The Clubhouse; Fanzine Reviews: “The Goon Defective Agency”

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Fanzines reviewed: THIS GOON FOR HIRE & RETRIBUTION.

RG Cameron Clubhouse Sep 25 - 2015 Illo #1 'Goon Defective'

The Goon Defective Agency

This is one of the most famous “fake” fannish organizations of all time. It was created by Belfast Policeman John Berry (part of the Oblique House Crew of Walt Willis, Madeleine Willis, Bob Shaw, James White, George Charters, etc.) and was inspired by the wildly popular UK radio series THE GOON SHOW which featured the likes of Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan (which was completely unknown in the States at the time). The radio show’s use of the term was, in turn, derived from the ‘Goons’ in the old Popeye cartoons. Just so you know.

As John put it “By profession I am a sort of detective, not in the normal sense of the word, but a dactyloscopist must, to do his work properly, use a detective’s techniques. And after a great deal of cogitation, I hit upon the idea of inventing a fannish detective named “Goon Bleary” (a variation of John Berry), who would always do things completely wrong, yet finally succeed.”

In the autumn of 1955 I wrote to Arthur Thomson [soon to be famous fan artist], and explained my ideas. He wrote back, and by the tone of his letters he was thrilled by the idea of a fannish detective agency. Working together, we planned in great detail exactly how the G.D.A. as we called it, i.e. the Goon Defective Agency, should work. A fannish agency for investigating mysteries in fandom, asking pornography for fees, doing everything incorrectly, even stupidly, and yet (with one or two notable exceptions), arriving at a logical conclusion.”

RG Cameron Clubhouse Sep 25 - 2015 Illo #2 'GDA'

We decided to have a fanzine as the ‘official organ’ of the G.D.A, and use the name RETRIBUTION, which I suggested. At this primary stage, there was a chance that Bob Shaw would join the syndicate as adviser, and possibly, co-editor. His emigration to Canada stopped all this [to Calgary no less, but he came back eventually], although his subsequent contributions and letters have been of great inspiration to us. And I must just mention in passing that Bob Shaw’s story, A CHANCE OF A GHOST, has been voted as the best story to appear in the first ten issues of RETRIBUTION, by something approaching a unanimous vote. Indeed, several BNF’s who ought to know, have tabbed it the most outstanding fan-fiction story ever written!”

And now, thirty months later, our tenth issue has come and gone… One hundred G.D.A. features have been written by a considerable number of fannish authors… some of them vile pros, like Bulmer, White, BoSh, Bloch, Warner, etc. Others were established fanzine writers with their own individual style, Mercer, Bennett, Willis, Jeeves, Bentcliffe, Pavlat, Thomson, Busby, Schulthesis, Ellington…”

And here’s something really important, that I cannot stress enough. All the egoboo for the appearance, layout and artwork in RET and all other Goon pubs goes without reservation to Arthur Thomson, or ATOM as he is sometimes called. His genius is the brightest thing to shine in fandom for many years, and no other fannish artist can even approach the accuracy of his caricatures of well-known fen, or the detail and perspective of his cartoons and serious illos.”

RG Cameron Clubhouse Sep 25 - 2015 Illo #3 'Goon For Hire'

This Goon For Hire (Oneshot) – May 1956

Faned: John Berry. Northern Irish fictionzine.


This is the first piece of G.D.A. fanfiction, written by John Berry early in 1955, but not published till May 1956 when Chuck Harris distributed it to OMPA and FAPA.

Essentially, during an evening game of Ghoodminton, James white is holding a copy of the infamous fanzine STAR ROCKETS, when the light bulb is smashed, plunging the attic into darkness, Madeleine Willis shouts “Someone’s shot!” and when light is restored, the issue of STAR ROCKETS has gone missing. Walt Willis hires Goon Bleary to find out who took it.

I can find no mention of STAR ROCKETS in Warner or Moskowitz, or in the Pavlat/Evans index, so I assume it is either fictional or very little known. I gather it is meant to be a sort of ultimate crudzine such that the question “Why would anyone want to steal it?” is uppermost in everyone’s minds during the investigation.

The Goon investigates each Belfast fan present at that fateful game of Ghoodminton in turn, which presents the opportunity to satirize each of his friends.

With Walt Willis, it is typical puns.

Someone has stolen my autographed copy of STAR ROCKETS.”

This was terrible. Catastrophic. I pulled out my notebook.”

I get it,’ I said. ‘You want me to discover who has stolen it.”

That’s right,’ he said. ‘You’re needle-sharp tonight.”

Yeah,’ I grinned. ‘I’m in the groove.”

Walt raised a finger.”

I hope that’s off the record,’ he said.”

