May Ghu bless this fanzine and make it worthy at least of the sacrifice of the trees that died to produce the paper. If you don't like the artwork - or even if you do - send something better, as Your Humble Editor is severely lacking in artistic ability. Preference is for line art that will Xerox well for thermal mimeo.
Walt Willis - Many thanks for IGOTS 1. The circumstances of its despatch made me marvel once again at, the sheer connectivity of fandom, but I enjoyed it too anyway. It reminded me a bit of the column I used to publish by George Charters, who also loved odd books. I think his favourite was one by a local author who had his novel printed at his own expense and kept the unsold stock (about 99%) in a shed in the garden. In fact I think he lived there too because I remember George telling me with some awe that he had preserved all the furniture in his house by coating it with tar. I read the novel which was queer but not bad enough to be really memorable except, I recall that the hero, marooned on an offshore island, was kept alive by his cat swimming across daily with a potato in its mouth.
Harry Warner - You deserve belated thanks for the first issue of It Goes On The Shelf. I spent most of May watching and thinking about the climax of the major baseball season, and only now am I getting around to some locs that should have been written more promptly.
The cover is effective but I'm sure I don't understand it. The individual at the bottom looks something like Mark Twain in old age, so maybe that's Captain Stormfield at the top approaching a more geometrical Heaven than the one he expected to find. Mark seems to be much in the minds of the public and the media just now, what with his 150th birthday celebration and his connection with Halley's Comet on its previous two passes through this neighborhood, so maybe I'm just imagining the cover symbolism.
Matter of fact, Mark's What Is Man? is the only extended discussion of free will I've ever read. I haven't seen the Martin Gardner book. I can agree with the belief that free will doesn't exist for the major decisions of our lives and even for some of the minor decisions. But I find it hard to believe that social pressures and things that happened in our childhood and other external factors are responsible for every little thing we do. Suppose I decide to get more exercise by walking around the block several times each day. Quite possibly, I didn't make the decision to take those daily walks of my own free will. Things I've been told about good health practices, unwillingness to walk too far from home too often in a degenerating neighborhood, the need to write lots of locs and many other factors may have taken out of my hands the decisions about how far I would walk and how often and so on. But suppose I also decide not of free will but from some other cause to walk on various occasions around the block in a clockwise direction and on other occasions in a counterclockwise direction, and further, I decide that I won't choose the direction of each walk on any systematic basis but will go one way or the other at random. Is it probable that I am not exercising free will when I decide which way to go around to block on most of those walks? Sometimes there may be an angry-looking dog in one direction that will decide me to start out in the other direction this time, but most of those walks won't have any factor making one direction more advisable than the other. If I take hundreds of those walks, I can't believe that there will be predestined reasons for my choice of direction each and every time, any more than I believe that the position of Neptune or Mercury at the moment of my birth has anything to do with my personality and activities as an adult.
Most of the books you describe are unknown to me. But that's not surprising, considering the number of books that have been published in the English language and the reading time available to the average hermit. The mention in Isis Unveiled of the therapeutic glass harmonica is strangely contradictory to the one major appearance of that musical instrument in the world of opera. Donizetti wrote a part for a glass harmonica in the orchestral score of Lucia de Lammermoor, using it to accompany the heroine in sections of her famous mad scene. It didn't seem to bring Lucia to her senses. A flute almost always is used to play the glass harmonica's part but in the Beverly Sills recording of that opera, they found someone who could play the glass harmonica and followed the composer's original instructions. I have the records and I am always reminded of movie mood music created electronically when I hear the unusual instrument.
I was glad to have a chance to read the Machen essay. It proves what a fine fanzine writer he would have been, if he had lived somewhat longer and read the prozine letter sections or dropped in at a con. I'm tempted to agree whole-heartedly with his thesis about the importance of art to civilization. But as a practical matter, I suspect the use of poetry for advertising purposes isn't done for aesthetic reasons but for the utilitarian fact that words containing rhythm and rhyme stick in the memory better than those that don't and therefore improve the effectiveness of the advertisement's method. The old legends that were communicated orally before most people could read or write were usually in the form of poetry because this made it easier to remember them accurately. Fortunately, Machen probably was gone before Madison Avenue made a big thing out of its additional discovery that setting doggerel to a tune will cause it to stick even more firmly in the listeners' minds and thus unleashed upon us the era of the singing commercial.
You surprised me with the final paragraph. I wouldn't have guessed that you created this fanzine with computer equipment, because it's easy to read. Most fanzines that go the computer way become almost incompatible with my decaying vision.
