Locus Online








E-mail Locus

September 2001

Posted 27 September:

Posted 26 September:

Posted 24 September:

Posted 23 September:

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

Dear Locus,
     If I may add my voice to the Poul Anderson tribute in Locus #488, which arrived today...
     I first met Poul Anderson in the pages of a French anthology called Les 20 Meilleurs Recits de Science Fiction ("The 20 Best SF Stories"), where "Time Patrol" was reprinted. That was in the early '60s. I met him again and again as I read French translations of his work: The High Crusade, The Guardians of Time, Brain Wave, the Steve & Ginny Matuchek stories, the "Star Fox" stories... I spent a lot of time reading back issues of Fiction (the French edition of F&SF), and Poul Anderson was often featured in its pages during the 50s and early 60s.
     Unfortunately, his books were quite rare in French bookstores. And, after a while, so were his stories. My interest in his work was one of the reasons I decided to learn English more seriously than I did in high school. Afterward, thanks to Berkley Books, to Baen Books and Tor Books, I was ready to discover all these wonderful novels and collections that were published during the 70s and the 80s. Not to mention the new works.
     My friend Richard D. Nolane (who edited the Terra SF anthologies for DAW Books a while ago) is also a devotee of Poul Anderson; when he edited a selection of his stories for Belgian publisher Casterman, he dedicated the book to me. Later, when he edited a pioneering fantasy series, he asked me to translate Three Hearts and Three Lions, one of my first professional jobs and a fond memory. I wish I'd had the opportunity to read the galleys, though, as they were typo-ridden, mostly because the book was set and printed... in Denmark.
     Why am I telling you this? Because all the contributors to the September Locus said it all: Poul Anderson was a giant, one of the writers who defined science fiction. But, to me, he was also something more. Maybe it was because of his European ancestry, maybe it was because he was well-travelled and knew his world history inside out, but go back to his SF novel and stories, from Tau Zero to The Star Fox, from The Boat of a Million Years to Starfarers, and you'll find wonderful, well-rounded characters born in France, in Argentina, in Hungary, in Japan, as well as in the United States.
     Poul Anderson was what we call here a citizen of the world, and I thank him for telling me—as well as many others, no doubt—that I could be a citizen of the future.
     Merci et au revoir!

Jean-Daniel Breque
26 September 2001

Dear Locus Online,
     I was not a voting member of the Millennium PhilCon and as such I should keep my peace and accept what the voting membership did decide. However, I did eagerly await the results of the vote. I was surprised when I saw Harry Potter on the ballot, but figured that this was a result popularity and not story telling skills. I believed that those who read it and say, Nalo Hopkinson's Midnight Robber, would realize that though Harry Potter is an easy read, and thus attractive to those who do not want to think too much while reading, it is not a very skillfully crafted story in a very poorly constructed universe (in an earlier book they had a device that allowed Hermione to step back an hour at time, but somehow this device vanished by the time they wanted to track down those who supported their greatest enemy).
     It is a disservice to The Left Hand of Darkness, Dune, The Forever War and others, that they will be compared to Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire. I suggest hiding it with Clifton & Riley's They'd Rather be Right and move on. Maybe at ConJose (where I will vote!), they should require the members signing an affidavit on the ballot to the effect that they have read (from cover to cover) at least three of the nominated titles. If they can afford to pay to vote, they should be able to afford the time and money to read the books they are voting on.

Peter Crozier
Seattle WA
26 September 2001

Dear Locus Online,
     In the wake of HARRY POTTER AND THE HUGO OF SHAME, I wonder if it's time to review the voting procedure. Could potential voters be turned off by having to pay to vote? Presumably this is intended to restrict suffrage to those who are seriously interested and qualified, but apparently that is not what is happening, and meanwhile some who can't afford membership or voting fees are not contributing their expertise. Perhaps voting could be done through the official Worldcon web site, and lost revenues could be made up with ad space. The best-seller lists are adequate popularity contests; surely the Hugo ought to recognize something more.

Todd Treichel
25 September 2001

Dear Locus Online,
     Re:'s letter:

1. It's rather unlikely that "was there at the vote" since the voting closed late July. Perhaps he/she means they were at the Awards Ceremony?

