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IN THIS INSTALLMENT OF FILE 13 ...
This is not only a special guest-edited issue
of Spacewarp -- which File 13 can, perhaps,
claim some slight credit for inspiring -- but
this is also the thirteenth installment of File
13. Surely, this is an occasion to commemorate,
being, if not an anniversary of significance,
like a sesquicentennial, at least a milestone
to be marked with more than ordinary
emphasis by all whose minds have a whimsical
turn. So, friends, here is to number 13 of
TORCH-BEARERS IN THE ROCKIES
According to the newspapers, about the time
the Korean war began, members of the "Brotherhood
of the White Temple," a mystic cult whose "supreme
voice" is Dr. M. Doreal, have received stand-by
instructions for a move to their atom-proof haven
in the Rockies.
There, at "Shambala Ashrama," as the secret haven is known, the select group, numbering 800, plans to wait out World War III while "civilization perishes under a hail of atomic bombs." This atomic retreat is modeled after "the real Shamballa -- center of all occult lore of this planet," according to Doreal. He identifies the original Shamballa as "the great white temple of Tibet, 75 miles under the Himalayas."
Doreal looked like a fairly sensible guy when he attended the Cinvention, and perhaps the rest of his cult are reasonably sane, too. No one can say with certainty that such "atomic havens" aren't necessary -- FooFoo knows they probably are. But -- how would you like to give the future of fandom into the hands of the Shaver Club? In a rather absurd way, such a possibility is analogous in my mind to the possibility of placing humanity's future in the hands of a "mystic cult" that calls itself the Brotherhood of the White Temple! Is Atomigeddon the worst thing that could happen to mankind?
DIANETICS -- FAD OR SCIENCE?
James Blish submits the following rebuttal to my remarks in Science Fiction News Letter (July 1950) concerning dianetics. If you read SFNL -- and you should, because it has a lot more in it besides my column -- you may remember I accused aSF editor John W. Campbell of publishing Hubbard's "Dianetics" article in order to produce a Sensation "by adopting the Reader's Digest method -- seeking the verdict of the uninformed public before submitting the work to psychology experts for the 'ruthless criticism and cross-checking that is the very life-blood of science.'" I concluded by remarking that the possibility of "a hack writer's 'new science,' presented full-blown to the world in a two-bit pulp, will revolutionize psychotherapy," is a wild dream.
Here is Jim's rebuttal:
"Your comment on Campbell's publication of Hubbard's dianetics article has some limitations about which your readers should know. It is; first of all, the comment of a man who has not read Hubbard's book (Dianetics, Hermitage House, N. Y., $4). Secondly, it is the comment of a man who lives in Minneapolis and who has hence been unable to run any kind of check upon Hubbard's, Campbell's, and Winter's claims for dianetics. Third, it uses push-button terms which do not reflect the actual situation.
"Point (1) I leave to your innate honesty. If it moves you to go and get the book and read it, if only to give the chance to say you have too read it, it will have accomplished its purpose.
"(2) Admittedly it is most difficult to check many of the claims made by the dianetics boys; they are being very cagey about the question of formal evidence, despite their talk about rigid examination of the claims. I think it germane to note, however, that I first tackled Hubbard's book for laughs, from the point of view of a dogmatic, classical Freudian; that since that time I have managed, despite considerable evasive action on the part of the dianetics people, to check some of their most extravagant claims, as well as some of their minor ones; and that thus far the claims check with the facts. My checking includes, as might be expected, practice of dianetic therapy upon myself, my wife, and friends. It also includes, however, specific checks of clinical evidence from good sources unconnected with Hubbard, Winter or Campbell. (Details on request.) Did you attempt to make any such checks?
