Fannish Memory Syndrome
by Steve Green
To North Yorkshire, for Ann's and my annual escape from Civilization As Others Know It. Whilst the sheer weight of English history often pins this country's social and political evolution to the ground, there are few spinethrills to compare with strolling around a castle erected three centuries before the original North Americans watched Columbus' fleet appear over the horizon and thought "Damn, there goes the neighbourhood".
Our yearly exodus to the Dales began three springs ago, when I was still managing to eke out a meagre living by freelancing for a series of sf/film magazines which promptly folded with the regularity of Italian parliaments. In view of our joint desire to gafiate totally from the Rat Race, spending a week in a converted 1841 stable on a working farm in the tiny village of Harmby (a couple dozen houses, one pub) seemed the ideal solution; my wisewoman wife has even pondered whether the building might be haunted, given several slightly odd incidents since our first visit, though I'll remain unconvinced till I hear spectral hoofbeats in the night.
Leyburn, the nearest town (around one mile distant), is mentioned in the 1086 DOMESDAY BOOK (William I's post-invasion stocktake) and assumed the role of local capitol when neighbouring Wensley became a ghost town following an outbreak of bubonic plague in 1563; fortunately, the Black Death is all but eradicated these days, and the few remaining pockets in central London are easily identified by raven-robed monks waving handbells at major road junctions. Across the valley lies Masham (site of two breweries and birthplace of one of the chief traitors against Henry V on the eve of Agincourt) and Spennithorne (birthplace of an 18th Century eccentric who tried to assassinate George III); this healthy local disrespect for royalty may be one reason I feel so much at home here.
As always, my major joys on vacation mix archaeology and bibliophilia. For the first, a visit to Richmond Castle (erected at the order of William I and damaged by general neglect during the 16th Century rather than the usual internecine warfare); for the latter, various expeditions into musty caverns to unearth such delights as an 1888 guide to Yorkshire (hardly cheap at #25.00, but which launched itself in my estimations when a 1939 road map slipped loose from a pouch at the back) and, er, a pair of Robert Lionel Fanthorpe hackworks from his penal servitude at Badger Books in the '50s. The former obsession speaks for itself, but on behalf of the latter, a priceless quote from PERILOUS GALAXY (written under the pseudonym "John E Muller"): "He looks far more like an earthling [sic] than any of you. He looks more than an Earthling -- he even looks English!"
Be honest, what more could any sentient alien lifeform strive for?
There's always fandom, of course. One of the few claims made for the fannish community which actually stands up is our reputation for turning a blind eye -- or at least a compassionate one -- towards those among us who trangress social convention to such a degree that, in many cultures, they'd be booted out of town without even the opportunity to confess their behavioural quirks on Montel. Like Freemasons and priests, we more often than not close ranks and attempt to reassimilate rather than excommunicate offenders against generally accepted mores; indeed, in common with most social groupings where alcohol or drugs play a significant role in the bonding process, those anti-social outrages which don't actually leave a body count in their wake are almost always met not with a lynch mob but guarded amusement. Short of defrauding a fan fund or allowing a bunch of Scientologists to take over your worldcon, we'll forgive virtually any atrocity.
I still recall the glee with which one Novacon regular revealed how he'd engineered revenge upon his room-mate, an infamous prankster in his own right, by masturbating in the hotel shower and adding the resultant bodily fluid to the Glaswegian's shampoo. I've no idea if the target of that particular stunt ever discovered what had taken place, but the hoots of laughter greeting his arrival and the widespread queries as to his favourite brand of hair gel must have raised at least few suspicions in his mind.
Of course, much depends upon the identity of victor and victim. Those who've just received Martin Tudor's first TAFF newsletter will be aware of my nickname for my business partner these past nine years, "Teflon Tudor", earned by his astounding ability to walk innocently away from the most heinous fannish crimes. When once, after a particularly heavy drinking session in the city centre, we jointly decided to enroll a fictitious fan into the Birmingham Science Fiction Group, was it he who took the brunt of the committee's fury? I think not. Found guilty of sinister magicks by MiS-saigon's witch trial in February, did he follow my example two years earlier and place his neck on the chopping block -- or escape with a little cosmetic mutilation? Don't bother sticking your suggestions on a postcard, folks: by the time the Anaheim Centre is naught but a smoking ruin and Martin's hurriedly hiding his cigarettes, you'll already have the answer.
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