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Send us your letters! Locus Online has more room than the magazine for letters. They can be about Locus or the SF field in general.

June 1999

Letters on this page:

  • Frank Rottensteiner on Stanislaw Lem
  • Mark Nadolny considers genre definitions

    Dear Locus,
         It has come to my notice that Stanislaw Lem has, since the termination of my representation of his literary properties effective with the end of 1995, asked publishers to make accountings and payments for contracts arranged by me only to him. This unjustified and damaging request is both a violation of the existing licensing agreements as well as Lem's contract of representation with me which expressly provides that I will continue to handle his old contracts. Mr. Lem has in no single case since 1995 made any accounting to me or paid a commission due.
         Harcourt Brace, to whom I have sold some 20 Lem books, stopped making accountings to me in October 1998 without informing me of their decision, and apparently it is their corporate policy to answer only the letters of lawyers or officials, for Ms. Baldinger, Harcourt's royalty manager, reacted only to a query from the Austrian Trade Delegate in the U.S.A., and this only insofar as to refer him to Ms. Lavelle, legal counsel to Harcourt Brace, who claims that "as per contract" Harcourt is forbidden to make any payments to me and will give out information about the royalties received by Mr. Lem only if they get a court order to do so. This seems to be case of aiding and abetting a writer who refuses to honor his contracts, probably because he trusts that the Polish legal system is so cumbersome as to make the filing of a suit for minuscule commissions inadvisable. In this manner Mr. Lem may hope to recover in only several hundred years what his lost Austrian lawsuit against me cost him.

    Frank Rottensteiner
    9 Jun 1999
    (posted Wed 9 Jun 1999)

    (As noted in the April 1999 Locus Magazine, Lem's lawsuit against Rottensteiner was dismissed after four years by a court in Vienna, which ordered Lem to pay legal costs of about $9,000.)

    Dear Locus,
         I was reading the review in the [May] issue of [Neal Stephenson's] Cryptonomicon. The reviewer [Gary K. Wolfe] suggested that this book is a SF-like novel, but not an SF novel. The reviewer ended, I believe, with the query of how would we define this book? It was a great book as far as I was concerned and it deserves the applause and reviews it's been getting, but as to the fact of what genre it belongs in, I think that is still up in the proverbial air.
         What I do know is that there are other writers out there who are writing stories in the same vein as Stephenson. These writers might not intentionally be doing this, rather they are trying to tell the story they want to tell, regardless of where or when it's set, or what it involves. These writers, and others like them, would perhaps belong in this new genre, if it is ever separated from SF or fiction, or perhaps becomes a sub-genre.
         Jonathan Lethem is the perfect example of the "genre" that may be emerging. Out of his four novels, one of them has a SF background and mannerisms, and two are more noir in their telling, with the fourth being more of a parable. So how would you classify him? His publisher puts him as fiction. I would put him as Science Fiction. But what is this animal that's being created? Other authors to be possibly included are: Jeff Noon, Paul DiFilippo, Howard Waldrop (when he publishes), and Michael Swanwick (recently). Those are just the ones that push towards the SF side of the mark. Is it post-modernism? Perhaps we should call it "unfiction" because it's un-classifiable fiction? Whatever we call it or wherever it belongs, this new "genre" is here now and all indictions point to it hopefully developing into something as interesting, insightful, and fun as cyberpunk was in the early 80's.

    Mark Nadolny
    2 Jun 1999
    (posted Mon 7 Jun 1999)

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