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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.

April 2000

Letters on this page (posted 13 April 2000)

  • John C. Bunnell takes issue with Blair Witch ethics
  • French magazine Tenebres is looking for famous last words
  • Do you remember...?
  • Reactions to Locus Online's April 1st issue
  • Comments about Locus Online

    Blair Witch ethics...

    Dear Locus Online,
         Alvin Mullen is quite right to point out ethical issues with respect to the promotion of The Blair Witch Project -- issues that the SF community, with its large population of academics and scholarly researchers, should have picked up on much more quickly and clearly than seems to have been the case.
         What I found unsettling were the film's Web site and the trade paperback companion book (I haven't seen the "mockumentary" aired on the Sci-Fi Channel and reportedly included in the video release). The trouble is that the site and book do NOT include any sort of disclaimer warning the unwitting Web surfer or bookstore browser that the whole construct is fictional. The legend of the Blair Witch is presented as if it's actual folklore, and the modern-day "investigation" of the supposed disappearance of the film students is presented using the conventions and techniques of true-crime journalism. These materials are extremely well constructed, and it's very clear that they've been designed to create the maximum possible verisimilitude in the reader's or Web-surfer's mind.
         And absent truth-in-advertising disclaimers, that's both deceptive journalism and intellectually dishonest "scholarship". Fast-forward a few hundred years, and let a researcher see *just* the companion book and the film and the Web site, and not the ancillary entertainment-industry coverage -- not an unlikely possibility given the way information tends to fragment over time -- and the researcher is very likely to conclude that the movie was at *least* based on a true story, if not a genuine documentary. And the film's promoters did everything possible not just to support that illusion, but to disguise the fact that it's an illusion in the first place.
         Certainly it's all very cleverly and intricately done, and the film itself is ingeniously made (although it does have internal-logic problems and falls too much in love with its own gimmick). But I agree with Mr. Mullen that its promotion has been irresponsible, and that supporters of responsible scholarship and journalism have every reason to find it objectionable.
         (As for 1999 SF films, my favorite was The Iron Giant. But that's another letter....)

    John C. Bunnell
    26 March 2000

    [ Points taken -- I wasn't thinking about the film's website, or companion book, or mockumentary, none of which I saw; I was considering only the effect of the film itself. But from what I've gathered about those tie-ins, they strike me as clever, sophisticated ways of saying ''This is a true story'' -- as stories and films have long done, in one way or another, to enhance verisimilitude -- in the language of modern media, the web in particular. I can't get too worked up about historians in AD 2500 who might not get the joke. I'd worry more about the effects on people in AD 2000 of shoddy journalists, publishers of ''New Age'' books, and TV shows like The X-Files, that collectively perpetuate myths of Roswell and Loch Ness, UFO aliens and faces on Mars. Newspapers that publish astrology columns: now there's intellectually dishonest journalism to be concerned about.
    --ed. ]

    Famous last words...

    Dear Locus Online,
         TENEBRES is the French magazine of Horror, Dark Fantasy & Suspense. We've published 9 issues in two years to general critical and popular acclaim. Our new project is kind of weird. We wish to collect from as many writers, editors, directors, artists as possible their 'famous last words'.
         Writers or artists who have already been interviewed in our magazine are familiar with this ritual last question : "What would be your last words on your deathbed (not that we wish you any harm)?" Our project is to collect these answers in one volume to be published later in the year. As we wish to have as many answers as possible, we'd like writers/artists/editors to forward this message to as many writers/artists/editors in/out of the genre as possible -- after having answered themselves. The answers have to be original and can be as long as the contributor wants it to be (from a few words to a few lines). There will be a presentation of the author before each answer. The answer must be sent by email ( or fax ( intl access code + 3 33 83 27 55 94), along with your name, country of origin and profession.
         Thanks in advance for helping us put together this macabre project.

    Daniel Conrad & Benoit Domis
    TENEBRES, editors
    9 April 2000

    Do you remember...?

         I heard from a third party about a series of books that refer to earthlings as "Clots" or "Clot People".  Can you direct me to the name of the series or the author?