"(3) Your description of Hubbard as a 'hack writer' and of aSF as a 'two-bit pulp magazine' brings up the question of the reputation of the parties involved. As a question, it is not asked very well, and so pre-determines a bad answer. Hubbard is inarguably a hack writer, especially these dais, but if the claims made for dianetics check all the way out to the end, he is also an original thinker of staggering gifts. I do not yet make the latter claim for Hubbard, but I observe that these two categories are not mutually exclusive, and that no one can rule out the latter without examining critically and intensively what Hubbard says he has accomplished. As for aSF, it is to be sure a magazine costing 25¢, printed on something rather unlike pulp paper, and containing stories something like those printed in less toney pulp magazines. It also has an audience rated as the most intelligent and the most technically knowledgeable of any general magazine in this country -- by which I mean to exclude only actual technical magazines and the literary quarterlies -- surely the most remarkable audience ever commanded by a mass magazine. Whether or not an audience which greets articles on the mechanisms of electronic computers with interest is a bad introduction to dianetics is not, after all, a very open question. When you observe, furthermore, that the article was deliberately delayed pending the publication of the book, which contained a great deal of material aimed directly at specialists in the field of psychotherapy, the analogy with Reader's Digest practice breaks down with great rapidity. (There is, I will add, still some justice in the analogy; I object to it only as a quarter-truth, with the qualification that there were serious, considerable motives behind Campbell's and Hubbard's proceeding as they did.)
"If the question of reputation is to enter into our discussion, then we can't stop at labeling the reputation of Hubbard and aSF, however. We have to ask: what is the reputation of Campbell? of Dr. Joseph A. Winter? of Hermitage House? of Nancy Roodenberg? What is the reputation of the psychosomatic clinic of New York's Presbyterian Medical Center, which vouches for a specific, spectacular success for dianetic therapy? of the two oculists who have reported with amazement that they have had to revise their patients' glasses formulae upwards? (One of my own checks.)
"Moreover, we have to ask: just how pertinent is this whole question of reputation. The reaction of an established authority to any teetotally revolutionary discipline is historically predictable. The reputation, for instance, of Dr. Winter really proves nothing, no matter how good it is (and it's plenty damned good.) The reputation of Dr. Frederick Wertham, also damned good, is also no guarantee, whether he's for or agin dianetics (he's violently agin.)
"The question is, DOES IT WORK? If it does, I don't care whether Hubbard is Christ or Barrabas. And I'm irritated by your prejudging an idea by the reputation of the man who advance it. Why not check first? Not the reputations, that's worthless. Check the idea."
Which ends Jim Blish's remarks.
Admittedly, my remarks in the SFNL column were those of one who has not read Hubbard's book, and for that matter read Hubbard's aSF article with much mental confusion. But that fact, I think, merely points up my whole argument: that Hubbard's "new science" has been given to the uninformed public rather than to the scientists. Granted that aSF has an intelligent, technically trained faction in its audience. It also has a plethora of readers like me -- moderately intelligent, technically untrained guys, whose wide-eyed acceptance of such a "science" (which is clearly but perhaps not correctly labeled "world-shaking") is the same sort of half-witted "fad" as General Semantics degenerated into. The spectacle of a bunch of fuggheaded juveniles loudly mouthing dianetical catch-phrases can do LRH's idea no good.
Dianetics has two strikes against it already: it has been immoderately publicized in a "two-bit pulp" -- a term I used deliberately in the original article, not to mirror my own thoughts, but to show how a lot of non-stf-reading scientists will and do regard aSF -- and it has been proposed by a man who has absolutely no standing in psychological or psychiatric fields at all, and is, in their eyes, merely a "hack writer of pseudo-science." That Hubbard's livelihood is based, in part, on pulp writing cannot be helped, of course, and I agree that it bears no direct relation to his ability as a thinker. But since this one fact -- who it was that formulated dianetics -- is unalterable, I see no reason for making his "science" endure the added onus of pulp presentation and a "fad" status among brainless juveniles. No reason, that is, except one of publicity. Of course, publicity of the sort Campbell has given dianetics may help the "new science" just as much as it helped aSF. But is enough good to come from that publicity to outweigh the above-mentioned bad points?
My reaction to reports so far concerning the "success" of dianetics is merely "So what?" Unless testimony is once again, after so long, considered an infallible source of psychological information, then we'll have to discount most of the present reports on dianetical "successes." Experimental investigation is necessary to establish dianetics on a scientific basis, and this will be done by scientists who know what they are about, and not by dewy-eyed amateurs who rush to LASFS or ESFA meetings to report their "successes in the same irresponsible way that Shaverites report their occult experiences. After all Coueism "worked," too; it even had some psychological basis; but I never heard of a psychologist who believed Coueism was a universal cure-all merely because a bunch of harebrained people said, By god, I am getting better and better!
