Fanorama by Walt Willis

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ORBIT, organ of the Leeds Science Fiction Association. Editor George Gibson, The Adelphi, Leeds Bridge, Leeds, 1. Quarterly. 1/- per copy. The title of this magazine always reminds me of two lines of dreadful dialogue from a mercifully unfinished story by Bob Shaw :

Pilot to Navigator: "Give me an orbit."
Navigator to Pilot: "Why, what did you do with the bit I gave you?"

The thought that this dialogue is liable actually to occur on some spaceship is enough to bring the human race to a screeching halt on its march towards space flight and send it screaming back to savagery. Not so ORBIT 3, however, a fanmag which has improved immensely since its first issue was reviewed here a while back. The contents this time include a revealing article by R.M. Bennett on science fiction in schools. Apparently Mr. Bennett, a primary school teacher, made his pupils write an essay on science fiction and here are some of the results. According to one of these youthful Heinleins "the Moon was very big and we could see some big crates on it." Made from powdered boxite, I suppose.   It seems that the part of the current sf boom which has struck these youngsters most is the counting "SEVEN . . . SIX . . . FIVE . . . FOUR . . . THREE . . . TWO . . . ONE . . . ZERO . . . WHOOSH!" which seems to be inseparable from any Hollywood take-off. It's a wonder the filmmakers didn't use it for the Dance of the Seven Veils in SALOME. Mr. Bennett, where I don't know this magazine would be without (I leave that sentence in all its mind-shattering horror just to make you realise how well the rest of this stuff is written) has also a bright little column, and there are some other articles of varying interest. Also, alas, some amateur fiction of varying lack of it. To the more sophisticated fan, however, who prefers to skim his promag rejects in other promags, the most entertaining article is a report of the year 2006 Convention by a Big Name Fan of a bygone era, Dennis Tucker. Mr. Tucker's hero is getting on beautifully until he mentions science fiction, whereupon he is summarily ejected. This is more than a joke, for the appearance of this article in ORBIT is a sign that the editors of this magazine, too, are following the traditional evolution of most fans with a sense of humour and without delusions of grandeur. They start by complaining indignantly that they can't understand the fanmags of their day and intend to publish one that will deal purely with science fiction. Then after a few issues they get tired of competing with the promags or rehashing the same old subjects—My Favourite Story, Whither Science Fiction, The Influence of Franz Kafka on Vargo Statten, etc., etc.—and turn to the more rewarding and equally fantastic field of what might loosely be called the social activities of fandom. About which time some even newer fan castigates them as "esoteric" and the cycle recommences.

THE MEDWAY JOURNAL, Tony Thorne, 21 Granville Road, Gillingham Kent. Four issues for 3/-. This little magazine consists largely of accounts of the activities of the Medway Group, who organised the very successful MEDCON last year. By all reports they are more at home with practical work of this kind than with journalism but these chatty and informal reports show what can be done towards producing an agreeable magazine with a minimum of literary talent. Other contents include serious articles on scientific subjects which I'm sure will be of immense interest to many people. Personally, though, I prefer to get any scientific knowledge I want from textbooks or scientific journals, where you can be sure of the authenticity of the information you're absorbing, or at least can assess it.

ORION, Paul Enever, 9 Churchill Avenue, Hillingdon, Middlesex. Bi-monthly. 4d. a copy. At that price this is by far the best bargain available in fan magazines What's more, the editor makes a fetish of regularity of publication, a perversion most unusual in tan publishing circles. Either proudly or defiantly he also proclaims that 85¾% of this issue consists of amateur fiction. I'm willing to take his word for that figure . . . I just wish it was less. Personally, I preferred the first issue which was almost entirely written by the editor—he's a far better writer than most of the ones he's likely to get. However, one of the stories is better than the usual run of fanmag fiction—its rejection slip isn't showing — and is almost up to the standard of the non-fiction. Best among this is Enever's editorial matter where among other things he pungently criticises the pernicious anaemia of most criticism by fans of other people's fanmags. Of course he's quite right. What happened is that when the new provincial fanmags arose a couple of years ago, the older fans were so pleased to see any life in the wilderness that they carefully avoided throwing cold water anywhere near the spark. Pomposity, dullness and bad writing were overlooked as they searched desperately for something that could be praised without toe much insincerity. Now however that the newer fans are more self-assured the bloodbath hoped for by Enever may not be long delayed.

from Nebula No. 8, April 1954

The Nebula letter column, Guided Missives, occasionally had comments on Walt Willis' pieces. Here's a letter published in Nebula 8, with a comment by editor Peter Hamilton:

As for Walt-Will his punning never cease? Honestly, this puts me in a quandary because he seems to have the right slant on things. Do you think he might be fission for compliments?

 JOAN W. CARR,  M.E.L.F. 17. 

Nice punning, Joan. You should get a Willis Cross (perhaps you have) for that last paragraph. There  are plenty of fine short stories coming next time - their  "snapper-endings" all carefully concealed! Don't you think you are being just a little harsh when you class Clothier's fine cover painting for my last issue as commonplace? However, his next two for me, in all modesty, are ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIC.

Jim Linwood notes: "Joan W. Carr" was, of course, a Sandy Sanderson hoax.

Last revised: 1 October, 2006

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