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Vol. 3.7 1999 by Ernest Lilley

SF Bookshelf
New Releases: UFOs, JFK and Elvis / The Cassini Division / Mad Ship (Liveship Traders, Book 2) / Luna Marine: Book Two of the Heritage Trilogy / End of DaysStar Trek: Vulcan's HeartA Good Old Fashioned Future

Now In Paperback!
Contents  Contact  Focus   Bookshelf   Media Art in SF

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A few words about Pat Cadigan...

Pat Cadigan, acclaimed by the London Guardian as "The Queen of Cyberpunk," is the author of three novels, Mindplayers, Synners and Fools; and three short story collections, Patterns, Home By The Sea, and Dirty Work. Some of her short stories also appeared in Letters from Home, alongside work by Karen Joy Fowler and Pat Murphy. Pat completed her fourth novel, Tea from an Empty Cup, in March 1997. It will be published 5 October 1998 in the USA and 7 September 1998 in the UK. Pat continues to publish short fiction. Recent stories are in New Worlds, Dark Terrors 3, Disco 2000 and the Christmas issue of Interzone. -- from Pat Cadigan's Hompage

...and a few more words about conspiracies from Pat Cadigan...

 

UFOs, JFK and Elvis: Conspiracies You Don't Have to Be Crazy to Believe by Richard Belzer
Hardcover - 240 pages (May 1999) Ballantine Books (Trd); ISBN: 0345429176
Review by Pat Cadigan

What I really want to know after reading this book is, could Richard Belzer be the victim of a conspiracy, or the mastermind of the biggest conspiracy of them all, the mother of all conspiracies for the new millennium?

But then, after reading this book, I’m suspicious of everybody.

The title of this appeals to me. Present me with some conspiracy evidence that does not require me to transform into a wild-eyed, rumpled oddball living in the marginal areas of civilization and producing a newsletter for others who shouldn’t have stopped taking their medication, and you have my attention. After all, being a writer, I’m wild-eyed, rumpled, and odd enough as it is, and I live closer to the margin than Richard Belzer (though to be fair, I must acknowledge that he had a lot of lean years, too). Good thing I’m still taking my meds.

Most of this book focuses on the assassination of JFK, considered as a plot carried out by one of four possible groups: 1) the CIA; 2) right-wing Cuban exiles in the US; 3) the Mafia; 4) the Russians, specifically the KGB, for all the attendant reasons. Later on, however, Belzer presents a fifth possible reason for JFK’s assassination -- to keep him from revealing the truth about UFOs and interplanetary visitors.

This last is the only information in the book that is actually new to me -- i.e., the fact that JFK was privy to a document that allegedly describes the Roswell, NM UFO crash site as well as wreckage, with alien corpses, found at Socorro, NM. The rest of Belzer’s information concerning the contradictory pieces of evidence in the JFK investigation, the strange rash of witness deaths, and the possibility of a cover-up that makes Watergate look like amateur hour -- well, all of it is either a matter of public record, or already written about at greater if less readable length.

Re-reading all of it as presented by Richard Belzer, however, makes me feel like a sorry member of the Stupids family. There is no good explanation as to why all these inconsistencies weren’t followed up, weren’t traced, investigated, and exposed. Perhaps it’s simply a testimony to the naivete of the culture at that time, that nobody really questioned the actions of Jack Ruby in any serious way, seriously enough to uncover a direct connection between him and Oswald. Had the assassination occurred today, the conspiracy theories would be flying far too thick and fast to be ignored, and everyone would be suspicious, suspected, and subpoenaed, regardless of race, creed, or sexual preference. All evidence would be scrutinized over and over again for signs of doctoring or tampering, every connection between people analyzed, deconstructed, and questioned over and over.

Was it really a case of naivete with the American people? Or was it plain old garden-variety stupidity?

(Continued...)

cassini.jpg (15293 bytes) The Cassini Division by Ken MacLeod
Hardcover - 256 pages (July 1999) Tor Books; ISBN: 0312870442
Review by Paul J. Giguere

The Cassini Division is actually Ken MacLeod’s third novel, but it is the first to appear in the U.S. marketplace. It builds on The Star Fraction (1995) and continues with The Stone Canal (1996) in which a colony is established on the remote world of New Mars through a wormhole that was created by transcendent humans (called fast-folk) who use machines as hosts for their intelligences. The descendants of the original fast-folk are still on Jupiter and have been bombarding Earth with virus transmissions that have destroyed computers and most forms of electronic communication. Earth now uses Babbage machines and shuns the use of radio wave communication.

