March 2006

Editorial Notices Books Received

Editorial: Another Domino Falls

Publisher's Note: The personal views of the publisher, expressed here, do not necessarily mirror those of other contributors to this magazine. This is always strictly my own personal rant.

Mars the Divine Clocktower Books has released the first of a new series of SF novels—Mars the Divine by Terry Sunbord (Time Train Series) Fictionwise. Find more information at the developing website.

Hachette Livres Buys Time Warner Outsourcing is good for Americans, so says the individual farting on leather in the Oval Office, or is it the offal orifice? He says this on a trip to India, while outsourcing the security of our ports to a Dubai corporation, dropping the ball in New Orleans (and so far refusing the pick it up), and of course we hold our breath and await an American Dunkirk as the Middle East implodes.

John Stewart, appearing on Larry King, summed it up best when he said (I'll paraphrase as best I can): "I have given up wondering when the American people will finally say they've had enough." Having now met a number of union workers who voted for their enemies in the GOP because they feel it makes them more secure, I join John in the john as we play a game of kick-the-toilet-paper back and forth under the dividers, and have a conversation whose bleakness can only be matched by the decor around us.

What I tell a sobbing John is: "Relax, let it slide, buddy. They only wake up when it hits them in the wallet. When they realize their child will die because there is no money for cancer surgery because their tax money was stolen by Cheney in no-bid contracts he failed to deliver on while our soldiers die in a needless conflict that is setting the world on fire {gasp for breath, then continue:}. When they realize there is no funding in the Social Security Fund because your elected representatives drained that fund every year for the past seven or more decades to get themselves reelected through pork barrel spending and other slush fund ('earmark') specialties..."

Oh, yes, I almost forgot what I stepped out here to say. In another sign of the times, a French publisher has purchased Time Warner. Doesn't Bush hate the French? Doesn't he want to start a war and invade Paris to spread democracy and freedom to those greasy fries and all? And do it with only 300 soldiers because that's all we have left and who the hell needs more than that?

The Hachette deal means (for those of us old enough to remember) the days when there were 20 or 30 U.S. imprints of considerable quality and national pride are gone forever. Remember Doubleday, Random House, Signet, New American Library, Knopf, need I go on? Harper & Row? How about Scribners, home of famed editor Max Perkins and a stable of writers and proteges ranging from Hemingway to Wolfe and many inbetween? Someone is singing Look Homeward, Angel in the Big Apple tonight.

Hachette, you should know, is owned by the French defense and media conglomerate Lagardere, which now becomes the world's third largest media company after Britain's Pearson and (I believe) Murdoch's murky and evil empire. Hachette also owns, among other properties, Car & Driver, Elle, and many more surprises.

I know the world is always about change, and none of us lives long enough to see it all, but dammit, did we have to end up living in interesting times? I'm a progressive and a futurian, and I think I see farther over the horizon than a lot of people. Much of it is covered in in greater detail in The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century by Thomas Friedman of The New York Times. Tom calls it a Flat World. I call it the Calcuttafication of America. As they come up, we go down. It all levels out. It's Bush I's New World Order. A reasonable person understands that there is no congenital reason why a man or woman from India, Sri Lanka, or China can't enjoy the same relative standard of living the American Middle Class has enjoyed since the New Deal (which our neo-Confederate overlords today are busy dismantling, in today's one party police state, sort of a Jefferson Davis' revenge to paraphrase the old drizzly diarrhea saying about Baja and Montezuma). We've squandered the resources and opportunities we were handed on a wide-open continent the Europeans seized from its aborigines centuries ago. The average American is up to his loose screws in debt and happily yelling "yahoo!" as the burning barge rushes toward Niagara Falls.

