“Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song
And I’ll try not to sing out of key
Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends….”
(Lyrics from “With a Little Help From My Friends,” by Billy Shears.)
Dear Friends, as promised, Yours Truly is back again (bet you were afraid you’d really miss me…I was) with another installment in Rog Phillips’ The Club House, as conducted by me.
In our age of me first, dog-eat-dog opportunism, it’s important to take a step back (outside the box…ha ha) and acquire some objective perspective. For the past couple of days I’ve been engaged in what will no doubt be the most important correspondence in my life. I know this objectively. During this exchange I paused, trying to sum up a part of what I was feeling, because my feelings were becoming more and more a part of the conversation.
I came as close as I ever have to summing my feelings up when I wrote:
“As many roads as I’ve walked in my life, as many things as I’ve accomplished outside this genre, whenever I return, and I always return, I’m young once again (which is why I return). Once more I’m surrounded by all my heroes. I find myself abashed, shy, often unable to mumble more than a howdy as I find myself in the presence of one of them. It’s a good feeling.”
I was trying to express what I was undergoing, both emotionally and intellectually, during my interaction with one of my favorite science fiction writers. In my life, I’ve supped with generals, and with murderers, and never been at a loss for words or what to do.
But it happens to me all the time whenever I’m involved with someone in this world, the world of science fiction and fantasy fandom. Here lie my true heroes. The very best ones, those from my youth, are the very first ones in my life. And they have always been my heroes, despite their flaws and feet of clay.
And, I suspect, I’m not alone in this type of hero worship. Who couldn’t admire these Expert Dreamers as they dream their dreams of worlds I could not hope to imagine?
In a nutshell that’s what it’s all about, the very essence of fandom, that admiration we all have for these artful dreamers. Some of us might express this admiration in our criticisms. Some express it in our attempts to enter this world, and by writing our dreams, hoping that they resonate, as do those of our heroes.
Some few of us take this admiration as a source of inspiration as we try our hand at editing a fanzine.
So, come with me, enter into this fabulous world, the world of fanzines. Here there be tygers and lions. In the pages of our zines we can slay our heroes, praise them, and/or write our own conclusions to their stories. Gosh! What could be better than this? Partaking of the same water from that same fountainhead?
And sometimes, every once in a very great while, we find ourselves supplying the only coin in trade that we have to one of our heroes. Oh, it’s not admiration, or adoration, although those acts are an inescapable part of the exchange, best thought of as the oil that makes the machine hum. No. What we supply as fans, maybe only once in a lifetime, is understanding.
No one lives in a vacuum. Unending adulation can become tedious, no doubt (this is a guess on my part…never having experienced it). But understanding! This is our coin. It is a fair exchange. Reading a writers work for the sake of enjoyment is expected by the author. Following the plot along, and comprehending all the pieces as they come together as a whole, is the task, the job, of the storyteller.
But understanding the work. And more to the point, understanding the person behind the tale, that is the task of the reader. And sometimes, sometimes only once, we as fans are able to engage one of our heroes and demonstrate this thorough understanding. Our coin of understanding supplies the most important ingredient to an artists’ life, context.
Without context, a placement in the whole fabric of our times, a writer faces his greatest, deepest fear, that of being forgotten, of having all their works disappear from the world, left to molder into dust.
Whether they know it or not, it is the task of the fanzine editor to ensure that this does not happen. More often than not, it is inside the pages of a zine that the fan meets the author (or artist) and they both discover that they are people, part of the mosaic of our civilization, with the same concerns and worries, with the same desires and wishes. In the pages of a zine is where the all important context is created for following generations to discover the heart and soul, the snapshot look into the mind of both fan and pro.
Here they are then, the artful fans at work supplying context and understanding to those Expert Dreamers, in these their fanzines:
Breaking It All Down #2: Winter 2014. Quarterly. 24-pages. Edited by Alexander Case. Cover (again) by Brian A. Caslis. Well, Alex is back with his second issue. It’s even better than the first one. In this one he concludes his ongoing series “Introduction to Anime.” In case you missed part, the previous segment appeared in Chris Garcia’s The Drink Tank #361. In his intro, Alex gives a shout out for any willing fan artist to contribute a free cover. So, any interested fledgling artists out there should hook up with this zine right away. In this issue editor Case jumps right into the thick of things with “The Mailbag,” his loc column. Prolific fanwriter Chris Garcia tells us he often confuses Alfred Bester with other writers of that period!?! Really, Chris, I’m shocked. This is nearly sacrilegious. Quick, in all haste, read or re-read, “Tiger, Tiger” and tell us that Bester still blurs. Next up, Warren Buff gives Alex an introduction to CorFlu, the fanzine editor’s annual convention. You know your zine has made the cut when you get a loc from Lloyd Penny. Nathan Madison is another newcomer to the field, at a young 30. Jerry Kaufman rounds out the locs. Next is Alex with “Book Review—The Final Programme [by Michael Moorcock],” in which we share his journey of discovery of Moorcock’s most fascinating character, Jerry Cornelius. This is followed by the previously mentioned continuation/conclusion of “Anime 103—Manga,” wherein we receive a fine summary education into the ongoing media. “OryCon 2013 Con Report,” by Case, demonstrates his ability as he delivers. In “Movie Thoughts—Thor: The Dark World & The Day of The Doctor” Alex gives us his views on these two new movies. “Video Game Review—Dead Space” tells us all about the adventures of “Isaac Clarke” in outer space. Did I mention? This zine is filled with spectacular color photos from the various subjects reviewed. Read this zine. Better yet, jump on the bandwagon and send him a loc.
