NEW BOOK--OFF THE MAIN SEQUENCE
I've been the book columnist for Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine for almost 30 years. Over that time, I have deliberately paid more attention to the small press and other "related" publishing activities than most other book columnists for the SF&F magazines, and when I go to cons I find that the attention is appreciated.
So now I have drawn most of that coverage together in Off the Main Sequence, a Borgo Press book. Here you will find almost three decades of SF small press activity as well as coverage of small press, poetry, writing, literary criticism and biography, popular science, and the development of electronic publishing over the period. This last may be the most important part of the book, for it is a history that is, I think, covered hardly anywhere else, and it is an important part of the history of the Computer Age.
Remember IRIS, DART, Serendipity, High Mesa, "disk-top" publishing, Soft Press, SoftServ? They're all there, as well as a good deal more.
Here's the introduction to this section of the book:
I came a bit late to computers. I had spent a summer after college as a junior assistant programmer on the Lunar Excursion Module simulator and studied FORTRAN in grad school, but I didn’t get a PC until the mid-1980s.
That PC was a TRS-80 Model 4P from Radio Shack. It came with 64K of RAM, which I upgraded to 128K even before I took it home. It had no hard drive. And for the time it was actually a pretty nice machine, though it seems quite unutterably quaint today. Computers have come a long way in a very short time.
So has digital publishing, once known as “electronic” and “disk-top” publishing. About as soon as people could take a computer home for their desktop, some saw charm in being able to read books, magazines, and newspapers on a screen. They would be prepared in electronic form and marketed on reusable disks or cartridges. The main obstacle was the clunkiness of the reading device, but it seemed inevitable that PCs would shrink in size. And they did, of course. We now have laptops no bigger than hardbound books and palmtops no bigger than paperbacks, though their screens are typically dim and headache-inducing. They devour batteries, too, and most folks show a very persistent fond-ness for paper reading materials. The cyberbook just hasn’t caught on. Most of those who tried to turn digital publishing into money-making enterprises gave up and vanished from the scene.
But computer users are now reading more in electronic form than ever before. The Internet, with its profusion of Web pages, came along and made it possible for anyone to publish their rant, opinion, poem, story, or novel very easily. The result has been an astonishing explosion of reading matter. A great deal is conspiracy theories and other psycho-ceramic tripe, but there is also an immense amount of high-quality information and fiction. Much of it is even free.
Why did I call this book Off the Main Sequence? My previous collection of reviews was Periodic Stars (Borgo, 1997), covering writers who had appeared repeatedly in my column up to that time. Periodic stars, like most stars, fall into a band on the classic Hertzsprung-Russell plot of star color versus brightness; this band is known as the “main sequence.” “Off the main sequence” refers to all those stars not in that band. Here I suppose that the science fiction put out in paperback and hardbound by the various major trade (mass-market) publishers corresponds to the astronomical main sequence. “Off the main sequence” simply means all the science fiction and related material that does not show up on the usual bookstore shelf.