Ever since the 18th Century which is when authors began writing works of long-form fiction, historical novels have always been popular. Even back in ye olden days, there were highly successful novelists who more or less specialized in historical novels. However, for some reason, shorter length historical fiction has never reached the popularity of historical fiction novels.
During the era of the pulp magazines, that were inexpensive fiction magazines, the 1890's to the 1950's, there was only one magazine that specialized in historical fiction from ancient times to the near present day. This was Golden Fleece Historical Adventure that published nine issues during October 1938-June 1939. There were others that published a significant amount of historical fiction such as Magic Carpet Magazine, Oriental Stories, Adventure, All-Story and Argosy in addition to the dozens of pulps in the Western Sub-genre. However when the pulps died off due to the advent of TV, so did the publishing of original short historical fiction. During the period of the early 1960's, through the early 2000's, there was but little activity in short historical fiction publishing. While non-magazine projects such as original anthologies in other genres flourished, there was practically nothing going on in historical fiction.
Then, out of the blue, in 2003 and for 13 issues through 2009, Paradox magazine was published. This was a professional magazine that featured all varieties of historical fiction although it became best known for alternative historical stories. Just as the 9-issue run of Night Cry during the mid-1980s set the stage for the flowering of the horror fiction small press boom of 1985-1995, so too did Paradox for historical fiction.
Roughly around the year 2013, there were a number of historical webzines being published including Circa, The Copperfield Review, and Lacuna. When you include the Western sub-genre webzines Frontier Tales, Rope & Wire and The Western Online, its pretty clear that there was a renaissance in online historical short fiction publishing. You could arguably add the fantasy webzine Mirror Dance that zine publishes more historical fantasy than just about any other webzine. More to the point, it was the period of the most short length historical fiction stories being published since the 1950's when there were a number of digest-sized Western magazines around to say nothing about such slicks as Colliers and the Saturday Evening Post.
The boom in short historical fiction publishing also extended to books. During the years 2007-2010 Russell Davis and Martin H. Greenberg collaborated on editing a trio of original Western anthologies entitled Ghost Towns, Law of the Gun and Lost Trails. These books published a fair number of lesser-known writers some of whom have gone on to do bigger and better things. In 2010 Gardner Dozois and George R.R. Martin collaborated on a trio of original military fiction anthologies entitled Warriors. Close to half the stories in these volumes were historical fiction although the paperback books were labeled "Fantasy" on the spine and marketed as such. Even worse, all the authors of the stories in these books were big name types with lesser-known writers not given a chance to submit their works for consideration.
However, this boom was not to last. Circa, Lacuna and The Western Online have all ceased publication. It was not until the 2018 launching of this webzine, The Magazine of History and Fiction, that a new historical fiction publication was brought into being during the last few years. During the meantime, a lot of writers have evidently lost interest in historical fiction. If you point your browser to both http://lacunajournal.blogspot.com/ and http://blog.meganarkenberg.com you will find Lacuna editor Megan Arkenberg complaining about being swamped by historical fiction submissions to the point where she often did not make a decision on a submission until six months after her receiving them. Although she did not give any figures, it appears that only a very low percentage of her submissions were ever accepted for publication.
In contrast, roughly 70% of all the submissions to this webzine were accepted. This was due to the sheer lack of submissions. As a result, only one issue of the webzine could be published this year instead of the hoped-for two. At this point, it's doubtful that we'll be able to reach the goal of four quarterly issues next year. And no, there were no submissions that were accepted merely to fill out the issue. Basically, what happened was that for a month after H&F was listed at Duotrope, there was a flurry of submissions, but for the last three months or so, submissions have been coming in at the rate of only one every other week or so.
Once this premier issue has been finally put to bed, I'm going to bring it to the attention of bloggers and others and hopefully get some link exchanges made. If everything goes right, this webzine could make its mark and help get historical fiction roaring again on the Internet.
For what its worth, the goal is for Issue #2 to be published by the end of March 2019 and to go on a regular quarterly schedule of publication from here on out. .
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Now that you have read the second issue of The Magazine of History & Fiction, you might be wondering just why I made the decision to start a new historical fact/fiction webzine instead of something that would take a lot less work. Well, it's like this, originally my favorite reading was science fiction/fantasy along with some mystery reading. Except for the works of C.S. Forester, Ray Hogan, and Louis L'Amour when I was growing up I did not read much historical fiction. This despite the fact that history was by far and away my favorite kind of nonfiction.
One reason for this is the fact that I have always wanted to become a writer. When I entered Platteville High School in the Fall of 1979, was introduced to the world of fiction magazines in the form of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Eventually, I discovered that there were several other science fiction magazines as well as mystery magazines. There was also a Westerns magazine called Far West, but that was poorly circulated so much so that to this day I have never laid my eyes on an actual issue of that magazine which ceased publishing in 1982. BY 1982, most of the fiction magazine market was controlled by a lackluster outfit called Davis Publications and in that year the Elinor Mavor edited Amazing Science Fiction Stories was sold to TSR, the company responsible for Dungeons & Dragons and that magazine took a nosedive in quality from which it would never recover died off by the end of the 1990's. What killed it? There are some who would offer the knee-jerk accusation that the Internet killed off the small press magazines. However, during the 1990's there only a very few online-only magazines that were consistently good such as most notably Clique of the Tomb Beetle in Horror and Dark Planet in Science Fiction. Back then, almost all of the literary action on the Internet was confined to just a few genres. It was not until around 2010 that you saw much of a presence in the Historical Fiction genre. For some odd reason, there does not appear to have ever been a single Romance fiction webzine despite that genre's tremendous popularity among paperback book readers.
