THE INDEPENDENT PRESS REVIEW
The Black Flame
Stanley G. Weinbaum, introduction by Sam Moskowitz.
228 pp., hardcover (limited), $26.00 (2+ copies $16.00 ea.), ISBN: 0-9648320-0-3, Tachyon Publications.
A specialty publisher in San Francisco has published a jewel of a novel from the Golden Age of science fiction, and, further, the first uncut version of this classic. To shorten a long story, the editor of a 1939 pulp magazine, Startling Stories, hacked the manuscript (Weinbaum’s already established master status notwithstanding) due to space considerations, and book publishers used the hacked version. Even shortened, the novel created a stir; complete, it makes a resounding good read in the cyberpunk ‘90’s. OK, in this future fiction true love conquers all, the demigod rulers of humanity are benevolent (a motif harder to sell after WWII), and the main characters are slightly larger-than-life—these and other period features are present. However, Weinbaum was both a craftsman and crafty, and the book bursts with fine detail keenly rendered. His blend of sustainable rural ecology and high-tech megalopolis, immortal aristocrats and amphibian mutants, is intriguing. His creation of “flying triangles” using some version of anti-grav seems prophetic of George Adamski’s ‘50’s saucers; his pneumatic tubes crisscrossing the land are a clean and more credible shipping system than our interstates; and his sardonic “messenger” (technical name vitergon) which attaches itself psychicly to its targeted victim and forces compliance is a brilliant if chilling version of a future policing technology. Moskowitz (another sf veteran) contributes a 20-page, 1995 introduction that gives the interested reader (like me), through the microcosm of The Black Flame’s ‘40’s and ‘50’s publishing history, a portrait of genre publishing from behind the scenes, including how much Weinbaum earned, what happened to the books, and so on. Kudos for Tachyon—if you get their one-page book list, you’ll find other gems by Clifford D. Simak, James Tiptree, Jr. (a poetry collection!), Mary Shelley (6 supernatural short stories), and more.—Lourie
The Book of Strangers
152 pp., paper, $14.95, ISBN: 0-88706-991-6, State University of New York Press
“Today I am leaving. I am leaving the Library, my house, my friends, the city where I live. I do not know where I am going. Strangest of all, I am leaving the Library in order to find a book.” So begins this brief but beautiful novel of a head librarian’s journey of investigation into the disappearance of his predecessor, which becomes a journey of spiritual initiation. The tale glows with archetypes and mystery, like a fairy tale or allegory—at least for the first half. The “head librarian” might be an emblem for the “head” in any of us, which must be seduced by the heart into confrontation with the Divine (check your Rumi). Dallas’s writing brings to mind some of my favorite contemporary spiritual tales: Rene Daumal’s Mount Analogue, Ouspensky’s The Strange Life of Ivan Osokin, David Lindsay’s Voyage to Arcturus, that brilliant fantasy written in the ‘20’s. However, when Dallas’s ex-librarian passes from a labyrinth of mysterious clues and veiled radiances into the community of a dervish Shayk, the narrative becomes more a spiritual memoir than an allegory or dream. It reads like the autobiography of a westerner whose destiny is to embrace Islam. The book is gentle and illuminating, another good companion volume to the Rumi poetry collection. Just because I personally prefer the magic of Borges’ and other wisdom tales to the travelogues of Europeans doesn’t make this tale a failure. I agree with the Alan Watts assessment of Dallas on the book jacket: “He has—as is very rare with mystical writers—given a vision of God that, instead of summoning with duty, allures with delight.”—Lourie
My Journey with Aristotle to the Anarchist Utopia
128 pp., paper, $7.00, ISBN:0-9622937-6-8, III Publishing.
192 pp., paper, $7.00, ISBN: 0-9622937-7-6, III Publishing.
320 pp., paper, $12.00, ISBN: 0-9622937-8-4, III Publishing.
All three of these books are from a small publishing company in California that specializes in left radical materials. There are many such small publishers in the Country that specialize in small (sometimes minute) segments of the publishing field. They run the gamut from left radical to left liberal to right conservative to American Nazi to cross dressers to how-to books on Table Tennis. Every possible part of the reading public seems to have its own publisher. I think it's wonderful. What a glorious confusion of voices, all trying to make themselves heard, and in the case of some of the more conservative busily trying to shut everyone else up. For someone of an inquisitive nature like myself it is a veritable promised land.
The company under consideration here is III Publishing. I don't know whether that is Three Publishing or Aye Aye Aye Publishing, but I don't suppose it matters much. The three books are all novels of a radical anarchist slant. The quality varies widely. My Journey with Aristotle to the Anarchist Utopia by Graham Purchase reads about like you would expect of a book with such a title. It is probably the most nakedly didactic book I have ever read. It purports to be a novel, but there is no attempt to make it interesting or realistic. The dialogue is so stilted and poorly written as to be nearly unreadable. Everything is sacrificed to the purpose of getting the Philosophical point across. I rather liked his Philosophy, but the style of the piece made my teeth ache.