((The cover was a collage of a cartoon head of Einstein, a computer generated doo-lally, and a cartoon version of Michelangelo's Jehovah from the Sistine Chapel. Don't ask me what it was supposed to mean... The point of my comments about "free will" was that it must include memory of past events and yet not be totally predetermined by them; and that in fact it seemed to me that consciousness and free will must be the same thing. I didn't know about the glass harmonica in Donezetti's Lucia de Lammermoor. Arthur Machen could well have written to a fanzine or heard a singing commercial, he lived until 1947. I don't know of any letters to fanzines from him though. -nb))
Don Herron - All thanks for the unexpected It Goes On The Shelf the 1st, which I imagine you sent on for the Machen reprint. I can't remember exactly where I saw the reference, & a quick look doesn't turn it up in any indexes I have to my HPL books, but I'm sure either HPL or Clark Ashton Smith once blurbed Blavatsky's books as treasure troves of plot material & you can find certain of her concepts (the succeeding races who dominate the earth over the aeons) in their stories. Don't know, then, if HPL had his own copy of Isis Unveiled, but I'm sure (if I can trust my memory) that he knew of it & and had read in it a bit. I don't think many people would last through the whole thing. Not even fans at midnight cons.
The main reason for rushing another issue of this zine into production right here in the middle of the January blahs is to have something to send all the nice people who sent me Christmas cards. The pages between here and the second Arthur Machen essay will consist of comments on the books that I acquired during the three weeks I was in Atlanta over the holidays. A few of them are new, and a few from used-book stores, but most are from the junk-book corners of the various charity places - Salvation Army, etc. Mr. Emory Bradley, who has been a book scout in Atlanta since before the last Ice Age, when the books were hand-lettered on parchment and bound in mammoth-hide, knows where all these places are - I doubt I could find them alone!
91-100 - Steal it if you have to!
81-90 - Worth Looking for
71-80 - Wait until it's remaindered....
61-70 - For collectors only.
51-60 - For completists only.
11-50 - Forget it!
0-10 - To read aloud in the con-suite at midnight....
Enclosed in the above book is an envelope labelled "It is not raining etc." which contains a half sheet of paper on which is typed with a purple ribbon the poem that starts "It is not raining rain to me/It's raining daffodils..." with the remark that although this poem is attributed to Robert Loveman it was actually written by a Hindu named Swama Rama and first appeared in a magazine called Thundering Dawn published in Lahore. The remark is followed by the name Caroline Bensel. My 1958 Bartletts does attribute the poem to Loveman with the title April Rain and date 1901. There is one other odd thing about the envelope - it has a return address for an insurance agency in Savannah printed mirror image on the inside...
Note: See IGOTS 1 for details on the source of the following Arthur Machen essay
So they are finding out, after all these years, that Dickens was a considerable man. I am amused. I knew that in 1873 or thereabouts, when I first opened the pages that I shall never close. But, through most of my working years, I have always been conscious of an undertone of contempt - of kindly contempt - when Charles Dickens and his books were mentioned. It was funny; you could hardly deny that. But "Punch and Judy" was funny, or the children thought so. And you would scarcely compare "Punch and Judy" with serious drama. I did, by the way. I said that "Punch and Judy" would outlast "Judah," a very serious drama, by Henry Arthur Jones. And I believe that I was not far out in my prophecy. Still, that was the state of things so far as Dickens was concerned. People were indulgent. They said: "Excellent reading for boys" and changed the subject to Stendahl and the "Chartreuse de Parme." As if you were to change the subject from Remhrandt's "Mill" to the anatomical drawing of a louse's stomach!
Well; I gather that all this nonsense is over, or getting over. People acknowledged to be intellectual are writing books about Dickens. It has been pointed out that Proust was an earnest and indefatigable student of Dickens, that Proust discovered a deep and profound symbolism in Dickens. And so - as I gather - there is no more to be said. Dickens is a great man.
Am I delighted? Not vastly, I fear. I never am so much pleased as I ought to be on these occasions. For example; I know a good dinner when I have it. A little soup, hot, and clear, and strong: a roast fowl with a lettuce or endive salad: a dish of spinach done with cream, or green peas cooked, not in water, but in butter: a bit of Roquefort and a pear, or a few grapes: there, I say, is a good dinner; and when it is despatched, both body and mind cry gratefully, Amen. And I do not think that I am in the least gratified when Medicinæ Doctor, that well known scientific authority, comes along and begins to babble about proteids and carbohydrates and vitamin, and more especially about vitamins: and tells me at last that that I have dined scientifically, even to the last fraction of an ounce: "a perfectly balanced diet." No; I am certainly not well pleased, not a bit of it. For the fact is; that in my heart, I don't believe that Medicinæ Doctor knows what he's talking about; I have a suspicion that the chatter concerning vitamins is humbug. And, furthermore, I hold a secret doctrine to the effect that, in the last resort, all science is a lie.
