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Mike Bailey
Posted on Thursday, June 03, 2004 - 05:49 pm:   

“Gliders Though They Be” by Carol Emshwiller seems to continue in the universe of “On Display Among the Lesser. In fact, the unnamed protagonist might be a member of the Lesser tribe that captured a raptor and forced it to dance for them in her previous story. (Are we sure these are meerkats? Ellen said they were, but I did not know meerkats had feathers or nubs…)

I enjoy the way Emshwiller discusses vanity and envy in both stories. Instead of merely changing the characters from vain and envious humans to similarly twisted animals, Emshwiller has written the animals with a unique voice and culture. I feel this makes her stories in this particular universe more effective; the reader is lured into exploring the unique culture of the animals, wonders at the differences between the intelligent critters and our own mundane creatures, and the lessons about human pride and envy are slipped deftly into the mix.

One nice technique that Emshwiller uses to make her world seem real is using physical communication among her characters. Many authors forget that communication is 70% nonverbal, and by describing the physical communication that takes place in her story, Emshwiller gives her characters a sense of solidity, as well as offering insights into culture. A few examples:
I puff up so as to look even larger, though I lose some of my shine that way….
I hum a tune I know is theirs…
With my own, I'd chitter or some such, but I don't know what works with them. And I don't want to spark any jealousy among their males or attract attention to myself. But I do clack my teeth a few times…
I flatten my fur to give it more glow. I enter boldly…
I step around them, working my way closer, patting shoulders as I pass the others…
She raises her head as though to bare her throat to me. A good sign…
She shakes her shoulders and spreads her wings a little bit as though to show them off.
I shake, too, and hope my vest still hides my nubs. I say, "Glorious." I show my front teeth…


I also really enjoyed Emshwiller’s opening. Besides having a unique feel to the sentences (since it is written in critter voice), there is clever use of alliteration and pauses.
They live, as we do, by the shadows, by the warmth of stones on sunny days, by fissures in rocks. They scramble, skulk, and skitter—as we do. They die, as we do, by the sky, by the trees. Live by black brush, prickly poppies. Die by the drop and dive and skim of the masters from the air.
The opening reminded me of the great opening in “The Wages of Syntax,” by Ray Vukcevich (available in the SCIFICTION archives), which also started with a great voice making some sinister plans.

The horror of what the protagonist had done to the young fledglings was balanced by the epiphany experienced at the end, when the infiltrator thinks, “The only way any of us, we or they, ever really fly, is like this.”
I wondered if Emshwiller was sneaking in a message about death at the end, something like: All our human vanities and desires are meaningless at the end, when we face death, and we realize too late that everything was an unimportant illusion, a pale imitation of the purity beyond. She may not have been trying to sneak that in. I think her main theme was about the fruitlessness of vanity and envy, but the death message certainly puts everything else into perspective.

I can’t say too many times how enjoyable the story was because of the voice. What a great voice, and she was so consistent with it! Very good job, in my opinion.
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ellen
Posted on Thursday, June 03, 2004 - 06:04 pm:   

Mike,
I'll try to get Carol over here to read your critique--I think/hope she'll be pleased. She told me that it was a prequel to "On Display Among the Lesser"--and she said the creatures in "Lesser" were meerkats. Let's see if she can clarify (or not) :-)
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Matthew
Posted on Thursday, June 03, 2004 - 08:36 pm:   

You know the stories where a like not only in there being in the same series, but also in theme: love and freedom. This one was a little bit more pessimistic than the last, though.
I'm also glad to hear that some one who writes as good...I mean...well as Ms. Emshwiller had trouble in English class. Gives me hope.
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chance
Posted on Wednesday, June 09, 2004 - 03:33 am:   

ack! I hate continued stories. (Luckily I checked before I started, so now I guess I'll have to wait until it is all up rather than grumping for a week or so.)

(Oh, and when I loaded the frontpage to the story this morning, in the middle of the artwork was an "Error Processing this Directive message)
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JeremyT
Posted on Wednesday, June 09, 2004 - 08:54 am:   

Ellen--
Right now, I see all three weeks of the story posted. Are they supposed to be?
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ellen
Posted on Wednesday, June 09, 2004 - 08:57 am:   

Hi Chance,
The error is fixed but now all three parts are up--new server problem--those subsequent weeks will be going away any minute now (sigh).
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chance
Posted on Wednesday, June 09, 2004 - 09:01 am:   

hee. the god of public whining clearly answered my prayer :-)
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Carol Emshwiller
Posted on Wednesday, June 09, 2004 - 11:17 am:   

OK try again to say how much I like your review. This is Carol again. I lost my first answer. How could I not love your review. LOVE it!!!! I like that you liked the opening. I worked so hard on that. About the "meanings..." Pride and envy and such, I never think about such things. I'm just deep inside my characters and have no thoughts about a message...ever. Messages just seem to happen now and then. Yesterday I read a section in a Coetzee book...end of ELIZABETH CASTELLO... that says as I feel. She says...more or less..."I am a writer, I have no beliefs.... I have beliefs but do not believe in them.... I am a secretary...." Anyway I thought Yay when I read that. I only have the beliefs that the story needs at the time I write the story. I hate the idea of messages. Anyway, I do love your review.
Thanks!!!!!! Carol
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ellen
Posted on Wednesday, June 09, 2004 - 07:36 pm:   

Thanks for your response, Carol. :-)

Chance, it's gone again. Sorry :-( You'll have to wait the next two weeks.
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Carol Emshwiller
Posted on Thursday, June 10, 2004 - 11:12 am:   

Also I forgot to say they're meercats or mongoose, but fantasy meercats. smart and with nubs or little almost useless wings. Carol
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Mike Bailey
Posted on Thursday, June 10, 2004 - 02:16 pm:   

Carol, thank you for your response to my review. Thank you for your compliment! I find it interesting that you had no intent to write about the pitfalls of vanity in either story, and both stories seemed to me to be so centered on those themes. The IROSF has an article up now about "the gap between authorial intent and reader experience" that seems to apply here...
http://www.irosf.com/q/zine/article/10047
And thanks for clearing up the meercat question.
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Matt Jarpe
Posted on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 11:29 am:   

Can anyone give me some pointers on getting SciFiction stories onto my Palm? I just tried something called Avant Go and not only didn't it have SciFiction, it screwed up my access to the intranet at work (oops!). I'd like to download selected stories, if that's possible.

Thanks,
Matt
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ellen
Posted on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 01:32 pm:   

I know people do it--if no one here can tell you, if you're in touch with Cory Doctorow he might be able to give you a tip. Also, I can ask people in the office Monday if you don't get help before then.
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Matt Jarpe
Posted on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 04:56 pm:   

I imagine Cory is way beyond handhelds. He probably has adopted early a device that beams the stories right into his skull. :-)
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chance
Posted on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 05:11 pm:   

jja was recently talking about how he does it here: http://www.tuginternet.com/jja/journal/archives/001655.html

ellen - i absolutely positively did not read all three sections when they were available because that would have been wrong. *cough*

*tries not to look guilty*
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JJA
Posted on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 05:56 pm:   

Yes, I hate Avantgo, and I found the whole thing very annoying and uninstalled it immediately. That link on the SCI FI channel's website is misleading; it does make it look like SCI FICTION would be availble via Avantgo, but it is not.

I read on a message board once that a software called Plucker works well, but I couldn't figure out how to use it. If you follow that link as Chance suggests, you'll see my solution. I've been using it quite happily for a while now.
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Matt Jarpe
Posted on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 07:09 pm:   

Thanks, John, I'll give it a shot. I guess if I run across a story that has fun with typefaces I'll just have to read it on the desktop.

Cheers,
Matt
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ellen
Posted on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 08:32 pm:   

Chance, do you mean they were up long enough that you _could_ read the whole thing? Ok. ;-) so I hope you liked it --since you're the only person who's read the whole thing, (other than me, of course), what do you think? No spoilers....

JJA,
All the periodic table was put on avant go but not the regular fiction. We decided it took too much time to set it up. Can you still access the table through it? If not, I'll check the page to make sure it's not misleading.
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John Joseph Adams
Posted on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 09:07 pm:   

I assume you can still read the Periodic Table stories on Avantgo. Since I uninstalled it, there's no way for me to check. It was so long ago, I don't remember.

Actually, now that I go back and look, the copy is not misleading. I was just assuming that the SCI FICTION stories would be on there, I guess.

But I think the problem with the Avantgo copy is that it *doesn't tell you* what you're getting. It's very vague. So you go through all the trouble to download it and install it, only to find out that it doesn't have the site content you were looking for.

It says:

"SCIFI.COM delivered directly to your handheld device, via AvantGo! Includes news, schedules and other handy SCI FI information."

In retrospect, I suppose that should have clued me in; if the fiction were included, they likely would have mentioned it there. But like I said, I must have just assumed, and that's what I get for assuming. To see which specific content Avantgo provides, you have to download it.

But hey, it doesn't matter to me anymore as I found a pretty simple method of converting the stories to a PDA format. It works for me and only takes a moment each week. I just have to remember to go get the stories.
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chance
Posted on Saturday, June 12, 2004 - 07:26 am:   

Oh, when I heard all three weeks were up I just opened each week in a separate browser window and read it when I was taking a break at work.

I enjoyed the story, but it wasn't one of the ones that really popped for me like Jim's story a couple weeks ago or "On Display Among the Lesser."
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ellen
Posted on Saturday, June 12, 2004 - 07:59 am:   

JJA, I checked the avant go page and saw I couldn't see what was actually there without registering or downloading so didn't do it. Doesn't seem misleading though because as you say, it doesn't mention the fiction.
Glad you figured it out.


chance, yeah. It's a different kind of story/novella. As a novella it's more leisurely in its telling (which doesn't necessarily explain why it didn't "pop" for you ;-) )

By the way, just bought a new Waldrop story. It'll be up in mid-September I think.
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Lou Antonelli
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 06:22 am:   

Ellen -

Is that the story that Howard workshopped at Rio Hondo? I guess he must have gotten his rewrite done.
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ellen
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 09:32 am:   

Yes, it is. He didn't rewrite it, although he is changing a wee bit for me. I didn't feel it needed the clarification that apparently some at Rio Hondo suggested.
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Jonathan
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 08:46 pm:   

>>By the way, just bought a new Waldrop story.

