CHEAP TRUTH 3
EDITORIAL. It has come to our attention that unscrupulous black marketeers
have been retailing copies of CHEAP TRUTH at astronomical prices, some going
as high as twelve to thirteen cents. The situation is especially bad in
Eastern Bloc countries, where the CHEAP TRUTH distribution network has been
penetrated by KGB and Bulgarian agents provocateurs, who take advantage of
desperate shortages of SF criticism to hike the underground price from one
American cigarette to as high as two or even three.
We suggest therefore that readers who cannot get pirated copies (or
who cannot access the samizdata On-Line edition on SMOF-BBS, 512-836-7663)
write directly to the CHEAP TRUTH offices, sending a dollar with their
address and nom de guerre (or nom de telematique). New issues will be
** BARRINGTON BAYLEY RETROSPECTIVE **
Justice must be done for Barrington J. Bayley. His manifest virtues
cry out for vindication. Bayley has been neglected too long. Despite his
steady production, he is best known in America, when known at all, for his
ten-year-old work in NEW WORLDS.
The legacy of those days (THE KNIGHTS OF THE LIMITS, Barrington
Bayley, Fontana-Collins, 95p.) makes astonishing reading. It reminds one
that the power of British New Wave was not due to its decalcifying treatment
of sex or the fact that much of its readership was stoned. Those ephemera
blew away with the hash fumes over Ladbroke Grove. What is left is sheer
visionary intensity, which Bayley has always had and displays today even more
"The Ur-Plant" is Bayley's latest story, in INTERZONE, which is NEW
WORLDS' successor in British SF's valiant struggle for Arts Council grants.
Bayley's story stands out in this somewhat precious magazine like a cactus
Bayley writes science fiction with the natural fluency of a man who
can't help it. He has the ineffable, unfakeable genius of a true SF
visionary: of Wells, Stapledon, and Ballard; of Bester, Dick, and Farmer.
Small things do not content this man. He is tooling along in second
gear if he does not blow your mind ten times in eighteen pages. He is at
home re-inventing the nature of space-time, stretching the limits of
consciousness, reassembling reality. He leaps past the jugular and deep into
the frontal lobes.
Bayley is the Zen master of modern space opera. He has the wild power
of E. E. Smith, without Smith's pathetic illiteracy or gross provincialism.
The magazines of the '30's might have been titled to describe Bayley's work:
Amazing, Startling, Fantastic, Weird. This tie to traditionalism may explain
why his novels have been published by DAW: THE PILLARS OF ETERNITY, THE FALL
OF CHRONOPOLIS, THE GRAND WHEEL, STAR WINDS, THE GARMENTS OF CAEAN, COLLISION
Yet Bayley's elemental energy, his mastery of the sense of wonder,
cannot be denied. His work is the very antithesis of tired hackdom. To
invent an entire self-consistent cosmology and physics for a $2.50 DAW
paperback (THE ZEN GUN, 1983) is one of those noble acts of selfless altruism
that keep SF alive. There seems no limit to the man's inventiveness, his
pyrotechnic bursts of fresh ideas. To these natural gifts, enough to sustain
a dozen lesser writers, he adds an intense dedication to craft that gives his
best work its eerie sense of dark complexity. To read a work like "The
Cabinet of Oliver Naylor" is to be simultaneously enlightened and bewildered,
to receive a Zen knock on the head; it is the literary equivalent of
psilocybin. It is, in fact, why science fiction was invented.
It was not a historical accident that science fiction first entered
mass consciousness in a welter of garish colors and howling verbal excess.
SF is the enemy of normality, the antidote to bored sophistication and
know-it-all over-refinement. If SF, in outgrowing its native vulgarity, also
loses its ability to stun, it will have sold its birthright for a mess of
pottage. At this point SF can commit any literary crime but boredom; any
crime, that is, except the one that is now killing the mainstream. In all
respects, Barrington Bayley's hands are clean.
