Written by Fred Patten, and published on the LASFS Rex Rotary, April 7, 1965. Intended for Apa L, Twenty-Fifth Distribution, LASFS Meeting no. 1443, April 8, 1965. Address: 1825 Greenfield Avenue, Los Angeles, California, 90025. Phone: GRanite 3-6321.
|Long Beach in 1965!||San Diego in 1966!||Salamander Press #88.|
Ed Baker, prepare! Hank Stine, the end is at hand! You have less than two weeks left until... It is April 17, 1965 -- America is Invaded by Communist Troops!
Remember about 9 years back when the SFBC was flooding the backs of the prozines with that ad as a comeon for Cyril Kornbluth's Not This August? Another sf classic is just about to become outdated (chronologically, if not in possibility). Just for the heck of it, I've been keeping over the years a list of sf stories with specific dates in them, and watching as the "deadline" draws closer. 1957, when paleontologists began to revive prehistoric beasts (Sprague de Camp, "Employment", 1939); also the year when America was ruled by Dennis Murphy, the last of the Hy-Burnyan dictators (J. A. Mitchell, The Last American, 1889). 1958, and the explosion of the atomic plant, that gave birth to the Children of the Atom (Wilmar Shiras, Children of the Atom, 1948-53). Et multae ceterae. It gives me a minor feeling of relief when another "crisis point" is past. In compiling dates, it's also interesting to note how far apart different authors will place the same event (World War III, the first rocket to the moon) in their stories. Any of you ever try anything along these lines?
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK (Discovered scrawled on a New York subway poster)
"I think Bilbo Baggins is a fink."
. . . reported in LIBRARY JOURNAL, March 15, 1965, p. 1479
-- BEING COMMENTS ON THE PREVIOUS DISTRIBUTION
Ted White -- You mean to say your literate narrator-protagonist is a cowboy gunfighter yet? I'm sorry, but that's just a bit too much for me to swallow -- and I don't care if Doc Holliday was a professional dentist, and Johnny Ringo is said to have read the classics in the original Greek and Latin when he wasn't rustling cattle. It's the old case of truth being stranger than fiction; though I like your writing, I find it impossible to accept the premise of your lead character, and the whole story falls with him. I haven't read more than four or five Westerns in my lifetime -- none in the last couple of years -- so I don't know how close this comes to the form of the genre, but if it's typical, then I don't feel I've been missing anything. As far as I'm concerned, if you want to save this, switch to third-person writing and cut out all of your gunfighter's personal philosophy -- at least take it out of his own words. Your hero's height -- 6'6" and the runt of the family at that -- is also a little hard to take. Well, getting the bad points out of the way, you do have a good story started. In your four pages so far, you've established a puzzle -- what makes this town different from other cowtowns?; plus personal conflict (hero vs. town); plus a good picture of your lead character (unfortunately an unbelievable one). You've set up a legitimate aura of mystery/curiosity, and, assuming you can rewrite your hero to make him a bit more believable, you should have hooked the reader by this point into going on to find out what happens next. ## Now, John Dickson Carr is another mystery writer I don't care for, because I agree he doesn't play fair with the reader -- morally, at least, even if he does so technically. (Of course, this may be personal sour grapes because I'm not smart enough to figure out the clues, but I don't think so.) I recall one plot -- I think it was the last Carr book I read, some time ago -- in which a young man is found dead, shot through the brain, in the house of a judge who hated him. All evidence pointed to the judge; the sour note was that the judge was obviously intelligent enough that if he had wanted to murder the young man, he could easily have plotted some means that wouldn't point so directly to him -- he immediately claimed he was being framed, of course. It finally turned out that it was indeed the judge who had shot the young man through the brain, though he had taken the precaution of doing it elsewhere under circumstances that wouldn't implicate him. But the young man recognized the judge, and determining to make sure he didn't go unpunished, he roused himself from the place of the ambush and went over to the judge's house to die, to make sure the police would know who to suspect. Lest the reader boggle at this, Carr's Wise Old Detective immediately cited at least two pages of case histories to prove that it's quite possible for a person to be shot through the brain and still live for quite a while -- more than long enough for the young man to cover the distance to the judge's house, in this case. This may be, but the very fact that Carr felt it necessary to produce so much evidence to support his solution makes me feel that he was less than morally fair with his readers. Tony Boucher has always seemed to me to be the best of the whodunit writers; when he does pull his rabbit out of his hat, he always does it in such a way that leaves you feeling stupid for not having guessed it a long time ago. ## Here, now; I like van Dine. He always seems so complete -- in one scene, for instance, when Philo Vance enters a private library supposedly locked up for the past 20 years, and notices a book that shows signs of fresh handling, he opens it up -- it's a German medical textbook on poisons -- and reads a couple of pages of it. Not only is the technical passage completely translated in the story for the benefit of the reader, a footnote then proceeds to reprint the passage again, in the original German, so the reader can have no doubts that the author is playing fair with him. That's thoroughness. ## Have you read any Andrew Garve? He seems to me to be the most versatile writer in the mystery field, covering just about every angle in the field equally well. ## The Eager fantasies are quite similar in style to Nesbit's works. I read them the other way around (in fact Eager's plugs for Nesbit were the prime recommendation that got me hunting for her books), and was quite pleased to find that, while similar techniques were used in both, Edgar was not simply copying Nesbit for the benefit of modern readers, as I feared might be the case. Even Eager's trick of having his children read Nesbit's The Five Children and It as a primer on how to handle magic is based on a scene in Five Children, when whoever was then controlling the magic remarked that it was a good thing he'd read The Brass Bottle, so he knew how to get them out of the mess they were in. The Brass Bottle was F. Anstey's popular fantasy of a few years earlier (mid-1890's?), in which a struggling young London architect (complete with a full set of Victorian class ideals) is beset by a grateful but dim-witted Arabian genie who insists on rewarding him in the lavish Arabian Caliph's-palace style, which causes the architect all sorts of social problems. I heartily recommend Anstey (Vice Versa; In Brief Authority, etc.) if you haven't discovered him yet.
Jack Harness (and Katya Hulan) -- Though you explain Bradbury's "The Day It Rained Forever" to me in print and in person, I still don't get the point to it. I know what happened; I just don't see what point the story has -- other than being pure syrup & schmaltz. Which I don't like. Sorry. ## I assume your cover "mouse musicians and the ship of rules" is another pun on the Ship of Fools, because I know you enjoy same. Other than that, I don't get it. ## Your sonnet is ominously displeasing, but leaves me too bewildered to comment.