The Clubhouse; Fanzine Reviews: Why SF Fandom Matters

Fanzines reviewed: COUNTERCLOCK (#20), MY BACK PAGES (#13), ORPHEUM (#8)), TRAPDOOR (#30), and FUTURIA FANTASIA (#1).

(Please note: Zine reviews are prepared a week or more in advance of publication of this column and may not necessarily include the latest issue available, but the link to multiple issues given at the bottom of each review probably does.)

RG Cameron Clubhouse Jan 23 Illo #1 CounterClock


COUNTERCLOCK (#20) – December 2014 – Find it here

Faned: Wolf von Witting. Italian Perzine.

I was going to call this a Genzine till I realized most of it is written by Wolf. The sheer amount of material initially confused me. Wolf is of Finnish origin, but lives in Italy. He is currently a contestant in the TAFF (Transatlantic Fan Fund) race. Should he win he will be flown to the Upcoming Worldcon as a representative (or shill) of European fandom.

His first article: “Why SF Fandom Matters” begins “I treasure my early convention experiences… in the spirit of old s-f fandom…” But then comes “…the bleating herd of consumers, which now pollute almost every sf-convention…” Still, he holds out hope because “Fandom has always been welcoming diversity.” He concludes “If you’re Italian, you may not like what I have to say, but then you never knew what a fan really is.”

Interviewing Italian fan Luca A. Volpina, Wolf comments “Italy is fandom unfriendly. It had SF books and magazines, but never contact pages, fandom or letter columns. No Italian SF convention ever had a Fan Guest of Honour… Italians do not understand the purpose of having fandom.”

Wolf asks “Are there not fans who are perfectly happy with being fans and don’t care a bit about being pro?”

And Luca replies “Probably two or three, yes. An author friend… once said that Italy is a county where everybody writes, nobody reads and I totally agree.”

Later, commenting on TAFF, Wolf writes: “I have split myself too thin across the European continent. And after this issue of CounterClock, I may have negative popularity in Italy, which is why I can encourage them to vote for my competitor.”

I get the impression Wolf is frustrated at being a fannish fan in a country where the local fandom is, apparently, essentially non-fannish.

Wolf also contributes an excellent history of TAFF, listing all the winners from the first (Walt Willis in 1952) up to Greg Pickersgill in 1986, with numerous quotes and bits of info about various winners. Followed by a report on Novacon 44 in Nottingham with particular emphasis on the “Eurofandom” panel in which Wolf took part: “Let’s admit that Finland, Croatia and Greece have been very successful with the progress of fandom in their countries.”

CounterClock worth reading? – Yes, insight into the mind of an enthusiastic traditional fan. Sample quote: “I am as fannish as they come. Every sf-fan I haven’t met yet, is a potential friend. While mundane friends tend to grow apart, sf-fans grow together over the years.” And because CounterClock is an excellent window on European fandom.

( Multiple issues of CounterClock here )

RG Cameron Clubhouse Jan 23 Illo #2 My Back Pages


MY BACK PAGES (#13) – December 2014 – Find it here

Faned: Rich Lynch. American Fanthology.

Collections of fan writing are not rare. An individual faned publishing a zine exclusively devoted to reprints of his own articles previously published in other fanzines is perilously close to being unique. (Possibly demonstrating my ignorance and/or failing memory here.) At any rate, nine essays are included, the oldest dating back to June 200 3. Most are only a page or two in length, but all are connected by afterwards which bring the reader up to date and also lead into the next essay. A neat trick well executed.

The longest essay, “The Peninsula,” is about a business trip to South Korea in order to save the world (you’ll have to read it to understand how). Travelogues are a long tradition in fandom, especially since most of the old guard are now retired. Some are boring. This one delights.

Most of his time was taken up with business which included side trips to certain industrial facilities scattered across the country, giving Rich a chance to experience Korea outside the capital Seoul. To choose one example, in the city of Daejeon a sign showing a woman holding a microphone leads the group up a flight of stairs in search of a karaoke bar. They enter a bare lobby just as somebody remembers the woman on the sign was topless. Perhaps it wasn’t a microphone she was holding. They quickly flee back down the stairs. Not what they were looking for. Other tales reveal more things about Korea I did not know. Interesting things.

Two essays offer fond reminiscences of Bob Tucker, perhaps the most renowned fannish fan from the 1940s to his passing in 2004, and the long forgotten but once briefly popular (in the 1950s) fan Dean A. Grennell. There are also articles on composer Scott Joplin, a now obsolete proposal for a manned Mars Mission, an account of inadvertent stuntman peril, and, of all things, a personal tour of art permanently on display in the New York subway system! Didn’t know there was any. There’s an old fannish saying that goes something like “All knowledge is found in fanzines.” Quite true.