You're right: the question is, does dianetics work? But it needs a chance to prove itself. It needs the serious attention of psychology for the next 10 or 50 years, just as such a revolutionary "science" as psychoanalysis did. It doesn't need publicity among uninformed people such as aSF readers. Is dianetics to be a cultish fad, or a science? The way it has developed so far, I foresee ads of the Dianetics Research Foundation occupying the same place that Rosicrucian ads do today, while psychology, the well-grounded science of behavior, carried on as before. After all, psychology is now a pretty sound science, and its successes, if not spectacular like dianetics, are at least decisive enough to show that it's on the right track.
I plead innocent to "prejudging" dianetics as far as its value is concerned. As someone points out in the current aSF, anyone would be crazy not to want to believe it. I hope that it is all that Hubbard claims. But I am from Hannibal -- I want to be shown. I don't want the anecdotes of fad-happy juveniles. I want the results of experimental investigation, showing a correlation of plus .80.
Is that too much to ask?
THE MICE IN THE WALLS
"Packrat that I am, I have been constantly amazed at the wealth of useless crud I keep turning up as I clean out the garage, which was full of junk -- so full there was no room for my car at all. Mice had nibbled away some of the mags. Choosy mice. They ruined several copies of aSF to make nests but did no more than nibble the corners of my Western Story magazines. They left the Amazings and TWS and Startlings completely alone. Is this significant? I must brood for a spell on this. Ask the readers of File 13 what this means. If this shows the beginnings of intelligent discrimination among rodents I think it is not only later than I think but that the atom bomb is not so terrifying as F J Ackerman would have us believe."
-- CHARLES BURBEE.
WEIRD SHADOW OVER LOVECRAFT
Richard Elsberry remarked the other evening that H. P. Lovecraft is missing some egoboo in the strrangest place available -- the new Derleth anthology. According to Elsberry, Bradbury's story, "The Exiles," which in its original magazine appearance (Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Winter-Spring 1950) had HPL as a major character, omits him entirely, or at least cuts his lines dramatically, in the version printed in Beyond Time and Space.
Now perhaps anthologist Derleth thought Bradbury was taking the name of Lovecraft in vain by causing him to appear in "The Exiles," but his absence there is a very confusing development just the same. However, it is no more confusing than some of the changes that have taken place elsewhere when magazine stories have shown up in books.
Take some of the changes that were made in The World of Ã when it came out in book form. I don't mean the rewriting that improved the "literary" quality or the alteration in the emphasis of the plot. I refer to the incomprehensible changes, like the one in the location of Cress Village (Gosseyn's old home town). In the magazine this town was said to be in California; in the book, however, it was in Florida. What difference it made is nebulous to me, and I wonder why this alteration was made at all.
Along the same line is the switch I found in the "Million Year Picnic" chapter of The Martian Chronicles. Originally, and in the Invasion from Mars version as well, Bradbury told us the Thomas Family came from New York City. In the Martian Chronicles they came from Minneapolis, of all places! I don't know, maybe Bradbury destroyed NYC earlier in the book (which I haven't as yet read in its entirety) -- but I found such changes very puzzling.
A FAIRLY INTERESTING DISCUSSION
An aspect of writing I've seen mentioned
only by A. E. van Vogt, in connection with
General Semantics in an article in Shangri-LA,
is that of modifying-words. In looking over
my own scripts, I find many such phrases as
"somewhat surprised," "almost struck," "just
about angry," "rather amused," "nearly laughed,"
etc. The modifiers seem necessary. The
character I was describing wasn't completely
surprised but only partially so. He wasn't
struck by the Venusian battle-club, but only
grazed. Yet removing the modifiers really
sharpens the writing, even if it does remove
some of the explicitness.
Try it yourself and see.
