Another fan writer who needs little introduction is Arthur Hlavaty. We first met Arthur about ten years ago, fannishly in print, as it happened. Even though he moved south to nearby North Carolina several years ago, we unfortunately still only cross paths infrequently. But we did see each other at Corflu (the fanzine fans' convention) in Cincinnati this past April, where he agreed to write this article for us.
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The Mad Dogs of Memory
by Arthur Hlavaty

I think I can usually manage to present myself as a moderate and civilized person, perhaps even shy. But I know that beneath that unassuming exterior lurks a screaming ego, a thing of massive proportions, ready to proclaim itself to the world. It's not money or power that I want; it's the idea of leaving a monument of words -- my words, my phrases, my ideas -- out there where everybody can see them. In my more grandiose moments, I want everything I say to be known and remembered.

Now that's egotistical, bombastic, perhaps even megalomaniac -- but nobody's perfect. That doesn't bother me so much, but I've realized that there is something worse about it than that: it would mean that everything I say would be known and remembered.

One of the drawbacks to this plan for self-aggrandizement just came up as I was reading Robert Anton Wilson's new book, Natural Law, or Don't Put a Rubber on Your Willy (Loompanics, tbp 1987). In this most enjoyable work, Wilson takes on those who believe that there are Moral Laws of the Universe, particularly those who hold that belief without believing in God, rather as if the Universe were a police state without police.

I was having a delightful time watching Wilson smite those he disagreed with (and maybe miss once or twice), until he got to one writer who "regards nature as a combination of slaughterhouse and madhouse against which, by great effort, a few human beings have created a few enclaves of reason and decency..."

Well, that certainly seemed excessive, maybe a way of excusing failure, or maybe just a way of making one's life seem heroic and melodramatic, but certainly something that could use a bit of Wilson's skilled scorn. Except that he had mentioned whom he'd heard that idea from: me.

Did I really sat that? Well, I'm afraid so, or at least something close to it. It wasn't all that long ago, and I can more or less remember doing it. I was thinking of the way the life of our primitive ancestors probably was nasty, brutish, and short; of the fact that people could not survive in most environments without such human inventions as houses and clothing; of the presence of predatory animals, disease germs, and other elements hostile to human survival; of the fact that almost no one makes it to 100 years, and apparently no one makes it much past that. I was thinking of Yossarian, in Catch-22, translating the fact that he, as an Allied bombardier in World War II, was being shot at by Axis anti-aircraft guns, into "someone's trying to kill me," and thinking one could make a similar statement about nature and the world in general.

It made a kind of sense. All I had to do was ignore the fact that nature also provides all the good things we enjoy, and that what we do, just like what is done to us, is part of nature. It sounded good at the time.

I would like to tell you that this was my one fall from grace, the one time when, intoxicated by my own words, I stumbled into strange ideas that I myself would eventually see as horrible examples. I would like to, but I am sure that there are other things I wrote that sounded good, at the time, and will be quoted back at me. For instance, there's -- but no. A questionnaire that ran in a couple of apas I belong to included: "If there were one fanzine of yours that you could expunge from history, which would it be?" Many of us leaped to the chance to recount embarrassing, even disastrous episodes from our fannish past. I believe that one person -- not me -- had the good sense to reply, "You don't think I'd tell, do you?"

illo by Charlie Williams I know that if the stuff is there, it will come back. As a science-fiction fan, I live in a community that sometimes seems to have too much memory. As I was writing this, the doorbell rang. It was a friend of mine who was involved in con-running feuds five or more years ago. He was waving around a copy of a fanzine which talked about these five-year-old feuds as if they were going on right now, before our very eyes. Fandom is held together by shared memories and shared experiences, but the bit players and even the villains of those drama are the stars of their own plays and don't want to be seen forever as the Iagos and Osrics that they once appeared to be.

I feel as if I am doubly cursed if I write something I'd later like to see forgotten. Not only have I introduced my folly into a community with far too good a memory, but I have put words on paper, and even if all the people forgot, the pqper doesn't forget. In the latest Izzard, Teresa Nielsen Hayden talks about copies of a 25-year-old secret apa that fell into her hands. It is a reminder to all of us that the printed word will not go away by itself. In fact, there may well be some corollary of Murphy's Law stating that it's the worst (or at least most embarrassing) zine you do that survives the longest.

I do know that it could be worse for me. I entered science-fiction fandom in my thirties, and whenever I think of the fannish pleasures I may have missed by not discovering it sooner, I remind myself that this also means that I am luckier than some of my fellow fans, in that there are no extant writings of mine from my teenage years, when I would have been emitting heartfelt statements like "I'LL NEVER GET LAID!!!!!"

And there's a more cheering thought than that. I've been doing this stuff for ten years now. If in that time, I hadn't written anything that I strongly disagreed with now, it would mean either that I'd never written anything controversial in those ten years, which is such a boring prospect I'd rather not think about it, or I hadn't changed my mind about anything in 10 years, which is the next best thing to being dead.

illo by Charlie Williams
All illustrations by Charlie Williams

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