This week in many ways was a very slow one for news. Headline articles have been covering the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of John Kennedy. Today’s headline article was no different: “’Jack Ruby thought he’d be a hero,’ niece says.” The comments attached to this article were more interesting. Once again the lingering thought that this heinous act (the killing of both JFK and Oswald) were part of a vast conspiracy still rages.
I remember this assassination well. I was eight years old and in my third grade classroom at Budlong Elementary in Chicago when it happened. Our teacher Mrs. Walker was briefly summoned out of the room returning ashen she ordered us to prepare for imminent nuclear attack. The drill was to crouch under our thin wooden desktops clutching our ankles in this painful and awkward position. Mrs. Walker immediately left the room leaving us in this position of …ah… preparedness for what seemed like several hours while she commiserated with her fellow teachers.
Yes, her concernful neglect left an indelible mark on her forgotten charges. Once we had been placed in a position of perfect security and safety, after all we were now prepared to survive a multi-megaton direct hit on Chicago, it must have been okay in her mind to leave us for so long as we were ready for any catastrophe. Yes, I can still remember the hours I stared at the bottom of the half-inch thick less than two-foot square desktop; it was covered with bubble gum and carved names, initials, and other comments leftover by other past classmates who had been placed in the same secure, ready position as we had been. All of us safe in the knowledge that we would survive the bomb, or the conspiracy, or even the neglect of our teacher.
But even back then I knew differently, I was already an ardent reader of science fiction. In science fiction nuclear holocaust was described in great detail as the complete and utter disintegration of all structures, all buildings, all people, of all things. I’d seen the pictures of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. During a previous nuclear preparedness drill I had pointed out the futility of crouching under our paper-thin desks to Mrs. Walker. I had been scoffed at, made to stand in the corner, and sent home with a note. After all, teacher knows best.
The lesson, of course, is that any security measure must never be questioned…or else.
Doesn’t matter if the security measure doesn’t work. Doesn’t matter if like in airport security when a special group gets to go through the jet line and avoid invasive searches. Special people, like special security measures, are all perfect and must never be questioned. Questioning these things can get your name put on a “list.”
There are many ways that your name can be put on the “list.” For instance, when applying for a job. I remember in the mid-1970s when I was a strikebreaking substitute schoolteacher babysitting inner-city Oakland high school students at $100 a day. For this dubious job (I was mugged twice in three days by these charming, wonderful students) I had to sign an oath that I was not, and never had been, a member of the Communist Party. I upset the Human Resources person when I asked if it was okay to be a member of the anarchistic SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) and its affiliated bomb-making branch, the Weather Underground. I got no reply for this, and guessed it was okay. It was only important to have not been a dirty Communist…making bombs was okay.
When I asked if it was okay to be a member of the Spartacist League (a big presence on campus), I was given a very demeaning, dirty look and asked if it was a “Communist” organization. Since it was, I was very relieved to have never joined. I was just curious if being a member qualified as being part of that vast not-so-secret conspiracy that is undermining the youth of our great country.
So that day I learned that being an anarchist was okay, but being a dirty “Communist” was bad. This lesson helped me in my application and acceptance into the U.S. Air Force, and later into the Sheriff’s department. Both these organizations were very concerned about their staff being members of any “Communist” organization, but anarchy was okay.
You can imagine my relief.
Back when I was a kid in college I was a joiner. I liked to join organizations. I thought it would look good on my resume. Now back then I wasn’t much of a participant. Most of these student organizations only wanted blind obedience, much like my third grade school teacher, Mrs. Walker. I knew all about blind obedience, it had been drilled into me as a child while hiding under my paper-thin desktop so that I could potentially save my life in the case of a direct multi-megaton nuclear hit.
Blind obedience, much like never questioning authority, or even thinking about the various encroaching security measures that fill our days, from job applications to airport travel, is a very good thing in our society.
Even these days I still like to join organizations, like I said I’m really good at blind obedience, never questioning authority, and standing sheep-like in line submitting to any indignity for the sake of security. I’m also very careful about the organizations I join, never never never any “Communist” ones. They are all bad. They are clearly part of the vast worldwide conspiracy planning to destroy our country and all of our values.
While researching my parents’ generation of science fiction fans, writers, artists, and other participants (they all hated “Communists” too, even hating Don Wollheim while he was a subversive before he found his new god…money), I have found the source of my lifelong thrill in joining any organization. Back in their day, this post-WWII group joined stuff. They joined groups like SAPS and FAPA to write fanzines. They joined clubs like NFFF (National Fantasy Fan Federation). There were also clubs like the Universal Musketeers, The Little Monsters of America, and the Elves’, Gnomes’ and Little Men’s Science Fiction, Chowder and Marching Society.