NOTES THAT MISSED MY WASTEBASKET
In speaking of the "nimble drawings" of Herbert Roese illustrating Thorne Smith's Rain in the Doorway, George Conrad cracked, "Every Roese should have its Thorne." # Despite the sharp transitions between Rhysling-the-speaker and Rhysling-the-singer, who were all too obviously played by two different performers, the "Dimension X" presentation of Heinlein's "The Green Hills of Earth" was one of the most entertaining stf radio-plays I've ever heard. One of the neatest and most realistic touches was the non-Rhysling ballad that was included -- the one usually called "He's Gone Away." As sung by Rhysling on Venus, the line that conventionally goes, "... I'm coming back, if I go ten thousand miles," was altered to: "... ten million miles." Though Venus is farther than ten million miles from Earth, this touch was authentic, showing how a ballad is changed to fit the setting in which it is sung. # For some reason I seem fated to see nearly every installment of "Atom-Man vs. Superman," the latest movie serial starring that man who flies around in his longies. The most fascinating item in the picture so far is a clipping from the Daily Planet that shows that their proofreaders must tend to business about as much as "Clark Kent." In the very first line of this lead story there's a misspelling: "recieve." But they shouldn't feel too bad. In the newsreel on the same bill, a caption mentioned "the principle architects of American independence ..." # Whenever I see the name of Elmer Perdue, I always mentally render it as Elmer ¾ Perdue. Reason? In one of his Sustaining Programs Jack Speer meant to type "Elmer?" but forgot to press the shift key and it came out "Elmer ¾." What FAPA needs, by the way, is another Synapse, which is Sus-Pro's successor. # I borrowed a book on H. G. Wells from the library recently and as I signed the card I noted that the last borrower of the book was the legendary Samuel D. Russell, once an MFS member, now lost in the wilds of North Hollywood. # Some years ago I passed along a hint to Forrest J Ackerman in connection with his quest for Francis Stevens, an author he was trying to locate in order to obtain hard-cover rights to Claimed, etc. The J thanked me, but it was clear that he knew a lot more about this writer than I thought he did. Last month, however, I dropped Forry a line about G. Peyton Wertenbaker, another author whose whereabouts he wanted to learn, and received not only thanks but an acknowledgment that my information was news to him. It did my ego no end of good. It's not every day one can tell Acky anything new about a stf author! # The June 17th Saturday Review of Literature contained "Beyond Stars, Atoms and Hell," an article on the Spring offerings in the fantasy field by Fletcher Pratt. Sample quotes: On Beyond Time and Space: "It is rather a pity that with so broad a base [science fiction defined so as to include the "whole range of imaginative literature"] he could not have offered a better selection." On Pebble in the Sky: [Asimov] tells a better story and tells it better than any of the other three writers who have entries in the 'space opera' category this Spring: George O. Smith, E. E. Smith, and Will Stewart." On The Martian Chronicles: "... good enough to be worth the attention of readers who are uninterested in the question of whether the word 'fiction' has an adjective in front of it or not."
TIME CHANGES ALL THINGS
H. G. Wells' novella, The Time Machine, as we know it, was not Wells' first venture into the wonders of dimensional travel. An early sketch of The Time Machine appeared seven years before that story, in the Science Schools Journal for April, May, June 1888. Its title was almost as unlikely as the story: "The Chronic Argonauts."
Here's how Wells first exploited the theme of time travel. Dr. Moses Nebogipfel, PhD, FRS, moves into a house in which an old man has been murdered by his sons. The doctor's mysterious scientific experiments cause him to fall under the suspicion of witchcraft, and villagers raid his house. Dr. Nebogipfel inexplicably disappears before their very eyes, together with the Rev. Mr. Cook, the vicar, who has come to warn the scientist of his danger. Finally it is revealed that the doctor has invented a time machine and has gone back in time to the moment of the old man's murder, and later forward in time to escape the enraged parishioners. The Rev. Cook is later found dying, raving stories of the year 17,902.
The Time Machine itself first appeared in 1895, though parts of it, including "The Time Traveler's Story," were published in the National Observer and the New Review the previous year.
FOREWARNED IS YOU-KNOW-WHAT
Inspired by recent File 13 items on crackpotism, Ed Cox forwards a letter he received recently from someone in Salem, Illinois. Under the date of May 23, 1950, this man pencils:
There is a new movement spreading its virus we wish to take this means to warn you against it its name is ultimate Seekers Brohood (ULTIMATE SEEKERS-BRO-HOOD) they claim not to be founded on Bible but on the ultimate Base (ULTIMATE BASE) and they claim to believe in Fatalism don't be deceived by this New Religion for they are the Anti Christ they claim there is no Sin but just Ignorance they don't believe in a Devil or Hell. I hope my few lines will put you on your guard against them.
Yours in Jesus name,
THOSE "BORING" CLASSICS
Having nothing better to do, apparently, the Columbia University Press recently polled librarians, literary critics, writers, booksellers, etc., to determine the "ten most boring books" among the great classics. The results were delicately and delightfully fuggheaded.
John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress won, followed by Moby Dick; Paradise Lost; The Faerie Queen; Life of Samuel Johnson; Pamela; Silas Marner; Ivanhoe; Don Quixote; and Goethe's Faust. It seems obvious from this that even the people who make their living from books were frightened in their youth by the reading lists in high school or college "literature" courses.
