Readers Feedback and Forum

Dear Jeremy
Congratulations for an excellent magazine. I only found out about Eidolon in 1991, and therefore can only congratulate you on Issues 3 and 5 to 10.

In reply to Nick Stathopoulos' comment (Issue 10), as far as I can tell, the eidolon on the cover has flattened its stomach (is the eidolon really a genderless it?), built up its legs and is developing breasts. Perhaps it is becoming a candidate, not for Gloria Marshall (as Nick suggests), but for a calendar in the style of Elle or the Eagles?

I am surprised to see so little comment on Issue Eight's editorial. It screams to be noticed! While the letter is fictitious (a shame, for I would have liked to have discussed it personally with "Matt Singleman"), it does raise an issue that I'm sure many feel something about. I found Issue Three's "Turkey City Lexicon" very entertaining, and useful for my own writing. And Harlan Ellison's "Where I Shall Dwell in the Next World" was excellent, very entertaining (and fits well with his description of "the writer's eye" in the introduction to the late Tom Reamy's San Diego Lightfoot Sue and Other Stories - it seems that writing, as least for Harlan, is a matter of seeing and mishearing). And although he is not an Australian citizen, in my opinion (which may echo his), Harlan Ellison can publish where and when he damn well wants to.

As to the general Australian content issue, must Eidolon publish second-rate writers, filling in the place of Shiner, Ellison and Bujold, just because the latter are not Australian? I agree that Eidolon should encourage and support local talent, but it should continue to give us, the readers, the best SF, Fantasy and Horror, no matter where it comes from. I have no complaints with the amount of foreign material that has so far appeared in Eidolon, only in the lack of Greg Egan stories and Nick Stathopoulos illustrations (and Nick's stories, for that matter).

Geoff Maloney raised an interesting point in Issue 10: "Should Australian writers consistently attempt to use Australian content in their stories?" In my opinion, only if it works. Some authors try too hard at including Australian content, basing stories in places they know well, and yet fail in capturing the area for the reader. It is easy to say that Melbourne University has barbed wire and machine gun posts (as in "The Twist of Fate" by David Griggs, in Urban Fantasies), but the description means nothing to me, having never seen Melbourne Uni without such "improvements".

It seems that if an Australian author does not specifically set the story in Australia, then the story is set in a place that could be Australia. How many Australian SF stories are specifically based outside of Australia, eg. Los Angeles, London or Latin America? There are some ("Foreign Bodies" by Stephen Dedman in Aurealis 6; "Ghost Card" by Martin J. Livings in Eidolon 10 for recent examples), but hardly enough to form a substantial minority. Is it just that Australian writers never travel overseas? I look forward to reading Geoff's own response to his question. (Is it a coincidence that Geoffrey brought this point up in the Issue in which his story has a definite non-Australian setting?) [Yes - Ed.]

I have a couple of criticisms of Eidolon. Firstly, why is it always so late? I received Issue 10 (the Spring 1992 Edition) at the start of December! And where is my copy of Issue 11 "Eidolon Wonder Stories" (?), which I haven't received in any of its five editions?

Secondly, I think each Eidolon should include a brief bio of that volume's contributors, in the fashion of Aurealis. I often find them useful in tracking down the writer's other stories. Hints of such bios occur spasmodically, so why not make them a regular feature?

As to the last issue (Issue 10), Leanne Frahm's "The Lamadium Affair" was a definite highlight. If you keep getting long fiction this good, ignore the maximum length. Geoffrey Maloney's "Memories of the Colour-Field" was also a great story.

I have a query regarding Greg Egan's novels. It seems definite that An Unusual Angle is his first novel, but is Quarantine his second? Urban Fantasies (Ed. David King and Russell Blackford, 1985) refers to an Egan novel, The Flight of Sirius, to be published in 1985, as his second novel. Was The Flight of Sirius even published?

Again, congratulations for Australia's best SF magazine, where Australia's best writers appear beside the world's best in a very attractive volume. I especially like the black covers. As to the merits of word-of-mouth advertising, I will rave about Eidolon to anyone. Print more Egan!

Best Wishes For The Future

Russell B. Farr
Thornlie, WA.

