Racing to Lemuria

By Earl Kemp
Copyright © 2012, 2013 by Earl Kemp, all rights reserved

I have now written three different pieces regarding Ray Palmer, Richard Shaver, The Shaver Mystery, and the dastardly Deros. The only thing left to do is to link those three pieces together and let the race begin for real. Two similar but very different “horses” (Fred Nadis and Richard Toronto) are at the starting gate waiting for the signal to begin the big race down to Lemuria where the Deros patiently await to cheer their horse on toward the finish line.

Will there be a winner?

The first horse is Fred Nadis and his The Man from Mars, and this is what I wrote about it:

The Man from Mars

So, to begin with, I’m not perfect. I screw up at times. I goof and make mistakes and can’t spell worth a damn and SpellCheck only makes it worse. Damn shame I’m not as perfect as I think I could have once been.

So, I’m one of the “influential” people who received an advance, unproofread copy of Fred Nadis’s The Man from Mars. I am also one of the few people still around who knew personally all the major characters in this book and many of the minor ones as well.

So, again, why not just rip into it and see what I can shake up and who I can piss off the most.

Starting with myself. By far the biggest pissoff I have is with the publisher, Penguin…Jeremy Tarcher/Penguin. Like all the other respected, old, traditional publishers, Tarcher/Penguin appears to have no editor and no proofreader. Since this is clearly an unproofread prepub copy I’m going to ignore all the simple misspellings, odd punctuation, etc. and focus on the content as far as it is possible for me to do so and still remain sane (occasionally, I hope).

But, to Penguin I pointed say SHAME ON YOU! Have you no pride?

I like the layout of the book, the extra leading between lines of type for easy reading. The typefaces are all comfortable but the annoying things to me are the casualness and disregard with which the whole thing was constructed. It feels as if Tarcher/Penguin didn’t give a damn, especially about the reader, or about the language.

Every visual in the book is of very poor quality. I am aware of books using visuals much poorer to begin with than the ones used here that are very much better reproduced…reproductions of reproductions yet somehow brought into much sharper view. Work is definitely needed in this area.

And, before I get much further astray, I need to say a kind word or two (I don’t want to give him a big head though) about Fred Nadis. If I didn’t know what I was reading, and the basics of all of it, I would say that he has done a superb job, considering the things he had to work with. His writing is smooth and effortless (though he needs to make it appear a bit more like second draft).

While I credit all of the problems with the book directly to Tarcher/Penguin, I also feel that it is Nadis’s obligation to override their poor workmanship with his own corrections of his original drafts. Since this copy is unproofread I have no way of knowing how much of the stuff I hate as a reader has already been cleaned up.

The reader (God) always dominates, not the writer and absolutely never the publisher.

When I was learning how to do some of this stuff way back before the beginning it was hammered into me that the first rule of writing/publishing/etc. was: “Consistency is dominant over accuracy” and, to say the least, there is nothing consistent about this book.

Let me count the ways:

Forrest J Ackerman appears (correctly) alternating with Forrest J. Ackerman (a total no-no).

Earth is alternately earth or Earth.

Science fiction is either science-fiction or science fiction depending on which line of type you’re reading.

Initial names are alternately A. E. or A.E.

Amazing Stories is either italicized or in straight typeface without reason (see p29 in opening display, see p87 within two lines of each other) and numerous other magazine titles are treated in the same manner.

Ellipses are always fours with no terminal punctuation. Extremely distracting!

Random bitches:

Early on (page number not noted) infant RAP (which itself is alternated as RAP or Rap) watches his nude mother comb her hair. Why? Who gives a flying fig? What had that to do with anything else going on here?

There is mention that visitors to Rap would bypass the reception area and go directly to Rap’s (or whoever else’s) office without any announcement. This was certainly true for that point in time…for most publishers who sort of “grew” inside office buildings at times on different floors, etc. If you wanted to see John Campbell, for instance, you just walked into his office and interrupted him (earning no brownie points), but that’s the way it was. Rap himself would talk of this situation frequently, including how actress Claudette Colbert did just that to him, among others. I certainly did it far too many times…a thing that I absolutely forbid when I moved into a position where I could absolutely forbid anything and get away with it.

