Readers' Feedback and Forum

During the first six months of Eidolon we've received a number of letters discussing the magazine and related issues. As one of our stated aims is to provide feedback to contributors and a forum on the genre, we've decided to publish these letters on an irregular basis.

All letters have been edited to remove less relevant material, and in some cases adjusted to read more smoothly. We've tried to ensure the content is preserved, and we've included the bad with the good.

Dear Richard,
Here are some comments about Eidolon 1:

The Feathered Dancer - Nice to start off with a fantasy tale, and with such lovely descriptive couplets. Pity it's the old fascist myth once again (talented but unskilled youngster is seen, tutored and "lost" by master. Youngster comes back in time to pay respects. Recent reading/looking: The Fountainhead, Star Wars, "The Feathered Dancer".)

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times - Who is this Jonathan Strahan? One of the editors? We already know about SwanCon from the Editorial, so why do it here, especially when it's followed by:

Big Blue is Watching You - I didn't read this in its entirety, but I looked at all of it. I think it would have made a great SF story. Speaking as a role-player my reading pleasure was flawed by the deus ex machina of the GM.

Larrikin Wind - Lovely; absolutely great story-telling. Pity it's another clichéd plot.

Dark futures - Now this is the sort of essay I've been waiting to read. Leigh [not only explains] the definitions well [and] with relevance to her argument [Leigh is in fact male - a good argument for the inclusion of author bio material perhaps? - Ed.], [but] notes the connecting arguments (whether pro or con) and then makes her point; one with which I concur. Congratulations.

A Reader's View - Well, Richard, if you want to do unpaid advertising, the least you could do is not tell us the plots. If you are going to do this again, try quoting the work to show us the quality of the writer. I wouldn't want to question you as a reader.

Hints 'n' Tips - Haven't I read this before somewhere? So what? You know, I get the distinct impression that anybody can be a successful SF writer! (Why only SF is beyond me.) "Nuff said".

Critical Embuggerance - Apart from the lack of direction in the writing (even though the article was about lack of direction in films), I found this to be a boisterous read and quite funny. From what Robin has written, it seems his best topics are trends or genres, rather than actual films.

Lucky At Last - Wonderful short story, and not even a cliché. Second best, and second shortest, short story I've ever read. Too bad it wasn't the last item in the book.

Fresh Ink - Jesus, it's Jonathan again and he deliberately doesn't read Australian SF. (I wonder if he deliberately reads.) Point one; I read Beloved Son by Turner when it first came out - glad to hear he's still writing. Point two; don't you think it's [odd] to have reviews which start out by telling you that the reviewer probably wouldn't have read [the book] if [he'd had] to buy it?

Overall, I give Eidolon 1 a 5 out of 10; too many bad articles and not enough stories to balance [them]. If you had lost Fresh Ink and A Reader's View I would have given it a 7. [I'd] make that an 8 if you'd lost The Best of Times. Can't wait to see Eidolon 2. Can't wait to have a subscription rejected.

Anyway, Stay Happy & Be Creative,

Ian Scudamore

Gee Ian, far be it from us to reject a subscription just because you tore most of the Editorial Committee's efforts to pieces in print. (Ignore the smell of almonds on your copy of Issue Two, and we strongly recommend licking your fingers to turn the pages.) Seriously though, constructive criticism is always welcome, and we certainly asked for it. Thanks.

Dear Jonathan,
(Re Issue Two:) I haven't read the whole issue yet, but what I've read so far is great. Robin Pen is definitely up there with Interzone's Nick Lowe (both leave the pedestrian Ellison for dead). And please thank Keira McKenzie for me; I loved her artwork for "The Extra". Eidolon comes across as very professional, both in content and appearance. I'll certainly renew my subscription when the time comes,

Best Wishes,

Greg Egan,

Thanks for the kind words Greg, but now we'll never be able to live with Robin!

Dear Editors,
Thank you for the copy of Eidolon [Issue Two]. The magazine is most attractive - I like the journal format - and there was no need for you to adopt an apologetic stance in your Editorial.

You ask for feedback. Although I haven't had time to read the fiction, Greg Egan and Philippa Maddern are obviously very good writers, and deserve to be published. I suggest, however, that you pay little attention to the views on fiction of SF readers en masse - they tend to be unsophisticated. (My only criticism, in fact, was of your reviewer of Dowling's book: to describe prose as "rich and golden" is stupid, impressionistic and, really, says nothing at all. Get some academic to do your reviewing - Van Ikin is the obvious choice.)

One last point: is it absolutely necessary to say you are willing to publish "horror" fiction? The word has such moronic connotations. But on the whole, I think Eidolon is most promising, and I look forward to subscribing.


