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EDITORIAL. Ghettos are insular places. The antics of ghetto elders or
sinister youth gangs may assume absurd importance to a degraded and indigent
populace. In their wretched haste to eke out a living, they may forget that
the outside world exists.
This is modern SF's predicament. Extrapolations, that once held some
intellectual validity, have now become distorted folk tales, passed down
through generations. SF's vision of the future has become a Punch and Judy
show, ritualized, predictable, and fit only for children.
This is not due to latter-day decadence. It is the result of a
profound terror of the future and what it holds, a fin-de-millenaire
obsession with apocalypse. Reader and author alike wrap themselves in
escapist nonsense, quilted up from rags and tatters of jingoist imperial
Americana or the comfortable minutiae of technical obsession.
Yet this represents a profound abdication of SF's role in society.
It is as if the scouts of a panic-stricken army had retreated to an obscure
corner of camp.
Attempts to actually go out and survey the territory are dismissed
out of hand: too difficult, too dangerous, too depressing. Too much hard
work. It's easier to exploit the panic: either by addiong to it with the
latest gray dystopia, or by preying on the terror of a demoralized readership
by offering cathartic power fantasies.
To survive and revitalize itself, SF must find new visions of the
human future. Never mind that 40-year-old crap about atomic armageddon. If
we can't see any farther than that, then we will have added to the apathy and
fatalism that are the allies of destruction.
Think of it as an act of self-preservation. In the case of any
profound disruption of society, our snug little ghetto will be the first to
go. It's up to us to look for ways out. If not us, who?
As a first step in this daunting and worthy task, CHEAP TRUTH offers
the following guideposts in the
** SQUIRMING MAGS: Second Installment **
** Social and Political Issues **
AFKAR INQUIRY, 55 Banner Street, London EC1Y 8PX. Single issues
US$2.50, UK80p. Perhaps the first order of business is to destroy our
preconceptions and few magazines could be better fitted for that than AFKAR.
Imagine an English-language magazine by radical fundamentalist Islamic
FUTURISTS. Essays on Koranic epistemology alternate with analyses of Alvin
Toffler and solar-age, small-is-beautiful manifestos. The upshot is little
short of staggering: defiant, militant, self-contradictory, blazing with
dangerous energies. Those who think of the Muslim Resurgence as a vaguely
comic medieval anomaly should read this post-haste. AFKAR is a mix of
mosques and monorails, AK-47s and Arab satellites, a propaganda organ for a
new intelligentsia, who fancy themselves the avant-garde for an OPEC-financed
global Islamic rebirth. Their writers are smart, fluent, furiously angry,
and fanatically determined to build a future "neither East nor West." They
SOUTH, The Magazine of the Third World, Suite 319, 230 Park Avenue,
NYNY 10169, US$28/yr.; also 13th Floor, New Zealand House, 80 Haymarket,
London SW1Y 4TS. The US media ignore Third Worlders unless they're either
starving, or shooting Americans. Yet the curves of demographics and economic
growth prove that the developing nations will wield an ever-growing influence
in years to come. This is an excellent magazine, authoritative,
well-written, with superior graphics. It covers Third World politics,
finance, technology, and the arts, always with mind-opening perspectives. It
is neither militant nor Marxist, yet doesn't cater to comfortable Yankee
prejudice. Highly recommended.
WORLD PRESS REVIEW, Box 915, Farmingdale, NY 11737, $19.95/yr. WPR
is a summary of "news and views from the foreign press," most of them devoted
to nervous assessments of what the rest of the world thinks of the US.
"Moscow Beat" and "Asia/Pacific Beat" are especially intriguing. Its
interest in economic issues gives it a forecaster's outlook useful to
investors, speculators -- and extrapolators.
WHOLE EARTH REVIEW, 27 Gate Five Road, Sausalito, CA 94965, US$18/yr.
