How many roads must a man walk down before you can call him a man? (lyric from Blowin’ In the Wind by Bob Dylan)
Life can be a very humbling experience. One day you’re on top of the world with your own corner office, your own private parking space at work (the envy of all your peers), and the next day foreclosed, out of work, and scratching for your next meal. Maybe you’ve never had such a long fall from grace into the pit, or maybe like me you’ve had several.
If you haven’t, let me tell you it’s a daunting experience. Not only is it a test of your character but it’s also a test of character for all those you know.
Rog Phillips (my godfather and more) had such a fall. He tumbled overnight from the Olympian heights as an Amazing Stories columnist and chief staff writer to unemployment when new editor Howard Browne fired him. As he fell his wife, Mari Wolf, left him. Only a handful of pals stood by him trying to catch his fall.
Chief among them was former Amazing Stories editor Ray Palmer. RAP was having his own problems trying to keep his fledgling magazine afloat, but he stayed true and loyal to Rog buying his philosophical soul-searching articles for his magazine Mystic.
Bill Hamling, another former Amazing Stories editor, also pitched in trying to reintroduce the pulp science fiction writer to a new generation of readers inside the pages of his magazine Imagination.
Much later, in the early ‘70s, Bill Hamling would have his own fall from grace, a much more devastating fall, when he ran afoul of President Nixon by publishing the Presidential Report of the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography. His pal, editor Earl Kemp, would fall with him.
When Rog Phillips fell the Kemp family stood by him, giving him a place to stay and eat while he restarted his life. With the help of his pals, Rog slowly put the pieces of his life back together, but it was too late, he became sick and died.
Bill Hamling never put the pieces of his broken life back together again. Nearly twenty years later at the 1990 San Diego World Science Fiction Convention I bumped into Bill as he was hanging out with his lifelong pal, Erle Korshak. Bill’s wife, Frances, took me aside and lamented about the descent of her husband into the pit of dark, deeply depressing gloom. Bill never recovered. Even when I stopped in to visit with him in October of 2012 he was still depressed, asking me repeatedly, “What’s the point?”
When you enter the Outer Limits via the Twilight Zone you pass beyond the annoying and jejune judgment of peers and historians as you encounter your own personal face-to-face meeting with yourself. Some of us press on, and take another swing at whatever life pitches our way; others collapse into darkness where no light goes.
Ages ago, and many falls passed, when I was a pilot in the Air Force, we played this game. It was a game of slow pitch softball called One-Pitch. The batter stood at the plate and had one pitch thrown. That’s all, only one pitch. The batter could swing…and miss…and be counted out. The batter could stand there looking like an idiot and not swing and most certainly be counted out…or they could swing and make a hit. As team captain I’d watch in agony as intelligent people, who had been told to swing no matter what, would stand there and not swing, and be counted out.
To me this is the essence of life; you make a stand and keep swinging no matter what until it’s all over. If you don’t you’re out no matter what you think. Sometimes life only gives you one chance to make a difference. If you’re not making a stand, and swinging away at what life throws your way, you’ll most certainly miss any once-in-a-lifetime chance.
As a test of personal character, some people step right back up to the plate and keep swinging, even if they keep missing. Other people don’t even try.
And along the way, sometimes, just sometimes, we get by with a little help from our friends.
So, what’s the point?
As a tribute to Rog Phillips, my godfather, and his memory, I’ve spent several years collecting all of his writing. With attention to detail I’ve carefully transcribed all 67 appearances of his original fanzine review column from the late ‘40s and early ‘50s, The Club House, editing them for consistency. I’ve added over 300,000 words annotating the nearly 300,000 words he wrote in his column, all with an eye toward finding a context for the people, their times, and what they did and wrote in their fanzines. Now I’ve just completed the index with over 5,800 single items, and more than 14,000 individual entries.
And just like Rog, I’m using my bully pulpit to bring the upcoming publication of this massive, nearly 630 pages, 8 ½ x 11, softcover tome, to the attention of the reading public.