David King,

George Turner, in a recent interview in Aurealis, seems to agree with David about Horror Fiction. We haven't really published any yet, so I suppose it's up to us to prove the worth of it. As to the reviews, we tend to believe that "impressionistic" reviews are often as valid as those of a purely "academic" nature. Comment, anyone?

Dear Jonathan,
Eidolon [Issue 1]. Very nice. $15 enclosed. Enough said? Perhaps not. Presentation excellent, content readable. Of particular note: "Critical Embuggerance". A bit stream of consciousness but I strongly agree with his (Pen's) all too brief analysis of BatmanTM. Ellison was over the top with his review . . . and it is very hard to disentangle one's response to the hype from the movie itself.

I won't say much about the fiction here; it deserves more attention than I can give. But I did read every word - unusual for me. Van's "Tips" were also of interest [Nick is a writer as well as a renowned illustrator - Ed].

All for now,

Nick Stathopoulous,

Dear Jonathan,
Eidolon 2 was a good read. Sean's article was complimentary to Van's. The personal response was particularly well handled. Not as clinical as Van's, although I'm certain I detected a bit of a gripe concerning OZ fandom's failure to recognise Sean's success with a Ditmar. I don't really blame him either. "The Colours of the Masters" is one of the finest short stories written in this country.

The fiction was readable. Duh . . . let me explain. I don't read much fiction. I tend to find it cloying and self-conscious. Terry is particularly "baroque", although I now enjoy this quality in his work. In his case, the story is almost secondary to this wordsmithing. Now, all the pieces in Eidolon were easy to get into, well crafted, and were diverse in style and subject matter. The choice of which story to place with which must be particularly vexing for an editor, and that combination can make or break a reader's perception of a story. But you can't go wrong with this "story for everyone" approach. I only hope the quality and diversity of the fiction can be maintained.

I particularly liked the passion in Philippa Maddern's "The Subconscious Computer". Ah! The things we do for love. Egan's "The Extra" was classic. A complex subject, well thought through. All the ramifications were dealt with most satisfactorily, particularly the legal. This story was articulate and provocative, and deserving of more expert critical analysis and time than I am able to provide here.

"Spin" was flashy in its use of language, short but powerful. I have heard good things about Dedman's work, and was not disappointed. Byrne's "Tizzy's Tail" worked for me on a purely gut level, since the merest whiff of fish makes me throw up. (Kittenpunk? Jesus, are you pulling my zucchini or what?) The perfunctory couple of lines I've written here fail to do justice to the authors.

Ah, I can't forget Robin Pen, who has provided a valid pro-Turtle argument . . . with lines like "Godzilla is the sensei in the dojo of Cinema Ephemera." Totally radical! Noted was a reference to Henson's The Storyteller. Has anyone else seen "The Soldier and Death"? Would I be wrong in suggesting that it is perhaps (along with the rest of the series) the best fantasy committed to television?

Bye for now,

Nick Stathopoulous

Nick's letters illustrate one of the problems with not publishing this column until Issue Three. About the zucchini, Nick: you betcha!

Dear Sir,
I have read the two issues of Eidolon with interest and congratulate the staff on their work so far. The number of capable sf writers in Australia is limited and the better ones are looking overseas for better cash returns and a bigger audience; I only hope your magazine will prove viable.

If I may offer advice, it might be well to avoid too close an identification with 'fannish' interests. You will survive only by attracting attention outside the circles of fandom (which are in fact smaller than most of the members imagine) and it would be as well to avoid publishing 'con report' items which are of little interest even to those who attended. There may be items on which good essays could be founded (like the appearance of 'Stelarc' at the recent Melbourne convention) but for general interest the pre-occupations of fandom should be ignored. Articles like those of Leigh Edmonds, Van Ikin and Sean McMullen are more to the point of general interest.

I enclose my cheque for $20 as subscription for four issues,

Yours faithfully,

George Turner,

Thank you for your kind comments. About con reports - on consideration we concur.

Dear Jonathan
A few . . . comments on the magazine if you are interested: I thought Greg Egan's story was very good, he doesn't seem to be able to put a foot wrong at the moment, but the real delight of Issue 2 was "Spin". It was a radically wonderful story, with a superb use of language. Interestingly enough I think few other magazines would have considered publishing it. Congratulations to Eidolon and Stephen Dedman for one of the better short stories I've read this year.


Geoffrey Maloney

"Spin", by Stephen Dedman, has attracted a lot of attention, both favourable and unfavourable. This is the kind of feedback we value, and we hope our contributors may find useful. Thanks.

