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My name is Marta Randall. I am a writer, editor, and teacher, working mostly in the field of science fiction and fantasy.

Like most writers, I have always been a storyteller and can’t remember a time when stories didn’t bubble around in my head, stories about everything from what was going on around me to daring exploits in exciting surroundings, fraught with danger and adventure — I wasn’t going to be the one stuck at home baking cookies, I was going to be the one balancing on the raft in the lashing seas, gripping the mast with one hand while the other held on to the cookies somebody else had baked.

I hope you like the stories that, over the years, have bubbled out of my head and onto the page.

The Joe Box Method

True story: Back in the early to mid 60s I volunteered at a listener-supported radio station (“KPFA and KPFB, listener supported radio in Berkeley.” If you said it the other way around, it was an emergency call and all staff were supposed to rush to the station, to Stave Off the Forces of Reaction, probably embodied in the FCC). The staff consisted of a number of odd characters, including one I won’t name in case he’s still above ground. Let’s call him Ellsworth. Ellsworth was deeply flawed in the way that a lot of very introverted tech types are. He wouldn’t even talk to me until after I got married and became, I guess, safe territory. I suppose now he’d self-identify as an incel. As you might expect, his love life varied between a mess and non-existant. He told me, for example, of making a date to meet a woman for coffee at the Mediterraneum and not going because he was sure she would stand him up.

Despite his failed love-life, Ellsworth thought he would make some money by writing and selling a booklet titled “The Joe Box Method of Instant Seduction,” which he would illustrate himself and sell through classified ads in The Berkeley Barb. By then the Barb had ceased being an outlet for the Left and survived on spotty revenue as a sex-ad rag. Ellsworth, serious about all this, took out a post office box in the name of Joe Box and mimeoed a bunch of copies which I helped him staple together. He offered it for sale for a quarter a copy, which also covered postage.

I think he may have sold three or them — maybe four. This was lamentable  but Ellsworth, who was not stupid, told me he had come up with the perfect solution. He ran the ad again, but raised the price to $3.00.

This was genius. Orders flooded in. He reprinted the booklet a number of times and contemplated a “hard cover” for it — basically anything weightier than newsprint — but decided against it. Eventually he got bored, or perhaps the Joe Box Method threatened to be too successful; in any event it disappeared.

What, you may ask, was the Joe Box Method of Instant Seduction? In a word, Ask. Any time, anywhere, anyone. If you ask often enough, the booklet promised, somebody would eventually say “Yes.” He stretched this out to eight pages, what with illustrations of horny men lurking at bus stops or saloons, or at church! At the movie theater! At concerts! At protest marches! Some woman, at some point, would say yes. Don’t argue, don’t grab, don’t leer. Just ask.

It probably worked.