Yay! Can't wait to see it. I'm always happy to see new Howard stories out there.
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ellen
Posted on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 08:16 am:   

It's called "The Wolfman of Alcatraz." Use your imagination :-)
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 08:48 am:   

I never understand Howard Waldrop's stories anyway, so I'm sure it won't make a difference whether he clarifies it or not. :-) Some time ago I decided just to enjoy his stories, not understand them.
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ellen
Posted on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 10:04 am:   

Patrick, It doesn't. Particularly in this case, I didn't feel it needed it.
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Jonathan
Posted on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 03:12 pm:   

Ellen, I'm really looking forward to "Wolfman". It sounds like a lot of fun. Is it long? On understanding Howard: most of his stories are reasonably clear and unambiguous, though I've never understood "Scientifiction". Others reveal themselves, like "You Could Go Home Again", which is an absolute masterpiece, once you *get* it. I also though his story last year from the Janis Ian anthology was remarkably straightforward for him. Can't wait for the new collection.
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ellen
Posted on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 06:25 pm:   

It's short--4,000 words.

I'm still hoping that Bill Schafer will market the collection with the CD of Howard reading. I've just emailed to ask him. He expressed interest several months ago.
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Eugie Foster
Posted on Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - 06:20 am:   

Ellen,

I'm reviewing "Shadow Twin" for Tangent, and next week I'm going to be on a boat with limited (if any) Internet access. Is there any chance I could get part three emailed to me before then so I can get the review written in a more timely fashion?

Also, I'm just antsy to read the rest of it . . .

Thanks!
--Eugie
www.eugiefoster.com

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ellen
Posted on Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - 08:30 am:   

Eugie,
Just sent you the entire mss as I don't have it separated into parts.
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Eugie Foster
Posted on Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - 10:23 am:   

I just got it. Thanks, Ellen!
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Jer
Posted on Friday, June 18, 2004 - 06:35 am:   

Just finished the second week of *Shadow Twin* - I was glad that they went ahead and said outright that the vat-Ramon is an entirely new beast. It was a bit too obvious to be the main twist to the story. (I'm liking it so far, btw)

Ellen, do you have any information on how this novella came to be co-authored by the three? (it seems a rather odd situation, but maybe that's just because I've never seen it before=)
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ellen
Posted on Friday, June 18, 2004 - 11:48 am:   

Jer, I don't but there's a long history of it with Gardner, Michael Swanwick, and Jack Dann having collaborated together on a number of stories in the 80s.
I'll see if I can ask one or all of them to post some info on how it worked.
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George R.R. Martin
Posted on Friday, June 18, 2004 - 12:04 pm:   

How "Shadow Twin" came to be.

Gardner started it, back in 1977.

I added my bit in 1982.

Daniel Abraham finished it in 2003.

Gardner revised, polished, and edited it after Daniel was done, to smooth out the three styles into one consistent voice.
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Jer
Posted on Friday, June 18, 2004 - 07:21 pm:   

Interesting stuff... Thanks for the reply, George R.R. Martin. (BTW, I really enjoy your A Song of Fire and Ice series)

If nothing else, I'm convinced to never, ever throw away any scrap of my writing. For at least 26 years.

=)
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Mike Bailey
Posted on Monday, July 05, 2004 - 12:08 pm:   

"Slow Tuesday Night" by R.A. Lafferty

I didn't feel anything when I read Lafferty's story. Due to the ephemeral nature of the society described in the tale, and the flightiness of all the characters, I felt no connection to the story in any meaningful way. The neat idea of a super-fast world seems to me to be insufficient to make the story interesting. I need more depth of character to enjoy a story.

While I wasn't into the theme, as far as Laffery's writing skill is concerned, I felt the story had a nice, light humorous feel that is harder to achieve than one might expect. The tale also seemed to flow well. If the theme had been something to which I felt more connected, I expect I would have been quite pleased.
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kundor
Posted on Monday, July 05, 2004 - 03:53 pm:   

Perhaps the lack of connection is part of a point -- the characters themselves aren't connected to anything. It's postmodern ennui taken to a new level. ;-)
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ellen
Posted on Monday, July 05, 2004 - 04:53 pm:   

Mike and Kundor,
I suspect you're both right. I don't feel it's one of Lafferty's best but it sure pins down a certain whizzing by lifestyle/culture.
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Mike Bailey
Posted on Monday, July 05, 2004 - 05:11 pm:   

"Shadow Twin" by Gardner Dozois, George RR Martin and Daniel Abraham

"Shadow Twin" had several nice touches. One of my favorites: the cultural references that gave the story an extra dimension for me. The culture on the planet of São Paulo was a nice change, as the "colonists were mostly from the Brazilian Commonwealth, Mexico, Jamaica, and Hispaniola." The authors did a good job, in my opinion, of making cultural references in dialog, food, and even mind-set. The feeling was authentic; Ramon was not just the same old protagonist with a different ethnic name, but a legitimate "tough-ass bastard" ready to stomp some alien pendejo into the turf.

I also liked the transformation in Ramon (although, technically, the real Ramon did not transform at all.) I fancied the idea that he had been somewhat purified by his creation in the vat, his punishment with the sahael, and his dream-merge with Maneck). Enough of the hard Ramon remained to do what needed to be done on the river, but he seemed wiser at the end, and kind enough to show some respect for the deceased, something I cannot imagine the original doing.
Somewhere in that flow—eaten by fish, his bones washed out to sea—the other Ramon had by now become part of the world in a way that could never be undone. Ramon touched his brow in a sign of respect for the dead.
The transformation of Ramon was what made the story deep enough for me to enjoy, although I also appreciated the fine writing (of which there was plenty). Some of Ramon's final thoughts again show how he had changed:
And it [exiting the mountain] would be a good thing for the aliens too, for whom he'd gradually come to feel a strange kind of sympathy; no one, not even alien monsters, should have to hide inside in the dark all the time when there was a world like this one to be out and around in.

Another note: The overtones of respect that even the original Ramon had for the pure environment and fauna of the mountainous north suggested to me that Ramon’s true love was never a woman, but the planet itself. I liked that romantic notion. The fact that even the “bad” Ramon loved the wilds kept him from being too one-dimensional.

While there is plenty of good stuff to like in “Shadow Twin,” I still think Ramon was a little too unsympathetic to leave behind the kind of lingering emotion that a reader will feel after reading some of the other SCIFICTION stories, like “At the Mouth of the River of Bees,” by Kij Johnson. That story lingered because of the painful and loving relationship between Linna and her dog, Sam, but the closest thing I can point to in “Shadow Twin” would be the odd dream-merge between Ramon and Maneck, and even then, I still didn’t sympathize much with Maneck, who fried Ramon for the heinous crime of laughing (great way to show a truly alien nature, by the way.) Still, “Shadow Twin” was a good read, and has a lot to offer.
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Mike Bailey
Posted on Monday, July 05, 2004 - 05:14 pm:   

Sorry I've been quiet the last 3 weeks. I had August Asimov's and RoF to review, as well as ASIM 12. They all kind of hit at once, and it takes me a lot of time to give each story the thought I think it deserves. I'm still finishing ASIM, but I noticed Ellen's board was looking lonely over here. Thought I'd try to get something going.
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ellen
Posted on Monday, July 05, 2004 - 06:00 pm:   

Thanks for coming back, Mike :-)

You do a great job. I still wish you could review us regularly for someplace with more readers--does the new Internet Review of SF need short story reviewers? Also, The Fix in the UK.

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JeremyT
Posted on Tuesday, July 06, 2004 - 10:40 am:   

The IROSF is definitely looking for more reviewers from what i have heard. Mike, check their guidelines and see about doing an online fiction review column for them. They pay $70 an article.
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John Joseph Adams
Posted on Tuesday, July 06, 2004 - 01:34 pm:   

Yeah, that might work nicely as a sort of dueling reviews column with Mr. Bailey and Bluejack. Since Bluejack doesn't review everything (like he used to), the two of them could cover just about everything published each month, if they were so inclined.

Mike -- if you want to query John Frost at IROSF, feel free to mention that I recommended you contact him. Also, if Ellen is cool with it, perhaps you could point out that she thinks you're a good reviewer. That's got to count for something.
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ellen
Posted on Tuesday, July 06, 2004 - 04:42 pm:   

Absolutely, yes Mike. Please say I'll give you a reference :-)

by the way, just bought new stories by Terry Bisson and Kim Newman. The Newman is a long novelette (just short of novella length) "Soho Golem."
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Rob Darnell
Posted on Wednesday, July 07, 2004 - 12:19 am:   

First time I looked at all of the Nightshade board. George R.R. Martin dropped on by. Hey George.

Ellen, every since I installed McAfee Firewall I have not been able access SciFiction.com. The site will not load. I can get everywhere else but there. Weird, and rather disappointing. I never got to finish reading Shadow Twin. I'm still tampering around with this stupid firewall, trying to figure out why its keeping me out of Sci Fiction. Miss reading the stories you buy, and besides I expect I'm going to be needing your address for submissions soon.

Poor me.
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ellen
Posted on Wednesday, July 07, 2004 - 07:42 am:   

Rob,
Maybe you should try a different firewall. I use zone alarm free version. I'll ask my producer though, if he has any tips about McAfee.
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ellen
Posted on Wednesday, July 07, 2004 - 08:21 am:   

Can you get scifi.com?
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ellen
Posted on Wednesday, July 07, 2004 - 08:27 am:   

Our IT person says if you don't know what you're doing, firewalls can block things unexpectedly.

I'm for some reason unable to get into writers.com with either netscape or IE and I know the site is up and there.
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Tribeless
Posted on Wednesday, July 07, 2004 - 01:38 pm:   

I find Nortons far more user friendly (ie, I can configure it) than McAfee. For what its worth.

Mind you, this is also a demonstration of why its so important for internet sites to 'keep it simple'. There must be something Scifi.com is trying to 'push' be it pop up adds (most probably, despicable things, which Nortans zaps very effectively) or something.
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Rob Darnell
Posted on Wednesday, July 07, 2004 - 02:26 pm:   

Yeah, the URL I meant is scifi.com, I've always gone there by following a bookmark. I haven't really done anything with the firewall excepted set a few basic settings, and nowhere do I have any website blocked. When I try to go to the site, just a black background will show. I can sit here and wait hours, and the site won't load. Thanks though, if I don't get it figured out, I might chuck the firewall.

Oh, I can get to writers.com. How about that? I guess my firewall likes that site, can't imagine why yours doesn't. But nor can I imagine why mine doesn't like Sci Fiction.
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Melissa Mead
Posted on Wednesday, July 07, 2004 - 03:01 pm:   

Could it be blocked on your Internet Explorer settings?
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ellen
Posted on Wednesday, July 07, 2004 - 03:18 pm:   

Rob, try cleaning your cache (if you use Netscape as a browser)--don't know how you would do that on IE.

