Fanzines reviewed: BEAM (#8), INCA (#11), VIBRATOR (2.0.11) and WARHOON (#28).
(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.)
BEAM (#8) – November 2014 – Find it here
Faneds: Nic Farey and Jim Trash (actually Jim Mowatt, I think). American/British Genzine.
This zine is inspired by and partly about legendary American fan Wilson “Bob” Tucker. Many modern fen have never heard of him. (That’s all right, many of the people I know have never heard of ME either. Fame is fleeting, or in my case, non-existent).
But Tucker is a true legend. Consider these comments by Ro Nagey in his article “A Celebration of Smooooth”:
“Wilson “Bob” Tucker was a ghod among fen… In 1932, he published the fanzine, ‘The Planetoid’. From1938-2001, he published the seminal ‘Le Zombie’. He also published eight versions of ‘The Neo-Fan’s Guide To Science Fiction Fandom’. He spread the humour and fun of fandom for 76 years.”
They say the average “fannish lifespan” is three or four years of fanac (fan activity). Tucker spent more than most people’s entire lifespan immersed in fanac. Incredible.
Tucker helped invent many fannish traditions. Here is one uniquely his own (as described by Nagey):
“At cons, Bob was also famous for his ‘Smoooooth’. It was usually done at night in the
con suite but it could happen anywhere. A lot of fans would bring Bob a bottle of Beam’s Choice
and he would do a ‘Smoooooth’ on the spot. Adapting a routine from comedian Red Skelton,
he would sip from a bottle of Jim Beam, hold his right hand up, and pass the bottle around. Each fan in the room would repeat (non-drinkers would fake a sip and hold their hand up as well). When the bottle finally made it around to Bob, he would take a final sip and then, with everyone in unison, would slide his hand down and up while saying ‘Smoooooth!’ It probably sounds stupid if you’ve never ‘Smoothed’ before. But, for a lot of fans, it was a rite of passage in fandom.”
Note that under this scheme Tucker got to drink twice as much of the Jim Beam as everyone else. That, too, is very fannish.
Elsewhere Tony Weiskopf writes “Bob Tucker, with intelligence and humor, led fandom to the idea that it ought have nothing to do with greater world politics, but should concentrate on the thing we all loved, that being science fiction.”
I whole-heartedly agree.
Beam worth reading? – If you are looking for an intelligent, rational, and relatively calm introduction to what traditional fandom was, is, and may well become, this is a tantalizing read, an easy way for newbies to catch a glimpse of what it’s all about. And if you’ve wondered all your life what the parking lot of a 22,000 hog-a-day slaughterhouse looks like in the dead of a calm winter night, and how that might inspire song, welcome to a superb example of the “all knowledge is found in fanzines” syndrome. Much good stuff I haven’t mentioned. Loads of fun.
(P.S. Yes, I choose to use “syndrome” as opposed to “phenomenon.” If you’ve been long involved in fandom you’ll get what I mean.)
Multiple issues of Beam here
INCA (#11) – December 2014 – Find it here
Faned: Rob Jackson. British Per/Genzine.
Much of this issue, inspired by Remembrance Day considerations, is devoted to memories of WWII, in particular an interview with Hugh Jackson, Rob Jackson’s father, who served in the Royal army medical Corps in Italy. This not at all unusual for fanzines, it being the occasional tradition to devote a given issue to this or that theme. As both my Granddads served in the Canadian expeditionary Forces in WWI, and my Father flew a Wellington bomber for the RCAF in WWII (not to mention a Great-Grandfather who wrote horrible poems about Canada’s participation in the Boer wars), I have a keen interest in this sort of thing, especially since material found in fanzines is not likely to be found elsewhere.
But if you’re not a history buff why bother? Well, who can resist this tidbit of information from Curt Phillips: “Some companies went the extra mile for US soldiers during Desert Storm. The Hershey Company came up with a Hershey bar that wouldn’t melt in extreme heat and sent many thousands of them to soldiers overseas, I had one once and it tasted great… They even printed special wrappers for them with a desert cameo pattern.”
I don’t know about you, but I find info-bites like this one fascinating.
However the fannish core of this issue is Rob Jackson’s account of his trip from England to Richmond Virginia to attend Corflu 2014 (the fanzine’s fan convention). One of the highlights of Corflu for Rob was listening to Art Widner (who stated out in fandom about the same time as Bob Tucker and is STILL with us) describe his correspondence with H.P. Lovecraft back in the day. Wow. Just wow. This is one of the perks of attending conventions where First Fandom members are present. You learn “ancient” fannish history through the eyes of those who “lived” the history. Sort of like unexpectedly meeting a Napoleonic war veteran, in terms of shock and awe value. Wonderful.
