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Dave Wood: 1936-2007

 

Memorial plaque on a bench on Clevedon Pier,
where Dave was a volunteer at the Heritage Centre.

The plaque was dedicated in 2007 by a group of Dave's fannish friends.
Photograph by Rob Jackson, October 2011

Dave Wood in December 2006 with part of his SF magazine collection.
Photo by Peter Weston.

Dave in more formal dress,
but characteristic mood.
Photo courtesy of Shelley Wood.

In Volume 2 of THEN, his history of British fandom, Rob Hansen writes:

"NECON is notable both for being the first post-war gathering of fans in the North and also the first convention attended by Dave Wood and Ken Potter of Lancaster. These two had met at Boy Scout camp in August 1950, struck up a friendship, and soon after put out a fanzine called TRIUMPH. In June 1951 they put out SCIENTIFICTION (being unaware, presumably, of the pre-war Gillings 'zine of the same name). As Wood wrote of it the following March:

"...the first was a flop, the second not much better; No.3 was quite good. We put quite a bit of work into it to produce before the NECON, which we attended. After NECON, Ken and I decided to turn out separate 'zines, and since then I have done five issues of CENTAURUS, and Ken's turned out 4 issues of BEYOND and 3 of STELLAR, his present mag."

These fanzines were half-quarto size and hand-written, and had outside contributions in the form of art and stories from Alan Hunter and Terry Jeeves. However, NECON had more of an effect on Wood and Potter than just deciding them to do separate fanzines...

Two months earlier, at Wood's fifteenth birthday party, he and Potter had formed the grandly named 'Junior Society of SF Readers' (the assembled guests being the charter members). This had come to nothing, but the convention got them thinking along similar lines again. When Potter submitted a story to OPERATION FANTAST and mentioned the idea in a covering letter, editor Ken Slater ran an ad for what he called 'The British Teenage Fantasy and Science Fiction Society', and in short order Potter and Wood's society had fifteen members. These early young stalwarts included Pete Taylor, Shirley Marriott, Tony Cooper, and John Brunner, and even attracted Howard Griffiths of Wales and Scotland's Matt Elder. Wood wrote about this group in a piece called 'The Junior Fanatics' (a name they hadn't officially adopted at this point) for the first and only issue of George Clements's VOID (a name which would go on to much greater fame later in the decade as the title of an American fanzine), which appeared in November. More was to be heard of the Junior Fanatics in the months that followed. "  

Here's Dave's piece on The Junior Fanatics:

From VOID 1 ( November 1952) edited and produced by George F Clements

THE JUNIOR FANATICS

This is a report by DAVE WOOD, of the first year's activities of the Junior Fanatics

It was August 1951 when Ken Potter and I hit upon the idea. of a Junior Society. This, however, was restricted to fen around the home town Lancaster. Nothing resulted and the Society fell through. Pushed to the back of my mind, the society was forgotten by me, but not by Ken. Early this year Ken startled me with "I'm going to resurrect the Junior Society," I said, "Its all yours ". However, don't got the idea that I wasn't interested. I was. I was all for a Junior Society but I remembered the last attempt.

We strived and strived. Nothing came up. We were almost in despair. Then Ken wrote a short story and sent it to Capt. Slater of O.F. along with a letter in which he mentioned the society. Wonders of wonders ! When Ken's short appeared in O.F., for it was accepted, there also was an ad for the Junior S.F. Society, which was then known as the British Teenage Fantasy and Science Fiction Society (phew!) At first, nothing. Then wonders on wonders, our first member, Peter Cook of Gillingham, soon followed by Tony Cooper of London and Howard Griffiths of Glamorgan.

Tony Cooper sprang the greatest surprise, he offered to print a club mag. on a rota-printer.

Scotland then appeared on the scene in the person of Matt Elder. England, Wales, Scotland. Are there no Junior fen in Ireland ?

