I love MT#17. Binding it as a book is a great idea. It should mark the beginning of an epoch, one which will be noted by Harry Warner, Jr. as a landmark when he writes his history of fandom of the 70's. I've always had difficulty locating a particular fanzine in my collection because they necessarily have to be piled on of top of another. Or, if they're filed in a vertical position, the lack of a broad spine still means that I have to search through them before finding the desired one. I could, I suppose, put them in a binder with a labeled cover, but I don't have time or patience for this. I hope that you keep this format up and that all fanzines follow your pioneering example.
Though the contents are all interesting, I don't have time to loc them all. So I'll confine myself to two items close to home, that is, to me and mine.
I liked Don Ayres' review of The Other Log of Phileas Fog, of course. However, I must defend myself against his speculation that using a noted literary character in a novel of your own might not be entirely proper.
This ploy is an ancient and honorable tradition. It is, in fact, the highest form of a compliment to the author who originated the character. As far as I know, it was Jules Verne himself who did it first. He admired E. A. Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym and was distressed that Poe hadn't written a sequel. So he wrote it -- The Sphinx of Ice. This, to his satisfaction, anyway, cleared up the mystery left unsolved at the end of Poe's story.
Also, Verne wrote two sequels to Wyss's The Swiss Family Robinson which have appeared in English translation. These were Their Island Home and The Castaways of the Flag. He also wrote two other sequels which, if they've appeared in English, I've not seen.
I doubt that Verne, if he were alive today, would object to Fogg being written into a science-fictional tale by another author. Certainly, he'd have no ethical grounds on which to stand. I hope some day to run across Verne on the banks of The River and tell him about Fogg's other log.
Note that Lovecraft continued this tradition when he wrote At The Mountains of Madness, a sequel to Verne's The Sphinx of Ice. Note also that I'm thinking about writing a sequel to Lovecraft's tale. In this, Doc Caliban (my pastiche of Doc Savage) meets the Cthulhu Mythos.
It's a long yellow brick road from Poe's 1838 tale to Verne's to Lovercraft's to Farmer's 1974 tale, and I suppose some will say that it illustrates progressive degeneration rather than evolution. But you can't keep a good writer down or even a bad one.
Then there are, of course, the many Sherlock Holmes sequels or pastiches written by people who love the Holmes stories and can't stand the idea of there being no more. Many of these are of cases which Watson referred to but did not detail. So we have the Giant Rat of Sumatra and other cases which would be entirely unexplained if some Sherlockian had not felt impelled to write a version.
Tarzan has similarly given rise to many pastiches. In these he appears under a different name of as "lord Greystoke". The Burroughs estate can't copyright the latter, since Burroughs himself used a real name, that of the Barons Greystoke or de Greystock. They're extinct now, though a descendant of the female line occupies the Greystoke Manor in Cumberland. And there's nothing to keep the proper authorities from suddenly deciding which branch of the Howards has a right to the title and so creating a new "real" Lord Greystoke.
The adventures of E. W. Hornung's rogue, A. J. Raffles, have been continued by Barry Perowne, though I would recommend them only to those deeply interested in this sort of thing. I think I can do better, and I may.
I remember a series I read as a youth which continued the adventures of d'Artagnan. In this case, of course, Dumas never had a copyright on the name of d'Artagnan. He actually existed, though he wasn't as flamboyant as Dumas character. A direct descendant of d'Artagnan, by the way, provided the basis for one of Proust's major characters. This was the Count de Montesquiou, on whom Proust based the Baron Charlus.
As for Angus Taylor's review of The Fabulous Riverboat, it has some valid points but even these are weak. I'm somewhat dissatisfied myself about the discrepancy between what I visualize in the Riverworld series and what I present. I would like to make both volumes I and II of the series much longer, take a slower pace, and tell the reader much more of the terrestrial background of the historical characters that I have.
But to do this would slow The Story Itself too much. Besides, due to space limitations, I can't tell everything about a character in one or even two volumes. Nor is it necessary. This is an open-ended series in which there will be plenty of room to give the characters' "real" history.
