All Our Yesterdays 18
by Harry Warner Jr.
There’s one thing that can be said for the fanzines of the early 1940’s: you didn’t run much danger of mixing them up in your mind because of their similarities. First issues contained the inevitable apologies for bad reproduction and there was the common factor of the big push for a giant anniversary issue every now and then. But for the most part, the fanzines had distinct personalities, intents and subject matter. For instance, there was a fanzine called Frontier.
My file of the publication contains seven issues, from July 1940 through January 1942. There could have been another issue or two after that which I failed to stash away in the proper place, but I don’t think there were many more, because it wasn’t long after Pearl Harbour that the editor, Donn Brazier, entered the armed services. He never did reappear in fandom after his hitch in the service, and I don’t think that his name has bobbed up in a fanzine for a decade.
Donn was one of the most intently serious fans in history. I recall one perfectly typical instance from our correspondence. This was after he’d entered the armed forces, had been selected for officers’ candidate school, and had just won his rank of second lieutenant upon graduating. I certainly hope that this new status of yours won’t mean an end to our friendship, I wrote in what I intended to be a joshing tone. Donn wrote back at some length to the effect that he realised the changes in his position in life that had occurred, but he had every intention of still remaining friends with many of the persons that he had known while he was still an enlisted man. From anyone else, it would have been insufferable egotism over a promotion that service men were receiving for no particular reason except the need for commissioned officers to fight the war. From Donn, it was merely an example of the intensity with which he viewed everything that happened to him, as well as everything that he happened to do.
So it was with the first issue of Frontier, which emerged from Donn’s Milwaukee home in a rather faintly hectographed format. It announced the formation of the Frontier Society in this heroic manner:
Elsewhere in this first issue, the readers learned how the Frontier Society had its origin. The director was Paul H. Klingbiel, West Bend, Wis., another completely forgotten fan by this time. Paul described at great length in one article his changing opinions about science through high school, and his difficulties when he attempted to discover the identity of the things which science does not know. I would probably have asked my science teacher for a brief outline of this, but Paul did it differently:
Paul got a new idea then. For the next year, he collected quotations which cast doubt on the topic of whether science knew anything. He finally decided that “Science may demonstrate, it is true, that absolute truth and reality do exist, but science itself is not that reality and that truth.” Finally he and Donn decided to form the Frontier Society, sent letters to the prozines, got publicity in Wonder and Amazing, and. were baffled when Astounding refused to publish anything about their project. They got 13 members in this manner, enough to inspire them to produce the first issue of Frontier.
From this beginning, you can probably understand, might have emerged anything between the level of a Darwin theory and a Degler fan group. With the enthusiasm and seriousness of Brazier and Klingbiel, something important might have come of the organisation, if it hadn’t been engaged so completely with science fiction fandom from its start. Some indication of the way science fiction fandom was beginning to ensnare the high-sounding project can be guessed from the first paragraph of the editorial in the second issue. Fans didn’t want to buy Frontier; they wanted to trade their own fanzines for it. Donn wrestled mightily with this temptation:
Fannish influences were already creeping into the material for this second issue. A quiz on H.P. Lovecraft, mainly devoted to asking the reader to determine from which stories came brief quotations, could hardly form a part of the high purpose of the publication. But the second issue did contain some items that were more in line with the purpose of the frontier Society. Morris A. Wolf wrestled with several eternal verities in his review of Omar Khayyam’s philosophy. Ackerman, writing under the name of Weaver Wright, tried to talk himself out of his own non-belief in life after death by rehashing an old anecdote that his grandmother used to tell him:
By the time the third issue had appeared at the end of 1940, the Frontier Society was rejoicing in its possession of 18 members. Aside from the founders, only a few of them are likely to be even vaguely known to today’s fandom: Art Widner, Tom Wright, D.B. Thompson, Paul Freehafer, and Rajocz, the fellow in Scranton who took pity on his correspondents by not using his interminable full name. There was a brief article, unsigned, entitled “Deadly Prophesy”, which went like this:
The poor guy didn’t fill in the blank because he didn’t know what was going to happen.
There was an article by Brazier about the most famous of non-existent books, the Necronomicon, which ended with a quotation from a correspondent that may possess some interest:
By its fourth issue, Frontier had passed from such pious inquiry into the existence of non-existent curses and was a completely mixed up combination of scientific inquiry and fanzine. On the strict fanzine side were such things as an article about Lovecraft by Derleth, an explanation by Clifford Simak of how he writes a science fiction story, and an utterly silly short-short by George Tullis about a guy who spends his whole day looking forward to the great event that will happen that evening: it turns out to be attending a new Boris Karloff movie. However, there were still reports on the progress of the Frontier Society, and an article by Ackerman on the need for an earthwide adoption of Esperanto, and accounts by Hazel I. Shull of Pennsylvania Dutch beliefs. I don’t know what to make of an article by our old friend, George Wetzel, who describes and then extrapolates from an alleged “shaft of purest light” that “astonished New Yorkers by extending into the infinite reaches of the heavens from atop the piercing, steel spire of the Chrysler building.” He apparently thinks there was such a thing, and goes on to describe how some day we may be able to darken our rooms by plugging in the right kind of lamp. Ackerman predicted that Esperanto would become the auxiliary language of the World State within 50 years, so we don’t have too long to wait, considering that about one-third of that temporal distance has already been crossed.
Philip Schumann of Milwaukee had assumed editorship of Frontier in its fifth issue, with Brazier dropping back to the post of associate editor because of lack of time. I think the prize of this issue was a remarkably well-written account of an air raid by Britisher Ron Holmes, entitled “Fritz and His Blitz”. It made no pretension at fantasy or frontierism or anything except how one man reacted to a feature of World War Two that we never knew in this country:
For the third straight issue, frontier got a new editor when Klingbiel took over with the sixth issue. He finally succeeded in getting into print "Some Experiences of a Professional Seeress", an article which had been heralded issue after issue. This was written by Loretta A. Beaslay, who, a footnote explains, is known professionally as Madame Loretta. Madame Loretta seemed to feel about fortune telling approximately the same way that some Christians feel about their religion; there's nothing to all this nonsense but I'd better go to church occasionally, just in case. A few samples:
I’m not quite sure who was editor of the magazine when this seventh and probably last issue appeared. There was a new address on the contents page, and announcement that “Frontier is the bulletin of the Frontier Society and of the recently formed Windy City Wampire Club”, but there wasn’t any signature or other identification of the writer of the long editorial. Most of the issue was taken up by a lengthy story by one Jack Brandon, entitled “The Devil’s Prayerbook” and accompanied by a completely superfluous note that “all rights, including those of quotation, adaptation, translation, cinema, foreign, are reserved by Frontier”. There was a brief article about ships that disappear at sea, a review of “The Encyclopaedia of Occult Sciences”, a page about Paul Verlaine, and a brief letter column. Quite pathetically buried away as a filler item was a note from one William Hess, who had been one of the members of the Frontier Society:
The poor guy had completely forgotten the original purpose of the Frontier Society and apparently thought it was intended to persuade people to real science fiction. However, he wasn’t any more astray from the original intent than the editors. There’s no other evidence in this seventh issue that there had ever been a purpose like that outlined in the first few issues. And another fanzine slipped quietly into the oblivion that is disturbed only when an occasional historian or index-compiler unearths fresh evidence that fans rarely keep their mind on what they set out to do.
Last revised: 1 March, 2006
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