Anyway, to my mind the highlight of Rich and Niki’s New York trip must have been seeing the stage performance of Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” with the two main characters played by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. You think?

No letters of comment printed, so no Lloyd Penney, alas.

My Back Pages worth reading? – Yes indeed. Rich is an old pro at good quality fannish writing. He and his wife Niki were (and are) justly famous for their genzine Mimosa which ran from 1987 through the nineties. It was mostly devoted to fannish lore. I will be reviewing an issue of Mimosa in the not too distant future.

( Multiple issues of My Back Pages here )

RG Cameron Clubhouse Jan 23 Illo #3 Orpheum

ORPHEUM (#8) – November 2014 – Find it here

Faned: Alan White. American Perzine.

Alan declares that this is the last issue of Orpheum he will publish. So I figure it’s worth reviewing to bring the entire run to your attention before it slips from sight.

This issue is mostly an account of attending “The Burning Man” festival, but Alan likes to begin at the beginning, the very beginning. I’m not kidding.

Apparently, as a young kid, Alan got introduced to fandom in the best way possible, a tour of the Ackermansion (the house of Forrest J. Ackerman with its spectacular collection of SF&F film and literary memorabilia) conducted by Dr. Ackula himself! I am green with envy.

Alan writes: “With the generous help of Forry Ackerman I instigated my first convention in 1963 with a gang of kids… The First Long Beach Science Fantasy Convention was fearless and unapologetic occurring in the party room behind a fellow’s house… Forry, bless his heart, used his own mailing list and shelled out for postcards going to who knows how many area fans for which 30 pimple-faced teenagers heeded the call and found themselves gazing at our splendid collection of books and movie posters!” I didn’t even know ANY other genre fans when I was a kid. Green, green with envy I tell yah!

One of the kids attending was Joe Viskcocil “a youngster fashioned from the same doughy scrapple as myself; heavy on enthusiasm, sparse on wisdom, we hit it off and spent the next few decades inseparable.”

Doing what, you ask? “Don Reed’s Count Dracula Society was the hub of wannabe genre action and Joe and I hobnobbed with some of our favourite horror celebs from Lon Chaney Jr. to Christopher Lee, from Ray Bradbury to Robert Bloch. Something occurred every month that made us glad to be fans.”

Sigh. Living in California apparently offered more possibilities than my neighbourhood of Elmvale Acres in Ottawa, Ontario. Double sigh.

Joe grew up to become a special effects guy on films as diverse as Flesh Gordon, Star Wars, Terminator, Aliens, Ghostbusters, and Independence Day (winning an Oscar for the latter). Whereas Alan grew up. Not sure what he became. An advertising artist I think. One thing for sure. Once a fan always a fan.

Alan planned to attend “The Burning Man” with his buddy Joe, but fate intervened and Joe passed away from cancer before the trip could take place. Alan went with others but was ever mindful of Joe journeying with him, so to speak. The trip account is well worth reading.

The letter column is titled “What the Hell is in the Mail? “ It contains but one loc. Of course it is from Lloyd Penney. Alan comments at the end “Thanks for your unflagging support Lloyd.”

Orpheum worth reading? – Absolutely. For one thing it is a visually stunning with just about the best placement of colour photos within layout I’ve ever seen. It’s the first article I’ve read about “The Burning Man” festival that conveys its excitement and makes me want to attend. There’s an evocative description of growing up in fandom, and above all else, a heartfelt tribute to Alan’s friend Joe Viskocil, special effects pro. Quite a good read.

( Multiple issues of Orpheum here )

RG Cameron Clubhouse Jan 23 Illo #4 Trapdoor

TRAP DOOR (#30) – December 2013 – Find it here

Faned: Robert Lichtman. American Genzine.

Robert is an old time fan, publishing his first fanzine “Psi-Phi” in 1958, and lately publishing an annual issue of “Trap Door” every December. So why am I reviewing the 2013 annish? Because Robert, being traditional minded, only releases a paper version sent out by snail mail. Not till a year goes by does he publish it online. This way he carries on both the time-honoured distribution method of yore AND, albeit with a slight delay, unleashes it on the waiting masses who inhabit the web and never use paper to communicate. Thus all zinedom benefits, even those who have abandoned the traditions of the past.

In other words, the December 2013 publication IS the latest issue available, electronically speaking.

Robert mentions that his first fanzine “Psi-Phi,” 11 single-sided sheets printed on a spirit duplicator owned by his co-editor Arv Underman’s father, earned a favourable review from West Coast fan Terry Carr (who, as an editor for Ace, later published William Gibson’s first novel) which generated submissions from such as Roger Ebert (later a well-known film critic). Heck of a good start! (I suspect the first issue of my first fanzine “Entropy Blues” disappeared into everybody’s file 13.)