The tech guy at my isp suggested I try removing netscape from my zone alarm firewall and then add it again. That didn't help. Then he suggested changing privacy settings but I don't have any in zone alarm (I use the free versoin)--when I tried to change cookies and stuff on netscape I hesitated.

So I've got the same problem as you but with a differnt site. How weird.
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Tribeless
Posted on Wednesday, July 07, 2004 - 04:58 pm:   

Sorry to bang on. But the problem is sites trying to 'send' you stuff to write on your hard disk, as it is only that the firewall's are trying to stop.

When I finally take my rightful role of benign dictator of the World, I'm planning on issuing a decree that all web masters who think pop up ads are a good thing be shot, and who think that cookies are the best thing since sliced bread be put into solitary confinement for thirteen and a half years.

Perhaps a slight over reaction, but then again, that's just the freedom loving Libertarian in me coming out ...
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EDatlow
Posted on Wednesday, July 07, 2004 - 06:08 pm:   

I don't get pop ups on SCIFI.COM and can still access the site so that's not it.

But I don't disagree :-)
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Rob Darnell
Posted on Wednesday, July 07, 2004 - 06:17 pm:   

I hear you, Tribeless. But I'm not sure that's the case. Everytime I come across a website that attempts to put a cookie on my computer or collect information like my home address or phone number (yes, quite a few have tried that), I'm notified and given the option to reject or accept. Since installing this firewall, I have not been notified of any such activity from Sci Fiction, the site just won't load. I'm sure it has everything to do with the firewall, and there probably is a cookie or two waiting to be accepted or rejected, but so far I have not gotten far enough to find out.
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MaryRobinette
Posted on Wednesday, July 07, 2004 - 09:26 pm:   

I think the problem is more likely to be related to LSP troubles. I don't know if you're which McAfee firewall you're using but their help center is pretty darn good. Try this link http://ts.mcafeehelp.com/default.asp?siteID=1&cnrcheck=done&resolution=1024x768
It has some troubleshooting info on it which is related but not exactly your problem. Or you can go to http://ts.mcafeehelp.com/default.asp?siteID=1&cnrcheck=done&resolution=1024x768 and ask one of their online support techs.
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Mike Bailey
Posted on Wednesday, July 07, 2004 - 09:53 pm:   

Back about 10 entries...
Thanks, JeremyT and JJA and Ellen, for the vote of confidence. I'll ask IROSF if they want some reviews.

As far as the firewall issues: good luck. I work in IT (I am an MCSE, for what that's worth), and I installed Norton firewall software, promptly couldn't get to sites I like, couldn't even use Norton AntiVirus LiveUpdate (you would think they would write code that would not interfere with their OWN products!), then uninstalled it, and even then some things are still broken. I think I will have to reload my operating system to clean out what it did to me.
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Rob Darnell
Posted on Thursday, July 08, 2004 - 01:00 am:   

Darn me, I misread something earlier. I can get to www.scifi.com, but not www.scifi.com/scifiction/.

I've tried all the suggestions, but nothing has worked. I asked some people on another forum, who are suppose to be experts in things like this, so I'll see what they come up with. Thanks for trying to help. Sorry about the threadjack, heh-heh.
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ET
Posted on Thursday, July 08, 2004 - 08:16 am:   

Tribeless, cookies *are* the best thing since sliced bread. Frankly, I don't know any webmaster who uses sliced bread these days. They all moved to cookies.

But anyway, cookies are very helpful for persistence, and pretty harmless. Reports of their danger have been exaggerated. (In particular once you limit access to them to the server of the site you're looking at.)
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EDatlow
Posted on Thursday, July 08, 2004 - 08:31 am:   

Rob,
Can you view
http://www.scifi.com/scifiction/archive.html

or
http://www.scifi.com/scifiction/originals/originals_archive/abraham2/

http://www.scifi.com/scifiction/originals/originals_archive/abraham2/abraham21.h tml
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Rob Darnell
Posted on Thursday, July 08, 2004 - 07:29 pm:   

Nope. :-(

At all three, I just get the background, but nothing else.

Might have to give up this firewall.
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EDatlow
Posted on Thursday, July 08, 2004 - 07:57 pm:   

Nuts. My producer though going through a different link would help. Sorry about that.
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EDatlow
Posted on Thursday, July 08, 2004 - 07:59 pm:   

Rob, if you give me all your pertinent computer info I can ask our IT people.
computer
browser
operating system
firewall
when it started happening, etc.
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Rob Darnell
Posted on Thursday, July 08, 2004 - 11:38 pm:   

Thanks Ellen,

The computer is a Dell Inspiron 1100 laptop

Browser - Internet Explorer

System - Windows XP, Home Edition

Firewall - McAfree Personal Firewall Plus

It started happening sometime after I installed the firewall about two weeks ago. I didn't notice the problem with Sci Fiction right away, but at least a couple days afterward.
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Rob Darnell
Posted on Thursday, July 08, 2004 - 11:48 pm:   

I don't know what I did, but I just tried again, and it worked. The site is all there now. For at least two weeks I haven't been able to get in.
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Jer
Posted on Friday, July 09, 2004 - 07:51 am:   

Just now got the time to read Leviathan Wept, and I just wanted to say that I really, really enjoyed it.

For some reason I felt at first as though the story was too much surface and plot, but after... say, the first third, the interplay between the conference scene and the rest of the story became stronger and much more interesting; when I first realized the parallels between Anna and the higher level of complexity (trying not to give too much of the story away here), I thought "wow," (and then I gave myself a pat on the back for noticing it, which is always a nice feeling to give to a reader).

It seemed to me that a lot of really good work went into structuring the story. I was impressed with how the author was able to grasp his own story, and compose it in such a precise manner.

Anna is a wonderfully complex character/metaphor. She humanizes the story, and provides character level depth and pathos, while simultaneously making much more accessible (and complex) the macro-level ideas the story is trying to put forward.

The conceptualizing of the two organizations as warring networks is a slightly different idea, one-upped later on by the reconceptualization of them (or their conflict, at least) as a disease. Again, I hope I didn't give too much away there.

The ending was dark, but not inappropriate, and makes the story seem something of a cautionary tale. Which is not a bad thing at all to be.

Hobbes' work was integrated nicely into the story, as well. All in all, it seemed as though every element was necessary, in the proper order and for the proper duration, and often serving more than just one purpose. Which is as it should be, right?

Anyway, I enjoyed this one very much, as I have every story since I've begun reading SCIFICTION, except for *The First Commandment.* Were it to be expanded upon, I think it would be an excellent framework to explore even further a unique vision of the possible nature of a human gestalt. It made me think of Sturgeon, in that respect.

Hope this doesn't sound to presumptuous. Bailey's reviews inspired me, although this is more a simple reaction than a review.
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EDatlow
Posted on Friday, July 09, 2004 - 08:37 am:   

Jer, thank you for the time you put into it. Not presumptuous at all--and you gave nothing away to those who haven't read it :-)

I'll see if I can get Daniel to come over.

Rob. Delighted your accessing again.
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Mike Bailey
Posted on Friday, July 09, 2004 - 10:13 pm:   

Jer's comments on "Leviathan Wept" by Daniel Abraham are right on target, and were well-disguised enough that I had no idea what Jer was saying until I read the story and then re-read the review/critique.

Abraham does, in my opinion, exactly what a good writer should do: He helps the reader connect to the human experience with realistic characters and situations; great imagery and symbolism. And he also does something that I think is vital for speculative fiction, which is to examine why his gestalt idea is relevant to us.

Lois McMaster Bujold said, "The whole difference between SF and mainstream is that the tech or magical differences from our here-and-now world matter. To be satisfying, a story does seem to need to examine those postulated differences on some level." In my opinion, Abraham writes a story that is not just regular fiction masquerading as spec-fic. This is instead a story in which the element of the fantastic cannot be removed without breaking it. The illness of Anna, the war on terror, the upper-level awareness... all depend on one another for symbolism, for full emotional and intellectual realization. This story satisfies because it does seem to matter.

Just one example of the great imagery, and one that had at least two meanings: "The shapes moving in the street seemed to lose their individuality—a great seething mass of flesh and metal, bricks and fire, moving first one way and then another. He saw it as a single organism, and then as people, working together. Both interpretations made sense."

One example of how everything seemed so well meshed: the high-tech connected anti-terrorist "cells" acting as white blood cells for society. Without Anna in the story, I would have never made that connection. Great stuff, and there was a lot more.

And as far as Jer's comment about the cautionary note: I think it speaks well for the story that the implied warning does not come off as heavy handed. Some morality tales, or fables, or "learn-your-lesson" messages can overwhelm a story (especially a weak story, which this is not). This is not one of those times. Abraham added that cautionary note in a way that made it a part of the story, not some patched-on "watch out or you're all gonna get it" type of preaching. It feels more like a conclusion that the reader draws, rather than something they are told.

This has been one of my favorite stories on SCIFICTION recently. Thanks are due to Abraham and Ellen. And Jer, your comments were excellent. I couldn't agree more. :-)
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Jer
Posted on Saturday, July 10, 2004 - 07:48 am:   

"This has been one of my favorite stories on SCIFICTION recently."

Yup. (Family Bed, The Voluntary State, and The Wages of Syntax are some of my other favorites so far.)

One last thing: sorry about my comment on *The First Commandment.* (I'd hate for the author to read that and get upset; I just realized this morning how harsh it sounded=)

It wasn't a bad story by any stretch of the imagination. I just thought that it was way too reminiscent of Clarke's *The Nine Billion Names of God,* which was such a good story that it really doesn't need to be updated.

That's all.
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Jer
Posted on Saturday, July 10, 2004 - 07:59 am:   

Another thing:

I enjoyed how in *Shadow Twin* laughture was used to help demonstrate the gulf between humans and the aliens. Afterwards, I remembered how (in a slightly different manner) understanding laughture finally made Valentine Michael Smith understand and love and pity what it is to be human (not to mention finally becoming more human than martian).

Thinking about it a little bit more, I recalled how in *Something Wicked This Way Comes,* the strongest weapon against the baddies (if I remember right, I only read this thing once, and a few years ago) was laughture.

Anyone remember any other instances?

(I'm thinking of trying to write an article on laughture in Sci-Fi and/or Fantasy)

Thanks in advance for any help.
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EDatlow
Posted on Saturday, July 10, 2004 - 09:03 am:   

Jer, no offense taken by me (and I doubt Greg Benford comes online that often).

