Locus Online


September 1998

Dear Locus,
     The interview with Paul J. McAuley made it easier for me to want to read "The Book of Confulence" series; in fact, McAuley could, if he wants to, link the 400 Billion Stars books to Confluence la Asimov's Robots/Empire link.
     But! The primary reason for this letter is to complain, whine, bitch, moan, and groan about writers, like McAuley, who have this distaste for, or horror of, series. We are told that our personalities and habits are formed and graven almost in stone before the age of five. What is one of those habits that gets read to us, then burned into our brains even more when we can do the reading ourselves: series!
     "Hardy Boys", "Goosebumps", you name it, we are raised on series, and to have people like Jonathan Lethem and others write articles and books saying "SF is dead!", blaming Tolkien's trilogy, or blaming "Star Wars" movies, or whatever, is an insult to the intelligence of readers and completely misses a very fundamental point about how those of us who develop into life-long readers and book lovers get trained in the first place!
     If writers like McAuley want to stay clear of trilogies and longer series (I'm in mourning for the "Wild Cards" series, don't mess with me bubba!), by all means do so and watch some of us go elsewhere for what we crave. Of course, if you want to campaign for a non-series-oriented child-rearing method go right ahead. It should be amusing to watch the results, if any.
     Despite all of the above, I am not arguing for Series' Above All Other Things -- I've read stand-alones (The Healer's War, etc.) that don't need sequals and rightly won't get them. But some creations work well in three parts, or longer, so get on with it and know that some of us like it that way! It's amazing to realize "Discworld" is now up to 22 books, I'll have plenty of time to decide if I was right to ignore it before the next one comes out (if...)!

--Thornton Kimes
Tue 8 Sep 1998

Dear Locus,
     I'd just like to say thanks for continuing to put out such a quality publication. It's no wonder you've won all of those Hugos. I recently wrote to ask about the August issue of my subscription. It finally came this week, having been forwarded by the post office from my previous address. I was interested to see the poll results, though I did not send in my ballot this year. Also, I'm addicted to the Data File and publishing/bookstore news, which do a good job of keeping me current on industry trends and events. Keep up the good work.

--Douglas McKinney
Sat 22 Aug 1998

Greetings, fellow denizens of Terra,
     I just discovered your terrific Web site (via the Delphi SF forum) and have enjoyed my visit immensely. The names in fandom and on the pro scene have changed greatly in the past 25 years, when I was active, but it's great to see that Locus remains in peak condition. I no longer read as much SF as before -- the craze for series (which I might, perhaps unjustly, blame on the Tolkein trilogy) has burned me out -- but I try to keep on top of the field that brought me so much pleasure in the first 25 years of my life.
     I was a fanzine editor long ago (I edited "Seldon's Plan Newsletter," published by the Wayne Third Foundation at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI) and attended Torcon II in Toronto ... Gee, that was maybe three years ago . Time flies when you're having a life. I'm glad Haldeman won the Hugo for Forever Peace, which was one of the best books I read last year. OTOH, I'm sorry to hear that R.A. Lowndes passed one ... he could do more things with a shoe string (budget) than anyone could imagine.
     Finally, I hope nobody is yowping over the mainstream media giving short shrift (does ANYONE give anything LONG shrift????) to serious SF. I'm the book editor of The Flint Journal (in the UAW homeland and Michael Moore fairyland of Flint, MI), and it's extremely difficult to get review copies of major new SF releases -- the exceptions are Bantam, Avon Eos and Del Rey, and Tor sometimes throws us a scrap or two. Sure, our circulation is *only* 120,000 when the book page runs on Sunday. Guess we don't matter.
     But if "Dust" doesn't win the Hugo for '99, the fix is in.

