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      [This textfile is constructed from the text of the June 1993 paper
      edition.  Entire contents copyright (c) 1994 by Greg Hills.  All rights
      reserved.  This textfile may be freely distributed provided it is not
      altered or amended in any way and that no charge is levied for such


Beta Version, Number 1
June 1993

Edited and published by Greg Hills.
Postal address: PO Box 428, Richmond 3121, Australia.
Electronic addresses: Fidonet 3:634/392; Godnet 143:1613/.


Haeri mai

`Vaporware' is computer jargon for software which is much talked about and may
even be circulated in test ('beta') form but which never seems to appear in
a finished version.  In light of my recent publishing track record, I find it
an appropriate title for a fanzine.

There is one problem with the title.  The problem is that once `vaporware'
actually appears it is no longer vaporware but ordinary software.  By
extension, the very act of publishing an issue of Vapourware would make the
title a misnomer.  Paradox!

The solution I have applied is as follows:  no edition of Vapourware will
ever appear in `finished' form -- all you will ever see are `beta' versions.

Credits and Production Notes

`Devaluing the Egobuck' was first published in Stet 6 (Leah Zeldes Smith --
17 Kerry Lane, Wheeling, IL 690-6415, USA, moving soon).  `A Virtual
Paradise' was presented as a talk to the Nova Mob at the June 1992.  The other
words in this issue are seeing the world for the first time.


What's in it?

In the latest issue of The Metaphysical Review (number 18) Yvonne Rousseau
includes me in her list of conspicuous absentees from the recent Garden Party
held by Bruce Gillespie and Elaine Cochrane.  She noted after my name `(of
whom it was whispered behind his back that he had umpteen fanzines on disc --
each of them in turn scuttled by the discovery of superior software with which
to begin a newer, better fanzine)'.  Hrrrmphh!  This is that fanzine.

Actually, as might be expected with gossip whispered behind my back -- I
wasn't there, so how could they know in which direction my back was pointing?
-- the rumour is not quite right.  True, I have umpteen fanzines on disk, but
what has scuttled each is simple fiscal impotence.  No money for photocopying,
no money for postage, means no publication.  Only one project has been held
up by the stated phenomenon, and that project is Ghutenberg's Bhible, the
manual about producing fanzines.  I think it's wonderfully ironic that the
solution is suffering from the problem, don't you?  Naturally it's an irony
I would cheerfully live without.

Most of the material here has been culled from the corpses of Vapourware's
stillborn siblings, particularly Te Waenga Korokoro Whakaroa, which replaced
Digitus when I tired of talking about computer games and thought I'd explore
the possibilities in the detour taken by Digitus Secundus.  The material is
rather promiscuous, but that reflects the way my interest has wandered around
since giving up Thyme released me from the tight fannish focus that doing a
regular newszine forced on me.

The (untitled) Anzus rave which kicks off the zine is a byproduct of time
spent browsing in the local library and fossicking in the State Library.  The
Anzus brouha of 1985/86 is something I feel quite strongly about.  It has
always seemed anomalous to me that one of the keystones of a nation's
sovereignty is control of its borders, which implies responsibility for
substances entering and leaving its ports, yet the US military insists (1)
that it will neither confirm nor deny whether any given ship carries nuclear
weapons; (2) that its `allies' must provide these maybe-nuclear-armed US ships
port access regardless of the policies or desires of the ally.

Happy reading.

-- Greg Hills




San Francisco, 1 September 1951
Ratification deposited at Canberra, 29 April 1952
[in force 29 April 1952]

The Parties to this Treaty,

Reaffirming their faith in the purposes and principles of the Charter of the
United Nations and their desire to live in peace with all peoples and all
Governments, and desiring to strengthen the fabric of peace in the Pacific

Noting that the United States already has arrangements pursuant to which its
armed forces are stationed in the Philippines, and has armed forces and
administrative responsibilities in the Tyukus, and upon the coming into force
of the Japanese Peace Treaty may also station armed forces in and about Japan
to assist in the preservation of peace and security in the Japan Area,
Recognising that Australia and New Zealand as members of the British
Commonwealth of Nations have military obligations outside as well as within
the Pacific Area,

Desiring to declare publicly and formally their sense of unity, so that no
potential aggressor could be under the illusion that any of them stand alone
in the Pacific Area, and

Desiring further to coordinate their efforts for collective defence for the
preservation of peace and security pending the development of a more
comprehensive system of regional security in the Pacific Area,

Therefore declare and agree as follows:

Article I

The parties undertake, as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations, to
settle any international disputes in which they may be involved by peaceful
means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are
not endangered and to refrain in their international relations from the threat
or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United

Article II

In order more effectively to achieve the objective of this Treaty the parties
separately and jointly by means of continuous and effective self-help and
mutual aid will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity
to resist armed attack.

Article III

The parties will consult together whenever in the opinion of any of them the
territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the
Parties is threatened in the Pacific.

Article IV

Each party recognises that an armed attack in the Pacific Area on any of the
Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it
would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional

Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall be
immediately reported to the Security Council of the United Nations.  Such
measures shall be terminated when the security Council has taken the measures
necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security

Article V

For the purpose of Article IV, an armed attack on any of the Parties is deemed
to include an armed attack on the metropolitan territory of any of the
Parties, or on the island territories under its jurisdiction in the Pacific
or on its armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific.

Article VI

This Treaty does not affect and shall not be interpreted as affecting in any
way the rights and obligations of the Parties under the Charter of the United
Nations or the responsibility of the United Nations for the maintenance of
international peace and security.

Article VII

The Parties hereby establish a Council, consisting of their Foreign Ministers
or their Deputies, to consider matters concerning the implementation of this
Treaty.  The Council should be so organised as to be able to meet at any time.

Article VIII

Pending the development of a more comprehensive system of regional security
in the Pacific Area and the development by the United Nations of more
effective means to maintain international peace and security, the Council,
established by Article VII, is authorized to maintain a consultative
relationship with State, regional Organizations, Associations of States or
other authorities in the Pacific Area in a position to further the purposes
of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of that Area.

Article IX

This Treaty shall be ratified by the Parties in accordance with their
respective constitutional processes.  The instruments of ratification shall
be deposited as soon as possible with the Government of Australia, which will
notify each of the other signatories of such deposit.  The Treaty shall enter
into force as soon as the ratifications of the signatories have been

Article X

This Treaty shall remain in force indefinitely.  Any Party may cease to be a
member of the Council established by Article VII one year after notice has
been given to the Government of Australia, which will inform the Governments
of the other Parties of the deposit of such notice.

Article XI

This Treaty in the English language shall be deposited in the Archives of the
Government of Australia.  Duly certified copies thereof will be transmitted
by that Government to the Governments of each of the other signatories.