As a direct result of all this, my focus as a writer for over two decades after I took my first high school creative writing class during the 1982-1983 school year was on Science Fiction with some messing around in both Fantasy & Horror. After all, it was in those genres were the action was at least as far as publishing was. This impression was also furthered by the way that the news media covered Hollywood. Both Horror and Science Fiction and to a lesser extent Fantasy were presented as the genres where the action was. Movies in those genres often received extra attention and coverage just because they were in what was perceived as being the "hot" genres. Great movies outside of those genres received far less coverage than flicks that often seemed to be little more than special effects festivals. For example, the excellent historical epic film about the first major battle of the Zulu War of 1879, Zulu Dawn, that was released in 1979, received hardly any publicity and its U.S. release suffered as a result. I first learned of it when I found a VHS copy of it in a Wal-Mart in 1989 for about $8 and it turned out to be one of the very best movies that I have ever bought in a store. Likewise, the wonderful Western The Long Riders in 1980 was released to almost zero publicity so much so that my diehard Westerns fan father never even learned of its existence until years later when it was on television. Needless to say, the times were not good for historical movies no matter how good they were. As a direct result of all this when a lot of young people who wanted to become professional writers chose what genres they wanted to focus on, not too many of them picked Historical Fiction.
Only problem was now what kind of website should I create? One obvious idea was to create a new book blog especially since blogging is something that I seem to be pretty good at. The only problem is that there was already a number of such blogs. Most pf them are updated much more regularly than what I could do and most of what I read is historical nonfiction instead of fiction. About the only way of differentiating my blog would be by either adding a political slant or writing about the webzines and the stories that they run. However, how many readers would be interested in that? My aim in creating a blog would be for something that's heavily read, something that would rank right up there with The Magic of History, Reading the Past and A Writer of History. Before going on, you might be wondering why the blog at H&F has hardly ever been updated and the reason is that editing a webzine combined with taking a junior college course in Web Design are things that really eat up your time.
Some attention needs to be devoted to what is the most disappointing Historical Fiction blog, that being the one at https://hfebooks.com/blog/ aka the blog of the Historical Fiction Authors Cooperative (HFAC). You would think that such a group's blog would be geared to reporting the news of the Historical Fiction genre. You would also be wrong. The HFAC has shown zero interest in webzines and short fiction in general. Another problem is that both the main HFAC website and its blog are not divided into various and sundry sub-genres such as Historical Mysteries, Historical Romances and Westerns. Both when H&F was opened for submissions and then when the First Issue was finished, this writer emailed the HFAC about those developments and got no response and the HFAC blog never ran anything about H&F despite the fact that you would think that such information would be of interest to the HFAC membership and its larger readership.
In Science Fiction circles, there is a concept called "internet infrastructure" that comprises websites related to a specific genre or sub-genre in addition to blogs. These include author's websites, group blogs, organizational blogs, reference websites book review and film review websites and other kinds of websites. One thing that Science Fiction and related genres have going for them is the existence of an organized fandom. Is there any sort of fandom in Historical Fiction? One possibility to keep in mind is that there are all sorts of grassroots historical groups such as state and county historical societies some of which publish their own journals. Perhaps Historical Fiction writers and others interested in the genre could make contact with and/or join such groups and try to get at least some of them interested in genre fiction and perhaps even get some original fiction run in their journals/websites or get their journals/websites to review genre works. There is no reason why such groups could not grow into the Historical Fiction equivalent of Science Fiction fandom.
If any of you doubt that such actions are needed, one only needs to look at a trio of websites in the Mystery genre. Now, Mystery is not generally thought of as having a particularly strong presence on the Internet. However, if you were to go to Mystery*File, you will see cause for concern. MF was started over a decade ago by Steve Lewis as a typical one-man blog and it has since grown into an operation with numerous contributors writing all sorts of reviews of books and films as well as articles about authors and magazines. The next place is Kevin Burton Smith's Thrilling Detective, which is similar to MF but which is organized in a much more user-friendly way. TD also carries a great deal of news relating to the Mystery genre. Originally, it was a regular website, but it has recently started moving over to WordPress. The last website is the British institution Shots Crime & Thriller EZine. Shots is literally loaded with all sorts of neat stuff including feature articles, interviews, and reviews. The number of writers who have contributed works to this zine numbers well in the hundreds. The Shots editorial team consists of five hard-working guys. If you want to do something for the Historical Fiction genre, or any of its sub-genres, but don't want to mess around with original fiction, then something like one of these three websites is a good idea, particularly if you have any friends who could help.
In 2014, I figured out how to create a fanzine and the result was Fornax that you can access at http://www.efanzines.com/Fornax/index.htm. In terms of traffic, this was an immediate success and the fanzine remains strong. However, as time went on, I started losing interest in Science Fiction as that genre has been suffering a drop in quality. Basically, there has been an increase in hack work combined with a drop of really good stuff being published. There was also some unpleasant stuff in fandom that also made the genre less interesting. Also, Fornax was only a sub-domain instead of being its own domain name. In addition, I was increasingly finding a lot of really good Historical Fiction novels and that genre really went up in my estimation. As time wore on, I really got to thinking of starting a new website, this time in Historical Fiction.
Originally, I was going to start a Westerns webzine since Westerns are the single most popular sub-genre so much so that many bookstores have separate Westerns sections while other kinds of Historical Fiction are either sold as Mysteries, Romance or in the general fiction areas. However, I got to thinking that given the fact that both Frontier Tales and Rope & Wire had a head start, they would probably continue getting the best submissions since they would have more prestige than a recent startup. If the rumor that the folks at The Western Online were about to start accepting new material after taking a few years off, then that would make things even more difficult.
