FORAGING THROUGH PALMER'S FORUM

Doug Skinner


After the "Shaver Mystery" had run its course in Amazing Stories, Ray Palmer left Ziff-Davis, and moved to Wisconsin to start his own company. He had already joined Ziff-Davis alumnus Curtis Fuller to launch Fate, catering to an audience eager for the paranormal - readers he discovered while promoting Shaver. There were other things he wanted to do, though, so he went into business as "Palmer Publications."

I'm a great fan of these magazines, and try to collect as many as I can. They're like nothing else in American publishing -- scrappy, chatty, and unpredictable. Palmer kept them going for years, despite physical hardship (he was partially paralyzed and often in pain), changing postal regulations (a frequent complaint in his editorials), and lack of money. He cut corners wherever possible - using irregular paper stock, filling pages with letters or his own ramblings when he couldn't afford writers. He saved a few dollars every month by not filing copyrights. And he ran ads for whatever he could sell - packets of chili seasoning, a local PTA cookbook, a prayer plaque, tiki mugs. He peddled the only dandruff shampoo endorsed by a UFO celebrity (Kenneth Arnold). At times, he seems to have kept the business afloat by the sheer force of his personality - which was, admittedly, considerable.

For those unfamiliar with the Palmer stable, here's a brief rundown:

Mystic - originally intended as a sister magazine to Fate, with more speculation and fiction. The fiction was soon dropped, and it was retitled Search.

It went through several formats, but all featured Shaver, UFOs, and the channeled scripture Oahspe, as well as the genre staples of astrology, diet, and prediction.

Other Worlds - an endearingly unpretentious sci-fi digest, which maintained Palmer's vision of pulp fiction throughout the '50s (including a lot of Shaver). He offered some of the lowest word rates in the business, but managed to attract interesting artists and writers anyway - often by accepting material too offbeat for other editors. At one point, he retitled it Science Stories to trick a printer into extending credit for a new magazine. Eventually, it changed into

Flying Saucers; but only after a period as

Flying Saucers from Other Worlds, which alternated issues devoted to UFOs and to sci-fi. Nobody could say Palmer wasn't resourceful!

Inspired Novels - reprints of public domain occult fiction, particularly the novels of Marie Corelli.

Space World...

- devoted to astronauts and the space program, with many free NASA photos. Palmer claimed this was his most profitable magazine.

Rocket Exchange - for "amateur rocket enthusiasts." I've never seen a copy, but ads show children playing with toy rockets, so I assume that's who it was meant for.

The Hidden World - a hefty quarterly offering a generous sampling of Shaver material, including artwork, articles, and reprinted "Amazing " fiction.

The file of Shaver-Palmer correspondence is particularly interesting; the long account of a doctor's previous incarnation as an American Indian is not.

Perhaps my favorite Palmer Periodical, however, was Ray Palmer's Forum.

Copies seem to be in scarce supply these days; but I have a big stack of them here, and I think a look through them would make a good addition to Shavertron.

The idea for Forum was simple and straight-forward. Many readers thought that the best parts of a Palmer Publication were his editorials and the letters - so why not put out a magazine that was just that? It was to be a sort of chat room before the fact, an ongoing discussion between the readers, with Palmer as moderator. It would also be cheap to produce, since he didn't have to pay writers or artists.

Forum was launched, with the usual Palmer fanfare, in November, 1965. The first issue was dated January, 1966; Palmer said he hoped to get out 25 more issues by the end of 1966, and then settle into a regular bi-weekly schedule. It was a 32 page pamphlet, with no cover stock - just plain paper, the only artwork a sober photo of the Roman Forum on the first page. That first issue was all-Palmer: discursive articles on his life, his plans for the magazine, and his speculations about the astral plane. He promised: "This is our magazine, our forum, where we meet personally, and you are not just a reader, but a participant. You will write your letters to me, and they will be published and answered. You will write your experiences to me, and they will be shared with all of us. We will argue and debate and discuss. We will 'reason together.' And nothing will be hidden, distorted, altered, or left undocumented."

He hinted that great revelations lay ahead: "In FORUM, I will answer all the questions you have been asking me through the years; such as what is that 'fact' I have mentioned so often that I use in determining the truth or falsity of any statement; is or is not the Shaver Mystery true?; what do I really believe about any number of subjects from reincarnation to flying saucers."

A second issue quickly followed, with Palmer articles on knowing oneself, the symbolism of the arrow, and comets. These seem hardly provocative, but it must have been the mix Palmer was after - he took the unusual step of reprinting the entire magazine on newsprint, as a sample for potential subscribers.