The Goon finds George Charters in the act of writing to Walt praising the writings of George Charters in Walt’s HYPHEN. Typical Charters modesty it seems.

He goes to James White’s place of employment, a tailor shop, disguised as an old man, and requests a fitting for a propeller beanie. James knows it’s a disguise and tries to guess his identity.

Then James shuffled forward, grinning endearingly. ‘It’s… It’s not you, is it Peggy?’ he breathed heavily.”

I gulped, and sprayed James once more [with a water pistol]. Clouds of steam rose from him.”

I’m not Peggy,’ I shouted. For one horrible moment, I couldn’t remember who I really was.”

Seems James was a bit of a ladies man (at least in his own mind).

And so on down the list. The Goon can prove nothing, even though the copy of STAR ROCKETS in question arrives in his mail. Eventually he re-enacts the Ghoodminton game with all present, repeatedly, yet no one confesses.

However, the matter is resolved. Turns out Madeleine Willis and Sadie Shaw were planning a surprise one-shot, their notes hidden in STAR ROCKETS (on the theory no one in their right mind would ever open that fanzine to read it) and they panicked when they noticed James White holding it. Madeleine actually shouted “One-shot!” while smashing the bulb, cuing Sadie to grab STAR ROCKETS out of James’ hands in the darkness and confusion.

Naturally, the Goon expects to be paid.

You, Goon, will now be the only one of us who can boast of possessing a full, complete file of STAR ROCKETS.”

He pushed the parcel into my hands.”

“’night,’ he said, as he closed the door behind me.”

RG Cameron Clubhouse Sep 25 - 2015 Illo #4 'Return''

A Chance of a Ghost (Short Story) – In RETRIBUTION (#6) – Summer 1957

Author: Bob Shaw. Fan Fiction.

[On a winter night in the year 2113 Goon Bleary VI, head of the G.D.A, walks home from his office. As he enters the hall of his mansion, he stops to contemplate the first in a long series of ancestral portraits.]

This was the Goon’s favourite ancestor. All the others were grim determined men, but this one was different. There was a cheery twinkle to his eyes and under his moustache lurked the hint of a grin. His clothes were slightly disheveled and in his right hand he held a square of battered cardboard.”

Goon VI had often pondered on the meaning of that incongruous piece of cardboard. It was a pity that the beginnings of the G.D.A. were shrouded in mystery…”

[A Mr. Aub Long knocks on the door. Seems his house is haunted. Goon grabs his trenchcoat.]

As they flew in Aub Long’s copter, Long explained that he could not get any tenant to remain in his house more than a few days. They all claimed they had heard ghosts in the attic —screams, shouts, bangs, horrible cries, moans. Probably the ghostly re-enactment of a terrible murder.”

[Fortunately Goon has in his pocket…] “a little machine which sets up vibrations which either destroys spectres or renders their ‘continuum’ absolutely untenable for them. When I use this machine the ghosts will vanish forever.”

The tiny copter landed in the front garden of 170 Upnards Road… They went inside and stood in the dark, empty hall.”

From upstairs came strange sounds, growing gradually louder and louder, — bangs, cries, weird laughter, screams.”

“It is they,’ screamed Long. ‘It’s the ghosts. What a horrible sound. Quickly, Mr. Bleary, use the machine.”

Moving like a man in a trance, the Goon removed the exerciser from his pocket. For a moment his fingers hovered above the activator switch, then he withdrew them. ‘I’m going up there to see them,’ he said slowly.”

Long caught his arm. ‘Are you mad? You can’t go up there. Who knows what would happen to you?’ The sounds floating down the stairs grew even louder.”

The Goon’s eyes were shining with an unnatural brightness as he brushed off Long’s hand. ‘I don’t care. All my life I’ve been lonely. I’ve been searching, searching. Looking for… something. I’m not a Master Detective at heart. I need something else and I’m going up those stairs.”

He started up the stairs and the sounds grew thunderous from above.”

With a desperate cry Long threw himself forward, caught the exerciser and turned its switch.”

All at once the sounds ceased. The house was silent.”

The Goon stood stock still on the third step, his face buried in his hands. He swayed like that for some time then turned and walked slowly, tiredly down to the hall… and walked away into the night. Long glimpsed him once as his copter rose in the sky; and the Goon looked very small and lonely as the rain and clouds closed over and hid him from view.”

170 Upnards Road was the address of the Willis’ Oblique House. The “incongruous piece of cardboard” was, of course, a Ghoodminton bat. Goon Bleary VI had been about to walk into a spectral game of Ghoodminton, perhaps to meet his revered ancestor, but such was not to be.

Darn near brought tears to my eyes this story did. Sad and powerful stuff for them as cares

RG Cameron Clubhouse Sep 25 - 2015 Illo #5 'Retribution'

Retribution (Various) – 1956 – 1958

Faned: John Berry. Northern Irish fictionzine.


