This just in: “Billion Dollars Wasted. TSA ‘Bad Guy’ Profiling Only Slightly Better Than Chance.” No kidding! It’s a very rare, incredibly well trained individual that can effectively profile, and in no uncertain terms this special training isn’t being given to the airport TSA agents.
I’ve spent nearly my entire adult life in either the U.S. Air Force or in law enforcement and I’ve been given what was considered appropriate training for profiling. I can categorical state that what passes for such training is not what the guy on the street might expect. It was rudimentary at best, mostly from thin classroom training modules amounting to an hour at most of book learning.
Why was it done this way? Because most people in these lines of work (and I’d have to include TSA agents as among this “special” group of individuals) think that they know everything and can “tell” who is the “bad guy” just by looking, that they have some secret, special, invisible talent that no one else has, and just by this Woo-woo ability can not only always “tell” but are always right. Well…they are not!
Just look at all the innocent people that crowd our prisons, arrested and convicted because someone could “tell” that they were “bad guys” just by looking at them.
Not only this, but most of our other security procedures are a farce as well. The FBI has held many investigations into the worthless value of the polygraph test regarding how easy it is to beat, and how many false-positives are generated by merely nervous individuals. The same holds true to voice-stress analysis. And my own particular favorite magic Woo-woo test…handwriting analysis.
Yet the public has been gulled into believing that all these things work. Not only work, but the agents conducting them have some special, secret, magic ability and can always “tell” who are the “bad guys.”
Benjamin Franklin said it best: “Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”
What all this means is the system doesn’t work as is, and never did, and the main reason it doesn’t is because it is administered by a group of individuals who believe in magic, who believe that they have some secret talent unknown to mere mortals like the rest of us.
So, where am I going with all of this? My subscription to Locus is nearly up. For those few that might not know Locus is the preeminent science fiction review magazine. It contains monthly lists of new books published, new magazines printed, and interviews with the Big Name writers, editors, and sometimes fans of the day.
For the past couple of months I’ve been reconsidering renewing my subscription. What can you say about endless lists of new books? A list is a list is a list. I find most of the book reviews puerile. The word “softball” comes to mind. Nearly every book reviewed is always “good” and the author “great” these two concepts being the tautology of sentiment behind the editorial content of this once great magazine.
However, just as I was firmly concluding to drop my subscription the November issue appeared, so I decided to take one more look and see if it was more of the same dreck. It was. Not much to recommend itself once again. (Lists are lists…right!) But then I stumbled across “Collective Action” by Cory Doctorow, boy does he deliver the goods just when you think the whole issue is a waste of money.
Not only can the man write, but he also has something to say, and says it with wit, pith, bile, humor, and intelligence. I can’t praise his essay enough. It is a rare thing to read a spot-on article nowadays and entirely unexpected in Locus with its softball approach to the genre in particular and to the world at large in general.
I don’t want to spoil the essay for those who might now seek to read it. In the main it was about special groups gulling the public…the topic of the day ripped from the newspaper headlines. I’ll just conclude this thread by stating that I’m entirely in agreement with his assessments and sentiments. I just wish I could write as well he does and express these views as cogently as he has done so. His essay alone is well worth the cost of the printed magazine.
Now we need to keep focus on the merits of Locus (and continue to determine whether a subscription renewal is worthwhile) and to do so must step into the “Wayback Machine” and travel back in time to read the October 2013 issue of Locus. Inside the printed issue, and not available online, is a book review of War Over Lemuria, by Richard Toronto, as done by none other than noted science fiction writer, fan historian, and all-around nice guy, Dick Lupoff.
I like Lupoff! Every year I look forward to my annual pilgrimage to the Black Ace (Sleaze) Paperback Show in Los Angeles where Dick and his lovely wife, Pat, have a table in the Hucksters Room displaying their wares. They usually share their table with another noted science fiction writer, Michael Kurland, and his equally lovely wife.
Of course, the real reason I go is to bring my father, Earl Kemp, to the Sleaze Show so he can sign the adult books he wrote or edited and wax lyrical about the pornography that Harlan Ellison and Bob Silverberg, two of the most storied writers in science fiction, wrote for Greenleaf Classics.
