The Man Behind SF-LOVERS Science Fiction Discussion List

From Fanlore
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Interviews by Fans
Title: The Man Behind SF-LOVERS Science Fiction Discussion List
Interviewer: Karen Ann Yost
Interviewee: Saul Jaffe
Date(s): Oct/Nov 1993
Medium: online
External Links: The Man Behind SF-LOVERS Science Fiction Discussion List, Archived version
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

The Man Behind SF-LOVERS Science Fiction Discussion List is a 1993 interview with Saul Jaffe. It was conducted by Karen Ann Yost as part of her regular column, "Focus on Fandom" in Strange New Worlds Strange New Worlds.


KAY: Why SF-Lovers? How did the discussion list originate?

SAUL: Originally Roger Duffy from MIT started the science fiction mailing list. The list was unmoderated and all the messages were transmitted to everyone on the list. Around 1980, the email traffic became too large. It was around the time of the Empire Strikes Back. Roger started the digest format where select messages were batched and then sent to all the list recipients. In 1982, a friend brought the list to Rutgers and I took over as moderator in October, 1983.

KAY: How many subscribers do you have?

SAUL: I really can’t tell you. It’s hard to get an accurate count; futile, really, because some of the addresses are redistribution lists that send SF-Lovers to other users. I would guess we have roughly 1500 addresses and, of those, twenty to thirty are redistribution lists. SF-Lovers could have as many as 200,000 readers. No one can really tell.

KAY: Your list has several addresses that encompass writers, television, movies, and miscellaneous. What address gets the most postings?

SAUL: SF-Writers gets the most posting and it’s obvious why. Each year, only one or two SF movies come out. Television isn’t much better. But there are thirty to forty SF books coming out each month and it generates a lot of postings. I still try to cater to different interests, however.

KAY: Sometimes within one digest there is already an established discussion. How does that happen?

SAUL: There are three ways that can happen. One, you’re just seeing replies to postings in past digests. Another is that in addition to sending their replies to SF-Lovers, the writer sends a carbon copy of their message to other individual users. So, by the time I’m reading the postings, I have a discussion going. Also, some of the material might come from the Usenet newsgroups. A lot of the newsgroups were established in the early 1980s in an attempt to deal with all the heavy E-mail traffic. The newsgroups are electronic bulletin boards covering common topics that are usually batched and distributed via Unix machines instead of a university or government mainframe. The members include a lot of PC owners. It’s developed into what I call a "controlled anarchy." What I mean, is that, let’s say Quantum Leap is developing a lot of postings on one bulletin board and someone suggests creating a newsgroup just for Quantum Leap. Everyone can e-vote and a new newsgroup may be formed.

KAY: What’s your position at Rutgers and does the University know you moderate a discussion list?

SAUL: I work in the computer center as a programmer. Yes, everyone knows what I’m doing. Actually, the friend who brought SF-LOVERS to Rutgers wasn’t affiliated with the university. The officials here thought it better that someone with the school should run the list, so I offered.

KAY: What other SF activities do you have outside SF-Lovers?

SAUL: I attend a few conventions each year. Sometimes I’m on computer-oriented discussion panels. I find myself mostly on panels dealing with electronic fan activities. I also do panels on fanzines because, let’s face it, SF-Lovers is essentially an electronic fanzine.