Dear Eidolon Editors
Very handsome, much superior presentation to Aurealis or indeed just about any other sf "little magazine" I've ever seen. You're lucky to have access to such superior writers as Greg Egan, Terry Dowling and Philippa Maddern, though I suspect that - in the nature of things - you're going to be restricted to their unplaced cast-offs. (Though I doubt this in the case of Pip's story . . . I take it to be a self-similar rebus of its own mechanism, one that I have not yet decoded beyond its surface Christian connotations.)

Your . . . critical pieces suggest that you lot are maybe second year university students who've only recently stumbled onto sf and have a bunch of background reading to catch up on. Thus the happy sense of intoxication; thus also the tawdry attempts to shock and swagger by Robin Pen, who should probably be put to the sword. Thus the wonderfully haughty disparagement of local sf by Jonathan Strahan who then gets all excited by Dowling's and Turner's collections, apparently quite ignorant of (for example) Turner's previous prize-winning novels (he calls one of them "The Sea and The Summer"), or mine for that matter, or all the zippy work in the anthologies Strange Attractors, Urban Fantasies, Matilda At The Speed Of Light by Turner, Broderick, Egan, Dowling, Maddern, Rousseau, Sussex, Talbot, Grigg . . . If you find this considerable body of work conducive to nothing better than cultural cringe, you owe it to all of us to set us straight, explain our woeful defects (I'm not denying that we have plenty), put us on the road to improvement. If you haven't read it, perhaps you should quietly go off and do so before shouting in the street.

But I think your impulse is helpful, and I'm glad to see "how-to" pieces by Van and Sean, which will encourage the incorrigible and serve to caution and instruct the prematurely confident. Keep the little buggers ripping out, try to remember the difference between "its" and "it's" (e.g. 1/65) . . . and maybe bear in mind that "toadied" is not a synonym for "bandied" (1/5) unless you're being more candid about your admiration for T. Dowling than I imagine is possible.


Damien Broderick

Thanks for the kind words, Damien. We're trying as hard as we can. Toadied? We used the O.E.D. definition. Try looking up "irony".

Dear Jonathan
Thank you for the Eidolon issues. It was good to see a new Pip Maddern story, although I felt there should have been more of it. Also, thank you for the review of the two stories from My Lady Tongue and Other Tales.

I applaud the "In Print" although I suspect it has omissions - e.g. juveniles, reprints and the sf material published outside the genre publications by people not known to the little world of sf.

I note your wish to bring perceptions of Oz sf more in line with overseas perceptions of same. However, I query whether there really is much of an o/s perception of Oz sf. Recently a glossy magazine asked a sample of New Yorkers (I think) to answer questions along the lines of: What do you think of Bob Hawke? Name two Australian rock musicians, etc. They failed dismally. Can you imagine a random sampling of New York sf people being able to express an opinion about George Turner, or naming two or more Australian sf writers? I doubt it. Moreover, I would say that those overseas who do have a perception of Oz sf suffer from the same difficulties as the locals in getting hold of the stuff. Basically, the perception of any literary genre depends upon variables such as publishing policy, publicity and above all, distribution systems. Rynosseros got a good review in the August 1990 Locus, but as the book is not available yet in the US, readers were directed to write to the Aphelion address in Adelaide. [Similarly] a mainstream writer of my acquaintance [was recently] leaping up and down because his publicity had come out before his book had got into the shops. This, he said, would cost him several thousand dollars in sales.

Which brings me, circuitously, to an assumption in your overseas/local perception comments that I think is debatable: namely that the overseas perception is the correct one. This seems like ye olde cultural cringe. Who is likely to be better informed about Oz sf: the reader of your magazine, Aurealis, ASFR, the Aphelion publications, or the reader of Locus, F&SF or Amazing?

You also seem to be saying that o/s is best, in publishing terms, that an Australian work is not any good unless it has been read by people outside the country. Does it, for instance, alter your perceptions of my stories "My Lady Tongue" and "The Man Hanged Upside Down" to know that the first has just appeared in a US anthology and the second will be out in the US next year? Do you like them or dislike them more because of this information?

If you extend your argument to the Ditmars, then this year's short story awards should have recognised the stories published overseas above those published locally. Thus Terry Dowling's "The [Quiet] Redemption of Andy the House" (from Australian Short Stories) should have lost by a large margin to Rosaleen Love's two overseas publications, "The Total Devotion Machine" and "If You Go Down to the Park Today". Given your enthusiastic review of Terry's work, I rather doubt you intend this.

This letter has gone on longer than I intended. Thanks again for the magazine.

Best Wishes,

Lucy Sussex,

Hmmm . . . we are trying to be honestly critical. After all, it's a significant part of our stated aim to promote the development of Oz SF. Room for improvement, maybe? Thanks Lucy.

Originally appeared pp. 9-12, Eidolon 3, December 1990.
Copyright © 1990 Letter Authors. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with kind permission of the authors.