All Our Yesterdays 7
by Harry Warner Jr.
The dreams of fantasy readers include such things as a really complete bibliography of fantasy books, microfilmed reference files to preserve and spread the comments of the rarest publications, an index to the articles of lasting merit in fanzines, and an encyclopaedia that would explain all the terms and lore of fandom. The first three remain to be accomplished, but the last has been done, one of the biggest fan projects in history.
Jack Speer got the idea during World War Two that he would like to do some preliminary work on an encyclopaedia for fandom. The project grew in scope as he worked on it, until he decided to go through with the job. The leading fans of the day read his manuscript and made corrections and additions. Forest J Ackerman, abetted by a number of Los Angeles fans, took charge of the gigantic mimeographing task. The result was one of the finest things fandom has ever produced — a 100 page reference book, bound with attractive heavy covers. It’s edition was limited to 250 copies. The only reason it isn’t eagerly sought today, as far as I can see, is that few fans know about it. It appeared when the Third Fandom was coming towards its end. In the readjustment of the months following VJ Day, so many old fans dropped out, and so many new ones arrived. The volume had sold out so promptly that extensive advertising wasn’t necessary, and a great demand for it didn’t come into being until after it was out of print.
But even today, the Fancyclopedia is valuable. Originally, it was both a reference work and entertaining reading. Now it has taken on a third value, because it treats of fandom as it was just before the Atom Bomb started falling and new prozines began appearing; the final years of fandom’s privacy, when the whole world wasn’t interested in stories about the future.
A quick glance at the contents will indicate how rapidly these terms have skidded from fandom’s vocabulary. Take page 40, for instance. Who remembers today the Frontier Society, Fubar Pubs, der Fuhrer of the Newark Swamps, the Futile Press, or the Futilitarians? (For the benefit of the curious, they are: a group that was organised as a sort of fannish equivalent of the Fortean Society; something Ackerman called his publications for a while; Moskowitz; the house name for an old-time fan, Claire Beck; and what the Michelists called their opponents.) There have been great shifts in interest and importance. Hectoing gets twice as much space as dittoing, because in those days a lot of fans still pulled their fanzines laboriously off gelatine-filled pans, and only a few pioneers owned the mimeo-like duplicating machines. You’ll look in vain for definitions of egoboo and crifanac; those, and a hundred other terms, hadn’t been popularised or invented by fandom in 1941.
Speer made no effort to assume an impersonal, serious tone in his publication. His style was charming, with hints of Dr. Samuel Johnson, and became serious only when treating of light-weight subjects. For instance, here is his definition of the Sacred Order of FooFoo:
It might be advisable to point out that the Pogo mentioned here is not the comic strip character, but the Esperanto nickname for a fan, Mrs Russell M. Wood.
I put the Fancyclopedia in a desk drawer after reading it, on the theory that it would prove useful for research and reference purposes. This didn’t turn out to be right. I don’t think I used it in this manner oftener than once a year. But I’ve found myself drawing it out, skimming over its pages, and chuckling over either the phraseology or the memories it recalls, quite regularly in odd moments
The memories are mostly personal and wouldn’t appeal to others. But the merits of Speer’s writing are as high as ever. For instance, the definition for gleap:
Or the explanation of little Jarvenon:
Modern fans are often puzzled when they find in mid-40’s fanzines much reference to the word “rose-bud”, so it wouldn’t be amiss to repeat Speer’s explanation of how it became a printable version of unprintable words:
That last definition is a good example of how the Fancyclopedia has gone out of date, however. Every reference book must assume a certain amount of fundamental knowledge on the part of its readers. Speer didn’t bother to explain the special fannish meaning of rosebud. Everyone was familiar with the word in those days. He also assumed that his readers would have read some of the endless instalments of ‘Trigger Talk at Green Guna’, a spasmodic serial in Futurian publications, and there was no need to mention that Liebscher was a male fan in the Chicago area. But the fan of 1951 who wasn’t around in 1944, doesn’t know those things. He may not even link up Doc Lowndes with the R. L. Lowndes who is still editing STF magazines. And he may not be aware that Citizen Kane was the leading character of a controversial Orson Welles movie, which was devoted to showing why that character uttered that as his last word.
So the time would seem to be ripe for a 1951 edition of the Fancyclopedia. Much of the work has already been done. Speer’s definitions of fundamental things – like those for dummy, mailing, Marxism, and scores of others — could be used unchanged, or brought up to date with a few extra sentences. Many of the items, completely forgotten nicknames or fan slang expressions, could be deleted altogether. The principal task of the compiler of the new edition would be to turn out articles on the new words, concepts, and incidents of the last seven years, to modernise the histories of the fan organisations that are still existent. And to rewrite spots which are fundamentally sound, but obscure to the present day fan. If the smaller fandom of 1944 bought all available copies of an edition of 250 I think today’s fandom could make an edition of 500 or more, practical. Maybe even justify photo-offset reproduction. A warning, however, if anyone has enough spare time and energy to tackle the task: Speer’s volume is copyrighted, and you’d need his permission to put out a new edition.
Last revised: 1 March, 2006
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