Ellen May Ngwethu is an officer of the Cassini Division, an elite space force whose mission is to defend Earth against the fast-folk. She is smart, sexy, and sometimes brutal in her protection of a socialist-libertarian utopia. The Division is preparing for a strike against the fast-folk in which an asteroid will be diverted towards Jupiter, settling the matter once and for all. To accomplish this, Ellen must enlist the help of the scientist who discovered the wormhole (now called the Malley Mile) which leads to the human colony of New Mars (which is as capitalist in its societal structure as Earth is in its socialism). Only one person, Jon Wilde, has ever gone through the wormhole and lived to return. He tells a very different tale of the fast-folk/human interaction which leads many to believe that the answer to ending the conflict on Earth lies there.

The fast-folk on Jupiter have finally made contact with Earth and are starting to convince the Earth authorities that they are benign and were unaware of the havoc they were wreaking. Ellen, who comes across as paranoid in the extreme, doesn't buy this it. She's looking for a way to unite both human cultures so that the defeat of the fast-folk can be assured (on both worlds). Unfortunately the fast-folk have the technology to go through the wormhole and Ellen is racing against time to discover a way through herself.

The Cassini Division is fun and fast. It contains many of the elements of a traditional thriller with the strong underpinnings of a good political-SF novel. MacLeod’s writing is crisp, clear, and concise (the novel comes in at around paltry 250 pages). Within this small package are some big ideas and an elaborate plot that keeps evolving and turning over until the very end. MacLeod is already a recognized name in the British SF field and has been compared to Vernor Vinge and Iain Banks. These comparisons are fair and accurate. MacLeod has great storytelling skills, great ideas, and strongly developed characters. Tor is in the process of publishing MacLeod’s first two novels in the U.S. which will fill in the background of the fast-folk and how they came to be. I look forward to seeing more from MacLeod and you will too. The Cassini Division is thought provoking SF at its best.

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madship.jpg (25883 bytes) Mad Ship (Liveship Traders, Book 2) by Robin Hobb
Hardcover - 704 pages (April 6, 1999) A Bantam Spectra Book ISBN 0553103334647
Review by E.J. McClure

Mad Ship picks up the intricate story of two allied families Robin Hobb began in Ship of Magic. But be warned; it is part of a series, so prepare yourself for an ending that leaves lots of questions unanswered.

Robin Hobb's charm is that she builds a world so fascinating and peoples it with characters so complex that they hold your interest to the end of the book and leave you eager for the next.

Spoiled young Malta Vestrit is pledged to marry Reyn Khuprus if her family fails to pay promptly on the installment plan by which they are purchasing the liveship, Vivacia. Her father Kyle Haven turned to the slave trade in an effort to pay off the debt. His hopes foundered when Vivacia was captured by the wily and charismatic Kinnet, self-styled pirate king. Bereft of their liveship, and the sea trade that was their livelihood, the Vestrits cannot make the payments. Ronica Vestrit, the family matriarch, must apply all of her considerable wit and political skill to playing for time while searching for new allies and sources of income, or forfeit her granddaughter to the Khuprus family from the Rain Wild River.

The Rain Wild River traders go heavily veiled to conceal deformities caused by the poisoned water of the river above which their city is built. Malta fears what she will find when she lifts her future husband's veil, yet she is intrigued by Reyn's gentle courtship and the extravagant gifts he gives her. Such exotic treasures come only from the buried city of the Elderlings at the head of the Rain Wild River.

In her dreams Malta hears the voice of a mythical creature trapped in the ruins of that fantastical city beneath the ground. The call eventually lures Malta on a dangerous journey up Rain Wild River to confront both her fears and her longing.