I’m taking advance orders for a limited number of signed editions (just like Shasta once offered). The preliminary price will be around $25 to $35 a copy (shipping not included…ha ha!). The final price and number printed will depend on interest. So, let me know, and place your order now! One thing is certain, only a limited number of signed copies will ever be offered to the public. To place your order, or contact me directly: The Club House
In my book you’ll find the context and perspective to understand the post-WWII generation of science fiction fandom. You’ll come to know all the players, who they were and what they did. Finally, you’ll see those who made a stand, and those who took potshots from the cheap seats.
You’ll come to know this generation better, as I have, although I’m still in awe, thunderstruck and tongue-tied whenever I encounter one of these still living legends in the flesh. Despite all the roads I’ve walked, these are the giants of my youth, with all their flaws and feet of clay, and I’m their humble fan.
So, now, without further ado we get to the good part, the fanzine reviews:
FLAG #11: December 2013. Bi-monthly. 10-pages. Edited by Andy Hooper. FLAG “is available for trade, graphic artwork and cartoons or letters of comment.” So if you’re interested, send your request for more info to:
Andy kicks off with “Splat!” in which he explains why he missed the monthly schedule (family visiting over Thanksgiving). We also find that Brad and Cindy Foster are competing with former FAPA OE Curt Phillips for TAFF 2014. Next, Andy does a curious and amusing (and very difficult) thing; he has the key to the linos published in FLAG #10, all from fannish sources. In “Got My MOJO Working” Andy tells us about UK magazine MOJO which caters to Classical rock and roll music in the contemporary reading audience, and CD’s that accompany each issue. Andy follows this with “The Trades of Paul Di Filippo” which details his personal relationship with the science fiction short story writer. Next is “Color Party” his very lively letter column, in which the usual hacks (a term of endearment) such as Murray Moore, John Purcell, Robert Lichtman, Milt Stevens, and Lloyd Penney heap well-deserved praise on FLAG #10. If you’re interested in printed fanzines, get this one. Andy kindly finishes this issue off with a list of printed fanzines he has received, complete with contact information for those so inclined. FLAG is a fantastic fanzine and if the last eleven issues are any indication of potential then 2014 will be Andy’s year.
Southern Fandom Confederation Bulletin v10, n2: December 2013. Monthly. 19-pages. Edited by Jennifer Liang. Cover by Jose Sanchez. First, of note, a shameless book plug for the amazing 196-page tome of Southern Fannish lore, the SFC Handbook, edited by T.K.F.W. Reinhardt. Printed copies are available for $5, plus $2 shipping (no contact info given in the blurb), but it is available online at: www.smithuel.net.sfcbh/. Next, in her editorial, Jennifer warns us (ha ha) of her upcoming article on Hugo nominations. She tells us, “It’s time for you to learn what kind of lunatic you’ve given the reigns to.” I like her already. This is followed by another shameless plug for ABC DSC 54, with a bid to be held in Atlanta by Mike Lee Rogers and Ron Zukowski. Tom Feller gives next with “Hypercon Report,” about the local Nashville convention. OE Jennifer Liang comes next with “Website Update Proposal,” about SFC organization website business. Next from Jennifer is “Anti-Harassment/Discrimination Policy Proposal” about harassment in the fan community. Specifically regarding “boys will be boys” (not, I guess, “girls will be girls”…seems somewhat one-sided as the boys are singled out…maybe there’s an SFC back story not being told here). Once again we have Jennifer with “Robert Jordan is Eligible for a History Making Hugo Award,” in which the title tells all. Tom Feller gives us “Annotated Fanzine Listings” complete with contact information. Letters of Comment completes this issue, with insightful comments by Lloyd Penney and Richard Dengrove. Not bad for a club zine, looks like newly elected prez Jennifer is a livewire planning to inject even more life into this group.
