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September 2002 TOC
Archived letters

Letters to the Editor, September 2002

This a traditional letter column. You are encouraged to write a letter of comment on anything that you find worthy of comment. It will (may) be published in this column along with my reply. As editor I reserve the right to delete material; however I will not alter the undeleted material. E-mail to me that solely references the contents of this site will be assumed to be publishable mail. All other e-mail is assumed to be private. And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication. Oh yes, letters of appreciation for the scholarly resources provided by this site will be handled very discreetly. This page contains the correspondence for September 2002.

NOTE: Between my trip, changing my site address, having my hard drive crash, and other goodnesses, the August letter column never happened.

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Other Correspondence Pages

From: Sara C. Helterman
Date: 09/19/2002
Subj: The longest word.

Yes, I’m bored at work. “Stewardesses” is the longest word you can type with your left hand, dude.

You’re absolutely right; it is the longest word I can type with my left hand. I suspect that matters would be different if I were Welsh.
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Date: 09/05/2002
Subj: France

I recently read your article on An ugly American in France. As a American living in France I read this aloud to my French boyfriend and we were dying laughing. I just wanted to say thanks for the great laugh and we think you should add and update this site.

It has been a while since I’ve read that, er, article. It is quite as funny as you describe it as being. However I am not the author; it is merely one of those things that circulates on the internet. My site is rather like a sand bar in the flood stream of the internet, upon which bits of flotsam and jetsam pile up.
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From: Joseph Eros
Date: 07/23/2002
Subj: Thanks for your web page, and further digressions

I ran across your wonderful web page when I followed a link to your article on making up references. Then I ended up burning quite a bit of time reading much of the rest of the content. The overall effect was something like finding a whole series of books you like by an author you haven’t heard of previously. Thanks very much.

You’re welcome. That is the effect that I strive for.
Besides the fake references article, I also liked the book reviews and the bit on the Fermi paradox. In your reading on financial criminals and other conmen, have you found anything good on a guy named Reavis who managed to claim ownership for a few years of a good chunk of Arizona? I came across him in one of Jay Robert Nash’s compendia, but I’d like to get more details.
I originally came across James Addison Reavis (the Red Baron of Arizona) in Rebels, Rogues & Rascals, a marvellous collection of articles about famous frauds and hoaxes. I expect it is long out of print, having been printed in 1961, so it’s unlikely that you will find a copy. In lieu of that try http://pw1.netcom.com/~mikalm/reavis.htm . Incidentally, Vincent Price played Reavis in The Baron of Arizona. See http://us.imdb.com/Title?0042229
I also found your treatment of “The Cold Equations” to be a masterwork. Never before have I read such a good summation of a Usenet debate. One minor correction there: the Tintin book that involves death in space is not called “Tintin on the Moon”; the English title is “Explorers on the Moon” (or “On a Marche sur la Lune” in the original French except for lacking the accent marks). Tintin is one of my own pet subjects of geekery, and I hope you will forgive this pedantic turn.
Thank you for the correction.
Best of luck with your weight loss program, and hang in there. Americans really are quite a bit fatter than anyone else (except for some Pacific islanders I guess, but I’ve never been to those islands), a fact I did not properly appreciate until I returned to the US after a yearlong absence in Korea, followed by a trip back via China, Russia, and Western Europe. The French and (especially) English were definitely fatter than the Chinese or Koreans, but when I landed in New York I spent the next couple of days doing periodic double-takes as some person massing as much as three average East Asians came into view.
I progress; according to the BMI chart I am 2-3 pounds overweight. I would like to lose another 10 to 15 pounds and remain at that weight. More importantly, I would like to stay in shape and be in better shape. I have been blessed with a quite servicable body that misleads the doctors into thinking that I am much younger than I am. Let’s keep it that way, I says to myself.

I used to think that hyperobesity was something you only saw among SF fans and circus freaks. Nowadays, however, it seems to be common and, you should excuse the expression, spreading in the population.

I hope the (fossil) dinosaurs continue to hove into view on a semi-regular basis, and remain

Yr. obt. srvt.

Joseph Eros

I dare say the fossils will keep appearing. Worse yet, they keep getting elected.
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From: ryan goetz
Date: 09/04/2002
Subj: help me please

my son wants to become a mutations and i want him to becom one but how do we do it pleas tell me i really need your help e mail me back ok thanks mr.

My suggestion is that you learn how to spell and how to punctuate. This won’t help your son become a mutant (nothing will) but you will be a better person for it.
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From: Charles Hitchcock
Date: 08/25/2002

So you’re trying to make sure BLOOM COUNTY isn’t forgotten? (Or was there a more sinister reason for repeating that joke?) Just think — there are probably intelligent, well-read 16-year-olds who wouldn’t get that one.

Just so. Fortunately few well-read 16-year-olds read my ezine.
Topical jokes have their ups and downs; to pick two examples close together, only G&S; fans and London historians know who Captain Shaw was, but most Brits recognize Pickford’s as it’s still in business. (The web tells me it got entangled with Allied sometime after I photographed G&S; references in 1979, but the name is still on the trucks.) One of my favorites is the joke that was extended to “and if you’re People Express, it’s Tuesday.” — PE was the first casualty, but none of the names (Eastern, TWA, Allegheny) in the version I originally heard have survived.
This G&S; fan didn’t know who Captain Shaw was until you mentioned him. Now I know, courtesy of the Universal Electronic Library. How our lives have been enriched by this miracle of modern information transfer; one can only imagine the awe that our ancestors would have had if they could have beheld it.