Forum eventually found its voice; some favorite topics were conspiracy theories, the chronology of the Bible and Oahspe, the possibility of sex in heaven, reinterpretations of myths and Bible stories, Palmer's libertarian politics, and, as always, Shaver. The format soon incorporated articles by other writers - Peter Kor, Alex Saunders, and Lee Nero were particularly active - and switched to a monthly schedule. As always, Palmer changed the format if it suited him. Issue 60 included a 32 page insert ("The Growth of a Spirit," by A. A. Rod-hu); #62 consisted entirely of a reprint of an old Palmer novelette; #142 included 53 pages on the Council on Foreign Relations (with their entire membership roster). It remained by subscription only, with a circulation of around 1500. In 1977, Palmer relaunched it as a 64-page quarterly, and circulation increased to 4000; he had great plans for it, but they were cut short by his death a few months later. His widow Marjorie put out a final issue, #144, and then merged it into Search, which she continued to publish.

Palmer never really did produce the secrets about Shaver that he'd promised. He did reveal that Shaver had been in "an insane asylum," but he'd already mentioned that before; in fact, the interview he published was reprinted from Caveat Emptor. Shaver, though, often showed another side of himself in FORUM. He seems not to have contributed much at first, but by 1972 was appearing regularly, sometimes with several pieces to an issue. Although he didn't neglect his familiar caves and rock books, he also sounded off on a variety of other subjects - ecology, mass production, terrorism, Watergate, the Patty Hearst case, and popular entertainment (he particularly disliked Dean Martin).

It's tempting to excerpt choice bits, but Shaver doesn't lend himself too well to that. He wasn't an epigrammatic writer; he wrote with a longer line. So, I prefer to offer here a complete article, the way he meant it. I've selected this trenchant repudiation of mass production and mass marketing - inspired, no doubt, by his own experiences with factory work - from Forum #109, Oct. 1973. Like many of his Forum contributions, it has little to do with deros; but has much to say about his vision of human potential, and his despair at how poorly we use it. And you will never hear the term "market research" in quite the same way again.

NOTHING TWICE ALIKE (Shaver)

The first civilization of Earth had one paramount law. It said: "Nothing twice alike will be permitted!"

Reason: to keep alive handicrafts and arts and custom-made quality. It ruled out all mass-produced items as we understand mass-production.

Today, we have not the wisdom of our forebears. We have to learn all over again the wisdom they brought from space with them. The dark ages have robbed us of our heritage, and we are making all the old mistakes all over again.

The big mistake in mass production and in automated factories is that they leave no place for a man's hands and his skills. Reason? Because, unless we use our inherited abilities, they atrophy and disappear forever from the race.

Our present course in industry is to push aside the human values and to replace them with automated values-production does not require people, it requires only more machines and more machines.

Our present course in industry has little use for research from the point of view of human values. It has lots of use for research that tells them HOW to market a mass-produced article; market research is a big big thing. People study it as a course in college.

Market research put into bald English means the science of making marks out of the buying public. Market research means-how to put three cents worth of raw material into a package and get 50 for the package. You buy these things every day of your life without realizing that the raw cornmeal in a 50 box of Frisky-wiskies is only worth 3.

You are the end result of a long progression of market researchers learning to defraud the public. You buy it.

In ancient times they built the meanings into the words to tell the people what things like that meant. THUS: Market contains the word "mark" BECAUSE to market is to make a mark out of your customer. "Mark" has come down to us in carnival slang as a synonym for "dupe," "sucker," etc. To make a mark means to take advantage of a rube.

Every time you buy a packaged product without analyzing the value of the raw material in the package you become a "mark." Thus "market research," the art of making dupes of people.

Somebody is stealing all the value out of our money with similar procedures pyramided so immensely as to cause every day shrinkage of all values. What they are doing with the value they extract from our monetary system I would like to know. Where does it go?

To get back to handicrafts-Paul Revere was a silversmith. The colonial commercial picture was one of handicrafts-and the backbone of the nation was people like Paul Revere who possessed handicraft skills inherited, often from a line of forebears all in the same trade.

People who learn factory skills today, like assembling radios and TVs, are parts of the huge assembly machine on a mass production line. They learn a few things well, but nothing of large enough scope to really be called a genuine skill may be true. They have to be so trained as to be easily replaced in the line by almost anyone, so their jobs are limited to the sort of thing most anyone can handle with a few days training.

What I want to say is that unless we get back to the law, "Nothing twice alike" in some measure, we will all be replaced in an alien, machine culture which has no use for human beings.

I suspect that this concept is a part of the UFO invasion, that we are being manipulated by alien mind control into a position of sheer unalloyed uselessness, as a prelude to our complete banishment from life on Earth.

We are slated to become like the red birds and the pelicans - endangered species on the way out. We are right there - with them!



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