Fanorama by Walt Willis


News and Views from the World's Favourite Science Fiction Fan


When you go burying your nose in this magazine to get that nice new-book smell, don't do it between these pages. Ordinarily I'd be only too happy to have you use my column for a nasal cemetery, but this time it wouldn't be safe. This instalment is being written while I'm suffering from flu, gravely complicated by something called influenza. It must be a particularly violent form of it too, because I've already used up two boxes of sulfa pills and one doctor. The poor fellow took one look at me and then went to bed with nausea and a high temperature. People don't usually get a high temperature from looking at me, however much they may claim I make their blood boil, and this worried my sensitive soul. I visualised myself as a Scourge, eliminating one by one the entire medical profession, perhaps even the human race, and finally dying alone behind barbed-wire entanglements while the survivors argued whether I should be atom-bombed, fired off into space, or merely walled in with lead. However the second doctor lurked at a safe distance, just sending a volunteer nurse into the area with a syringe full of penicillin, and it looks as if we may all live.

On the whole I can't recommend flu as a disease for fans. From time immemorial we have been looking for a nice little disease that is just serious enough to keep us away from work, but not serious enough to interfere with the really important activities of life like reading science fiction, writing, and looking out for the postman. Some fans claim to have discovered such a disease. they call it Stigwort's Disease and point out that it is the most dangerous disease of all because it has absolutely no symptoms! You don't even know you have it and might go on living with it in ignorance for eighty, maybe a hundred years. . . then poof; out you go like a light. Horrifying. But though obviously it must be pretty common it hasn't yet been recognised by our backward medical authorities, and us fans will just have to contine looking among their existing stock. Definitely this flu thing won't do.

Your editor suggests that this time I might review some fanmags. A good idea, son. I could almost forgive you for that Electric Fan title. He also suggests that maybe I could be a bit funnier this time. Nerve! Friends, you won't believe this, but as originally written the first two instalments of this column were so brilliant, so crammed with wit and humour, and so obviously the work of an inspired genius, that your editor was afraid the rest of the magazine would be completely overshadowed by them. Accordingly he substituted something less spectacular and sold the original manuscripts to a syndicate of script-writers for an enormous sum.

I said you wouldn't believe it. Ah well, on to the reviews.

SPACE TIMES, December, 1952/January , 1953.    Published by Eric Jones, for the Norwest Science Fantasy Club of Manchester. Editor Eric Bencliffe, 47 Alldis St., Stockport, Cheshire, Subscription 6/- a year (12 issues). This is really two separate issues of ST, huddled together for warmth in the financial blizzard which recently struck the N.S.F.C. Among the cleverer items is a wicked parody of the weighty, not to say heavy type of article that Ken Slater likes to write about semi-mythological characters such as Robin Hood. The anonymous parodist (suspected of being London fan Vince Clarke) knifes various respected fan personalities in the back in the course of a dead-pan biography of one Roobin Hod, complete with scholarly footnotes and an epitaph reading:

"Benyth thys clodd lyes Hod the Ghod,
Thou'rt trod t'sod o'er a reet odd bod."

There are also two instalments of a well-written column by one Dale Smith of America, the first devoted to telling us how much better off everyone is in America than we are here, and the second to bemoaning the fact that the life of science fiction magazines is limited to a couple of hundred years on account of "the oxidising effects of sunlight and oxygen." Obviously Mr. Smith's conscience has been gnawing him after he wrote that heartless first instalment and he is trying tactfully to make amends for having reminded his Manchester friends of their terrible plight. His message of hope is that while they may all be perishing miserably from starvation, poverty, and ignorance of the American way of life, they can at least die happy in the assurance that their collections will live after them, preserved for eternity against oxidising agents by the inimitable climate of their city.

OPERATION FANTAST, Winter, 1952. Editor Capt. K. F. Slater, 13 Gp. R.P.C., B.A.O.R. 29. Subscriptions: four issues for 5/- or 75c. This issue starts off with a bang-up-to-the-year report on the 1952 London Convention called 'With Bentcliffe and Cohen Through Darkest Bloomsbury." I wondered about the reference to "darkest" Bloomsbury until I realized that the black rectangles lying here and there about the report like coffins were intended to be photographs of the proceedings. They look as if they had been taken in a coal cellar by someone with a broken cigarette lighter and unquenchable optimism. However the report itself, by Peter Campbell, is bright enough to make up for them. The last thing in the issue is a short but completely pointless story about a were-skunk. It stinks. Fortunately the rest of OPERATION FANTAST, reviews of mags and books and articles about writers and writing, is of the usual high standard. The only item I found disappointing was one called "Lovecraft's Amateur Press Works." This sounded a nice cheerful article and I started it full of interest to find out what had been wrong with the press in the first place and how they'd managed to get it going again. Imagine my disappointment when it turned out to be just a list of hitherto unknown works by H. P. Lovecraft, the Weird Horror author of American Literature. I don't know why they keep digging up more of this stuff when no one can read what's cluttering up the place already. Let's hope they eventually find something worth reading, even if it's only a dirty limerick Lovecraft threw off in a human moment.

Well, that'll have to be all the reviews for now—I'm beginning to see spots before my eyes again. Nothing serious, I suppose, but I can't help feeling my eves should see them first. However I'll probably be recovered in time to see you at the London Convention, Bonnington Hotel, 23/24 May. (Particulars from Convention Secretary, White Horse Tavern, Fetter Lane, London E.C. 4.)

from Nebula No. 3, Summer 1953

Last revised: 1 October, 2006

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