Today is a very special day for all of those clubs. It is sort of a birthday for all of them, regardless of whenever they truly began. Today is Len Moffatt’s birthday (20 Nov 1923-30 Nov 2010). A number of years ago I had the rare privilege of being introduced to Len while I was at the LA Sleaze Book Show. Len was a frequent annual attendee. Len was not only a BNF (Big Name Fan) from the early post-WWII days of science fiction; he was also a friend of Rog Phillips (my godfather). In fact, while interviewing him he told me one of his claims to fame was making the mistake of introducing Rog to his soon-to-be second wife, the very lovely Mari Wolf; allowing Rog to steal Mari from Len.
Len Moffatt also produced the fabulous 1950 Fan Directory, printed by pal Stan Woolston, another fellow member of the Outlanders Society, yet another of the many and sometimes exotic clubs in existence back in that day. Of some special note the Outlanders began the campaign slogan “Southgate in ‘58” as a joke meant as filler copy in their club fanzines but it caught on. Southgate (the near Los Angeles location of their club), after nearly ten years got the bid for the World Science Fiction convention…in 1958 of course.
It does seem that some organizations can not only be fun, but can also be effective.
The Moffatt 1950 Fan Directory is a list (gotta watch those lists…) of some 400 fans. It lists their name, birthday, place of residence, and all the clubs and organizations they belonged to in 1950, quite a list of names, and quite a list of clubs. It does seem that our parents were joiners. They loved to play around when they were all young together, and join groups even if they didn’t much participate in them.
Most of those early 1950s clubs are long gone. The NFFF is still around and doing well. But our parents grew up, became too serious for all the frivolity and nonsense, after all they were making money, and doing important things, like keeping America Safe from Communism, by fighting the Communist Chinese in the Korean War, and later sending their sons off to Vietnam to die while keeping the world safe…from Communism. And they taught all their children well. We don’t question authority, but give blind obedience, or else. We follow any security measure, no matter how invasive or silly. I was astounded when, after 9/11, teachers were once again drilling their students to duck-and-cover under their paper-thin desktops in order…this time… to survive poison gas attacks. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
And lists. Airports keep no-fly lists. Your financial credit worthiness is kept on a list and rated least you be found wanting. Now the government is creating a massive list, the Health Care list. Soon, all your personal information will be required to be regularly listed on the porous Internet for any hacker to steal. But wait, we’ve been told for generations now, that the government knows best, so this is a good thing. If you complain, or speak out, your name will certainly be put on the “Bad List,” and you don’t want that to happen. Do you?
So, class, what did we learn today? We learned that Jack Ruby was a hero for killing Oswald (just ask his niece), but that Oswald was a villain for killing Kennedy. We learned that communism is bad, has always been bad, and will always be bad, but socialized mandatory Health Care is good. We learned that our parents fought the good fight against the Communist Chinese in Korea. We learned that they sent their sons off to die fighting communism in Vietnam, or sent them to prison for refusing to fight and kill.
We’ve learned that the paper-thin desks in our public schools are a more than adequate protection against direct nuclear strikes, and against poison gas attacks. We’ve learned that there are all sorts of list, some good ones, like club membership lists, and some bad ones, like those for credit worthiness.
We’ve also learned that blind obedience is best, that we must never ever question authority, or else. And most of all, we’ve learned to apply these lessons to our own children, as we send them off to fight the most recent bogyman, terrorism, as we continue to keep the world save from itself.
Best of all, we can see that we are passing all these lessons onto our grandchildren as we teach them to duck-and-cover under their public school desktops to survive the bullets shot by some crazed mass killer. Which war will we send them off to fight in order to keep the world safe? Iran?
Well, whatever happens we can all rest assured that in their turn their children, our great-grandchildren, will be safely protected by their paper-thin public school desktops as well from whatever threat, conspiracy, or menace of that day looms.
Now, a special note about conspiracies, the other thread in this editorial. We know that the Kennedy assassination was not a conspiracy, but that the worldwide threat of both communism and terrorism is a vast evil conspiracy. For a number of years now I’ve been involved as an outlier on the outskirts of another vast conspiracy, that it was a conspiracy is a newly developing idea for me, this conspiracy has its roots deeply imbedded in the pages of Amazing Stories, it is no less than the Shaver Mystery.
Fellow period researcher, Richard Toronto, has been sharing the results of his findings with the public for some time. His first book, War Over Lemuria, has been met with much acclaim. This in-depth look into Ray Palmer and Richard Shaver is a must read. This book was quickly followed by Shaverology, a companion book, filled with the overflow from the first book. Details are available at: Shavertron
Shaverology, the sequel to War Over Lemuria, is the encore performance of two science fiction icons, Richard S. Shaver and Raymond A. Palmer, with never-seen-before first person accounts of their everyday lives from people who knew them best.