About this same time, I noticed that the only then existing webzine covering the entire historical fiction genre from ancient times to the present, The Copperfield Review, limited submissions to stories under 3,000 words. That is an absurdly low standard since it limits that particular zine to short-short stories only. On top of that, Frontier Tales, while open to longer pieces for serialization, generally wants submissions shorter than 5,000 words. What this meant was that if you write a story that was over those limits, then you were out of luck at least as far as genre webzines were concerned. Given the widespread aversion to novelettes and novellas by the editors of literary publications both in print and on the Internet, there was a clear opening for a new genre webzine open to long-form pieces. Hence the decision to launch a new webzine with a 20,000-word limit (since raised to 25,000).
Additionally, there was the problem of the lack of historical fact webzines. Outside of wargaming, there are no webzines that regularly carry original historical writing. This is really surprising given the popularity of many historical subjects such as the Civil War. You might be wondering about if Cindy Vallar's Pirates & Privateers count and that's really an E-Zine that's distributed via E-Mail with all the contents added to the main website and most of the contents written by just one person, so its not really a webzine. Just why the is a lack of history webzines is something that probably has to do with the popularity of conventional historical websites that accumulate content about given topics. Given that so many of these websites are successful in attracting traffic, it's perhaps not surprising that there has been so little interest in webzines by history-minded entrepreneurs although you would think that there would be some writers interested in giving it a shot.
As it happens, one thing that was pretty noticeable about the other Historical Fiction webzines is that outside of The Western Online, none of them ever had anything much in the line of historical nonfiction. One thing that you need to do when creating a new webzine is that you need to differentiate it from the competition. What the situation called for was a webzine that covered both historical fact and fiction from the whole of the human experience. That, in turn, lead to the self-explanatory title, The Magazine of History & Fiction. One feature of H&F is a list of links to other Historical Fiction related websites that is expanding as H&F adds more issues with the goal of becoming a comprehensive source of information pertaining to what might be called the Historical Fiction Internet.
Back when I had the idea of creating a Westerns webzine, I found a free webpage website called NeoCities and created what was supposed to be a webzine called The Magazine of the Old West. However, I soon realized that you could only use subdomains there instead of having your own domain name. That would not be good for search engine rankings. I cast about looking for a replacement hosting service and upon my oldest brother's recommendation, came up with Go Daddy. However, there are problems with Go Daddy. Go Daddy's title space that is only 25 characters so titles combined with author's names longer than 25 characters had to be placed along with the stories themselves at NeoCities.
Even worse, Go Daddy uses robots.text which is something that while search engine friendly is anathema to the Internet Archive aka the Wayback Machine. Sooner or later this webzine is going to stop publishing and when that happens, I want its contents to be accessible by future generations. Also, there's something inconsistent about a historical publication not making sure that its contents are saved for posterity. What that means is that by the time that this webzine's time at Go Daddy expires in late 2022, its probably going to be necessary to find a new hosting service that could mean having to re-do everything in hand-coded HTML/CSS. One possibility of such a service is Tripod where the Lost Souls webzine at http://lostsoulsmag.tripod.com/ is run. Although Horror oriented, this particular webzine and its excellent contents help inspire my idea of creating a new webzine.
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The period of the late 1980's and the early 1990's was a unique time in American history. This was a time when the nation was swept by what can only be called "Conspiracy Fever." What caused this mass affliction was. among many other things, a series that ran on the A&E cable channel, that was back then widely considered as being a quality outfit, that was entitled "The Men Who Killed Kennedy." Additionally, there was the Oliver Stone movie "JFK." On top of all that, there were numerous books, TV specials, videotapes, magazine and newspaper articles that were appearing with reckless frequency. Many of these pro-conspiracy works were factually challenged such as the oft-repeated claim that according to the Warren Commission, there was a "magic bullet" that changed its course in mid-flight. This writer knew a great many students at the University of Arkansas (UA) who were swept up in this psychological malady. There were a great many graduate students in History who were acquaintances of this writer who spent large amounts of time discussing and debating the JFK assassination among other conspiratorial subjects. These subjects even included the seemingly far-out notion that the U.S. Air Force had aliens from outer space who had crash-landed near Roswell, New Mexico, in a state of a deep freeze in an alleged Top Secret base in Nevada called Area 51. Truly these were strange times.
One particular manifestation of Conspiracy Fever at both the UA and in the area around Fayetteville, AR, was a student organization called The Arkansas Committee or TAC. The members of TAC claimed that they were interested in discovering the links between people and interests in Arkansas to the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. Later, they expanded their interests to uncovering the massive drug-smuggling conspiracy that they claimed existed at the Mena Airport. The TAC members made it clear that they believed that this conspiracy involved numerous governmental agencies including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The members of TAC seemed to have an obsession with the CIA and often made claims about it engaging in all sorts of nefarious activities. They made it seem as if the CIA was the source for all the world's evil. As you can guess the TAC members had a decidedly left wing political orientation.
Sometime in 1989, before the formation of the TAC as a registered student organization. a rather curious event occurred. A statement was issued under the letterhead of Joseph Hardegree, the Prosecuting Attorney for the 18th Judicial District of the State of Arkansas that included the Mena Airport where massive drug smuggling by Barry Seal was alleged to have taken place. According to the conspiracy author Mara Leveritt in her 1999 book The Boys on the Tracks, the statement read as follows:
"I have good reason to believe that all federal law enforcement agencies from the Justice Department down through the FBI to the DEA all received encouragement to downplay and de-emphasize any investigation or prosecution that might expose Seal's activities and the National Security Council's involvement in them.
