Gerry Reith on Factsheet Five

The mystery of SF fandom’s eternal obscurity is easily solved by taking a look at some of its members’ work. While Mike Gunderloy may not be a fully-qualified boot-lapper, he certainly aspires to it considering the praise he heaps on those, deeper in the cult, mentioned in his disgusting quarterly, Factsheet Five.

Factsheet Five is supposedly intended to serve as a useful function by publicizing the work of others. From the start we see the sterility of the project: whereas newspapers in the modern age are little more than advertising circulars with a few random and trivial facts thrown in to hold the reader’s interest and induce him to turn the pages, here we have the circular itself, pure, standing alone.

And what does he purvey? We have a selection of anarchist newsletters, some good, some not; the self-published work of a number of understandably obscure artists — understandably not in that I presume to judge that which I haven’t seen, but in that they are young and make the mistake of associating with Gunderloy-types — … and a few book reviews that are more an attempt to keep the reader well-aware that Mr. G reads a lot, a lot of the correct stuff, than anything else.

Lately he has gotten others to join him in his reviewing dabbles; none of them distinguished for their ability to make up their mind or say anything with any flair. Anni Ackner stands out, but offensively so: while she shows signs of style, it is overdone, so far as to become vile. Her angle is cuteness and clever turn-of-phrase; and as they say, brevity is the soul of wit. Alone among them I forgive her and grant indulgence in hopes that someone will pass on this single recommendation: learn to cut. She may redeem herself.

The rest inspire actual loathing. Those misfortunate enough to earn a listing with FF have to be imagined as victims of chagrin or mild distaste… either that or stupid… because no matter what it is, no exceptions allowed, Gunderloy and his crew manage in their tired two sentence assessment to denigrate it. Not a single thing mentioned in their little list is not followed with some disclaimer to the effect that “it’s okay if you like that kind of stuff,” or, “real weird, kiddies.” Somehow it comes off as an unintentional masterpiece: here is a promoter who spoils everything he touches! As if to detour promotion, he spits on everything deemed worthy of mention; what makes it beautiful is that he doesn’t seem to realize it.

Despite the puerile off-handed and strainedly-relaxed pose that Gunderloy takes, the one that provokes him to say that FF is a review of the stuff that appears in his mailbox, we detect a unifying theme: that of the quest for entertainment-value. Gunderloy is promoting obscurity and unusualness in the arts and in politics; he hopes to find something strange enough to hold his interest for more than a minute.

And this is why he is doomed to failure. The connoisseur, jaded, is still going to appreciate things for what they are. He doesn’t. He is too dull; too much concerned with finding fashionably deviant material to wave around and secure for himself credentials as an “Underground Contactee”. He’ll always be bored with it all, because the only use he gets from art is titillation, and the only use he has for political doctrine resembles a straight man for snide, uncomprehending comments. Not a single thing there seems to provoke a reflection from him more profound than that the item in question “may go somewhere,” — as with a political group; or that it is “worth the price.” Some reviews!

Worse: he has no opinion, not even one he values enough to stand up for. This means he will of course remain uninformed, willfully ignorant, and that he will grant no respect to the ideas of others. A writer so lacking in ability worth being proud of, or ideas worth arguing about, cannot be of much use to the reader. He comes off as a pompous, condescending, patronizing phony; he won’t commit himself to anything, and we begin to see the disparate entries not so much as an exemplary refusal to be politically-blinkered as an inability to make up his own mind about anything. The listees are all sold-out, mediated, cheaply described in terms of their value to intellectual masturbator of the western world… number 857,622. To be contemplated by Gunderloy is to be insulted.

A fraud. He can’t or won’t make up his mind about anything; he is quick to deliver the sneering line that — unknown to him — fails to answer those who pose a threat by standing for something; he can’t write; is bored with reading; yet he keeps it up. And for what? To associate himself with… to snuggle up next to, people whom he dimly perceives as having something he doesn’t. This is the essence of fandom, and we can be thankful that it won’t spread far; only in science fiction circles dominated by theorists of open, heavy hierarchy, is it tolerated and encouraged, this pusillanimous fawning.

Courtesy Slobboviated Press

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