Challenging Destiny Challenging Destiny
New Fantasy & Science Fiction

Where's the Good Stuff on the Internet?

editorial by David M. Switzer

2009 Note: This editorial is, of course, out of date -- a lot has changed on the internet in the last 8 years. A couple of the web sites I mention don't exist any more, and a couple more are no longer updated. I try to keep my page of links up to date, so if you want to see what I currently think is worth checking out, you can find it here.

When you hear about the internet in the media you're often hearing about pictures of naked women or hate propaganda against a particular race or religion. But the internet can be used -- and is being used -- for good things too. You just have to know where to look. The internet is a great place to find information and to discuss topics with people anywhere in the world.

A lot of the time people talk about the internet and the world wide web interchangeably. And I will mostly talk about the world wide web. But there are other components to the internet -- for example, email, newsgroups, and listservers. I won't say anything about email -- you know what that is unless you've been asleep for 10 years. A newsgroup is a place where you can go to discuss a particular topic -- there are newsgroups devoted to every topic imaginable. Any message you send to the newsgroup is visible to everyone else who views that newsgroup. A listserver is for discussing a topic, like a newsgroup -- the difference is that all the messages get emailed to you.

Everyone and their brother has a web page these days and, of course, most of them don't have anything useful on them. How do you find sites on the web? You can often find things just by clicking on links. But if you're looking for something specific, try a search engine -- a web site that has a database of web pages that you can search. There are a few things to keep in mind when you're using a search engine. No one search engine has the entire internet in its database. Some let you search by typing in key words, and some let you search by topic. For searches by key words, different search engines will give you different results depending on what criteria they use to rank web pages.

I'm going to share with you some useful sites I've found in my virtual travels. All the big organizations have web sites, and you can find them easily by searching or just going to http://www.organization-name.com. So I'm going to talk about a few lesser-known sites. Instead of cluttering this editorial with web addresses, here's my page of links where you can find all of the sites.

Google is a search engine that lets you type in key words you're looking for. It tries to give you back "important" web sites that match your criteria. Google ranks web sites based in part on how many other web sites link to them. It's the search engine I use most often, and generally gives you better results than other search engines.

Science Fiction Weekly is a science fiction news magazine on the web -- with news, interviews, editorials, letters, and reviews of movies, games, web sites, and books old and new. I read Locus every month, and I read SFW every week to keep up with what's going on in the field. SFW brought to you by the Sci Fi channel. The editor-in-chief is Scott Edelman, former editor of Science Fiction Age among other things.

Made in Canada is devoted to Canadians involved in science fiction -- actors, authors, filmmakers, TV and movie shows, magazines, publishers, and more. In addition to providing information on all these people, MIC provides links to other relevant web sites including reviews. There's a newsletter each month that lists new books, movies, conventions, awards, and web sites. MIC is designed, developed, and maintained by Don Bassie.

Project Pulp lets you buy lots of small press magazines and books all in one place with a credit card. Much of what's for sale is science fiction or fantasy. There is also a bit of artwork and music for sale. PP started in 1998 with just a few magazines -- but it's been continuously expanding ever since then. It's run by Jon Hodges, who donates 50% of his profits to a different charity each month.

Karen's Koncepts Anti-Telemarketer & Anti-Spam Page has a bunch of links to sites giving you suggestions of how to deal with unwanted phone calls and email. I hate getting unsolicited calls and email. Luckily there are things you can do to limit if not completely avoid getting these things. There are also things you can do to have some fun with telemarketers, if you're so inclined. Brought to you by Karen S. Swartz.

McSpotlight discusses what's wrong with McDonald's and other multinational corporations. It tells you all about the "McLibel" trial in England in which McDonald's sued a couple of Greenpeace activists for distributing a document criticizing McDonald's. Issues raised include diet and nutrition, environmental damage, animal welfare, employment practises, and unethical advertising.

Symbolism and Coincidences of the Great Pyramid summarizes various geometric, geophysical, astronomical, numerical, and prophetic interpretations made by explorers, authors, and visitors to the Great Pyramid. Probably some of the interpretations aren't correct, but there are a lot of amazing things about the pyramid (see my editorial "What's So Great About the Great Pyramid" in Challenging Destiny Number 12). There's a list of books on the subject, with some reviews. Brought to you by Tim G. Hunkler.

The Ishmael Community is where to go if you've read Daniel Quinn's Ishmael and you're wondering what to do next. If you haven't read Ishmael, read it -- in all seriousness, I guarantee it will change your life. Basically, it's about what's wrong with some of the people on this planet and what to do about it (see my editorial "What Could Be Better Than Civilization?" in Challenging Destiny Number 10). On the site is information about all of Daniel's books, his list of other recommended books, tools for teachers, and suggestions for how to spread the word about the ideas in Ishmael.

54 Ways You Can Help the Homeless contains the entire text of the book by that name by Rabbi Charles A. Kroloff. He has spent time with homeless people, and responds with intelligence and compassion to the question "What can I do?" The suggestions range from "understand who the homeless are" to "respond with kindness" to "volunteer at a soup kitchen" to "employ the homeless."

The Jane Goodall Institute tries to improve the environment for all living things, with a particular emphasis on chimpanzees and other primates. Although the Institute has been around for a while you might not be aware of it. I hope you've heard of Jane Goodall, who's been studying chimpanzees in Tanzania for 40 years. Jane Goodall is an amazing person with a message of hope -- I was enthralled and energized when I saw her speak.

Independent Media Center brings together independent journalists and organizations to give you a grassroots, non-corporate view of the news. It was started to provide coverage of the World Trade Organization protests in Seattle. Independent media centres have since been set up in locations all over the world to provide up-to-the-minute coverage of events. And you can get important international news on this web site as well as other related web sites.

idealist.org has a searchable database of over 24000 nonprofit and community organizations in 153 countries. It also lists jobs, volunteer opportunities, services, resources, events, and internships. Brought to you by Action Without Borders.

News of the Weird is a newspaper column that also shows up on the web. Chuck Shepherd manages to find bizarre-but-true news stories to make us laugh and/or cry every week. There are a lot of strange people on this planet.


David M. Switzer has been teaching computer science and editing science fiction since 1995, and he still enjoys both. This fall he taught a course in Java for the first time, and went to the World Science Fiction Convention for the first time. His favourite books he's read recently are Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson, Angry Young Spaceman by Jim Munroe, and After Dachau by Daniel Quinn. His favourite movies he's seen recently are The Dish, Possible Worlds, and Shrek.


Cover artist Chris Jouan's art has undergone a transformation recently as he embraces the best of traditional and digital art techniques. Stay tuned as he explores the potential of this medium. To see more visit his site here.


Last modified: July 25, 2009

Copyright © 2001 David M. Switzer


Crystalline Sphere | Challenging Destiny | Issue #13 | Editorials