Equally fannish is Rob’s account of his presence at the London Worldcon. He hadn’t planned to attend till he heard that Swedish fan Ahrvid Engholm was going to revive the Pork Pie races so common during 1980s Eastercons “at which fans were challenged to use their ingenuity to transport a pork pie untouched by human hand across sixty feet of floor. The more ingenious, eccentric or just plain bonkers the method, the better. Thirty years ago, I had entered three successive Pork Pie races with different mostly Meccano-based contraptions, and as I was able to reactivate old boyhood mechanical skills with the stuff, I had actually succeeded a few times.”
Indeed, this time Rob was so dedicated and enthusiastic that he contributed two entries: one a battery-powered rolling lampshade (with pork pie inside), and the other a tiny trolley with a man-high tower (made of mecanno pieces) on which a 2.3 Kg weight slid down, the attached cord driving gears to turn the wheels. Both very ingenious. The lampshade won.
I confess I have a soft spot for Ahrvid’s entry. Mecanno-free technology. He simply ate his pork pie and then rolled HIMSELF sixty feet along the floor to the finnish line! Brilliant!
This Pork Pie race is a classic example of what “fannish fun” is all about. One of the most endearing features of traditional fandom in my opinion.
In summing up the 2014 Worldcon (27 years since the last he attended!), Rob comments:
“Another squabble in certain online commentaries has been whether Worldcons are evolving too fast, not fast enough, or at about the right speed. I have heard a lot of people say they don’t like the way Big Tent fandom has evolved to embrace so many different sorts of fandom, while others say it seems as if Worldcons are still organised by a load of fuddy-duddy dinosaurs who haven’t properly eradicated sexism or are still too in love with tradition. Well, you can’t please everybody. If you are sniped at by some traditionalists and by other revolutionaries you may be getting the balance about right overall.”
Darn good summation I’d say. Personally, I’m all in favour of Big Tent fandom, as long as the brightest and gaudiest tent (with the best booze) is dedicated to the traditional fandom I love and cherish (especially since the remaining founders of fandom will not be long with us. Learn from them while we can).
Inca worth reading? – Oh yes. See fandom and worldom (I just made that up) through the eyes of a mature, thoughtful, and experienced fan. This is why fanzines are so worthwhile. The best are a literary sub-genre all in themselves which includes aspects of prominent “mundane” literature: letters, memoirs, essays, journalist reports, philosophic treatises, and so on. Inca ranks in there as one of the best.
Multiple issues of Inca here
VIBRATOR (#2.0.11) – December 2014 – Find it here
Faned: Graham Charnock. British Loczine.
Actually this is pretty close to being a Curmudgeonzine. But then, a kind of feisty sarcasm has been the hallmark of British zinedom since the 1970s. Hardly surprising, given the same culture produced “Beyond the Fringe” and “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.” Expect no mercy.
For a start, Graham lashes out at the Irish band U2 “I’ve never liked U2. They always struck me as witless and transparent, both bombastic and simplistic, swinging between portentous *meaningful* lyrics and trash…”
Irish bands in general are “probably best heard in Irish pubs with a finger stuck in your ear…” but he does recommend the music of the Irish punk band “Radiators from Space… fronted by Phillip Chevron who went on to join/form The Pogues.” Okay, sure. Why not?
I call this issue a Loczine because it consists mostly of letters of comment. For instance, John Nielsen-Hall discusses death: “Wouldn’t it be ludicrous to have lived a life of pleasant self-indulgence (such as most fans have lived, let’s face it) only to realise that the end of the line is approaching and suddenly become sort of wondrously organised paragon of asceticism? People would larf.”
No worries here. I plan to use dying as an excuse for lots of naps and quite a bit of beer with my chums. Currently I use “not quite dead yet” as my excuse.
Graham is in the habit of assigning somewhat snarky headings to the locs, such as “Paul Skelton must have been having a bad day when he wrote this cranky letter” or “Here Mark Plummer attempts to redeem himself from writing a frankly shoddy loc on the last issue of Vibrator by digging an even deeper hole.”
Mark congratulates Graham on winning this year’s Nova award for Best Fanzine (I assume that was what he won, unless it was the “best example of typically rotten British attitude” Nova Award) which triggers the following response “It was good of you and ClaIre to goad Rob Jackson into accepting it on my behalf, although Nigel Rowe reports he was pretty terrible at the job, and hardly gave me any credit at all. Furthermore he was happy to sit around with the award in the bar all evening and graciously accept everyone’s congratulations as if it were his own. I have had a stiff word with him.” A glimpse of fannish egoboo ploy in action!
