The Clubhouse; Fanzine Reviews: The crisis that nearly destroyed LASFS.

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The-Club-House-logo-8gFanzine reviewed: FAN SLANTS (#2).

RG Cameron Clubhouse Aug 28 2015 Illo #1 'Fan Slants Cover''

Fan Slants (#V1.2) – February 1944

Faned: Merlin (Mel) Brown. American Genzine.

Interesting to note that the zine is bound with a shoe lace. Haven’t come across that before. Simple but effective now that I think about it.

This issue is an extraordinary glimpse into a major crisis at LASFS (the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society—still in existence I’ll have you know). One of many that LASFS has weathered over the years. This one perhaps the most famous.

First, a bit of info about Mel Brown. He came to Los Angeles in 1943 and promptly joined LASFS, which Carlton J. Fassbinder in his article “Merlin Brown, Paragon of Particularity” describes as having quite an impact:

“…since that time, the more established members hold the unanimous opinion that nothing quite like Merlin has ever been observed by anyone, anywhere, at any time… Merlin’s attitude toward the fan world… seems to be epitomised by the expression ‘thud and blunder’. Brown simply landed without a motor and with his air brakes stuck, smack dab in the midst of the society, much in the manner of Tweel of Mars and his beak-dive into the middle of Jenkin’s diagrams.”

Or, as Mel himself put it: “This issue of ‘Fan Slants’ to some extent commemorates two years in fandom. A little over a year of this time has been spent in the LASFS. While it has been enjoyable, belonging to an organization of this kind is not all it is cracked up to be. For the most part, the acquaintances and friendships I have made here have been to the good. However, some of the leading fans do not come up to my idea of what a well-balanced science fiction fan could and should be.”

“To me, science fiction and fandom are an enjoyable hobby. I find fans for the most part to be broad-minded, tolerant, and varied in modes of living and manners of expression. This is as it should be.”

“In the first issue of ‘Fan Slants’ I printed an article by Francis T. Laney on the future of civilization. The article was received well by most of the fans, but I was soon informed by one of the old guard that this sort of thing had no place in fandom and therefore should be omitted from fan publications. On that subject, however, I still think I am right and will continue to publish such articles as long as they are acceptable to the majority of my readers.”

Gads. Over sixty years later debate over what should or should not appear in a “genuine” fanzine still crops up from time to time. I agree with Mel. Whatever the editor chooses in the hope of pleasing his readers is fine.

RG Cameron Clubhouse Aug 28 2015 Illo #2 'Nightmare'

“Another acute problem has reared its ugly head within the confines of the LASFS. Outside of SLAN SHACK at Battle Creek, this is the only club at the present time that maintains a regular clubroom outside of the members’ homes. Now we come to the question as to whether the clubroom shall be used solely for scientifictional purposes (publishing, reading, etc.) or whether it can also be used as a place where fans can get together for purely social purposes. Out of the question has come a great deal of wrangling which culminated in the formation of the Knanves [a splinter group separated from the LASFS] and the recent resignation of Fran Lanoy as Director.”

“The chief objection of the conservatives seems to be the possibility of drinking within those hallowed halls. Many of the would-be imbibers have been told that drinking and stf do not and cannot mix. For that matter neither do nudes [artwork] constitute either fantasy, science fiction or weird work. It is almost impossible for any normal individual to become totally immersed in scientifictional activities. Even the most rabid of us likes to go to a show, go out with women or even take a drink. We might even feel like sitting in the clubroom and discuss something other than stf or who is top fan. “

“Many of the members live some distance away from the clubroom, and it becomes a very convenient place to meet when several are planning an evening at other than the sacred activities. Therefore we meet there and go on about our business of the evening only to be told by certain high ranking fans that we are no longer good fans because we prefer to go out instead of trying to put out as much useless crap as they do. They need to put it out to keep up their illusions. We don’t. We know that we can pick up again in the morning feeling refreshed because we had ceased our scientifictional activities long enough to enjoy ourselves in some other way. Perhaps we are wrong. But I doubt it.”

As an editor Mel is nothing if not inclusive. There are several articles representing the other side’s point of view, including one by ‘Miliano’ titled “Take to the Hedges, Men – Honig’s Coming!” It begins:

“The five of us – Tom Wright, Bill Watson, George Ebey, Andy Anderson and Harry Honig – had just vacated the Ackermansion and bid the Staplecon Two a fond fairwell…”

Evidently Forrest J Ackerman had just hosted a mini-event called “Staplecon Two” – something to do with publishing fanzines I imagine.

