Locus Online


Send us your letters! Locus Online has more room than the magazine for letters. They can be about Locus or the SF field in general.

October and November 1998

Letters on this page:

  • Giuseppe Lippi tells about Nicholas Eymerich
  • Lewis Murphy on Stephen King and
  • Richard Curtis open letter on what ''in print'' means in the age of electronic publishing
  • Jeffrey Ford on Rob Chilson's Commentary
  • Michael Immig on the Spectrum books' art competition
  • Kelley Eskridge on ''Welcome to Paradox'' (market opportunity!)
  • Dan Reid on Gary K. Wolfe's Worldcon report

    Dear Locus,
         In the current online news I read the mini-story about the French Grand Prix de l'Imaginaire and Prix Tour Eiffel, both won, in the Foreign Novel and Novel category, by Valerio Evangelisti. Quite obviously, Valerio is not a French author, but an Italian, born and living in Bologna, who published his six novels to-date in the popular paperback series, "Urania". He started by winning the 1993-94 edition of the Urania prize with Nicholas Eymerich, inquisitore (N.E., the Inquisitor) and after that published the very successful Le catene di Eymerich (The Chains of Eymerich), Il corpo e il sangue di Eymerich (The Body and Blood of E.), Il mistero dell'inquisitore Eymerich (The Mystery of the Inquisitor), Cherudek (id.) and Picatrix, la scala dell'inferno (P., the Stairs to Hell).
         All these novels were published in "Urania" or by Mondadori Publishing. They represent a sophisticated but highly readable series about a Middle Age inquisitor - based on the historical character Nicolau Eymerich, a Catalan friar living in the 14th century - who fights with extreme cruelty and determination the forces of evil. The author, however, has his stories developing on different time planes, so that from what happens in our times (and even in the near future) we know that the so-called powers of darkness have a scientific, although extremely weird, explanation. At the end of each novel Evangelisti has usually revealed a menacing plot involving science gone mad, political corruption and thrilling conspiracies both in the Middle Age and today. His books are a sort of modern and, if you want, intellectual weird tales, with extremely accurate historical settings and fast-paced adventures of an uncanny nature. The character himself, a sadistic priest and torturer, is absolutely convincing and a highly original conception.
         The Eymerich novels, which gained cult status in Italy, were then translated into Spanish and French, and won the aforementioned prizes. They're also undergoing cinematic treatment for movie adaptation and, possibly, for a TV miniseries in Europe.
         For completeness of information, this is the Valerio Evangelisti email address:, while his agents for U.K and America are: Piergiorgio Nicolazzini, You can visit the Nicholas Eymerich web page at
         Sincerely yours,

    --Giuseppe Lippi
    Editor, "Urania"
    Arnoldo Mondadori Publishing
    Milan, Italy
    Sat 28 Nov 1998

    Dear Locus,
         First, I thank you and Locus for your coverage of the B & N/Ingram controversy.
         Second, in light of those developments, I was particularly worried by a recent television commercial for . The commercial showed a metaphorical sequence of a young girl going through the website to find a bedtime story. She finally ends up at what appears to be Stephen King's home office. Mr. King hands the girl a copy of Bag of Bones, and she leaves happy.
         I am under the impression that Mr. King is a ardent supporter of independent booksellers, with his limited "independents only" signing tour a few years ago and other public comments he has made. Why is he now giving "aid and comfort" to the biggest enemy independent booksellers have? Is he desperate for money? Are sales of Bag of Bones so short of expectations?
         As an aspiring genre writer, and a former employee of an independent which was driven out-of-business by Barnes & Noble, I find Mr. King's commercial far more disturbing than any of his fiction.

    --Lewis Murphy
    Atlanta, Georgia
    Wed 25 Nov 1998

    [The following open letter was originally posted on and Dueling Modems.]