Forgive me, I’m feeling like a character in a Hugo Gernsback novel.

re plumbing: so you get the plumbing torn up while you’re in the house, then come visit us “hostile, suspicious, costive and clannish” Easterners (Damon Knight’s description) after it’s all done? Sounds backwards to me….
Even so. Still, if I had gone East whilst the dirty work was being done you may be sure that it would not have been done when I returned. Plumbers hereabouts usually have a number of jobs going on at once; work on your job tends to slow down markedly if you aren’t speaking to them regularly. As it is, the urinal still hasn’t arrived from the distributor. (In case I didn’t mention it, I’m having a urinal put in.) It seems that it is a special order because the fixtures are an off white color. I have fond hopes that this last bit of business will be completed before the Xmas holidays.
(Davey contracted to have her kitchen overhauled during our first major trip together. At one point a subcontractor let the cat out, and a friend who stayed home and kept an eye on the work went around the neighborhood calling for it. In an area on the athletic side of BU, is anyone surprised that on every porchful of young men there was at least one who looked up at a woman’s voice calling “Stoooooopid!”?)
Not at all. The surprise comes in with learning that the woman is calling for a cat.
IMO, the confusion of “The Little Black Bag” and “The Marching Morons” (in “Now what was that story”) isn’t unreasonable; Kornbluth wasn’t into Future History in general, but these two stories have a future in common, even if it’s just a setup in tLBB and the plot driver in tMM.
I seem to recall that he used it in a couple of other stories as well.
It’s interesting to note how old these stories are — without references the only one I’d place after 1960 is “Light of Other Days”. (The Bixby was televised later, but it was published in STAR SF #2.) Did the people on rasfw all grow up raiding libraries? (Libraries tend to Good Old Stuff — I once wrote a term paper based almost entirely on editors’ forwards from anthologies from libraries.) Or are they just antiques like us? Or have there not been any striking shorts since then? I can’t produce any similarly striking stories from since then — but I’d read most of your list at a more impressionable age (“The Golden Age of SF is 12”).
One factor is that they have all been reprinted numerous times. The older the story, the more chances it had to have reprinted. More subtly, short story anthologies aren’t as popular as they used to be. The newer stories have less exposure. Be that as it may, there have been some striking stories since the old days. What about “The Screwfly Solution”?
PS: nitpicky proofreading note: the title is “– And He Built a Crooked House” (added word, quotes, emdash confirmed by James Gifford’s extensive Heinlein site)
Are you saying that there is something wrong with my poorfreading?

… continued on next rock …

An excellent point — marketroids believe that reprint anthologies don’t sell (perhaps excepting best-of-last-year), which tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. (cf NESFA picking up the retrospective bests by Greenberg/Silverberg.) Old anthologies are also findable on used-book tables; I haven’t seen the new ones as much.

The bit about old anthologies being findable is interesting. Why, I wonder, is that? Perhaps it is simply a matter of the old ones having gone through more printings. Then again, used book stores acquire a lot of their stock from estates. Older people will have the older books.
I would have picked “The Women Men Don’t See” over your Tiptree, for quality and because it may have occasioned the remark Silverberg most wishes he could take back (about “Tiptree” having to be male because the writing was “ineluctably masculine”). I’d also point to “Bones of the Earth”, which came in second in this year’s Hugos.
I haven’t read “Bones of the Earth”. I have read “The Women Men Don’t See” but for some reason for me it is utterly forgettable. The title is striking but I have no idea at all what the story is about.
But certainly there are some striking stories coming out. A question is how many; editors have been whinging for decades that too many people think they can start by writing novels, which leads to mountains of extra-bulky slush and a shortage of good pieces for the magazines (where most of the classic writers learned their craft). (There’s also supply-and-demand here, of course — there was almost no paperback SF then, and a magazine would have room for up to 100 shorter pieces and 3-4 novels in a year.) Countering this, there are now lots of dreadful original anthologies — I’ve been told the DAW lines operate by announcing a topic and closing the book when enough pages have come in (no editorial selection at all), but I don’t know that I entirely/ believe this….
I am told that the magazine slush piles are as large as ever. Oddly enough there still seems to be a shortage of good shorts. Either that or the editors cannot recognize good short fiction when they see it.
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From: Patricia Wadley
Date: 09/09/2002
Subj: necro et ale

I loved it. And don’t I have a book or so by you?

I’m pleased you liked it. You don’t have a book by me. However there is a Richard Harter who is a serious academic type; you might have a book by him.

In the midst of life I am gathering a book, so you may well will have read a book by me, but not just yet.

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From: Campos850
Date: 09/03/2002
Subj: New come Volleyball Rules

I need information on how to play New come Volleyball.

I’m sorry but I don’t recognize “New come”. Might you be speaking by any chance of rally point scoring, which has become the standard in high school volleyball?
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This page was last updated September 21, 2002.
It was reformatted and moved November 29, 2005.

table of contents
September 2002 TOC
Archived letters