“Welcome my son, welcome to the machine.
Where have you been? It’s alright we know where you’ve been.”
Lyrics from “Welcome to the Machine” by Pink Floyd
February 20th is Roger Phillip Graham’s (the man who was Rog Phillips) birthday. Rog was the original conductor of this column, The Club House, for Amazing Stories back in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Today’s column is dedicated and devoted to his spirit and memory. His generation fought in a great conflict, World War II, against the enemies of oppression in the form of NAZI Germany. They won. They left us with a renewed optimism and undying faith in freedom of speech in all of its forms.
Sadly, we’ve forgotten all of this as history is about to repeat itself on a grander stage. Recently the United Nations has condemned the regime of North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-il, as being a far worse totalitarian state than that of Adolf Hitler’s Germany, putting the world on notice.
The United States is also not without blame as it continues to spy on its civilian population, its use of torture, its use of drones to assassinate at a distance, and on a more local level, its exploitation of the political process to deny voter registration to minorities and senior citizens.
And, lurking behind all of this are the Thought Police, in whatever guise, nowadays often called a Committee on Diversity.
Sadly, even fandom has been affected by this disturbing trend toward group think once again, as though as a whole it hadn’t learned the lesson against allowing this from its much storied history.
1. a group of people with totalitarian views on a given subject, who constantly monitor others for any deviation from prescribed thinking
The Thought Police (thinkpol in Newspeak) are the secret police of Oceania in George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. (“Welcome to the Machine.”)
It is the job of the Thought Police to uncover and punish thoughtcrime and thought-criminals. They use psychology and omnipresent surveillance (such as computers and cell phones) to search, find, monitor and arrest members of society who could potentially challenge authority and status quo, even only by thought, hence the name Thought Police. They use intimidation, terror and torture to achieve their ends.
The government (controlled entirely by the Inner Party…read Tea Party, the Far Right, the Center Right, and even the Right who are currently obstructing all movement in government on any level) attempts to control not only the speech and actions, but also the thoughts of its subjects, labeling unapproved thoughts with the term thoughtcrime, or crimethink in Newspeak.
The Thought Police operate a false resistance movement (read Committee on Diversity or any such) in order to lure in disloyal Party members before arresting them.
Every Citizen has a computer or cell phone in his or her home, which the Thought Police uses to observe their actions and take note of anything that resembles an unorthodox opinion or an inner struggle. When a Citizen uses his computer or cell phone to send an email, or write a blog, or even a column, the words are carefully analyzed.
All Citizens live their lives under constant supervision of the Thought Police.
In order to remove any possibility of creating martyrs, whose memories could be used as a rallying cause against the Totalitarian Government of the United States, the Thought Police gradually wear down the will of political prisoners in the Ministry of Love (Guantanamo Bay) through torture (waterboarding), conversations, degradation, and finally, Room 101. The methods are designed to eventually make the prisoner genuinely accept U.S. ideology, and come to love Big Brother (in the U.S. Big Brother so far remains faceless…and this is a very scary thing), and not merely confess. After being released back into society for a short while, they are re-arrested (rendition), charged with new offences, and executed. All people who knew them forget them through crimestop, and all records are destroyed and replaced with falsified records by the Ministry of Truth (NSA or on a local level by the Committee for Whatever, take your pick). Their bodies are disposed of via cremation.
“The thought police would get him just the same. He had committed—would have committed, even if he had never set pen to paper—the essential crime that contained all others in itself. Thoughtcrime, they called it. Thoughtcrime was not a thing that could be concealed forever. You might dodge successfully for a while, even for years, but sooner or later they were bound to get you.”
—George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Book 1, Chapter 1
Secret police (sometimes political police) are intelligence agencies and or political agencies (known under the cloak of various Committees), all are agencies which operate in secrecy, dispensing their judgments from Star Chamber groups, and also quite often in totalitarian states beyond the law to protect the political power of an individual dictator or an authoritarian (autocratic) political regime. Their selected victims have no recourse, no forum in which to challenge the pronouncements of the Committee. Their voice and judgment are final albeit always one-sided, and usually based on thin air and worthless, but still damaging to the individuals victimized.
Instead of transparently enforcing the rule of law and being subject to public scrutiny as ordinary police agencies do, or Committees formed of and by the people, secret police organizations are specifically intended to operate beyond and above the law in order to suppress political dissent through clandestine acts of terror and intimidation.
They operate entirely or partially in secrecy, that is, most or all of their operations are obscure and hidden from the general public and government except for the topmost executive officials. This semi-official capacity allows the secret police (the Committee) to bolster the government’s control over their citizens while also allowing the government to deny prior knowledge of any violations of civil liberties.
It is indeed chilling to see how close the United States is becoming to the totalitarian state of Oceania. It is even more chilling to see how willingly the citizens of this once great country give up their liberty for a false sense of security. How willingly they give up their own judgment in order to placate a vocal, senseless group, or Committee.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
—George Santayana, philosopher
Sam Moskowitz began this trend in fandom back in 1939 when he performed the “Exclusion Act” barring Don Wollheim and notably John Michel from attending the First World Science Fiction Convention for distributing seditious literature containing subversive Communist cant. He did this autocratically, at the door. So much for freedom of speech, even if you don’t agree with the subject, these individuals had a guaranteed right to do as they did.