Gee Russell; I really can't see that the eidolon (which is meant to be androgynous) would make a particularly attractive calendar display, but then there's no accounting for taste. I also can't see that we've published any second-rate writers in Eidolon (at least not since the execrable "Tizzy's Tail" in Issue Two), and especially not at the expense of better work. I'd have to agree about Greg Egan fiction and Nick Stathopoulos illustrations though. Eidolon is perpetually (and sometimes euphemistically) a little late because it's only a "semi-prozine" and we do it in our spare time. When we start to make buckets of cash from every issue, you'll see it real regular. You're holding the former and hastily re-titled Eidolon Wonder Stories (we're sorry, but the much-requested stained glass edition is available only to Editorial Staff due to Australia Post's hopelessly restrictive safety rules). We've often considered biographical material, and one day we might even do something about it on a regular basis. Read Greg's interview for an answer about The Flight of Sirius. By the way, Harlan's story made it to the NYRSF Recommended Reading List (although they listed its US Reprint as the original). Thanks for the letter Russell. I wish every one we received raised so many questions. Print more Egan? I doubt that's physically possible.

Dear Jeremy
Many thanks for the Spring '92 issue of Eidolon . . . another fine volume! I confess, I'm one of those people who can somehow never find time to write letters of comment. After a sixty hour working week, my brain turns to porridge, my eyes, hands and back protest the computer and what I long to do is read. Writing lengthy, complex or constructive letters is something I do only when someone stands behind me with a whip. I must be candid: with work done I turn off most of the processes of discrimination and just beg for entertainment. This doesn't mean I can't tell Oscar Wilde from The Three Stooges, but it does mean I tend to be "easily pleased", and not terribly critical unless something jumps off the page and hits me in the face. The bottom line is, my LoCs would be a standard, "loved the zine, stories were great, when's the next one due?" Uh . . . sorry.

Reluctantly, I must cancel Orion. I did a lot of advertising and received exactly two letters in response, both requests to know how much I paid for stories published. No one wanted to invest in a copy, even to the tune of a SASE. I've split Orion into individual stories and am trying to place them elsewhere on behalf of the writers; the least I can do.

With best wishes

JJ Adamson
Brighton, SA.

Sad news about Orion, JJ. I can only hope, that you're not so discouraged by it that you give up all hope of publishing Australian SF. As for Letters of Comment - at least my editorial got you to respond in some way.

Dear Editors
I have just received my first issue of Eidolon (Number 10) and would like to congratulate you on an excellent publication. Bravo! I intend to buy all the back issues for which you have stock. Do you ever intend to reprint the back issues of which you are currently out of stock? I am sure there are other people, like myself, who have only recently discovered your publication and would like to obtain a complete set.

My favourite story from this issue would have to be [Leanne Frahm's] "The Lamadium Affair". Leanne's utopian society, in which the concept of war or even severe disagreement was totally alien, was well illustrated by her hermaphrodite natives: A developed species that had remained in harmony with itself throughout its evolution, not needing to devolve into distinct sexes. Some people hold this as the reason sex is so enjoyable: it brings both halves of the human race together, making them whole.

I was also impressed with Martin Livings' review of Dan Simmons' book Children of the Night. The review doesn't encourage me to read the book, but the review itself I found highly entertaining.

I was readily able to understand and relate to [Robin Pen's] Ewok theory in "Critical Embuggerance". Mel Brooks' movie "Spaceballs" also takes a shot at the film industry's gratuitous attempt to make money through the sale of merchandise related to the film.

Anyway, that's enough from me, so once again congratulations and keep up the good work. I eagerly await your next issue and also getting your back issues.

Yours faithfully

JR Bleckly
Morphett Vale, SA.

Reprinting back issues is a difficult subject. As a collector myself, I understand how desirable it may be to the avid reader, but it's almost never financially viable for the publishers. While an Eidolon "Best Of" might one day emerge, I think the issues themselves are gone for good.

Dear Eds
I think the problem with receiving letters for Eidolon is simple but without a solution. I would guess that most readers of the magazine are also writers with competing interests. Furthermore, most people are probably sceptical that their letter will be read, let alone appear in any magazine. The logic I follow is: if it takes 3-6 months for most magazines to read a story of 1000 words, will they have the time or interest to read any other comments I make? Particularly since my writing time is strictly limited. There is also a conflict of interest: if I wish to be published in a magazine but also have criticisms/'suggestions', I can't help thinking that it may taint my chances in a competitive market. Likewise compliments may be considered to be grovelling. And finally, few magazines actually invite feedback. Obviously Eidolon is different so if I think of anything in future, I'll send it off to you.


Scott Mendham
East Botany, NSW.

Deep cynicism, Scott! You'll just have to trust to our impartiality when writing letters of comment. At least you're still considering writing. We look forward to your future feedback.

Dear Richard, Jonathan & Jeremy
The latest issue was good stuff; well worth the two hours it took me to read it from cover to cover.