2. I am at a loss to know what she/he would have done if the "WC had been in Miami." Jump into the Atlantic? If so, Philadelphia offers the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers.

3. The Locus Award, like the Hugo, is voted by the hoi polloi. Bad news . . . the 2000 Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel went to . . . *gasp* Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. And though the new Rowling didn't win this year, it did out poll Diana Wynne Jones and Robin McKinley, writers of no small skill.

     All the best,

Michael Walsh
24 September 2001

[ Was Harry Potter's win a disgrace to the Hugo, or acknowledgement of a pop-cultural phenomenon that the SF community might otherwise have seemed snobbish or cultish to ignore? Locus Online tends toward a less-cynical, more-analytic approach to such matters, suspecting the outcome was likely a matter of simple demographics: since Harry sold so widely and was read by so many who do not normally read genre SF or fantasy novels, probably there were also many Hugo voters who had read Harry and who voted for the book without reading, or voting for, any of the other nominees. If I read the voting results ( right, the drop-off in total novel votes from the 1st round of voting to the 2nd, from 885 to 755, means that 130 voters -- 15% -- voted for Harry and didn't rank anything in 2nd place. (Last year, the drop from round 1 to round 2 was far smaller, only 30, from 929 to 899.) As usual this year, more people voted in the dramatic presentation category -- 972 1st place votes -- than in the novel category.
--ed. ]

Dear Locus,
     In reponse to Peter Coleborn's letter:
     The fine lines of definition are surely a complex issue in the SF associated genres, but the examples you give are not especially problematical. Most awards are very "broad church" if you look up their definitions. The Smith novel was published as SF in the US, and the PKD Award is for a paperback published for the first time in the US as SF. It is in some ways horrific (it is fairly well established now that horror is a mode that can exist in any genre, including the mainstream, and need not have any supernatural element) and the horrific has traditionally been lumped in with fantasy (and indeed until twenty years ago the narrow definition of horror was supernatural). So the Brits are well within their rights to give the fantasy award to something that is horrific in mode. And the Lane piece is traditional supernatural horrific fantasy and so may be praised as fantasy and as horror without much definitional paradox. I am only concerned with these problems when the conflicts are much worse, and the quality of the works much lower. These are accomplished works and deserve awards, recognition, notice. If there is a problem at all, it is in the broad approach of the awards, that cast their nets far in search of quality. Or in the taste of the anthologists. I stand by my own taste and announced criteria, and I know Steve Jones does too. If you want real definitional blur, look to Datlow-Windling—but there, too, it is in the service of reaching out to find deserving literary works of high quality. No one is trying to sneak in trash.

David Hartwell
23 September 2001

Dear Locus,
     In response to Clay Evans, who asked: "What are the voters thinking? Do they so badly want acceptance that they must leap (quite late, I might add) onto a commercial bandwagon?"
     The voters are not a secret cabal that meets in smoked filled rooms to decide these things. The voters are members of the convention -- and membership is open to anyone who cares to pay the annual membership. And the membership can range from a 15 year old kid who has just discovered science fiction to people like Forry Ackerman and Dave Kyle who are our living dinosaurs, our tenuous links to our past.
     But of the many thousands of members of the 59th World SF Convention, 381 nominated in the Novel category (out of 495 total ballots cast) and for the final ballot 885 voted in the Novel category. Further, "619 ballots rank Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire higher than No Award, 91 ballots rank No Award higher than Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" (see:
     Such is democracy.

Michael Walsh
23 September 2001

Dear Locus,
     I couldn't agree more! I was there at the vote and I was embarrassed. I would have known just what to do if WC had been in Miami.
     Thank goodness Locus has an award. From now one that's the only one that will hold water for me.
23 September 2001

Dear Locus,
     I am trying to trace the estate of the author H. Chandler Elliott (1910-78) for permission to reprint one of his stories. Can anyone with information please contact me either by e-mail at or write 4 Thistlebank, Walderslade, Chatham, Kent, ME5 8AD, UK.

