Science Fiction Computer Storybook – Review

Fantasy Review, No. 70, August 1984, p. 50

Badly Conceived Computer Fad Books

Paltrowitz, Stuart & Paltrowitz, Donna. The Science Fiction Computer Storybook. The Mystery and Adventure Computer Storybook. Each: Tribeca Communications, 401 Broadway, Suite 1907, New York, NY 10013, October 1983. 116 p. $4.95, paper. ISBN 0-943392-22-5 and ISBN 0-943392-23-3.

Publishers, forever bemoaning the (always sad) state of the book trade, have an uncanny ability to make the situation worse. One popular technique is the fad book: find a fad, write a bad book about it, and — presto! — both the fad and all books on the subject become objects of scorn.

This husband and wife team, if they limited themselves to writing short story books, could probably produce acceptable results. Each book contains either 22 (both covers say 20) vaguely mysterious adventures or an equal number of not very scientific fictions. Aimed at children 10 and under, the stories have potential — but each is marred by the latest fad: computer programs. Crucial portions of each story — a map, a picture, a clue, a surprise ending — are embedded in BASIC language programs. Fifty such programs are provided in each book, some seventy lines long or more. Even skilled 10 year olds would find it exhausting to spend several hours engaged in letter-perfect typing just to complete a trivial four-page story. Home computers are perfect tools for teaching typing, but there are more enjoyable and reliable methods.

When great volumes of these and similar books are returned to the publisher, unsold, don’t be surprised to read complaints about the “volatile” computer book market. Badly conceived fad books are always risky.

— Lawrence J. Charters

(Tribeca announced for April More Science Fiction Computer Stories, whose “eerie tales will “provide hours of fun and learning,” says their ad copy. –Ed)

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