Her brother Wintrow, ship's boy on Vivacia, survived both slave revolt and piracy. Now he taking long and painful strides toward manhood under Kinnet's caustic tutelage. He learns to fight the Chalcedean slavers, and discovers the true nature of the ferocious sea serpents that follow in the wake of slave ships, waiting to devour the dead and dying. Wintrow, a devout and resolute lad, eventually comes to the conclusion that it must be the will of his god that he loyally support Kinnet, though his young heart is given to Kinnet's mistress, Etta.

Althea, Ronica's younger daughter, is no longer the headstrong and spoiled child she was in Ship of Magic. Her adventures have taught her as much about patience as seamanship, and she returns to Bingtown a seasoned sailor and capable, independent young woman. If anyone can refloat the mad liveship Paragon, and make him seaworthy again, it is Althea.

The Bingtown Traders traditionally looked to the Satrap of Jamaillia for protection from pirates like Kinnet, but the new Satrap finds Bingtown an inconvenience in his plans for alliance with the Chalcedeans. The Bingtown Traders oppose the slavery upon which Chalcedean society is founded, and insist on trading rights and prerogatives which have become politically inconvenient and economically burdensome. Eventually, the Satrap is persuaded to take a voyage to Bingtown to resolve the simmering trade war.

This meandering and multi-dimensional tale is told at a leisurely pace that gives the characters plenty of time to interact, yet the action scenes are bold and brisk. Sea battles, kidnappings, ambushes and earthquakes punctuate the Vestrit's family strife and Kinnet's political machinations. Plot is never allowed to stall in dialogue. The numerous characters reveal surprising new dimensions as they change and grow over the course of the book. Their compelling adventures continue to chart the geography of Robin Hobb's richly detailed fantasy world. But beware; beyond the edge of the map there be dragons.

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lunamarine.jpg (19611 bytes) Luna Marine: Book Two of the Heritage Trilogy by Ian Douglas
Mass Market Paperback - 416 pages (June 8, 1999) Eos (Mass Market); ISBN: 0380788292
Review by Ernest Lilley

Set in the year 2040, Luna Marine is the second book in The Heritage Trilogy, which debuted with Semper Mars last year. The United Nations squares off against the US, the Russians and the Japanese, as they resist the agenda of global rule. First on Mars, and now on the moon, alien artifacts have lain undisturbed for thousands of years. Now it's up to the United States Marines to wrest the alien weapons technology out of the UN Lunar forces hands and prevent a decisive end to the war in the UN's favor.

In the first book, war broke out when the UN expeditionary force took control of the Martian artifacts and locked the US Scientists and Marines up at a remote habitat without transport or weapons. After an epic Marine trek across the sands of Mars, and with the aid of a case of beer (which exploded nicely in the thin Mars air) our boys took back the highest ground around. For their trouble, they get to do it all over again in the new book, this time in Lunar vacuum.

The characters from the last book survive (mostly) to reprise their roles. Archeologist David Alexander, back from Mars and itching to get a crack at the Lunar dig, is frustrated by this whole notion of security. He just can't seem to understand why some folks think sharing his findings with UN scientists is a treasonous offense. Unfortunately, the author makes Alexander the most prominent member of his cast and we need him around to keep explaining things between battles or I'd suggest we just space him. Also back is that lovable lug of a discipline problem, Sergeant Kaminski. Rubbing shoulders with egghead Alexander on the long Mars trek gave him a chance to look at his life, and now he's determined to be a credit to the Corp. It will be a struggle.

Alexander's nephew, Jack, is a key player in the new book, and much of the Starship Troopers action feel comes from his induction into the Marines. Specifically, Jack wants to be a Space Marine, which one expects his recruiter promised somewhere along the way. In the grand tradition of the military, Jack finds out the hard way that his chances of his wishes are slim.Unsurprisingly, he learns that being a Marine isn't about where you go, it's what you do when you get there. Not that he doesn't get to the Moon in the end.

Along for the ride with Jack is Samantha, an intelligent agent jack hacked together out of a Samuel Clemens simulation and some "other" software. Though she spends her early appearances as Jack's erotic cybertoy, as the story develops both characters mature into a more professional relationship. By the final conflict of the story, Jack and Sam are a team to be reckoned with, hacking on the high frontier.

