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June 2001

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Note: Return e-mail addresses will be posted only if you include it in your closing, or your subject matter specifically requests some sort of response; otherwise it will be omitted.


Dear Locus Online,
     Remember quite some time back you posted an editorial on-line on the subject of purchasing books at stores versus on-line. Well, I think it's time to revisit that editorial.
     I was just going through some titles on Amazon.com to place another order (my first in a few weeks) and I discovered, much to my dismay, that the discounts on all titles (except NYT best sellers, I believe) have been removed! So now, when one purchases all those SF/F/H titles, the price will be retail cover price!
     Amazon's teaser right now is to offer free shipping on two or more items, but I don't know how long that offer will last. I have noticed that when I email Amazon I now receive an auto-reply message and then often I never actually receive a response to my inquiry. Not too long ago, one always received a human response within about 24 hours.
     I guess these are all ways that the CEO of Amazon.com will meet his boast of becoming profitable by the end of the year.
     Once the free shipping goes away, unless I can find a promotional offer, then I may as well go to a local independent store (what's left of them!), or even a B&N or Borders store: sales tax will be cheaper than shipping, and I can handpick the best copy of the book.
     Bottom line though is that I can't afford to buy books at my current quantity and pay full retail price. So Amazon.com may sell a book at full cover price now, but I suspect they will sell a lot less books. I know I'll be buying a lot less!
     Cheers,

Marty Halpern
Editor & Webmaster
Golden Gryphon Press


Dear Locus,
     While I am sometimes willing to buy a hardback or trade paperback (not very often, really), the overwhelming majority of my SFFH purchases are mass market paperbacks. What I'd really like to see in the magazine and on the web site is a "What's new in paperback" section, highlighting the paperback publication of the books, both first printings, but more particularly, the first paperback printings of books previously available only as hardbacks and/or trade paperbacks. I'm sure a lot of your other readers would also appreciate a 'heads up' as to new books in the format that they enjoy buying the most.
     Please make it happen.

Scott Ogle

[ We're working on such a section, along with other ongoing Recommended Reading lists, for the website.
--ed. ]


Dear Locus,
     Gereon Kalkuhl's letter of 22 June suggests that I was wrong to note the (only modestly interesting) fact that the current Hugo ballot contains only one American novel, since Canada is "on the American continent."
     It's true that inhabitants of Nova Scotia were among the first people of European descent to refer to themselves as "Americans," and it's likewise true that some modern Canadians and Latin Americans dislike the way that citizens of the United States arrogate the term "American" to themselves. Nonetheless, by and large, most Canadians will correct you if you refer to them as Americans, and it was (obviously) in that sense that I made my observation.
     Kalkuhl's attempt to make sport of geography would perhaps carry a little more weight if he didn't refer to "the American continent" as if there were only one.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden


Dear Locus,
     As has been pointed out many, many, many times, Canada is NOT part of the United States, and we do not think of ourselves as "American".
     I point this out because the common usage of "American" refers specifically and only to those citizens of the United States of America.
     Canada is a country in its own right (at least, for now), and while our country is on the North American continent, we are *not* Americans, nor do we think of ourselves as such. While we might infight considerably about what defines us as Canadian, we are united as regards this distinction.
     Mr. Nielsen Hayden's comments, therefore, about the international flavour of this year's Hugo ballot, are entirely correct.

Theresa Wojtasiewicz


Dear Locus,
     Gardner Dozois and I are holding some anthology money for Tom Maddox, but he has moved, and I don't have a current address for him. Would you have one? If not, could you put a note in Locus that we're trying to locate him?

Jack Dann


Dear Locus,
     Re: Patrick Nielsen Hayden's letter of 26 April.
     Unless Canada has moved a couple of thousand miles I always regarded it as being on the American continent. I am not as good in double dactyls as Mr. [Nielsen] Hayden of Tor fame, but I bet he can come up with an explanation of the transcontinental shift of Canada as postulated in his letter to Locus in one of his double dactyls.