Nadis, early on, equates 1930’s events as being similar to taking LSD (that wasn’t yet invented for decades).

Imagination, on the back cover and at p141 is conveyed in a self contradictory (therefore meaningless) manner that Rap did more than merely “front” the first issue for WLH, which he did not do.

A reference to J.W. Campbell and Astounding Tales at p36?

An illegal s had been added to ward-ending words randomly…a total US no-no.

British English moustaches similarly are worn.

Much to my surprise I find that I am responsible for/credited with much of the content either from my own writings or from that of other persons published in one form or another by me over the years. Indeed flattering. I had no idea how “influential” I was once upon a time. Makes me wonder where I screwed up in my growing senility. Yet, personally, I don’t appear until p164 and again, larger than life, at p184.

I met another old friend (or clown) that I did not expect in relation to Rap, Criswell, at p174 and p183. He was a walking, bonded other-self to Ed Wood, Jr. and, together, they amused me on numerous occasions.

Similarly a number of references to old friend Margaret Ford Kiefer…a true goddess of Midwest fandom.

Chum Mike Ashley is mentioned numerous times throughout the book and always, correctly so, positively.

Credit is given to the various university libraries, individuals, etc. who supplied visuals for the book.

Ray, Jr. gets a good bit more exposure than he deserves.

The typesetting, replete with superfluous punctuation has a number of “that that” doubles that seriously need to be corrected. P172

Rog Phillips…was a very close good friend. He was, among other things, godfather to my first son, Earl Terry. I do not remember him as being quite the flake Nadis portrays, but then I knew him a bit more closely over the years. He was, among other things, a babe magnet and a most honorable person. He greatly enriched my life.

While Rog was writing all that stuff for Rap (and other editors) and living in Chicago, he did his writing overnights, so he could party during his days. He worked as night watchman in a casket factory with prearranged access to office typewriters and 20 lb. bond…and hacked away all night every working night on those tomes….

MAJOR MISSING ITEMS:

In my opinion there are two major missing things about Rap:

  • Over the years he sponsored a number of public lectures, etc. in rented auditoriums with semi big-name speakers/performers/frauds that attracted quite a bit of attention. I would attend those events and do everything in my power to screw with the speaker…Adamski, etc. Some of them were really hard to take just listening to the absurd impossibilities they preached. Rap and I had numerous excited conversations about the idiocy of it all.
  •  
  • The Man from Tomorrow…his long-running series of predictions about the future, all off the top of his head and each one just that much more ridiculous than the previous one. Rap and I had numerous excited conversations about the idiocy of it all.  

###

The second horse is of a slightly different color. It was written to be the Introduction to Richard Toronto’s War over Lemuria and is titled “Escape from Lemuria,” only McFarland, looking for a little breathing room, dumped it from the manuscript, along with several thousand related words. Because they annoyed me so by doing that, I asked Robert Lichtman to do me a great favor and run the piece in Trap Door #29, which he did, much to my delight. And, in this compilation, it goes about here:

Escape From Lemuria

Ego, or lack thereof, has never been my problem. Always being in the wrong time or the wrong place has, if I ignore all those times when I’ve really lucked out and been in the right place at the right time. Never could make them happen the way I wanted them to be when I wanted them to. Part of that was because I had always been pushed ahead of my time. I was three years behind my contemporaries in school, physically, emotionally, and intellectually. I was always the runt of the litter, the “kid,” the put-upon one, lagging behind and envious of my elders.

I had this pushy way of intruding, forcing my presence upon people I thought I admired. I didn’t even think twice about it, didn’t know how offensive it was to others, especially the ones who didn’t want to see me in the first place.

So there I was in 1945, fifteen years old and surely a pain in the ass, and addicted to trashy pulp magazines. That’s when Richard Shaver’s (who was 22 years older than me) “I Remember Lemuria” appeared in the March issue of Amazing Stories.

I thought it was a piece of crap, and the writer a complete idiot. It wasn’t my kind of fantasy because it overlapped into the ridiculous and I was much too busy to waste any time on it. Besides that, the real world was falling apart as World War II was ending and Germany closing up the killing machine.