I was a bit put off by the soft-core porn aspect of this interaction and am still concerned that it might limit the Luna Marine's juvenile audience. Still, the author never goes beyond PG13, and captures the way boys relate to cyberbabes, so I'll just hope that it draws readers in more than it scares librarians off.

Luna Marine is a cross between Heinlein's Starship Troopers and James Hogan's Inherit the Stars (ItS itself being liberally inspired by 2001, A Space Odyssey). It may not earn a star in the SF firmament, but it does a credible job of trying to imagine the birthpangs of extra terrestrial warfare and keeping the reader entertained.

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endofdays.jpg (20794 bytes) End of Days by Dennis Danvers
Hardcover - 384 pages (June 8, 1999) Eos (Trade); ISBN: 0380974487
Review by Ernest Lilley

Walter Tillman was many things: the brilliant scientist who developed a process to rapidly age a clone to maturity in a month, a fool who fell in love with the world's hottest supermodel, and a guy so short and ugly even his friends call him "Troll."

For the last 120 years, he's been the sole inhabitant of a prototype VR world left running in an abandoned lab, long after everyone else uploaded to the big VR in the sky. Walter is sick and tired of it all and would really like a way out.

So would everyone else in this book. Sam, the soldier, wants out from under his dad's whacko racial purity crap, Laura, the genetically altered prostitute, wants out from the post apocalyptic existence she leads, Donovan, aka "Dr. Death," wants a life with meaning, and Newman Rogers, the guy who's standing in for God, just wants a rest.

Last year Dennis Danvers brought us Circuit of Heaven, in which we learned that humanity, or at least America, had uploaded into a virtual reality known as the Bin, leaving their too mortal flesh behind. Continuintg the story in End of Days we find that the few remaining humans, principally the Christian Soldiers, strive to wipe all life off the face of the Earth. Especially the Constructs, genetically engineered slaves with multiple personalities. The Constructs were made from a mixture of human and animal stock to make buying and selling them palatable, but now, without any humans left to own them  they live in communities where they share their awareness through chips in their brains.

Inside the Bin, to sleep, perchance to dream is getting a bit thin. Blessed with immortality and eternal youth, or whatever you choose, time passes slowly in VR. Some opt out, choosing virtual suicide, and a few toy with downloading back into bodies to live and die at the whim of whatever. Finding bodies is a pretty good trick though.

In heaven (the Bin) things are getting stale, and the creator of the Bin, Newman Rogers, is getting ready to pull the plug on himself and turn the inhabitants loose on the operating system, letting them recreate the world in their image for a change. He'd better work fast though, because Gabriel, the leader of the Christian Soldiers, has just gotten a new cache of abandoned ICBMs and the targeting coordinates for the Bin's orbiting hardware.

Deninis Danvers has made a story less consistent than his first work (Circuit of Heaven), but deeper by a good bit. Life, the universe, and everything gets pretty well covered, though not all the answers he comes up with will do you much good. If you've seen all three VR movies that came out this spring (Matrix, eXiStEnCe, and The 13th Floor) and still want more, you should definitely read Danvers. End of Days picks up pretty much where Matrix leaves off. Danvers has some good ideas, but he uses too much coincidence and rushes the ending a bit.

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vulcanheart.jpg (24340 bytes) Star Trek: Vulcan's Heart by Josepha Sherman, Susan Shwartz
Hardcover - 448 pages (July 1999) Pocket Books; ISBN: 0671015443
Review by Ernest Lilley

Romulans are massing along the neutral zone threatening Klingon outposts. Ambassador Spock is in the grip of Pon Farr, holding onto sanity in a personal universe gone mad, trying to survive long enough to reach his betrothed... Saavik. Meanwhile Captain Rachel Garret, USS Enterprise-C, speeds her ship towards a fateful rendezvous with honor and destiny.

If none of that meant anything to you, you're Trek Challenged. This disorder can be treated, but only by watching thousands of hours of TV. Or you can just watch the episodes from ST: The Original Series - "Amok Time" and from ST: The Next Generation - "Yesterday's Enterprise" for a crash course in Pon Farr and destiny.