Pop was the editor for Greenleaf Classics, vice-president of the company under president William Lawrence Hamling. Bill Hamling got his start in the publishing business right after World War II first as a science fiction writer for Amazing Stories, and then as editor for both Amazing and its companion pulp, Fantastic Adventures.
Bill Hamling worked at Amazing under managing editor Ray Palmer. Frank M. Robinson, another famous science fiction writer, was copy boy back then. Frank brags in his online autobiography about stealing all the file copies of Amazing while working there. I know Frank well. I grew up around him. I was there when he wrote his part of The Glass Inferno while he was basking around our San Diego swimming pool as our semi-permanent houseguest. His collaboration with Tom Scortia was made into the blockbuster movie, The Towering Inferno.
Ray Palmer hired my godfather, Rog Phillips, to write a fanzine review column, the original Club House, in order to bring fandom back into the fold, and back to buying and subscribing to Amazing Stories after the Shaver Mystery had run its course.
Rog Phillips reviewed a very young fourteen-year-old Bob Silverberg’s first fanzine, Spaceship, in his column. Another Greenleaf Classics porno writer, Marion Zimmer Bradley (who specialized in lesbian erotica), was the first winner of the Amazing Stories Club House writing contest with her entry “Outpost.” Her official website bibliography doesn’t list this title even though it was her very first professional sale.
All these people owe an immeasurable debt to Ray Palmer. Richard Toronto in his new book, War Over Lemuria, goes into all the details about Palmer’s career and his association with Richard Shaver. Many of these people got their start in this genre due to Palmer.
Astounding magazine had John Campbell as editor. Amazing had his contemporary Ray Palmer as editor. Each had his own unique vision of the field, and each stumbled and fell due to that same vision. With Campbell it was the unflinching boosting of Dianetics, that pseudo-science that led to the formation of Scientology by their messiah L. Ron Hubbard.
With Ray Palmer it was boosting the Shaver Mystery, a fictionalized account of the “true” masters of the earth as written by Richard Shaver. For a brief while, the Woo-woo stories caught on and boosted circulation, but then Palmer got caught in the same trap as Campbell did with Dianetics…he became a true believer insisting that the fiction was actually true.
This was too much for the readers of Amazing Stories, circulation dropped. Palmer hired Rog Phillips to bring fandom back into the fold with his column the Club House, and subscriptions skyrocketed making Amazing the number one selling magazine in the nation at that time.
The Locus review of War Over Lemuria by Dick Lupoff diminishes the role of Palmer to that of a footnote in history. While praising the in-depth research done by researcher Richard Toronto, Lupoff casually sums up all the threads with a quote by one-time office boy Frank Robinson. (Read the review, no spoiler here.) In doing so, Lupoff fails to deliver a pertinent review; he also fails to deliver any recommendation. (In other words, Lupoff delivers a typical Locus book review.)
This book is highly recommended. It’s all there, from Amazing Stories office politics, to Bill Hamling refusing Hugh Hefner’s offer to partner on a new magazine…Playboy. Toronto covers everything about Palmer, Shaver, and the others involved at the time. Indeed, Toronto is one of only two researchers to interview Bill Hamling in person and question him in detail about the period. (I am the other!)
And all this is merely a prelude to the next book in this series by Richard Toronto, Shaverology: A Shaver Mystery Home Companion. Details are available at: Shavertron
Whew! These are a must read series of books.
On the other hand, I can’t recommend subscribing to Locus. It just fails to deliver. Maybe it’s because of a peculiar perspective, the same one as demonstrated by TSA agents and others of that same ilk, the writers for Locus (with a couple of rare exceptions—Doctorow!) think that they know it all, that they can “tell” at a “look” what is “good.” Don’t buy this magazine! Think for yourself. Make your own reading judgments!
Well, with this in mind, it’s time to review the fanzines on hand for this week.
First up is a printed fanzine! Yes, Amazing Stories has received its first printed fanzine request for a review in my column.
FLAG #10: October 2013. Monthly. 14-pages. Edited by Andy Hooper. FLAG “is available for trade, graphic artwork and cartoons or letters of comment.” So if you’re interested, send your request for more info to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Now, I must confess something, I know Andy Hooper. Yes, it’s that small of a world. Andy has been sending me this fanzine since its inception. He was the only fan editor out of forty to respond and send me his zine when I sent him mine. Thank you, Andy!