Mike Ashley

Dear Locus,
     Just writing to thank you for keeping the SF community informed about those close to us during the WTC attacks. Australia is along way away when one wants information urgently. We were on the last United flight out of LA—after experiencing 3 minor earth tremors in the LAX terminal while we were waiting to board. My nerves were not the best by the time we landed at Melbourne.
     On a lighter note, my daughter Catherine has just turned 13, with 4 stories published, 2 more sold, and $2384 earned in total. Wish I had been doing so well at 13—or 23, or even 33.
     All the best,

Sean McMullen
21 September 2001

Dear Locus Online,
     Have been meaning to tell you that the Locus website is a model of clarity, good design and ease of use, and a very useful supplement to the printed issues. Long may it flourish!

Neil Barron
20 September 2001

Dear Locus,
     With each passing year, it becomes more difficult to stick with the SF/Fantasy genre. Now that a not-especially-good children's fantasy story (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) has taken the Hugo Award for best novel, I may have my best excuse yet to say "to hell with it!"
     To think that Rowling's ho-hum, overlong kiddie tale (yes, I read it, even reviewed it) now stands next to such novels as Stand on Zanzibar, Neuromancer, The Demolished Man, and The Dispossed—thoroughly adult, meaningful, thoughtful novels, all—in the history books is absurd. What are the voters thinking? Do they so badly want acceptance that they must leap (quite late, I might add) onto a commercial bandwagon?
     I hang my head in utter disappointment. "Science fiction achievement awards"? Not really. Not any more.

Clay Evans
Clarion West '97
12 September 2001

Dear Locus,
     The fact that Michael Marshall Smith's Only Forward won the British Fantasy and the Philip K Dick Awards is testament to the broad definitions of fantasy and science fiction that members of the British Fantasy Society and the PKD Award judges ascribe to those words. I feel that the only anomaly here is the fact that the same book won awards separated by six years. But "hard science fiction"? Surely not.
     And another anomaly, perhaps? Joel Lane's homage to Clarke Ashton Smith, "The Hunger of the Leaves", which originally appeared in Swords Against the Millennium, edited by Mike Chinn, has been selected for Year's Best Fantasy, edited by David Hartwell, and Stephen Jones' Best New Horror. Yet another example of the diversity of definitions in the genre.

Peter Coleborn
27 August 2001

Dear Locus Online,
     I have to ask what planet did the Mr. Shirley see this movie on, and yes it's just you. He asked why the main character didn't question why the apes spoke English. Well if I thought the intelligent apes on a planet were descendents of genetically enhanced apes from a crashed space station with an English speaking crew I would question it if they spoke anything else. Sure I agree that should have been a question in the first movie, but we aren't talking about the first movie. Also there is the insistence that this is NOT Earth. Well if it's not Earth how could a handful of human survivors multiply into four times the number of the apes in the same time period. Sure gorillas and orangutans only reproduce every two and five years respectively, but chimp gestation is shorter than human and they reach maturity several years earlier than humans. If we are to believe that all apes and humans are from the space station then chimps should have the highest population numbers. And besides that, if it is not Earth, where did the horses come from?
     The only thing that makes sense is that the space station went through a time portal also and crashed around seven to ten thousand BC in a remote area of earth and in those thousands of years until our main character arrives, say around five thousand BC, the apes have begun to take over. Then when he gets back to Earth approximately his own time, apparently General Thade escaped after he left and the apes have completely taken over. Also it it wasn't Earth to begin with, how could General Thade be mentioned at the memorial on Earth when our pilot gets back?
     I think Tim Burton did an excellent job of taking a story that everyone already knows and making it so you don't know for sure what is going to happen, maintains suspense, and keeps the intent and shock of Pierre Boulle's original story. I find the movies I like the best are the ones that make me work to understand yet flow and keep my interest while giving my the clues I need to understand, much like reading a good book, and I like this one.

Alvin R. Mullen II
18 August 2001

John Shirley responds...

But my friend the Wahlberg character didn't know about the crashed space station etc.—until late in the film. He's hanging around with these English speaking apes on this unknown planet and never remarks on it. Later it's kind of explained (though if you want to be exacting, they wouldn't speak English but some peculiar dialect of it), as you say—but until then he seems to think it's the most normal thing in the world. It's true what you say—what of the horses? That should have made him sit up and take notice. Time portals...I shouldn't be so very baffling, with so many interpretations afterward. In a film like 2001, ambiguity is understandable. But not in this one.

© 2001 by Locus Publications. All rights reserved. | Subscribe to Locus Magazine | E-mail Locus | Privacy | Advertise