In the seventy-five years since 1939 fandom has weathered many such attempts at autocratic control. Including many bizarre personal, libelous attacks on individuals, such as Robert Jennings scurrilous fanzine, A Trip to Hell, accusing Frank M. Robinson, Harlan Ellison, and Earl Kemp of robbing that insane madman, D. Bruce Berry. Fandom, like all of these various individuals has endured.
Once again, the forces of those who over-indulge in such contemptible types of victimization are on the rise in fandom, this time under the guise of various Committees. Whether they call themselves the Committee for Decency in Fanzines, or the Committee for Diversity, they have all failed, even before they begin, to learn the lesson history has taught us, that they are doomed and will not succeed in their unbalanced attempts to censure, censor, intimidate, or otherwise rewrite the present or the past.
However, these facts don’t seem to stop the formation of such group think organizations. This is the touchstone by which they can all be identified, and can safely be placed in their own private universe. These groups (not individuals) don’t deal with facts; they deal with intimidation and innuendo. They do not argue or debate in a rational fashion due to this. Ignore them as best as you can, remembering always that fandom is an aggregation of individuals. That there is room for all under the banner of fandom, from those that dissent to those that seek to control the very thoughts of all those involved.
Well, after these sobering, but very necessary, views on the state of both dissent and freedom of speech, liberty, and personal judgment, its time to move on to the fanzine review section for this week.
Chunga #22: January 2014. Quarterly. 46-pages. Edited by Andy Hooper, Randy Byers, and Carl (couldn’t find his last name anywhere, only his first name above the TOC). Covers by D. West. This is an exceptional fanzine, as is any paper fanzine that Yours Truly receives. However, Chunga has the look and feel of something more than the traditional paper fanzine, even though the editors only ask for either three copies of your zine in trade, or $5.00, it is worth far more than the asking price. Chunga is also available at eFanzines.com. This zine is also longer than the traditional zine of the ’50s, which usually ran to half this size, if that long. These guys really cram a lot of fine stuff into their pages. This issue includes a tipped-in promo brochure for the upcoming Loncon 3. You can tell that the Brits are having fun as this brochure is filled with those uncommon (to us) British anachronistic word spellings that are instantly “recognised”. (For an English speaking country, I always wonder why they can’t spell like we do…ha…ha.) This issue of Chunga includes an editorial, “Tanglewood,” by both Andy Hooper and Randy Byers. Randy gives with some anecdotal color about meeting both the TAFF delegate Jim Mowatt and DUFF delegate Bill Wright. Andy discusses the minutia involved with pubbing this zine. Next up is “Mopey Dick,” by Graham Charnock, which is a fictional account of the world as seen through the eyes of a very philosophical whale. “The Ring and I,” by Randy Byers, is a discursive essay on seeing the Wagner opera, Das Rheingold in which he manages to compare the opera to both Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. Rob Hansen follows with part 1 of “Seven Days in May” which is a blow-by-blow recounting of his trip to attend Corflu in 2013. Parts 2 and 3, we are told at the end, will continue in the unavailable to anyone but a few close personal friends issues of Banana Wings, and in Beam #7 (previously reviewed in this column on November 15, 2013). Good luck finding a copy of either of these closely held and even more closely and guardedly distributed zines. So much for those among us (like me) who might ever want to read the rest of the account. Don’t waste your time reading this piece since you’ll never be able to read the rest of it. This waste-of-time, space-filling segment is followed by “On the Head of a Pin,” by Taral Wayne, wherein Taral gives with a somewhat amusing tale of his early encounters with furry fandom via early computers. In “High Sticking,” by John Purcell, the author gives with a comparison of fanzine reviews to hockey. Finally we reach “The Journal of Federation and Monster Culture Studies,” by Andy Hooper. This is his movie review column. No spoilers here. “The Iron Pig,” the charming title for their letters of comment column brings such from Ray Nelson, William Breiding, Wilum S. Pugmire, Marlin Frenzel, Paul Skelton, Steve Jeffery, Jerry Kaufman, the ubiquitous Lloyd Penney, Dale Speirs, David Redd, Murray Moore, Hope Leibowitz, Joseph Nicholas, Claire Brialey (one of the editors of Banana Wings), Robert “Rebel Lee” Lichtman, Andy Robson, and Steve Bieler. This is a great zine. These guys are tops in the field, and receiving a paper zine was very nice indeed. Thanks.
