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the grey area
The Grey Area - letters to The ZONE                                                           email: editor@zone-sf.com
Pigasus Press, 13 Hazely Combe, Arreton, Isle of Wight, PO30 3AJ, England
selected correspondence and comments received...

December 2002
Just read the review on Star Trek Enterprise. I feel like if you have a responsible sci-fi magazine/website you should let the writers know what the fans want. I completely agree with the article, except to say that the characters are good. Much better than previous (Deep Space 9 & Voyager). They just have horrible writers, if they would just stick to exciting mind-bending plots with no forseeable solutions it would work! Please help us let them know!
- Isaiah Sharp

I really, really thought Minority Report was terrible. What about these thoughts:
  • frying hamburgers... dumb!
  • built car around Cruise... absurd!
  • annoying voice of jail keeper... why?
  • no one comments on moral depravity of using people as tools
  • Cruise's ex wife suddenly loves him again? Huh? Too convenient
  • film insults viewer with "Hey, I never said that" ending
  • why didn't pre-cogs foresee the premeditated murder of Ms Lively
  • computer art defying laws of gravity in jerkiness...
  • everyone happy happy happy at end... sure
  • why are twins and precog living together? Boring
  • This movie sucked

  • - Malcolm B. Campbell

    November 2002
    Thank you for posting material on Jack Vance. In case you are interested, I have posted an article about vengeance in his works. I discovered your page today, and also discovered that you had quoted the same Vance passage (from the last of the Demon Princes novels) as the one I took my title from. It's certainly an interesting segment of his work, and the fact that both of us chose it emphasises that.
       I am adding to my page - currently adding a paragraph or two about each of the Tschai novels, as I get around to re-reading them. Thanks again for your work!
    - Martin LaBar, Southern Wesleyan University

    Just want to say that I really enjoyed the Phantasm article by Steven Hampton. I saw the first couple of these a few years ago, but had more or less dismissed the further sequels. This article makes me want to go back and watch them again. Terrific stuff!
    - Patrick Hudson

    September 2002
    I loved your article on Sci-Fi concept albums, but I was slightly disheartened by the lack of the inclusion of one of my favourite bands, and favourite albums. Blind Guardian's Nightfall In Middle Earth is about, as it would sound, The Silmarillion. More than a loose compilation of sci-fi ideals, it's based directly on one of the most well-known sci-fi novels known. More in the fantasy/literary tradition of things, the book MacBeth was covered by Jag Panzer, Thane To The Throne. It is, by the way, an excellent album, if you've not heard it!
    - James

    August 2002
    That's an excellent interview with Alastair Reynolds, the best I've seen I think (I read one in Interzone, and another somewhere else on the web). I enjoyed Duncan Lawie's interview with Ursula K. Le Guin a few months back, as well. Finally, nice cover art. Very atmospheric. Cheers!
    - Patrick Hudson

    May 2002
    Although I found Michael McCarty's article Top 20 SF Movies of the 20th Century intriguing, I have to strongly disagree with many of his choices. For a start, any half competently thought out retro listing should have included Blade Runner in a prominent position... While I cannot fault McCarty's first five selections (Metropolis and 2001 are essential, of course), his choice of Back To The Future is baffling. Yes, it's good fun - especially if viewed as a trilogy - but these films have never shaken off their insipidly commercial teen-movie appeal, despite going some way to having the young hero grow up (if not grow out of his 'scientific romance' fantasy) a little, in the final Western-style adventure.
       Although I'll applaud the inclusion of the engaging Starman (perhaps, chosen instead of Spielberg's similarly-themed but overly sentimental E.T.?), I must question McCarty's omission of Carpenter's classic SF-horror, The Thing. This is, in my opinion, much superior to several other films on McCarty's list - including Cronenberg's The Fly (like Carpenter's film, also a thoughtful remake of beloved 1950s sci-fi). While it's undoubtedly brave of McCarty to relegate The Matrix to a just a brief mention at the end of his main listing, the presence here of such recent genre movies as Gattaca and Dark City is, arguably, an unfortunate mistake. It seems as if he's considered his still-fresh memories of these interesting but, in my opinion, wholly derivative, films as an indication of their greatness... and that, admittedly, hard-to-define 'classic SF' quality.
       Good to see this list's championing of Barbarella as worthy imaginative filmmaking, but I was aghast to find McCarty had Sleeper in his top 20! Amusing this one may be, but it's mostly just throwaway jokes without a great deal of thought or imagination. For a comedy of - and about - the future, I'd suggest McCarty checks out Gilliam's excellent Brazil - again, if he's seen it only once and dismissed it as a mess, as it's one of those movies that grows in stature with repeat viewings.
       Finally, there's one last puzzling choice to comment on... Yes, it's The Brother From Another Planet. Why this minor cult movie is included, I have no idea. I always wondered if John Sayles saw the script for Starman, and simply thought it wasn't quirky enough...
    - Steven Hampton

