Locus Online


April - May 1999
Comments from the 2nd Online Poll and Survey
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Incoming ballots for the 2nd online Poll and Survey have dropped off sharply this past week [to May 5th], as if everyone who's inclined to vote has already voted. Here's one new comment from a recent ballot. -- ed.

§ I visit Locus Online every day and think it is an excellent resource. Most of my book buying is done at used book stores primarily due to poverty. When I read book reviews that interest me I put them on a list and wait for a used paperback copy. This is usually a year or two wait, so naturally I would not mind seeing reviews of older and out of print books. As mentioned in one of the previous comments, I too would like to see ''best of'' lists for sub-genres. One area where I have trouble finding quality novels and stories is in the Science Fiction humor field. I prefer my humor black with no sugar, Vonnegut, Tenn, Morrow. Keep up the good work.

§ I have to disagree with many of the participants in the poll who think that todayís SF is not a good as yesterdayís. While I do spend a lot of time in used book shops looking for worthy out-of-print books, I do this because I want to know the history of the genre and its important works (youíd be surprised just how many Nebula and Hugo Award winning novels are currently out of print). After all, there are decades of great SF written before I was even born (sorry if this makes those of you reading this feel old). However, if I didnít care about ''the classics,'' then I would easily read more new books a year. In my unbiased opinion the work being put out today by the likes of Swanwick, Willis, Robinson, Bear, Kress, Butler, Brin and Benford is just as good (if not better) as that of Asimov, Heinlein, Delany, Ballard, Kornbluth, Pohl and Clarke. Letís not forget that Le Guin is just as good now (if not better) as she was when The Left Hand of Darkness came out. I really do feel that all those who find no sense of wonder in todayís work fall into the ''Golden Age is 12'' category.

[ I certainly agree with you, or I wouldn't devote most of my reading to the reviewing of current short fiction, for Locus Magazine. I also agree about the importance of recognizing past generations of SF writers -- though as someone who began reading the genre when the New Wave debate was just beginning to fade, I find it amusing to see you group Asimov and Heinlein with Delany and Ballard. For the same reason, the forthcoming Locus Online Index to SF Awards will make some attempt to place the Hugo, Nebula and other award winners in the context of significant works from throughout the history of the genre. On the other hand, check out the reviews (by Robert K.J. Killheffer) in the new June F&SF of Gardner Dozois' recent pair of anthologies, The Good Old Stuff and The Good New Stuff, for some ideas on why the old stories really are different than the new and why readers might prefer the old ones more. -- ed. ]

§ Found the Novelettes esp. hard to vote for. (Too many excellent titles.) Suggestions helpful -- couldnít remember titles of collections well enough to vote for them. Perhaps two rounds of voting would jog memories? (First round results would be posted for a second round of votes.) Since I already voted, Iím sending this ďcommentsĒ in separately. Next polls; Greatest non-book SF? (movies, comics, songs) How you started reading SF? Biggest pet peeve? Most over rated author, book, aspect, etc.? Biggest loss to field? Under-rated author?

[ I'm sure we won't do another round of all-time short fiction voting, just now; we posted the long lists of suggestions as a way of jogging memories. Your other ideas are interesting though... -- ed. ]

§ I am unsure what the distinction is between novella and novellette. Please include a description of size.

[ Strictly a matter of length: officially, short stories are works up to 7500 words; then novelettes, up to 17,500 words; then novellas, up to 40,000 words; longer than that is a novel. In typical book pages, the breaks are about 20 pages, 45 pages, and 100 pages respectively; fewer pages at each break in a digest magazine like Asimov's with more words on a page than a typical book. -- ed. ]

§ Iím happy that you have extended your survey to what really counts. Short fiction -- particularly the novella -- is the life-blood of sf. I had a difficult time of it, however. I was totally unprepared; Iím sure I forgot all my faves.

§ ''After reading novels like Gaimanís Stardust, which reminded me more of the Brothers Grimm than science fiction, Iíve come to the conclusion that there should be a separate genre distinction for similar novels of fantasy. Whereís the science in this kind of fiction? Oh, and do sci-fi fans a favor and shelve it somewhere else. Like next to the Mother Goose books.''

I give in. What is this person talking about? Stardust is already down on all your lists as a fantasy. Iíve read it: itís an astonishing piece of work, and a beautiful fairy tale. Honest to gosh sensawunda stuff. Is your correspondent asking Locus Online not to cover fantasy any longer? Or Horror?

Personally Iíd like to see more fantasy coverage. Itís hard to separate the wheat from the chaff out there, and without Locusís reviews Iíd never have read a lot of the wheat - such as Stardust. Any chance of putting more Locus reviews on line?

