Readers' Feedback and Forum

It's been seven months since the last letters column, and we're still short of insightful (and inciteful) letters, particularly concerning our fiction, so please put your thoughts on paper and send them in!

Dear Eidolon,
I was interested to see [Sean] McMullen's mention of the Sydney SF writer's workshop with Terry Carr on page 22 of [Issue 3]. Actually it was 1979, not 1980 as stated, and George Turner was also present, he was taking us the first week, Terry Carr the second. There were perhaps fourteen or fifteen of us there; but apart from Lucy Sussex, Leanne Frahm and myself all others either left the SF field or left writing altogether. I dropped out of the workshop after ten days, which is an action I still don't know whether to regret or not. They story I had workshopped there eventually sold to Fontana's Great Ghost Story anthology series.

Yours Sincerely

Rick Kennett.

Dear Editors,
No. 3's contents: overall I was greatly impressed. In particular I enjoyed the stories "At The Focus" (which I remember from Aphelion, and remember enjoying it then also) and "Age of Democracy". I thought all the non-fiction pieces were of interest, with Sean McMullen's "High Brick Wall" being the best piece of encouragement I have read in a long while. As for the artwork, Nick Stathopoulos' illustration for "The Vat" was by far the most striking.

Eidolon's presentation is of a high standard, as [are] its contents,


Shane Dix

Shane also included a listing of fiction published in The Mentor in 1990. It's important to remember that "In Print" is a listing of professionally published fiction - stories bought at professional rates and published in quantities of 1000+. Issue 3's column, which included non-professionally published material, was a special version to facilitate nomination and voting for the '91 Australian SF Achievement Awards ("Ditmars").

Dear Eidolon,
I'd like to say first and foremost that the presentation and production of Eidolon is first class and that you all deserve credit for a very professional publication - may it sell well for a long time! I was also pleased to see that issue four of Eidolon was a healthy twenty four pages larger than issue three.

What I wasn't pleased to see was that most of those twenty four extra pages weren't used to publish fiction. By my count 39 of the 84 pages in issue three were fiction (I'm not counting artwork as fiction pages) while issue four included 47 pages out of 108. This means that your fiction content has dropped from 46% to 43% - not a major change but certainly in the wrong direction and hopefully not the beginning of a trend. The over-riding feeling that I had after reading issue four, that there was a sparsity of fiction, was probably compounded by the fact that issue three had five stories (even if one was a two page throw-away) while issue four only had three.

By contrast, issue three of Aurealis, arrived in the same week as issue four of Eidolon, totalled 88 pages of which 69 were devoted to ten new stories. I am quite prepared to concede that Aurealis is poorly presented with no apparent application of the basic principles of layout or the use of artwork - I will even confess that I felt a little foolish pulling it out of my briefcase to read in the train (a feeling that I wouldn't have had with Eidolon). The fact remains, however, that Aurealis has published a hello of a lot more fiction than Eidolon and I subscribe to them both because I want to read Australian fiction. I have no objection to people talking about Australian fiction but I would hate to see Eidolon fall in to the habit of talking rather than doing.

In closing, and this is obviously related to my comments above, I don't see why you ran two major pieces about Terry Dowling in the same issue that you ran a major piece about From Sea to Shining Star. There aren't so many Australian writers that, in order to cover the field, you have to take them two at a time - why didn't you hold the Dowling material over (presuming that publicising From Sea to Shining Star had priority) to the next issue? (and publish some more fiction instead . . .)

As for the material you did publish - I thought that Keira McKenzie's article would have been better titled "The Essay in Stasis". It read like a dead serious undergraduate attempt to convince the tutor that, yes, sf is worthy of academic study and it may indeed have been very good for that audience. But, as I learnt shortly after graduating, writing for the rest of the world - who aren't being paid to read and mark your work - requires a rather different approach, one that will hold the attention of the reader who can just as easily put your piece down as keep reading it.

I look forward to the next issue of Eidolon,

Mark Loney

Thanks for the encouragement Mark, but I have to take issue over the statistics. Do you mean by the above that if we'd published, say, a 56 page issue with 28 pages of fiction (a whopping 50%!) that you'd have been more pleased? Similarly, calling Steve Paulsen's "Two Tomorrow" a "two page throw-away" is rather summary criticism, and perhaps less than helpful. I'd like to think that our readers were discerning enough to judge us by other than our Table of Contents.

Lastly, we can only publish what we receive: you'll never see "filler" from Eidolon. Everything we publish has to meet certain standards, and if that means we print a slightly shorter issue, or an issue with a somewhat lop-sided balance, then so be it. It'll even up in the end.

Dear folks,
Firstly, congratulations on getting the magazine together. Australia is desperately in need of some such thing to encourage new writers of imaginative fiction, and the very professional format and quality of Eidolon give it a nice respectable for of feel. I rather liked the understated Summer 1991 cover.

Also further kudos on your editorial technique; the three pieces of fiction included in Summer 1991 are all very workmanlike, with strong style and good, clean technique. A question, though - perhaps asked in ignorance, since Summer 1991 is the only issue of Eidolon I have so far encountered - on editorial policy relating to story content: is the downbeat trend in the stories of Summer 1991 purely a coincidence, or is there in fact an editorial leaning in this direction? I can't say I find the trend surprising, since downbeat is all the SF anyone seems to be writing at the moment, but who is following it? You, or your writers? (No criticism intended. Editorial direction can be a very good thing, vis-a-vis John Campbell or Michael Moorcock . . .)

I blush to admit I haven't read the interview yet; I've never come to grips with interviews as reading material. Probably due to my iconoclastic streak, I suppose - I'd rather make my own errors and learn from them than read about someone else's.

