December, 2003:
Perspective on 2003, and Looking Forward


Notices Books Received

Publisher's Note: The personal views of the publisher, expressed here, do not necessarily mirror those of other contributors to this magazine. This is strictly my personal rant.

Out with the old... This is a good milestone for looking back as the dust of our first year as Far Sector SFFH settles. It is a good time to see how this new publishing concept fares. In our previous iterations, 0uts1de: Speculative & Dark Fiction (1998-1999) and Deep Outs1de SFFH (1999-2002), we made history in being world's oldest web-only professional magazine of SFFH without print antecedents, and we were the first to appear in Writer's Market (1999) alongside the big pulp mags (WM currently no longer features web-only publications whether they pay authors money or not, which seems to us a giant step backwards, and a failure of vision on WM's part). We are accustomed to failures of vision, since SFWA refused for years to acknowledge our existence even though we fully met all their rulesóthey threw our money and our applications in the trash for years, and only stepped forth to recognize digital fiction for their cronies at the SciFi Channel (which, by an added dash of personal irony, I had unsuccessfully pitched to Bob Guccione and Ted Turner in 1984).

This magazine has done pretty well, and continues to forge new ground. We're not a financial giant, and we aren't part of the pulp establishment, but that's okay with us. We are breaking even in our own small way, which is more than I can say for most publications in these genres. Our advances are tiny right now, but that will change as this market grows larger. This is only an infant as yet. Give us time. We like to think we're doing something fresh and original here. That's the main joy of doing this, along with publishing some really talented new authors whose voices should be heard. We don't claim to have a monopoly on vision, but we're wearing sunglasses, so that must mean we are blinded by the brightness of inspiration. Honestly, it's not about hype, either. It's about putting the 20th Century and its Futurians-turned-Backwardians behind us. It's about putting the 3 cents a word of the 1940s out to pasture (or the 5 cents that it's now elevated to&151;still not much more than the price of a good steak dinner in Manhattan, when you consider that a 3000 word story will earn $150 at that munificent rate). We have a simple proposition&151;we pay a small advance, and we pay 50% of our receipts (in effect, approx. 25% royalty) through our publications at Fictionwise. We do not believe in metaphors. We have gone beyond lame and bumbling attempts to create something online that mirrors something offline. We offer no fake page turning, so quasi-pulp covers, none of the paradigm that has to do with delivering tons of chopped up & and colored paper to a physical magazine stand. This is a point that runs much deeper than one suspects at first blush. It's not about creating imitation "magazines" on line. It's about leaving the old paradigm behind and really, really doing "it" the digital way. We feel that our magazine, and Fictionwise in general, is the first blush of this becoming a medium in its own right, with no need to lean on crutches from a previous age. Yes, the real e-book doesn't exist yet, and we're still inventing ourselves. Yes, readers still tend to seek either a "short story" or a "novel" (terms that are meaningless in a truly digital environment)&151;but we're confident that in the next few years writers will delight in writing their story to the exact length that it demands, and readers will purchase it on those terms. And hey, no hard feelings. We're not looking back and neither should you. Print books, like horses, will soon be no more than toys for a very few dabblers. We are by and large happy publishers, with happy writers, and happy readers, so it's been a very successful year. You need a metaphor? I'd say...hmmm (scratch, scratch)...1936 or so. Early pulp. Golden Age. The truly Futurian years, before the bureaucracy took over.

...In with the new! Yes, in the midst of a war of religions that has essentially been going on since the Stone Age. When do humans learn? Never, one suspects, because otherwise we'd lose our humanity. That's the thing James Kirk kept impressing on all those Platonists and fascists who want to take away our pain, our fallibility, our foibles. As Dr. Joyce Brothers put it, "we are Stone Age people living in an Atomic Age." We just need to do like Santa says, and be nicer to each other. If we could just do that, we'd be so much better off. That's really a kind of SF message, isn't it?

We had visitors the other day, and the topic of conversation turned to a nice hutch available at Ikea. Supercilious eyes turned upon me: "You mean you'd shop with those French bastards?" I informed my esteemed friend that Ikea is Swedish. I didn't mention how sad it is that the fascist, conservatively-owned, and foreign-run (Fox) media in this country have done such a poor 1930s European job in misinforming our citizenry. I got this retort: "Well, they're a bunch of damn Europeans, and they're all alike." To which I retorted, before changing the subject entirely: "I'm half European and half American, so I don't have that problem (of hating Europeans or French or anyone else for that matter)." I changed the subject by pointing out that I noticed, while peering more closely at a few items at Ikea, those items seemed to be made in China. Honest. I kid you not. Made in China, with a Swedish label put on them, and shipped directly to the USA. Now that's globalizationóBush I's New World Odor.