Gregory Benford contributes a short but fascinating glimpse of Philip K. Dick’s approach to life, which begins “When I came by to go to dinner in the 1960s, I would at times hear something like a cheap motorbike banging inside the house. It was Phil, hammering at an Olympia typewriter like a woodpecker on meth…”

Andy Hooper provides a detailed study of teenage fan Ray Bradbury’s attendance of the first Worldcon, held in New York in 1939. Much of the information is new to me, such as the fact that Bradbury’s friends Forrest J. Ackerman and Morojo (a rare female fan) bankrolled his four day bus trip to the con, and that he spent much of his time in New York carrying a portfolio of his friend Hannes Bok’s artwork to the offices of various SF&F magazines. This jumpstarted Bok’s career as an illustrator. (An example of Bok’s early work on the cover of the zine reviewed below). Plus a good bit of info on Ray Bradbury’s fanzine Futuria Fantasia, the first issue of which appeared before the Worldcon (see below). Great job of research, Andy!

In addition, Jeff Schalles writes a charming essay “Looking for the Lost Valley Prairie” (rare preserved section of Prairie grass habitat), Pascal Thomas describes a Neil Young concert in Nimes, France, and Rob Hansen explains why he isn’t Iron Man.

A loc column titled “The Ether Still Vibrates!” features over twenty surprisingly lengthy locs, rambling essays in themselves, by the likes of Greg Benford, Steve Stiles, Jerry Kauffman, Murray Moore, Taral Wayne and, not unexpectedly, Lloyd Penney.

Trap Door worth reading? – You betcha! It features a wide variety of fan writing worthy of a prozine. Artwork by famous fan artists like ATom, Dan Stefan and Steve Stiles a solid plus as well.

( Multiple issues of Trap Door here )


RG Cameron Clubhouse Jan 23 Illo #5 Futuria Fantasia

FUTURIA FANTASIA (#1) – Summer 1939 – Find it here

Faned: Ray Bradbury. American Genzine.

As a lifelong fan of Bradbury’s professional writing I can say that discovering this online example of Bradbury’s early fannish writing was quite a thrill. At least, until I realized he contributed only a few editorial comments and a poem. Still, his fannish enthusiasm is apparent for all to see.

The poem, “Thought and Space,” is about thought piercing, transcending and defeating the vast distances of infinite space. Well, why not? Lines like:

“Great deities laugh down, venting their mirth

At struggling bipeds on a cloudwrapped earth,

Chained solid on a war-swept, waning globe…”

Don’t worry. He got better.

Fandom in the thirties was noted for political advocacy in terms of solving the world’s problems through “scientific” reformation of social practices. To my astonishment it appears Bradbury flirted with Technocracy, that most dreaded of utopias, a world dominated by engineers and accountants.

Bradbury explains “I think Technocracy combines all the hopes and dreams of Science Fiction. We’ve been dreaming about it for years – now, in a short time, it may become reality. It surely deserves support from any serious fictioneer.”

Then well-known fan Bruce Yerke, begged by Bradbury to contribute, provides an article titled “The Revolt of the Scientists” which reveals Technocracy was even weirder than I had thought.

First of all, “Techs” could prove, with charts and statistics and such, that World Capitalism was going to collapse as early as 1942, and certainly no later than 1945. Chaos would result, unless Technocracy was allowed to take over the United States (and by implication, the world?). I find it vaguely disturbing that, according to Yerke, High Schools were allowing Technocracy speakers to lecture students on their impending doom. Seems odd to me.

Technocracy a tad inflexible. All State borders to be done away with, replaced by “regional divisions” determined strictly by latitude and longitude. Money is to be abolished. As Yerke explains “In Tech there is no medium of exchange. There is only a method of technological accounting.” He nevertheless goes on to describe a proposed medium of exchange, namely “Distribution Certificates” of which an individual will receive 20,000 a year that are somehow unique to the individual in question and cannot be spent by anyone else.

Even worse “All things under the Technate will be controlled, numbered by a modified Dewey Decimal system, as used in libraries now.” Further, Yerke actually boasts “Technocracy has presented its whole plan in plain facts, and in as hard-boiled and unentertaining a manner as could be done without insulting the listeners.” Technocracy not so good at PR it seems.

Futuria Fantasia worth reading? – Oh yeah! Not just for the “screwy in St. Louie” crank theory of Technocracy explained in jaw-dropping detail, but for three amateur short stories, one by Forrest J. Ackerman, which are great fun to read. And then there’s that… poem…

( Multiple issues of Futuria Fantasia here )


You can find a fantastic collection of zines at: Efanzines

You can find a quite good selection of Canadian zines at: Canadian SF Fanzine Archive

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