Robin Pen deserves compliments for "Critical Embuggerance". And if you thought Total Recall the movie was a disappointment, how many of you have read Piers Anthony's lame attempt at the novelisation? I wish they'd let well enough alone - or perhaps re-released Phil Dick's story for the occasion.

Wozza. Enough for now. Save for one thing: I think you should play with your budget a little, maybe drop a grade of paper or perhaps encourage a little more advertising in order to pay your contributors. Even if it's only a token sort of payment, it goes a long way towards bringing writers out of the woodwork, and lends a very professional aspect to your publication. I did one short story of Cyclone! comics years ago now, and though the payment was not spectacular, it was prompt and given with the explanation that they (the editors) felt it was an important part of the publishing game. I have respected that idea - and my own work - the more since them.

Yow! I've run on mercilessly. Here endeth the lesson . . .

Launz Burch

Wow Launz, that's a lot to reply to!

1. No, there's no "darkward trend" in our fiction, and we'd love to see more light-hearted pieces.

2. We see Interviews as more an insight into the way an author thinks and is inspired than a "guide for new writers", but we certainly understand that some of our readers aren't interested, and that's fine.

3. We do pay for fiction, albeit a token $10 to cover P&P etc. However, this does allow authors to claim a professional sale. It's our aim to pay professional rates as soon as we're able.

4. Understated? Actually, we thought Issue Four's cover was a bit over the top, but there you go.

Dear Jonathan,
I enjoyed the Spring edition of Eidolon very much; Not only did you publish one of my stories and the letter, but Jeremy also reviewed David Brooks' Sheep and the Diva. I have followed Brooks' writing since The Book of Sei which was published in '85, and found his work to be quite remarkable. It was good to see him getting some publicity - much better than a review of the latest Asimov novel. Out of the fiction I really enjoyed Rosaleen Love's "Turtle Soup". There were a couple of moments in it that had me genuinely scared. Of the artwork, Nick Stathopoulos' piece for "The Vat" was superb, and I was surprised at how well Craig Hilton managed to sum up the whole content of my story in a single page.

I received the Summer edition of Eidolon last week. "The Last Lion in Africa is Dead" comes out in the Eidolon with the handsome black cover. Very attractive, very appropriate. In terms of presentation, this really was the best edition so far. The art work throughout was superb. I enjoyed "Fresh Ink" very much, not because I'm an A. Bertram Chandler fan, but because of the style you handle the whole review in. The forum idea worked - for me anyway - very well and I'd like to see more books reviewed in this way. It's always a problem that reviews are personalized. While I appreciate that as one person's view they must necessarily be that way, opening up criticism into a forum seems to offer so much more. One minor criticism overall: I would have liked to see a little more fiction. I realise that the Summer edition ran to 108 pages - perhaps the longest Eidolon yet - but if you could have fitted one more story, say a very short story of only a couple of pages like "Two Tomorrow" I think that would have topped off the whole edition very well. Just a suggestion, but I guess short-shorts are hard to come by.

Geoffrey Maloney

Geoff: You're right. Short-shorts are difficult to find but, as this issue shows, we're delighted to get them.

Thanks for the comments about the forum. We agree that they provide a more balanced range of opinion. Expect another in the near future.

Dear Editors,
Eidolon has risen from nothing. Issue #3 and 4 actually have several stories worth reading, the best being "Worlds" by George Turner. This emotionally felt, intelligent story disappeared a page before the end when the main character forgot to have a reaction to what was happening. But it was good. Sean McMullen's "Alone in his Chariot" was also quite good but again, why did the last page confuse itself with a piece of pulpiness? This is still better than the previous issue's "At the Focus" where, in a frantic haste to achieve "closure" at any cost, the conclusion took the most obvious route. Yet these are genuinely good stories and are appreciated for what they deliver. Rosaleen Love's story was good. Even Steven Paulsen's was cute. But Geoffrey Maloney is ably rising to the top of the list of Australia's most unpromising authors. His writing positively makes my heart squelch with passion. Still, the rest of the stories were of a surprisingly enjoyable standard.

Robin Pen's critiques differ between issues 3 and 4. #3 was more easily enjoyable, but #4 was a treat because the argument was more developed. Do not be afraid to be more incisive about the SF field, No amount of tolerance should be encouraged for the adventurously dull, such as Total Recall.

The Terry Dowling Interview was delightful. It sends me straight out to find his other work. I was excited to see a review for Sheep and the Diva. While Australians have talent like this, "cringe" becomes an embarrassment.

In his loc [Letter of Comment], Broderick has a point about the stories by Big Name Authors probably being "unplaced cast-offs". I hope "Brand Name Fever" does not get off the ground and entice Eidolon to ignore lesser-known submitters.

The Art has been of an exceptional standard, and has become one of the features of the magazine. Praise to Keira and N. Stathopoulos.

Press on, keep one foot in the genre, with the other looking for a better place to stand -

- And may you never become the F&SF of Australia.

Best Wishes
Justin Cariner

Thanks for the litcrit, Justin. We obviously differ in our assessment of Geoff Maloney's writing, but it's a big world. Maybe the stories in this and next issue will go some way towards altering your opinion.

"Big Names" are obviously important to a new magazine, in that they tend to attract new readership, but it's quality we're looking for, and we're dedicated to encouraging new writers at every opportunity.

F&SF? Hmmm . . . Perhaps now Kris Rush is editor, they might become something to aspire to.

Originally appeared in Eidolon 5, July 1991.
Copyright © 1991 Letter Authors. All rights reserved.