Although the A plot is about Spock and Saavik's intrigues, the part that captivated me the most was the ill-fated flight of the Enterprise-C. We've seen it emerge from a temporal distortion into the Next Generation's time, creating  a darker alternate universe in one of the series' best episodes. Here is the blow-by-blow recounting of the development of the crisis and the battle that sent them reeling into the future. Of all the characters in Star Trek, the Enterprise herself, regardless of letter, remains one of the most compelling. Somehow better than the actors who play her crew, she conveys a history of courage, honor, and sacrifice that her captains can only hope will rub off on them. You may serve with me today, she seems to say, but you will go on to the rest of your lives. This is my life, and if I fall in the line of duty, I will be reborn to it so long as there is need. And more letters in the alphabet.

Spock and Saavik are still the central characters and they have a pretty exciting time of it, infiltrating the Romulan homeworld and gritting their teeth against the Vulcan fires that rage inside them. Fires that will kill them both if not slaked in the consumation of their betrothal. Unfortunately, it's just not convenient for them to take a holiday right now... there's a war to be stopped first.

With only Voyager still airing new episodes, the best Trek to be found is in the pages of books like this. Live long, prosper, and pick up a copy of Vulcan's Heart for some really steamy summer reading.

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future.jpg (23703 bytes) A Good Old Fashioned Future by Bruce Sterling
Mass Market Paperback - 304 pages (June 1, 1999) Bantam Books; ISBN: 0553576429
Review by Ernest Lilley

Although Sterling's last book, Distraction, is one of the best things he's done, I've always felt his real strength lay in short stories. A Good  Old Fashioned Future delivers seven of these from 1993 to 1999, including last year's Hugo-winning "The Bicycle Repairman."

I was disappointed that Sterling didn't write an intro to the book or the stories, many of which are first rate. Sterling has seen the coming of net economics and the virtual corporation long before Wall Street. In his stories are individual's making moves and cutting deals with science, politics and the resources of the net. It's the old world against the new, and it's only 15 minutes into the future. The author is sort of a reporter who pops into the future and comes back to tell us what's going on in the future inside his head.

The very first story, "Manekai Neko" sucked me into its world of net-mediated "favors" with a vision that seems attractive and reassuring, for a while. Back in '94, the second story came out in Asimov's as a tale of what happens when biotech and the oilbiz get into bed together, with a foreshadowing of the kind of wheeling and dealing that I loved in Distraction. "The Littlest Jackal" is a handy primer for telling whores, mercenaries, and revolutionaries apart in the post-Soviet world. In fact, the whole book is.

A few of these I've read before, but they bear rereading. I love bicycles, so I plunged right into "The Bicycle Repairman" even though it's not so much about bikes as politics and causes and sex. Every story here is fun for Sterling fans.

Sterling's stories are built out of expatriates and entrepenures, drug dealers and jet setters, and in the aggressive free-for-all that ensues you get the sense that no matter where you are you are, only one step away from the action. Our world has become without distance and in A Good Old Fashioned Future, we see that it is nearly without limits as well.

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Now in Paperback!
To see what SFRevu had to say about these recently published paperback editions click on the SFRevu issue number.

click on the book's title to go to Amazon.com

SFRevu
Issue

Title

Author

Pub

Form

2.5

Signal to Noise

Eric S. Nylund

EOS

Paperback

2.9

A Knight of the Word

Terry Brooks

Del Rey

Paperback

2.8 Antarctica Kim Stanley Robinson Bantam

Paperback

2.8 Child of the River: The First Book of Confluence Paul J. McAuley EOS

Paperback

2.12

Darwinia Robert Charles Wilson Tor

Paperback

2.10

Inherit the Earth Brian Stableford Tor

Paperback

2.9

The Death of the Necromancer Martha  Wells EOS

Paperback

2.5

The Face of Apollo

Fred Saberhagen

Tor

Paperback

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UFOs, JFK and Elvis: Conspiracies You Don't Have to Be Crazy to Believe by Richard Belzer (continued) (return to part one)

Hold that thought as we move, with Belzer, from the subject of JFK to UFOs. Again, there is little here that will be new to anyone who has done any reading in this area. What increases here is the number of anecdotes with no solid attribution, and the number of mentions of and quotes from a man named Jim Marrs. Marrs was also cited, from time to time, as a source in the JFK section but Belzer really cuts loose with him here. Belzer mentions having conducted an interview with Jim Marrs. Though he does not produce even an excerpt from it in the book, by the time we reach the end of the UFO/Roswell section, it seems to be Marrs, rather than Belzer, who is doing most of the talking.