   In witness whereof the undersigned Plenipotentiaries have signed this
   Done at the city of San Francisco this first day of September, 1951
   For Australia:            PERCY C. SPENDER
   For New Zealand:          C.A. BERENDSEN
   For the United States of America:

One consequence of unemployment is that I have had plenty of time to spend
nosing after the answers to questions that have been bothering me for years.
The Anzus hoopla in 1985/86,for example.

In February 1985, in line with its antinuclear policy, the New Zealand
Government denied port privileges to the nuclear-capable destroyer USS
Buchanan on the basis that (in line with US policy) the US Government would
not deny that it was carrying nuclear weapons.  Over a period of time the
argument escalated until in August 1986 the US `suspended its security
obligations to NZ under the treaty'.

This seemed bizarre to me, for not only did the Treaty say nothing about
nuclear weapons, port visits, information, etc, but the escape clause in the
Treaty did not support selective suspension -- all that any signatory could
do was cancel their own membership one year after so notifying the Government
of Australia.  So, my reasoning went, this must mean that on or around 12th
August 1985, the US Government must have advised the Australian Government of
its intention to cease membership of the Anzus Council.  Therefore an instru-
ment of withdrawal must have been deposited with the Australian Government,
and since the matter was of intense public interest such an instrument must
be accessible to the public under the Freedom of Information Act.

While I could hardly expect to see the original, copies must exist, or at the
very least someone must have quoted it somewhere in all the voluminous
correspondence and media hype that we were bombarded with at the time.

At the time I had other things to worry about and so I let the matter drop.
When I was sorting some papers recently I came across a photocopy of the
Treaty that I had made in 1985.  This reawakened my curiosity.  I set out to
look into the matter.  I read through a dozen detailed accounts of the affair,
and you know what?  Not one of them quoted any such instrument.  The general
accounts all said things such as:

   The United States ... suspended its security commitment to NZ under the
   tripartite treaty.  Labour declared its opposition to a policy that would
   have permitted reactivation of NZ's Anzus status.  [Italics mine -- Greg.]

Or how about:

   On Aug. 12, 1986, the US formally suspended all its security obligations to
   NZ under the Anzus Pact until NZ would restore port and air access to US
   warships and military aircraft.

This is in line with the newspaper reports, but (see the text of the Treaty)
not in accord with the Treaty.  It's not even accord with reality, since apart
from the single instance of the Buchanan, US warships and military aircraft
were never denied access to NZ -- indeed, the NZ Government repeatedly invited
the US Government to send non-nuclear (ie presumably nuclear-incapable) ves-
sels, or nuclear vessels declared to be not carrying nuclear weapons.  At one
point NZ's PM even offered a `we won't peek and we'll assume the ship carries
no nukes' compromise, which was a major step back from the Government's ori-
ginal position (as well as being quite unpopular in NZ).  The US `suspension
of' NZ from Anzus was something it could get away with only because of its
preponderance of politico-military power -- it had no `right' to do it, it
just could do it and did it.

So what really happened?  The evidence says that NZ, acting within the limits
of both Anzus and its own sovereignty, denied the US something that the US had
neither God- nor Treaty- given right but which it had long taken for granted.
In retribution the US punished NZ by withholding all the cooperation
guaranteed to NZ under the Treaty, imposed economic penalties, and slandered
and libelled NZ shamelessly.  This by the policeman of world justice.

It is worth noting that in September 1986 NZ refused Soviet overtures for air
landing rights, port facilities, and military cooperation -- privileges never
denied to the US since its entry into WW II.  The anti-nuclear policy was not
pro-Soviet in intent, but was a response to massive public support for such
a policy.  It was so popular that even in 199 (see the clipping `NZ seeks
renewal of US ties') the incoming National Party Government dared not meddle
with the policy even though they opposed it and had a massive Parliamentary
majority.  (Bolger's announcement is more a test of local reaction than US
reaction.  He faces an election this year and in NZ electoral support is
traditionally shaky after a new Government's first term in power, particularly
over unpopular policies.)

I think there is some reason to assert that Labour's nuclear policy won them
the 1987 election, or at least helped them retain their majority in the face
of the country's economic woes.  By 199 there was too much internal power
broking for too little performance, so they lost.  The world has changed too
much and I have been out of NZ too long for me to presume to make predictions
for 1993.

Bolger's call for a renewed Anzus seems to me to be an anachronism, since the
fall of the Soviet Union means that Pacific disputes now reflect local rather
than global politics.  Protected by distance, NZ needs no other alliances,
though I think it should keep close military ties with Australia in line with
its economic ties such as Closer Economic Relations.

The worst NZ faces is casual terrorism, not necessarily directed against NZ
per se, of the type practised by France in the Rainbow Warrior affair -- and
France was a `friendly' power!  (US sources later claimed that they knew about
the planned French attack in advance but withheld the information from NZ as
part of its punishment.  Starting from scratch after the explosion, without
US help, NZ managed to catch two and just missed other French agents -- not
a bad effort.)

Getting back to Pacific defense, although Anzus never was a nuclear treaty,
it has become identified with nuclear weapons and is unlikely to live down
this stigma.  Far better to abolish it entirely and try something new --
something that does not involve playing Russian roulette with
neither-confirm-nor-deny policies.

NZ always recognised that its nuclear policy would imply some scaling-down of
US military aid -- the Australian `source' who said NZ `wanted the benefits
without paying the dues' was playing with words.  What is at issue is how far
that scaling-down should go.  That depends on the natue of any new agreement.

Why should the preferences of the US military forever override the sovereignty
of the citizens of other countries?  Would the US accept a `neither confirm
nor deny' policy from any country that wanted to ship dangerous -- or
potentially dangerous -- materials in and out of US ports, against the wishes
of the majority of the US population?  I doubt it.

After 4 years  of this sort of arrogant policy, the paradox is that
USAmericans still wonder why the US is unpopular even with its nominal

-- Greg Hills

บ New Zealand Rejects
บ U.S. Ship Visit Nuclear Weapons at Issue.  The U.S. State Department Feb.
4 announced that New Zealand had "definitively turned down" a request that a
U.S. Navy destroyer be permitted to pay a port call to New Zealand.  New
Zealand Prime Minister David Lange had announced the rejection on the grounds
that "the vessel requested was unable to meet the criteria of New Zealand

The U.S. said it considered the refusal "a matter of grave concern which goes
to the core of our mutual obligation as allies."

The U.S. and New Zealand were part of a 1951 mutual defense pact known as
Anzus that also included Australia.  The U.S. Pentagon Jan. 21 had announced
that in December 1984 it had formally requested permission for the port call
as part of Anzus exercises known as Sea Eagle scheduled to take place in the
South Pacific in March.  The request was considered a test case of the
antinuclear platform on which Lange's Labour Party had campaigned and swept
to power in July 1984.  [See 1984, p. 533F2]

Prime Minister Lange had first given an indication of New Zealand's likely
response to the request Feb. 1.  Lange had said, "if the ship is
nuclear-capable, it won't come unless we can be assured it does not carry
nuclear arms."  U.S. officials had viewed the response with concern because
of the strict U.S. policy of not revealing whether or not its ships carried
nuclear arms.

