Readers Feedback and Forum

Dear Richard
I am writing to express my concern at an editorial response to a letter from Lucy Cohen Schmeidler, on page 107 of Issue 15. It presents to me an image of your editors as being both arrogant and unprofessional.

I assume that the editorial response was not written by you. You have given my requests for assistance personal and reasonably prompt attention, leaving the impression that you care about authors. The editorial response to that letter appears to come from a person who is an ignorant, self-satisfied shit. If I were Lucy Cohen Schmeidler I would tell you to fuck off (or should it be screw you?) and transfer my allegiance to another magazine.

Or is [it] that you are both Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde?

Yours sincerely,

Leslie Dale
Donvale VIC

Leslie clarified in postscripts to her letter that she objected to the alteration of letters without auctorial approval. Our decision to reserve the right to alter readers' letters was made because there is occasionally a need to edit a letter for clarity or length, and we simply do not have the time to refer every, often very minor, change to the writer. For this reason our guidelines have always advised that we reserved the right to edit published letters, but would attempt to preserve intent and character. If you object to this, please mark your letters "Not for Publication". If you feel you have been misrepresented in the letters column, please advise us so a correction can be printed. Oh, and based upon my personal experience, Lucy would never use such language.

Dear Gentlemen
First, all due accolades on Eidolon 15. Another terrific issue, with the addition of a really attractive cover. The 'innovation' of spot colour and super-cinemascope wrap-around art is a tremendous idea. This could become your format! Alternate the spot colour to complement the art . . . ochres for a desert scene, indigo for space shots . . . and this is very, very attractive.

My favourite piece this issue has to be "Why My Wife Left Me and Other Stories". I find myself asking, why didn't this occur to me? I think we glamorise the concept of deep space voyaging (not to mention military service) to such an extent that we're blind to the problems. The proposal of those left behind opting for suspension is brilliant; but the realisation that the interlude in cryo-suspension would impact on people and relationships, was even more so. The story got to grips, not just with technology, but with the humanity, and this I appreciated.

This issue's "Australian Content" was an eye-opener. Many new writers must be wondering what they have to do to catch the attention of an editor . . . and the answer is right here. When an editor is deluged with up to two thousand submissions per month, how the editorial staff even manage to return that many submissions, unread, beats hell out of me. I envisage a whole office staff just to handle rejections and trot to and fro to the post office under about two hundred kilos of mail . . . meanwhile, the editor-in-chief can get all the stories s/he needs from agents, friends and luminaries in the industry. It's not artistically ethical, but it's necessary for business to continue. Put another way, if, say, Analog employed enough staff to actually read 2k subs per month, the magazine would cost $20. I'm not saying that editors don't read some unsolicited subs some of the time; I'd guess they scan maybe fifty at random, per month, and if something lustrous pops up, they buy. But for the new writer it becomes a disheartening lottery! A factor editors and agents may not recognise is a writer's expense in making subs. It can cost $10 (including a foreign SASE), and if you show five stories a year to five editors each the cost quickly balloons. Still, writers would say it was well worth it, if there was a genuine chance of being published (and breaking even). But when it starts to look like a lottery?

Well, all that said - congratulations on another fine issue!

JJ Adamson
Brighton SA

JJ, thanks for the kind words about the new format and Simon Brown's story. I do think, though, that you may be being rather pessimistic about editorial practice. It's my understanding that stories are read by editorial assistants, and many are read by senior editors. I believe Gardner Dozois and Ellen Datlow, for example, read most, if not all, of the submissions they receive. The trick is that they have learnt quickly to sort the wheat from the chaff. And editors are, in my experience, intimately aware of the cost to authors; there is just little they can do about it.

Dear Jeremy Byrne, Richard Scriven, and Jonathan Strahan
I bought a recent issue of Eidolon, the one with the black cover and strange looking laboratory, at Infinitas in Parramatta and enjoyed reading it very much. That was the first issue I've seen, and I look forward to future issues. I particularly enjoyed the Brent Lillie story. I enjoyed the atmosphere of the David Clancy story but I didn't believe it for a minute! I didn't particularly like the treatment of women in the story, but obviously that's the fault of the milieu he's writing about. The Sean McMullen article was very dry, but informative.