It was in this framework that the federal grand juries and law enforcement authorities in Arkansas apparently stopped in their serious deliberations or investigations concerning Barry Seal's activities and all of the surrounding circumstances. The really unfortunate aspect of this whole matter is the apparent fact that the federal investigation of drug trafficking in connection with the Mena airport came to be intricately involved with the international politics and more particularly with the private wars conducted by the Reagan White House in Washington. I believe that the activities of Mr. Seal came to be so valuable to the Reagan White House and so sensitive that no information concerning Seal's activities could be released to the public. The ultimate result is that not only Seal but all his confederates and all those who worked with or assisted him in illicit drug trafficking were protected by the government."
Now you would think that a statement like this would be front-page news all over the world. Anytime that a local prosecutor alleges that the president of the United States was facilitating illegal drug trafficking is big news, right? Not in this case. Following the publication's of Leveritt's aforementioned conspiracy book, this writer did some heavy-duty research of his own into Leveritt's allegations. While doing so, I had the chance to talk to Hardegree himself. According to Hardegree, what happened was that somebody had procured some sheets of paper with the letterhead of Hardegree's office on it. However, since the sheets with this statement on them did not have Hardegree's signature on it and were sent to press outlets without any return address on the envelopes. The end result was that journalists did not know what not do with this mailing. Very few press outlets ran with the story and the newspapers that did all placed it well into the back pages. According to Hardegree, his office mounted an investigation into who perpetrated this fraud but came up with no suspects. Oddly enough, according to Hardegree, not a single journalist ever called him up and inquired as to whether or not his office really sent out any such statement. Not surprisingly though, for all those who have followed her career, the alleged journalist Mara Leveritt failed to contact Hardegree despite making the most of his alleged statement. This may sound like strange conduct by a journalist. However, Leveritt is no journalist but is instead a conspiracy theorist masquerading as a journalist. Generally, conspiracy mongers do as little original work as they can but instead rely on making all sorts of allegations based on information dug up by others. Later, around 2010, Hardegree passed away and his family put up a web page that made no mention at all about this statement or about alleged drug smuggling at the Mena Airport.
The whole idea that there was a massive drug-running conspiracy at the Mena Airport was likely the invention of a reporter at KFSM-TV in Fort Smith, AR, named Theresa Dickey. Dickey made several reports in 1987 that, while interesting, failed to prove anything about drug smuggling and her attempt to become an investigative reporter came to naught and her once-promising journalistic career came to a premature end. In 2016, somebody resurrected the footage of Dickey's reports and added some commentary to them alleging that Hillary Clinton had something to do with the supposed drug smuggling operation at the Mena Airport and placed this strange concoction on YouTube where it attracted heavy traffic from conspiracy buffs all around the world until YouTube finally deleted it just before the election.
Two years later, the July 1989 issue of Penthouse magazine ran a thinly sourced article entitled "Snowbound" by John Cummings and Ernest Volkman. This article made all sorts of allegations based on little evidence that the U.S. government had been in collusion with the late drug trafficker Barry Seal to smuggle vast quantities of illegal drugs into America through the Mena Airport. Although this article had a little impact nationwide, the folks who went on to found TAC later that year was evidently impressed by it since that article was in the TAC Papers at the UA Library.
Although the alleged statement received little attention and was soon forgotten by most folks, there were some folks in the Fayetteville, AR, area and at the UA who did find out about it. Given their feverish conspiracy mindset, in retrospect, it is not surprising that they started agitating about a supposed cover-up by the Reagan and Bush administrations of government wrongdoing. Some of them got together in late 1989 and started the TAC at the UA to pursue their fantasies. For strange and mysterious reasons, despite the fact that TAC rarely had more than a dozen or so members most of whom were nontraditional college students, who had become radicalized during the Vietnam War, TAC was given both office space at the student center and also financial support by the UA administration. This despite the fact that great many other student organizations with larger memberships were unable to attain either office space or financial backing from the UA.
This decision by the UA administration raised eyebrows. There were a great many student leaders who questioned if TAC really met the requirements to be a registered student organization. Some of these leaders alleged that many, if not most, of the TAC's membership were either people who took just one class at a time so they could barely qualify as being students or did not take any classes at all and just simply attended TAC meetings on campus. Between all this and the TAC's promotion of crazy conspiracy theories, TAC became perhaps the single most controversial group at the UA.
Less than a year later, something happened to propel the TAC to greater heights. During the 1990 midterm elections, the Democratic Party nominee for Attorney General of Arkansas, Lieutenant Governor Winston Bryant's campaign was in sad shape. Despite being a longtime officeholder, Bryant was behind in the polls to a political newcomer, the Republican Party nominee Asa Hutchinson. In a desperate move, Bryant made all sorts of wild allegations against Hutchinson claiming that he covered up for massive drug smuggling at the Mena Airport. During the first term of President Ronald Reagan's administration, Hutchinson had been the United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas. There had been a Federal Grand Jury investigation of the situation at the Mena Airport that did not result in any indictments. Bryant alleged that it was all a cover-up designed to conceal massive government wrongdoing. With the news media failing to investigate Bryant's allegations, Hutchinson narrowly lost. What this did was to give the TAC and its allegations of governmental misconduct much wider publicity and the TAC made the most of it.