“About Honig – who makes up for two of us any day – he was gurgling delightfully over a Hadden original he had purchased at the Staplecon. Far be it for us to interrupt Harry’s gurgling. We left him alone.”

“Came a shriek! Honig had wheeled and was facing us!”

“’Ai! Ai! Ai!’ shouted Honig. He held a nude in one grimy hand. The hand was dirty. Honig was dirty too. The nude was a picture. Not too clean.”

“’Arghh! Arghh!’ said Honig. ‘Arghh!’”

“Honig is a man of few worlds.”

“We ran.”

The above is but an excerpt from 2.5 pages making fun of Honig. Satirical, exaggerated fun of course. But more serious is a letter from one of the those mentioned, Bill Watson, which Mel prints immediately afterwards.

“Will you please mention that I disclaim all responsibility for ‘Arcana’… I make this request because it so happens that in ‘Arcana’ #1 Honig does a little cribbing on his own hook, mainly Ebey’s and my own style. And also on the matter of sex. Ebey and I add a bit , to it, just to jazz up something that otherwise might be dull and quite boring, but Honig, innocent and stupid Honig, takes it upon himself to spread sex far and wide upon his blotchy pages. Ebey and myself want it made clear that we have no connection with honig and his stinking pub[lication] – except myself, who did the mimeoing – for a nice price of course.”

RG Cameron Clubhouse Aug 28 2015 Illo #3 'T-Rex'

I should point out that Forrest J Ackerman is one of the people is one of the Big Name Fans Mel was complaining about. Oh, Forry didn’t mind nudes, I believe many appeared in his zine “Voice of the Imagi-Nation” also known as “VOM”, which resulted in the term “Vomaidens” being coined to describe nude illustrations. However, Forry was otherwise an incredible puritan. Drinking was strictly a mundane sin, to be avoided by trufen at all costs, and the LASFS clubroom was notorious for the cigarette butts scattered all over the floor as he had banned ash trays in a bid to prevent smoking on the premises.

In a sense Forry become one of the chief victims of the controversy, hoist by his own petard as it were, as hinted at by a comment by Frank Towner in an article describing several members of LASFS:

“Forrest J Ackerman. At one time this name was widely known throughout fandom, but he has faded into obscurity with the meteoric rise of King Boob. [Presumably Bob Tucker] However, this erstwhile number one fan face has expressed the desire to become re-established in fandom…”

Getting back to Editor Mel Brown, he concluded his article about the crisis by writing “To me the whole outcome of the problem here in the LASFS will bear directly on fandom in that it might set an example for fan clubs to follow. While I am not a member of the Knanves I certainly agree that a little wine, a little stf, and a bit of talk makes for a good healthy and thoroughly enjoyable life.”

The crisis came to a head about a month after “Fan Slants” #2 was published. Harry Warner Jr. described what happened in his history of 1940s fandom titled “All Our Yesterdays.”

“Julius Lazar spilled the beans in a letter published in Unger’s “Fantasy Fiction Field,” dated March 11, 1944. Lazar revealed that he, Pogo, Laney, Bronson, Mike Fern and [Mel] Brown had resigned from the club the previous night. He had called the Ackerman-Morojo-Daugherty combine ‘horrible saboteurs and malingerers…’ In the same issue of the newszine appeared an open letter, signed by much the same group, that censured Ackerman for his efforts to keep mundane activities from defiling the clubroom. The fuss went on for months…”

“As direct repercussions, the battle drove out of fandom most of the active LASFS members… Ackerman’s leadership in fandom was lost forever and his attention turned increasingly toward the professional aspect of science fiction after this [he became a literary agent and also went on to become the much beloved editor of ‘Famous Monsters of Filmland’ Magazine]… Indirectly, it caused all fandom to fall into the habit of writing frankly, settling forever the old question of whether fanzines should publish material about the seamier side of fanac and fans.”

Mel produced but one more issue of “Fan Slants” in June of 44. He then joined a splinter group of former LASFS fans called “The Futurian Society of Los Angeles” founded on March 18th, 1945. Its purpose was to hold “discussions on any subjects of interest to the members irrespective of the science fiction nature of the subject” but it didn’t last very long and soon disappeared. As for Mel, I don’t know if he remained an active fan or not. Harry Warner Jr.’s history of 1950s fandom “A Wealth of Fable” makes no mention of him.