Daniel said he'd come by. Don't know if he'll comment...but I'm sure he'll love what you guys are saying.
You're driving me nuts though--it's laughter. ;-)
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Jer
Posted on Saturday, July 10, 2004 - 09:22 am:   

Ahhh!

Well. That's what happens when I don't bother to spell check things before I post them.

Computers have ruined me. Sorry about driving you nuts, Ellen.

(hoocked awn fawnicks werked fer me!)
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Mike Bailey
Posted on Saturday, July 10, 2004 - 10:23 am:   

Ellen is, after all, an editor, Jer. When she sees that kind of misspelling her fingers probably begin to itch, her nose may begin to twitch, her eyeballs might begin to cross, and then, next thing you know... she's gone nuts. ;-)

I must have editor blood in my veins. When I proofread my wife's college papers for her I get the same way...
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Rajnar
Posted on Saturday, July 10, 2004 - 01:49 pm:   

Perhaps a laughture is a surgical clamp used when excessive amusement has generated a hernia.
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Daniel Abraham
Posted on Saturday, July 10, 2004 - 02:28 pm:   

Mike, Jer:

Uh, wow. I think I'm actually blushing.

I'm fond of Leviathan Wept, but there have been a couple stories I've put out that I loved and other folks didn't take to. I'm glad this isn't one of those. Being put in the same category as Wages of Syntax is pretty high praise. :-)

As an aside, Nine Billion Names of God was the first science fiction story I ever read. I was 11, and still remember what it felt like, reading that last line.
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Tribeless
Posted on Saturday, July 10, 2004 - 03:48 pm:   

My two cents worth. 'Leviathan Wept' would count as one of my best reads for 2004. Look forward to see more stories from you Daniel.

(Love it when a story goes deeper than a surface plot, and also gets a little political).

To date for 2004 there are now two stories from which I shall track down future writing by the authors. This story, and Eliot Fintushel who had an excellent story called 'Women are Ugly' on Strange Horizons (week of 21 June).
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JJA
Posted on Saturday, July 10, 2004 - 04:10 pm:   

Tribless & other Abraham fans --

Look for "Flat Diane" by Daniel Abraham in the Oct/Nov 2004 issue of F&SF.
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EDatlow
Posted on Saturday, July 10, 2004 - 08:42 pm:   

Tribeless, I think Fintushel's "White Man's Trick" from Mojo: Conjure Tales is terrific and if I'd had room in YBFH#17 I would have taken it.

Daniel also has a great creepy/vicious little ghost story in The Dark.
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Mike Bailey
Posted on Sunday, July 11, 2004 - 09:56 am:   

I just noticed you are now "EDatlow" instead of "ellen". Are you getting rid of your secret identity or something? ;-)
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EDatlow
Posted on Sunday, July 11, 2004 - 10:08 am:   

Mike, I have no idea why my name has changed. AFAIK I did nothing different on July 7th the day it changed --whoooowoo.....but it doesn't matter to me. :-)
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E Thomas
Posted on Monday, July 12, 2004 - 06:18 pm:   

I haven't read that many Daniel Abraham stories yet (including the one in question, mea culpa, it's on my list), but I ALWAYS try to convince everyone to read "Exclusion" from ASIMOV'S February 2001 because it ROCKED. If you are one of those cheesy people who skip authors you don't recognize, and didn't know Daniel Abraham's name then, go find your copy and look it up.

Maybe now that Abraham has a book deal we will see a short story collection soon?
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Daniel Abraham
Posted on Monday, July 12, 2004 - 09:20 pm:   

I'm certainly open to the idea. I don't know if I've got enough stuff that's worth reprinting yet, but there are a couple I'd sure like to see in some more permanent medium. And yeah, I'm still pretty fond of Exclusion too.

Actually the book deal comes from a story called "The Lesson Half-Learned" that came out in Asimov's a while back. It's one of those that I really liked and the rest of the world thought it read like the first chapter of a book.

I was willing to be outvoted. :-)
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Tribeless
Posted on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 02:47 am:   

mmm. Is 'Exclusion' the same 'sub-genre' (if you know what I mean) as 'Leviathan Wept'.
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Daniel Abraham
Posted on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 07:18 am:   

The stories aren't particularly linked, no. They're both science fiction, neither of them is concerned with getting off the planet, but beyond that, not so much.

Of the two, I think Leviathan Wept is the more rigorous.
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EDatlow
Posted on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 06:11 pm:   

By the way, because of a server migration, our uploads have to be done manually tomorrow. That means that the Wednesday story will not be automatically uploaded at 6am. It might be as late as the afternoon. So don't worry. It will go up asap.
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EDatlow
Posted on Wednesday, July 14, 2004 - 03:06 pm:   

Matthew Claxton's first story "The Anatomist’s Apprentic" is now up.
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chance
Posted on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 09:52 am:   

Hi Ellen,

Lovely story this week, though I was wondering if a sentence was inadvertantly left out of the third paragraph (or the end of the second one).
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EDatlow
Posted on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 10:59 am:   

Catherine,
Woe! That's really weird. I don't know--it certainly doesn't look right. Unfortunately I threw out the original copy of the ms last night and the file is like that. I'd better ask Matthew....
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EDatlow
Posted on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 11:44 am:   

Just heard from Matthew and yes, we're missing two lines. As soon as I get the correction from him I'll pass it on to my producer and we'll fix it. THank goodness for internet publishing where you can always fix errors :-)

And I'm really sorry. There was an edit in that third para and in my cut and paste I obviously dropped the lines. Arghhh.
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chance
Posted on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 02:35 pm:   

I'm glad to hear it's being fixed.

The worldbuilding in the story reminded me somewhat of Steven Millhauser - like "The New Automaton Theater" a sort of confident and subtle odd I found really appealing.

I thought the opening was very well done - captured a sense of being trapped before you realize just how claustrophobic Molly's life is.

I also particularly enjoyed the scene where she threatens to lie to the anatomist, and the realization that she is not completely powerless
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EDatlow
Posted on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 02:46 pm:   

It's fixed (finally).

My isp's email has been down since last night although I discovered I can communicate via my yahoo email in emergency. Bway claims that all the incoming messages sent since last night's outage are queued and will eventuallly come in. Lucky me!
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Melissa Mead
Posted on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 06:23 pm:   

Just finished "The Anatomist's Apprentice." I never thought I'd enjoy a story about one of my top childhood nightmares so much. ;)
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EDatlow
Posted on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 10:00 pm:   

And which nightmare is that? (Can you tell without giving away too much of the story?) :-)
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Tribeless
Posted on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 11:00 pm:   

NUTS. I've just finished writing a story about a brain in a jar in a laboratory. Quite different to this story, but still, guess I can give up on that one.

I hate that.
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EDatlow
Posted on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 08:26 am:   

Tribeless, you can send it to someone else. If you think it's good, don't give up on it.
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EDatlow
Posted on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 01:18 pm:   

Finally, the new SCIFICTION BB has been implemented on the SCIFI.COM website. I know a lot of you are having fun here and continue to have fun but you may consider stopping by there too.
http://mboard.scifi.com/postlist.php?Cat=&Board=Scifiction&page=0&view=collapsed &sb=5&o=&PHPSESSID=

I have to start new topics there, so if there's one you're interested in, let me know here and I'll add it. That site will be my more "official" face so it will be less personal. :-)
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Melissa Mead
Posted on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 02:20 pm:   

I don't think I'd give too much away now even if I said, but I used to have nightmares about being in Molly's predicament.

Wouldn't read The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow, either.
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Matthew
Posted on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 03:21 pm:   

I can't decide if the story is sacchranine or gross. Strangely, these elements balanced each other out, so it was actually pretty good. Not to sweet too be stumache turning, nor too gross. Well maybe too gross. Still, very good.
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EDatlow
Posted on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 08:47 pm:   

Chance,
Have you managed to get on the BB? I don't see any replies in the topics I created and would like to know if the board is working.
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Melissa Mead
Posted on Saturday, July 17, 2004 - 05:31 am:   

I tried it last night and posted a reply in Pros ans Cons, just to see if I could. It seemed to work.
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EDatlow
Posted on Saturday, July 17, 2004 - 08:19 am:   

Melissa, I assume you're JeffC, who posted? Glad it worked. I'll have to get Rick Bowes to try again--it didn't work for him.
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Melissa Mead
Posted on Saturday, July 17, 2004 - 08:35 am:   

Nope-it looks like my post didn't come out after all. It would've said MelissaJM. Funny, it looked like it took last night ...

I'll have to try again...
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Melissa Mead
Posted on Saturday, July 17, 2004 - 08:42 am:   

Now it seems to have worked.
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EDatlow
Posted on Saturday, July 17, 2004 - 08:59 am:   

I see you :-) Glad someone else got on too. It's actually a fun kind of bb.
You probably hit preview and then didn't actually post last night.
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Tribeless
Posted on Saturday, July 17, 2004 - 10:24 pm:   

Hi Ellen. I'm not able to post to the new Scifi BB. Everytime I try, I get the message: "The host you are trying to send the input from is not a valid host".

Note I had exactly the same problem trying to post to the Strange Horizons forum when it started. The administrator of that site found it was due to my Nortans Firewall, and fixed is simply by 'switching' something on their site set up.
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EDatlow
Posted on Sunday, July 18, 2004 - 08:54 am:   

Hmm. OK, use the "contact link" at the bottom of the page and explain your problem. Our community person should be able to help...I'm assuming you registered, right? You can't post without registering and selecting a name and password.
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EDatlow
Posted on Monday, July 19, 2004 - 06:17 pm:   

I just found out today from the community person that anyone can add a thread to the SCIFICTION BB. So please add new threads as you will. :-)
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Matthew
Posted on Monday, July 19, 2004 - 07:26 pm:   

Whenever, I try to go to the BB. It comes up with a message saying that it is "upgrading to serve you better."
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EDatlow
Posted on Monday, July 19, 2004 - 09:56 pm:   

Matthew. Have you gone to it through the front page? It's not yet available through the SCIFICTION page. Go to the front page of the site and click on BB section and you'll have to scroll down to find the SCIFICTION BB --or go to Locus online and there's a direct link from there.
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Matthew
Posted on Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 06:16 am:   

I've been going through it SCIFICTION page. I go through the front page the next time.
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Tuesday, July 27, 2004 - 01:43 am:   

For anyone interested, I've posted a (slightly mixed) review of "Jumpers" in my new review journal: http://www.journalscape.com/sfreviews

Comments welcome, either there or here.