    Dear Author,
         As you are undoubtedly aware, there have been some exciting developments in electronic publishing technology, and they are going to change if not revolutionize every aspect of the business. As your own interests will be affected we want to describe these briefly to you, to make some recommendations and sound some alarms.
         1. Print on demand. Publishers, distributors, and booksellers now have the capability to print economically single copies of a book upon request by a consumer.
         2. Online sale of books. Electronic versions of books may be ordered directly from publishers or from companies like, to be read on handheld electronic reading devices known as e-books. Though these devices are still expensive and certain technical problems remain, there is no question that the price will come down and the quality will go up, and portable e-books will eventually win consumer acceptance.
         The good news for authors is that these developments will enable them to reach larger audiences for their work, and to earn more royalties. But the bad news more than outweighs the good.
         Because electronic versions of your book, unlike print-on-paper versions, never go out of print, publishers have begun to take the position that even after there are no hard copies available in stores or warehouses, your book is still, technically, in print. Why? Because it is digitally stored in the memory of your publisher's computer, available for printing your book on demand or transmitting it online to consumers.
         This means that when you believe your book is out of print (in the traditional sense of the term), your publisher may refuse to revert your rights to you. Under current copyright law, that means that your publisher will be entitled to keep your book exclusively until seventy years after your death.
         What is worse, publishers are beginning to insist on those same interpretations of "in print" and "out of print" when you sell them a new work. To put it plainly, that means you must sell it to them forever.
         Perhaps they will actually exploit your book aggressively and earn good royalties for you. But if they don't, you're out of luck. You will never be able to recover the rights to that book.
         There's something else you should know. Publishers entering the electronic book field are offering authors a traditional royalty, around 10% or 15%. Such royalties make sense for books printed on paper because of the expenses incurred by conventional publishers such as paper, printing, production, warehousing, and distribution. But the costs of storing your book on a disk and fulfilling an electronic order for it are negligible, and it is certainly not out of line for authors to be thinking of far higher royalty percentages.
         Author and agent organizations are awakening to these threats and developing strategies for combating them. Among those strategies are: limiting publishers to a term of years when they acquire new books; requiring a minimum annual royalty if a book's earning drop below a certain dollar figure; and contesting publishers' expanded definition of "in print".
         How can authors protect themselves?
         First, by raising the consciousness of all authors about this threat to their interests. Forward this e-mail to every author and author group you know.
         Second, by raising the consciousness of editors, who may not be aware of, or may not be comfortable with, their company's policies or the implications of those policies.
         Third, by supporting those publishers that are flexible and negotiable about their definitions of "in print" and "out of print" and about royalties payable on electronic versions of books.
         Finally, by supporting efforts of author and agent organizations to promote author-friendly approaches to the in-print, out-of-print and the electronic royalties issues.
         When you or your agent negotiate your next book deal, you may be given a take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum by the publisher that it expects to acquire rights in perpetuity. You will have to decide whether you wish to accept those terms or risk that your book will go unsold. Individual authors or agents may not be in a position to resist such demands. Only the collective actions of a united author and agent community will overcome such pressure.
         For this reason - because this is no less than a matter of survival - we urge you to do all you can to fight the takeover of your most precious asset: your copyright.


    --Richard Curtis

    Dear Locus,
         It's amazing to me how much Chilson [Commentary] comes off sounding like one of those professors of Literature whose interests he is so hot on snubbing in his article. This essay should get him an honorary degree at The University of Lagado. I thought the diagram was an especially nice bit of whim-whammery -- meaningless yet grandiose in the old de-constructionalist style. Science Fiction equals intellect. Fantasy equals emotion. O.K., I think I've got it. If One Hundred Years of Solitude by Garcia-Marquez or The Baron in the Trees by Calvino are pseudo-literature, I'll take more of them. These are great novels of intellect, emotion, reality and fantasy. I'm not surprised that they do not have a place on Chilson's diagram. There's too much nuance to them to be easily classified. His need for classification and description bely a conservative mind set unwilling to see the genre mutate and grow. I know it's frightening but things might be changing. The works he fails to include are hybridizations and mutations. Check your Science books -- that's where evolution is at work. Why the desire to retain the purity of a species?