In announcing the firm rejection Feb. 4, Lange said he would welcome a
visiting ship, "if the Americans would suggest a vessel that I know is not

After Lange's Feb. 4 definitive refusal to allow a visit by the U.S. destroyer
Buchanan, the U.S. announced that the scheduled Anzus maneuvers had been
canceled.The U.S. also said it was considering the "overall implications" of
the rejection for future relations with New Zealand.

A State Department official, Bernard Kalb, said the U.S. was considering a
broad range of further actions, including some that were not strictly
military.  He said, "Some Western countries have antinuclear and other
movements which seek to diminish defense cooperation among the allied states.
We would hope that our response to New Zealand would signal that the course
these movements advocate would not be cost-free in terms of security
relationships with the United States."

Analysts pointed out that the U.S. reaction seemed to be particularly strong
given the lack of a real security threat in the South Pacific region.
However, according to some observers, the U.S. was concerned that other
powers, like Japan or Western European nations, might be emboldened to take
similar actions concerning U.S. nuclear arms, if New Zealand suffered no
reprisals for its action.

Japan had a ban on nuclear weapons, but allowed U.S. ships to visit without
seeking to clarify whether or not they carried nuclear arms.  Western Europe
was depended upon to deploy North Atlantic Treaty Organization nuclear
weapons, but there were strong antinuclear popular movements in some Western
European nations, as there was in New Zealand. [See p. 19A1; 1984, pp. 781C2,
456F3; 1983, p.999A1]  -- Facts on File, 1985.

บ Denmark Sets Elections                                                    บ
บ After Atomic Arms Vote nato Role Threatened. Danish Premier Poul Schluter
April 19 called a snap general election for May 1.  The action was prompted
by an April 14 vote of the Folketing (parliament) approving a resolution to
tighten the nation's policy against port visits by ships with nuclear weapons.
The resolution had been a defeat for Scluter's center-tight minority coalition
government and posed problems for Denmark's membership of the North Atlantic
Treaty Organization.

The one-sentence resolution said, "Insofar as the Folketing considers that for
the past 3 years it has been Danish policy not to accept nuclear weapons on
Danish territory, including Danish ports, the government is urged to notify
visiting naval vessels thereof."  Since 1957, when denmark had instituted the
ban, it had been the government's policy to assume that visiting nato ships
respected Danish policy.

The new resolution, however, threatened Denmark's membership in nato, because
nato allies Britain and the U.S. had a policy of refusing to disclose whether
their naval vessels carried atomic weapons. Denmark's position at the head of
the Baltic Sea made it a key link in nato's defense strategy. The ban also
threatened the strategy of British reinforcement of Denmark with its
14,0-member strong mobile force, because the troops would have to be
deployed across the North Sea by the British navy.  That reinforcement policy
was a primary reason for Denmark's membership in the alliance.  [See 1987, p.


On the nuclear resolution, the Radicals joined the Social Democrats (Denmark's
largest party) and the leftist Socialist people's Party and Common Cause
grouping to defeat the government by a vote of 75–58.


U.S. Secretary of State George Schultz April 15 said that the resolution would
have "extremely serious" consequences for Danish-American relations.  He said
that the resolution "goes to the very heart of the meaning and interlocking
nature of our mutual commitments with the nato alliance."

(A similar ban on port calls by New Zealand in 1986 had led the U.S. to
dissolve the Australian, New Zealand, U.S. Treaty Organization [anzus] mutual
defense pact with that South Pacific nation.  [See 1986, p.998D3]

In announcing the May general election, Schluter April 19 told parliament, "we
consider hat the resolution endangers Denmark's membership of nato and we fear
that its consequence will be to isolate us from our allies.  Therefore we feel
that it is necessary to ask the electorate for their views on Denmark's
continued full membership of the Western alliance."

According to a 1987 Gallup poll reported April 2 by the Times of London, 59%
of Danes favored nato membership, with 2% opposed.

บ NZ seeks renewal of US ties                                               บ
บ By DAVID BARBER,                                                          บ
บ Wellington, Tuesday The New Zealand Prime Minister, Mr Bolger, revealed
today that he had written to the US President, Mr Clinton, urging a quick
settlement of the dispute between the two countries over nuclear policy.

But New Zealand fears that Australia may stand in the way.

The US formally declared New Zealand "a former ally" in 1987 and effectively
suspended its membership of the ANZUS defence alliance with Australia after
the then Labor Government passed a law banning visits  by  nuclear-powered and
nuclear-armed vessels.

Although the relationship has improved since Mr Bolger's National Party came
to power in 199, the US still deprives New Zealand of political and defence
intelligence it shares with other allies.

"We want to, as quickly as possible, get back to a totally normal
relationship," Mr Bolger said.  "The Cold War has ended.  It's a different
world environment and I believe it's in the interests of New Zealand and, dare
I say it, the United States, to put bygones behind us."

He said President Clinton's inauguration offered "a potential window of
opportunity that I would hope is used by the US administration".

With nuclear weapons now removed from US surface vessels, there was no reason
for the US not to resume visits by conventionally-powered ships, Mr Bolger

Former President George Bush's administration had declined to do so while the
anti-nuclear law, which continues to ban visits by nuclear-powered vessels,
remained in force.

Mr Bolger made it clear that he thought the first move should come from the
Americans in the form of a ship visit.  The Bush administration consistently
said it was up to New Zealand to repeal the anti-nuclear law and demonstrate
its commitment to the alliance.

Mr Bolger welcomed last week's comment by the Senate Democratic leader,
Senator George Mitchell, that the incoming administration should hold an early
review of the relationship "with such good friends and allies as new Zealand".

The fear in some Government quarters in Wellington is that Australia will, for
domestic political reasons in an election year, maintain pressure on the new
administration to make no concessions to New Zealand.

Mr Bolger repeated today that he was in no hurry to change the anti-nuclear
law before his election, due late this year, despite a scientific report
published last month that said nuclear powered vessels were safe.

No New Zealand Prime Minister has been invited to Washington since Mr David
Lange came to power in 1984 with his anti-nuclear policy.  Mr Bolger said he
would be happy to go there to discuss the issue, but commentators believe
Washington hard-liners will insist there is no invitation while the
anti-nuclear law stays in place.

MARK METHERELL reports from Canberra that Australian sources said that while
the matter was essentially a dispute between NZ and the US, the Australian
Government's view was that membership of ANZUS imposed certain obligations.