Patrick
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EDatlow
Posted on Tuesday, July 27, 2004 - 11:02 am:   

Patrick,
Thanks for pointing it out. I've passed the url on to Mary.
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Christopher Barzak
Posted on Tuesday, July 27, 2004 - 11:34 am:   

I loved "Jumpers". It's a quintessential Mary Rosenblum story about people both ordinary and extraordinary caught in the web their particular society has erected around them. She finds beauty in the darkness of her worlds, and dark in the beauty. Thanks for bringing us one of her stories, Ellen. It's been too long since we've heard her voice last.
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EDatlow
Posted on Tuesday, July 27, 2004 - 12:21 pm:   

Glad you enjoyed it, CHris. I'll see if I can't get Mary to come by to see for herself what you've said about the story.
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Wednesday, July 28, 2004 - 01:43 am:   

As I hinted in my review, I had a little trouble in working out how everything in "jumpers" fitted in with the core theme of the story. Either that or I didn't properly understand the core theme of the story. I'd be interested in what anyone else thought about it. I really want to understand this story.

Where's Mike Bailey? He's always got something intelligent to say on stories.
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T Andrews
Posted on Wednesday, July 28, 2004 - 10:06 am:   

Patrick Samphire: I'm trying to catch up on my SciFiction reading, and then I thought I'd check out your review, and then I got further sidetracked and instead read your A Veil, a Meal, and Dust. Great story. Looking forward to your next RoF appearance.
Now back to SciFiction...
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Mike Bailey
Posted on Wednesday, July 28, 2004 - 01:38 pm:   

Sorry, Patrick. I just got back from a two week vacation today. I read "Jumpers" today, as well as your thorough review of it from your site (which was very well written, in my opinion).

I enjoyed Jumpers. Mary Rosenblum had a way of getting under my skin with her writing, even though I thought the premise of extradimensional jumpers did not ring true. Like Patrick, I thought that the jumpers part of the story read more like fantasy than science fiction, and it seemed a slightly unlikely idea to combine with the more likely bio-science aspects of the tale.

But Rosenblum got me to suspend disbelief and ignore what I felt was a slight inconsistency. She accomplished this by slowly capturing my attention with her excellent writing, and by drawing me into the character called Zlia.

Portions of the writing that jumped out at me:
"Green twilight surrounded him, thick with humidity, warm as spit." I liked the "warm as spit" part. I had never read that combination of words used as a descriptor, and it jarred me a bit, causing me to pay more attention to the writing.
Joaquin stumbled back to his monitor, to crouch like a supplicant in front of its blank eye for the remainder of the night. I loved this line because Joaquin seemed in some ways to be everyman seeking answers. Praying to a monitor seems about as useful to me as praying to a statue or a cross, and it makes the point about the quest for answers.
Joaquin laughed, and the bitter edge of that note, like shattered glass, seemed to wing across the thick green air between him and Zlia to sever her wings. This line was almost too much for me, but again, it prompted a visual, or an eyeball kick that I had never had before, so it stuck with me.

Patrick felt that "the savage" Zlia was a disposable tool in the story, and from his review, he seemed slightly dissatisfied with her. But I really liked Zlia. The strange attraction/repulsion effect that she had on Joaquin was easy to identify with, and I admired her innocence, freedom, and spirit. Without Zlia, the story would not have been as touching. Her ultimate fate seemed inevitable, but the way Rosenblum finished the story with regard to Zlia seemed slightly heavy-handed.

While I did not buy into the omniscience and omnipotence of Joaquin's father, and the "jumpers" element of the plot was not gripping to me, I felt the strong writing carried the story and made it a success.
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 02:49 am:   

Hi Mike. Glad to have you back.

With regards to Zlia, I liked her as a character too. She was intriguing and interesting, and that's why I felt a little disappointed with the way that she was disposed of at the end of the story. There are a couple of tropes at work here, neither of which I'm particularly a fan of. The first one is the one I mentioned in the review, the "magical Negro", which has this magical, incredible, close-to-nature character whose only real function is to move on the main character. Because the "magical Negro" isn't afforded a complete story of her own, she is disposed of, often by death, at the end of the story. Her death is part of what moves the main character on, but that appears to be her reason for existence.

The other trope is the "girlfriend/wife who dies". Again, in this trope the girlfriend's/wife's death serves the purpose of creating change in the character. It's quite parallel to the "magical Negro" trope.

None of this is to say that you can't use the death of a character as a way of moving the main protagonist on, just that it is so often the death of the close-to-nature-savage or the girlfriend/wife that is used as the trigger. When the character is as interesting as Zlia, it just seems a little bit of a waste to use her so simply.
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EDatlow
Posted on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 07:41 am:   

Maybe I'm being too picky here or missing something but everyone in the story is a person of color--Joaquin is "brown." And Zlia is the same color as he (it's mentioned in the story).

So do you really just mean a "native" type character that can be any color--even white under the right circumstance? Are you using the word "negro" as a metaphor for "other.? If not this doesn't wash. Sorry.
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 08:03 am:   

Hi Ellen. I'm using a phrase that Nalo Hopkinson used at Clarion West for this trope. If I recall correctly (and it was a few years ago now!) she defines the trope in that way because of how that type of character used to be used in stories. So, yes, the character-type can be any colour at all. I would expect that, in SF&F, the characters would fairly frequently be non-human even.

I guess in this context, "Negro" is used as a metaphor for the type of "other" that is considered close to nature. Does that make any sense? If anyone knows a better name for this, I'd be quite happy to substitute.
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JeremyT
Posted on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 10:42 am:   

I just finished Irvine's latest. I liked it quite a bit. The whole bit with the colony's insanity and the desire to regress to the 1950s... aheh. Sometimes, I wonder if aspects of the genre are doing the same thing. Wonder if Alex meant that as a commentary?

(grenade lobbed, dives for cover)
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EDatlow
Posted on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 11:42 am:   

Patrick,
That makes sense although the phrase seems a little "loaded," if you know what I mean ;-)

Jeremy,
Alex is on the road but I'll get him to come over and kick your a--once he's home!
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EDatlow
Posted on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 11:46 am:   

Just bought Jim Blaylock's story "Hula Ville,
read the other night at KGB Bar.
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MarcL
Posted on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 11:55 am:   

Can't have too many Blaylock stories!
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Jer
Posted on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 10:03 pm:   

"...the type of "other" that is considered close to nature."

Noble Savage.

See Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia for what is *probably* the formation of our modern understanding of the concept. Don't read the whole thing, though. Just the good parts version.
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EDatlow
Posted on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 10:12 pm:   

Jer, but my point is that it's rarely (if ever) been used in that way when _all_ the characters are the same color. Correct me if I'm wrong...please.
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 01:49 am:   

Jer, I don't think it's the same as the noble savage idea. It does share aspects, but in the "magical Negro" idea, it's not necessary for the character to be noble. I just couldn't see the "noble savage" trope being applied to Zlia in this story.
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Jer
Posted on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 08:35 am:   

Patrick:
Well, the "magical Negro" idea seams to be related... like a particular application of the Noble Savage concept in a story as a plot device.

The whole scene with Zlia flipping through the trees, living in a state of pre-fall grace naturally in ballance with the world... It resonates pretty strongly with the NS concept to me. Perhaps one could construct a magical Negro use which didn't fit the NS idea (see below), but this one does. To me.

In any case, could you be more specific in how the two ideas (NS, MN) differ? That would probably help me understand where you're coming from better.

Ellen:
"Jer, but my point is that it's rarely (if ever) been used in that way when _all_ the characters are the same color. Correct me if I'm wrong...please."

Race and color can't be conflated (look at Germans and Jews,* for the obvious and trite example).

Observe the passage:

"Her skin was as dark as his, but she lacked his broad face—a genetic echo of his distant Mayan ancestors. Her face was elfin and pointed and she was smaller than an eight-year-old. Then he saw her hands and feet. Her fingers were longer than his, with thick spatulate pads and long, shiny nails. Her toes were as long as her fingers, and she clung to the slippery bark of the tree with those clawed fingers and toes, her dark eyes reflecting glints of green light."

She's physically quite distinct from the two men, regardless of skin color. And they know for a fact that she is genetically distinct. And, now that I think about it, culturally she's pretty odd too =)

The mystical Negro trope might pop up in a lot of ways... I mean, what if the mystical Negro was your aging grandmother who has a heart attack the next scene? That would be harder to trace back to the Noble Savage idea. But in this case, I think it works.

(*note that I'm NOT endorsing racism, anti-semitism, or the existence of race in the first place.)

(or saying that the story does any of the three either)

(etc.)
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Jer
Posted on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 08:40 am:   

Whoops. Sent another one without spellchecking. But I don't think this post is as bad as the laughter/laughture one.

Gotta go to work now, but I expect some interesting, informative replies by the time I get back. :-)
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Celia Marsh
Posted on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 02:07 pm:   

I liked this week's story. I liked the pulp feel of the story--and the fact that for all the colony's claim to be pulp, the one who truly acts 'pulp' is the narrator, with his wide-eyed approach to life, and the isn't-this-cool undercurrent to his story. I love the 'it'll all work out in the end' angle of pulp, and while this one is tempered with fear and doubt, it's still there--if the right things are done, it will work out.

I'm a closet pulp fan, and I'm reading James Schmitz right now, so I've got the juxtaposition of a forward-thinking past and a past-thinking future mixing in my head. The denial of things that exist, like the AI and the colony itself, vs the invention of things that got completely skipped over--this might be my favorite image from the book I'm reading right now, for example:

...took out a pocket edition law library and sat down at the table.

She clicked on the library's viewscreen, tapped the clearing and index buttons. Behind the screen, one of the multiple rows of pinhead tapes shifted slightly as the index was flicked into reading position."
(The Universe Against Her, James Schmitz, 1964.)

Sort of rambly, but I think what I wanted to say ultimately was that I found it both pulp and anti-pulp, a rationalization for and a defense against pulp, and I liked it a lot.
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 04:51 am:   

Jer, good questions.

I think there are a variety of differences between the tropes, although I think it's perfectly possible for a character to be an embodiement of both, or an imperfect embodiement of either.

Firstly, the "mystical Negro" does not have to be noble. Is Zlia in "Jumpers" noble? I'm not sure I would use that description for her. The "noble savage" does not have to be mystical in any way. Although Zlia isn't mystical in a fantasy kind of way, she is mystical to Joaquin.

Secondly, the "mystical Negro" isn't necessarily a "savage" ("savage" is one of those horrible, loaded words that should really never be applied to other cultures). I realise that I used the word "savage" in my original review, and now that I am having to think more about this, I don't think it's appropriate. The "mystical Negro" is close to the magical, and that often means close to nature, but not in the way that we use the word "savage".