Big Sky #2: January 2014. Annual? (Not certain, can’t tell the frequency from this issue or from the first issue.) 102-pages. Edited by Peter Young. Cover by Adnan Islam, “Alien City.” This is a huge zine, chock full of chum Peter Young’s genre interests. Not just for casual reading. Peter kicks off with his editorial in “Émigré” wherein the jet-setting fan tells us about his jaunts between London and Thailand where he resides. In this article he talks about diarist Arthur Inman, among others. This zine is an in-depth look at all the various subjects under scrutiny. So I’ll just touch on the highlights and leave it to my readers to find their way. In this issue there’s: “Fanzines Over Astrakhan,” by Peter Young. “Atmospheric Conditions Permitting,” the letter of comment column. “The Sleazy Side of the Street,” by Brian Ritt. “Hanging with Bukowski at the Gottlieb Center,” by Caleb Daniloff. “Why Cling to the Past?” by Charlse Ardai. “Pulp Is a Four-Letter Word,” also by Peter. “Lesbian Pulp Fiction,” a pictorial. “Norvell Page’s 1st Century Adventures,” by William Lampkin. “Revisiting: The Wages of Fear,” by Gary Lovisi. “Pulp Planet” and “Hermeto’s Giant Breakfast,” both by Peter. Off-hand (here comes some criticism) for a zine this length and this well-done, a brief content blurb for each essay, article, or column in the TOC would go a long way to making this zine more readable. This is clearly a zine to read, but one article at a time for most of us, and not in one swoop. Knowing the topic of each entry would make this zine work. For instance, in Ritt’s piece on “Sleaze” it is interesting to note it is about old-time porn writer Orrie Hitt, although there is no mention of any of his Greenleaf titles (“While the City Sins,” Ember Library, EL363, and “Pleasure Ground,” Bedside Books, BB819). I enjoyed the “Lesbian” cover art. Great covers. FYI, my research tells me that “Butch” (a Greenleaf Nightstand Book) was written by Lawrence Block (not Westlake), and the cover was painted by Harold W. McCauley. “Sin Girls,” by Silverberg was reprinted as a Greenleaf Reed Nightstand, #3014, “The Tormented.” Hope this helps!
Thanks to the activities of ReoCities, the fanzine series “Light in the Bushel” has been rescued from the demise of GeoCities. Yahoo no longer hosts this fine relict to the earlier settlers of the Internet, so ReoCities has stepped up to bridge this gap.
Light in the Bushel Index: So far this index contains the first seven issues of this early ‘80s zine edited by Richard “Call Me Joe (Bob)” Brandt. It is quite a stroll down the memory lane of this El Paso resident, with the related insights into Texas fandom of that period. Kudos to host Bill Burns of eFanzines.com and ReoCities for endeavoring to preserve these historical artifacts.
Drink Tank #363: January 2014. Weekly again. 7-pages. Edited by Chris Garcia. Well, Dear Friends, from the novel length zine Big Sky, we go full circle to our nearly weekly update on all things fannish by Chris. Cover art by Edward Foster, who is also the subject of the first article, “Found Art, Discovered Talents,” by Maurice Starkey, in which he tells us (with more artwork included) about finding this one. The only puzzle piece I couldn’t determine was if Maurice was related (this question stems from the hook for this article). Ed Beecher gives with his “Thoughts on 2013’s Films!” in which he includes his top ten. In keeping with this theme (of recommendations) Chris follows with “My Hugo Nominations.” As a BNF his recommendations carry some weight. Let’s just hope that this doesn’t put a jinx on them. No loc’s this ish…too bad.
Well, all too soon we are at an end…for this week. Looks like I’ve finally caught up with all the spectacular year-end, annual, semi-annual, and quarterly monster-size zines. Still a few to go yet, but…aw, shucks…I’m a saving them fur later.
So, before I depart, let me leave you with this shameless bit of self-promotion:
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 250,000 words in nearly 3,000 endnotes annotating the nearly 311,000 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.