All Our Yesterdays 3
by Harry Warner Jr.
Someone suggested that I should run something by Bob Tucker. I can’t think of anything that would be more fun to do, and have devoted the whole kit and caboodle to him this time.
Tucker’s beginnings, like that of the Grand Canyon, is lost in the mists of antiquity to most present-day fans. I can assure you that his fan career actually did begin; not that I was around as an active fan at the time, but there were many survivors of his earliest days when I appeared on the scene. Tucker first came into prominence as a contributor to prozines letter columns around 1936, promptly involving fandom in the First Staple War. This affair, starting as a big joke, actually produced some bitterness in its later stages, and when someone sent a fake obituary notice to Astounding, Tucker quietly withdrew from the field. He lay dormant until 1938, when he resumed activities, this time in fandom itself, rather than through the prozines. For almost a decade he and Ackerman alternated winning polls to determine the number one fan, but the latter part of the 1940’s saw Tucker gradually drop many of his activities and gain the ability to sell mystery novels for big sums of money. Now he’s joined FAPA again, and shows signs of coming to full vigour.
Tucker is one of the most prolific writers that fandom has ever known. He turned out articles by the dozen each year for his own magazines and the publications of others. I don’t think he ever turned down a request for material from an unknown fan, and probably his good nature in this respect is responsible for the existence of a lot of fanzines that just had to come out, after getting a Tucker manuscript. His publishing has included some one-shotters and indexes, but has centred mostly around three titles. First was d’Journal, the propaganda organ of the anti-staple faction, which was as mythical as most of the staple events until long after the conflict was forgotten. When Tucker re-entered fandom in the late 1930’s, he decided to publish, and actually produced some issues of a magazine to go with that title. Don’t ask me how he got that title; I doubt whether Bob remembers himself. LeZombie started to wag the dog, and for five years LeZ was tops of its kind in fandom. Science Fiction News Letter also started in a very small way, and grew to meet the demand. SFNL is expertly done, but I’d prefer to be receiving LeZombie these days. I’d also be willing to wager that it would be the severest of all tests for the fantasy collector. To assemble a complete file of it these days would be a wonderful test of patience, skill and luck.
LeZombie started out as a personal opinion and humour magazine for Tucker and his pseudonym, Hoy Ping Pong. (HPP was incarnated as a Chinese philosopher, but soon became a pen-name for almost any type of material.) Later it expanded from a single-sheeter to a fanzine of generous proportions, with much material by other writers. Contents were generally restricted to two types of stuff: humour and personal opinions; frequently combined. However, you never knew what to expect next, and Tucker was always creating new mediums. For instance, his Lez-ettes, a fine art form which has been neglected since the demise of the magazine. Lez-ettes were science fiction stories, each in three chapters containing not more than two words. For instance, from the July, 1942 issue: Chapter 1: Planet. Chapter 2: Ice-age. Chapter 3: “Brrr!”. Sometimes there was an unhappy ending to these Lez-ettes, like this from the same issue: Chapter 1: Superman. Chapter 2: Superwoman. Chapter 3: Runt. Or they could be horror stories: Chapter 1: Amoeba. Chapter 2: No fission. Chapter 3: Grue-some.
Tucker’s regular style of humour is cumulative in its effect: no single sentence or paragraph is funny, but a couple of pages of these sentences or paragraphs will provide an enormous belly-laugh. That makes it hard to select items for excerpting: they lose their flavour in the process. The March-April, 1943, issue for instance carried an article by Squire Pong on “How to Raze Babies”. The best paragraph is probably this one:
I also liked the delicate way in which Tucker announced the ending of my fanzine, Spaceways, in his January, 1943, issue of Le Zombie: “We announce that you aren’t likely to find any reprints from Nova in Spaceways’ pages because Nova won’t allow reprinting and Spaceways hasn’t any pages anymore.”
Getting away from humour for a moment, Tucker did some reminiscing in the November, 1942 issue, about how fleeting fame in fandom can be. He looked back on a poll that had been taken in 1938, and commented that some of the big shots were forgotten already. A little less than a decade later, I have to joggle my own memory over a couple of names and titles. See how many of these you can pin down:
Finally, here’s a somewhat condensed example of an extended piece of Tuckeriana. It’s taken from the ‘September, 1942 issue of Le Zombie, and entitled “A Fan at Large”
Last revised: 1 March, 2006
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