All Our Yesterdays 13
by Harry Warner Jr.
Fans have always been fussing and feuding in Los Angeles, but there was a time when the outside world didn’t know much about civil warfare. Before the long succession of split-ups got public airing, Los Angeles fandom co-operated briefly to produce one of the finest club publications of all time. It was Imagination, whose title W. Lawrence Hamling has since borrowed for a prozine.
Imagination is now less remembered than the magazine which succeeded it, Voice of the Imagination, nicknamed VOM. VOM came into being after Imagination folded. Originally, the title had been the name of the letter section in Imagination, so the letter section simply shed the rest of the magazine and became popular as the first, important, all-letter fanzine. It lasted longer than Imagination had survived, thanks to the hard work of Ackerman and Morojo. But VOM was the reflection of Ackerman’s current preoccupations, while Imagination had something to do with the whole Los Angeles Science-Fiction League chapter. (For the sake of purists, it was LASFL in those days, not LASFS. And technically, Imagination as a title, should have an exclamation point after it, but it’s too much work to insert exclamation points on a hot summer day.)
Imagination began in 1937, lasted a couple of years before metamorphosing into VOM, and hardly was spectacular in appearance. It was standard size, usually containing a couple of dozen of mimeoed pages, with a rather conservative format that was remarkable only for the all-out Ackermanese which Forrest J wrote in those days, and for the use of three different typefaces, to compensate for the lack of interior illustrations. Some idea of the inconsistencies and extremes which Ackerman inflicted upon his prose may be found in a brief excerpt like this:
For some unfathomable reason, Ackerman’s “fenetic” spelling dropped more vocalised letters than silent letters.
In the April, 1938 issue, Russ Hodgekins told how a bunch of the Los Angeles boys went to Tarzana to meet Edgar Rice Burroughs in person. Everything went fine, except for the fact that Burroughs was not there. Here’s the way Hodgekins described the Burroughs office:
The contents of Imagination were a merry hodgepodge of everything imaginable. Biographies of LASFL members, synopses of fantasy movies, and radio shows which Ackerman had found, translations of fantasy interest from Esperanto (another Ackerman crusade in those days) news notes on happenings in Los Angeles, and lots of letters from readers, were regular features. Almost everything was kept short, with two or three items usually crowding onto a page, and poems set up as prose to save space. Rather interesting at this late date is the biography of Ray Bradbury which appeared in the June 1938 issue:
Since Ackerman has drifted away from fandom, lots of us forget that he never liked to have a period placed after his middle initial. In the July, 1938 Imagination, he told something about his middle initial troubles in this respect:
Ten years before Walt Kelly started his comic strip, here’s how Imagination described Pogo:
If it doesn’t seem to fit the possum too well, that’s because it refers to the original Pogo, Patti Gray, then a member of the LASFL.
Then there was a brief paragraph of interest from A. Merritt, apparently a quote from a letter which he had written to someone in Los Angeles:
Does Joseph William Skidmore ring a bell in your memory? Most stf readers of today have never beard of him, and couldn’t guess that his death in 1938 caused nearly as much turmoil as the other deaths of important writers around that period, like Robert Howard and H. P. Lovecraft. Skidmore wasn’t a very good writer, but his fiction had a certain naive charm of its own, it was pioneer work, and he appeared frequently in the prozines from 1931 until his death.
Imagination’s tribute to him, written by Ackerman and Rob Olsen:
Someday, I think we should have a different kind of science-fiction anthology, a book whose stories would be chosen not for merit, not for theme, but because they are completely typical of the pre-World War Two magazine science-fiction. At least two or three of the placid, little stories about the talking electrons would deserve a place in such a book.
Last revised: 1 March, 2006
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