I noticed you published no stories by women in the magazine. Is that deliberate, or don't you get anything worthwhile submitted?

Jacci Olson
Melbourne VIC

Glad you enjoyed Issue 16. The issue of fair gender representation in Eidolon is an important one, and is something which has been canvassed before at some length in this forum. In the case of Issue 16, we simply had no fiction from women writers available to us at the time. However, as you will note, that is not the case with this issue, nor with the next. It's all just a matter of what's submitted.

Dear Eidolon Editorial Committee
I would like to say that the new cover looks fantastic and very professional. There is almost a no-nonsense "design" approach to it . . . I blather. Your content is still quite good, with "Fresh Ink" one of the more intelligent SF reviewing columns; it made me read Castle of Eyes, which I loved. The one thing that bugs me is the lack of space for more stories - I could have done with double the five in issue 15, although the quality of the stories perhaps made up for it. It is good, however, to see the large letters content - sometimes I feel as if I'm the only SF buff I know, but then again, where I live is pretty isolated and has an overly large population of cultural snobs.

Keep up the good work.

S Petar Belic
Scotland Island NSW

Thanks for the kind words about Issue 15, and "Fresh Ink" particularly. I know they're appreciated. I'm also glad to hear you liked Castle of Eyes; the book got far too little coverage and it's nice to know our review got you interested.

Dear Editors
Actually, I should, perhaps, be addressing this letter to Sean McMullen, since it concerns his article "From Science Fantasy to Galileo" in Eidolon #10 (Spring 1992). In it Sean writes: "Leanne Frahm, as far as I can tell, is the first Australian resident woman author to have had a story published in a large US magazine, in this case Galileo." Recently, however, I was looking through a copy of Worlds of If (March 1964) and two of the stories were by writers I'd never heard of before. Because there are no author-bios in the magazine there is, obviously, no way of telling where the writers originated. However, as luck would have it the editor, Fred Pohl, in reply to a reader's letter (incidentally from Australia) writes: "Well, how about this issue's 'first' - Jo Friday, a young lady who teaches science in Australia, and writes about as well as any heretofore-unpublished writer we've seen in a long time."

Since Sean's article was written two years ago he may have already come across this story; in which case my letter is effete. If not, then he might find this letter of value.

It is possible she is not Australian. It may be that she was from overseas and was working here at the time. If she is Australian then her short story "Almost Eden" precedes Leanne Frahm's "Passage to Earth" by almost 16 years. Also, keep up the great work with Eidolon. I look forward to each issue.

Yours sincerely,

John A Millard
Laidley QLD

Dear Eidolon'n'all
Thanks for Issue 16. Worth the wait, if only for Robin Pen's brilliant analysis of The Lion King. As a long-time fan of Kimba the White Lion, it's great to see someone at least raise the similarities between the two stories, if not openly accuse Disney of plagiarism. For me, Kimba will always reign supreme, despite Simba's superficially powerful challenge to the throne. Long live the King of deepest, darkest Africa!

But this isn't really a LOC [letter of comment - Ed]. It's just a quick note to congratulate you on reaching this five-year milestone, and to wish you all the best in times to come. I can't claim to have contributed much to Eidolon's longevity, but I know the reverse is certainly true. When I first started writing - coincidentally, also five years ago - I really had no idea how hard it would be and how much work it would require. Without the encouragement and patience of everyone at Eidolon - for buying the first submission, "Traffic", back in 1991, and thereby giving me my first sf acceptance letter - I might have given up ages ago.

Twenty-two submissions and six stories later, we're both still going strong (if a little erratically at times). Thanks, in short, for putting up with all the chaff.

And on that note, back to work. I'll look forward to hearing from you soon.


Sean Williams
Cowandilla SA

Thanks for the kind wishes about the 5th anniversary, Sean. I think, though, that you're a little too modest. Having regular contributions from writers of your caliber is essential to the magazine, and helps ensure its longevity.