RG Cameron Clubhouse Aug 28 2015 Illo #4 'Death Violin'

Interestingly enough, for “Fan Slants” #2 Forrest J Ackerman contributed a six page article (plus two pages of professionally printed photos of movie stills undoubtedly taken from his personal collection) reviewing mostly silent films.

For instance, he states that the re-edited version of Lon Chaney Sr.’s “Phantom of the Opera” released in the thirties had a number of scenes missing from the original release, such as “one outstanding scene where the Phantom, oxygenating via a breathing tube, walked under the water in the canal, raised up a hand and tipped over a boat with its passenger.” I can’t for the life of me remember if the version I once saw contained that scene or not.

His introduction to his review of the 1930 film “Just Imagine” I find amusing at this late date:

“When I came to write of this scientifilm, I was suddenly thunderstruck with the realization that this film, which it seems as though I saw it only yesterday, in actuality played fourteen years ago! It is even perfectly possible that a few of the younger fans have never even heard of this title, weren’t born yet when this futuristic classic flashed onto the silver screen. It was half my life ago that I picked up a movie mag and found the ad heralding this prophetic picture:”

“New laws for love… the sky swarming with planes… a giant rocket shot to Mars… a riotous stowaway… Loo Loo, Queen of Mars, throwing a sky party for the Rocketeers. JUST IMAGINE. Broadway in the 1980s… New York gone futuristic… a towering tangle of pinnacles, viaducts, bridges… and what fashions in dress!”

“Yes, this was a film to send the fan of 1930 into ecstasy!”

I reviewed “Just Imagine” in my October 3rd/2014 Clubhouse column (which you can access below) so I won’t quote Forry’s attempt to recover the film’s plot from memory (he got a number of details wrong), but I will quote his mention of a promotional gimmick I’d not heard of previously:

“At the famous Cathay Circle Theatre of Beverly Hills, California, a souvenir of ‘Just Imagine’ was distributed in the form of a sample of 1980 incense, called “The Hour Exquisite,” encased in a futuristic box of silver, green and black.”

That would be quite the rare collector’s item nowadays I should think. Wonder if any still exist?

RG Cameron Clubhouse Aug 28 2015 Illo #5 'Rear Cover''

This issue of “fan Slants” came out at the tail end of the Claude Degler era, the infamous fugghead who promoted fans as the mutant race superior to ordinary mortals. Some fen were still fuming, as witness these comments by Francis T. Laney:

“With the stench of the Cosmic Circle still fresh in the nostrils of fankind… Art Sehnert was working on a national organization long before anyone ever heard of Degler, and will probably still be working on it long after the last remaining copy of ‘The Cosmic Circle Constipator’ has been tossed in the ash can.”

Seems some fen were not yet in a forgiving mood for Degler’s failed crusade which nearly brought fandom into disrepute among SF professionals.

I leave you with a partial quote of a poem Laney wrote about Degler.

“Ode to the Starbegotten.

Deggle, Deggle, little star,
How I wonder what you are,
Up above the fans so high,
Like a Cosman in the sky.

You’re the strangest little guy,
In your Indiana sty,
Putting out your Cosmic dung,
Little man you should be hung.

Mailing out our old crud sheets
Bleating feeble little bleats.
Furthermore they say, by heck,
That you NEVER wash your neck.

It seems to me a little odd
To hear you are the spawn of god
With your stupid little blitz.
Little man, you are the… bunk.

But really I’m a little bored
To read about your COSMIC HOARD.
I wish that it would come to pass
That you would shove it up your… nose.

And if that day should ever be
That from your nonsense, we are free,
And no more crap from you to read…
Would I ever go on a big party with
T. Bruce Yerke, Mel Brown, Art Joquel, Walt Daugherty,
and about every other fan in fandom….

OH MIGHTY CTHULHU! SPEED THAT HAPPY DAY!”

Harry Warner Jr. stated that, despite being on opposite sides of “the Crisis”’ and despite Forrest J Ackerman being one of the few fen to consistently defend Degler as just a harmless but over enthusiastic fan, Laney and Ackerman got along surprisingly well in spite of their feuding. Or maybe because of it. Who knows?

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

And check out my brand new website devoted to my OBIR Magazine, which is entirely devoted to reviews of Canadian Speculative Fiction. Found at OBIR Magazine

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