[APAK logo] Issue #69, November 1st, 1996

And Now, Your Letters

[ APH: We start with a response to Murray Moore's questions about Lee Hoffman's western novels in last issue, from WILSON TUCKER (2516H East Washington St., Bloomington, IL 61704): ]

'Murray Moore asks about Lee Hoffman's westerns, her best westerns. I'm glad he did that for I have a collection of them and a copy of her bibliography, pubbed by her in 1974. (If you or Moore wishes to borrow the bibliography for copying, I'd be pleased to loan it to you. It is six pages, mimeographed.)

'My very favorite Hoffman western, and one of her best, is The Legend of Blackjack Sam (Ace Books, 1966, 35 cents.) Try to find the original edition which has a Gray Morrow wrap-around cover. This is a comic western featuring that mighty gunfight at the O'Shea corral, and featuring some oddball characters who often wear fannish names. The Morrow cover continued the comic theme. Terry Carr was the editor and it was Lee's first published novel, although one or two other novels were written earlier and published later.

'A few years later Ace republished this book with a straight western cover, the rifleman riding atop the stagecoach. The price had jumped to 90 cents and the publication year was 1972, although I couldn't find that date in the second edition. The saddest part is that the glorious old Gray Morrow cover is gone: all those looney characters in the original are nowhere to be seen.

'And there is one more reason why this is my favorite: the book is dedicated to Bob Bloch and me.

'I can also recommend Valdez Horses, sometimes called The Valdez Horses. A solid, serious story that eventually sold to the movies and probably appeared under a different title. First edition by Doubleday 1967, Ace reprints 1968, 1969, 1973. This novel won her the Spur award as the best western of 1967.

'In her bibliography Lee says that she wrote five books in her first year, 1965, and she sold them all.'

[ APH: I have a copy of The Legend of Blackjack Sam here. It's an Ace paperback, with no indication of what printing it might be, but it makes reference to The Valdez Horses on the back. The cover is a generic cowboy with a Winchester rifle. There's a frontispiece illustration without a signature, but it looks a lot like Gray Morrow's style.

I'm not really a fan of westerns, so it is hard for me to make any informed criticism, but it strikes me as a pretty funny book. There are a number of -- forgive me -- Tuckerisms in the text, references to Grennell's livery stable, and the like. Even more striking is the inclusion of a character named "Wild Bill Bridgeport," who is clearly based on P.T. Bridgeport, the impresario bear from Walt Kelly's Pogo comic strip. And at one point, a character exclaims "Rowrbazzle!", further emphasizing Lee's affection for Pogo. I don't know if this is among the best things Lee wrote, but it's certainly representative of her style.

Now, DALE SPEIRS (Box 6830 Calgary, Alberta T2P 2E7 Canada) starts off the reaction to my editorial and Ted White's article on driving in #68: ]

'Apak #68 received. Your commentary about UFO beliefs and such reminds me of Chesterton's remark that if people no longer believe in God, then they will believe in anything. You write ". . . if a theory is repeated often enough it will attract a certain number of adherents." Might this explain the delusion of SF fandom that they are somehow superior to mundanes? I've always said that the difference between an SF fan is that the mundane is less reactionary, and better able to deal with the future shock.

'Aggressive drivers: My favourite tactic on a Calgary freeway is to come up alongside a driver doing the speed limit and maintain the same speed, thus blocking both lanes to speeders behind us. Of course, Canada has fairly strict gun control laws, so this a safer sport than it might be elsewhere. Alternatively, I drive at the speed limit in the left lane approaching a photo radar unit; a speeder will be busy passing me at the right he doesn't see the camera until too late. Driving is such fun if you know how to do it.

'Query: Did any graduate student ever do a genealogical study of Huck Finn to see if he was from Suomi? Did Mark Twain have a reason to pick Huck's name? Did he have any Finlanders among his friends?'

[ APH: My impression was that Finn is an Irish name, which would fit nicely with the mid-nineteenth century American image of German and Irish immigrants as bumpkins and louts.

