UC05 Winter 1973

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Undercurrents 05 (first debagged issue) Winter 1973 Contents
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3 Transfiguration among the Windmills – Peter Harper
5 The Sunship: Towards a People’s Airship – Pat Coyne
9 Big Dams Cast Dark Shadows – George Woolston
14 Class War Comix – Peter Harper
16 Velikovsky: State of the Debate – Peter Harper
21 Letters
23 Three Ways to Work up Wind Watts – New Alchemy Institute
25 Technology for Decentralisation – John Wood
33 Lyle’s Golden Gasmask – Steve Cook
36 Paolo Soleri: lnterview
39 Canned Heat: A Solar House – Steve Baer
40 Hic…Cups – Sion Corn
41 The Plastics Not for Burning – Martin Lockett
43 Why The Pentagon Loves Pure Research – Tony Durham
44 Methane· Fuel of the Future – Andrew Singer
45 Inner Space Scientific Expedition 1973 – Tony Durham
46 Car Batteries and Enthusiasm – David Gardiner
48 Can You Repeat Your Message, Please? – David Gardiner
48 Self·Sufficiency – Patrick Rivers
50 Snap Judgments – Tony Durham
51 Double Vision? Second View – Mike Grey
52 Subscriptions

Undercurrents: Our Phase 3 Policy 

WHEN Undercurrents first started, back in January 1972, our aim was to produce a quarterly magazine consisting of articles on radical scientific and technological subjects, printed, where possible, by the people writing them and collated into the “common carrier” of a plastic bag. In May 1972, we experimented with a cellophane bag, but found it wasn’t strong enough and anyway was non-reusable, so we went back to much-­maligned polythene.

Meanwhile, in the Autumn of 1972, we decided to print our news section, Eddies, separately, and mail a copy each month. to our subscribers .It seemed like a good idea at the time – as indeed it was. But, perhaps predictably, we found that Eddies was taking up a disproportionate amount of our very limited time, with the result that both Eddies and Undercurrents have suffered from chronic production delays. And when you consider that Eddies still has to be collated, folded, stuffed into envelopes and addressed entirely by hand, for reasons of economy, it isn’t too surprising that our all-volunteer workers haven’t always been able to deliver the goods.

As for the polythene bag, well, people seem to have loved it or hated it in almost exactly equal numbers. And although we still think it’s a good idea, we feel that Undercurrents would have to turn itself into an entirely different kind of glossy, expensive magazine to be able to pay contributors the cost of producing inserts. What we’ve found up to now is that while many people are keen to send us “paste-ups” of their articles for us to print in the magazine, almost no-one has come along and spontaneously offered ready-printed material for inclusion. Those inserts that we have carried in the past have all, without exception, been requested by us. The reason for people’s lack of enthusiasm for the insert idea is fairly obvious: inserts cost money to print, and contributors, understandably would rather we did the paying.

So, to cut a long story short, we’ve recently been going through what’s commonly known as an “agonising re-appraisal”. We sincerely apologise to our long-suffering readers and subscrib­ers who must have thought we’d decided to fold without telling them. First of all, we’ve decided to abandon the polythene bag format – thought we’re still toying with the idea of occasional, special publications in “bag” form. Secondly, we’ve resolved to cut the number of mailings down from a (theoretical) 16 a year to six, re-incorporate Eddies into Undercurrents, and produce the thing as a conventional magazine. Incidentally, this should mean that a lot of bookshops will start stocking the magazine: quite a few — Collett’s of London, for example -­have refused to take it in its polythene bag incarnation. It’ll take us a while to get geared up to bimonthly publication, so the first issue of Undercurrents-Phase 3 won’t be out until the end of February, 1974.

About that cover price increase: Let’s talk about the financial state of the magazine first. As of the end of October, the magazine as a whole had run up a deficit of around £10. We owe the bank about £80, and £50 or so in (to inside back cover from inside front cover) bills. The cost of servicing our 400 subscriptions is roughly £360. Our “assets” are in the rather dubious form of money owed to us by bookshops, and from copies still to be sold, which should come to around £420, eventually.

