For Myself


Peter J. Ridley

JERRY BURGE is unfair to Columnists. Just look at the way he reviews fanzines when everyone knows it's really a columnist's job. Of course the only reason any columnist starts reviewing 'zines is to get a free copy of as many as possible, but that is understood and accepted as one of the perquisites due to anyone daring enough to risk his or her ego by putting their thoughts on paper for the edification of the rabble. However, at the risk of repeating something that Jerry has already said I'm going to mention a couple of zines I recently received.

First is TLMA #3, the main course is a meaty bit of prose by Manly Banister concerning the art of dowsing, which evidently isn't such an uncommon gift as one might suppose. At any rate, Manly says that a fifth of the population can do it. Second course is a well written but seemingly interminable article by Rich Elsberry relating how, when, and where numerous fans spewed their guts up after overtaxing their capacity for liquor at the recent Con, which at any rate for one who didn't attend the Nolacon, and has no happy memories of vomiting green slime into Rich's basin, held singularly little appeal. Basil Wells serves a tasty desert with a short piece about ERB's Martian alter ego, the whole meal is spiced with illustrations here and there is a particularly good cover by Ronald Clyne, one of the best pieces of work I've seen clothing a fanzine in some time, though I think the effect would have been better in plain black and white rather than the rainbow process. Second 'zine is one called Current Science Fiction Weekly, which is badly pronounced when compared with the less frequent zines, but when you take into consideration that the whole thing has to be done in a week it looks much better. It contains news reports and reviews on fannish things in general. Personally I can't see how anyone can get a zine out week after week and still have any time left to eat, so I shouldn't be surprised to hear that Ronald Friedman has died of starvation in the meantime.

I've recently been reading "The Collected Stories of E. M. Forster," short fantasies written before World War One, and lately published in book form. Mostly they show their age, but a couple are well worth comment. "The Machine Stops" envisages a World in which decadent humanity is served by an almost omnipotent machine, which supplies every need at the pressing of a button. As a result rarely leave their "rooms" and journeys are made only at the behest of the machine, either for the purpose of propogating the race or perhaps just to effect a necessary re-arrangement of accomodation. There are seldom any meetings in the flesh, in fact the act of touching another human being is considered indecent, or rather, "unmecanical". Communication is carried on by means of visiphones, which admit of combined listening for the purposes of lectures and talks, which are the only outlet for expression. Any transgression of the Mechanical-Laws is published by the "homelessness", a pleasant term for extinction by being placed unprotected in the this outer air of the surface. As the title suggests the Machine finally breaks down through the failure of the Mending Apparatus, and those who lived by the Machine die, but we are left with the knowledge that all who suffered the "homelessness" did not succumb did not succumb to the cold and lack of air on the surface, and that the more vigourous part of the race carries on. Written before the 1914-18 War it must have been one of the first stories with the old anti-push-button theme. The author describes it as a reaction to one of the earlier heavens of H. G. Wells.

Most of the other tales are creaky jointed bits and pieces usually involving Greek Mythology and Victorian England in almost comical combination, but I feel that one other tale in this volume is deserving of mention, and that is called "The Point of It". The point of "The Point of It" is that there are two parts to Hell (no Heaven), one half where the damned are those who went through life praising the incompetant and lauding the inadequate for fear of hurting peoples' feelings, those who saw good in everything. In this half of Hell these tolerants were buried in the sand, an illimitable desert which sloped upwards to cloud and downwards to darkness. The place is ignoble, dirty and loathsome, and the people in it are deformed and horrible, but they are forced to praise the beauty and comfort of the place forever, and of course the reverse applies to the reformers and ascetics. I thought the idea was so delightfully cynical as to be worth repeating.

(Data entered by Judy Bemis)