By June 1947, when I was 17, Amazing Stories erupted with “The Shaver Mystery” and I felt totally betrayed. My favorite form of escape literature and my favorite magazine were treating me to another round of absurdity. I didn’t know if I could survive or not.

That was when I made my first foray into pretend adulthood as I ran away to Chicago to “find my fortune.” Only I didn’t. I was much too young and immature to make it on my own, so I surrendered to my incapabilities and returned home to the backwoods of unbelievably rural Arkansas (decades before Richard Shaver found it it existed). I stashed away every dollar I could get my hands on and, in 1948, as I turned 19, I tried the Chicago thing again.

This time I made it into reality, almost. What I did was find a job and immediately did something else stupid, got married…and inherited a ton of the best part of the past.

Unknown to me, someone up there had elected me as the official depository and mechanic of the local science fiction mystique. Those who had been in charge during the 1930s and ’40s were gradually retiring, being replaced by a whole new crew who would own the gestalt for the 1950s and ’60s.

Good-bye to all that. Hello, Future!

They were all mine. I was the boss and I knew for sure that I was in control and I couldn’t even force myself to be a little humble around them.

Ziff-Davis had dumped its last load in Chicago by 1949 and split for New York City with Howard Browne the heir apparent, and it was up to me to gather up all the pieces, the debris of a glorious past, and at least observe them, if not push them, as they worked out new routes of existence.

By 1951 I was formally an adult, 21, and stretching my abilities to the max. I was working two jobs, attending regular meetings of the UofCSFClub, making babies, and a social butterfly soaking up everything remotely related to science fiction.

I forced myself onto everyone I could get close to, starting with Ray Palmer, my hero, especially after he hired Bea Mahaffey, my lust object for years. And there was the wonderful Frank M. Robinson, of whom I had been jealous for ages because he had been the person I wanted to be…the office boy at Ziff-Davis.

And never-to-be-forgotten Frances Ferris Yerxa, and her and Leroy’s children, and the ever-popular William Lawrence Hamling who became my good friend, mentor, and boss for more than a decade of unforgettable malice and resistance and rebellion against authority! Never trust anyone over 30!

And Harold McCauley, and Chet Geier, and Henry Bott, and Curtis Fuller, and Fate, Other Worlds, Flying Saucers, and that damnably infuriating Shaver idiot.

A casual glance at a J. Allen St. John cover painting could send my mind into fantasyland for hours, if not days…or at least John Carter’s fifty-minute hour. And there was Ted and Judy Dikty and Melvin Korshak and their inspirational Shasta Publishers…and in 1952 the best of all possible worlds, the World Science Fiction Convention…where I met all of my heroes and made forever impressions on them. Rog “the fabulous” Phillips high on the list of favorite people.

I spent much time with Ray Palmer, who was by then a bit on the off-and-on commuting to Evanston, Illinois, from far off Wisconsin, leaving me lots of time alone with Bea in the office chain-smoking killer nicotine, blowing clouds of death over those glorious Hannes Bok cover paintings hanging on the office walls, coating them in filthy yellow scum.

Hannes himself had become a great friend by then and I would visit him once or twice a year in his New York tenement. And damned near everyone else even remotely associated with science fiction…all the editors, publishers, artists, writers…ever single one I could corner and force to pretend to pay attention to me as I begged for more and more of that good stuff please sir thank you very much.

Ray was my friend. Most of the time the two of us spent together had us both jostling for sanity. After our initial meeting I never saw Palmer as a physical mistake, because, for me, the man overrode the physical and he and I spoke the same language.

I ridiculed him, put him down at every opportunity, and criticized him for all that “puerile Lemuria garbage” that he kept perpetuating, pushing that pathetic Shaver guy light-years beyond his capabilities and his value. And Ray just kept coming back for more, that warm, reassuring grin on his face, those sparkling twinkles in his eyes registering how very much he, too, was enjoying our unrealities.

Flashforward! Years later, after Hamling had moved me and his paperback publishing empire, better known as Greenleaf Classics, to San Diego, California, the feds came knock, knock, knocking on our front door. It seemed that they needed us in Houston for a major federal trial regarding some alleged pornography called, in those days, smut.

And wouldn’t you know it, Richard Shaver was right in the middle of it all. Seems, way back when, he became one of the corporate owners, thereby guilty of the alleged crimes against the US citizens perpetrated by yours truly and a host of righteous First Amendment soldiers. And I rated a very special assignment.