Dear Jonathan
Thanks for your letter of 16 February 1995; it's great to know that Eidolon is going strong. I do enjoy reading Eidolon. I like the mix of fiction and articles, [and] it's wonderful to see how the science fiction and fantasy market is exploding in Australia. As Lines Upon the Skin is my first novel, to be published by Pan, this is all very new to me. I hope you enjoy reading Lines and I look forward to reading the double-issue.


Julie Haydon
Melbourne VIC

This letter came in response to a request for a copy of Julie's novel, Lines Upon the Skin, which is reviewed in this issue. We'd like to thank her for her assistance.

Dear friends
Receiving a new issue of Eidolon, full of all the usual good things except letters, can elicit only one response.

First, regarding the nonfiction: both your list of recommended books from 1994 and your current reviews confirm the fact that I am keeping up to date on good Australian book-length SF. I own and have read all the recommended books, and I own all the reviewed books except the two that were panned.

Regarding your fiction: an interesting mixture, some of which I enjoyed more than others, but all good examples of story-telling. The one that particularly moved me was "Living With The Dead". Since much of my recent nonfiction has involved profiling authors, i.e. generalizing on the basis of too-small samples, I thought that Martin Livings might like to know that on the insufficient evidence of just two stories he comes across as gentle, neither hard on his characters nor his readers, and I would appreciate a larger data base.

In the April issue of F&SF, Robert Killheffer surmises that "the central spirit of Australian sf seems to be the innocent enthusiasm and earnest gracelessness that characterizes many of the good pieces in Alien Shores." I think it's just an emphasis on good storytelling, which many of the other branches of English-language sf no longer find necessary. Whatever it is, I think that if I can ever write a story good enough to be included in Eidolon, I will feel that I've finally "made it".


Lucy Schmeidler
New York NY USA

Thanks for the kind words re issue 16. It's good that you're able to keep up with what's happening here from such a remove, and that you like Martin's work so much. We do too, and hope to see more. As to Robert Killheffer, while his review of Alien Shores in F&SF was at times patronizing, it was generally fair to the book and to Australian sf.

To Jonathan Strahan, Martin Livings and Richard Scriven
I first heard of Eidolon when my mother rang me to say I had a glowing review in the latest issue. What can I say? Such taste, such style, such perception, such neat use of the word "multi-textual"! It deserves some kind of bribe, so here's a subscription.

Seriously, I want to write fantasy in an Australian setting, and my stories keep getting knocked back because of, to my jaundiced eye, misplaced editorial sensitivities. One editor knocked back a story as she feared that it was "not appropriate" owing to "Mabo and all that". Is this some kind of East Coast liberal guilt trip? People praise American Indian mythology, and in the next breath inform me that Aboriginal mythology is no good. Have these people read anything of the rich and varied myths that they are dismissing? Are they actively racist or just dipsticks? When does a willingness to stay ignorant become a crime? It was very, very refreshing to find reviews and discussions in your mag that did not cringe with self-conscious embarrassment every time the dreaded A-word popped up.

I also noticed your editorial on book reviews. I agree with a lot of it. I don't think reviews sell books so much as alert readers that the book is available, and whether it is any good - it speeds up word of mouth. From a writer's point of view, it lets me know whether I am alone in a weird world - me and my computer - or whether I am genuinely hitting a nerve with other readers. As a story-teller I need that feedback to keep going, and I do use it to re-direct myself if reviewers seem to be all picking up the same fault. Otherwise I feel I am just telling stories to myself. What use is that? A story exists to be told.

I enclose a short story for your consideration, despite not having your submission guidelines. It's the old "Wow, I've found something wonderful. I want to jump on the bandwagon" reaction. Keep up the good work.

Penelope Love
Box Hill VIC

Eidolon passed from mother to daughter? I love it! How perfect that it's ended up with both of you having stories in this issue. I should point out, though, that while retrospective bribes are appreciated and welcome, they may not be particularly effective . . . but, then, we did take your story. Thanks, also, for the comments on the editorial. Someone read it!

Originally appeared pp. 221-224, Eidolon 17/18, June 1995.
Copyright © 1995 Eidolon Publications. Individual contributions are copyright to the respective authors.
Reprinted with kind permission of the authors.