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Internet Column from Science Fiction Age,
July 1999

Cory Doctorow

Keep those letters coming! If you'd like to see a site reviewed here, write to doctorow@craphound.com.

The Internet's always been about getting something for nothing. Production companies give away trailers for upcoming movies, magazines give away excerpts from upcoming stories, up-and-coming bands give away singles. The medium is maturing: with the advent of Omni Online and its successor, Event Horizon, the quality of the freebies has skyrocketed. Now the bar's been raised even higher, with Francis Ford Coppola's Zoetrope All Story magazine, in print and online, featuring free stories by the likes of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, David Mamet and others: http://www.zoetrope-stories.com/

On the other hand, there's an abundance of material online that one is expected to pay for. The Goblin Moon, at http://www.eggplant-productions.com/goblin/ is a Web-distributed fiction magazine, available for the nominal sum of $3 -- about what you'd expect to pay for a small-press 'zine at your local bookstore. What you'll find inside is on par with what you'd expect from that 'zine: interesting -- if amateurish -- fiction, questionable typesetting choices, and not-ready-for-prime-time artwork.

Entertainment conglomerates and their consumers have an uneasy relationship. On the one hand, what better sign of brand-health is there than a thriving fan-base, avidly producing 'zines, Web-sites, slash fiction and so on? On the other, when all you own is a trademark, it's a horrifying thing to see ham-handed amateurs appropriate that mark and use it for their own purposes. Warner Animation has struck an interesting compromise with http://www.acmecity.com/, a site that provides free clip-art, server-space and Web- and email-addresses to Looney Toons fans. The quality of the fan-sites is fairly low at the moment, but the idea is sound. This is one to watch.

Don't get me wrong -- fan-built tributes are often on par with the original material. Check out http://come.to/TheCulture, a fan-site built to venerate Iain Banks' space-opera series, The Culture. While the quantity of material at the site is a little low, the quality is breathtaking. Also available on this beautifully designed site are links, merchandise, and news n' reviews.

The Den -- http://www.theden.com/ -- is an entertainment super-site with a huge staff that refreshes the vast store of content therein on a daily basis. Their science-fiction site, http://www.dailysci-fi.com/, is a rich collection of news, gossip, links and outraged letters.

George Herriman created Krazy Kat and Ignatz in 1916, and the strip ran until 1944, and never lost its wacky inventiveness and spirit of mischief. Many of these strips are gone forever, but the Web is full of Kat-kooks who have scanned what strips they could locate and put them online. Start with the Krazy Kat page at http://www.wolfe.net/~sputnik/kat/krazykat.html and go from there.

This month, faithful correspondent Pat York pointed me to the Mars Millennium Project at http://www.mars2030.net. The Project is a joint undertaking of NASA, the NEA, the White House, the J. Paul Getty Trust and others, whose aim is to bring together scientists, writers and schoolchildren to create detailed proposals for Mars colonies in the next century.

Cinescape, along with Film Threat and a minuscule handful of others, is one of the only film magazines to successfully bridge the gap between dry, academic film criticism and feel-good, press-release-generated film "reportage." http://www.cinescape.com/ is Cinescape's massive Web presence, searchable and regularly updated.

Ah, boyhood. In my callow youth, all I knew about Roald Dahl was that he wrote spectacular novels -- perfectly suited for under-covers-by-flashlight reading -- that captured my imagination. Later in life, I had a tremendous crisis of conscience as I heard the dark stories of his misogyny, anti-Semitism and general meanness. Returning to his works at http://www.roalddahl.com, I was once again captivated. Great art can bloom in the meanest, driest deserts.

Click here for info on my second novel, Eastern Standard Tribe

Click here for info on my first short story collection, A Place So Foriegn and Eight More

Click here for info on my first novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom