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Site of the Week -- June 11, 2001

Tangent Online

A ssume the following: the health of the SF field depends on the health of its short-story outlets. In the short form, SF can mutate and evolve faster than at novel length, and new writers may more easily make their debuts and learn the ropes. Now, the factors that contribute to the health of the short story in SF are too numerous and detailed to cover here. But surely one of the most important parts of the equation is feedback, in the shape of reviews and criticism (a boon once supplied by letter columns in the good old pulp days). And while SF novels stand a good chance of receiving such corrective input, the average short story generally appears and disappears so fast and to such little notice that the poor author gets no response to her work, and thereby suffers.

Mark Kelly at Locus does a fine job sampling short stories, but he's only one man. Fortunately for the field, however, founder Dave Truesdale has for eight years been holding high the standard of short fiction reviewing with his publication Tangent. The 'zine began in the medium of print in 1993 and migrated to the Web a few years ago. Since then, it has become a one-stop clearinghouse for information on the good, the bad and the ugly in the short-story jungle.

When you visit the home page of Tangent you encounter a crystal-clear array listing all the current venues for SF short stories, grouped according to frequency of publication. Jumping to the name of an individual 'zine (book publications of short stories are covered as well, and so are online outlets), you find archived reviews of its various issues. Truesdale's hard-working staffers--Rich Horton, Steven Silver, Chris Markwyn, Christopher East, Jay Lake, Michael Payne, James Reichert and Lyda Morehouse, among others--diligently report back with grace, perception and honesty which stories soared and which stories sank. Usually, one person reviews an entire issue, but for the review of the April 2001 issue of Analog, the interesting experiment of having a different critic cover each story was attempted. Such dedication and ingenuity are hallmarks of this indispensable site.

-- Paul Di Filippo

Site of the Week -- June 4, 2001

Poppy Z. Brite--Official Website

M aintained by the author, this page is crammed with information on Poppy Z. Brite: childhood photos, current photos, an autobiography, a complete bibliography and recent news updates. There is also a section in which Brite answers questions submitted by readers, plus an index of online interviews which should whet the appetite of even the most dedicated fan. True completists will find back issues of Purple Prose, a magazine devoted to Brite's work and activities, posted on the site.

The site also offers original fiction. Pieces include older work from Brite's pre-published days, as well as essays about recent travels, new fiction and the prologue to her first novel, Lost Souls. To those familiar with Brite's other work, it should be no surprise to hear that the content of these stories ranges from light humor to explicit sex and violence. Written with the same lush vividness that characterizes her novels, these tales will delight fans and shock the unwary.

Favoring a clean design, bright colors and plenty of details about her day-to-day existence, Poppy Brite's Web page gives websurfers a chance to see two faces of one of horror's most interesting new authors. She also provides an opportunity for readers to take note of the vast differences that yawn between writers' lifestyles and the work they produce.

-- A.M. Dellamonica

Site of the Week -- May 28, 2001

Fantastic Fiction

A n excellent resource for researchers and readers, Fantastic Fiction provides extensive bibliographies of speculative fiction authors ranging from H.G. Wells to Isaac Asimov. Fans eager to discover every possible work by a favored writer will find that this site offers a crucial launch point for their search.

The information available on this page is comparable to that of other bibliographic databases. Author names, birth and death dates and photographs are provided, in some cases along with a short biographical sketch. Novels, stories, editing accomplishments, anthology appearances and awards are listed, too. If a writer has contributed to a TV tie-in series, the data is listed separately for easy access--and users interested in the particular series can look it up separately. High-resolution scans of book covers complete the standard array of knowledge available to surfers.

What, then, makes this page different from a different resource or even an online bookstore? First, the information on Fantastic Fiction is extremely up-to-date (check out the listing on Douglas Adams, for example, and you will see that his recent death is already recorded). Next, it is laid out in an attractive and user-friendly format, with lots of cross-indexing. Finally, the broad definition of fantastic fiction used by this page means that, while visitors can easily find SF literary giants here, they can also explore the work of writers working on the edges of conventional SF. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Margaret Atwood, Italo Calvino and Guy de Maupassant all have listings. Some authors' works--ones which have fallen into public domain--are even available as e-texts.

Another sterling page feature, and one which may be of especial interest to fans, is that some bibliographies include author-recommended books. Interesting in knowing which authors Anne McCaffrey, Pat Cadigan or Michael Bishop particularly likes? The answers are at Fantastic Fiction. This option provides insight into writers' personal tastes, while simultaneously opening up new reading possibilities to site visitors.

With its wide focus, elegant design and exhaustive attention to detail, Fantastic Fiction is a top-notch source of SF facts. It is also, quite simply, a great place for a book lover to go browsing when in search of some new and exciting reads.

-- A.M. Dellamonica

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