I must have missed something, Dale; when were private citizens empowered to enforce speed limits regardless of the danger they might put themselves and other drivers in? I too find it scary when people blow by me at 25 or more miles above the speed limit, but getting in their way strikes me as a foolhardy way to express my displeasure. If you were just joking, forgive me for failing to notice.

ROBERT LICHTMAN (PO Box 30, Glen Ellen, CA 95442) also reacted to my piece on the proliferation of alien-related media: ]

'While it's true that this season has seen an increase in the number of stfnal/paranormal exploitation shows, I don't think it's the case that "people have become quite comfortable with the ideas of an alien presence on the earth." Of course, we stfnists have always been comfortable with that idea, at least so far as the friendly and perhaps cuddly sort of aliens were concerned, though I at least have the usual apprehension about body snatchers, puppet masters and the like. I think the modern wave of acceptance of aliens on earth began with the Star Wars movies back in the 70s. While some of the aliens were undeniably hostile, others were presented as just regular folks. The bar scene in the first Star Wars movie set the tone in a way. Later there were Ewoks and, from another producer, E.T. and the little creatures in Batteries Not Included. Aliens, you gotta love 'em! (Or else, no doubt.)

'By Ted's definition (and also by having been a passenger in his car) I'm also an aggressive driver in that I seek ways through traffic and tend when possible to drive faster than most of the people around me. I had all my accidents in one of my cars (a '61 Chevy Biscayne) and in a fairly tight time period (1968/69). Several of them were rear-enders while I was stopped at a red light (or stop sign) and was hit by someone from the rear. None of them were serious enough that the Chevy had to be repaired in order to be operable, and eventually I collected enough insurance money that I got rid of it and bought a Volvo. (Which turned out to be the worst lemon in my car-owning experience, but that's another story.) I haven't had any accidents since, and like Ted I've had my share of successful avoidance maneuvers to keep out of accidents, though nothing as spectacular as his 1965 turnpike incident.

'I agree with the niece's teacher (in Victor's article) that Huckleberry Finn is not a racist book, and that Twain wrote the book, at least in part, to challenge the racist notions of the time. I haven't read it myself in many years, and don't have a copy around to check, but it's my memory that the times Nigger Jim was portrayed as something of an idiot were the exception, that the incidents were largely cultural (lack of education, confused values), and that he's by and large a sympathetic character. As a graduate English major, I remember that Huckleberry Finn was regarded as one of the seminal books of 19th century American literature, that it's one of the earliest of the "American road" books, although the river substitutes for the road, and that it introduced a lot of the archetypes of American literature that endure to this day.

The novel has been the target of book banners for many years: the linguistically pure condemn it for the word "nigger," while racists condemn it for its positive look at race relations. (As Victor points out, Huck's racist feelings evaporate.) Damn, I may have to get a copy; writing about it turns me on to reading it again (properly preceded by re-reading Tom Sawyer, of course -- not doing so would be like reading Tolkien's trilogy without first reading The Hobbit).

'Thanks for mentioning Lesley Reece as a potential best new fan of the year. In fact, I included her in one of the three available positions. Don't forget Tom Springer!

'Glad to see Dave Hicks commending you for continuing to publish mailing addresses for those who send their comments via e-mail, and I entirely agree. If someone becomes just an e-mail address without a valid mail address, they will no longer be reachable by me in my present situation, and even when I do eventually go on-line I will not be creating a Trap Door web page, or any Web pages for that matter. As for his finding it startling that Dan enjoyed British Rail, I encountered that attitude somewhat while I was there; but to me having a BritRail pass and being able to go wherever I wanted without having to drive there was like science fiction. I could see the things which made the natives use the system as a metaphor for decline, but it was so far beyond any transportation system that I've ever known that I found it utterly awesome and delicious.