--Gene Mierzejewski
Grand Blanc, MI
Mon 24 Aug 1998

Chris M. Barkley

     As a lifelong reader, book lover, avid collector and most recently, a writer, it is not easy for me to admit that the Dramatic Presentation Hugo has become (at least in my mind) more important in stature than Best Novel.
     This was a long time in coming, the roots of which go back to the Star Wars films; for a generation now, they have defined what SF is, at least in the mind of the general public.
     Of course we in SF fandom know better. Star Trek, Babylon 5, the Alien franchise never would have been possible without the seminal influences of E.E. "Doc" Smith, Robert A. Heinlein, A.E. van Vogt or Isaac Asimov (among many, many others).
     The dilemma is that circulation of all of the SF magazines is going down. Veteran and novice writers are having a tough time selling novels unless they happen to have a built in audience via a media tie in.
     When the first Star Wars film hit, SF fandom was was more or less taken by surprise. Now, with a new series and a new generation set to be enthralled by interstellar action and intrigue, we, as fans, writers and educators, have a unique opportunity to sing the praises of the origins of great adventure and pass on our great literary heritage of fantasy and SF to the next generation of potential watchers, readers and writers.
     Which brings me back to the Hugos. They are the highest literary award we, as readers, have any say about. Yet this year, as it has been for the past several years, ballots for the Dramatic Presentation category far surpassed the tally for Best Novel; 712 to 585 votes.
     Frankly, I was deeply disappointed with the the quality of the five nominees, Starship Troopers, The Fifth Element, Gattaca, Men in Black and the eventual winner, Contact. There were several outstanding episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Millennium, The X-Files, Outer Limits and Babylon 5 that were, at least in my humble opinion, better than those on the final ballot.
     I sat in the audience at BucConeer when film publicist Jeff Walker half-jokingly thanked Babylon 5 fans for spreading their nominations among five episodes (which finished 6-9 and 11th on the nomination ballot) and accepted the Hugo for Contact. He then lamented the fact that the Dramatic Presentation Hugo could go to only one particular show or movie. He suggested that in the future, some consideration be given to splitting the award into several categories.
     When I returned home, I found a new edition of Howard DeVore's The History of the Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Awards (Advent Publishers, $14) waiting for me. There I found several of the past nominees were nat all from the visual medium. In 1971, Jefferson Airplane's Blows Against the Empire album competed against The Firesign Theater's Don't Crush that Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers. The very next year, Firesign Theater was back on the final ballot with I Think We're All Bozos on this Bus. Phil Foglio's cartoon slide show, ''The Capture'', was nominated in 1976. Blood: The Life and Times of Jack the Ripper, a spoken word album by Robert Bloch and Harlan Ellison, finshed third to Star Wars in 1977 and in 1979, Douglas Adams' The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy finished second to Superman.
     Nearly TWENTY YEARS (!) has past since the last time something other than a movie or television show has been nominated for Best Dramatic presentation.
     I have been thinking about what Jeff Walker said since the end of BucConeer. After some careful consideration, I propose the Dramatic Presentation Award be divided in the following manner:

  • Best Film (or Motion Picture)
  • Best Television Episode(s): as stated in the current rules; a single episode or a related arc of episodes, not an entire season of shows.
  • Best Musical Recording or Performance: covering music albums (filk and otherwise), live theater musical or opera.
  • Best Spoken Word Recording/Performance: covering spoken word books or short works on tape or CD, a single or related arc of radio shows or theater performance.
  • Best Other Related Form: covering documentaries, art exhibits, ballet or other live performance art.

     If there were a lack of interest or less than three viable nominees in any particular category, it would be dropped for that voting year.
     Now some may see this expansion as a bit excessive; that by doing this, that we are essentially conceding the Science Fiction Achievment Awards to media fans. I reply in turn that we must change with the times if we are to ensure SF fandom's survival in the next century. Media fans are NOT enemies, they're SF fans too, and they DO buy and read books. As an example: even though it was, in my humble opinion, a dreadful adaptation, Starship Troopers has had one big benefit; some those fans who either liked or disliked it, have sought out (at my urging in some cases) and read the source material. Result: the possibility of a new generation of Robert A. Heinlein readers.
     I have noticed over the past few years, a growing division among anime, filking, media and book reading fans. By raising the profile of the Hugo, we will raise the awareness of the SF community as a whole in other artistic communities and the general public. And in doing so, we will have more people becoming aware of and voting on the Hugos. I find the prospect of nominating Midnight Oil, Peter Gabriel or the Kronos Quartet for a Hugo incredibly exciting.
     To the members of AussieCon III and ChiCon 2000; let's discuss, draft amendments and vote on this issue at the next two WorldCon business meetings. These proposals, in the long run, will be a benefit to the World Science Fiction Society and SF fandom. If you have any comments or suggestions regarding this, please contact me at:

or via snail mail at:

7505 Montgomery Road #4 Cincinnati, Ohio 45236-4140 USA

     I thank you for your time, attention and consideration.

--Chris M. Barkley
Fri 21 Aug 1998

(Tue 8 Sep 98)

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