If NZ wanted the advantages of joint exercises and sharing of intelligence
with the US, it should be prepared to accept nuclear ship visits.  "They are
after the benefits without paying the dues," a source said.

But officials said Australia was likely to maintain its low-key approach to
the dispute.


      [I started aggressively, so I might as well go on the same way.  This
      article was sent to Leah Zeldes Smith for Stet.  To describe it as
      `agressive' is, perhaps, a trifle mild.  Leah did her best to tone it
      down and even, er, *helped* by adding bits here and there -- including
      one strategically-placed paragraph which plugged a gap that I had
      deliberately left as sucker-bait for medium-smart readers.  The version
      printed here is what I sent to Leah; interested readers can find the
      edited version in Stet 6.]

Devaluing the Egobuck

`Fanzines are dying' -- `The greying of fandom' -- do you recognise these
phrases?  The odds are you've heard them, even uttered or written them.  You
probably even have a pet theory as to why they should be true.  Well, I'll bet
that your theory is wrong.

The first obvious point is that fewer fanzines are being published now.  Seems
to be true, though if you take a few away from a lot you still have a lot
left.  There are still more zines being published than any one person can
read, if only because there are a lot more fans than the typical printrun.

The next obvious point is that fanzine fandom is smaller than of yore.  Seems
not so true, unless you take a strictly limited definition of a fanzine fan.
I look in the lettercolumns of zines like Stet and Gegenschein and see the
same old names.  Then I look in the lettercolumns of zines not cut from the
Sixth Fandom mould -- Ethel the Aardvark, Fosfax, etc -- and see new names
among the old.  I take over Thyme and start adding some of these names to the
mailing list, and behold!  They turn out to be fans indeed, but fans who never
heard of Walt Willis or -- or Lee Hoffman or Quandry.  They have odd ideas and
traditions all of their own, and they fit the Sixth Fandom mindset like square
pegs in small round holes.

Which brings me to the crux, being that the new fans are out there, craving
their fanzine fix but not finding it in our zines.  The paradigm has changed,
and if we are really interested in getting these people into `our' fandom we
must be prepared to change our mindset a little to meet them.  Else we will
become a fringe group of old fogies, derided and disregarded while `fandom'
continues apace beyond the walls of our little self-imposed ghetto.

There are many things that can be done to attract these readers, but the thing
I want to address here is perhaps the most paradoxical, in that `common sense'
tells us it is sure to be counter-productive.  Yet experiment argues that it
is empirically correct.

We must devalue the egobuck.

There is, of course, no such currency.  It's a figment created by
juxtapositioning egoboo with issue credits.  What I want can be more clearly
described as reducing the value of `the usual'.  Lower the issue credit on
contributions, demand more parity in trades, assess `the usual' by its value
to you rather than `one fan, one loc' or `all locs are created equal'.
I can hear the screams already.  You want fair play!  You spend a couple of
hours of time and a little money for postage and paper and you expect a fair
return on your effort.  Like several issues of a magazine that is costing the
editor hundreds of dollars and weeks of time to produce.  Sure.

Then you wonder why so many people give up publishing.  Then you wonder why
the quality of the locs is dropping.  Then you won- der why people drift away
from your zine and from fandom while you send them all those free- bies.  Why
only the hard core is left, those who loc and contribute far beyond the call
of duty.

The problem is that standards are too low.  Too many people expect -- and get
-- issue credits for scribbled notes that wouldn't even make good apa mailing
comments.  A worthwhile loc needs creative input, not mere knee-jerking to the
last issue.  But when a scribble gets you as many issues as a carefully-
considered letter, why bother?  And if the quality of contributions in the
zine to which you send the scribble declines, well, you can always stop
responding and take your interest elsewhere, calm in the awareness that it's
not your fault -- after all, didn't you loc them?

The only zines that seem able to sustain the quality are those that drive
themselves by the contributions of their editors and their close friends, but
-- they grow long WAHFs, which still seem to get freebies because even though
those locs had nothing interesting to say, they responded and so deserve a

Then there's trading policy.  Fannish economics seems to argue that trading
a seven-per-year zine with a one-per-year zine is `fair' and that trading
issue for issue isn't.  Well, this may be true if the seven issues are small
and the one is a giant, but face it, this situation is rare.  All it means is
that the more frequent publisher is pouring money down a hole, which is fine
if they really want to do that but is not (in my opinion) something that
should be expected of them.  The frequent publisher is discouraged, and soon
discovers that publishing two issues a year nets them as many trades as seven
a year ever did.  So they cut back.

Many fanzines don't publish contributors addresses but do publish addresses
with locs.  An article may require several times the creative input of a loc,
but the loc nets more freebies from other faneds who add to their mailing
lists by parsing the lettercolumns of the zines they see.  So articles and the
like are discouraged in favour of mindless and (relatively) mass-produced

Then we hear the cries that fanzines are dying and that we're not getting any
new blood.  Of course not -- what's being published is often of interest to
few but the long established and indoctrinated fans.

The too-high value of `the usual' is not the sole cause of all this, but I
submit that it is a major contributing factor.  Devalue it, I say!  Devalue
the egobuck!

-- Greg Hills, 1feb92


      [Being unemployed is more than just not having to get up in the mornings,
      or cutting down on book-buying, conventions, and fanzines.  It's not a
      case of running short of cash before payday.  It's weighing every single
      expenditure against anticipated future needs, where the loss of a week's
      `income' is not a momentary embarrassment until next payday, but a major
      diaster that will take months to recover from.]

I Go Shopping

Swanston Street, as many readers will know, is Melbourne's main drag.  The
traveller debouching -- or debauching? -- through the main entrance of
Flinders Street Station will be confronted with the stony lump that houses
Young & Jackson's Hotel -- Number One, Swanston Street -- home of the nubile
nude `Chloe' and first pit stop for generations of sailors fresh into port.
Facing Y&J across Swanston is St Paul's Cathedral -- `Vice before and virtue
behind', as the Chinese once said of a procession comprising their Emperor,
his mistress, and K'ung Fu-Tzu.  I could ramble at length about the wonders
to be seen as the traveller paces up Swanston Street, but the wonder that
inspired this article calls me on.

A feature of Swanston Street that has always fascinated me is the couple of
hole-in-the-wall establishments which, from time to time, hock cheap Asian
goods such as radios, tape decks, binoculars, and dolls -- for a pittance.
A miniature TV set, no matter how shoddy and even though the image is only
black & white, is a definite bargain when knocked down for $1..  What
attracted me however, was not the TV set.