Gereon Kalkuhl


Dear Locus,
     I notice in your "Upcoming Titles" issue that you've completely left out the Pinnacle horror line. Zebra/Pinnacle is now printing 1 new horror novel per month. The June title is In the Blood by Stephen Greshem, the July title is Night Blood, and the August title is Candle Bay by Tamara Thorne.
     This is significant because now Leisure is no longer the only mass market paperback publisher with a monthy line of horror novels. I believe Berkley will be the next publisher to add a monthly horror line.
     When you prepare the year end wrap up issue I predict you will find the percentage of new mass market horror titles has grown considerably in 2001.
     Thanks,

Eric


Dear Locus,
     Re: Jeff Berkwits's commentary on SF and the Internet:
     One problem I have with this notion of "the action" moving from print to the Internet in written sf is that once one of these on-line publications or services closes down -- unless I've downloaded some or all the fine stuff they offer -- I don't have much of an "archive" of what they've "published."
     With a subscription to an sf magazine like F&SF or Analog, I have a nice little library to flip through and discover all the writers who weren't "hot" when their stories were first published and may now be up for awards, like Jeffrey Ford, who got a Nebula nomination this year but has been publishing work steadily for about a decade without much interest or acclaim. Ford has recently been getting notice from his publication in on-line formats, but if all his work had been "published" that way I'm afraid a lot of that early work would be unavailable to us.
     One place where the Internet has been a great help, however, is in the on-line references, like Locus offers, where I can look up an author whom I've recently "discovered" (for me at least, slow reader and non "herd follower" that I am) and find out what he or she has published elsewhere.
     Fiction is not like a "news" piece. Literature is "news that stays news," as Ezra Pound said, and it needs a longer shelf life than the Internet can currently offer (an exception might be a service like Alexandria Digital Literature, which wasn't mentioned in the commentary). I'm afraid that too much of the commentary about print vs. the Internet is still somewhat colored by the vested interests of the commentators -- on both sides. The Internet still has a ratio of far too many advocates and prophets over flat-out journalists, which is why so few people in the dot.com bust knew what hit them -- they believed their own hype.
     And although it's hard to believe that print sf media has an easy future going for it, it's also hard to trust a diagnosis coming from a medium quick to pass judgment on others while completely missing the sucker punch they took themselves.
     The magazine readers are a smaller audience, but they put their money where their interests are, which is more than much of the wider Internet audience is ready to do. Making that transfer of capital from readers to "publishers" -- either in print or on-line -- has more to do with the matter than we'd more often care to admit.

Richard J. Chwedyk


Dear Locus,
     This is a sort of informal press release. Had recent round of heart ailments and spent nine days in hospital. Discharged Friday June 8, 2001. At home recuperating from several procedures which have improved condition. Please express my thanks to the members of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society for support, sympathy, and help. They are a marvelous bunch of fans. The best in the world, in my humble opinion.
     Anent my recent illness, I'd like to add a note of thanks to Dr. Harlan Ellison, a stand-up heart specialist who has devised a radical new therapeutic technique for cardiac patients. In sum, the procedure consists of trying to get the patient to laugh himself to death, theory being that if he lives through it, he'll survive anything. Dr. Ellison, well-known in many venues for keeping his patients in stitches, has been known to make house calls, but in my case phoned his therapy in, a delivery system for which it is eminently suited. Sometimes three times a day. At intervals I would gasp, ''Stop it, you're killing me!,'' to which he'd reply, ''That's the idea, kiddo.'' The medical staff allowed the calls as long as I was hooked up to an EKG machine. Thank you, Dr. Ellison, for your merciless precision and trenchant dedication to medical science. It hurt like hell, but it pulled me through.

John DeChancie


Dear Locus,
     I am currently working on a history/retrospective on the Winston Science Fiction Classics, which, from 1952 to 1961, was brilliant in its choice of writers. There's no problem in finding information on the books and their authors, but, for some unearthly reason, finding background information on the publisher itself is proving very difficult.
     The John C. Winston Company, which was a moving force in publishing from the late 1800s to its merger into Holt, Rinehart & Winston in the early 1960s, seems to have disappeared without leaving much of a history behind. I've contacted HRW several times, but no one responds. The best I have been able to do is find a couple of references in The History of American Book Publishing and Philadelphia Titans of Industry.
     If you could provide me with any information at all or point me toward a source at which I might find that information I would be most appreciative.

Chuck Nussman
(973) 227-8080


Dear Locus,
     Re: Susan Manning's query about an old SF novel:
     The novel sounds like it could be A Gift From Earth by Larry Niven. I haven't looked at my copy to check the copyright date, but one of the used books for sale on Amazon was a fifth edition in 1970, so the timing sounds about right. The story takes place on a colony at Mount Lookitthat, and the protagonist turns out to have a psi power that affects other people's eyes. When he is nervous or afraid their pupils contract and they lose interest in him, ignore him. He still shows up on camera, it affects people only in his immediate vicinity. This helps him as an agent of a rebellion, but is very bad for his love life until he learns to run it in reverse. The mutation comes to be known as "Plateau eyes".

Pat Sheller



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