This is what I’m inclined to think, anyway, as we move into the section on the faked moon landings. Yes, we’re back to that one, the theory that we never, ever landed on the moon, and that the footage was cooked up to scare the Russians. Belzer and Marrs present a few arguments in a very short chapter and then go on to another possibility that I suspect Marrs actually likes better, only because it’s not the dead end that the faked moon landing is: the theory that we did land on the moon after all, and quickly discovered someone else was occupying the place already. Why else, Belzer and Marrs argue, would we have quit going there altogether, choosing instead to build space stations in orbit around earth?

Considering that question answered, Belzer and Marrs give quick chapters to men in black, black helicopters, the face on Mars, and rapacious aliens who have come to earth for the express purpose of having sex with us, before closing with the fifth possible motive for JFK’s assassination -- i.e., his knowing too much about UFOs.

The bibliography at the back is a good, basic reading list, but omits Robert Anton Wilson’s landmark work, Everything Is Under Control, the secret history of the world from the perspective of not-quite-clinical paranoia, which is actually a really fun way to read history -- the dates, names, and places are accurate, and the speculation is highly entertaining and imaginative, although also well-grounded historically.

And while UFO abductees get at least a mention, the most famous abductee of them all gets no mention at all -- viz., Whitley Streiber. I don’t think this is due to Belzer’s being unaware, as the word "communion" is used once (with the quotes). Well, I personally have never considered Streiber an A-list abductee anyway -- I mean, would you want to listen to all that proctological detail over dinner? I think not. But I get the feeling -- and mind you, this is only my own inference, I could well be wrong -- that Belzer is far more skeptical of abductees than anything else he covers here. If this is something that Belzer just flat-out doesn’t believe, it’s no surprise that Streiber goes without mention.

The fact that Belzer presents no arguments against alien abduction, or anything else, is no surprise, either. This is a believer’s book, a wake-up call, not a presentation of balanced arguments. Of course, that’s a problem inherent in arguing -- or trying to argue -- against conspiracy theories. Anything you might say -- for instance, that some people in Socorro, NM still remember which grad students perpetrated the UFO crash-site hoax there, just as an example, now -- the reply from conspiracy believers will always be something to the effect that this is exactly what They want you to believe, you poor deluded mark.

The truly wacked-out part, however, is that’s probably not far wrong.

The Kennedy assassination story, laid out with all the facts, should give anyone pause. It should have, back in 1963, and it should now. Let’s postulate, just for a moment, that there was a plot cooked up by the CIA or FBI or Cubans or shadowy government cigarette-smoking men to kill JFK. Let’s face it, they could not have gotten away with it without the Dallas police.

Stephen King uses the words "Dallas police" in one of his novels to symbolize a state of hopeless incompetence, usually achieved by civil bodies and law enforcement agencies. And, with all due respect to Richard Belzer, whom I admire and do not wish to mock, I tend to believe more strongly in human stupidity than in a conspiracy of individuals at the highest level of any government or criminal organization. If you find that difficult to buy, look up some information on Senator Joe McCarthy and his reign of anti-Communist terror in the 1950s. Or read up on the investigation of the Charles Manson Family murder of Sharon Tate -- the completely dumb mistakes made in handling evidence alone it a miracle that Charlie & Co. were ever arrested at all, not to mention convicted. Or, if your memory doesn’t go back that far, and you don’t have time to do that kind of research, remember that Dan Quayle was vice-president 1988-1992, and will run for president in 2000. Then look me in the eye and tell me that it’s possible to over-estimate human stupidity.

This is what stops me from buying conspiracy theories -- the fact that I find the idea of such a large group of people, spread over an entire continent (or more), working in complete concert, with total efficiency and confidentiality, to bring about exact results more unbelievable than anything else you could tell me.

But perhaps Dan Quayle is just the latest decoy to make me think what They want me to think. Now that’s really paranoid.