A typical issue features a hodgepodge of GOON vignettes. It might be Arthur Thomson claiming:

I had just removed my Glassite space helmet and magnetic boots which I wear for the Quatermass Serial… and was setlling back for a quiet snooze before going home from the in-laws… where we view… WHEN SUDDENLY – THE GOON APPEARED! – STARING GRIM-FACED FROM THE SCREEN. I was sitting on the settee at the time, and I leaped two feet into the air. ‘Goon, Goon,’ I shrieked… I crooned. I gibbered. I dribbled…”

Or, a wanted poster, inspired by that calendar in the attic next to the Ghoodminton table, reading “Wanted! Marilyn Monroe. If found, please forward immediately to the Goon H.Q. Only to the Goon H.Q. Postage will be refunded. Description: Mmmmm. Jeeeeze. Suffering catfish. Cooooorrrrr. Gaaaaaahhhh….”

Not everything is strictly Goon relevant. Arthur Thompson contributes TEN STRAIGHT TIPS TO COMBAT GAFIA, part of which reads:

A suggested therapeutic aid may be used if the patient seems to be gaining strength… the turning of a mimeo crank just outside the door. “

This is the CRISIS. On no account should fanzines be introduced at this stage. The patient will either recover completely with more treatment, or will lapse into the mundane and only keep up with his Apa membership…”

Walt writes to explain Bob Shaw’s absence in Calgary. Walt sent him there. To be the Canadian correspondent for RETRIBUTION. At first Bob is reluctant, but Walt unleashes powerful arguments and temptations.

Red Indians,’ I breathed, sort of casual.”

His eyes flickered.”

Totem Poles,’ I hinted.”

He panted.”

Georgina Ellis,’ I hummed.” [Famous Canadian femmefan.]

His eyelids opened and closed.”

Lots of snow, so’s you can put them old tennis racquets on your feet and walk…”

A dreamy look floated over his bloated features.”

Motels, drive-in-cinemas, dollars… yep… dollars, ‘I whispered seductively, ‘Saskatchewan, buffalo, dollars, beavers…”

He broke down in front of me.”

When does the boat sail?’ he sobbed.”

In a later issue Bob Shaw claimed to be teaching the Inuit how to play Ghoodminton.

And, of course, every issue contains two or three fan fiction tales involving one Goon or another. Plus lots of ATOM art, including the occasional portfolio.

There were at least 13 issues of RETRIBUTION. Loads of fun the lot of them.

RG Cameron Clubhouse Sep 25 - 2015 Illo #6 'Local Goon'

And now a word about Ghoodminton.

Last column featured a drawing of a fearsome-looking Ghoodminton player. I assumed it was Bob Shaw. It has come to my attention that he did not sport a moustache. I therefore conclude it, in fact, represented John Berry (famous for his moustache), whose Ghoodminton tactics were both enthusiastic and extreme.

As evidence I offer the photograph (below) which exhibits a Ghoodminton game (in the attic of Oblique House) in all its violent glory. That’s Madeleine Willis in the foreground, whose stance is typically demure (a false impression, her serve was always ferocious). Beyond is Walt Willis lunging beyond the far side of the Ghoodminton table, such is the impetus and momentum of his serve, and to the right rear is John Berry, back to the camera, who has crashed to his knees in a desperate attempt to return the serve. The photograph appeared in Issue 12 of RETRIBUTION (February 1959).

I note with interest Willis’ figure is largely blocking a pale rectangle on the wall opposite the end of the table. Here was located the colour pinup of a nude Marilyn Monroe which I suspect was taken down for the occasion of the photo-shoot so as not to compromise distribution through the mails. (Post office censors were fantastically active in the 1950, even to the extent of perusing the contents of fan publications.)

I also note that, for this game at least, there was no net, just a piece of cloth (possibly John Berry’s shirt given that he is photographed in his undershirt) hanging from a wire very much like washing set out to dry. Ghoodminton definitely an ad hoc affair. As further exampled by the cardboard ‘bat’ seen flexing in Madeleine’s hand.

RG Cameron Clubhouse Sep 25 - 2015 Illo #7 'Ghoodminton'

Great Galloping Ghu! Just had an inspiration! I should revive Ghoodminton! Hold a tournament no less! Just to bring back a hallowed fannish tradition.

I think the most appropriate occasion would be a reborn DITTO (a currently dormant convention for fanzine fans) somewhere in the Vancouver Lower Mainland region sometime in 2017. What say you, fen? Especially you Pacific Northwest fans? Sound like a plan?

Ghu darn, my senile-agitated brain gets me into more trouble just by lurching into aimless thought now and again…

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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