In a financial crisis earlier this year (1992) I sold off my stereo and some
other chattels to pay the rent.  This represented a significant decline in the
comforts of home and was made tolerable only because I still possessed my
little Sony Walkman (worth $2 in the days when $200 was a piffling sum to
me; not worth enough to sell now that even a fraction of that sum is rather
more than piffling) and a set of ghetto blaster-sized amplifying speakers.
The catch to this system is that the several AC adaptors I have acquired over
the years offer voltages from 3 Volts up but my Walkman takes only 1.5 Volts.
Although it gets up to 8 hours of tape play from the single alkaline battery
that the 1.5 Volts represents, batteries form an overly expensive way to get
music into my life.

My interest was caught when the man behind the counter waved a stereo tape
deck around.  A deck that size would surely take juice from one or another of
my AC adaptors; it would allow me to get my musical joy from house current,
not batteries!  Music all the time, not just whenever the craving for an
auditory fix got the better of my financial better judgement.

I drifted in with the crowd, waving my hand eagerly in the breeze whenever the
man offered a tape deck as part of the goodies.

My first booty was a free deck of playing cards.  The man was passing out
freebies and super-bargains like he wanted to get quit of the day's load and
go home.  The cards were nice but they weren't a tape deck, so I hung around
and played it cool in case by being greedy for lesser things I might lose out
on the cherished goodie.

The man behind the counter was an artist -- just how much of an artist he was
I did not appreciate until much later.  He started by asking twenty cents for
this, a dollar for that, then acting ashamed at his own greed and giving the
thing away free or for fractions of the agreed price.  He invited the crowd
closer.  His patter was slick and witty, punctuated by outbursts of
spontaneous generosity.  He started showing the crowd the goodies that he
would be giving away to them later on.  The day's temperature, some 29o on the
street, lagged behind the fever that was spreading through the crowd. I
smiled, enjoying the show, admiring the salesman's performance.  This was
cheap entertainment.

He picked up a plain brown box.  A mystery box.  Any gamblers in the crowd?
Five dollars for whatever it contained.  You, sir?  Five dollars is too much
for an empty box; you can have it for one.  Can I open it for you?  Look at
that -- a bottle of `Poison' perfume, retails for $4 in the shops, you get
it for twenty cents.  Thank you.  More boxes, more bargains.

The prices began to rise, slowly and with frequent showers of freebies.  Now
he would demand $5 for this, $1 for that, then rebate all but a dollar or two
of the asking price after the deal was struck.

He offered something for $2 but got no takers.  Without a pause he showered
us with more freebies -- I received a blank cassette -- then offered several
goodies to the first person to offer -- (every hand went up) -- five hundred
dollars!  Was that a genuine offer, sir?  It was?  Do you think it's fair?
Well, I don't and you can have the lot for one dollar.  Thank you.  Fifty
dollars for this doll and -- a walkman.  Was that a genuine offer?  It was?
Well, you can have it for five dollars.

He started stacking things on the counter.  A clock radio, a walkman, a TV,
this & that, a ghetto blaster.  He explained that he would sell the lot to the
first hand raised after he stated the price, which was $5 --

Every hand was in the air.

Well, he was sorry but he couldn't give it to everyone and he hadn't seen who
was first -- had blinked or something; I missed hearing the reason.  Instead
he said he would knock it down to the first hand raised after he rapped his
auctioneer's mallet three times.  Knock, knock --

Every hand was in the air.

Hadn't he told us to wait for the hammer?  He was going to do it again, and
this time he told his partner to watch the crowd and tell him who got their
hand up first.  Knock, knock, knock --

Every hand was in the air.

His partner said he hadn't been able to see who got in first, so the salesman
asked everyone who wanted the stack of goodies to put their hand up, and
counted the resulting forest.  Fifteen hands, he reported.  Here was what he
was going to do.  He had some nice opal key rings.  He would give one to every
genuine customer -- a genuine customer being anyone who would pay $2 for their
ring.  Thank you, ten dollars here, five dollars from this lovely lady, thank
you, and here was $8 change and here was $3 change, thank you.  I crowded up
and handed him my $2.  He counted the result.  Seventeen people had paid, he
reported.  A second partner handed him seventeen key rings and he handed sev-
eral each to several people, asking them to give one to everyone who had paid.

The key rings were distributed -- and my hands were empty.  Hey, I asked,
who's got a key ring they haven't paid for?  The salesman was distraught --
his clever plan for fair distribution of the goodies was imperilled.  Hastily
he asked who had paid for but had not received a key ring.  Four hands --
well, he wanted to be fair to the genuine customers, and he recognised that
all four of us had paid our money -- here were four more key rings, making 21
even though only 17 people had paid.  There were four crooks in the crowd and
he asked them to put their hands up.

Not a hand was in the air.

Well, the salesman explained, he wasn't about to risk giving these goodies to
a crook instead of one of the honest genuine customers.  He would put the pile
aside for now and think up some other way to give it to the right person.  In
the meantime, our keyrings were our proof that we were genuine customers and
we should keep them in our hands and show them whenever we bid for something.

Instead of the big stack he offered jewellery and briefcases.  He would give
each genuine customer the item of their choice, he explained.  You, sir, what
did you want most?  And you?  And you?  (I chose a briefcase -- there were no
tape decks in this offer.)  As each choice was made he stacked it on the
counter.  Eventually everyone had been given a choice -- he asked if anyone
had been missed out, and nobody spoke up.  He had fifteen things on the
counter and seventeen genuine customers and four crooks.  Unfortunately his
partner had vanished.  He called the man back on deck and asked him where he
had been.  Having a smoke.  Why was he having a smoke when it was his job to
be out in front keeping track of who asked for what?  Had to smoke sometime.
Well, get back to work and give each genuine customer their free goodie.  Give
who what?  He hadn't been there to see the division.

Well, there was no way to sort out who should get what in most cases, and
rather than be unfair to some the salesman declared that he would not give out
any of these.  But when we saw what was coming next --

This plain box, ten cents.  What the hell, I was getting bored waiting for the
tape decks to come back on sale.  Ten cents?  Why not.  I scored a shoddy
plaster figurine and a set of wooden stirrers.

Back to the big stack.  Was anyone willing to offer fifty dollars for it?  Two
hands.  You, sir, you had your hand up first.  Was that a genuine offer?  Do
you think it's fair?  Done; give me the money.  Thank you.

He brought out a ring.  Genuine solid gold, genuine Australian opal.  Fifty
dollars for the right to bid on this.  One hundred for that.  Were these
genuine offers?  Thank you, thank you.  (This money was collected.  It did not
come back.)  The counter was strewn with jewellery, a silver tea-set,
silver-plated cutlery set, watches.  He would give their choice of any one of
these to anyone willing to offer two hundred dollars.  Thank you, thank you.
Two hundred dollars, was that a genuine offer?