Was Amazing Stories editor Ray Palmer a hoaxer extraordinaire as his critics claim, or was he a believer in the Shaver Mystery beyond all reason? Who really discovered the Shaver Mystery? Did Dick Shaver recant his belief in the Shaver Mystery on his deathbed? These questions and more are answered in Shaverology. It is your one-way ticket to sunny Palm Springs, California, and the one-time home of reclusive publisher (and former Amazing Stories editor) William L. Hamling; to Shaver’s rock-strewn Wisconsin farm; and to Ray Palmer’s vast, uncharted mind. The angst, treachery, suspicion, and hope of the Shaver Mystery all converge in Shaverology.
Now Richard Toronto has come back with a tour de force, Shavertron: “The Mimeograph Years.” The first book in this series covers his fanzine, Shavertron, from the first issue to the eleventh. “Why it took four years after Shaver’s death for me to come up with a Shaver Mystery fanzine is beyond me. I guess I was a late bloomer,” says Toronto about his fanzine.
Shavertron became the focus of another generation of Shaver Mystery fans. After 29 issues it ceased publication nearly twenty-five years ago, but during its time it was read and reviewed by many noted science fiction fans of the day, such as Richard Geis and Ed Bates. Now the entire series is being made available for yet another generation of (conspiracy) enthusiasts.
Shavertron #1: Autumn 1979. 2-pages. Edited by Richard Toronto. “Tunnel Monster of Cabbagetown?” is a fiction story written by Lorrie Goldstein in the manner of a non-fiction newspaper article, reporting the sighting of a mysterious subterranean creature. In his first “Editorial” Richard Toronto sets the stage for subsequent issues of his fanzine, and ends with a request for more information from any interested party. This is followed by “’Shaverthought’ …letters from the Rock House” a series of recently written letters from Shaver. Apparently Shaver spent hours every day writing what must have amounted to thousands of letters from the mid-60s until his death in 1975. The last page of this fanzine is covered by several newspaper clippings, all in support of the vast secret conspiracy that is always menacing the earth. This is a very exotic fanzine, every inch is covered with something related to Shaver, his Mystery, or to the unexplained Fortean events that happen worldwide. It is a must read, also a real hoot and lots of fun. Don’t miss out on this collection of fanzines while they are still available, get yours before it goes out of print.
Fanstuff #40: November 2013. Irregular. 14-pages. Cover art by Bill Mills. Edited by Arnie Katz! Arnie is perhaps the number one fan historian of our generation. He is certainly one of our most prolific fan writers. For nearly two years Arnie has been generating a weekly fanzine, not an easy thing to do. In his last issue (#39) he touched on some of the reasons for not meeting his strenuous schedule, the Evil Beast Gafia had touched him. But now, having once again defeated the Beast, Arnie is back amongst the living again, and brings with him words from a series of the best: Shelby Vick, Robert Lichtman, and Bill Mills, to mention just a few. Arnie begins this issue with his editorial, “Response to an Open Letter.” Fellow Amazing contributor, Canadian fan R. Graeme Cameron sent out “An Open Letter to Canadian Fans” last June. Whereas the issues Cameron raises solely involve Canadian fandom, Arnie gives with the pitch that they all apply to U.S. fandom too. Arnie uses this pitch to weave his fan historical magic once again, introducing us to his conceptualization of “how fandom really is” and “the Gospel According to Arnie,” and other fun stuff. Arnie ends his treatise with the supposition that planning on how to increase fandom is one thing (that hasn’t really worked) but that being involved in fandom on a person-to-person basis (the Arnie Way) has worked. Whew! After learning all about the nuts-and-bolts of how fandom is and should be, we find relief in an article by none other than Shelby Vick, “Now & Again: My Kinda Luck.” Vick gives with a new twist of the old saw about turning lemons into lemonade. Arnie returns with “Katzenjammer: A Day In My Life,” about “first” encounters with science fiction. “Loccer Room” the Fanstuff letter column has featured locs from Tom Johnson (also about “first” encounters). Robert Lichtman discusses how he makes money off of his old fanzines among other things in a very long, discursive letter. Arnie conducts one of the very best fanzines around. Fanstuff is highly recommended reading.
