This little curiosity was pointed out to me by Rick Klaw, who was working at a local Half Price Books at the time. He knew nothing of the book itself, hadn't heard of the author, but both of us were intrigued by the eyebrow-raising title. Could it be some odd early-70's New Wave Dangerous Visions imitator? After all, there is something Ellisonian about that title. Or could it be some equally odd melding of SF and romance, with a touch of hippy-trippy psychedelia thrown in for spice? The mystery, coupled with my love of unearthing forgotten relics in used bookstores, prompted me to take the risk and plunge in. You would think I'd learned a lesson about taking risks and plunging in from my first marriage, wouldn't you?
Thank the Magic Space Pixie this thing was only 98¢, and even then it was about six bucks too high! What I discovered was one of the most egregious pieces of crap I've read outside of the kind of crackpot website written by those creepy loners who think they've got it all figured out and everyone's out to get them for it. Indeed, "crap" is too mild a word; this book is fecal beyond the dreams of proctologists. And as your likelihood of ever finding a copy yourself is blessedly remote, I see no reason not to get out the big guns and let this hilarious disaster have it right between the eyes.
Love Is Forever Yada Yada claims to be a novel about a character's inward journey toward self-discovery. What it really is, is the rambling, histrionic diary of a Scientology fanatic. The book's protagonist remains unnamed (fueling duh-level speculation it's Williams himself), and the book itself is nothing more or less than a big promotional pamphlet for Dianetics! It makes no attempt to form a structured plot, preferring instead to wander aimlessly like an Alzheimer's patient through scattershot discourses on the timeless redemptive power of agape and the serious bum trips that "fear-hate" can lay on you. Hey, I think love is swell, too, but the overwrought way Williams pontificates on the subject is enough to make you want to knee someone in the groin. Perhaps if I'd fired up a big ol' jay before settling down to read this, I'd have been in a better frame of mind for it (it would have been much funnier, that's for sure). But I've never taken up the habit. Sorry.
The book's narrator, inbetween snatches of the kind of oh-wow sermonizing usually practiced by wild-eyed street derelicts, offers up his amazing revelation that the universe is guided by love, that love is timeless but life fleeting (hence the title), and through love he will become immortal. "How do I know that love is forever?" he asks us. "...From experience. Is there any other teacher, is there really?" he continues in a soothing parental tone. Well, when a person is prone to self-delusion and lacks the ability to distinguish fantasy from reality, experience, I would suggest, can be a pretty lousy teacher. But then on the very next page, he admits he is on what could be termed a big ego trip anyway ("If this be egotism, I try to make the most of it."). If he's self-deluded, at least he's also self-aware.
Frankly, I think any reader who makes it through the first chapter deserves a Purple Heart. But for those readers whose stomachs haven't thoroughly rebelled that early, chapter two will probably do them in. This is where Williams finally reveals his real agenda: shilling for Scientology. He relates an instance in which he and a psychologist friend of his test the principles of Dianetics on a psychiatric patient who, of course, seems incurable. For those of you who aren't aware, one of Dianetics' quack theories is that of the "prenatal engram," a traumatic, repressed memory of being in the womb. Apparently every single problem in life can be tied to one of these horrible fetal traumas, and all we need to do is recall them and get them out of our systems to become "clear." (Martin Gardner, in his skeptical classic Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, wondered hilariously why Hubbard seemed to have it in for pregnant women.) The patient in this case remembers a really bad day when, whilst floating in the amniotic fluid minding her own business, her umbilical suddenly wrapped itself around her! After clearing this nasty engram, she is discharged within a month, Dianetics having boldly cured her where all of medical science had heretofore failed.
By the way, you may by now be wondering exactly what it is about this book that makes it SF. You aren't alone. The rest of the book just plummets into more stoner philosophizing ("Are you aware that you are aware?" oo, deep) and speculations about a pantheon of deities Williams calls Those Who Write the Script. I imagine it's only Williams' past as a minor Golden Age pulp hack (who often wrote as H. H. Harmon) that grants this book the label.
I have spoken to people who are into this kind of thing. Well, actually, only one Scientologist, but many many different sorts of people who talk exactly like the narrator of this novel. (Example: "After spending a lifetime in this materialistic world, I now return to my starting point and say again that I think I am immortal.") And without exception they are the most annoying people in the world. They think that because they have this confused and spacey way of thinking, they're smarter and more plugged in to the reality of things than all those stuffy academics with their silly educations. And if you challenge them in any way, ask them for a shred of evidence to back up their ideas, attempt to debate them or even give the tiniest hint that maybe they aren't 100% right about everything, they turn up their nose and dismiss you as "closed-minded." It's the exaltation of delusion, ignorance congratulating itself with arrogance.
Usually when I'm done with a book, I'll spread the love and take it to a used book store where it can be recycled yet again. It's a testament to just how deeply I despised Love Is Forever We Are for Tonight that I did something ordinarily unconscionable to me. I tore it in half and chucked it in the dumpster. Williams, through his protagonist, may have wanted immortality, but he died in 1977 and his work, including this book, was almost completely forgotten. Hmm, maybe there is a God.
For more fun stuff about the turbocrazy that is Dianetics
and Scientology, click here