A good benchmark today is this: It's been noted by several leading economists that, as dismal as the U.S. savings rate has long been, it is negative for all of 2005 for the first full year since the Great Depression. During the Depression it was negative because banks folded, the money disappeared, and there was no work. If they weren't starving, people worked for barter. How we forget history, and how it comes back to punish us. Back the early 1980s, I noted an interesting comparison that I thought redeemed American savers. I noted a statistic that the Japanese (who were the dernier cri at the moment) had a savings rate of 14% and a home ownership rate of 2%. Fascinatingly, the concurrent U.S. statistics showed a savings rate of 2% and a home ownership rate of 14%. In other words, Americans had to be thrifty and ambitious to sock away that much equity, which more than made up for the savings gap. Alas, it was not to last. With the Republican dismantling of the New Deal (just as they and their religiously zealous but shallow affiliates are chipping away at women's reproductive rights with the fanaticism and blindness of gophers), the first blow was struck at savings and loan regulation designed to prop up a healthy home loan industry. What savings & loan industry? All gone, along with our equity. I was writing an article on the much hullaballooed 'interest earning checking accounts' around 1983, and called the public affairs officer of one of the major Fed branches. I was wondering what the Government's philosophy might be in exposing masses of gullible individuals to the same types of flim-flam persons who helped bring down the economy in 1929. I ended up speaking with a brash, hard-hearted young man who informed me that risk goes with opportunity, and the god of the right wing rewards those who have the sharpest elbows, and punishes those dumb enough not to wear sharpened teeth about in public. That's not literally what he said, but it was clearly what he meant. I'm just far more articulate in expressing the predatory and ruthless philosophy of the George W. Bushes and their legion of petty blackshirts. It's the philosophy that rules the land. The reason the average Joe or Josephine has negative savings today is because they are driving a sparkling new red SUV that gets nine miles to the gallon and is directly linked to the fact that we have young Americans dying for nothing in Bush's Iraq misadventure (Iraq-Nam, some might say). They don't get it. They won't get it until their job goes to China, their car is repossessed, and their Indian doctor tells them on the phone from Mumbai that they aren't covered for their child's disease. The average Calcuttan will do far better than he has in the past, and the average American will increasingly resemble him in a great and inevitable historic convergence.

As John stops sobbing, and we do the paperwork before wandering off to the nearest pub to get shnookered, I can only reassure him that there is always hope. Given the populace's credulity (their incredible credulity), one can always start a new religion. There's money to be made in that. After all, the neocons have reinvented a whole new gun-owning, home-evicting, car repossessing, war-mongering, health-care-denying, happy-executioner version of Christianity that Jesus Christ wouldn't recognize. Just make sure your new religion has funny hats and lots of calls for donations, and includes "Do Unto Others" in its charter. Don't worry—the latter part is a joke nobody really takes seriously.

Oh yeah, about publishing. After decades of consolidation, there are only six commercial conglomerates left in New York, and now all but one is foreign-owned. Here's the latest lineup:

Hachette, by the way, has gobbled up a number of U.K. imprints, including one ironically named Octopus.

Remember that old adage that one can always be sure of death and taxes? Please, feel free to add global predators. I predict the arrival of the world's first trillionaires (in debased U.S. currency) within ten years, and few or none will be American. In the great leveling that is occurring, Kenny Boy Lay and his ilk are small fry. They only looted corporations. The global predators will loot nations as Bush and Cheney are currently doing in the U.S. Outsourcing is their game—not yours. But it's the game of the century, and there is no referee, no whistle, no time out, and certainly no end in sight.

So to whom was Tush speaking when he told a crowd of corporate wannabees in India that outsourcing is the way of the future, and American workers should embrace it, improve themselves, buck up, stop whining, take it like a man, etc? I'll bet his audience were grinning broadly, and I'll bet the average union member or neo-Christian in the U.S. who stupidly votes Republican and never watches any real news didn't even know it happened. That's your tax dollars in action, and how.