Thirdly, the "noble savage" trope does not require the character to be disposable once their interaction with the protagonist is over, but I think the "mystical Negro" trope does.

The idea of the "noble savage" reaches back to quite a different perception of Otherness to the perception that the "mystical Negro" does, and they don't result in the same character arcs. They can share a lot in common, though.
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EDatlow
Posted on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 08:52 am:   

Actually, I think she's an "alien" so if you want to use any "alien" more native to a world conquered by humans as "the mysteical negro" that's kind of simplying an entire trope in sf.
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 01:02 pm:   

Ellen, I don't think I would use it in that sense. After all, I am assuming that the name of this trope comes from a particular type of character in books, that is, a "negro" (as African Americans would no doubt then have been called) who played a very specific role. It would not have included every African American. In the same way, not every alien would fit into this trope; it would be for an alien fulfilling a particular role.

I'm sensing that part of the problem with my description of Zlia in this way is the name for the trope ("mystical negro") which no doubt presses a lot of wrong buttons, particularly as it might suggest racism. I certainly didn't mean it in that way, and as I said, I think the name originates from the type of character found in literature in the past. I really would be happier with a different name. What I personally don't like about the trope as a trope is that it seems to lead to the death of an interesting character of a particular type simply to push the protagonist to a decision. But that's simply my personal opinion.
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EDatlow
Posted on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 09:41 pm:   

Ah, ok. Fair enough.
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Jer
Posted on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 09:27 am:   

Patrick,

Lets say that Zlia is definitely a Mystical Negro, because she does exactly what you describe the plot device as doing: she is close to nature (i.e., mystic) and imparts wisdom onto the protagonist only to then die, in order to propel the plot forward.

As for a NS: I keep returning to the scene where she jumps from tree to tree "in perfect balance," possessing some kind of innate grace that her two more civilized friends do not. It's not exactly James Fenimore Cooper level NS stuff, but still it's there.

But, I do think it's pretty far divorced from the roots I gave earlier when I offered up TJ's Notes. I.E., I think it's removed from the nasty racial issues and is more about having some tiny hot little marsupial girl who's close to nature and fills the roll of the MN.

And lots and lots of people really do think that, in general, living close to nature is a good idea, or that simpler approaches to life are better, etc. etc. (My parents, for example, like to buy organic food to cook with whenever they can)

So I'm not trying to string her or the story up as insensitive, or drawing on an old outdated belief system.

Just saying that I see the whole NS angle there, although how much of that is influenced by that one stray "savage" in your review, I don't know :-)
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 02:08 am:   

Hell, who wouldn't want a hot little marsupial girl? :-)
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EDatlow
Posted on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 02:11 pm:   

or boy, if he was available
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 02:07 am:   

See now, Ellen, if you'd just told Mary Rosenblum to change Zlia into a hot little marsupial boy, you could have had it. You missed a trick there. :-)
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Jer
Posted on Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 06:26 am:   

Is there a sequel in the works?

Pull some strings, Ellen. You've got weight in the writing world, it's time to throw it around. =)
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EDatlow
Posted on Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 09:05 am:   

What can I say? I'm speechless :0
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Alex Irvine
Posted on Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 12:06 pm:   

Just noticed Jeremy's post. I guess you could read "Volunteers" that way, but I'm not usually that self-reflexive. At least I don't think I am.

Having said that, I will cop to being a little impatient with the elements of the SF community who constantly moan about how things are never as good now as they were back in the good old days, i.e. the 50s.
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JeremyT
Posted on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 03:15 pm:   

"The Tang Dynasty Underwater Pyramid" was a real hoot. I love premises like this. The ending felt a little off to me for some reason, a little anticlimatic after the boat scene, but overall, I enjoyed it.
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JJA
Posted on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 06:10 pm:   

Ellen --

On the archive page, the links to "The Tang Dynasty Underwater Pyramid" and "A Crowd of Shadows" are incorrect. They take you to "Jumpers" and "Among the Dead," respectively.

However, if you access the stories via the SCI FICTION homepage, you get the correct pages.
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EDatlow
Posted on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 06:44 pm:   

John,
Thanks. I'll let my producer know so it can be fixed first thing in the morning.
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 04:29 am:   

I've put up a (short) review of The Tang Dynasty Underwater Pyramid on my reviews website:
http://www.journalscape.com/sfreviews/2004-08-05-12:02

I expect this will be a bit less controversial than the last review: I liked the story in pretty much every respect. :-)
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EDatlow
Posted on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 08:37 am:   

THanks Patrick,
I've pointed your review out to Walter.
Controversy isn't bad :-)
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Robert Burke Richardson
Posted on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 12:25 am:   

My thanks to Mr. Walter Jon Williams. I read 'The Tang Dynasty Underwater Pyramid' this morning and really enjoyed it. It was like a 15,000 word novel -- the various settings were superbly realized, the characters lived and breathed for me, and the concept was cool.

Does anyone know if he's put out a collection recently? I'm pitifully out of the loop...
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Mike Bailey
Posted on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 06:45 pm:   

The Key by Ilsa J. Bick

Wow.

I mean, wow.

I dislike tough guy cop stories, so it says a lot that Bick’s tale gripped me from start to finish. Certainly, it helped that she mastered the basics, like “start well.” First few sentences:
“Kay said he was probably a week old. Two weeks, tops: the stub of the umbilical cord was still there. Found in a shallow grave, on the far side of a hill in Rock Creek Park, off Klingle Valley Parkway, not far from the National Zoo.
Okay then, guess I’ll not be leaving this story anytime soon!

Sometimes Bick’s story seemed info-packed. I knew none of this Kabbalah stuff before reading this story, so there was quite a bit to digest here, but Bick masterfully handled the information dump, placing bits into easily digested dialog that flowed realistically.

Like I mentioned before, I normally detest the cop/detective style. The short, choppy sentences tend to strike me as pretentious, cheesy attempts at noir. But Bick really nailed this. I found myself eagerly reading each paragraph without wrinkling my nose even once. Ellen really did a good job by not trash-canning this one…

I also liked how Bick punctuated her writing with occasional slices of imagery, or what I like to call "eyeball kicks” {The term eyeball kick is lifted from the SFWA website). Eyeball kick example:
“As we step onto the sidewalk, into the world of the living, a sudden bolt of light knifes the clouds. Sun splashes gold upon the walk and touches the leaves with fire.
We walk, together, into the light.


Wow.

Nice imagery. Great story. Thanks, Bick. Thanks, Ellen.

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EDatlow
Posted on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 07:15 pm:   

Robert,
According to Walter's website:


Frankensteins and Foreign Devils, my latest collection, is now available in trade paperback from that splendid organization, NESFA Press.
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T Andrews
Posted on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 08:06 pm:   

SciFiction is where I've been doing a lot of my reading lately. (It's becoming just as easy on my eyes to read online, as it is print. Maybe it's easier; the format of SciFiction is easy on the eyes.)

It was great to see one of SciFiction's nominated writers show up on the boards, namely Maureen McHugh.
I agree with Mike: Ilsa J. Bick's story is great.
The gripping intro that Mike says kept him there almost scared me away. Almost, thank god.
Thanks for another good story...
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EDatlow
Posted on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 08:40 pm:   

I've alerted Ilsa Bick to the reaction to her story and I hope she'll come by both to this BB and our SCIFICTION BB and say hi.
This is the third of Ilsa's crime stories I've pubished on SCIFICTION and I think they keep getting better and better.
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Robert Burke Richardson
Posted on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 11:56 am:   

^ Ellen, thanks for the info on Frankensteins and Foreign Devils. I'd managed to google it up, but wasn't sure if it was the latest :-)
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Ilsa J. Bick
Posted on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 04:44 pm:   

Hi, Mike/Tikki --

Ellen told me to swing on by here and the SCIFI BB. I think I'm cursed as far as the SCIFI BB goes; I can read and log on but can't reply!

No matter . . . just wanted you both to know how happy I am that you liked the story. As a mom, I do understand about reading stories about the bad things that can happen to kids. Makes me squirm. And a pro writer I know once told me that writing about child murder is a big no-no.

So, of course, I had to try ;-).

Many thanks, too, to Ellen for the privilege of making it onto SCIFICTION again -- a privilege I hope to earn again in the future.

If one of you wants to copy this and paste it on the SCIFI BB, be my guest. Like I said, I'm cursed ;-).

Ilsa J. Bick
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EDatlow
Posted on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 09:00 pm:   

We'll get you in there at some point. When you get back home next week you and Laura, our community person can figure out what the problem is.
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Ellen
Posted on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 04:48 pm:   

September 1
Left of the Dial by Paul Witcover 21,450 in three parts
Can These Bones Live? by Manly Wade Wellman 4000

September 8
Left of the Dial by Paul Witcover 21,450 part 2

September 15
Left of the Dial by Paul Witcover 21,450 part three
Allamagoosa by Eric Frank Russell 4000

September 22
The Wolf-Man of Alcatraz by Howard Waldrop 4000

September 29
holiday
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Ellen
Posted on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 04:51 pm:   

I've recently bought stories by Suzette Haden Elgin,
Gary W. Shockley, and John Grant--they'll all be coming out in the next few months.
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chance
Posted on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 07:14 pm:   

Ooooo September is looking like a good month - I can hardly wait for the the Waldrop story.
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Robert Burke Richardson
Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 01:35 am:   

Especially looking forward to the Waldrop and Shockley, but it all sounds good.

Incidentally, I still haven't read Ilsa's new story because the last two of hers took so much out of me. One of these days when I'm feeling brave... :-)
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ellen
Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 07:16 am:   

I've got a Terry Bisson that I'm moved a little bit farther down the line as it's too similar in set up to the Witcover novella. So I've been moving things around as I buy more stories. Terry's will still come out in 2004 but more likely in late November than when I originally planned to publish it.

Robert: The new Ilsa is very good. Another detective story.
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T Andrews
Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 11:30 am:   

Yes, Robert, the Ilsa Bick story was great-don't miss it, like I almost did! :-)
I just read the new original today, shortly after waking up, and let me tell you--it woke me up better than my coffee. Great story.
I'll be posting over at SciFiction shortly, to the same effect.
I hope Ms. Bick can make her way at some point to the SciFiction BB...it is such a treat having the authors come by!

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Tribeless
Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 01:35 pm:   

Re the SciFiction BB, I still can't post to that so I've given up. Hope you keep this board going Ellen?
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ellen
Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 02:26 pm:   

Ilsa had trouble getting on the BB too.

T Andrews: Yeah, the Barron's a corker, isn't it? :-)

Tribeless, if you give me your email address I can pass it on to our community person and she can help sort you out (we need to know about the problems with the new BB).