Argentus #13: December 2013. Annual. 38-pages. Edited by Steven H. Silver. Cover by Mo Starkey. This is an incredible zine, densely packed with articles and artwork by a rogue’s gallery list of some of the very best pros and fans, and some rare ones like fan writer Tom Whitmore and pro writer Mike Resnick. In “From the Mine” editor Silver comments on the issue at hand, telling us what concerns and reasons drove his selections. “When Is a Prequel Also a Reboot?” by Heather Urbanski discusses her views on the Star Wars franchise as she attempts to answer her own question. Silver continues with this analytical theme as he discusses time travel to either the future or the past in “Travel to the Past, Travel to the Future.” Paul Kincaid has “What SF/F Books Would You Recommend for Non-SF Readers?” Continuing that theme, fan writer Tom Whitmore has “Starting Someone Out in SF.” Alan Ziebarth concludes this theme with “Recommendations for New SF Readers.” In a related article, Rich Horton has “Eleven Significant Anthologies of the Past Quarter Century.” Colleen R. Cahill discusses “Dime Novels in the Library of Congress.” Daniel M. Kimmel gives with an anecdotal reflective piece about a “Movie Marathon” in 1976. Kurt Erichsen discusses unknown fan artists in “Unrecognized Talent.” Brianna Spacekat Wu, Frank Wu, and James L. Terman discuss “Not Just Armor: Covers for Heinlein’s Starship Troopers,” in an entertaining interview style article. Mark Leeper follows with an in-depth discussion of a David Brin novel and the movie based on the work in “The Postman’s Moral Ambiguity.” Next, Letters of Comment from the usual assortment including John Purcell, Joseph T. Majors, Milt Stevens, and Lloyd Penney. The entertaining “Mock Section” takes the form of reviews of science fiction novels written, or rather not written, by some of the literary geniuses of the 1920s and 30s. Dashiell Hammett’s The Neptunian Skyhawk is reviewed by E. Wellington Smith-Snythe III & science fiction and porn writer, Mike Resnick. For an annual zine, this one doesn’t disappoint.
File770 #163: December 2013. Irregular. 42-pages. Edited by Mike Glyer. Cover by Taral Wayne. Mike Glyer’s File 770 reports all kinds of sf fan news stories, conreports, and fannish opinion. Started in 1978, the zine won the Best Fanzine Hugo in 1984, 1986, 1989, 2000, and 2001. In “Editorial Notes” Mike kicks off with some personal notices from his group of friends and acquaintances. “News of Fandom” includes many interesting and fascinating tidbits such as Ed Kramer, partner in Dragon Con entered a guilty plea in his child molestation trial. “Fandom’s Tangled Web” continues with fascinating fan related tidbits, including the real inventor of the computer virus, Greg Benford. The SMOFcon 32 will be held in Manhattan Beach, CA from December 5-7, 2014. Well, I’m going to stop here. This is a stellar zine. It’s clear to see why it wins so many awards. It is densely packed with AP blurb style news tidbits, too many to mention. It is a must read for the trivia minded.
My Back Pages #11: December 2013. Semi-annual. 30-pages. Edited by Rich Lynch. Cover is a personal photo collage. According to Rich, My Back Pages is a personal anthology project of previously published articles and essays. Issue #11 is another travel-themed issue, with essays involving oversized pecans, English philosophers, larger-than-life sports trophies, glass pyramids, pain medications, large and small watercraft, total immersion tours, successful marketing strategies, property taxes, strange legacies, failed revolutions, architectural makeovers, famous sculptures, iconic poses, great musicians, entertaining theatre productions, porcelain automatons, film crews, literary researchers, and some unseasonably warm winter weather. As promised, this is a reprint zine with “A Short Update on a Long Walk” (about a proposed 3,500 mile trek across the United States), “North to Alberta” (an anecdotal trip to Alberta and environs), “To the Southern City of Light” (travels to Perth), “Georgia on My Mind, and Other Taxing Thoughts” (local business lunch meetings), “The Failed Illusions of Fifty Years Past” (about Hungary’s failed revolution of 1956), “Welcome to the Future” (thoughts on 9/11), “I Hear Those Sleigh Bells Jingling” (Christmas 2002), and “The Holiday Season” (musicals). So it goes. Nice memoirs with lots of photos.