Although . . . Geoffrey Maloney's "Memories of the Colour-Field" was evocative and powerful and tragic in places but strangely dissatisfying; the ending seemed a little weak. I loved the characters and prose of Pam Jeffery's "Coup de Grâce" but didn't like the plot. Leanne Frahm's "The Lamadium Affair" was well worth the extra paper, although I have some reservations about the premise of the story. The biospheres of Earth and Lamadium were sufficiently disparate that the latter could produce no inimical microbes (with respect to human biology). How, then, could both produce higher life-forms that respond to the same pheromones? We humans don't respond to moth, gila lizard or monkey pheromones, so why should the Lamadians respond to ours or us to theirs? Note, also, that human males and females probably have quite different pheromones, so the Lamadians would have to respond to both . . .

Ah well. I loved Jim Heath's "Compound Interest", and Martin J. Livings' "Ghost Card". Sean McMullen's article was great, and Robin Pen was as stimulating as ever (if slightly more restrained than in the past). The editorial prompts the question: Why wouldn't you want to keep changing things? To quote Theodore Sturgeon:

"It is not enough to say that living things change; one must go further and say that life is change. That which does not change is abhorrent to the most basic laws of the universe; that which does not change is not alive; and in the presence of that which does not change, life cannot exist."

So keep changing.

Some random responses to the letter column: I agree whole-heartedly with Nick Stathopoulos. Liesl Yvette is a very good artist. It's a shame that Nick probably won't be able to contribute in the future. (I've always dreamed of having an illo by him attached to a story. Maybe a novel cover, one day? I can only hope.) And I, for one, think that overseas contributions would be a good thing for any Australian magazine, lest it becomes too insular. But that's just my wildly-uninformed gut-level opinion (which I think I've stated before, anyway).


Sean Williams
Cowandilla, SA.

Wow Sean - you read it cover to cover! Even we don't do that. It seems the "foreign content" issue is running thirty-love against the Aussies. Anyone else care to spin the racquet?

Dear Editors
My intention to write a letter to Eidolon (real soon now) has been buried by the need to do other things - many other things. The bait needed to be tuned perfectly to allow me to (reluctantly) push aside the several short stories and drafts of two or three novels I tend to work on at the one time. This time the bait was right, and here it is.

Before I get onto the subject of the bait I shall deal with an annoying [subject] that has crossed my path while reading the letter section of Eidolon. This is the "Dreaded Unfinished Story" syndrome. The comment has arisen several times in the letter column in relation to published stories: once regarding a short story of mine "Bird Species Of The Indian Sub-Continent" (Eidolon 7), and again regarding Harlan Ellison's interesting piece. The problem here is that short stories do not necessarily begin or end the way a novel does; they are more an encapsulated part of a much longer story.

A short story usually begins at a convenient moment, a major event, even a particular thought by a character, and usually ends in the same manner. I often leave an interesting ending just to provoke the reader into stretching his imagination. A short story is meant to provoke, horrify, excite or otherwise move a reader in a far different manner than novel-length works do. With the writing of a short story I develop the world surrounding the story to a much greater extent than actually gets put down on paper [and] this, to me, is often necessary to assure a logical sequence of events or to make it clear to me that the character is behaving in a fashion that isn't preposterous or unbelievable. These surrounding events and details are quite often unnecessary for the reader and often a short story is better [for] finishing in an indeterminate manner, even though I have a fair idea of what follows the last few words.

The same person who commented on Harlan Ellison's story (Mathew Dickens - Eidolon 10) also commented on the originality of Sean McMullen's "The Glasken Chronicles". It was a very good story. However, it was an original treatment of an existing and already-used idea. I recall reading [Arthur C. Clarke's] "Into The Comet" many years ago. The plot was, basically, that an exploration ship from the earth was launched to do research on comets. Following the launch one of the crew discovered the computer had become unreliable. The crew then formed themselves into a human computer using abaci (abacusses?) [you were right the first time - Ed.] to do the initial computations that would get them close enough to the Earth for contact. Clarke [himself] once wrote in RAMA II; 'there are no new ideas in SF'. Still, credit must be given to Sean. I don't imply that he has used somebody else's idea, merely that he thought of the same idea independently.

There is an inherent danger in critical literary comment in a field like science fiction. There is so much written that one person could not possibly cover it all. I would not, personally, aspire to be a literary critic. That, I suppose, is one of the reasons I have held back writing to Eidolon (fear of sounding foolish to my peers?)