While I think of it, let me leave you with a sobering insight. Among the many lies and distortions of the Orwellian crowd ruling America today—and they are effective in destroying democracy because they control and shape the media—is the notion that the GOP is good for small business. I have just regaled you with a prime example of corporate expansionism. Call it economic imperialism. It used to be called monopoly capitalism, and presidents like T.R. attacked it with The Big Stick, but that was long ago during the defunct Republic. These days, in the Empire (or more precisely, the Dictatorship that G.W. Bush declared publicly, on worldwide news media, within days of seizing power in 2000), we hear about all the harsh but morally rewarding things we must endure, and all the things that must be done to us by corporate America with our own tax money (because we must stop whining and buck up and be braver). We hear about how the sacred cow in our lives is the Small Business person. And yet, look around you. Where are they? As you drive across the USA, also known as "America," a vestigial absurdity mirroring our fading monopoly on continent and image, you'll drive past one shopping mall after another filled with all the giant brands (McDonalds, Wal*Mart, Borders, etc.) and hardly a mom and pop store to be found anywhere. Think about it. If a coffee shop opens anywhere in America, and seems to be doing well, a Starbucks opens across the street and puts them out of business--thanks but no thanks for finding us this splendid location, and now go screw yourself in bankruptcy court. The fundamental truth is that the little entrepreneur hangs on to a precarious corner, risks his life on a business loan for a couple of thousand bucks, and hopes to spend the next 30 or 40 years slowly building his nest egg, one vacuum cleaner or donut or coffee cup or hamburger at a time. Bush's corporate murderers and vacuum cleaners can kill him with their billions of dollars, many of them straight from the tax payers as in Cheney's no-bid contracts, in an hour. That's right. Once they put up the sign--"Starshmucks coming next month" that mom and pop coffee shop across the street is as good as dead. So much for the false religion of small business in the USA today. Ours is an age of small fish being gobbled up by bigger fish who in turn, all the way up the ladder to those emerging Indian and Chinese trillionaires, keep getting gobbled by yet larger fish. I have news for you: Bush & Co. have been feathering their nest in China for decades. They will emerge among the global oligarchy, money intact. Bush may be a drug and alcohol dazed fool, but the dark forces propping him up are clever as moray eels. And it's your ass they will tear to shreds.

So, as our Dictator exhorts us all, I shall stop carping. Is there a positive word in all this? Probably not, but a faint and forlorn glitter of hope. That is the hope that Americans will vote out the purveyors of empire, and vote in people who will return us to values of the republic. So that small towns with their small businesses—the little barbers, grocers, bakers, pharmacists, and so on, who have long since disappeared in the lee of Wal*Marts and Microsofts and other corporate giants. It's kind of like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (And Journeys Into A Lost Past that can never be retrieved). It's gone forever, like the New Orleans of pre-Bush. My prediction: like images of the Virgin Mary appearing on a tamale in Tamalpais, or on a grease stain in a subway in Philly, expect to start hearing ghost stories about the World Trade Center. I'll start a bit of urban lore here right now: I can imagine the whispers spreading around New York City some time soon. They see lights in the sky where the World Trade Center used to be. What is it? they ask. And someone whispers: It's the ghosts of the lost souls, in the dark hours before those fanatical religious and nationalist assassins struck. Maybe it's the lost firemen, wandering the airy halls in the clouds, looking for people to warn. That was another disaster Bush should have known about. Should have done something about. What ever happened to "The Buck Stops Here?" Oh, yeah, that was one of those damned Democrats who said that. They're out of fashion. The new maxim is: "The Bush Never Stops."

More in next month's rant. Thanks for stopping by, and have a great month!



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Notices

Editor's Note: We welcome books and announcements. Please give us at last 3 months lead time so we can present your announcement in a timely fashion. We take no responsibility for the content, format, contributors' editorial opinions, or other characteristics of this information which we publish in community interest.

ComiCon International 2006 first update See CCI2006 for the latest cool info.

The Sibyl's Urn, or: Destination: Ancient Rome! by John T. Cullen (2005 Clocktower Books). Told in the second person, this novel makes you the hero or heroine as Professor Darwin and his exotically beautiful assistant Amalthea take you on a journey back to ancient Rome. At stake is a lost scroll belonging to a sibyl, or prophetess similar to the ones at Delphi in Greece. The scroll holds secrets the ancient Romans would dearly like to know, and your traveling companions have their own dark reasons for wanting to make this journey. Along the way, you get to sample the sounds, sights, and smells of a world that is as alien to ours as it is intriguing. Some of the early research material here wound up in my book A Walk in Ancient Rome (iBooks/Simon & Schuster, 2005).