I certainly don't agree with some of their picks -- particularly Moby Dick and Ivanhoe. Both of these are worth reading and, more, are fun reading. Silas Marner is good stuff, too, and all the excerpts I have read from Boswell's Johnson were entertaining. I've tried to read Don Quixote and Pilgrim's Progress several times and couldn't make it. I've never attempted the others.
At any rate, I wonder if a similar list of "boring books" couldn't be made of fantasy "classics"? I'd wager some of H. P. Lovecraft's yarns would lead the procession -- "The Shadow Over Innsmouth," maybe, or "At the Mountains of Madness" or "The Shadow Out of Time." My own nomination would be Merritt's "The Metal Monster," followed by Stanton A. Coblentz's "After 12,000 Years."
HOW DOES HE DO IT?
I didn't save the clipping, unfortunately, so I can't quote his exact words, but our boy Walter Winchell has done it again. In re the new motion picture, "The Asphalt Jungle," Winchell noted that Whit Burnett is quoted in magazine plugs for the picture as saying "Asphalt Jungle is an extraordinary picture." Whereupon, WW lets loose one of his sneering "scoops," to wit: "Burnett is the author of Asphalt Jungle!" Well! What astounding information, inasmuch as the rest of the very quote WW mentions goes as follows: '...and, among other things, certainly the best picture I've ever had the good fortune to have based on one of my books." Winchell must surely have stayed up all night digging up that exclusive!
Frankly, Mr. Street & Mr. Smith, I am getting a little tired of examining the whole stack of your magazine at the newsstand for a physically sound copy of aSF. Nearly every copy has the staples protruding in such a way as to tear either the front or back cover, or both. Many copies have the edges inaccurately trimmed. Most obvious of all, the covers are crookedly stuck onto the magazine, so that the strip along the spine shows along the edge of the front cover. Other pulps err in such respects quite often, but aSF is almost always manufactured in this sloppy way. # Chronoscope #1 (and only) was supposed to have a cover modeled on the setup used by many valentines and greeting cards: the outer cover was to be cut out in such a way that an inner cover showed through, displaying the entire scene that was mirrored in part on the "chronoscope" portrayed there. Due to lack of time, this cut-out cover idea was scrapped, the idea filed away for later development. Since then the magazine Flair has come along -- and it has stolen this idea!
QUOTES AND COMMENT
George Gallup (quoted in Reader's Digest, July 1950): "I could prove God statistically. Take the human body alone -- the chance that all the functions of the individual would just happen is a statistical monstrosity." After what happened in 1948, George still hasn't learned that statistics are best used to describe, analyze and summarize information rather than to "prove" anything! # Street-car advertising-card: "Advertising, by selling more goods, makes your job more secure." Sure, and if you work in a munitions factory, a war will make your job more secure. But does that make war acceptable? # Carl Sandburg (in his poem "Chicago"):
"... they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is
true I have seen the gunmen kill and go free to kill
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the
faces of women and children I have seen the marks of
And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer
at this my city, and I give them back the sneer and
say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so
proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning ..."
Like a mother whose only boy has become a criminal, he finds nothing virtuous to be proud of in his city, so he glorifies the lack of virtue! He struggles hard to find something to be proud of about Chicago but finds only negative things. When someone drops an a-bomb on Chicago and wipes out half of it, he'll glorify that fact, too, no doubt! # Pathfinder: "The cockroach is also man's oldest insect enemy. They have plagued man for some 200,000,000 years." You comment on this one! Words fail me!
Since people are always saying File 13 invariably looks for "bad" things about science fiction and fandom in order to toss off a sarcastic criticism, I am inaugurating a new section in which I'll applaud "good" things about the field. There must be something "good" that deserves a "bravo" -- there must be. Ah yes: # A bravo is directed at Sam Merwin and Startling for junking the Hall of Fame. Better late than never. # A bravo to Poul Anderson for "Star Ship" in Planet Stories. This yarn shows what you can do with the Planet formula if you try. The mood was almost as otherworldly lovely as in "Gypsy."
Text versions and page scans Judy Bemis
Data entry by Judy Bemis
Updated June 19, 2015. If you have a comment about these web pages please send a note to the Fanac Webmaster. Thank you.