INTERVIEW WITH THE MARTYR
We got hold of H. P. Lovecraft. Never mind how. There are things in
the Cross Plains Dairy Queen that are best left unspoken. At any rate we had
the gentleman in the CHEAP TRUTH offices in late March, 1983 -- some 46 years
after his death. Lovecraft was dressed in a cruddy-looking black wrinkled
suit with a skinny tie and celluloid collar. His nose was sunburned. He
looked rather pasty and gaunt -- we had called him up from about 1935, when
his diet of graham crackers and canned spaghetti was definitely beginning to
CT: Mr. Lovecraft -- may we call you Eich-Pi-El? -- this is a great
pleasure. Please, just toss the cat out of the chair, there, and have a
HPL: I wouldn't dream of disturbing puss. He's a fine, swart beast, isn't
he? (Spectrally) The cat is cousin to the Sphynx, but remembers secrets she
has long forgotten.
CT: Far out. Can I get you anything? A beer, maybe? HPL: Liquor has never
passed my lips. CT: Some coffee? HPL: That would be splendid. With five
sugars, please. (sips) Very good. This costs five cents a cup, you know.
Quite a sum when you're living on
seventeen cents a day. I made quite a science out of poverty, in my last
days. But I was never a -- businessman. You can't make a businessman out of
CT: Please, have all you like. The Cheap Truth publishing empire covers the
globe. That's one of the reasons we called you up, Eich-Pi-El. You are,
after all, the paragon -- the very archetype of the starving science fiction
writer. Were you aware that your premature death would set the model for an
HPL: Actually, no. I died with the firm conviction that my work would be
completely eclipsed, swept out with the rest of the illiterate pulp trash. I
knew what was good, you see. I read Proust, Willa Cather, Theodore Dreiser.
I knew what was good, and what was cheap garbage.
CT: And yet you died in pursuit of your art.
HPL: (shrugs) At that point it really didn't matter much. I had reached
the culmination of my philosophy -- what I called psychological
self-annihilation. I saw things from a cosmic perspective. The tragedy of
one atom -- even if it was myself -- was simply irrelevant.
CT: Destroy desire and you destroy unhappiness, is that it?
CT: But that's Buddhism. Classic Buddhist enlightenment, in fact. All that
ascetic discipline of yours --
HPL: (bristles) What? The spineless fatalism of the Hindu? I'm the scion
of blue-eyed Nordic conquerors.
CT: (uncomfortably) OK, that's cool. Is it true that you and Clark Ashton
Smith used to call Hugo Gernsback "Hugo the Rat"?
HPL: Yes. But we never hated him as much as we despised that crawling
horror, Farnsworth Wright. He starved us, cheated us. He rejected my best
work. He made his magazine into a pigsty for cheap scribblers. My stories
appeared cheek by jowl with truss ads. Was it any wonder that I began to
write letters instead? (Begins to talk faster and faster) At first dozens,
then hundreds, and at last a steady stream of them -- that instead of
publishing I wrote everything in longhand? Each time, for an audience of
one. A writer MUST speak, even if he has to pay for the privilege in postage
CT: I understand perfectly, Mr. Lovecraft. May I say that I've always
admired you? I suppose that your fiction WAS mostly garbage, but you are
more than that -- you're an avatar, a symbol. I wonder how many young
writers have found courage in your example. "After all, what's the worst
thing that can happen to me if I write SF? At worst, I'll simply die a slow,
miserable death by inches like H. P. Lovecraft." You never compromised -- you
stayed shabby-genteel to the end, and died without ever doing one single
practical thing. Your rejection of the world was total. It was the act of a
HPL: Are you Jewish?
CT: (startled) No. Thanks for coming, Mr. Lovecraft.
HPL: You have a funny swarthy look about you. I can tell you're a dago of
some kind. "Omniaveritas" -- what kind of name is that? Not Anglo-Saxon.
Let me see the shape of your head -- (He suddenly fades away. He is, after
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