But yes, of course I'll keep this one going.
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T Andrews
Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 03:55 pm:   

Ellen: It's definately a corker!
Tribeless: I hope you get on the board over there~ the new format is nice. I enjoy discussing the stories over there. (I am 'MissTikk', in case you find yourself in the neighborhood.)
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Night Shade Books
Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 04:14 pm:   

Much pleased about the Wellman story. Now I've just to convince you to take more! I've got about a dozen Wellman sf/fantasy volumes coming, so I'm sure we can find something you'll like.
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ellen
Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 05:39 pm:   

Jason, I'll be happy to take more over time--and since you have it all already input you make it very easy :-)

But it can't be all Wellman all the time, now can it? Who else are you publishing (that would be appropriate in our classics section--25 years or over app?).
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Laird Barron
Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 11:31 pm:   

Hi, Miss Tikk--

Thank you for reading and commenting on Bulldozer--I am very happy the piece connected with you. I loved researching this story--many of the places, things, and events referenced therein could've easily fueled a much longer tale.

In another post you mentioned liking the character of Jonah. I'm pleased to hear that; I grew quite fond of him over the course of several drafts. Stubborn, fella. He never did go the direction I'd originally envisioned...

Take care.


Laird
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John Klima
Posted on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 06:26 am:   

Loved the Barron this week. Great story. I enjoyed the whole circular nature of the story that mirrored Jonah's life. Despite everything, he kept returning to the same foibles, the same things. You say he was stubborn and wouldn't go where you wanted him, I wonder if the whole concept of his lack of faith/belief kept leading him to bad (unwholesome?) decisions? I'm thinking because he didn't believe in God, he also refused to believe in anything else, something darker. Something beyond the darkness of human nature, and therefore didn't understand what he was going into? That doesn't seem quite right since he certainly has experience with the weird and unusual, but maybe something's there.

I didn't feel as if I had finished the story until I re-read the first section again. That was very cool. It meant so much more the second time through.

Great story. As usual.

JK
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Luke
Posted on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 10:12 am:   

http://tinypic.com/3d2d3

I'm going to need new shelves.
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ellen
Posted on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 11:37 am:   

Awww. I'm flattered. But you're missing a bunch ;-)
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Tribeless
Posted on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 05:21 pm:   

Ellen. Sorry to not get back to this sooner. Relating to my email, and then your email, quite a few up from here, and my inability to post to the SciFiction BB, my email address is (albeit inviting spam): mhubbard@es.co.nz

Whenever I try to preview a message I have written I get the message, The host you are trying to send the input from is not a valid host.

Thank you for your time on this.
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EDatlow
Posted on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 06:19 pm:   

There you are. Thanks for giving us your email address. Laura Poynter, our community person in charge of the BB will email you to see if together you can figure out why your posts won't go through.
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Mike Bailey
Posted on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 09:27 pm:   

It seems appropriate that a story like "Bulldozer" by Laird Barron, a story in which the main character is a drug addict, and in which the prime villain is an otherworldly sociopath, should read like a drug-induced hallucination. Now, I should admit, I have never had a drug-induced hallucination, but I imagine that if I had one, it would feel like "Bulldozer": a welter of stink, chaos, pain, ecstacy, and disjointedness.

I was astounded by the voice of the narrator. How did Laird imagine such self-loathing so perfectly? I was impressed by the foulness of the villain. The recently published "Book of Vile Darkness," a Dungeons and Dragons accessory, mentions foul cults and villains such as those imagined by Barron, but Barron seems to pull out all the stops with the evil Hicks, outdoing anything I could come up with on my best/worst day as a DM.

The anti-hero is as "anti" as they come, leaving this tale dark indeed, but still worthy of praise as a well-written, tense tale that transports the reader to a strange and shadowy place. Warning: Don't read before bedtime!
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StephenB
Posted on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 05:09 am:   

Bulldozer sounds interesting. I think I'll read it now, the main character appeals to me. I've done my fair share of drugs :-) and I've overcome addiction. I generally like dark heroes.
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StephenB
Posted on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 02:48 pm:   

I thought the voice of Bulldozer's hero, Johna, was strong. It was a pretty good story, although I don't see it as mike did. I don't think the main hero was as "anti as they come". He wasn't really a drug addict either, although he used various drugs through out the story, and it was mentioned that he was a recovering drug addict.
I liked the mosaic blend of genres, and styles.
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EDatlow
Posted on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 09:31 pm:   

Mike, Welcome back! I've missed your reviews. The only other story I've read by Barron is the extraordinarily creepy "Old Virginia" which I picked up for the YBFH #17 from a 2003 F&SF. On my first read I liked it (Old Virginia) but I kept thinking about it and finally once I reread it, knew I had to pick it for the Year's Best.

I was really impressed by "Bulldozer" and glad that you and Stephen seem to have enjoyed it.
I'll see if I can get Laird over here.
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Laird Barron
Posted on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 11:25 am:   

Hi, all!

John, you raise some interesting questions. For me, the implication is that Jonah's brutal life has forged an extreme brand of cynicism. He equates Christianity with an invention of men, not to be taken any more seriously than the forbidden tome he pursues, except perhaps as documentation of a delusional world view. Certainly this lack of faith could explain the erratic workings of his moral compass. By the time Jonah begins to comprehend that something much greater is at work, it is too late. The man dreads losing control on a fundamental level, socially encouraged alcoholsim notwithstanding--he did, after all, kick morphine addiction. I had him pegged as the kind of individual who would rather face death than the other possibility presented by his encounter with Hicks' benefactor...


Mike, thanks much for the review. Regarding my source material for the villian, I owe much to the Lovecraftian tradition. However, the Bible provided the most disturbing inspiration of all. There's some unsettling material in the Old Testament.

StephenB, thank you for the kind words. I definitely mixed genres to create an effect, and I am glad it worked for you.

Thanks, everybody.

Laird
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Matthew
Posted on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 01:58 pm:   

Jonah reminded me of another bounty hunter of the same name: DC comics' Jonah Hex.
Don't know if you meant it as a reference or not.
This story was a very like a fever dream. The last image is horrifying.
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MarcL
Posted on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 02:24 pm:   

By chance I just got to "Old Virginia" in YBFY17, and along comes "Bulldozer." Cool story.

We're always reducing things to ridiculous hybrids on these boards, so I'll have to say this was like Kolchak in Deadwood.
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EDatlow
Posted on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 05:28 pm:   

Marc,
Not a bad depiction. I feel with these two stories Laird is already making his mark as a horror writer.
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Mike Bailey
Posted on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 07:24 pm:   

Eugie Foster's review of Bulldozer at Tangent Online is great!
http://www.tangentonline.com/reviews/magazine.php3?review=1064
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MarcL
Posted on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 10:16 pm:   

Ellen,

I'd say so. I left my copy of YBFH back at the office, halfway through "Old Virginia," and I'm regretting it. It's good strong stuff.

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EDatlow
Posted on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 08:22 am:   

Mike,
Thanks for pointing it out. I'll have to let Laird know.
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EDatlow
Posted on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 08:24 am:   

Oh Marc, it gets worse. Much much worse!
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Matthew
Posted on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 01:04 pm:   

Just read the Silver John story at SCI FICTION. Coincidently, I am reading Wellman's After Dark. Silver John is an interesting character, sort of a cross between Johnny Cash and Carl Kochalk.
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MarcL
Posted on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 01:56 pm:   

"Old Virginia" is indeed full of memorable images. There's something about these two stories of Barron's that reminds me in a good way of Michael Shea's sinewy horror stories.
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EDatlow
Posted on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 02:18 pm:   

Matthew, I hadn't thought of the comparison but you're right....

And Marc, did you know Michael has been writing short fiction again? He had a story in F&SF earlier this year and (I think) I've got a submission in my pile.
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MarcL
Posted on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 04:11 pm:   

Yep, I read "The Growlimb" a while back. I'm really happy to hear you've got something new from Michael on your stack. I last saw him right around the time you'd bought "Flight Risk," I think, and I told him he should be sending stuff to ya...
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EDatlow
Posted on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 04:45 pm:   

Well, I just hope I love it.
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Josh Rountree
Posted on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - 02:27 pm:   

I'm really enjoying "Left of the Dial." The story has me by the throat - the characterization is especially strong - and I can't wait for part three.

Not to mention that I love the eponymous Replacements song.
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EDatlow
Posted on Thursday, September 09, 2004 - 10:37 am:   

Glad you're enjoying it, Josh.
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Jer
Posted on Saturday, September 11, 2004 - 09:28 am:   

Hey guys (and gals). I'm finally getting back into a routine after moving from texas back to my school in virginia for the fall semester. I missed the board, but especially the stories themselves, and really enjoyed catching up with them.

I love Bulldozer, but I'm puzzled that nobody's been talking about Beautiful Stuff. I loved that story -- deceptively simple, nice message very originally delivered, and most of all the tone. Particularly when compared to Bulldozer. I loved getting a chance to read those stories essentially back-to-back. They seem like mirror images of each other, in tone.

Or maybe together they form one long continuum, or something like that; Beautiful Stuff had a very innocent, childlike quality not just present in the dead characters, but also in the way the story was narrated. But after the end, enjoying the afterglow of the story, it kind of just hits you how horrible some of the thoughts and scenes were. (At least that's what happened to me)

Then Bulldozer is much more hard hitting, more up-front with its darkness. But hidden inside the story are moments of brightness that, sitting back and enjoying the afterglow of the story, start coming back to you.

I thought they were both complex enough to reward somewhat extended contemplation, and although really different in style and tone they seemed somehow similar, too. Like complementary colors, in comparison each story seems more itself because of the differences. It is the little modulations of terror, evil, hope and goodness that make them truly excellent.

By the way:
After some thought on Bulldozer, it seems to me that the story is itself the hell that Jonah found for himself, reliving a continuous cycle of his last and utter defeat somewhere inside the demon-guy.

Is this something that is completely obvoius to everyone and I'm an idiot for not having seen it right away, or is it a completely wrong-headed idea that I'm an idiot for having in the first place?

Regardless, I'm very glad to have such an excellent story to make me feel like an idiot. And a beautiful thing like Beautiful Things to go along with it.
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EDatlow
Posted on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 08:35 am:   

Next Wednesday, we're having a brainstorming session in the office about a redesign of SCIFICTION. So... any suggestions from you our readers for:
better or different navigation for the area?
Or anything else that will make the section look and read better?