The hammer was aimed straight between my eyes.  I checked my wallet and
hesitated.  Any method of payment -- credit card, cash --

Hey, what the hell, he kept giving the money back, didn't he?  I got leave to
dash to the nearest bank.  My account wasn't rich, but I was between rent
payments and had the residuum left over from my last dole payment that was
earmarked as this fortnight's share of the next rent.  I could spare two
hundred dollars for a few minutes --

Got two hundred?  Genuine offer?  Fair enough?  What's your name, friend --
Greg.  Which item do you want, my friend Greg? -- here, have the ring.  Stay
right there.  And for you, madam, the tea service.  You, this watch.  And you.
Not much left now.

Freebies showered.  I scored the silver-plated cutlery set, a ring and
earings, a necklace ('are you married?  No?  You soon will be with this --').
The partner came round and handed out garbage bags to those conspicuously
laden with plunder.  I hung on; my two hundred dollars was still in play and
I wanted it.

The end.  No more to give away.  The crowd began to disperse --

I still didn't have my two hundred dollars, and in the cooling breeze that the
absence of bodies now allowed into the shop I realised that the money was
gone.  Spent, freely offered by me and accepted by them.

Conned, by damn, and me so smug and aloof amidst the greedy crowd an hour
earlier!  The hour's entertainment had cost me two hundred and two dollars and
ten cents, for which I had received goods with a `shop' value of about that
-- mostly in the opal-set 9ct gold ring and the silver-plated cutlery set,
with a little help from the gold-plated necklace and the gold-plated paste
ring and earings.  Conned?  But I did have goods which were nominally `worth'
what I had paid; I had no beef coming.  I had offered the money freely, had
declared I thought it a fair bargain --

But I had expected to get the money back.  I had been `had' ... hadn't I?
Without that money I was going to have an awful lot of trouble paying the next
rent; it wasn't really a disposable asset since it had all been earmarked for
rent.  All that about genuine offers and fair value had just been persiflage;
they knew it and I knew it.  I would go and talk to them, demand ...

I grinned to myself and said nothing after all; just gathered my booty and
departed.  I'd been `had' all right -- I had handed over $2, fully expecting
it to come back.  It hadn't come back, but after all that was the bargain I
had struck: $2 for my pick of the counter.  The salesman had made quite
certain afterwards that I got my `money's worth', even though the goods I
received didn't look much like tape decks and certainly weren't things I would
have chosen in preference to paying the rent.  I hadn't a single leg to stand
on, and the final irony -- handing out garbage bags to the  lucky  customers
to carry their purchases home in -- was not lost on me.

After all, I'd had an hour's `free' entertainment and a candid glimpse of the
rapacious greed that dwells within `honest' citizens (unfortunately including
myself).  If we'd really been honest, would we have been there like jackals
around carrion?  The truly honest citizen would never have been involved in
that frenzied attempt to take advantage of a naive salesman.

I got a marvellous education in folly.  I got the germ of an article.  I would
pay the rent somehow -- late, maybe, but somehow.  And after all, I did get
a free garbage bag along with the rest of the garbage.  What could be more

-- Greg Hills, 17nov92


      [Here in Melbourne there is a group known as the Nova Mob, which meets
      at a member's house on the first Wednesday of each month to talk about
      sf and related topics.  Regular attendees include George Turner, Wyne
      Whiteford, Bruce Gillespie, Marc Ortlieb, Alan Stewart, and so on.  There
      is no membership fee but you are expected to present a discussion every
      so often.  I attend infrequently, but last year I thought it was about
      time to pay my dues.  I even had a topic lined up ...]

A Virtual Paradise

The subject of this talk is `how science fiction has not kept up with
society'.  In accordance with the traditions of such talks, my examples will
not keep up with science fiction and science as such will not be permitted to

Science fiction proclaims itself to be the literature of ideas, of the future,
of the possible, and so on.  It has at various times claimed predictive

The problem is, of course, that most sf is not predictive at all.  Putting
aside the myriad half-baked space drives and super-weapons, the overstructure
of plasteel, glasstick, hand-held bevawatt lasers and other frannistans, we
usually emerge with a society that is a subset of the writer's current decade
complete with shibboliths.

From the viewpoint of the storyteller this is not bad, since most sf is
written for money.  If the reader cannot identify with the characters then the
market for the story or novel will be small.  Who wants to read about
incomprehensible entities doing bizarre things for inscrutable reasons?  So
there is a pressure on the writer to make their characters and society
accessible to the casual reader of the time.

Unfortunately -- and here we resume previous programming -- most writers
simply accept the restriction and if pressed will become quite indignant over
being called to task.  The `restriction' conceals their lack of inspiration,
their sheer laziness or even inability to bring the alien viewpoint to life
for the reader.

If I put a story aside for a few decades and return to reread it after the
period in which it was written has become nicely hazy in my memory, I often
find that the characters in it are behaving in a convincingly alien manner --
a manner at odds with the mores of today's society -- with-out loss of
readability or accessibility.  Of course, this is not quite the same as
creating a society that never existed.  In the case of sf written after 1958,
I lived through the period in which those assumptions held sway and so it can
be argued that this familiarity with the background makes the difference.
Even in the case of sf written before I was born, the society it is (actually)
set against did exist and subsequently became the one that exists today, and
so is again familiar.

Such an argument, however, simply delivers itself back to my argument that it
is laziness or incompetence that is behind the endless string of modern-
society-plus-hi-tech-add-ons stories.  In a story set in the near future, then
the society of that future has evolved from the society of today in exactly
the same fashion as today's society has evolved from the society of yesterday.
The writer's challenge is to take the new elements of his or her future and
extrapolate the effect of each item on that future.  If mobile phones have
become ubiquitous then the future the writer creates must allow for the effect
of this on the way the characters will act.  If automatic teller machines are
freely accessible then the writer needs to explain why the character is
queuing at the bank counter.

The difference (for the writer) between creating a strange but accessible
future society by combining today's society with the new elements introduced
by the writer, and a strange but accessible future society by waiting a couple
of decades for the mores to change from those standing at the time of writing,
is that the former requires imagination and creativity while the latter merely
requires a dusty bookshelf.  For the reader, on the other hand, the former
means that the sf he or she picks up in the bookshop today will be genuinely
predictive, genuinely new, and therefore genuinely inspiring.

Let's take an example.  The one that started the chain of thought that
eventually led to this talk is one dear to my heart, namely computers.  The
microchip is the key innovation of the eighties, has transformed the world,
and yet when I go into the shops for sf, what do I find?  Supercomputers,
intelligent houses, mere terminals.  I search in vain for the descendants of
the desktop personal computer.  Hand-held calculators and silicon memo pads
abound, but these already exist.  There is a gap between these and the
built-in models that run houses and offices and may be intelligent.  This I
find odd.  Here I find clear evidence of the failure of sf to keep ahead of

More than that, the stories still usually require the characters to leave home
and commute to their offices ... where their computers allow them to link
instantly to anywhere or anyone in the world without stirring from their

Here are a few free-wheeling predictions for the future of the microcomputer.
How many of them turn up in the sf you read?