A lie, that is, as a photograph is a lie; as a photograph of a landscape is a lie compared with the picture of it that Turner painted. Science deals in information; if you would have the truth you must go to the arts. For science is wholly of this world, but the arts communicate in their mysterious manner the secrets of that other world which lies beyond the vision of most of us. It is, doubtless, for that reason that people are willing to give enormous sums of money for the great masterpieces of painting. They want to see the truth, and that can only be seen through the eyes of the painter. Note well; there is no question of likeness. Clearly, it is beyond our power to ascertain whether Romney's sitters were like the portraits that he painted of them. So far as I know, no possessor of a great landscape has troubled himself to visit the scene depicted with the purpose of verifying the painter's accuracy. For, you cannot have a blueprint of the light that never was on land or sea. Though, by the way, the poet must have meant "the light that ever is on land and sea" - if we have but the gift of vision to discern it.
Art, I say, is not chiefly concerned with likeness. And so, after certain devious wanderings, we are back again with Dickens. For, one of the main accusations laid against him by the foolish is just this: that his characters are not like anybody. That is: you and I and Tother, and even to Totherest, are ready to affirm and declare that we have never even been willing to say: "Though that bald man calls himself Mortimer and wears spectacles; yet we know him to be the veritable Wilkins Micawber." Very good; let it be so. And what about it? Where is the law providing that all characters in fiction must be like somebody that we have met? Who laid this law down? I know nothing of either law or legislator; nay, I am firmly convinced that they do not exist: otherwise, that the criticism of Dickens, declaring that his characters are not "life-like," is nonsense. After all, the greatest romance in the world is "Don Quixote" and no man ever met or ever will meet anybody like Don Quixote. Of course we may say of one man that he is quixotic, just as we may say of another man that he is a perfect Micawber in his habit of waiting for something to turn up. But note the significance of that. By speaking in such a way, we clearly recognize the truth that it is the absurd heroes of romance who are real. They are the archtypes dwelling in the ineffable heaven of the imagination; we are their more or less feeble and confused copies. We see a man with certain qualities, and so we refer him to his archtype, Don Quixote or Mr. Micawber. It seems fantastic; but I believe that if these great beings had the power of uLterance as well as of existence, it is they who would say of the rest of us: "They don't seem very life-like." Indeed, I think we must feel, all of us, how dim and shadowy we are compared with these immortals; how indistinct and vague is the figure that we make even in our own eyes. Many a man sets out in the morning glowing with high quixotic resolutions, and slinks back at night a sunken, sorry Sancho Panza. True to life? These figures of Cervantes, Dickens, of the great romances are the very heart of life, of the real life which art reveals to us.
Faith is not an exotic bloom to be laboriously maintained by the exclusion of most aspects of the day to day world, nor a useful delusion to be supported by sophistries and half-truths like a child's belief in Father Christmas - not, in short, a prudently unregarded adherence to a constructed creed; but rather must be, if anything, a clear-eyed recognition of the patterns and tendencies, to be found in every piece of the world's fabric, which are the lineaments of God. This is why religion can only be advice and clarification, and cannot carry any spurs of enforcement - for only belief and behavior that is independently arrived at, and then chosen, can be praised or blamed. This being the case, it can be seen as a criminal abridgement of a person's rights willfully to keep him in ignorance of any facts or opinions - no piece can be judged inadmissible, for the more stones, both bright and dark, that are added to the mosaic, the clearer is our picture of God.
The above quotation is from a speech about John Milton by Charles Taylor Coleridge, contained in The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers, published by Ace as an original paperback novel in December 1983. Perhaps some graduate student in English Literature can tell us whether Milton or Coleridge ever really said any such thing - I like it anyway, and will keep it around on this page of It Goes On The Shelf until I find something I like better as representing the proper attitude of a journalist.
This fanzine will not be sold. It will not even be distributed in the usual sense of mailing out a lot of the copies at once. This tired old fan will just send it through SFPA and Slanapa, and in trade as zines come in, and to correspondents as letters go out. If you should hear of it and feel you must have a copy, you may send a SASE for lack of anything better. If there is to be much art in future issues, I will need some good line art - no tone, no solid blacks, no shading except for dot or line - suitable for thermal stencil. I do not have to have the original, a good xerox is fine.
For those interested in the gruesome technical details, this fanzine is composed in FancyFont using WordStar on an Osborne microcomputer. It is printed on a RexRotary M4 mimeograph from stencils cut directly by the Epson MX-80 dot-matrix printer. Art is printed from thermal mimeo stencils cut by a 3M Thermofax machine.