Following the 1990 campaign, the TAC stepped up its activity level. On June 18, 1991, the TAC leadership came up with an "Action Plan" that consisted of writing leaders of government agencies asking for information and/or documents relating to alleged drug smuggling at the Mena Airport. Most of the folks that the TAC wrote to did not respond. One who did reply was Hardegree who by then was no longer an elected official. Instead of informing the TAC that the statement that was allegedly put out by his office was a fraud, he instead claimed amnesia concerning the Mena Airport. He told the TAC to contact his successor since he did not have access to his office's records anymore. Basically, Hardegree gave the TAC the brush off although you have to wonder just why he failed to inform the TAC that the statement attributed to him was a fraud. Perhaps he felt that since the TAC was just a bunch of conspiracy buffs, they would not believe him and perhaps even accuse him of a cover-up.
One official who did respond was the longtime director of the Arkansas State Police (ASP) Colonel Tommy Goodwin. On December 19, 1991, the Treasurer of TAC, Tom Brown, wrote to Goodwin requesting documents relating to the alleged crimes at Mena. Although no copy of Goodwin's reply exists, the ASP did send the TAC a pair of documents. Both of these documents were the work of Russell Welch of the ASP's Criminal Investigations Division (CID) and William Duncan who was an agent in the CID of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Both Welch and Duncan were outspoken proponents of conspiracy theories concerning alleged drug smuggling at the Mena Airport. Both of them figure prominently in every conspiracy book and film that have been made concerning events in Arkansas during the 1980's and 1990's. They also have gone out of their way to help the purveyors of conspiracy theories. When the Del Hahn/Tom Aswell book Smuggler's End was published in 2016, Welch wrote up a 34-paragraph screed masquerading as a book review that he posted at Amazon once again pushing the idea that there was a massive conspiracy to smuggle illegal drugs at the Mena Airport. However, Welch failed to respond to some choice comments made by both Hahn and Aswell concerning the antics and unsubstantiated allegations made by both Welch and Duncan. Both Welch and Duncan, who are now retired, have claimed that their helping out conspiracy authors and filmmakers hurt their careers as if that was something completely unexpected.
The first page of one of these documents identifies itself as being an "interview of witness." On that page, the witness's name was given as Kathy Corrigan. However, in the actual interview, the person who was being interviewed was identified as being a "Mr. Neugent." The interview was all about bank deposits by different people in Mena, AR. It is difficult to ascertain just what the significance of this information was. The second document was labeled "Investigator's Notes." This was a more useful document than the first in that it contained to the statements of several eyewitnesses to potential money laundering and other subjects pertaining to the illegal drugs trafficker Barry Seal and his associates. Basically, what Goodwin sent the TAC was just the tip of the iceberg of what the ASP must have had on file concerning the subjects that the TAC was interested in.
There were some other documents in the TAC Papers regarding alleged drug smuggling at the Mena Airport. The biggest at least in terms of the number of pages was an 18-page undated work titled "Summary of Argument." This was a collection of mostly trivial details that did not add up to much. There were no sources given and even if everything in it was true, it would not have proved anything much regarding the alleged crimes that TAC purported to be investigating. For something that was supposed to be a summary, it is not clear what the argument was supposed to be. There is absolutely no evidence in the TAC Papers that any TAC members ever did anything that any reasonable person would consider an investigation. For instance, nobody from the TAC ever went down to Mena and interviewed any of the airport employees or anyone else who might have been in a position to know anything related to potential drug smuggling there.
There were a pair of documents that really demonstrated just how clueless that the TAC could be. On July 4, 1991, the TAC issued a "Notification to Press" about the TAC's success in gaining the permission fo the United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas J. Michael Fitzhugh for TAC members to interview him on July 11 of that year. In this document, there were a number of questions given that the TAC intended to ask Fitzhugh. Among these questions were "will you continue to insist on being the "fall guy"? and "if you have any information about a "cover up," or any pressure/instructions from any person/department/agency to handle the Mena cases differently, do you ultimately intend to perjure yourself to protect those individuals/agencies"? As you could expect, Fitzhugh did not appreciate this press release with these insulting questions and he angrily canceled the interview. In his letter to the TAC, Fitzhugh stated, "[i]t is obvious that you have not dealt with me fairly and openly as to your true intentions."
Just how clueless that the TAC was can be shown by the sheer quantity of materials in the TAC Papers that had nothing to do with its stated purposes. For instance, there was a document concerning alleged CIA activities concerning anti-Communist forces in Africa during the late 1970's. Specifically, this document claimed that the Hungarian government was actively assisting the CIA in subversive activities opposing Communist forces in Africa. This included weapons smuggling using the Budapest Airport as a CIA base. This was most interesting given the fact that at this time Hungary was ruled by a Communist dictatorship, the country was a member of the Warsaw Pact and on top of all that, Hungary was also under Soviet military occupation. Just how the Hungarian government could have been in league with the CIA in opposing Communism in Africa or anywhere else, under those circumstances, is not clear. There were a great many similar documents, phone logs and other materials that are of but little value for historical research.
However, not everything in the TAC Papers was completely worthless. There was an outstanding article by Deborah Robinson who attended Arkansas Tech University with this writer during the mid-1980's. Robinson's article, that she had unsuccessfully attempted to get published was entitled "Mena, Arkansas: Iran-Contra's Smoking Gun Could Burn State's Democratic Hopeful in '92." As you can tell from the title, this piece was about then-Governor Bill Clinton's run for the presidency and how the allegations surrounding the Mena Airport could affect his chances. Although conspiracy-oriented, it is a solid, well written and well-researched article that made the best possible case that there were questionable activities concerning possible smuggling of illegal drugs at the Mena Airport. This writer can remember having a conversation with Robinson in which she made it clear that although she wanted to work with the TAC on subjects of mutual interest, she considered them to be nothing but a bunch of clueless idiots who were oblivious to how much damage that they were inflicting on their cause with their behavior. If all of the TAC Papers were of the same high quality as Robinson's article, then it would have been solid gold instead of the mess that it really is.