Refraction #1: November 2013, 20-pages, Refraction is a new occasional personal zine by editor Gary S. Wilkinson, and will feature mainly reviews and articles on genre books, films, television and other media plus write-ups of cons and other fannish events. Gary even warns us: “There will be typos.” (Gosh! How can there not be typos, after all Gary is British, and their version of this language doesn’t contain the letter “z.” Typos. Typos! Typos?) Gary is off to a brisk start with a nicely photo-shopped cover tribute to Iain Banks “Orbital Over the Forth Bridge.” Next comes a very charming editorial giving forth all the reasons why Gary is now finally pubbing his own zine. Continuing with the Banks inspired theme Gary gives with “Away The Crow Road—Iain Banks RIP, plus Walking Walking on Glass and The Quarry.” This is a nicely done tribute piece from someone who is certainly a fan. The reader can vividly and vicariously enjoy Gary’s first encounter with the Great Man himself at his first book signing. Hooked, Gary became a lifelong fan, and it shows in his tribute. What follows are book reviews given through that same lens of fan-meets-writer. Let’s hope that Gary can continue with this same nicely done type and style of reviews in upcoming issues of his zine. It appears that Gary is capable of doing so when he follows the book reviews with “Boobs and Boiled Leather: Game of Thrones,” a more trenchant film and book review, but still done through the lens of a fan. As indicated in his preface, Gary follows this with a film review, “United States of Horror: American Mary and A Field in England,” proving that he is both well read and watches a lot of movies and television as well. Then we get to “Is this Nottingham? Novacon 42” a con report of the British convention, with much wit, and some humor, Gary delivers an amusing report in which we find Brits like to drink a whole lot, talk a whole lot, and do other fannish things a whole lot. Sounds like a fun con.
Lake Geneva #2: November 2013. Monthly. 29-pages. From the preface: “Lake Geneva is a fanzine project organized by young fen (well, young but able to copiously drink) who live together and honestly spend far too much of their time indulging in every element of science fiction and fantasy available. The brainchild of Pablo M.A. Vasquez III, it was born out of a desire to give back to the fandom he loves so dear and not just spend all of his free time watching Star Trek re-runs.” Fantastic cover “Sira” was done by James Eugene. “Strength in Our Differences,” by Pablo M.A. Vazquez gives with a standard editorial more usually found in prozines, which shows the level this group aspires. In “Letters of Comment” there’s one by Earl Kemp. It’s always nice to see my name in print, even if this time its source is my Pop. Next comes “Quis ut Deus: An Interview with Warren Spector,” by James T.M. Griffin, wherein we find that Spector is “The Gaming God.” (I didn’t know that, or anything else about the man. If you’re like me, read this interview to find out more.) “Glorious Regina: An Interview with Caroline Spector,” by Pablo M.A. Vazquez III, is the flip side (in every meaning) to this couple, with an interview of the “Queen of Snark.” “LiFi: A Review,” by Christopher Garcia. In this movie review Garcia reveals some of his darker inner thoughts when he actually criticizes parts of the film. Wow! Worth reading to see these inner workings come to light. “Recommendations from Lake Geneva,” is what it is, another list. “Nandi: A Steamfunk Tale,” by Balogun Ojetade, is one of those rare things, a modern science fiction story up to par with anything recently printed in F&SF. Expect to see Balogun in those pages soon…or in the pages of Amazing Stories. “Experiencing Video Games Post-Mass Effect, or How I Arrived Late to the Party,” by Devin Baumann. Speaking of inner workings, once again we get a peek into those of a true gamer, the next generation so-to-speak writing in the vernacular of a standard fanzine, translating those thoughts and feelings only a gamer knows into fanspeak. Let’s hope for more from all of these very talented guys.
Space Cadet #23: November 2013. Monthly. 18-pages. Edited by R. Graeme Cameron who tells us: “Between 1994 & 2000 I published 11 issues of my perzine Space Cadet. I thought it would be fun to post them online and am in the process of converting my old computer files into a more readable E-version.” Now moving on to new ground, perhaps his subtitle tells us even more about his zine: “The Aging Old Fhart Nostalgic Time Waster Gazette.” The Space Cadet cover is done by Teddy Harvia. Immediately in this zine we discover why he tells us that it is a perszine. It is…very personal, related to topics and concepts of interest to the editor and his pals. Yet, there is a lot of meat in these pages. How can we be led astray while reading such gems as: “First off, I am writing while wearing my faned propeller beanie.” (Wow! I didn’t know that there was a faned one. Well, zap me to a crisp with a Ray Gun!) His first article, “Nasty Rumours, Or, How Negative Can We Get?” seems to be more about redefining Canadian fandom, making it better so-to-speak. Taral Wayne gives us “So You Want to be Canaj’an, eh?” a somewhat humorous article about becoming Canadian, or what it means to be one of them. Once again we discover that Canadian fans tend to be completists, as Taral covers the gamut from their history to their food choices. Everything you ever wanted or needed to know about being or becoming Canadian is here. The next article is once again by the ever-so-detailed Taral Wayne, “A Pocketful of Histories: Coin Notes,” which shows us all that there is more to science fiction fandom than just stamp collecting…there’s coin collecting too…. Finally we have “Letters of Comment.” And that’s it!
Once again, dear friends, we have reached the end of the column for this week. Keep sending us your Wheaties box tops, and printed fanzines, and expect to find them reviewed here when least expected. Until next week, keep fanning.