Fanorama by Walt Willis



Some people are quite baffled by the phenomenon known as science fiction fandom. After all, they point out, you don't find readers of detective stories publishing amateur magazines or travelling hundreds of miles to conventions. Why should readers of science fiction behave the way they do?

Well, part of the answer is probably that nobody sneers at people for reading detective stories. (Because, of course, reading about people being murdered in brutal and complicated ways is a healthy relaxation, whereas reading about atomic energy and spaceships is escapist and a bit queer. But now, imagine a young fellow who has an unusual hobby, such as, say, studying old tram­cars. He has been interested in trams for years, but he's never found anyone else whose interests run along those lines. All his friends think he's crazy, but he's got used to that by now. Then one day he's in a strange part of the town looking for a tram depot when he comes across one of those newsagent's shops that specialise in foreign newspapers and hobby magazines—and, there it is!

(Incorporating The Bus Fancier's Bulletin)

As he leafs through the magazine with trembling fingers he realises that he is not alone. All over the world, it seems, there are tramcar fans, kindred souls who think everyone else is a bit crazy for not taking an interest in tramcars. He writes to one of the addresses in the magazine and in no time at all there he is, a fully fledged member of the National Tramcar Association, joining enthusiastically in their bitter controversy with the British Tramcar League. He has found a new world, far more congenial than his workaday one. He wonders how he used to live without it.

Well, of course, there actually are organisations of tramcar fans, so it's not so surprising that there's such a thing as science fiction fandom. What is unusual about it is that it's about a hundred times more lively and literate and interesting than any other specialised group. Let's tell ourselves this is because people like us who read science fiction are more imaginative and intelligent than the average; and prove it by taking a look at fandom for yourself. It's not an organised society. There's no door you have to batter down to come in. Just write some fan editor for a copy of his magazine, and if You don't like it, that's that. But you probably will. Who knows, you may even find yourself wanting—to write an article or story yourself. Plenty of people have found that fandom has released talents they never suspected they had. More than half the famous editors and authors whose names you see in your favourite science fiction magazines, British and American, started off as ordinary fans like you and me.

There are ten fan magazines in Britain at the moment, but the best ones for anyone to start with are OPERATION FANTAST (Captain Ken Slater, 13 Gp. RPC, BAOR 29, 1/3 per issue) and SCIENCE FANTASY NEWS (A.V. Clarke, 16 Wendover Way, Welling, Kent. 6d. per issue). Both these feature news and reviews of magazines, books and films, and both are tops in their class. Their editors will be glad to answer any questions you ask, but don't forget to enclose a stamp for the reply. Fan publishers are not interested in making money, but they're not very keen on losing it either.


from Nebula No. 1, Autumn 1952

Last revised: 26 September, 2006

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