Susan Wood

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A Room of Her Own

The Best of Susan Wood,
edited by Jerry Kaufman

Aspidistra & Amor de Cosmos,
edited by Susan Wood

Foreword by Taral Wayne

Everyone has their favourite fanwriters, and no one can be blamed for who those favourites are. One of mine was Susan Wood. When I first began reading fanzines in the early ’70s, Susan was at her peak of creative writing, and I saw a lot of it. One piece in particular inspired me to begin collecting an obscure popular writer of the ’30s, and that in its turn had an influence on more than one thing I wrote and drew in the next few years.

But over time, I found other favourite writers, and Susan slipped unnoticed from the list. From the beginning, Susan had a serious side as well as a lighter side. From the charming, humorous little pieces she once wrote for Energumen and other zines such as Kratophany and Outworlds, Susan’s interests led her to more earnest and sercon writing of a sort that held less appeal for me.

Aspidistra #2

The five issues of Aspidistra that she published in 1971 and 1973 (while co-editor of Energumen with Mike Glicksohn), were the political children of their times. Ecology was forefront, along with counter-culturish items such as healthy recipes, free verse poetry, and pop art fillos. Unlike ’Nerg, Asp was printed on suitably green paper.

Susan’s feminist advocacy was also heard early in her fannish career. Susan may not have actually founded A Woman’s Apa (it is perhaps forgotten that Janet Small and Victoria Vayne did) but Susan inspired it. She was an honorary member from the start. Most of her fannish energy in this period seems to gone into AWA and a personalzine called Amor de Cosmos.

The word “femsymp” floats up from some murky well of memory. There were actual feminists in fandom in the 70’s – Susan was one of the foremost. As well, there were guys who were feminist sympathizers, or “femsymps.” I don’t think it was, as you might think, a put-down, but rather a self-caricature.

By mid-decade, Susan was a professional academic who had moved to Saskatchewan to take a job teaching with the University of Saskatchewan in Regina. Later, almost as though she were trying to put still more distance between herself and her old life, she moved from Regina to Vancouver, and held a position there with the University of British Columbia. She had moved some distance from fandom as well. Her oldest friends were collected around her, but academia and her feminist pursuits formed the core of her life on the West Coast.

Susan Wood
Photo by Jeff Frane

Amor appeared almost immediately after Susan arrived to take up her new job in Regina. It was preceded by a letter substitute , but the official issue-number-one is dated October 1973, and its full title is The Amor de Cosmos People’s Memorial Quiet-Revolutionary Susanzine: A Personalzine. Most loccers preferred Amor de Cosmos, or just Amor. It was produced in small numbers for a select circle, and wasn’t available for trade. The last issue is numbered 18, but it says right on the first page that there were 20 issues. It wasn’t a typo. The answer seems to be that Susan counted two letter subs between regular issues. All issues of Amor have been scanned and may be found below.

Professionally, Susan was blossoming. She became editor for Canadian book reviews for The Pacific Northwest Review of Books, and in 1979 edited a book of Ursula K. Le Guin’s non-fiction writing, The Language of the Night, published originally by Putnam. As a special distinction, Susan edited the science fiction and fantasy issue of the Canadian feminist literary journal, Room of One’s Own.

Quite unexpectedly, Susan Wood died in November 1980.

There is no need to go into the details of Susan’s death. What matters is that the news spread fast, and much of fandom was plunged into mourning. Even fans who had entered fandom after Susan’s move into academia, and had never known her, mourned her passing as well. I knew Susan rather poorly myself, despite living in the same city and belonging to the same local club. We shared few interests, and then, before I had really learned the ropes in fandom, she was Out West. One didn’t have to know Susan Wood well to miss her, though. Her reputation preceded her everywhere, and even a casual brush with her was rewarding.

Following Susan’s death, a scholarship fund was established in her name. It was to be administered by the Department of English, at Carleton University in Ottawa, where Susan first studied. See below for more information.

The Best of Susan Wood

There had been talk of a collection of Susan’s fannish writing for some years before her death. In fandom, a few years is hardly time enough to decide upon a title for a new fanzine. Unfortunately, The Best of Susan Wood had to be published posthumously. Jerry Kaufman was editor, and chose about a dozen columns and articles from Energumen, Amor, Kratophany, Genre Plat, and other zines Susan contributed to. It is not remotely long enough, but it’s nonetheless a handsome volume, illustrated by talented fanartists… and of course it’s long out of print.

Because it was out of print, Gary Farber planned to make The Best of Susan Wood available once again, in a form anyone could download from Joe Siclari’s fanac.org and Bill Burns’ wonderfully useful site, eFanzines. Finding a copy to scan was a problem at first, and it only came about by accident that I volunteered mine, and volunteered to do the scanning as well. I also had a complete set of Susan’s Aspidistra. Since I was in for a penny, I decided I might as well be in for a pound.

Obviously, more needs to be done about Susan Wood’s writing, but I leave this to Gary and (perhaps) others to work out. My part was unexpected and is finished. I’m more than content with the digital facsimiles of the actual printed fanzines. A more professional appearance cannot dignify the words more, nor in any way improve the fine quality of Susan’s writing.

Susan earned one other distinction in fandom. She is the only Canadian fan to win more than one Hugo. One she shared with Mike Glicksohn for co-editing Energumen. The second was all her own, won as Best Fanwriter of 1974. And the third she shared with Richard E. Geis in 1977. Other years that Susan Wood was nominated were 1972, 1973, 1975, 1976, and 1978.

Not a bad performance for less than ten years in fandom. And a Canajan too, eh?

 
Aspidistra #1 (1.9MB)
Aspidistra #2 (3.3MB)
Aspidistra #3 (4MB)
Aspidistra #4 (4MB)
Aspidistra #5 (1.8MB)
 
The Best of Susan Wood (8.6 MB)
 
A Letter/Letter A (996KB) Amor 10 (2.3MB)
Amor 1 (837KB) Amor 11 (1MB)
Amor 2 (2MB) Amor 12 (520KB)
Amor 2.5 (619KB) Queebshot (333KB)
Amor 3 (587KB) Amor 13 (744KB)
Amor 4 (496KB) Amor 14 (715KB)
Amor 5 (895KB) Amor 15 (975KB)
Amor 6 (2.6MB) Amor 16 (783KB)
Amor 7 (885KB) Small Circulation One-Shot Lettersub (190KB)
Amor 8 (943KB) Amor 17 (1MB)
Amor 9 (949KB) Amor 18 (2MB)

See also Gary Farber's initial blog post on Susan Wood and this project (more to follow). Gary has also set up a Facebook page for Friends of Susan Wood.

 

(click on image for larger version)

Last revised: 30 September, 2009

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