Of all the materials in the TAC Papers, the single biggest work is the 322-page "deposition" that TAC members made with conspiracy author Terry Reed on May 24 1991. This deposition was made in reference to the inane/insane allegations that Reed was making about how both then-President George H.W. Bush and Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton were engaged in a criminal conspiracy to smuggle vast quantities of illegal drugs into the USA through the Mena Airport. You see, Clinton and Bush were merely pretending not to like each other and they were really joined at the hip in criminality. Eventually, Reed and his collaborator John Cummings, author of the previously cited Penthouse article, published a book entitled Compromised: Clinton, Bush, and the CIA that became a big bestseller. Richard Behar of Time magazine wrote an article exposing this book as a fraud and Reed lost his libel suit against Time magazine. Both Del Hahn and Tom Aswell had a great deal about Reed's crackpot allegations in Smuggler's End and today all but the most hardcore conspiracy fanatics steer clear of Reed's allegations.
However, Reed and his allegations had a real impact on the TAC. In September 1992, the TAC held a demonstration on the UA campus that involved unfurling a 10-foot-long banner reading "Why is Clinton Protecting Bush" with TAC members repeating Reed's contentions that Bush and Clinton were engaged in a criminal conspiracy to smuggle illegal drugs while pretending not to like each other. The end came swiftly for the TAC as it came under massive criticism and ridicule. The UA administration deprived the group of both its office space and its funding. It's interesting how as long as the TAC made allegations against prominent Republicans, the UA administration had no problem with its antics. However, once the TAC started making allegations against Democrats as well, the UA administration suddenly found the TAC's behavior intolerable. Faced with this loss of support, the TAC became demoralized and it disbanded.
The TAC's legacy had an interesting potential aspect. When this writer moved to Fayetteville, AR, in 1987 both that city and Washington County were solidly Democratic with hardly any Republican elected officials. There was a well-circulated political guide that listed many left-wing organizations in that neck of the woods. However, when this writer moved away from Fayetteville in 1996, all that had changed. Almost all of those left-wing groups and shut down and almost every elected official were Republicans. This situation continues to this day with Washington County becoming one of the most solid Republican strongholds in all of Arkansas. It is this writer's contention that what the TAC did was that it discredited the left-wing cause in Northwestern Arkansas and inadvertently helped make the state a place that reliably votes Republican.
There is another interesting aspect of the TAC's legacy. As previously mentioned, in 1994 Terry Reed and John Cummings published a bestselling conspiracy book entitled Compromised: Clinton, Bush and the CIA. if you go to the Amazon description of that book at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075JP2BR5/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1 you will find the claim that the publication of this book, "spawned the creation of a subculture of investigative reporter wanta-bes." The interesting thing here is that three years before this book was published, in 1991, Terry Reed had sat down with TAC members and produced a 300+ page document about his claims of CIA drug running conspiracy involving both Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush. It was immediately after this recorded interview that TAC went from an organization obsessed with conspiracy theories concerning the JFK, RFK and MLK assassinations to becoming a clueless bunch of wanna be investigative reporters. Truly Terry Reed had a baleful influence on large numbers of people starting with what must have been one of the first groups that he had anything to do with.
Following the disbandment of the TAC in late 1992, the TAC's files were donated to the Archival & Special Collections Department of the UA Library on June 1, 1993. For whatever reason, the department accepted this donation, made processing it a top priority and made it available to researchers in February 1994. This was an incredibly fast job of processing a research collection, by archival standards. Based on what this writer was told by students who worked at the archive, the department stopped processing its collection of the papers of former Senator J. William Fulbright to give top priority to the TAC Papers despite the fact that the archive was already behind schedule in processing the Senator J. William Fulbright Papers. Since then it has spread the word about the existence of the TAC Papers as if that was something to be proud of. The end result is that conspiracy theorists of all stripes come to the UA Library to check this collection out. Meanwhile, the collected papers of prominent individuals and organizations that presumably be of far more value to legitimate researchers that the TAC stuff continues to languish for years and even decades on end in the department's vaults.
According to the finding aid to the papers of TAC that is in the University of Arkansas Library Archives & Special Collections Department the group was in existence during the years 1989-1992. This is very interesting given how back in 1987 when this writer moved to Fayetteville, I encountered some people pushing flyers bearing the name of The Arkansas Committee that claimed that the CIA assassinated President Kennedy and was responsible for numerous other crimes. Of course, it is possible that it was not a formally recognized student organization at that time, but you have to wonder just why the finding guide does not reflect the group's true history.