    I'd like to thank Steve Hampton for writing. You make some interesting arguments and points.
       However, I strongly disagree with one of them. Starman and Brother From Another Planet both came out in 1984. With the long pre-production and post-production and financing that goes into films, it is very unlikely that either film influenced the other.
       Thanks for expressing your views.
    - Michael McCarty

    April 2002
    I enjoyed your article on Sir Patrick Moore's visit to Bradford immensly. As a Bradfordian myself (now living in exile in Kuala Lumpur) I could well picture the scene in St Georges Hall, and it brought to mind my own embarrassing experiences with hopelessly mixed up sets of slides.
       Actually, I have been searching sites on Sir Patrick in the hope of finding a way of seeking his opinion on a question, which to my surprise, has troubled me sufficiently to follow up a number of websites in the hope of coming up with a firm scientific argument against the proposition that the sun has a 'dark twin' and that 'Planet X', 'Nibiru' etc, orbits the twins in a highly eliptical (and potentialy disasterous) 3600 year orbit...
       To many of us Sir Patrick is the only astronomer who we feel that we 'know' and his opinion could be of great value... It may be an old chestnut to those in the scientific world and I don't mind being laughed at in a good cause.
    - Ralph Harper

    March 2002
    Cool site you got!
    - Thomas Christensen [SF Book.com]

    ...much appreciation here for your site's article on Peter Jackson, especially regarding your profiler's comments about Forgotten Silver, a film which I'd not previously been aware of. It reminded me of that infamous British hoax, Alternative 3, broadcast way back in 1977 and made as a canny April 1st spoof-documentary about a brain-drain in the world's scientific communities for a secret post-nuclear colony on Mars! Reportedly, there are still people around today who swear that programme told gospel truth. Oddly enough, I don't think it's ever been repeated...
    - Donald Morefield

    January 2002
    Just a quick note to say how delighted I am with both the review of Creepshows (please pass on my thanks to Christopher Geary) and the presentation of Mark and Mike's brief interview with me.
    Thank you very much.
    - Stephen Jones

    I read the article about the animated Tolkien with great interest. I remember this film well and still own a 'Fotonovel' I bought at the time - a sort of comic book using scenes from the film with speech bubbles stuck over them! ... I flicked through this after I saw the latest version and was struck by remarkable similarities in some scenes (obviously, I expected them to be the same story). The scene where the hobbits evade the Ring Wraith by hiding under the tree is almost shot for shot! I suppose it's a powerful scene in the book, no doubt intricately described by Tolkien, so maybe there is no other way to film it. I also own a version of The Hobbit illustrated with scenes from the Rankin and Bass film...
       Who is this 'Theodore' who voiced Gollum in The Hobbit? Surely not he of Alvin and the Chipmunks fame? I didn't know he had a solo career!
    - Patrick Hudson

    Theodore, or 'Brother Theordore', I believe, was an actor whose principal output was in theatre in New York. His film credits include Apple Pie (1975), Nocturna (1979), The Invisible Kid (1988), and That's Adequate (1990). If I remember correctly, it was television talk-show host Merv Griffin of the American television show the Merv Griffin Show who dubbed him 'Brother' because the actor and monologuist wore black slacks and a turtleneck, making him look like a priest.
    - Octavio Ramos Jr

    I enjoyed most of Andrew Hedgecock's thought-provoking interview with Mark Chadbourn, but I just cannot agree with Chadbourn's disparaging comments about "fundamentalist scientists like Richard Dawkins" because the alternative view - the Fortean approach - espoused by Chadbourn is simply too whimsical. Yes, there are things science has not managed to explain, yet. But that does not mean there are no rational explanations for reality.
       As for Chadbourn's suggestion that "We need to get more of a balance in our thinking" - well, I have always thought the Fortean thing was unbalanced, largely absurd, and tends to get carried away by 'possibilities' when it's 'probabilities' that really matter...
    - Peter Schilling


    Previous letters pages - 2001  The ZONE #9

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