Flag #12: January 2014. Monthly. 12-pages. Edited by Andy Hooper. Yet another paper zine received this month…a record (Two. Wow.). Flag and Chunga are “available for trade, graphic artwork and cartoons or letters of comment.” So if you’re interested, send your request for more info to: email@example.com This is a personal zine, and at times Andy gets very personal as in his opening editorial when he tells his readers about his private life. The very talented Andy tells us the tale of his play based on Jo Walton’s novel Among Others, while managing to discourse about Triton, by Delany, and The Dispossessed, by LeGuin. This essay is replete with footnotes! The second half of this zine is devoted to “Color Party,” the LOC column, with entries from John Hertz, Fred Lerner, John Nielsen Hall, Rob Imes, John Purcell, Jerry Kaufman, Lloyd Penney!, Marilyn Holt, Marlin Frenzel, Mike McInerny, Kim Huett, William Breiding, Steve Bieler, and Murray Moore. The final two pages are dedicated to the most excellent reviews of fanzines received. This zine is a real treat to receive, and review. I really like Andy’s attention to detail, there’s always an interesting stamp on each and every envelope. And who says that fandom isn’t also about stamp collecting?
Broken Toys #25: January 2014. Monthly…but late. 26-pages. Edited by Taral Wayne. Cover art by Taral Wayne. Taral lives “with a view to die for…” in Toronto. Hopefully this won’t be soon, as his personalzine does grow on the reader. In his opening editorial, “The World Begins Anew,” Taral goes over point-by-point his two years of fanac, letting us know that he is becoming tired. Tired of the fanac but interesting in writing more fan fiction. Taral wants to slow down, maybe pub his zine bi-monthly, with… gasp… maybe using reprinted material as filler in between. (Please don’t.) In “Wayback When” Taral gives with a sort of con report about the 1992 Confurence III, dedicated to furry fandom. “Twice Upon a Time” follows with two movie reviews (Frankenweenie and ParaNorman). He likes the former but recommends the latter. Next comes “Being Immortal” an anecdotal tale of family cats. In “Left-Over Parts” Taral touches on letters received from such as Earl Kemp, Robert “Rebel Lee” Lichtman, and Las Vegan Alan White. Letters of comment are from Kim Huet, Ron Kasman, Bill Patterson, Tim Marion, Eric Mayer, Jason Burnett, Milt Stevens, Lloyd Penney (ta da), Keith Soltys, and Brad Foster. “A Story About Fandom,” a piece of fan fiction, follows. “The Devil’s Riddle,” some poetry finished this month’s zine. Like I said, this zine grows on you. Taral might be right about trying his hand at writing more fan fiction.
The Reluctant Famulus #97: Retitled Dumbfounding Science Fiction…for this issue only? February 2014 (Dated Jan/Feb 2054). Monthly. 42-pages. Edited by Thomas “Gernsback” Sadler. Cover by A.B. Kynock. There might be fewer printed fanzines or ezines hitting the streets these days, but those that do make up for it with more pages. Sadler in his editorial, “This, That and Divers Issues,” picks up where he left off in last issue with his thoughts on self-publishing. Gene Stewart follows with his column, “Rat Stew,” subtitled “Lit-Chat, Cinema Gratis: Werewolves, Vampires, and Demons,” about…you guessed it…book and movie reviews. In this issue he discusses Alex Garland’s The Tesseract and The Beach, but confuses the reader by attributing The Beach to “Gardner” (The editor didn’t catch this typo…I’m only guessing?) in the fourth paragraph as he segues into the movie review segment based on these two novels. This column is followed by an essay from Adam Medenwald, “Apropos of Nothing: The Grocery Line,” wherein he discusses a subject near and dear to Yours Truly, the Tea Party. “You can always trust your T-shirt company, just ask a Tea Party supporter.” Point made! In “Ruminations,” by Dalmer Shasto, he waxes lyrical about his perceived lack of civility in contemporary news media. Alfred D. Byrd follows with another episode of “Kentuckiana XIX Shakertown: The Early Years,” an in-depth historical retrospective with several interesting photos. Eric Barraclough is next with “Famous Models of Monsterland,” about another subject near and dear, Aurora plastic Universal Studio models. “In My Spare Time,” by Aldo H. Masters, gives with a litany of what-to-do with the title topic. Keeping with the state themes Matt Howard gives us “Indiana-ania: Whysier Hoosier?” an entertaining tale of the state. “The Crotchety Critic,” by Michaele Jordan, contains an intellectual, anecdotal review of IQ84 by Haruki Murakami. While Michaele doesn’t spoil the ending, she does pan the books. “In My Future I See…” by Sheryl Birkhead, she discusses the capitalist shell game of diminishing incentives. “A Few Whispers from Space” is this zines letter column, containing some very long gems from Sheryl Birkhead, Ned Brooks, Dave Rowe, Frederick Moe, John Purcell, Brad Foster, Robert Kennedy, Jerry Kaufman, Milt Stevens, Al Byrd, Lloyd Penney, and Joe Majors. One of the most entertaining aspects of this issue (take your pick, they’re all great) is the back cover advertising The Reluctant Famulus done as an old-style ad from the pulp era. This is a highly recommended zine.
Well, at long last, we reach the end of this weeks’ column with a final warning, beware of what you think, the Committee is Watching! Stayed tuned to Amazing Stories for the next astounding weekly episode. If you are interested in reading the full, unedited, unexpurgated column, just follow this link to Twenty Second Century Enterprises and explore my website, dedicated to all things Rog Phillips, among others.
—Earl Terry Kemp