At the time that the TAC's papers were made available to researchers, a number of this writers acquaintances who worked at the department made it clear that they found the TAC's papers to be worthless and they could not understand just why the department's director Dr. Michael Dabrishius and his right-hand man Kim Allen Scott went way out of their way to make this collection available to the public as soon as possible while so many other donated papers went unprocessed. Given my experiences with TAC and its members, I had no trouble believing that the TAC papers were unworthy of my attention and so I never even considered looking at them. Even after the UA Library put up the finding guide to the TAC Papers online, I never even so much as bothered to look at it. If you have time to waste, here it is: https://libraries.uark.edu/specialcollections/findingaids/ead/transform.php?xml=mc1250
However, in the years since then, there were some interesting developments concerning the TAC Papers. The first was the 1999 publication of The Boys on the Tracks by the conspiracy theorist Mara Leveritt. Leveritt wrote, ""One group was more aggressive than the reporters has [sic] been, however. A cluster of students at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, which lies north of Fort Smith and Mena, led by a handful of Vietnam veterans, became known as the Arkansas Committee, and over the course of the next few years, it would be responsible for bringing to light much of the dark history surrounding Mena." This was an interesting assertion since this writer knew many of the TAC members. While there were a few TAC members who were old enough to be eligible for military service during the Vietnam War, the ones I knew were veterans of the anti-war movement, not actual Vietnam veterans. This sort of thing is not unusual for Leveritt to stretch the truth to spread her conspiracy theories (my mother would have called them lies). Given her track record, her claim did not make this writer interested in looking at the TAC Papers.
The second and most important was the 2016 publication of Smuggler's End: The Life and Death of Barry Seal by both former FBI agent Del Hahn and Louisiana journalist Tom Aswell. Hahn and Aswell wrote, "The University of Arkansas, University Libraries, Special Collections Division has much of the material generated by the Arkansas Committee during their investigation of Mena. Anne Prichard of the Research Department was very helpful in providing the documents I requested from Special Collections." This is significant given the fact that Smuggler's End is the single best book ever published about Barry Seal and the alleged drug smuggling at the Mena Airport. The fact that Hahn and Aswell seemed to have a high opinion of the material in the Arkansas Committee was really interesting given the excellence of their book. That being the case, it really seemed to this writer that perhaps the TAC Papers really worth the time and bother of checking them out. The idea that Hahn and Aswell may have written what they did just to acknowledge receiving the materials they requested and wanted to be polite about it, just simply did not occur to this writer until after viewing the collection in full at the UA Library.
Formally, TAC described itself as being, "a multi-issue political action organization dedicated to preserving human rights and constitutional law." In actual practice, it was an organization whose members made all sorts of wild allegations that were almost completely lacking in any evidence backing any of them up. This particular group was the perfect embodiment of the Conspiracy Fever that was raging in America at the time.
Basically, there seemed to be two different versions of TAC operating simultaneously. On both the UA campus and in the area around Fayetteville, AR, TAC presented itself as being fully committed to solving the aforementioned assassinations by proving vast conspiracies involving prominent Arkansans. However, to outsiders, the TAC claimed that it was fully committed to investigating a vast CIA conspiracy to smuggle drugs at the Mena Airport by Barry Seal and other drug traffickers. This conspiracy allegedly was the embodiment of the Reagan and Bush administrations foreign policy in Central America. Specifically, the claim was that the Reagan and Bush administrations were smuggling illegal drugs into the country via the Mena Airport for the purpose of raising money for the Nicaraguan Contra freedom fighters opposing the Communist Sandinista dictatorship. By making this claim and others, TAC attracted a lot of media coverage that for some reason was not collected in the TAC Papers. Oddly enough, there are no documents in the TAC Papers pertaining to any official group activities prior to the June 18, 1991 Action Plan. What exactly was the TAC doing before then and why is there no documentation of it in the TAC Papers?
Well, one thing that TAC was doing was engaging in harebrained speculation about who assassinated whom and who gained from it. Under their reasoning if you could figure out who stood to gain from an assassination then that must mean that person or persons was behind the vast conspiracy of the CIA, the FBI and whoever else they could fantasize about, were the ultimate mastermind(s) of the assassination in question. Of all their public meetings devoted to assassinations, there was one that sticks out in this writer's mind. There was this idiot who asked out loud if it was true what she heard that the CIA was responsible fo the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The correct answer to this question would have been that was impossible since the Lincoln assassination was in 1865 and the CIA was not even founded until 82 years later in 1947. However, one of the leaders of TAC gave the answer that since the CIA was a secretive agency, it was possible that it had existed as a Top Secret organization for years, even decades without anyone in the general public knowing about its existence. As for the CIA's official founding in 1947, what could have happened was that the CIA's existence was publicly revealed as a fully formed agency. So yes it was quite possible that the CIA assassinated Abraham Lincoln. Despite the sheer unintentional humor of the situation, hardly anybody in the room laughed at this exchange. If that does not show just how pervasive Conspiracy Fever was at the UA campus at this time, I don't know what does.
On April 5, 1992, the founder of Wal-Mart, Sam Walton passed away. As if on cue, the members of TAC started running their mouths off about how Walton was the ultimate mastermind of at least the JFK assassination and perhaps even the assassinations of RFK and MLK as well. According to the TAC, Walton wanted them dead since he was a rich man and wanted his taxes cut, so that's why he wanted those leaders dead. What the TAC members did not know in their utter historical ignorance was that under JFK, there was a major tax cut, that among other things, reduced the top rate from 91% to 68%. Why would Sam Walton want to have the man who cut his taxes so much murdered? And besides, Sam Walton was a very busy man building up Wal-Mart, being engaged in a number of community activities and on top of all that taught Sunday School. Given the fact that being the mastermind of multiple assassinations would have been a pretty time-consuming activity, where would Walton have found the time to do all that? More importantly, if the TAC really believed that Walton was behind these assassinations, why did it wait until Walton was conveniently dead and unable to sue them for libel? Truly the TAC as nothing but a bunch of moral cowards.