    Kevin Gillars

         I'm trying to find an anthology I read many years ago, probably in the 1960's, but I have not been successful. I can remember two of the short stories, but I'm not certain of the titles, and I do not remember the authors.
         The first story is actually a VR story. A man finds himself walking in a railway tunnel, with know knowledge of who he is or how he got there. A train comes and he is forced to dive under it. Immediately he find himself near some Joshua trees, which turn out to be dangerous creatures in disguise. He is transported to a new situation as soon as he solves the problem in the current one. He is of course wired up in a lab, being trained to handle mind blowing situations, after the first starship returned with all the crew turned into babbling lunatics. Eventually he remembers and regains control of his mind.
         I thought the story was called "The Tunnel", but there is more than one story with this title in your database and I not certain of a match.
         Another story in the anthology was called "The Analog", I thought. Again I cannot be certain of a match. In that story, an alien diplomat's spaceship has broken down and a mechanic must repair it or else there will be a diplomatic incident. To repair the alien technology he must get an "analog" of the alien's brain. The diplomat refuses. The mechanic takes it anyway and repairs the ship.
         Any help would be appreciated.

    Graham D.

    Some liked Locus Online's April 1st issue...

    Bravo! Those stories made my morning.

    You had me going for about 2 paragraphs. I reread paragragh 2 of the article before I finally figured out what was troubling me about the anouncement :-)

    BTW if you ever hear Gene Wolfe anouncing a tie-in to the Star Trek universe, please wack him in the head with a rolled-up Locus Magazine :-)   

    JHG Hendriks
    The Netherlands

    I'm -still- LMAO! Great job!

    (The Shatner story -is- a joke, right? Please?)

    April cover. Great issue. Can't wait to read the Shatner interview nor the various Harry Potter reviews. This is the level of professionalism that Locus should have been striving for all along. :-)

    Your April cover is certainly stunning, but I would kind of like to have had a look at that issue with William Shatner on the cover and see what reviews that bunch of oddsock contributors would have produced.

    Comments: I have to congratulate you on your April Fool's Edition. However, I think you unintentionally left off White Wolf's upcoming print run of Ellison's "The Last Dangerous Visions: I Really Mean It This Time!" and Del Rey's recent find of Heinlein's "The Stone Pillow" under, appropriately enough, a rock. And who can forget NESFA Press' huge upset by landing the publishing rights to the Complete Grocery Receipts of Stephen King?

    [ Thanks are due to Gordon Van Gelder, Charles Brown, Kuo-Yu Liang, Rick Wilber, Joe Haldeman, and others around the pool-side table at the ICFA in Ft. Lauderdale a couple weeks ago for coming up with most of the ideas; to the Asimov's Undergrad students for cooperating; and to Locus's Kirsten Gong-Wong for assembling the William Shatner cover. --ed. ]

    And some didn't...

    I think it's past April 1st, and since you've got two copies of the "April 2000" issue online, I can safely assume that there is -not- a review of Winter's Heart in the issue, and that all the hype, commotion, and turmoil in the Internet community caused by Jordan fans is inaccurate?  

    For shame, I was sincerely interested in the material your magazine offers, but leaving something like that on your site past the appropriate "humorous joke" time actually made many people believe it to be legitimate.  As much as I enjoy Sci-Fi, I'll get my news from somewhere else.

    [ Received Monday morning, April 3; the April 1st homepage, with the April 1st date, was left up until mid-day on Monday. ]

    Comments about Locus Online...

    Dear Locus,
         Wow! I love the online site.
         I've been reluctant to take a look at it, based on experiences with other magazine to web conversions I've seen, but I shall doubt no more. The links from the books received to the stores that sell them is just wonderful. After half an hour of browsing I had put something like 12 books in my Amazon shopping cart. Dangerous to my wallet! The layout, simplicity of navigation and overall look and feel is lovely.
         Keep up the excellent work.

    Zara Baxter
    31 March 2000

    Dear Locus,
         As a subscriber to Locus Magazine, I don't check out the website very often. When I do log on, I am reminded what a lovely site you maintain. The site is designed with style, and is very easy to navigate. My only (minor) complaint is that you have partnered with I wish that you featured independent bookstores...perhaps some that specialized in SF. I guess I am sensitive about huge bookstores because I work at a small, struggling independent bookstore. We do have a stellar SF section that the local Borders and Barnes & Noble can't compete with. I use your magazine to inform me about which books to order. Thanks for all your effort. Locus is by far the best SF magazine on the market.

    Michelle Lemay
    25 March 2000

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