    --Jeffrey Ford
    Wed 11 Nov 1998

    Dear Locus,
         After reading the review by Gary K. Wolfe about the new Spectrum 5 book, I feel caused to write this letter to you.
         Fantasy Productions is Germany's leading publisher for adventure- and roleplaying games and books, holding the official FASA license for their game-related products and publishing the most important roleplaying universe in Germany, Das Schwarze Auge. As we are working with artists from Germany as well as from all over the world (eg. Angus McBride, Chris Baker aka. Fangorn), we would like for some years now to participate in the Spectrum competition.
         It was the third year now to try to get the entry form for the Spectrum competition as announced on the last page of the books, but (as usual) without any reaction from the Spectrum organizers at all. I wrote letter after letter to the address mentioned in the books, but did not get even a reply.
         What are we doing wrong? Is that what Fenner describes as an open competition? Open, but not for german publishers? I wouldn't have any problems with our artists not making it into the books, but to not even get the chance to compete is not what I understand to be fair.
         Perhaps you can offer some advice for us what to do, I would not like to repeat writing letters for getting the entry form year after year without any success at all.
         Best regards

    --Michael Immig
    Thu 5 Nov 1998

    Dear Locus,
         There have been several mentions in recent issues about the sale of various works of short fiction to the Sci Fi Channel show ''Welcome To Paradox''. However, there's been relatively little publicity for the show, and I want to bring it to the attention of the field. I'm hoping that science fiction writers in particular will show some support for the program and encourage the Sci Fi Channel to support and nurture it.
         ''Welcome to Paradox'' is an anthology show in the tradition of Twilight Zone, with a twist--all the episodes are adaptations of published short sf. To date, episodes have been based on work by James Tiptree Jr., John Varley, Greg Egan, Alan Dean Foster, A.E. Van Vogt, Donald Westlake, and others (including me). All the original writers are credited on the episodes and on the website. This is the only market that I know of that is dedicated to bringing short fiction to the small screen. I did an online chat for Sci Fi in support of my episode, and the response was very interesting: most everyone wanted to talk about writing, not television. It's an amazing opportunity for all of us to reach a new audience.
         I realize that many in the field may not have seen the show, or may not agree with the way that certain stories were adapted. But what seems important to me is that this kind of outlet continue to exist and grow for short sf. And because of new management at Sci Fi, there are rumblings that the show will not be renewed (which would be very disappointing to those writers who have sold work to the producers for the second season). Let's not let this happen. It's not too late for a show like this, even in the event of non-remnewal--the anthology format allows production on new episodes to resume any time without fear of losing a key actor, or the momentum of a story arc. I hope that Locus readers will watch the show on its repeat schedule (Mondays at 10pm ET/7 pm PT, Saturdays at 2pm ET/11am PT) and will agree with me that this is a great chance for writers to showcase our work in a new medium.
         I hope that people who agree with me will take a few minutes to write to the decision-makers at USA Networks and the Sci Fi Channel, or to email the Sci Fi Channel Programming Department. If you want more information about the show, you can visit the web site at Or I'd be happy to talk with anyone about it through email, at

    Write to:
       Steven Chao
       USA Networks
       2049 Century Park East
       Los Angeles, CA 90067

       Bonnie Hammer
       USA Networks
       1230 Avenue of the Americas
       New York, NY 10020

    Or email:


    --Kelley Eskridge
    Thu 5 Nov 1998

       [In the October 1998 Locus, Gary K. Wolfe observed that at this year's World Science Fiction Convention in Baltimore there were 68 panels or other sessions about SF/F/H literature and writing, 42 sessions on science and technology, 30 on art, 45 on games and gaming, 24 on TV and movies, and a astounding 80 about ''fandom, or being a fan, or running a con, or filking, or making a costume'' -- ''enough to program oneself nonstop for five days without ever encountering clues that there might be a world outside fandom''.]

    Dear Locus,
         My thanks to Gary K. Wolfe for neatly quantifying the vague feelings of dissatisfaction that I had about Bucconeer. After the con, someone back home asked me what I thought of it. I replied that it was, well, okay, but when I go to a WORLDcon, I expect to see lots of panels with lots of WORLD-famous writers. Yet at Bucconeer it seemed that every other panel was just a bunch of fans goings on about being fans. Big deal. I'm glad Wolfe went to the trouble of actually counting up the panels and sessions devoted to fandom at the con to find that they outnumbered those devoted to SF. I share his dismay at the transmutation of the Worldcon into a private party.

    --Dan Reid
    Durham NC
    Mon 5 Oct 1998

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