The major reason for the deficit is that we’ve had to pay more for printing Eddies than we originally estimated for, and we’ve also had to pay more to airmail it abroad; because the weight exceeds the first, half-ounce, airmail step. Trivial errors, you might think, but cumulative, and fatal if allowed to continue unchecked. Another important cause of decreased income has been the bigger-than-budgeted cost of sending copies out to bookshops. Many people don’t realise that we have to give bookshops a 33 % discount on every copy, and that it costs at least 3p per copy to send copies, in bulk, to many bookshops. Which leaves us a mere 13p income from each bookshop-sold copy — if we ever get it. At a cover price of 35p, however, we should have an income of around 20p per copy, and we may, in addition, be able to get a distributor to handle the magazine eventually. Distribution companies take at least 50 % of the cover price of a magazine, which would leave us with 17p – not much, but enough. Subscription prices, you’ll observe, are only rising slightly in the UK, and staying the same for overseas subscribers. That’s because postage, envelopes, invoicing and so on costs us much less, proportionately, than the discounts that book­sellers and distributors require.

If you feel that 6 Undercurrents a year isn’t what you bargained for, let us know and we’ll refund your subscription, less the cost of copies already sent. But stick with us and we’re sure you’ll agree that you’re getting your money’s worth, especially bearing in mind that we have no subsidy from advertising or anywhere else. If you think about it, 35p every two months is only 4p a week!


All contributions gratefully received: Undercurrents welcomes contributions from its readers, either in the normal typewritten form, or in the form of “pasted­up” artwork. If you do send us pasteups, though, please make sure that the proportions of your artwork are such that it can be reduced to A4 size.

Line drawings, tables, and so on must be in black ink on a white background. If they aren’t, our printers have hysterics, and we usually have to re-draw them. typescripts should be double­spaced, and on one side of the paper only –otherwise, they are very difficult to edit, and even harder to typeset. If you must send handwritten copy, please write as legibly as you can, and leave reasonable spacing between lines.

Please remember also that photographs may have to be cut before they can be reduced to fill the space on a page allocated to them. So if your photograph is valuable and you don’t want it messed about, please write a note prominently on the back to that effect. These points may seem niggling, but you’d be amazed at how much time and effort would be saved if everyone observed them. OK? Undercurrents can also accept “inserts” for insertion into the envelopes in which subscription copies are mailed. Obviously, there are limitations on the amount of weight we can add to each mailing, so please contact us before sending any inserts. We’ll try to include as much as we can, though.


THIS Undercurrents was designed and edited by Sally and Godfrey Boyle. The reviews editor was Tony Durham. Joy Watt and Moggs set the type, helped out by Ann Miller and by Dorothy at Metro, where they looked after the mail. John Daniels and George Bowden and all at the Russell Press can take the credit for the printing, and for waiting so long for their money. Every Wednesday, a dedicated band of workers came round to help with tasks great and small.

Their names include David Gardiner, Peter Harper, Chris Ryan, Martin Lockett, Charlie Clutterbuck, Alan Dalton, Hugh Saddler, Sooty, John Prudhoe, and many others, all of whom should have statues erected to them in Westminster Abbey. Equally invaluable, in their own peculiar ways, were Pat Coyne (crookedest paster-upper in the West) the ever-resourceful Ant Scholl, Lyn Gambles (thanks for the VW, luv), and Peter Young who tried gallantly to bend the Companies Act to suit the needs of a crazy magazine.

Figures in the background whose help and encouragement are appreciated include John Cima, Alan Campbell, Geoff Watts, Nigel Thomas, Phil Reardon, Stan Gooch, Trux and May at the Catalog and Peter Paladin Sommer. There must be many others whose names should also be mentioned. Please forgive us for forgetting you in the rush.


It is Undercurrents policy not to carry display advertising, but we do include small ads as a service to readers. Small Ads cost 1p per word, up to a maximum of 150 words (bigger ads by arrangement), and must be pre-paid. Small Ad Copy Date for the next issue is January 26, 1974. Copy date for feature material for the next issue is Saturday, January 19th. For news in the Eddies section, the deadline is Saturday, February 2nd!


One comment

  1. John Prudhoe · · Reply

    Great stuff all this archival work, well done!… can’t wait for the early issues to appear as pdfs too. I was one of the UC collective back then and named above. Wow, to realise ’twas originally penned by us 40+ years ago and is still hugely relevant today methinks. Keep on keeping on you good people.

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