Rábanos Radiactivos number 28
Written by Fred Patten, and published on the LASFS Rex Rotary, April 28, 1965. Intended for Apa L, Twenty-Eighth Distribution, LASFS Meeting no. 1446, April 29, 1965. Address: 1825 Greenfield Avenue, Los Angeles, California, 90025. Phone: GRanite 36321.
Long Beach in 1965! San Diego in 1966! Salamander Press #93.



Well, I finally managed to see "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." for the first time this last Monday. Hoo-hah! It's not often that anybody can beat a superhero comic book for more spectacular action per panel, but this program has managed to do it. Improbable, yes, but it all moves so fast that you don't have time to really think about it. S-f fans are notoriously supposed to love gadgets (or did this go out with the sercon days of fandom?), and U.N.C.L.E. is literally loaded with breathtaking scientific devices for destruction. Knockout gimmicks were the order for the day on this episode; there were cigarette lighters that shot out knockout gas, and a car rigged to shoot a stream of gas from the steering column when the speed exceeded 50 m.p.h., not to mention ordinary knockout drops (that didn't seem very effective -- I presume THRUSH is supposed to have had something to counteract them, since the person they were given to was up and around awfully quickly). The pièce de résistance was an exploding atomic reactor. I don't have ready access to a television set any more, but I'm going to have to arrange to be near one on Monday nights from now on.

The entertainment vogue these days seems to be for espionage thrillers loaded with secret organizations known by their initials. It all started, of course, with Ian Fleming, who introduced us to SMERSH in his first James Bond novel, Casino Royale. SMERSH is (or was -- it's supposed to've since been disbanded) said to be a genuine Soviet bureau of espionage and counter-espionage, whose full name is Smyert Shpionam (transliterations differ), or "Death to Spies". SMERSH reigned supreme for the first five or so books; with the eighth of the series (Thunderball), Fleming created the first of the international criminal organizations: SPECTRE, or the Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion. These were Ian Fleming's two brainchildren, and they set off the flood that was to follow. The first appeared as a direct satire on the Bond novels, and was the hilarious paperback parody-novel Alligator, by I*n Fl*m*ng, [Harvard Univ.] Vanitas [1962], 77 p., 50¢ (and more than worth it), and this was TOOTH -- The Organization Organized to Hate.

The status remained more or less quo until this last year, when the James Bond movies publicized SMERSH and particularly SPECTRE which prompted television to bring forth "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.", which every week pits agent Napoleon Solo of the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement against the minions of THRUSH, apparently an independent group seeking world domination. (To keep maneuverability, THRUSH has been deliberately left vague; the meaning of the initials THRUSH is still a mystery.) If there was anybody who had escaped the influences of SMERSH or SPECTRE, they couldn't possibly miss hearing about U.N.C.L.E. and THRUSH.

U.N.C.L.E. and THRUSH brought the deluge, and we now have imitations popping up all over the landscape. The Marvel comic book group has just announced the imminent appearance of "Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.!", who "...takes on the deadly mission of destroying HYDRA, the powerful, secret, world-wide empire of evil which makes Thrush seem like the Peace Corps!" (Release to Merry Marvel Marching Society members.) What these initials stand for, we don't yet know, though we'll probably find out in due time. Parodies are everywhere, and I have no idea how many one-shot organizations have been created for satiric skits on television comedy shows and for the comic strips (see the current Sunday "Li'l Abner" sequence for Fearless Fosdick's interpretation of James Bond), though a good sample is one comic book's T.O.T.E.M. -- a group of master criminals that are turned by a Canadian witch doctor into a totem pole.

Fandom hasn't escaped the influence, either. Ted Johnstone & Co. are apparently organizing their own movement to infiltrate THRUSH, and have come up with their own title to fit the initials -- the Technical Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity -- that they hope the producers of U.N.C.L.E. will adopt. And the fan press has produced imitations ranging from the sublime (STASE -- NATO's Special Trans-Atlantic Security Executive, vs. the Communist Warsaw Pact's ISNABYK, in Paul Moslander's excellent serial, Operation Ishfael), to the ridiculous (Bĵo's SNARL (?), and Don Simpson's DAGGER -- Destruction à Go-Go and Electronic Revenge).

Whither next? I don't really know, but I doubt that the fad will end before at least another year yet, and that's plenty of time for all sorts of new secret organizations for good or evil to make the scene. And if I should happen to pick up a science fiction magazine in the near future and discover the adventures of Wellington Unique, top agent of JUSTICE (Jointly Unified Stellar Tribunal to Investigate Criminal Enterprises), as he journeys from planet to planet ferreting out the dastardly machinations of UGLIEST (United Galactic Lawbreakers Intent on Enslaving Sentient Things), I shouldn't be a bit surprised.


Tom Gilbert -- Considering that Bruce couldn't have known at the time he published his Apa L zine that John Boardman wouldn't be contributing that week and thus wouldn't get a copy, I'd say calling Bruce "unethical" for writing comments to Boardman that he thus wouldn't see is a bit strong. How can any of us tell who's likely to miss a Distribution and therefore not see any comments that we might make to him?

Ted White -- So the protagonist of your Western is a killer instead of a cowboy. He still seems to me to be too introspective to be believable for this type of novel, and I'll predict you're going to have to do some heavy rewriting before your book will sell.

Previous Index Next