I’m always surprised that people read DargonZine.
Every six to eight weeks, we publish another ten to fifteen thousand words of prose. While that may not seem like much to a voracious reader, most of us would balk at the idea of sitting at a computer and reading 80 KB worth of undifferentiated text. Yet five to ten times per year, that’s precisely what we expect of you, the reader.
The problem is that the computer is one of the most difficult places to read large quantities of text. It’s been documented that the average attention span of most individuals at a computer is less than three pages of text. Why is it that a person may look forward to curling up with a good book and reading fifty or a hundred pages, but that same person may be put off by a five-page computer printout or a Web page that’s more than one screen long? The answer comes from the arts of ergonomics, typography, layout, and graphic design.
Computers themselves usually require a desktop environment, and the posture required while sitting at a desk is more fatiguing than lying on the couch with a drink and a paperback. The hum and radiation which emanates from a CRT, as well as the ubiquitous fluorescent lighting of the modern office also contribute to fatigue, particularly of the eyes. And furthermore, we’re used to thinking of a computer as an interactive machine which does tasks for us, and having to sit and stare at a screen without doing anything conflicts with that expectation.
As if that wasn’t enough, text editors, Web browsers, and computer printers all impose significant constraints on the presentation of textual material. In many cases, computer programs still are unable to perform basic operations such as proportional spacing of fonts, which adds immeasurably to readability. And those programs which support proportional fonts often limit their options to one common font (i.e. Times New Roman) in hopes that it will meet the needs of the broadest audience. While not widely realized, line length also plays a very significant role in readability. Ideally, a line of text shouldn’t extend much beyond fifteen words at most, yet Web browsers will gladly stuff as many words per line as will fit, regardless of how difficult this makes the reader’s task.
I must admit that we’ve come a hell of a long way from the early days, when fixed-width ASCII text was our only display option. But we’ve got a long way to go before the online experience will have the gloss and slickness of magazines, or the friendly ease of use of a paperback book.
That’s why it surprises me that people read DargonZine. No matter how it’s formatted, reading a lot of text on a computer screen is *hard work*! And I’m sure that reading my editorials is even more difficult!
Another thing that surprises me is that both of the next two issues will each contain four stories! We’ve only had three four-story issues since the beginning of 1991, but with a recent influx of new authors and a general rousing of the Old Ones, we’re getting more writing done than ever.
This issue begins with a vignette of sorts, Max Khaytsus’ “Rats!”, which is something of an intellectual exercise and something of an inside joke. But I’ll divulge no more than that, lest my introduction grow larger than the whole story!
That is followed by Carlo Samson’s second chapter in “Ruthless Revelry”, which first appeared in DargonZine 9-4.
And following that, Mark Murray picks up his storyline of Raphael and Megan and Loth in part one of “Shattered Love”.
And, finally, we have the first story in our new “Deep Woods Inn” series: Max Khaytsus’ “Night One”. This will, of course, be followed by additional stories in this new series. As you can see from this issue, after a two-year hiatus, Max is back!
And as if this weren’t enough, be on watch for DargonZine 10-3, which we hope to distribute within four to six weeks!