1.  The computer gets smaller and more compact -- the laptop shows the way --
until you can stuff a full-featured PC into your wallet or purse.  (Do they
still use purses?  Some items of technology never go out of fashion.)
Ubiquitous wall sockets allow you to plug into the global network any where,
any time.

2.  The walletcom eventually gets superceded by the earcom, which is worn
after the fashion of modern hearing aids.  It may be voice-oriented (talk to
it by sub-vocalising; it talks back the way a hearing aid does) if powerful
enough, or may use a credit-card-sized screen and keyboard.  Infra-red light
replaces wires, as per modern-day remote controls.  Uses rechargable
batteries.  You take it off at night and plug it into its recharger.

3.  The earcom gets replaced by the skullcom, which is either grown into the
bone of the child by nanotech devices or else implanted by advanced surgical
techniques.  Interfaces directly with the parts of the brain that handle the
five senses.  Needs no keyboard (just think at it), no screen (heterodynes the
image over your normal vision), no speaker (induces current directly into the
auditory centre).  Needs no recharging -- runs off the body's natural
electricity, or maybe uses a physical dynamo operated by the normal activity
of the muscles in your small intestine.  A small transmitter communicates with
the global net, or maybe you push your forefinger (whose bone contains a
communications extension of the skullcom) against a conductive surface.

Of these three suggestions, only the first has appeared in more than one or
two places in modern sf literature.  Robert Reed's Down the Bright Way
introduced the concept of `hard memory' which looks like a variation of
suggestion two which is physically implanted into the head and communicates
direct with the brain (except that the `hard memory' he suggests is rather
more passive than my earcom would be).  If other sf has gone further (my
reading is a little short in the cyberpunk area) I haven't seen it.

Note that the three suggestions are extrapolations of trends in the evolution
of the personal microcomputer; the walletcom, earcom, and skullcom mentioned
here are not mere terminals for the world computer net but individual
computers which can be stand-alone or networked at least as easily as today's
desktop or laptop.

Now consider some of the consequences.  Instantaneous mathematics.  It will
be taken for granted that everyone above the level of the moron can do mental
arithmetic, even though arithmetic may become a special subject taught only
to those who think it may be useful for projects they plan to undertake.
Quick and perfect recall.  No more memorising long lists of facts and figures,
except as a lesson in mental discipline for the student.  While the capacity
of the PC may be limited, most of the facts that may be required during
everyday life can be stored in it, and more can be stored in the network,
which is as close as the nearest wall.  The skull-com, indeed, may be able to
access the brain's own memory storage and both organise it for your own use
and use it itself.  Reminders and notes.  It can jog your memory when you need
to do something, acting as an automatic personal secretary.  Phone calls and
communications.  No need to keep a telephone directory handy -- the PC can
keep track of people you may want to ring and you'll never need to worry about
lost phone numbers again.  And so on -- the list is endless.  The effect would
be to make every indi-vidual fitted with a skullcom a genius by every
characteristic measured by today's IQ tests.

Note that I have not presumed that any of the three PCs will be intelligent.
They are just tools.  Extensions of your mind, just like the modern PC.  Note
also that I have not actually claimed that someone fitted with a skullcom
would be a genius, just that today's IQ tests could not distinguish between
a naturally bright person and an enhanced person.  On the other hand, who is
to say what characteristics of creativity may be brought out when someone no
longer needs to struggle with a defective memory or inability to make quick
mental calculations?  Perhaps they really would become geniuses.

I believe that these PCs are coming.  They won't be called by the names I've
used, their abilities may differ (will certainly include enhancements that I
haven't thought of), but they seem obvious steps along the chain that started
at the tail-end of the seventies when cheap microcomputers such as the TRS-8
first became available.  Nor do I believe that they are far in our future.
The first versions of the walletcom are already available in the shops.
They're not full-featured and mostly have only 64 K of memory, but the
direction is clear.  I believe that the earcom will be available this decade.
Marc Ortlieb's grand-children will grow up wearing skullcoms, though he
personally may never want to touch one.

This is just one example of sf's failure of imagination.  Most writers use a
PC every day, but very rarely does the PC as such (let alone an extrapolation
of it) turn up in their stories.

Let's follow up.  Another failure, even when a piece of technology has been
used in a story, is the failure to think through the consequences of that
technology and its effects on people.  In the example above, the writer would
be remiss indeed if they did not realise the potential inherent in a machine
with a direct interface with our sensory system.  I'm talking Virtual Reality
here.  You don't like the colour of the walls?  Don't get out the paintbrush;
simply instruct your skull-com that the wall is green, not brown.  Floral
sheets?  Scent?  Food need salt?  I see no reason why these aspects of our
environment could not be `interpreted' by the skullcom, perhaps with a little
help from the larger computer that runs the home.  There are obviously
limitations on this -- although we could imagine the settee over there instead
of in front of us, we would still bark our shins on it if we walked into it
since it's only our perception of the location, not the settee itself, which
has moved; or while we could imagine ourselves warm rather than freezing, this
might not be the wisest thing to do.

So by small increments my suggestion for the future course of personal
computer evolution has brought us back to ideas at the forefront of modern sf
-- and demonstrated how they can realistically work without converting a human
being into a computer program.  I've never felt easy about the story which
demands that you either become a computer program or else sit in a chair and
enter the virtual reality only mentally.  While it may well be possible to do
it that way, it seems so limited.  As someone who rents rather than owns their
own home, I am confronted daily with decors that I don't much like but can do
little to change.  If I could just alter my perception of the colour scheme

Look at the consequences.  Why bother with a fancy 3-D holophone when the
skullcom can pick up the incoming message and construct the image in your head
instead?  Why travel (except to be there), when the global network can
instantly bring anyone to you or send you anyplace?  Why spend money on paint
and fancy things when the computer can make the plainest object seem rich?
Why pay for cosmetic surgery when your skullcom can tell others how you want
to look?

There would still be a place for personal visits in such a world, but it would
make obsolete a massive number of the resource-wasting fripperies we need
today only for `front'.  You could still collect beautiful objects, create art
and fiction, and so on; what would go would be the thousand different designs
for objects intended for one purpose.  This has far-reaching effects on
industry and commerce, which effects are unfortunately beyond the scope of
this discussion.  (Translation: I can't be bothered thinking that far ahead
right now and I've left writing this till the last moment so there's no
opportunity to get bothered.)

At the end of all this you wind up with a human being that has quite different
standards to our own, yet who should still be perfectly accessible to today's
reader if the writer can only clearly demonstrate how they got there from
here, because all the changes are rooted in that old unchanging human nature.