Now back to the bait (had you forgotten the bait?) It was James Tiptree Jr. of course. Ahh what fond memories. I will have a copy of all five versions please Jeremy. The problem here is; what has happened to all the obsessive science fiction junkies? I remember driving fifty or a hundred miles (oops - showing my age) to check out a half-dozen second hand book shops, searching for works by such tale-spinners as James Tiptree Jr. or Cordwainer Smith.

The sad thing is, if I were to gather into one large room all of the people who had claimed to me to be science fiction fans, and asked who had read "And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill's Side" by James Tiptree Jr. (or indeed anything else out of Ten Thousand Light Years From Home) I would get many a blank stare and few replies. These so-called fans read works such as the novelisation of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and Star Wars which, instead of characterisation, use several pages of out-takes from the film showing the characters in all their costumed glory. What replacement is that for imagination?

Because some so-called fans of science fiction have never read James Tiptree Jr. or Cordwainer Smith (in fact VGSF have re-released the entire collection of Cordwainer Smith stories, some as originally written but never before published. I now proudly own two complete sets of Cordwainer Smith's works) do we leave them in ignorance or should we try to bring the past to their attention? Eidolon has a section, "Fresh Ink", for reviewing newly published science fiction. Wouldn't it be novel to have a section (perhaps very short if space were a problem) that reviewed old, hard to get hold of, or just plain out-of-print science fiction? (But I would shudder with horror if it were called "Old Ink".)

"Critical Embuggerance" next. Wonderful stuff, but Robin has never once mentioned something I really, really hate about most modern science fiction and fantasy films, and that is the titles. I mean really; Star Trek 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 ad infinitum. I mean, shit! How bloody boringly, stultifyingly predictable. I bet they call the next one (wait for it) Star Trek 6 (or is number six already out and number seven in the planning?). Oh wow! Tacking on a few more words (eg. The Undiscovered Country) doesn't relieve the inanity. We all know they're Star Trek films.

Where, oh where did it start? Was it with Tacky? - I mean Rocky? Or with Superman? (- 1, 2 etc. Sigh.) Sure it was original once, but only once. Is this a modern phenomenon? I can't recall any old films following this trend. I suspect it is time for something new in titling, but getting something new through to the big film makers takes a lot of doing, and when it gets through, boy does it stick!

To wind up, just a few comments about the stories in Issue 10. "The Lamadium Affair": was it the title (too much of a pun perhaps)? No; rather it was the whole concept. Well-written, but I couldn't quite grasp the concept of human pheromones reacting with those of aliens on another planet; it perhaps takes parallel evolution just a bit far for my liking.

I really liked "Coup De Grâce"; more your classic horror here (as was "Ghost Card"), but quite palatable (sorry!). "Compound Interest" was humorous - I know people who behave like that. I didn't really know how to classify it however, but it fitted in well with the rest of the issue (I believe "Compound Interest" is also due to be published by Dragamen Publishing; well done Jim). The only other story that could really be called science fiction was "Memories Of The Colour-Field"; very interesting indeed.

An excellent issue altogether. By the way, measurement of the percentage of fiction in Eidolon?!? What a joke. I find that most of the non-fiction articles are as interesting as the fiction. And lastly (gasp of breath - I know I wound up several paragraphs ago; bear with me) please, I beg you, change not the subscribers' cover. Putting aesthetics aside, my friends quite often comment about the cover. It is not only unique, it attracts attention to itself; a definite asset if I was to be asked my opinion (which I wasn't, but there it is anyway.)

And now, finally and irrevocably, sayonara!

Steve Brooks
Westfield, WA.

Thanks for providing your letter on disk, Steve. The home computer is a true boon for a small-press magazine like Eidolon. Just for the record, we had to edit Steve's letter down for space reasons, but have preserved the content to the best of our ability. NYRSF publishes articles of review which look back at "old classics", and I can't see why we couldn't print something similar if it were offered to us (although Australian content would seem to be appropriate). For those of you who hadn't picked up on it (even after Russell's letter), "Matt Singleman" and his anal-retentive views were wholly invented (yes; it was me all the time!) Thanks for liking the cover; it is dear to my heart.

And it's gratifying to publish such a lengthy and content-heavy Letters Column. Sadly, unless you respond by return post, our frantic Issue Twelve schedule is unlikely to allow enough time for a similar column next time round.

Originally appeared pp. 90-94, Eidolon 11, January 1993.
Copyright © 1993 Eidolon Publications. Individual contributions are copyright to the respective authors.
Reprinted with kind permission of the authors.