THE THOUGHT A Look Back and a Look Ahead
By Ronald C. Tobin, Editor & Publisher
As those of you who have been reading this magazine for a decent length of time know, on or about the 1st of May in 1981, I started putting together the very first issue. Four pages in length, it was not much to look at. This, however, is history that is fairly widely known. What very few know about is how THE THOUGHT ever came to be. With that, join me in taking a look at the roots of this august and grand publication.
My awakening as regards politics and social concerns happened in 1973, when I was twelve years old. I remember quite clearly the events surrounding the Yom Kippur War, the Arab Oil Embargo, and the list goes on. I was far from an anarchist back then. In those days I really bought into the American Dream. I mean, I was a member of the Boy Scouts of America! As that goes, back in 1975 I received the rank of Eagle Scout (the highest rank of that organization), and in 1976 I spent two weeks in Washington DC as part of the Orange County contingent to the Eagle Scout Bicentennial Celebration. I am obviously not a member now, nor would I regard it as being at all likely that I would rejoin the organization at a later date. Anyway, back in the 1970's, my teen years, I had rather conservative attitudes. The telling, vital exceptions to that mindset was that my parents encouraged me to think for myself and question authority, and as far back as I can remember I have been opposed to the very existence of the so-called victimless crime laws. Also, I was always a social misfit, was very much a loner with a very small circle of friends. My social life was quite limited - I did not even go out on a date until I was eighteen years old and had already graduated from high school. The highlight of my teen years was the two trips to Europe that I took, one in 1979 and one in 1980. Both were fantastic learning experiences, and I do intend to go back someday.
Some are probably wondering what that stuff has to do with THE THOUGHT. Well, it provides the background, sets the stage, so to speak. My first attempts at public writing took place in 1974. That was the year in which I drew up this single sheeter that I called THE ALCHEMIST'S GAZETTE. I billed it as a "Humor Magazine/Buying Guide/and Scientific Journal." I put together a couple more, multi-page, issues in 1975, then one more in 1978. Only ever showed it around to family members, and only the 1978 issue survives today. No literary masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a taste of what was yet to come.
Along with THE ALCHEMIST'S GAZETTE, during the mid to late 1970's I made several attempts to write a novel. These ran the gamut from a science fiction piece about a giant solar flare destroying most life on this planet (titled DECEMBER DISASTER), to a bizarre tale of local Nazis taking over the U.S., the planet, and venturing out into the stars (titled THE RISE OF NAZI AMERICA), to an alternate history Civi1 War piece, to the only one that still exists - a tale about Nazi Germany taking over North America, titled LIKE HELL ON EARTH. The last one made it to 264 manuscript pages before I dropped the project (and no, I have no intention of reviving it). Early in 1980, I turned away from trying to write novels and began to turn towards writing political tracts. The birth of THE THOUGHT was near.
During the summer of 1980 I was in my second relationship with a strong-willed, opinionated woman named Jody Biloon. In those days I liked to call myself - as regarded politics - a "statistical moderate". I was under the impression that I had a balance of conservative and liberal views, thus I regarded it as an appropriate label. Jody was very liberal in her outlooks, and she constantly challenged me to examine my political/philosophical views, to figure out what I really did believe, where I really stood. Shortly before she and I ceased to be good friends for the second and last time (if anyone out them knows how to reach Jody, do let me know, I would really enjoy seeing her again), I proceeded to do just that.
The result of conducting this examination was the writing and the publishing of the NEO-FEDERALIST MANIFESTO. Started in September of 1980, it was released to the world on 31 October 1980. Fortunately, few heeded its call. Shortly after publishing the Manifesto, I met Christopher J. Becker. At first, Mr. Becker had strong reservations about the Manifesto, but we eventually came to an agreement. The team of Tobin and Becker was born.
During the rest of 1980 and into 1981 I spent a lot of time writing essays, made a couple of revisions to the Manifesto, and brainstormed with Mr. Becker. In April of 1981, Mr. Becker suggested I start keeping a journal, which I did, starting on 27 April 1981. 1 have kept journals off and on ever since then, and they are intact from 3 May 1981 forward. The first six entries were lost long ago, which may explain why we do not know what the exact day is that THE THOUGHT came into being.