'I know what you mean about Paul Williams, except I knew him before he became Paul Williams, when he was a neofan who turned out Within, a promising fanzine. But he didn't "basically invent the music fanzine," just the rock fanzine. And let's not forget Greg Shaw, who did the same thing more or less simultaneously on the other side of the country. Like you I enjoyed Paul's account of his trip to Toronto and the tape of "Give Peace a Chance" as sung there. At the time, Paul sent me a copy of that tape. I was working for Columbia records in San Francisco and was calling on the "underground" radio stations of the day, KSAN and KMPX. I took the tape around not long after I received it and got airplay immediately -- well before the single came out. I remember being able to pick out Tim and Paul's voices on the tape. I was also involved in a weird way in the first day's of Tim's campaign to become governor of California. Paul mentions that Tim "departed the next day for lectures at a California university." That was Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, and Paul and I took Tim and Rosemary from where they were staying in Berkeley to San Francisco airport, where it turned out that Tim had no money and I ended up paying for their tickets on a credit card. Tim paid me back months later, handing me cash the morning after the celestial synapse in front of City Lights Bookstore. "I'll bet this looks like a dope deal to anyone watching," he said, and we both laughed. But no one was, and we parted amicably. That was the last time I saw Tim until the early '80s when I ran into him at a book fair in Los Angeles. (The same book fair where we saw Sturgeon for what turned out to be the last time.)'

[ VMG: An update: The school board has upheld a decision by the superintendent to uphold a district committee's decision to keep Huck Finn in the classroom. The aunt now threatens a federal civil rights lawsuit.

I found rereading the book a very entertaining experience, although I detested the ending this time around. ]

[ APH: The distinction between music fanzines and rock fanzines is valid, of course, but I think the success of Crawdaddy!'s original run did a lot to popularize both. And you're right, we ought to remember Greg Shaw's fairly titanic achievements with Who Put the Bomp in the same breath, if only for being the first editor to give the world Lester Bangs' "James Taylor Marked for Death." But Paul had more impact on me, because it was running across a small heap of decade-old Crawdaddy!s in a lounge at Madison's alternative City High School that communicated the heights to which amateur publications could climb. Where did they come from? I've wondered to this day. ]

[ VMG: Now, BILL HUMPHRIES (2700 Del Medio Ct. # 322 Mountain View, CA 94040, e-mail bill.humphries@whump.com) has some thoughts on Andy's sad Alien fixation: ]

'I have considered a different interpretation of the Alien Invasion fad: a conservative/libertarian or even an anti-technological view. The Aliens use invasive and unpleasant techniques (why do Aliens who can do something between beaming or tractoring-up need to use a rectal probe?) On the X-Files, they are in league with the Social Security Administration and seem to have everyone's DNA on file. Maybe it's not the trailer trash on Ricki Lake who are blaming the Greys for their crack addiction, but a reaction to all the data on us out there, the server logs, the credit card receipts, and medical files and our fear that someone's started indexing them on a common key field.

'How do our fears about abductions get added to the mix? The Rapture? Maybe the kids on the milk cartons. We don't have the sinister state terror with grown adults vanishing all over the place as with the juntas in Chile and Argentina. Maybe it's a fear of the potential, and I'm reading my fears into it. The Alien meme can be read many ways, so it's successful in getting everywhere in the culture.

'Before there were all these TV shows and films, there was Schwa: a guy in Nevada making comics, decals and zines based on the alien and abduction stories. His stuff is very political, about media control and how people are used by big culture. The Aliens have gone from the culty Schwa, to trendy and now pop. Maybe someone else has the Aliens as pawns in their own sinister plot.'

[ APH: I can always trust you to take something I'm having fun with and make me see the horror behind it, Bill. But I think your right: abduction experiences are a superb allegory for the invasions which we all feel are commonplace in contemporary life. And people obsessed with their experiences aboard the mothership usually don't have the time for explicit acts of civil disobedience. ]

Make perfect ear canals in less than thirty seconds!

[APAK logo] Issue #69, November 1st, 1996

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