Broken Toys #24: December 2013. Monthly. 36-pages. Edited by Taral Wayne. In “T’is the Season,” Taral discusses why he is trying to be upbeat and failing. His Christmas was spoiled by bad weather. So sad. Next Taral has an unpublished 2010 article, “A Christmas State of Mind,” in which he tells another depressing tale of being sick over Christmas. So sad. Of some interest are his anecdotal paragraphs regarding friends he has known such as science fiction writer Robert Charles Wilson and fan artist Marc Schirmeister. (Currently I’m involved in producing and publishing a book of Marc’s fan art…but more on that later!) “The Greening of the Conservative Party?” discusses Canadian conservatives failure to embrace the marijuana movement. “Hot Buttered Mice” has some doggerel by Paul Kidd, illustrated by Taral. And then there are the letters of comment from such as Eric Mayer, Bob Jennings!, Steve Stiles, the prolific letter-writer Milt Stevens, and Lloyd Penney (of course). Taral can amuse as he does when he imagines Judith Merril as a bag lady in “The Bag Lady of Rochdale College.” He finishes with another downbeat article, “The Christmas That Nearly Was.” Read this zine, send Taral a letter of praise, maybe he will finally become upbeat. (One can hope for the best, yes?)
Alexiad #72: December 2013. Monthly 19-pages. Edited by Joe and Lisa Major. The Majors publish one of the very best zines of its kind, predominately containing reviews of books and movies. They are the center of a small group of some of the best reviewers around. Their collective reviews are far better than those in LOCUS. Skip LOCUS, read this zine. The in-depth letters of comment are worth it.
Of Mice and Martians #1: December 2013. Monthly? First issue. 4-pages. Edited by Jason Burnett. Jason tells us that he likes the title of his new zine, but still considers that there will be a shaking out process. In “DC Comics Hates Me” he tells us why. “In Defense” continues with his comic related theme. “Survival on Television” tells us his view of this theme as handled by that media. Jason finishes up with a placeholder for anticipated Fanzine Listings and Letters of Comment. Read this zine, send him a letter, support his new effort and help make this zine zing.
Surprising Stories v33: January 2014. Monthly. Edited by John Thiel. Cover by Ramos Fumes. In his editorial “A World of Woe, or No?” editor Thiel attempts to strike up the cause for good will. This zine has a lot of fiction. “God as Scientist,” by Berend Jer Borg. “Snowbound,” by Lawrence Dagstine. “The Other,” by Karl Watson. “The Quest for Quivira,” by Gary Every. “Galactic Guardian” by Robin Bright. “Time-Bomb Undeliverable,” by Matthew Senkowski. “Cosmic Mind,” by Jonathan Vos Post. “Fun Time,” by David Huberman. “A Day in the Life of a Sidekick,” by Daniel Slaten. “The Talk-Show Government,” by Varda One. There’s an article, “Dropping in With Starship Troopers,” by Robin Aaron Bright. “Doctor Hoo,” by Peter Zenger. And there are several different columns, including The Traders Nook, which is as expected, a place for ads. Overall this is an awesome zine. More of a blog-style production with lengthy fiction filling the issue, so if fiction is your thing, you might just read a first story by a new major author here.
Drink Tank #362: January 2014. Weekly again. 9-pages. Edited by Chris Garcia. Cover is a photo of wrestler La Furiosa, and the subject of the opening article by Chris. Chris tell us that he is going to be the Guest of Honor for Westercon 2014 with one of my favorite writers, Cory Doctorow. Congratulations! In “Life, Death & User Interface,” Chris tells us about his encounter with the next generation. Diane O reviews Empress of the Sun by Ian McDonald. Lots of locs, including those from Jason Burnett, Milt Stevens, John Purcell, and Lloyd Penney.
Once again, Dear Friends, we’ve reached the all too soon end of our journey. But don’t despair. The Club House will be back next week, with even more fanzine reviews. So keep fanning, and keep those fan letters coming, and most of all, if you haven’t already dived into the deep end, start your own fanzine now…and send me a copy for review.