Andy is very old school, writing a very traditional zine, and keeping faith with the original traditions as well, like trading zines, or in the case of the issue at hand, writing true fan fiction. “Fandom After Dark,” by Andy Hooper is another tour de force of fan fiction by this gifted writer.
Past issues of FLAG have contained several detailed fan history essays by Andy. Those essays have demonstrated that Andy is one of the top four fan historians of our generation. (I have to say, Andy, for my money that Arnie Katz is barely edging you out for top place. Arnie has a certain deft touch that appears in his fan history that is lacking in yours.) But in fan writing top honors go to Andy, edging out all the competition.
In “Fandom After Dark” Andy delivers a dilly of a crifanatical time-travel imaginary story based on some true quotes, and hung on a somewhat fictionalized account of true events. Whew! And whew again! This story about the 1993 Worldcon in San Francisco is a laugh-a-minute with such apt characterization of many noted fans, such as Robert Lichtman, that it crosses over into even more apt caricatures of them. I mean, you have to know these guys in order to see that Andy has pinned them down, using his words to sketch fine pictures of them as participants in his story. Read this zine! Get it now! Don’t miss out on the best writing by one of, if not the, best fan writers of our generation.
Alexiad #71: October 2013. Monthly. 28-pages. Edited by Joe and Lisa Majors. More often than not, following the witty writing of Andy Hooper might be a daunting task, but not for this Dynamic Duo. For my money (yes, this column has a thread about money—or value given for value received), the Majors are up to the task. Once again I’ve been reading this zine for years. Joe Majors is one of my favorite writers (Heinlein’s Children, Advent:Publishers, Inc.), if you haven’t read his book, do so. It is highly recommended. And if you haven’t, buy it from Nesfa, so that my Pop’s company (Advent) can get a bigger chunk of the Benjamins, than they do from say, Amazon.
Alexiad is more of a genzine, and more of a letterzine, than most. Its letter hacks are the top of the A-list, with such commenters as Advent partner, George Price. Alexiad also delivers more book reviews than most zines. Locus should take a look and hire these guys. They write much better, more insightful and detailed reviews than that mag does.
In “Random Jottings,” by Joe, he shows what Locus could be but isn’t, with several book reviews and well…random notes. Joe is very well read, and his general interests are keen enough to be on any recommended reading list. Next Joe puts on his scholars hat with “Oomphel in the Sky,” by Joseph T. Major. This essay on dystopian overproduction is peppered with mentions of one book after another related to his theme. This essay is followed by pages of informed book reviews by someone who has actually read the books. Joe demonstrates a unique writing ability, that of being able to succinctly and briefly get to the point. Locus could learn from this master of the form.
Lisa Major gives with “Coffee” a not too sweet personal column. The Majors have other book reviewers contributing to this zine, such as Sue Burke, who demonstrates that she is equally up to the task.
“On Not Going to Worldcon,” by Joseph T. Majors gives us a humorous bit of fluff. This article is followed by “Lonestarcon III,” a more typical con report by Leigh Kimmel. “Unconventional Convention,” by Sue Burke shows us that not only is this group well read, they are all well traveled, with this con report about one in Madrid.
For those that like lists, there are lists of fanzines received and lists of cons pending.
And letters…even the letters are filled with detail after detail. This zine, although highly recommended, is not for casual reading. Read it and be prepared to be educated.
Drink Tank #360: November 2013. Weekly!! 24-pages. Edited by Chris Garcia. This issue begins with “Never Scene in Colour 4 by Taral Wayne” about the story behind his hand-colored cover art. “Five Things You May Not Have Known About Philip K. Dick,” compiled by Steven H. Silver, is as the title indicates…quite funny stuff, albeit brief. Next comes “London—The First of Three Photo Essays: The Museums” all photos as indicated, with little to no text. “Total Trip Photo Count—7,059” something tells me that more photo essays are forthcoming. And that’s all.
