Three Monkeys - Ten Minutes : Presidents Page November 2000

I recently read a very bad book. This is not an unusual thing. No matter how careful I am in selecting books, from time to time a real stinker sneaks in under the radar. When it came time to write this column I wondered if it was worthwhile reviewing this turkey just so that you could all avoid it. It is not my normal practice to review bad books. Since I only review a fraction of the books I read I prefer to stay positive. There is a technical probability based reason as well assuming I want to maximize any effect I may have. It goes something like this... Any given person can only read a small proportion of the SF genre books that are published (even Alan Robson). Chances are therefore that they were not going to read the book that I review. If I give a book a bad review then all I am doing is telling them to not read a book that they were not going to read anyway. If I give a good review then I have a better chance of changing someone’s behavior. Hmmm - does this sound like an ego thing. By the way the book in question was The Unified Field by Mark Leon.

A short anonymous story: "A girl walked into the computer center where I work. She said she was having problems with her Mac. I asked what kind of Mac she had. In an indignant voice, she replied, ‘Duh, Intosh.’ ". Computer people love to tell stories about idiot users and I got this one from the Computer Stupidities page. Go have a look at their web page - you will find lots of these stories broken down into functional groups. For example under the Internet category we have: "Some people pay for their online services with checks made payable to ‘The Internet’". The best of all are to be found under the Tech Support banner.

A friend of mine is a big fan of Gene Wolfe. He is very keen to get hold of volumes from Wolfe’s latest series The Book of the Short Sun. He has somewhat miffed that even though the first volume was first released over a year ago, he still has to pay at least forty bucks to get hold of a paperback copy. He asked me if I knew what was going on. A very small amount of investigation confirmed what I suspected. The problem is that after a period of time released only as a hardback edition, the publishers have now released the book as an "A" size trade paperback. These larger size trade editions are essentially the hard cover edition with paper covers. What I have confirmed is that for most major SF authors, the publishers are leaving their editions in trade editions for much longer than they used to. We have to wait so much longer than we used to for the cheaper mass market editions to come out. I have been waiting for seeming ages for mass market editions of William Gibson and Neal Stephenson works to be released. Obviously the publishers do this to maximize their revenues because the hardcover and trade editions bring higher per unit profits. I do not blame the publishers for trying to make a buck as SF publishing can be a marginal exercise at times but it is frustrating.

Attention all PIG SIG purists. At 7.30 Fridays on Prime is a program called Chocolate Covered. As the title suggests it is a show dedicated to chocolate in its many delicious forms. It is actually screening as I write this column. The presenters are at a chocolate trade show inspecting jewelry made of chocolate. Damn, I think I need to go eat something - I want a Peanut Slab NOW! In a piece of very good marketing Prime have got Whittakers to place a Peanut Slab advertisement at the beginning of the ad break which has just started.

Why are SF fans so rarely sport fans? With all the sport going on recently I have noticed a significant negative correlation between the two interests. I wonder if there is some underlying reason for this. Perhaps there is some area in the brain related to the tribe instinct. Either you belong to the SF tribe or one of the sport tribes. I have no idea if there is any significance to this - I just throw it out there.