I make a present of this vision to anyone who cares to file off the serial
numbers.  There are enough undefined variables in it to let you make it your

For now, we're back to square one.  I took one key aspect of modern society
and extrapolated and came up with a scenario that has not been used in any sf
story that I am aware of.  Nor have I used anything new and wonderful -- all
the ideas here have been available, even obvious, for several years.  Long
enough for them to have turned up in the literature.  But they haven't.
Instead good old Man strides boldly th-rough the world He has created,
staunch-ly unchanged and unchanging, She still gets the boy, and the readers
lap it up.


Here is a series of propositions about things I think we should be demanding
from our sf.

One.  I think good sf should challenge our assumptions about the way things

Two.  I think good sf should show evidence that the writer has considered each
new element they are throwing in and has allowed for its effect on the
characters inhabiting the writer's story.  While nanotechnology need not be
quite as effective as it was in Blood Music, its use in a story as the
explanation why the central characters can make swords glow and do marvellous
things should be coupled with an explanation as to why these abilities cannot
be extended to the mob.  If an oppressed minority can build spaceships to
escape medieval Dark Age European persecutors, we deserve an explanation as
to how a society with that much spare industrial capacity (which it applies
continuously over a period of nine hundred years from 45 AD to 135 AD) can
yet fail to overawe and dominate the superstitious rabble around it.  If the
supercomputers of tomorrow build themselves into the interstices between
places in the network of matter transmitters they run, we need an explanation
as to why they neglected to design an unpullable plug.

Three.  I think good sf should attempt to construct characters who can
realistically be accepted as deriving from the societies and technologies
behind them.  At the same time, proposition one above would suggest that
throwing a few curve balls is a good idea.  Okay, we have a world in which
computers are used universally and so sex-based differences can be expected
to diminish.  Genetic engineering is commonplace.  Now let's find a good
reason why people should elect to stay as different as possible.  Or, hmmm,
why tall and short people should so choose.  Fifteen billion people, hmmm, and
the energy shortage because the idiots in the late 2th Century didn't build
enough nuclear plants means that everyone still has to huddle together in
cities to gain economy of scale, hmmm.  Now a short person needs less headroom
than a tall person, so let's design our housing for graduated heights.
Shelly, our main character, is tall and agonising over his feelings for Boney,
his short lover.  Should he have some bone removed from his legs to reduce his
height so that they can live together?  Who will bear the foetus if they
decide to mix their X chromosomes at the local gene factory?  Can he persuade
Boney to divorce Scaley, Boney's other lover, or should he just accept the
extended relationship implied by Scaley's own three other lovers?  Okay, now
drop a story on top of this scenario, tie up the loose ends, and post it off
to the slushpile.

Fourth and finally, I think that good sf should show those characters
attempting a plausible solution to whatever problem has been dumped on them.

Sf that attempts all four of these propositions seems damn-ed scarce today.
Perhaps the market is to blame, for buying what it thinks will sell.  If that
is the case, then perhaps the fault lies not with the writers but with the
readers, who fail to demand enough from their chosen form of entertainment.
I don't know.  In the end I have no pat and conclusive answer to the topic of
this talk, just a series of if-onlys and I-wishes.

Any suggestions?

-- Greg Hills, 3jun92


Better Times -- My Editorial, love it or leave it

	   From The Song of the Rear Guard

	   Our doorways that, in time of fear,
	         We opened overwide
	   Shall softly close from year to year
	         Till all be purified;
	   For though no fluttering fan be heard
	         Nor chaff be seen to flee --
	   The Lord shall winnow the Lord's Preferred --
	         And, Hey then up we go!

	   Our altars which the heathen brake
	         Shall rankly smoke anew,
	   And anise, mint and cummin take
	         Their dread and sovereign due,
	   Whereby the buttons of our trade
	         Shall soon restorŠd be
	   With curious work in gilt and braid,
	         And, Hey then up we go!

	                               -- Rudyard Kipling

We live in the greatest age of wonder and individual opportunity the world has
ever seen.  Anyone willing to grasp the tools now available can do quickly and
at home tasks that once required an officeful of flunkies and a floor or a
whole building filled with heavy machinery.  The paradox is that recently the
whole trend of 2th-Century life has been reversed. Instead of leisure and
quality of life, the new icon is `productivity' -- lower wages, longer hours,
fewer workers.

It has long been known that one way for a business to get out of difficulty
is to prune its workforce and strike agreements with the remaining employees
for either lower wages, or productivity-linked preservation or increase of
wages.  This policy has saved many companies -- SPC is one Australian example.

Unfortunately, what is good when practised by a few is not good when practised
by many.  One company shedding staff has little effect on the economy --
sacked individuals quickly find new work and the leaner original company
trades its way back into health.  Once staff cuts become endemic, however, the
job market quickly becomes saturated.  Everyone is cutting down and nobody is
hiring, so unemployment begins to rise.  Unemployed people who have no
prospects of a quick return to work are forced to cut their expenditures, and
they also drain funds from Government coffers that should have been used to
improve community services or the nation's infrastructure.  As unemployment
grows, therefore, consumer spending falls and deficits grow, putting more
pressure on companies to reduce workforces.  This cycle cannot be reversed
simply by ceasing to sack, because the mass of unemployed people remains.

I am no economist, but it seems obvious to me that the solution to this
problem is not to cut more jobs, lower wages and conditions, raise hours, open
shops on Sunday, sell off profitable public enterprises, raise taxes.  These
steps only make things worse.

Increasing the value of exports and reducing imports will help, but with every
nation in the world attempting the same task Australia has small chance of
succeeding with an `export-led recovery', particularly when every glimmer of
improvement in the national economy immediately leads to an anticipatory
increase in imports without a corresponding increase in exports.

Reducing the budget deficit will help, but with between ten and eleven percent
of the nominal workforce sucking on the open wound there are few places where
the budget can be cut without reducing expenditure on long-term investments
such as education and short-term investments such as infrastructure.

In the end, the problem cannot be solved without getting people off
unemployment and back on incomes which will allow them to buy consumer goods.
This can take a long-term form -- concentrate on jobs for the young and let
old age take care of the rest -- or a short-term form -- spending money for
job creation -- or a mix of long- and short-term measures.  Over time,
advances in technology will help.

Moral I have none, nor a satisfactory conclusion to this Editorial.  All I
know is that for the last two years I have been forced to watch with envy the
parade of glittering new goods coming on the market, and being unable to
afford them.  There is a shop, not ten minutes walk from my front door, which
is selling an 8 dpi Postscript/PCL laser printer for $A2650.  That would be
just a little more than a month's wages for me if I was employed as I wish to
be.  Instead I must anxiously watch the ominous greying of the output of my
little 3 dpi laser, hoping that it is merely because the toner is running
low and not because the printer is breaking down.

-- Greg Hills, 13may93

This ends Vapourware 1, the fanzine, electronic edition.

Updated April 25, 1999.