What a fantastic world it would be if people who so adamantly profess to be followers of Jesus or Mohammed or YaddaYadda would actually adhere to those tenets rather than contradict them. I suspect Jesus would favor universal health care, an end to capital punishment (since He was a victim, particularly), and a whole lot of other strange sorts of socialist-sounding beliefs that run counter the actions and beliefs of so many hypocrites who kill and steal in His name. I think Jesus would avidly read about the newest discoveries in science (particularly about evolution) to see if we're beginning to get a glimmering of the divine plan yet rather than being lost in 6,000 year old Mesopotamian creation myths. He'd be sad to learn that so many people are mistrustful of reason, and are instead lost in a murky world of ill-informed "faith." Let's be perfectly clear: I'm a big proponent of faith, but faith cannot exist without reason, and to smear reason is to flush faith down the toilet. That, I am afraid, is where we must go to retrieve our moral and philosophical moorings after 20 years of endless analization on sleazy hate shows.

Now about that Chinese astronaut...I see we are responding predictably to China's space challenge. Those of you who follow this column know I predicted China's entry into manned spaceflight nearly a year ago. The conservatively-owned media, who lie so constantly and so thoroughly that they believe their own pack of lies (including that they are liberal-owned), have seized upon another half-truth: that the Chinese intend to put a man on the moon by 2020 (which is, by odd coincidence, the year by which most large mammals including tigers, polar bears, white rhinos, elephants, and others will be extinct, having been utterly ignored by our sanctimonious and unworthy leaders in the pursuit of oil and dollars). Wrong. The Chinese plan to put a colony on the moon by then, and not only that, they have stated they are shooting beyond the moon. They are going to Mars, to the asteroid belt, the moons of Jupiter and Saturn...and I suspect they'll have a string of space stations in orbit around the earth while we in the U.S.A. are still mired in a debate about whether we should teach ancient Sumerian mythology in our science classrooms. It's a lot like this business of publishing fiction. Just when yesterday's Futurians become the establishment, that is, today's Backwardians, just so time and progress do not stop for anyone. Personally, I applaud the success of China, because it is a success for humans everywhere.

My high school Problems of Democracy teachers taught us, back in primordial 1962, that one of the tactics of a repressive and failed government is to invent external enemies to unite people in anger in an outward direction and point away from domestic failures. This isn't the place or time for a political speech, though I'd dearly love to deliver one. I am concerned in the very largest scope with a problem I identified years ago, and I called it The Pearl Harbor Syndrome. This country is an awesome giant when it stirs, but it seems to always require outside stimulus. The Japanese bombed us at Pearl Harbor and got nuked less than four years later. The Russians beat us to putting a little bleeping ball in space in 1957, put the first man in space in 1961, were the first to hit the moon with a probe, and more firsts...but we came from behind and put 14 guys on the moon starting 12 years after Sputnik; and today the Soviets no longer exist, as much in the dustbin of history (ahem! irony!) as Imperialist Japan. It seems to be a central shortcoming of our way of life that we require an outside challenge to gain focus and start slugging back. Let me tell you this. When it comes to slugging, I would not want to be in the way when the USA starts slugging away. These hateful degenerates, these lowest scum of humanity, who attacked not only the United States on 9/11/2001 but in fact all that is decent and democratic in the world, have no idea what they have unleashed. This is a lot bigger than the visionless dolt sitting the White House choking on his pretzel and beer.

The Pearl Harbor Syndrome is at work again. Caligula's oracles are already floating noise about how the U.S.A. wants to beat the Chinese to the moon. Doesn't that sound pathetically deja vu? We will share the future with the Chinese, the French, and the rest of the world, and it will be a brave new world indeed. May we live long enough to enjoy its good and bad points. Here's a hint: turn off the radio. Turn off the TV. Take a deep breath. Reflect for several long minutes. Understand that you are being manipulated constantly. Advertisers want your money. Liars want your votes. Talk shows are about touting a book or a movie or some other way that fake celebrities can make money off of you. Turn them all off. Turn off Limbaugh. Tune out Caligula. Flush Paris Hilton or whatever emaciated peroxide-blonde is the icon of the moment. Enjoy the stillness. Think about the true meaning of the holiday season. Yes. There had better still be some true meaning in the holiday season, or we are all in worse trouble than even I had guessed. We'll know a lot more by 2020. Stay tuned. Far Sector SFFH will still be around by then. E-books will rule. Print books will be obsolete like the horse. And God help us, maybe Pygmies will have beaten us all to Mars. How righteously that would serve this culture of fake politicians, fake religious leaders, fake moralists, fake allies, fake enemies, and fake leaders. Let's you and I try to be genuine.