to check it out for myself. Sure enough, there is such a category, but I had to search through 60 web sites before I found it (looking under RPG and Role Playing Games). Then, I thought (since I started gaming in 1982, and remember when all of this 'role-playing leads to satanism' garbage was new), 'let's read what they have to say.' It could be worth a giggle.

Guys, this is an intelligent, rational site devoted to religious tolerance for all faiths. On the site, there is a 'Hot Topics' section, where there is an intelligent, well-documented article debunking the entire 'Satan is a gamer and wants your children' movement, and other such nonsense.

So, despite being open to other interpretations, the Yahoo classification is essentially accurate; this site talks about satanism and gaming, but only to set the record straight: that there is not, never has been, and never will be a connection between the two. The site is run by religioustolerance. org, who deserve more for their well-considered website than a (however understandable) knee-jerk reaction from those who see the words 'satanism' and 'role-playing games' in the same sentence. Wouldn't it be a shame if their reasonable voices didn't make it out to those who could really use it?

Visit Dungeons and Dragons and Other Role-Playing Games and decide for yourself.

Searching for...

We have answers!

Steinbeck found

From: Rich Horton

In the April letter column, Simon Abbott asks about a short story by John Steinbeck called "The Short, Short History of Mankind". It was apparently published in a SF '59.

This story was indeed reprinted in Judith Merril's Best of the Year collection for 1959, which was called SF '59. (Full title: SF '59: The Year's Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy, ed. Judith Merril (Gnome, 1959, $3.50, 256pp, hc) ) (The experienced reader will remember that Merril loved to comb mainstream publications for stories which could be called SF.)

It originally appeared in Playboy, April 1958. Brian Aldiss reprinted it as well, in two separate anthologies for Penguin, Penguin Science Fiction (1961), and The Penguin Omnibus of Science Fiction (1973).

Rich Horton

Many thanks to Rich for his quick and knowledgeable reply! Rich was also of help identifying the low-flying moon story (see below).

Non-negotiable Job Assignments

From: Andrew Love

The first story (about young people being assigned jobs, and the despised unassigned people being the only truly creative ones) is almost certainly "Profession" by Isaac Asimov - publication information can be found here: Profession

Andrew Love, Trivia Hound

David N. Reiss also correctly identified this story as originally appearing in Asimov's collection Nine Tomorrows, as did Geoff von Gerard. Thanks!

Searching for... (continued)

Watch for Identified Low-flying Moon

From: Rich Horton

In the April letter column Charles Pevsner asks about a story about a low flying moon, so low that people have to duck when it comes overhead.

I seem to recall a couple of stories vaguely resembling this one, but I suspect the particular story to which he refers is "The Holes Around Mars", by Jerome Bixby, Galaxy, January 1954. It's been anthologized a few times, most notably perhaps in the big Fred Pohl Best of Galaxy All Time sort of thing he did some time ago, after Galaxy died. It was also in the Brian Aldiss anthology Decade: the '50s.

One key point that might help confirm the ID: the name is a terrible pun. See, Mars' other moons are called Phobos and Deimos. This one is Bottomos ... because, you see, it's the bottom-most! [groan]

Thanks due here to the collective wisdom of rec.arts.sf.written, where the same story ID popped up a few months back.

Rich Horton

Andrew Love correctly identified this story too, and says that it was anthologized in the Asimov anthology, Where do we go from here? Thanks to you both.

21st Century Editing

Catharine Richardson wrote a very interesting letter two issues ago, discussing her frustration with the (apparent) lack of editing on the part of editors in science-fiction and fantasy publishing. Her letter hit a chord with us, and I asked our readers to comment on what they thought was the role of the editor, and what their expectations were. Here are two replies: one from a reader, and one from an editor.

Copy Editors Wanted

From: Jan Stinson

Catharine Richardson's remarks about an apparent dearth of book editing in SF hit me square in the solar plexus. I have about given up on reading new books by new writers because the last dozen times I've tried one, I got so disgusted with the lack of proper copy editing that I nearly threw them across the room.

Major book publishers don't seem to care that many readers get stopped dead in their tracks when a misspelled word pops up, or a page is missing, or paragraphs are misplaced or swapped. All these things drive me nuts, and they can all be fixed by a thorough copy edit from an experienced copy editor.

Since the beginning of the conglomerate buyouts (that's that really loud sucking sound you hear in the background, folks), it seems less and less emphasis is put on producing a manuscript that is as error-free as possible. Not only that, but it seems that editors with many major book publishers don't know how to edit. Even the big names should be edited, despite what Harlan Ellison thinks (and I love HE's stories).

Sure, a copy editor's services cost money. But I'd like to think that any writer, new or old, would much rather have a book come out with "clean copy" (no spelling or grammar mistakes, and none of the above errors either) than with mistakes that make the writer _and_ the publisher look like amateurs. Spell-checking and grammar programs can't yet replace the experienced human copy editor.

Jan Stinson

The Other Perspective

From: Robert N. Stephenson

I edited Kurt von Trojan's "The Atrocity Shop" in 1998 and it was a difficult job. One, my role was to support the work of the author and two, to encourage (not force) changes that would improve the book. On both counts the author declined assistance. I will admit the book was good as it stood but I believed it could have and would have been better if I had been allowed to direct more.

Being editor and publisher is a difficult balance. Throw in the fact that I am also Mr. von Trojan's agent and you have a very heady mix indeed.

The book was reviewed on this site very positively even though the cover was crap (a big mistake. Artist and author disagreed and a compromise was met on the night before going to the printers. Thus, one crap cover) My role as editor then became that of mediator.

today's mainstream editors are perhaps faced with similar problems and can not fully devote the time necessary to ensure a novel is the best it can absolutely be. I know I work hard as an editor but I am also in the small press side of things, so my pressures are different, less restrictive.

Maybe today's editor is a mediator between publisher, author and the powerful marketing department.

Robert N Stephenson

Thank you very much to Jan Stinson and to Robert Stephenson for giving us a balance of views. If anyone else out there wants to step up to the soapbox, there's still room.Thanks as well to our intrepid readers, for giving us the answers to last week's questions.

Until next time,

Kristen Chew
SF Site

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