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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.

February 2000

Letters on this page:

  • Terry Bisson isn't a robot
  • John Peyton Cooke offers pointers to books by Fowler
  • Lonnie F. Talmon, Robert N. Stephenson, and Gavin Grant respond to editorial On Buying Books
  • Robert Mahler is looking for books by Christopher Fowler
  • Hank Rivoir has an old SF story to identify; Andrew Love knows what it is

    Dear Locus Online,
         Perhaps your readers can help me. I'm trying to locate an SF story, but can't remember the title or author. The main character was trying to remember an SF story but couldn't remember the title or author. The story he was trying to remember was about a robot who didn't know he was a robot. The main character in the story I'm trying to remember was also a robot who didn't know he was a robot. Thanks in advance for your help. I am not a robot, by the way. Not that it's any of your business.

    Terry Bisson
    24 February 2000
    (posted Fri 25 Feb 2000)

    Dear Locus Online,
         I'm writing in response to Robert Mahler's search for books by Christopher Fowler. I'm grateful for his posting, because it spurred me on to order those books of Fowler's that I've been missing myself. It's unfortunate that US publishers don't seem to know what to do with his work, because there is no reason why his books shouldn't be made available here. In the meantime, most of Fowler's books, including Spanky (with its sexy cover that would never see the light of day in the States) and Flesh Wounds, remain in print in the UK and can be ordered online from

    John Peyton Cooke
    24 February 2000
    (posted Fri 25 Feb 2000)

    [ Why didn't I think of that? I've added links to the above titles; and try this one: Search for Books by Christopher Fowler
    --ed. ]

    Dear Locus Online,
         I am also upset about Borders and Barnes & Noble dropping their 10% discount on hardcover books. I do buy my science fiction from the Merchant of Venus in Omaha and have for 23 years. But I bought most of my other fiction and non-fiction from another local bookstore (Kieser's). Kieser's was forced out of business in 1999 along with other local bookstores mainly by two Borders and two BN's. I have been getting a 10% discount for years. Now to pay full price!
         I also think books are overpriced partly due to the fact that publishers know the books will be discounted. But now Borders and BN will keep the extra 10%. I probably will not buy as much from the chains, but the problem is I like to see the books before I buy them. I suppose I will try online buying, since I have purchased from book clubs for years. It's just that with a book club I knew I would not get as good a copy as a fresh new one from the stores.
         I would see publishers' catalogs and order books from Kieser's and no one else saw them! It was great and the family was enjoyable to talk to. I guess we should all just buy bestsellers, right?
         Keep Locus going, I have enjoyed it since 1977.

    Lonnie F. Talmon
    20 February 2000
    (posted Tue 22 Feb 2000)

    Dear Locus Online,
         I see the point in Jonathan's observations and concerns but things are changing at an alarming rate. So much so that I think the suggestion Robert J. Sawyer puts forward in his latest book Flash Forward may be more a reality than simple SF speculation. Purchasing print on demand books from vending machine style setups may be the future book chain. Certainly the technology in the printing field is now catching up with the rest of technologically advanced society.
         Perhaps what could happen to the independents, is what I see happening with clothing and perfume manufacturers in big shopping stores: rental space in the book chains. Say one corner of B&N rented to independent A Touch of Strange, Stephen Dedman's store in Perth WA. The independent would more than likely stock small print run books, small press and other hard to get publications. The independent needn't die but it will need to re-think its business strategy.
         Print on demand may be the way of the future but for now, I'm happy with getting my books anyway I can.
         Just a few thoughts.

    Robert N. Stephenson
    11 February 2000
    (posted Tue 22 Feb 2000)

    Dear Locus Online,
         I sympathise with your dilemma as to buying books. I work for a new and used bookshop in Boston, Avenue Victor Hugo Bookshop. In November we decided to discount all new books 20%. This was brought on by a number of factors, perhaps the most salient one being the closing of three new bookshops near us.
         When B&N and Borders quietly changed their policies we were as surprised as I expect all their shoppers will be as they slowly notice.
         We don't stock everything, but like most independents we can get anything Ingram (the distributor Barnes & Noble tried to buy last year) stocks. Our big disadvantage is if we have to order the books (takes one week at the most from Ingram) our order fulfillment time will not be up to Amazon's. I realize that part of the beauty of web ordering is immediacy, and do not suffer the illusion that people will flood to our site just for the discount. We do not have a new book database (we do recommend using Amazon for that!) up and do not expect to have one in the foreseeable future -- barring a huge cash donation to build the database!
         The whole business from publishers through distributors to bookshops is changing faster than I can type; we just hope to be around in five years to keep giving people the choice of venues.
         Good luck with the list work and the Amazon associate program. I enjoy reading Locus and Locus Online and thank you for listing my zine Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet (no website as yet).

    Gavin Grant
    10 February 2000
    (posted Tue 22 Feb 2000)

    [ Since radically shifting my book-buying practices in the past couple months, so that I still browse brick-and-mortar bookstores regularly but almost always buy online, I've discovered an interesting thing: I'm not buying as much. That's because the extent to which I indulged in impulse buying has been reduced; where I would occasionally see an interesting book at the bookstore and buy it same-day with a 10% or more discount, that now doesn't follow through to sitting down at the computer and ordering from Amazon a few days later. That strikes me as the potential shortcoming of print-on-demand publishing; it's an extra step that might defeat the serendipitous, impulse purchase.

    Also, for the record, my last couple Amazon purchases haven't arrived quite so speedily as the two days I previously reported. One four-book purchase took a week to arrive; the next two-book order took four days. --ed. ]

    Dear Locus,
         I'm looking for a few out of print books that, I believe, at one point were featured in your magazine. The author is Christopher Fowler, and the titles of the books are Spanky and Flesh Wounds. I've searched the web from top to bottom for these titles, and nobody seems to have all!! If you could suggest anything, it would be greatly appreciated!
         Thank you,

    Robert Mahler
    Tempe, AZ
    20 February 2000
    (posted Tue 22 Feb 2000)

    Dear Locus Online,
         Great site! Thanks. I also have a question. I'm trying to locate the title and author of an old (50's or 60's) science fiction short story. The story is about a young man who is always singled out at school as he grows up, but he doesn't know why. When he graduates from high school, all his friends take some sort of pill or have some sort of knowledge infusion that teaches them their predestined job. He feels like the class idiot because he does not get chosen for any job. Later, he is sent to a special school which he believes is for stupid people like him, only to realize at the end that he is actually one of the intellectual elite sent there to learn how to invent new technologies.
         Do you know who wrote this, or do you have any suggestions for how I can find out?
         Thank you for your assistance.

    Hank Rivoir
    7 February 2000
    (posted Tue 22 Feb 2000)

    Dear Locus Online,
         The story that Hank Rivoir is thinking of is, I believe, ''Profession'' by Isaac Asimov. This site has some more information about the story:

    Andrew Love
    22 February 2000
    (posted Tue 22 Feb 2000)

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