My boss somehow felt the need to divert Shaver’s attention away from reality (Again? His feet rarely touched the ground as it was.) for at least the duration of the trial. He assigned me that special duty…keeping Shaver’s mind occupied. He expected that I would…again as usual…perform miracles. And I did.

At that time I was 37 and Shaver was 59. I had never met him before…avoided everything he ever published. We had not one single common element, nothing to share. Secretly I felt he was a total looser, an atrocious writer, and a mental nutcase. And even after all this time I was/am still right in those feelings.

Nevertheless, for all practical purposes, for two weeks, we were inseparable…best buddies going the limit for each other. We prowled the streets of Houston, went shopping in stores neither of us even wanted to enter. We made a trip to Galveston and waded in the gulf waters. Ate far too many meals and drank occasional beers and never, not for a moment, did either of us dare mention Lemuria, or those stupid things inside those rocks, or that awful language, or the dreadful Deros…just two good old boys ploddy plodding their way through a nightmare of FBI prodding, illegal snooping, and evil name-calling.

Much to my surprise, spending that time with Richard Shaver wasn’t totally negative down-time. I decided that, unexplainably, I sort of almost liked him. Just another good old boy from the sticks with too much imagination to be contained inside one mind. Too much memory of times and places as yet uncreated.

And then the whole thing got thrown out of court and everyone had a big laugh about it all and Shaver went back to Summit…

…and I was finally able to escape from Lemuria.

###

The real second horse is Richard Toronto and his War over Lemuria, and this is what I wrote about it:

War over Lemuria

I felt I did an excellent hatchet job on Fred Nadis’s The Man from Mars, so much so I wondered if I could do the same with Richard Toronto’s War over Lemuria. Let me count the ways….

For months, it seemed, both Nadis and Toronto kept nagging at me, asking questions I didn’t know the answers to, wanting to know what it was that I had long forgotten that I didn’t want to dredge up again, especially for them. I did my damnedest to avoid both of them, even to the point of being ugly and rude, only that didn’t work. Nothing could shut them up, it felt like they would just go on and on and….

Then, before I even recognized what was happening, Toronto had me digging backward through my memories, trying to answer his annoying questions. Then, after a bit, I realized that he was growing on me and regardless of how difficult it was to even just read his emails, I was working for him. He was a friend. Is a friend.

Next I began thinking of what was happening as being some kind of race to discover which of the two writers would finish their same-themed book first? Which would be the better of the two? Which title would hit the marketplace first? Be the most successful? Time will tell, says the cliché.

I could do no more for either of them than to treat them both just the same, unrelentingly negative until they prove me wrong. It does happen now and then, when I least expect it. So…what do we have here…?

The race is over. Toronto has at least left the starting gate first; his book is already in stores and on the Internet, shipping now from the usual suspects. Nadis is still waiting at the starting gate ready to go off on June 13.

The Man from Mars has 263 text pages and will retail for $28.95.

War over Lemuria has 242 text pages and retails for $45.00.

Do not jump to the conclusion that 28 beats 45, because it does not. Both books also have notes, biblio, and index in addition to those text pages. And the astonishing thing is the Toronto book contains at a minimum FIVE TIMES the wordage as does the Nadis book. And while that is the advantage it is certainly the more negative of the two in at least one respect.

I remember that I strongly chastised Tarcher/Penguin for editorial and proofreading failures, while at the same time complimenting them on the fine readable quality of their product.

I can’t say the same for this McFarland book. It whomps the reader up against the side of their head like a sledgehammer blow. It is painfully awful. Imagine several hundred words per each page of a double-page spread challenging you to struggle through all those 8-point type, set solid pages…sort of like staring at a huge blank wall. Then continue to imagine quoted inserts within those 8-point-type pages done in SIX point type. Daunting? For sure. Painful? You betcha. Damned difficult trying to read it holding a magnifying glass just to be able to see the 6-point type, much less understanding it.

And, on top of all that agony, McFarland has the audacity to charge $45.00 a copy.

What a bargain.