Next up for consideration is Resurrection 2027 by J.G. Eccarius and here we fare much better. This is a well written science fiction novel of a post apocalypse society that has survived the general collapse of civilization by transforming itself into a Matriarchy that worships Mary the Mother of Jesus as God. Propagation is by cloning and the implantation by brain washing of memories of pre apocalypse individuals, hence the resurrection of the title. An extraordinarily rigid society is created partly because of the stress of the fight for survival and partly because of the tendency of a bureaucracy to ossify. The point is made quite strongly that replacing a Patriarchy with a Matriarchy won’t buy you much because the basic problem is the archy not the patri or matri, a point with which I very strongly agree.
The last book is A.D. by Saab Lofton, and it is definitely the class of the field. The Author, according to the blurb, has worked as a Cartoonist, a Nude Model, a Pro wrestling manager, (obviously the nadir of his career so far) and a Columnist. He lived on the streets in Berkeley while going to Solano College and is currently in the Film Department at San Francisco State and is presumably no longer living on the streets. As you might expect with such a background Lofton's prose is breezy and hip. He has a relaxed and amusing style even when talking of horrific subjects. He sounds like a person whom it would be fun to know. The basic premise of the book is that the United States in the first part of the next century collapses and is divided up between the White Aryan Brotherhood and the Nation of Islam. Each mini-nation is a mirror image of the other as both groups are essentially Fascist. The Author makes the interesting point that while Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam is a right wing Fascist group the Black Panthers are left Libertarians. I lived through the period and always had a real admiration for the Panthers (although my white skin and blue eyes would probably cause some comment at a Panther rally), so I would tend to agree with his assessment. The protagonist, Elijah Isiah, is living in Chicago in the Lost Found Nation of Islam in North America, and making heavy weather of it . He loses his job and stumbles into contact with the underground. He manages to get his son whom he adores on the Underground Railroad to Canada before getting picked up by the authorities. Instead of being killed he is used as a Guinea Pig in an experiment in suspended animation. He awakes some four hundred years later in an Anarchist Utopia and is given the grand tour by his great, great many times removed Grandson. His own son whom he had sent to Canada four hundred years before turned out to be the highly revered Father of the Revolution that brought about this Utopia. This is the bare bones of the slightly predictable plot, but the real meat of the novel is in the digressions and discourses along the way. I would heartily recommend this book to anyone, and I am going to order several copies for the more conservative of my friends. Another view point can't hurt.—Corlies
Resurrection 2027—2nd comment
$7.00, Paperback, ISBN 0-9622937-7-6, III Publishing
Ann Swanson lives in 21st century Zion. A top student in her class, she is called by the Mothers to work at the Temple of Resurrection. She "remembers" her life before the Apocalypse when she died of the Plague. Now she is one of the Children, a special class of individuals who have been resurrected by Mary, the Mother of God (or by her representatives) in a laboratory devoted to producing babies from genetic material of those who have died. Ann is special--she's been resurrected.
Those who lived through the Apocalypse are another class--the Saints. They keep their mouths shut, for the most part. And then their are the Mothers. Watch out for them! The reader might note also a warning printed in the front of the book: "This is not an ordinary book. It is written in ordinary language, because that is a language you understand. But it is an organism, suspended in time, in black ink on white paper (or bits of light or electricity if you downloaded this), an organism waiting for a host. You are the host..."—Hart
Mr. President: A Spiritual Journey
Colin D. Mallard, Ph.D
$15.95, paperback, ISBN: 0-9646040-4-3, Wild Duck Publishing
Imagine a president of the United States who's studied with a spiritual master and has come to a state of enlightenment and mastery of himself! Pretty unbelievable? Maybe. But it's so much fun to read about this hypothetical situation that I can't recommend this novel enough! In this story the president is a man of compassion and grace who treats the problems of running the country like they are the problems of a rebellious youth. Everyone he encounters on the job is met with respect and fairness. His meetings with the Joint Chiefs of Staff--a bit tense, some of them--are tempered by the President's even authority and Lao-Tsu-like serenity.
The story quickly involves the reader in events not unlike events we hear about in the news all the time. We travel across international waters to the tribulations of the Middle East, tough and realistically portrayed. We get caught up in the poignant story of a Sufi shepherd living as a hermit in the mountains--helping others and teaching where he can, by his example and his love, in the middle of the guerilla warfare which surrounds his cave. The plot brings these two men together--the president and the shepherd--in South Lebanon--and although they come from dramatically different cultures, they share their intense love of life and move through the drama which unfolds for the benefit of all the participants--including the reader. What kind of book is this? Well, first and foremost it's a novel. It also nudges the reader awake. All is well. How could it be otherwise?—Hart
©1996 Gateways Books and Tapes