Taylor's thesis that the "real" characters shouldn't be uprooted from their historical context is invalid. I in the first place, though uprooted, these people come to the Riverworld trailing their clouds of unglory behind them. In the second, one of the Riverworld's premises is that many of these, faced with immortality and a physical world little resembling Earth's will change. They will evolve or devolve. They had thought that Phase I, their terrestrial existence, was all that there was. But they were wrong. Like it or not. They're in Phase II with no way out. Some refuse to change or admit they need changing. But the mysterious Ethicals are giving anybody who can mutate for the better a chance to do so.
This is their story. THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE.
One of the advantages of having real-life people, historical characters, is that the reaer doesn't need a long-winded exposition of their psyche. That is, he doesn't if, he's well read. He knows how they were on Earth, and now he can see how they react to a changed, and always changing, environment.
For the reader who may not be well acquainted with some of the characters, I've provided a capsulization of their lives on Earth. Sequels in which they appear will provide more details of their Terrestrial existence. But I can't just drop biographies of each into the course of the action. Not full-length biographies, anyway. There'll be enough so that the reader, if he's curious, can pick up the detailed biographies available at the libraries or bookstores.
I love biographies of major and minor people, and it may be that in some cases I've assumed too much knowledge on the part of the average reader. If so, I intend to remedy this in sequels. But not to the extent of slowing the story down too much.
Taylor's objection to uprooting is about as valid as objecting to tales of Earthmen going to Mars. They're dissociated from their Terrestrial background, too, but the interest lies in seeing how they overcome their earthly habits and reactions in adapting to the strange environment of Mars. Do they adapt successfully or are they broken, defeated?
On a more mundane level, one happens to an Indian who moves from the reservation to New York City? He's uprooted from his tribal context, but does this make the story of his adaptation invalid? Nonsense.
Taylor states that the book is all action and lacks cerebral stimulation for the reader. The latter is true if the reader's cerebrum has the hide of a hippopotamus. But I've had many letters from readers who've seen that the Riverworld books move on the ball bearings of philosophy. These are not removed from their sockets and turned over and examined with microscopes. The characters don't sit around like those in Mann's The Magic Mountain and consume page after page with lengthy philosophical arguments and expositions. The underlying philosophies are demonstrated through the actions of the characters. In other words, "By their fruits ye shall know them." Coupled with the mystery of the Ethicals' identity and motives is the mystery of free will, of immortality, of personal identity, of the meaning -- if any -- of life and sentiency. And of the unplumbed potentialities for good even in the blackest villains.
I shouldn't have to be explaining the obvious.
"Character determines destiny," Heraclitus said. He also said that you can't step in to the same river twice. And so the Riverworld books are basically heraclitean mystery stories. I use "mystery" in a double sense -- that applied to the classical detective story and also that applied to passion plays.
Taylor also thinks that the "fundamental economic parameter which might have provided the basis for the development of new and interesting socio-cultural contexts" shouldn't have been removed. In other words, according to him, the Riverworld should have been just like Earth. Humanity should still be dependent on growing crops and on trade.
Not so. The Riverworld was deliberately set up by the Ethicals so the lazari would not have to busy themselves trying to earn a living. Though most of the Riverdwellers are desperately trying to hide their heads in emotional sand, they just can't do it. The economy of the Riverworld forces them to look at themselves and others. As I said in the first book, the Riverworld is a battleship stripped for action. The action in this case is psychic, though it has to be manifested in physical action and verbalism, just as on Earth. All baggage and impediments, except the psychological, have been thrown overboard for the last great battle. At least, it should be. But Sam Clemens ignores this as best he can, hence his desire to build a boat which will be a triumph of technology. He is also eager to solve the ultimate mystery, or at least he tells himself he is. But it is evident that it is the journey, not its end, that fires him.
Clemens was intensely interested in gadgets and, in fact, got himself into some terrible financial binds because of this interest. Lust, rather.
It's a legitimate criticism that Burton isn't fully realized in To Your Scattered Bodies Go. If I had given him in his fullest, TYSBG would have had to be twice as long as it is. But this is an open-ended series; Burton returns in the third book and will be more deeply plumbed.