Some of TAC's public meetings could be quite unintentionally entertaining especially when the subject was assassinations and who did them and why. For instance, they had a speaker who claimed that NASA was behind the JFK assassination because that it feared that JFK was going to cancel the program to get a man on the Moon to end the Cold War and cut its budget. There is no evidence that JFK ever had second thoughts about going to the Moon and the whole idea that ending the Apollo program would have ended the Cold War is just simply nonsensical. Also, since the JFK assassination, NASA has had its budget cut numerous times without any presidents being assassinated. At a different meeting, there was a speaker who claimed that Bulgarian monarchists were behind the assassination since they believed that killing Kennedy would bring about the restoration of the Bulgarian monarchy. This made absolutely no sense given that Bulgaria was under Soviet military occupation that made any such restoration impossible. As if that was not absurd enough, at another meeting a speaker claimed that the JFK assassination was the work of Brazilian monarchists aiming to restore the monarchy in that country. One can only wonder how seemingly rational people could ever come up with such nonsense, not to mention being willing to actually say these things in public. I have sometimes wondered if some of these speakers were really actors showing off their talent. On top of that, what was really remarkable was the fact that I don't ever remember anyone laughing at these patently ridiculous theories. Truly the JFK assassination seemed to have driven some folks mad. While the JFK assassination does not get near as much media attention as it used to, there are still some seemingly respectable publications pushing this nonsense. https://psmag.com/news/jfk-files-conspiracy-theories
The Bulgarian theory made sense from the TAC's viewpoint of the Cold War. According to TAC, the United States was solely responsible for the Cold War. TAC viewed the Soviet Union and Communism in general as being peace-loving and not a threat to the USA at all. According to them, the evil military-industrial complex created the Cold War so it could scare the American people into spending large sums of money on subsidizing defense contractors. All this was very interesting in light of some memorable maps that this writer found in an academic journal relating to military studies that was published in the late 1980's. One of the maps showed the Soviet military deployments in East Germany and Czechoslovakia in 1985. Around Berlin, there was the Eighth Guards Tank Army. To the north of Berlin was the 66th Corps and to the west was the 28th Mechanized Corps. Right around Prague was the Fourth Mechanized Army. This was scary stuff given that this writer had always assumed that the Soviet occupation troops in Eastern Europe were nothing more than military police for the purpose of suppressing dissent. All those Soviet armored and mechanized units so close to the West German border meant that the Soviets could have launched an invasion without any kind of buildup or warning. The fact that the USA along with France and the United Kingdom had nuclear weapons was the only reason why the Soviets never invaded West Germany. When this writer tried to tell the TAC about it, they dismissed it as being just so much propaganda created to fool gullible people like myself.
Following the end of the Cold War, some of the persons who were TAC members have been busy. At least one of its members has run for office under the banner of the Green Party. Its treasurer Tom Brown wound up in prison for five years for marijuana offenses relating to an alleged church that pretended that smoking dope was necessary for its religious services. http://www.hr95.org/brown,t.htm
As disappointing as TAC and the actions of its members were, there is one thing that really stands out about just how disappointing its collected papers at the University of Arkansas Archives & Special Collections Department were. Despite all the big talk about how totally committed they were to discovering the connections between the state of Arkansas and the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., there was absolutely nothing in the group's papers pertaining to any of those assassinations. The archival finding guide has no mention of assassinations even being within the group's area of interest. Certainly a list of the speakers who were at TAC's public meetings would be most useful for the purpose of contacting those JFK assassination conspiracy theorists and finding out if they still hold the same positions today that they did back then. On top of all that, the group's collected papers do not include a list of its members, nor does it include the minutes of any of its meetings. It would have been nice to have a list of all the speakers who featured at TAC's public meetings, especially about the JFK assassination. This is especially true given the fact that the official UA student newspaper, The Arkansas Traveler, frequently failed to cover TAC's public meetings and when it did, quite often omitted any coverage of the most interesting aspects of those meetings. On top of all that, there were no documents of its activities prior to the summer of 1991. There also was none of the correspondence that its members claimed that they engaged in with similar organizations across the country. Also, for all of its claims that they were actively engaged in investigating, among other things, what happened at the Mena Airport, there was almost nothing in the collected papers pertaining to any such investigations by its membership. The only investigative materials in its files were either reprints from articles published in magazines and newspapers across the country or material gained by making requests to governmental agencies. Many of those articles were little more than ill-informed speculation. Taken as a whole, what you have here is an archival collection that is almost completely devoid of anything relating to the most interesting things that TAC claimed to be all about.
However, there is one source that you can turn to fill in at least some of the gaps in TAC's archival collection. There is a massive conspiracy-mongering website called "What Really Happened" that includes a number of documents pertaining to the activities of TAC. Its web page for documents pertaining to the group is at:
What happened was that members of TAC shared their documents with members of other conspiracist organizations across the country. Eventually, at least some of these documents came into the hands of the webmaster of this particular website. Given the fact that many of these documents failed to be included in the group's archival collection, this is a lucky break for the few genuine historians who would ever be interested in studying TAC.
What then we are left within surveying the career of TAC and its members, there is one thing that stands out. This is the fact that it made absolutely no sense for University of Arkansas, University Libraries, Special Collections Division to devote precious archival space to such a completely worthless collection. If there is not even so much as a single page of records pertaining to what the organization and its members always claimed was their reason for existence then why should anyone who is not a conspiracy lunatic ever want to access this collection? Why should any archive that is supposedly devoted to preserving the past want to keep and maintain such a worthless collection when there are so many other potential collections out there that could wind up becoming permanently lost due to archival indifference?
One can only wonder.
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