Southern Fandom Confederation Bulletin 10-1: The Southern Fandom Confederation Bulletin is the official organ (OO) of the Southern Fandom Confederation, and is published at least three times between Deep South Cons. Inside you’ll find con reports, fannish news, fanzine listings, and contact info for Southern clubs and conventions. 22-pages. Edited by President Jennifer Liang. Great cover art: “Saturn in Our Sights,” by Jose Sanchez. As indicated this is a club zine, contains: “Policies,” “A Note From Outgoing President Warren Buff,” “I Promise to Rule in a Fair and Just Manner,” by Jennifer Liang, “The Hugo Nominees,” by Tom Feller, “Oasis 26 Report,” by Joy V. Smith, “Convention Reports,” by Tom Feller, “Remembering Dennis Dolbear & George Inzer, “Annotated Fanzine Listing,” by Tom Feller, “DeepSouthCon Bid Notices,” and Letters of Comment. Tom Feller demonstrates that he has quite a bit of wit and humor with “When the nominees were announced, I found that as usual I am so far behind in my reading that I had not read any of the fiction nominees. However, I have seen all the movies!” You’ll like this zine. It has a nice touch to it. It reminds me of the old zines from the ‘50s, with an involved, personal perspective with articles written by people participating, not just going through the motions in order to hit a deadline. It looks like they’re all having a great time, and lots of fun.
Beam #7: October 2013. Monthly. 62-pages. Edited by Nic Farey and Jim Trash. Jim Trash gives a welcome with “Marionette,” while mentioning the highlights inside, and brushing past his TAFF reports. “Eminence Front” is another similar “egotorial” (gotta like that word play) by Nic Farey mostly about getting the upcoming CorFlu convention together, a seeming ad hoc affair this year. Another local Las Vegas fan, Alan White, did the cover for this issue. Looking back with unusual fondness, Michelle Drayton-Harrold ponders Caledonian conventions past. Alan Dorey reflects on habitués of a time-distant Leeds. Ahrvid Engholm gives with an unusual conreport recapping the recent Fantastika/Swecon. 2013 CorFlu 50 recipient Rob Hansen gives his concluding segment of his reportage of an unusual “Seven Days in May.” Joseph Nicholas considers that there might be some kind of “Hidden Ideology” in recent fanzines. Nic Farey puts in his bid for a place among the fan historians with “Fiftieth Fandom and All That.” Jim Trash writes about his surprise at the Hugo Award for Best Novel given to Redshirts. Read this zine and find out what’s going on among Las Vegas fandom.
TAFFtastic #1: November 2013. 2-pages. Edited by Jacq Monahan and Jim Mowatt. A two-page update and info newsletter about the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund as edited by the outgoing winner and the incoming one. It contains some interesting info pertaining to this fund, kind of a CEO update or briefing.
It Goes on the Shelf #35: November 2013. Annual. 22-pages. Edited by Ned Brooks. Nice cover by Brad Foster. The first section of this zine pertains to very brief book reviews (It Goes on the Shelf) of page after page of books read. The second section. “It Comes in the Mail” pertains to letters received as a part of this review/newsletter. Apparently this zine is produced once a year to cover books read during the last year. Ned is quite well read, and has the ability to very briefly sketch the highlights in his book reviews, for sheer range of interests he’s tops.
BCSFAzine #486: November 2013. Monthly. 32-pages. Edited by Felicity Walker. This is the monthly newsletter for the British Columbia Science Fiction Association. Contains: “This and Next Month in BCSFA,” “About BCSFA,” Letters of Comment, Calendar, “News-Like Matter,” “The Worse Movie Ever Made, Act II,” by Michael Bertrand, Zines Received. In the letters column, Taral Wayne writes with a question, “…why [do] you review fanzines that are more than a year-and-a-half old?” This is a continuation to his observation made in the last issue of his zine, Broken Toys #22 (reviewed in this column last week). Lloyd Penney demonstrates with his letter that he is a fan and booster of their organization…a very good thing in and of itself. By the way, their Calendar of upcoming events is one of the most detailed I’ve ever seen revolving around any single club. This group is clearly very active with something going on nearly every day, as well as every week of the month. The Notes from their October meeting even comes with footnotes! This is a very well organized fan club. If you’re in the area, look them up and attend their meetings.
Well, that’s all for this week, and quite a week it’s been. Looking forward to receiving more printed zines, and reviewing them as well. If you have any special fan related announcements, just let us know.