As for my portrait of Clemens, I apologize to noone. He is given as a complete flesh-and-blood-and-spirit individual, just as he was, with little missing. His behavior, his struggles with himself and with others, are, I believe, correctly extrapolated. No less an authority than Leslie Fiedler, Mark Twain professor at Buffalo Universtity, has said this.
Back to the "new and interesting socio-cultural context." A number have been briefly described. The fullest is that which Clemens was trying to establish in his Parolando. In the case, the focus, the origin itself, was the meteorite. This was introduced by X, the Mysterious Stranger, for his own dark -- or perhaps bright -- purposes. But it also took men's minds away from the examination of themselves. Technology and its attendant trivia have arrived on the Riverworld. A superior means for gaining wealth and power has been discovered. And so the vultures settle down out of the sky, the lions, jackals, hyenas, and ants come arunning.
Still, Taylor's comment does have some legitimacy. Burton whizzes through one new setup after another, The reader only gets intimations; the in-depth look is left up to his imagination. In a world where there are a million or more new societies, I can't describe them all. But I will be painting some with perspective in future novelets and novels. I'm planning a series of novelets which not only depict the makeup and problems of some of these but at the same time present, through some great representative, a philosophy, science or technology. For instance, what would Karl Marx do and think if he were on The River? How would his theory of economic determinism fare in the economy of the Riverworld? What would he think of the course taken by modern marxism? How would his vast and inflexible and grossly egotistic intellience adapt, if it were to adapt?
Sculpture is possible in the Riverworld, but the minerals and plants needed to make paints are lacking. What do Turner and Millet and da Vinci do in the frustrating world?
Drama and ballet aren't dependent on materials and technology but there is the language barrier. What if David Garrick has been resurrected on a stretch of River where there are very few English speakers for hundreds of thousands of miles? He can journey until he finds a state of English speakers, though they may turn out to be speaking Old English. He can organize a company of Shakespearean players, but he ca't stay in one area. So he and his company travel through the English area. Of course, with the setup along the River, where every population has a considerable minority which speaks an entirely different language from that of the majority, the language has become a pidgin. Esperanto is being diffused all up and down the River by the missionaries of the Second Chance Church. If Garrick wants to reach a large audience, he translates Shakespeare into Esperanto. This can be done, and has been done, but a lot is lost in the translation. Also, Esperanto, as time goes on, inevitably degenerates into dialects and, if enough time passes, will become different languages.
The above is enough to give the reader an idea of the problems to be overcome, if they can be overcome.
Again, I shouldn't have to be explaining this. Nor do most readers need this. But there are always the hippopotamus-hided minority. Which reminds me of a criticism made by Analog's reviewer, P. Schuyler Miller. He claimed that I wasn't a historian because I showed a state of Iroquois who had grail-slaves. Miller said that the Iroquois didn't have slaves. They either killed their captives or adopted them into the tribe.
This was true, and I knew it was. I've been reading books on the Iroquois language mythology, and ethnography since I was a kid. What Miller overlooked is that the lazari can't stick to all their old customs. Due to the constant mixing up and reshuffling of peoples, the new societies have to abandon many of the old ways.
There is only one way open to the Riverworld Iroquois to get an excess of booze, tabacco, and food. That is to have grail-slaves. So the Iroquois adapt. History shows that they have been a very adaptable people. They adapted to the fur trade introduced by the whites so well that they came close to conquering a thousand-mile stretch of upper Eastern North America and even made forays as far west as Illinois. They even crossed the Mississippi once, but the Soiux whipped hell out of them.
(Just received a letter from Bill Rotsler. He finally read the Riverworld books and is eager to read more. These, he says, are the only books he's read in which the reader himself is a character and might possibly encounter himself. Which is true. And the reader may bot be described in the series, but he knows that at one time or another, Burton and Clemens and King John and John F. Kennedy and Ramses II have seen him and he's seen them, though niether may recognize the other. And the reader, if he's imaginative, can go into his own fantasies about the great men and women he'll meet or how he told his boss off, or how he finds his beloved dead alive again, or tried to avoid meeting them, or...)
That's enough of this. I'm going into my laboratory now. I've been working on a perceptivity pill, and as soon as I perfect it, I'll send supplies to those reviewers needing it.