 

(...and a few more words about conspiracies from Pat Cadigan)

If you enter the words "conspiracy theory" into the Internet Explorer search engine, you will get 16,530 listings in reply, and the first one will be "Make Your Own Conspiracy Theory." This is a conspiracy generator provided by www.turnleft.com ("the Home of Liberalism on the Web"). However, it will only provide what Turn Left refers to as a Wacko Right Wing Conspiracy of your very own, suitable for presentation at militia meetings. I tried it, and ended up with an entertaining, if not totally convincing, treatise on the truth about Mathematics, which I’ve always thought was a conspiracy. Actually, that’s not quite right -- it’s the teaching of mathematics that I’ve always thought was a conspiracy, but never mind. That’s a rant for some other review.

The second entry on the list is the site for the movie Conspiracy Theory, starring Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts. It, too, has a conspiracy-theory generator, but any attempt to use it shorted out my browser so badly that I not only had to close the program but also restart my computer.

After restarting and resuming my search for conspiracy theories, I noticed a story in another frame about how credit card companies are spying on their customers’ spending habits, particularly their repayment habits, and penalizing those who are slow in repaying any of their credit card bills. That’s right, credit card companies are closing ranks and backing each other up against bad credit risks. This news reaches me after another article about loyalty cards -- you know, those cards given out by stores or companies awarding you points for every dollar/pound/euro you spend with them, sort of a frequent spender type of thing, where the points are redeemable for premiums and discounts. It seems loyalty cards allow companies to become a little too familiar with the holders, at least for some people’s comfort -- one woman stopped using hers when she received a friendly note reminding her to buy (ahem) tampons.

Ours is a world in which paranoia only makes good sense. They are watching. There is a Big Brother, although he seems to be less interested in political power and more interested in getting his hands on our money. But I digress.

The third item listed in our search engine’s return gets immediately into Richard Belzer territory -- Coup d’Etat in America: The Suppressed History of the CIA --  http://www.weberman.com (very witty -- plays the theme from The Third Man, although in MIDI rather than zither). Immediately, you get photos of the three tramps picked up after JFK was shot in Dallas morphing into CIA Technical Services Division Head David Christ, and two of the Watergate burglars, Frank Sturgis and Howard Hunt. And after that, it gets complex, over more than a thousand pages, with details and databases and lots of graphics. There’s a book to buy, with the same title as the website itself, or you can read the Internet edition without buying anything.

The Conspiracy History of the World comes with its own warning that it contains material which may be "…shocking, offensive, or parhaps [sic] even thought-provoking. …You have been warned." Interestingly enough, this page comes with a further warning against "Unauthorized duplication, plagerism [sic], trespassing or heckling," which threatens as punishment "…public flogging, dismemberment, death, or repeated proofreading of my papers to check for spelling errors (to which death is surely preferable)." No one can say that conspiracy theorists are a humorless bunch.

Nor are they stupid. Whether their educations have been formal or informal, these people have a knowledge of history that can only be described as encyclopedic, but could hardly be said to be limited to mere facts. These are theorists, after all. They don’t just ingest and regurgitate facts -- they question them, and suggest alternative answers. Dip into their material, their web pages, their articles, their books, and it won’t be long before you’re questioning the facts yourself. As a freethinker as well as a skeptic, I feel only that this is a good thing, even if you come to the conclusion that they’re all full of wild blueberry muffins.

More websites for the curious:

Blackops -- The Robert Anton Wilson and Joan Hill Conspiracy Theory Homepage
http.www.cruzio.com/~blackops

Zero News Datapool: Hakim Bey, The Ontological Status of Conspiracy Theory
http://www.t0.or.at/hakimbey/conspire.htm
(A bit esoteric for the average American paranoid, easiest for those who read Baudrillard for fun)

Christians & Conspiracy Theories: A Call to Repentance
http://www.acts17-11.com /conspire.htm
(Don’t laugh -- good historical perspective on the long history of conspiracy theory as a tool for religious persecution, like the Christians in ancient Rome, and the Jews in the not-so-ancient Holocaust. Repenting is up to you.)

The DejaNews Conspiracy Theory Literature FAQ
http://www.deja.com/[tr+inffaq]/article/346383682
(Everything you want to know, and lots, lots, lots, lots more)
 

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