1 May is held to be the birthday of THE THOUGHT due to the weight of the existing circumstantial evidence, and the recollections that I have about the period. What likely happened was that Christopher Becker and I threw around the idea of a newsletter, and then I decided to do it, and the rest is history. So, yes, the official birth date is arbitrary, but it could not have transpired more than a few days prior or a few days after that date. So, unless I come across saw compelling evidence that shows otherwise, the celebrated anniversary date for this magazine will remain 1 May.
That covers the essential points regarding the roots of THE THOUGHT. A brief overview history of the magazine is now appropriate.
1981 - THE THOUGHT came out in May, July, and September of that year under the auspices of the Neo-Federalist Association. The November 1981 issue was not completed, and was released long after the collapse of the NFA. (said issue was typed up under AFNA auspices and only finally published by the Philosophers Guild during April of 1985). Publication was interrupted due to a relationship I entered into with one Patricia L. Slaten. This relationship also precipitated the collapse of the NFA., but that was good.
1982 - THE THOUGHT came out in August and November of that year, under the auspices of the AFNA Philosophical Society, the Objectivist philosophical group I founded soon after the collapse of my relationship with Patricia L. Slaten. The August issue was the last one published in a newsletter format. The reason there was just a November issue (instead of an October and a December 1982 issue) was due to a conflict of interests I had with our then Associate Editor, Lawrence A. Daily. The October issue was quashed due to Daily's insistence that it was too controversial, and I foolishly those to abide by his advice at that point. The gutted November issue had a nice cover and saw typesetting, but due to my displeasure over this fracas, I very shortly thereafter dismissed Mr. Daily from the staff, and decided to make THE THOUGHT into a monthly magazine.
1983 - THE THOUGHT came out in every month of this year, save for the month of June, all under the auspices of the AFNA Philosophical Society. The January, February, and March issues were published in Orange, CA, and the remaining eight issues were published in Phoenix, AZ. The only reason that there was not a June 1983 issue is because our then printer, Judy Sawyer, mysteriously took ill and vanished for a few weeks. These issues are dominated by Objectivist material written by yours truly, but there were a few pieces by others, and Libertarianism had a profound influence on me later that year.
1984 - THE THOUGHT only came out once that year, in March, and that was under the auspices of the American Philosophical Council of Objectivists, the successor organization to AFNA. Among the many reasons why only one issue cam out that year is because I was running for public office as a Libertarian Party candidate, but that is another matter entirely.
1985 - THE THOUGHT resumed publication in April of that year, in Orange, CA and under the auspices of the Philosophers Guild. Ten issues came out that year, including the rather odd special 4th Anniversary Commemorative issue. It was during this year that we switched from the single column format to the double column format. It was also the year that saw the start of the present situation - the fact that many other folks wrote for/sent artwork for the magazine.
1986-1989 - During these four years, THE THOUGHT did indeed cane out every month, something that had not been achieved before and has yet to be matched since (I hope to make 1993 into that year, so keep your fingers crossed). All published by the Philosophers Guild, they do indeed contain much interesting material. Most of this period was marked by a decline in the amount of material that I generated for the magazine, which meant a progressively better mix of authors. Those years were the Glory Years of this magazine, at least up to now.
1990 - THE THOUGHT came out six times that year, from January to June. Publication was suspended after the publication of the June issuefor many reasons. The Era of Silence took hold in mid-August of 1990, and no one heard from me in these circles until October of 1991.
1991 - THE THOUGHT only came out three times that year, in October, November, and December of 1991, after the Era of Silence ended. This I call the period of the "First Guild Revival", and it appeared to be on track.
1992 - THE THOUGHT came out nine times in this year. There were no issues published :in April, May, and June, for reasons that most readers are abundantly aware of. The July issue marked the start of the "Second Guild Revival", which. is still going strong.
1993 - Six issues have been published so far this year. As this is the June issue, that means we are still on track for a twelve issue year, which is one of my goals for this year.