But, aside from all that completely unreasonable punishment McFarland passes along with copies of the book, they’ve done one hell of a job editing it. That is a good thing, a compliment; maybe the only one they deserve.

I’ve examined most of the rough draft and know for a fact that they cut the original HEAVILY to get it to the point of being five times the Nadis volume. Nit-picking, struggling over pettiness, stretching the time and work out endlessly…and yet they did a superior job (I did say I was familiar with the working copy. I KNOW how hard they had to work to bring it up to the level of the published version) across the board.

[Plus, McFarland, I feel the need to mention that along with the contents cut to form this publication for room was “Escape from Lemuria,” my introduction for War. Thanks.]

What I have to object to mostly is the same thing I objected to mostly with Nadis: blatant inconsistency. This appears here most often in the use of italicized titles being either straight faced or italicized depending on where and how they fall within the text. As examples I call McFarland’s attention to:

p. 29 Amazing Stories

p. 31 Fantasy Magazine

p. 32 Science Fiction Digest

p. 43 “Secret of the Observatory”

p. 50 Amazing Stories

p. 84 “20 Million Maniacs”

p. 147 Amazing Stories

Each of these appear in the wrong typeface. I suspect there are others that I missed but these were so blatant they just jumped up off the crowded, type-infested, painful double-page spreads. Also I made mental note (lost forever) of perhaps three small misstatements or errors of fact that probably don’t matter at all…ignored.

Now an additional insignificant bitch:

p. 180 “cover artist Paul Mccauly”  Is this possibly a reference to “cover artist Harold W. McCauley”?

If it is, in spite of the spelling, it is a goof that should have been corrected. Shame on you, guilty person.

Special but additional insignificant positiveness:

p. 5 [Linda Jane] said, “By the way my dad talked, it was pretty much impossible to know if he believed what he was saying or not. I think he got a lot of satisfaction from that. He was always a good talker and a good writer and had a vivid imagination.”

So very true. I very much enjoyed the talks I had with Rap way back when. I can still see that silly little “guilty” grin on his face and the omnipresent twinkle in his eye when I would tell him he was full of shit.

p. 7 Not quoted but a very interesting tidbit about Harlan Ellison, at 17, a pushy, annoying little pain in the ass hassling Rap about the Shaver Mystery.

p. 20 Quoting Howard Browne: “[His appearance] made meeting the man for the first time a jarring experience, but anyone spending any time at all with him soon became unaware of  his deformity.”

p. 20 Quoting Robert Bloch: “I listen to him speak, and find myself forgetting the dwarf stature and hunched back…almost completely ignored his physical attributes.”

Again, so very true. It worked exactly that way for me. After the initial shock I saw him as the giant of a man he was internally. Whatever we were, regardless of his professional status and my feeble fannish wannabeism, we were two contemporaries who, to a certain extent, agreed on far too many things to be less than friends. (To say nothing about the added incentive of the ever lovely Bea Mahaffey.)

War over Lemuria is a magnificent piece of workmanship cementing, finally, all the scattered debris surrounding the truly terrible Shaver Mystery. Reading through the volume (aside from the physical pain involved and wear and tear on my ageing eyes and magnifying glass) is very much like talking a casual stroll through my past. Along the way I encountered many very good friends who once made my life more worth living. I felt like I was revisiting them again, cherishing the warm memories of them ignited within me.

I don’t have superlatives enough to do War justice. A must-have item for all truth hungry SF addicts…cheap at double the sale price.

And, since I bitched about the poor reproduction of the B&W photos in the Nadis book, I should point out that the visuals are, for the most part (except those embarrassing Shaver paintings) superiorly presented.

###

Now, the really, really good parts:

Because I had access to Toronto’s working copies I am aware not only of the editing nightmares involved but the amount of text that McFarland insisted be cut from the book because of space limitations. (I will never forgive them though for the pain involved with their greedy, cheap avoidance of readable type. A company of their stature should pop a few pennies for additional pages and larger size typefaces.) In my estimation there is easily enough unused text left over for a minimum of three more Nadis-size titles…and that still-to-be-published text is all solid, informative, and incredibly researched and documented.

When the other volumes appear…provided they send me free copies…I’ll be delighted to rip into them and bitch about all their incompetency and my easily recognized superiority.

###

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