David Redd writes “Hello there, as Val Doonican used to say. (Eamon Andrews could only manage “Hello.”) The restraint in your minuscule use of colour printing is remarkable, since I don’t notice restraint in any other department.” This is very British. Believe me.
Vibrator worth reading? – Definitely. It is highly amusing, not least because the correspondents enter into the rowdy “spirit” of the zine with great zeal and malignant intent, albeit in the long-standing British tradition of “restrained sarcasm.” Ghu only knows what British fen would be like if they unleashed themselves…
Oh, wait a mo… we do. They’re called soccer riots.
(P.S. This review written very much in the spirit – though not as well – of “Vibrator.”)
Multiple issues of Vibrator here
AND FROM THE VAULTS:
WARHOON (#28) – May 1978 – (Regrettably not available online)
Faned: Richard Bergeron. American Tributezine.
At 614 mimeographed twiltone pages, and with a hard cover, this is surely the largest and heaviest fanzine ever published. “Warhoon,” which Redd Boggs called “The bible of fandom” in 1970, was a high quality irregularly published fanzine for its first 27 issues. This last issue, however, “Is devoted to the work of Walter Alexander Willis of Belfast, Northern Ireland, who has been an inspiration and joy to science fiction fandom for over twenty-five years.” Richard does not exaggerate. As I explained last week, Walt Willis was the first recipient of the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund. A wry and witty writer, he deserves his popularity.
To give you an idea of his inventiveness, one of the articles included in this vast compendium is titled “Willis Discovers America (or why Magellan sailed completely around it),” a report on his TAFF trip, written BEFORE he made the trip. How wild is that? He crams into its pages his impressions of America derived from all the American fanzines he’d read to date.
A sample quote “Meanwhile the raft on which Shelby Vick is rowing Walt Willis across the Atlantic is nearing the Statue of Liberty… Willis looks up… and examines the huge stone figure with awe. ‘Begorra,’ he exclaims (he is practising saying ‘Begorra’ because he knows it is expected of him). ‘I knew SF had caught on over here, but I didn’t realize it had gone so far that they were making statues of Astounding Science Fiction Magazine covers. February 1941, isn’t it?”
His actual trip report was titled “The Harp Stateside,” and his longest-running column “The Harp That Once or Twice.” What’s with the harp already? “The harp that once or twice” is a line taken from James Joyce’s “Ulysses.” Good enough for Joyce; good enough for Walt.
Walt is famous for originating many fannish concepts, such as the following “Fen Commandments” he laid down in 1954. Partial quotes:
EGOBOO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD THEY SHOULD DO UNTO YOU… “If people cease to comment on other people’s fanzines, fandom will die out…”
HONOUR THE BNFS, THAT THY DAYS MAY BE LONG IN THINE OWN BNFDOM… “It just seems to me that ‘fancestor worship’ is one of the things that keeps fandom going…”
(Note: BNF = Big Name Fan”—an accolade awarded by others. Very gauche to claim the title for oneself.)
NEVER DESTROY A FANZINE… “If you must get rid of your old fanzines, send them to some neofan. Don’t destroy even the worst crudzine, because somebody is bound to appreciate it…”
Walt is perhaps most famous (along with fellow Belfast fan Bob Shaw who went on to become a professional SF&F novelist) as the co-author of “The Enchanted Duplicator” which is to fandom what “The Illiad” by Homer was to the Greeks and Romans. It is included in “Warhoon” 28. Even better, it is available separately online. I will review it in the near future.
Warhoon 28 worth reading? – Absolutely! Walt Willis helped create fandom, helped define it, he is the quintessential fan. If you read but one fanzine, THIS is the one. Therein you will discover the true joy of fandom. I don’t know how many copies were published, but each cost $20.00 US back in 1978. Consequently, while I imagine a copy may crop up on Ebay or Amazon occasionally, expect to pay a pretty penny to acquire it. Still, worth whatever it costs.
(Note: the copy I consulted for the purposes of this review was donated to the BCSFA archive by Fran Skene about twenty years ago.)
BY THE WAY:
You can find a fantastic collection of zines at: Efanzines
You can find yet more zines at: Fanac Fan History Project
You can also find a quite good selection of Canadian zines at: Canadian SF Fanzine Archive