What of the future? I think that the future looks promising for THE THOUGHT beyond this 100th issue. New writers and artists continue to appear, and my personal interest in the project remains high. Publication frequency may be changed in 1994 or after, depending upon the dynamics of my life. Also, during this simmer I plan to shift this publication onto my computer, using the Word Perfect program. I think that will result in an improvement of the magazine's appearance.
To conclude this look back and look forward, I am going to thank all of those who ever had written work or artwork published in THE THOUGHT. [In the June 1993 issue, where this article originally appeared, a list of all contributors did follow. I am omitting it here because it would not enhance the current presentation.]
Well, much to the surprise of just about everyone, the June 1993 issue, the gala 100th issue of THE THOUGHT, turned out to be the last issue most people would see for over four years. Family problems and personal concerns brought production to a screeching halt in July of 1993. I kept hoping to recover during the Summer of that year, even told many people that I had every intention of doing just that, but it was not to be.
1994: The Third Guild 'Revival,' if it is even appropriate to call it that, happened basically during the months of March through May. The Philosophers Guild had joined up in an ill advised (as regarded the best interests of both organizations) alliance with the Free Territory of Ely-Chatelaine, and THE THOUGHT became the legal newspaper of the FTEC along with being the Official Journal of the Philosophers Guild. Only one issue came out in 1994, in the month of April. It was, in fact, the final issue composed on a typewriter. At any rate, before this issue could go out to the Guild's mailing list (it had already gone out to the FTEC's mailing list), infighting made it undesirable to continue distribution. This very nearly proved to be the last hurrah for the magazine.
1995-1996: The Great Silence that started in May of 1994 reigned supreme. Spoke to very few of my colleagues during that time. I tried to walk away from it all. I moved back to Metropolitan Phoenix (Glendale, AZ this time) and, when I did, I threw out nearly all the extra back issues that I had. I did keep one copy of each issue for my library, thank goodness I had that much presence of mind. During that time I did occasionally read a copy of the magazine and scan over some journals, and thought wistfully of what it had been all about. Still, I had no inclination of reviving the Guild at this time.
1997: The turning point came in the Spring of this year. I was bored and unfocused, and I wanted to resume doing something that was intellectually stimulating and was meaningful. After some heart-to-heart discussions with my friends, the now famous 4th Guild Revival started on June 16th. THE THOUGHT became a bimonthly, desktop published, and we decided to do away with the covers. The alliance between the FTEC and the Guild was resumed, and at first it looked like it might work out. Two issues (September/October and November/December) came out that year.
1998: A full six bimonthly issues came out that year, first full volume since 1989. Articles ran the gamut from anarchist to minarchist to royalist, with several heated in-print debates. It was becoming clear that the alliance between the FTEC and the Guild was not going to work out, but still I was determined to stay the course and, in the face of harsh criticism, I did throughout that year.
1999: This was a year of great change. The alliance between the FTEC and the Philosophers Guild ended by mutual agreement on 26-27 January, 1999. So, effective with the March/April 1999 issue, THE THOUGHT ceased to be the legal newspaper of the Free Territory. Circulation increased throughout the year, and several new contributors appeared. Our own website went active on 20 October, 1999. This was another full volume year with six bimonthly issues. We also applied for and received our ISSN this year.
2000: The world did not end, and the Guild and this magazine just kept clicking along. Another full volume year, making this three in a row. The 4th Guild Revival is certainly going strong, and that is good. Circulation continues to increase, as does the number of contributors.
I am reluctant to peer too far into the future. All looks well for a successful year in 2001. Should nothing drastic happen, I fully expect 2001 to be another banner year for the Guild and this magazine. How can one guarantee that? To try seems to be tempting the fates to me. I will say that I am committed to this project, and that it will take dramatic events to change my course. I derive a lot of enjoyment from this and have met most of the people I know through it. I will do my best.
Thanks for reading this brief history of THE THOUGHT. Hope you will join me in celebrating its 20th Anniversary on 1 May, 2001!
Ronald C. Tobin
Editor & Publisher, THE THOUGHT
Chair-Founder, Philosophers Guild