Fanorama by Walt Willis

The Post-NEBULA Columns

from ZENITH No. 6, September 1964:

ALIEN No. 10. Harry Nadler and Charles Partington, 5 South Mesnefield Road, Lower Kersal, Salford 7, Lancs, 1/3 or 25¢ per issue to—Tony Edwards, 10 Cheltenham Place, C- on -M, Manchester 13, or Bob Bell, RFD No. 1, Lower Salem Lane, South Salem, New York. Now there's the sort of thing that puts fanzine reviewers off a magazine—three complicated to type addresses where one would have done. It wouldn't be so bad if I was still getting paid for this stuff, why already I would have made enough for half an ounce of tobacco without batting a brain cell, but it's still bad for the fanzine. Not only does all that stuff take up space which might have been filled with nourishing egoboo, it puts off the reader too. Faced with two addresses, one for letters and one for money, he is likely to send neither. My advice to any casual reader who feels this way is to send everything to the poor downtrodden workers who are actually doing the publishing, and ignore those groping financiers. Even the American one. It seems to be a well-kept secret in British fandom, but dollar bills can be mailed to the U.K. and easily changed into real money.

Any casual reader who nerves himself to take this step should not have cause to regret it, providing he has no unreasonable prejudices. It used to be my practice, for instance, to stop reading immediately any printed matter in which the possessive pronoun “its” was spelt with an apostrophe—I figured that anyone who couldn't be bothered to spell a three-letter word correctly hadn't much on the ball—until I found it spelt that way in Fanny Hill. And normally I would be as reluctant to read a fanzine with a department in it titled “LAFFS” as I would be to trust a driver with stickers on his windscreen; but then I showed one of the cartoons in it to Burnett Toskey, PhD, and he laughed immoderately. Which proves that this fanzine has great potentialities among Seattle mathematics teachers. For the rest of us there are four more or less successful attempts at serious fiction. The first, by Aub Marks, has a spark of originality almost entirely extinguished by a coyly over-conversational style. The second, about robots taking over the world, seemed so utterly pointless that I couldn't believe it, and read it again to see if it had concealed subtlety. It hadn't; it was full of what you might call deep hidden insignificance. “The Jewel,” by Dave West, was apparently stencilled by the author himself, in self defence, a wise move. It is one of those moody mystical things which leave you with the impression that the author could probably write quite well if he had anything to write about. The fourth did not do this.

I notice in the letter section a reader says that “Alan Dodd's film reviews are goo, in his own inimitable style.” There is a temptation to merely agree with this accidental indictment, because it perfectly describes some of Dodd's writing in the past, but in this instance it would be unfair. The reviews are interesting, pointed, and informative.

And that's all, except for the editorial and club news which are merely informative. Objectively it doesn't seem very much to commend the magazine to you, but I do. It has a refreshing air of enthusiasm, and to those who are in the same situation vis a vis fandom and science fiction as the editors, it will all be intensely interesting. Like so many questions of controversy in fandom, it boils down to one of community of interest. Take for instance ......

THE SCARR, No. 4. George Charters, 3 Lancaster Avenue, Bangor, Co. Down. Free for comment. I remember it came as quite a shock to me to find this fanzine listed among the members of the Novelle Vague, because it is nothing of the sort. It is published by one who has been active in fandom in a quiet way for over ten years, and is the type of fanzine which the New Wave is inclined to despise. This used to puzzle me, because the standards of this type of fanzine seemed to me immeasurably superior in every respect. Was it, I occasionally dared to wonder, that the critics simply did not understand the various subtleties of humour, felicities of style and originalities of thought with which the older fanzines abound and which are still so rare in the new ones? I dismissed this theory almost immediately, because these new fans are obviously intelligent. Was it then that they dismissed most of their contents as irrelevant, believing that fanzines should be about science fiction and not about fans? No, because they are quite happy themselves to tear each other's fanzines to pieces, and discuss conventions and club events.

On the whole, I think it is almost entirely a question of in-groups and out-groups. The new fans, for instance, skims over Ian McAulay's piece in this SCARR, and finds it seems to be about some people, whom he is expected to know by their first names, eating chips. He resents it in the same human way as one resents TV interviewers revealing that they are on intimate terms with the people they are supposed to be interrogating on our behalf. Something is being cooked up against us, one feels, and however good the program one does not feel it is on the level. Formerly this didn't matter, or didn't seem to matter, because either the new fan went away without our noticing him, or he introduced himself and found he was welcome in the in-group. But now there are enough of him to go away and form his own in-group, and we have two sets of people who feel they are reciprocally excluded.

It's all very sad, and quite unnecessary because we are all fans. The older ones could help by not presuming quite so much esoteric knowledge among their readers, but the new ones should meet them halfway by not resenting material merely because they do not fully understand the background. If they could for example regard this Ian McAulay article as an excerpt from an unpublished novel by some contemporary Jerome J. Jerome they might find it funny. And having made this effort towards friendship they might find they appreciate more the rest of the contents, even if they haven't got much to do with science fiction. Bob Shaw, for example, presents some newspaper cuttings which deserve some sort of immortality, a newcomer called Peebles has a column part of which is merely amusing, but the rest of which almost makes a major breakthrough into something or other, and George Charters has the first informative article I have seen about the great Scottish nit William McGonagall, who was born in 1830 and mercifully forgotten until excerpts from his work were declaimed in the immortal BBC Goon Show. All in all it's great fun, as long as you are not expecting to read an amateur science fiction magazine. Charters, being one of the few completist collectors left, no doubt feels there are quite enough SF magazines as it is. Nor is he trying to sell you something, or become a power in fandom. He is simply showing you things he thinks might interest and amuse you, as he would do if you visited him in his home. And since he is an interesting and likeable character, so is his fanzine.

Last revised: 26 September, 2006

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