This periodical, formerly COEVOLUTION QUARTERLY, has gone through a
marvelous sea-change. From tired old '60's tech hippies they have now become
shiny new '80's hip techies, a much more palatable breed. They have
published THE WHOLE EARTH SOFTWARE CATALOG, possibly the best book ever
written for the layman about the promise and peril of personal computers.
Even the earnest, dirt-stained, denim CQ was always good for a shot of uplift
and optimism; now, equipped with red-hot com technology, they are like
hardened jungle guerillas suddenly armed with Stealth bombers. These Green,
eco-decentralist cadres may have underestimated the opposition in their
struggle to create a sustainable, humanized society. But they suddenly have
a big new chunk of loose change and a new constituency revolted by recent
callous excesses against the environment. Exciting things are going to come
from this magazine, and though their utopian schemes will almost certainly
fail they will have a strong role in shaping the future.
THE PLANETARY REPORT (journal of The Planetary Society) 110 S.
Euclid Avenue, Pasadena CA 91101 (available with membership). A very
interesting ideological struggle is taking shape within this slim little
propaganda mag. The Planetary Society is Carl Sagan's pressure group for
space exploration. The civilian scientific intelligentsia behind this
publication are apparently nauseated by military ambitions in space. They
have opened their membership to Soviet space scientists, thereby gaining in
their last issue an incredible coup of previously unreleased Venusian surface
photos. With the recent "nuclear winter" flap, Sagan and his ideological
allies have gone to the barricades against what they perceive as
crypto-Christian jingoistic Neanderthals in high office. Rarely do
scientists speak out with this kind of media savvy, and they appear to have
struck a chord. These people are not to be underestimated, despite their
painful habit of talking down to their audience and their occasional excesses
in mystic scientism (of the "Our DNA Must Reach The Stars" variety). And if
their privately financed radiotelescope Search for ExtraTerrestrial
Intelligence, by some cosmic mischance, should happen to deliver, well, all
bets are off.
We now yield the floor to a worthy comrade in the globe-spanning
network of CHEAP TRUTH shills. Leaping from ambush behind the smoking office
xerox, it's that two-fisted voice of reason, Your Friendly Editor, Mark
** GRIPE TIME **
You people out there think that all science fiction editors do is
talk on the phone, go to lunch, and attend conventions. Not so. Large
amounts of time are spent coddling and placating writers who want to know
"when are you going to run my stuff," "do you think anyone will like it?",
"I'm stuck in the middle...." etc. (You know who you are.)
That's okay, it's what we're here for. What editors hate is
ungratefulness. Take for example the author with whom I spend hours of ofice
time going over a ms that had potential. I felt sorry for the writer because
he was only in town for a few days. I liked the story and it was a slow day.
The rewrite didn't work and I rejected the story. Never got a
thanks. Next time I heard of that writer he's making a big public stink.
Or how about the writer who asked for, BEGGED for editorial comments
on his ms. I wrote a three-page editorial letter, single-spaced, made
suggestions, and what did I get back? A two-page personally and
professionally insulting harangue criticising my solicited comments.
Another time, I asked someone for a change in the beginning of a
story. The author said sure. I got back the ms with the same beginning but
with a different ending (worse than the original). I'm convinced that some
writers cannot hear what editors say (and you know who YOU are, too.)
Or how about the writers whose prose cannot be TOUCHED without
permission. Don't change a comma, period, colon or misspelling -- or else!
I don't care how long you've been writing or how famous you are, you
can't be objective about your own work. Stephen King is a prime example.
Yeah, he's successful, but boy, does he need an editor. Someone who can spot
the inconsistencies, the repetition, the lapses of logic in plot or
characterization. Editors aren't trying to destroy your words, your
thoughts, or your reputations, you paranoid idiots. They're trying their
damnedest to make a good piece of work better, a potentially great story or
novel live up to that potential. That's what a good editor can do. Really,
we're on your side.
CHEAP TRUTH On-Line 809-C West 12th Street, Austin, Texas 78701 USA NOT
COPYRIGHTED. Vincent Omniaveritas, editing. "Bored With the Apocalypse"