[ Maybe the Stardust complaitant was misled by the dust jacket, which looks as much SF as fantasy. More reviews -- currently not within Locus Online's shoestring budget. Locus Online is allowed to adapt or quote some material from Locus Magazine, but for most purposes, we're a separate entity. -- ed. ]

§ My problem is remembering titles. I did not vote in the other poll because of this, but would if I could now try to vote OUT the Willis entry - the Dog thing. She is just not that funny or cute, and does a disservice to the genre. Where is BAXTER anyway. Thereís great sf being written, and Willis is not now doing it. Please pass this on tho the people who voted that book in. It deserves nothing. Speaking of great sf. . . your above list has a LOT of it. Brinís new Foundation's Triumph (finished last night) made me want to begin again as Iíve done four times already, starting with Foundation Trilogy and going on through them all. I recently saw a list of sf authors starting with Heinlein, including Asimov, Brin, Ballard, Simmons. . . and NOWHERE the list was Clarke!! There were about 20 or 25 authors on that list. maybe you saw it. Anyway, I could go on for HOURS and DAYS, I canít believe that Willis won your poll -- and because it did -- I wonder about polls now even more than before. Hugo and Nebula have a pretty good history through the years -- but I think lately the Hugo is totally screwed up by the Bujold books -- really, is Miles THIS GOOD? So now I wonder what the future of things are. BEST SF NOVEL? - BUJOLD - MILES?? BS Anyway I am going to stop now. All the best and good luck with your polls.

Your magazine is GREAT.

MY GOD!!! I just re-read the winner list posted on your poll #1, and THAT WAS the list that didnít mention CLARKE!!! I canít believe it. Your voters list!!!! There is something seriously wrong here. I canít believe it.

[ As for Willis and Bujold -- well, de gustibus non est disputandum, you know. As for Clarke, we noticed his absence in the top rankings too. [He got 3 votes; so did Bujold.] There's more than one reason to take these polls with a few grains of salt. The first reason is we only allowed one response per category, whereas the magazine poll allows five, and most awards are two-staged, with a nomination or shortlist phase to focus the final votes. It could be a lot of readers would rank Clarke among their top 5, but not their number 1; the results of Locus Magazine's poll, which asked the same question but allowed 5 responses, may be quite different than ours. -- ed. ]

§ Why do you think Plan B readers vote as a block? I certainly am not part of any Plan - I saw an announcement of Plan B on rec.arts.sf.written, went to the Meisha Merlin site and ordered it. 10 years ago when the original three novels first came out, I liked them and I have always wanted to know how the story ends. I felt the same way about Simon Langís Eisernon stories (Iíd still like her to finish them). Meisha Merlin plans to publish more Sylvia Louise Engdahl, too, which I will order. Hey, if someone could write competent sequels to James Schmitzís stories, Iíd buy and read them too.

By the way, if Meisha Merlin keeps up their publishing quality, theyíll soon be on my Locus Magazine ballot for best publishers. Tor better watch out.

[ These online polls may do little but demonstrate the futility of online polling -- as if Modern Library's poll hasn't already done that. Because there's no sure way to prevent voter fraud and organized bloc voting, which is super-easy when all anyone has to do is click the mouse a couple times. Five ballots arrived today voting for the same group of stories, presumably from the same person, but there's no way to be certain. Do we count all five, only count one, or invalidate all of them? -- ed. ]

§ I applaud the manner in which you handled the Plan-B issue, and I must say I find more enjoyment from reading the comments from the voters than the results themselves. Include this reader in the group that believes today's writers seem to be unable to capture the ďSense of WonderĒ that was an essential part of SF when it was great (although Empire of the Ants does indeed come close). This survey was fun, thank you.

[ The Plan B problem was a no-win situation, and if it happens again, we'll handle it differently. -- ed. ]

§ Boy I hated to leave off ''A Rose for Ecclesiastes'', ''The Stars Below'', ''Flowers for Algernon'', ''E for Effort'', ''New Rose Hotel'', ''Day Million'', ''The Moon Moth'', ''The Sharing of Flesh''. But so it goes.

[ Even though only about half of the ballots so far are voting in the all-time short fiction categories, the choices are impressive: a lot of readers do remember the old stories, and a lot of them remember many stories other than those listed as suggestions. -- ed. ]

§ After reading novels like Gaiman's Stardust, which reminded me more of the Brothers Grimm than science fiction, Iíve come to the conclusion that there should be a separate genre distinction for similar novels of fantasy. Whereís the science in this kind of fiction? Oh, and do sci-fi fans a favor and shelve it somewhere else. Like next to the Mother Goose books.

§ I loved the suggestions for nominees. Quite a few cases of ''God I *loved* that story, some ''Yeah, I really should read that one'', and several ''Never heard of it.'' Mostly a lovely walk down memory lane. As for more polls, If youíve got poll fever, how about a poll divided into sub-genres -- Dark Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Hard SF -- I leave the headache of sorting the categories in your capable Hands.

§ SF novels have gotten TOO LONG. Cut the filler and learn to write tight stories again, please. Please. Please!

§ I get Analog and none of the stories made enough of an impression that I voted. Not good. And David Webber was the only vote of mine to show on the results of last months poll.

[ We'd have gotten better results if we'd allowed 5 votes per category, as the magazine poll does; with only 1, the votes were too scattered. Consider that there were 188 ballots voting for best SF novel, and the sum of the votes for the top 9 SF novels was 75. That means well over 1/2 of the voters in that category didn't see their choice place in the results... -- ed. ]

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