This is not about content issues or suggestions remember.
Suggestions welcome.
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JeremyT
Posted on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 10:35 am:   

mobile readers formats would be killer. I'd catch up on my reading better if I could snatch palm doc reader files from the site and read them on the go or on my fishing trips up in the mountains.

Really, I have no complaints about the site. Still my favorite magazine.
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Luke
Posted on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 11:47 am:   

Or an MP3 of the author reading the story so I can listen on my Ipod!

Oh, you meant practical suggestions.
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EDatlow
Posted on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 11:47 am:   

Jeremy--that's not a redesign issue (as you know) that's more a husbanding of resources issue (ie whether one of the producers at SCIFI.COM would want to take that over as a regular part of his/her job.)

thanks :-)
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Dave E.
Posted on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 01:56 pm:   

I second the motion for palm doc files.
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Steven Francis Murphy
Posted on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 03:32 pm:   

A format that is more amenable to copying and pasting to a word processing file so that people who hate reading fiction off of the screen could print out hard copies.

If you try that with the current version, you get this text with wide margins that you have to edit. I can do the editing, but it takes more time than I have at work.

In general, I wish text on the screen was easier to read. True, the type is big enough to be read and understood, but the experience is not a pleasant one over long periods of reading time.

A seperate Scifiction BBS might be nice, but I suppose the Nightshade thread answers to that issue. The SciFi BBS is a pain in the ass to read and use.

Finally, a link to where Omni Magazine stories might be archived on the net. Seems to me that once upon a time, you could see Omni on the net even though it had gone defunct. A resurrection of that site would be nice.

Respects,
S. F. Murphy
http://sfmurphy.journalspace.com
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Mike Bailey
Posted on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 06:46 pm:   

For Jer (from Virginia): I thought the Pinkerton man finally wasted Hicks with his hand cannon. So I don't think he was re-living a defeat...
Just my opinion...
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Jonathan Strahan
Posted on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 07:56 pm:   

Hey Ellen,

I was looking at the site, which I think is terrific, and a couple of things did occur.

1. If you're somewhere over the hills and far away and often subject to slow download times (like me), doing things to speed up downloads and simplify access would be a good thing. I'd suggest, for what it's worth, moving away from the tables and inline stylesheet approach your web people are using and trying floating DIVs and global .css. It should make the site quicker and easier to download.

2. I'd suggest removing the individual title pages for each story. Right now you either go to the story from the main www.scifi.com/scifiction URL, or from the archive page. You select the story, go to a splash page with no real content (an image, a title, and a para of text from the story), then go on to the story itself. It would simplify things to delete the splash page.

3. The archive is a terrific thing, but the archive page would be quicker and easier to use if it wasn't rendered using tables. Either a simple unordered list or a drop down list would be quicker and easier.

4. I'd second the suggestion about putting up some more print friendly option. The site is currently very unfriendly to print and either adding a PDF or just a print.css that dropped layout and images would be an important improvement.

5. It would be nice if there was an easy way to see 'other SciFiction stories by this author'. Right now if I read a Lucius Shepard story I like, I need to run down the long list in the archive to see the other stories of his you've published. It might be cool to have an easier way to do that.

There is also one non-design thing that I've wondered about. I know there's talk about getting some best of SciFiction anthologies done, but is there any chance of getting someone (a small press, maybe) to do an annual 'complete stories of the year' volume? I'd certainly hand over fifty bucks for something like that. I'd even subscribe to it.

Regardless of the above, though, SciFiction is a terrific thing and probably the best fiction magazine published this year.

Jonathan
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EDatlow
Posted on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 11:35 pm:   

Stephen:

A format that is more amenable to copying and pasting to a word processing file so that people who hate reading fiction off of the screen could print out hard copies.
******I've brought this possibility up to my boss a few times but we basically we don't want to encourage readers to go offsite to read the stories --we want the site to be sticky. Sorry.

In general, I wish text on the screen was easier to read. True, the type is big enough to be read and understood, but the experience is not a pleasant one over long periods of reading time.
****I think it's pretty easy, myself

A seperate Scifiction BBS might be nice, but I suppose the Nightshade thread answers to that issue. The SciFi BBS is a pain in the ass to read and use.
******have you been to the new BB? It's very easy to use and very user friendly. There are still occasionaly glitches but hopefully they'll be fixed one of these days.

Finally, a link to where Omni Magazine stories might be archived on the net. Seems to me that once upon a time, you could see Omni on the net even though it had gone defunct. A resurrection of that site would be nice.
***Nothing to do with SCIFI.COM --that would be like asking Asimov's to have a reading list of F&SF stories.



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EDatlow
Posted on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 11:43 pm:   

Jonathan,
I've passed your post on to my producer to mull.
I don't understand your #1 but he will. I agree with you completely on #2 (getting rid of the splash page--or at least one of the extra pages).

I'll bring up the printing option again but as I told Stephen I'm doubtful it will be implemented (but you never know).

Linking to other stories is a good idea--will talk to Michael as to how/where we'd link them.

When I remember to check-- if Scott E has an article or review in SF Weekly of one of our authors I ask him to link to the story by that author.

Thanks
Ellen
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Niall Harrison
Posted on Thursday, September 16, 2004 - 02:39 am:   

I wouldn't object to seeing the splash pages go (although I quite like them, they can sometimes be annoying). However, I'll put a vote in to keep the text as it is. I really, really like the SCIFICTION font and one-column layout--it's far and away the easiest-to-read website I've seen.

Perhaps splitting the archive into multiple pages, one per year, might also help to keep loading times down? On the current page it's easy to ctrl-F and find a specific story or author, which is good, but I suspect that googling would be just as effective.
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chance
Posted on Thursday, September 16, 2004 - 03:50 am:   

Hi Ellen,

I'd like a link to the bimonthly chat transcripts on the fiction page (though I guess they are cancelled until further notice), but the only way I can ever find them is to go to the Asimov's page - and click on the links from there.

Also, the links for the bulletin board don't go to the one you posted here a while back, and the only way I can ever find it is from the bookmark I made, or coming back here - not through navigating the site.

I'm not a huge fan of the new BB because I find it rather slow loading. Though I find that to be rather true of the site in general, especially the big banner ad at the top of the page, which definitely deters me from going to more pages on the site.

Well, I also hate that you can't post to the BB unless you are logged in, but I imagine with that kind of traffic you get it is a necessity.
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EDatlow
Posted on Thursday, September 16, 2004 - 07:54 am:   

Niall,
Splitting the archives into multiple pages by year might be possible. I'll bring it up at the meeting.

Chance: I've checked from the front page and from the link at the top of the SCIFICTION page....all the links SHOULD go to the new BB--and they go directly (please let me know of those that don't work correctly). I'm requesting that our proofreader go through all our stories to check the BB links.

Since the chats aren't part of SCIFICTION I don't think I'd want to do that. It would be more clutter for the SCIFICTION pages. Since there is a dedicated chat page I don't see that this would be necessary.

I'll mention the complaints about slow loading of the sites but ads help pay for the site so they're not going to go away ;-)

Logging in gives some control to the process and gives us a way of knowing how many people sign up for the BBs.
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Jer
Posted on Thursday, September 16, 2004 - 08:05 am:   

Hey Mike. I can see how you could get that:

"Let me just say kapow-kapow.

I rest my case, ladies and gennulmen of the jury. I'm

2.

"A Pinkerton man. Well, shit my drawers."

So maybe my reading was skewed by the darkness of the rest of the story. If nothing else, I certainly *want* him to live and continue to kick ass. I loved the character, and think that missing his shooting hand could only make the rest of his weird west adventures that much more kickass.

But, when I read it I took the "Im [no punctuation]" bit to not just be a really, really cool transition, but also a true and final last thought, no chance for punctuation. His [stuff] got [bucked] up, as it were.

BTW, any symbolism in the 26 sections? All I can think of is the alphabet. A-Z. Whatever.

Laird, if you ever come back and see this, set me straight! :-) thanks.

Anyway, Mike, you see what I'm saying, or am I just a loon?
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jer
Posted on Thursday, September 16, 2004 - 08:13 am:   

Ellen:

I agree with getting rid of the splash pages.

I agree with somehow making it easier to get to all SCIFICTION stories by a single author.

And I very much second the tangential idea that it would be WONDERFUL to have a yearly small-press printing of all of the SCIFICTION stories. I, too, would pay upwards of $50 for it, and know I was getting my money's worth.

Kind of like most editors, I guess, I really like reading things on paper =)

(as opposed to on a screen)
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EDatlow
Posted on Thursday, September 16, 2004 - 08:34 am:   

Jer (and Jonathan)--I forgot to respond to Jonathan's original post about this.

We're still in talks for a BIG anthology of some of the stories. It's hard to get movement on any of this as the income from such projects would be minimal and the powers that be have bigger things on their plates. Certainly, if a small press approached us to do a yearly antho of all the stories I'd push it on Craig as something to consider.
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EDatlow
Posted on Thursday, September 16, 2004 - 08:50 am:   

chance:
All the BB links should now work.

Btw, creating a new SCIFICTION topic as this one's gotten too long. See you on the next rock.
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Steven Francis Murphy
Posted on Thursday, September 16, 2004 - 09:26 am:   

I understand the need for stickiness and if the visitor has ISP at home, then it doesn't pose a problem for them. I don't (on purpose) and the bulk of my recreational reading takes place during the last two hours of my work day while I watch a loading dock (that is where I read Asimov's at, any novels, etc).

And print outs as well.

So it seems to work a bit against luddites like me, but I doubt Scifiction is losing all that much traffic due to luddites like me. :-)

I see and understand the other points. A shame about the Omni link.

Thanks for answering my concerns.

Respects,
S. F. Murphy
http://sfmurphy.journalspace.com
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EDatlow
Posted on Thursday, September 16, 2004 - 11:45 am:   

Stephen, We print out the stories every week to send to some Year's Best editors and they do print out fine (you can set your printer to only print in grayscale and that saves your color ink too).

I will though, bring the issue up again next week at the meeting. Readers DO continually ask, so it's my duty to at least try to persuade everyone to change the system.
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Steven Francis Murphy
Posted on Thursday, September 16, 2004 - 12:20 pm:   

The work printers do print in grayscale. Maybe the problem is an operator based one. :-) On my part, that is.

I'll do some tinkering tomorrow and see if I can get a readable copy. Thanks.

Respects,
S. F. Murphy
http://sfmurphy.journalspace.com
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Andrew F 3LBE
Posted on Friday, December 10, 2004 - 11:02 pm:   

Sorry to butt in here, totally off topic... Laird, can you contact me at 3LBE? I have an annual ready to ship.

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