Thursday, August 9, 2012

Arthur Hlavaty's Nice Distinctions

Prominent SF fan (and RAW and Robert Shea fan) Arthur Hlavaty has released Nice Distinctions 23, his latest fanzine. Old school fans apparently can still receive a copy printed on paper but it's also available at a PDF download from this archive. If you like it, email Mr. Hlavaty at the address given in the zine and he'll email you the next issue.

Much of the zine consists of "greatest hits" from Arthur's blog. (Today's attack on Yoda made my day.) Arthur is always looking out for the underdog, a pursuit that sometimes takes him into surprising territory. I particularly liked this look back at Arthur's school days, fed by a news report:


 From 1954 to 1960 I attended Horace Mann, a boys' prep school in NYC. I didn't like the unisex aspect, but I admittedgrudgingly at the timethat I was getting an excellent education. Now that I have accepted my geek nature, I am grateful, and I particularly remember the great teachers I had, such as one English teacher, a small, gentle Asian man named Tek Young Lin.
        Horace Mann has been in the news lately. A few weeks ago there was a New York Times Magazine report revealing that 20 years after I left, at least three teachers were sexually abusing their students. Now there is a follow-up story reporting that Tek Young Lin had sex with some of the boys in his classes.
        I never knew, or even suspected, that he was gay, but in retrospect I am not entirely surprised. What also does not surprise me is that he appears in this story far less abusive than those usually reported on. We read of a couple of people who do not feel harmed by what happened, and one who reports that Mr. Lin took No for an answer. Where the earlier story brought tales of traumatized lives, this one has textbook material about "unequal relationships."
        When I was at Horace Mann, everyone knew that same-sex relations were bad; the only question was whether the perps should be imprisoned or just cured. Now everyone knows that adult-teen relationships are bad, particularly in schools, which I have to admit is a lot less irrational. (In the 50s we were told that heroin and marijuana were unthinkably awful drugs. Failing to distinguish between them led to problems. In the 50s we were told that gay sex and teacher/student sex were unthinkably awful….)
        So maybe Mr. Lin harmed some of those he was involved with. And maybe he was good for some. There are a number of men my age who are deeply grateful that when they were teens, an adult man showed them that they were not The Only Homosexual in the World, and gave them ways to express their forbidden feelings. I am told that the current relative sanity in these matters means that such adults are no longer needed. It would be nice to think so.
        But I also believe that in many cases it didn't make that much difference. In I Will Fear No Evil and later books, Robert A. Heinlein noted that a lot of teenagers experiment with same-sex acts (sometimes with a teacher or scoutmaster) and most are neither traumatized nor converted.
        For a long time I felt guilty that I had never written to Mr. Lin to express my gratitude for the knowledge and inspiration I acquired from him. I have now done so.

My interview with Mr. Hlavaty on the Golden APA is here.