Ken then did a bit of converting. He picked up a Vargo Statten addict at achool. Gave him Bradbury's "Martian Chronicles" to read and hey-presto, a new member Mike Crowdson. Mike brought in a pal, Gordon de Lacy.

A round-robin letter was circulated asking various questions. The results were, a new name for the society was needed (it became the Junior Fanatics.). Subs were set at 2/6d per annum. For this one receives a news-sheet, the official organ and various other things. The title of the O.O. was chosen as PERI as opposed to STELLAR. A library was formed over which I took charge. Subs to this were set at 2/per quarter, no extra for postage. The library has 55 mags, 10 pocket books (American), 60 fanmags and 10 hardcover books.

Now one year after a very shaky beginning, the Society has 15 members, most notable being  John Brunner, Britain's newest and youngest pro-auther. Only one female fanne has joined, Shirley Marriot of Bournemouth.

We have now opened the Society to American fen. Sub rate for them is 40cents per year.

Our main project, PERI, is on sale, priced at 1/(15 cents) from printer Tony Cooper, 10 Essex Road, Chingford, London E4.


Greg Pickergill interviewed Dave in 1994 for SELF-EXPLANATORY in his RASTUS JOHNSON’S CAKEWALK 4, February 1994

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

Ease Emma, our dog, off my feet so I can roll out of bed.

What was the first convention you went to?

Now that was a looong time ago. I was about fourteen and it was in a tea room in Bradford. Organised by Derek and Mavis Pickles, it attracted an audience somewhat smaller than the average room party. It was magical.

Which book do you wish you had written?

A PRINCESS OF MARS. Not because it’s a good book in the literary sense but because it has evoked a sense of wonder in more people than any other. And don’t you dare deny it.

What is your most treasured material possession?

It doesn’t do to have any one item on the grounds that if I lost it or had to give it up I would be devastated. However, I have strong paternal feelings about my sf magazine collection, my first edition of THE MALTESE FALCON, my jazz collection, a small stuffed dog my father bought me when I was born, and a photograph of myself with the Junior Fanatics—a  group of teenage fans from circa 1952—one is John Brunner, and most of the others are dead.

L-to-R at rear: unknown, Phillip Duerr, Dave Wood, John Brunner, unknown;
At front: unknown, Ken Potter, Shirley Marriot, Pete Taylor

What are the last three books you read?

GREEN MARS—KS Robinson, OLE DOC METHUSELAH—L Ron Hubbard, STORY OF MY LIFE —Jay McInerney.

What are the last three records you played?

THE YELLOW SHARK—Frank Zappa, OISEUX DES ILES—Django Reinhardt, SHAKE YOUR CAN—Johnny Dodds.

What are you like when you’re drunk?

I try not to get drunk but after a few drinks I am, as they say, loquacious.

Who would you have play you in a film?

Stan Laurel.

Pick five words to describe yourself.

Deep, quiet, enthusiastic, dreamer, lousy counter.

What is your most unpleasant characteristic?

Quick temper at other people’s failings.

What is your greatest fear?

Losing Brenda, my wife. Losing my daughter. Losing my son.  Losing my mind; senile dementia is a Wood family trait.

What ambitions do you still have to fulfil?

Live to a hundred. See man land on Mars. Play the sax. I lack serious drive which means most—all—of my ambitions will remain just that. Which is a good thing because it avoids bitter disappointment. Though there is a reference book I’m working on with Les Escott—The Hundred Best Single-Author Short Story Collections—which I would dearly love see come to something.

Are you afraid of failure?

No.

Who would you most like to meet?

My first grandchild. My daughter in law, Dawn, is expecting her first child in May. Now that will be a milestone in my life.

What music would you like played at your funeral?

Who cares, dead is dead. But Duke Ellington would be fine. Something with Bubber Miley growling mournfully.

What do you see when you look in the mirror?

Baggy eyes. A face about thirty years older than I feel inside.

Peter Weston shares a comic moment with
Dave Wood at Novacon 35 (November 2005).
Photo by Peter Weston.

Last revised: 31 October 2011

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