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Fanzines reviewed: SYZYGY #4
Syzygy (#4) August 1959
Faned: Miriam (Knight—or Dyches?) Carr
Miriam was Terry Carr’s wife, and a well-known fanzine publisher and writer in her own right. According to Harry Warner Jr. she was somewhat uncertain at the beginning of her fan-writing career but soon blossomed under Terry Carr’s encouragement to become “one of those rare fans whose personality came across in almost every line she wrote. If she had been more prolific for fanzines, she might have gained the fame of John Berry, because she possessed precisely the same knack of making small adventures enormously entertaining.”
Prior to this issue, Miriam was not yet married to Carr and published three previous issues under the name Miriam Dyches (though Harry Warner records her as Miriam Knight). All were referred to as Goojie publications, SYZYGY being the fourth. By publication date the Carrs were married.
The remarkable thing about SYZYGY is that all 50 pages are hectographed and include numerous multi-colour hecto illustrations. Quite remarkable, as hectography was already a dying art by the 1950s. Alas, the dyes are quite faded, and the illustrations you see represent my best efforts to bring out the fading lines and colours.
The text has faded quite a bit too, which makes VOICE OF THE TURTLE, Miriam’s editorial, a bit of a chore to interpret. With the aid of a strong light and a magnifying glass, I was able to interpret her explanation of what went into the making of the 4th issue. The description and the prices quoted will, I’m sure, bring a tear to many an eye still rattling around in old-time fans’ eye sockets:
“SYZYGY will be run off August 1, 1959 on Dave Mike’s Sears Robuck Tower at his place. Dan Adkins put the cover on master himself; ditto for most of Larry Bourne’s work, which he did on a visit here Easter week. Larry Lindham put his own illo on master also (and it was his first experience with the ditto carbons). Terry Carr, you know, the one who is running for TAFF, the fellow I’m married with, put all the other work on master. Thanks again, dear.”
“Two reams of this paper are dollar-a-ream (on sale) Dittmark 20 lb., and I hope there won’t be much show through. The other three reams are Simpson ‘Expert’ 20 lb. @ $2.00 a ream. The colour carbons are by A. B. Dick, 10¢ each. Most of the purple carbons are Old Town ‘Super Kleen,’ i.e. coated, and will probably not reproduce darkly enough for a run of a hundred. But what the heck. I got all 41 of them for 55¢.”
Publishing a fanzine is a lot simpler nowadays, what with annoying sophisticated computer programs and such, but you better be Donald Trump if you’re going to shell out cash for hardcopies to be mailed. The fifties decade is too be envied in some ways, methinks.
One of those “small adventures enormously entertaining” Warner Jr. speaks of is included. It reads:
“One time I was riding in the front seat [of a San Francisco Mission Street Jitney] I heard a mild bit of commotion in the back. I turned around … an old man had something ALIVE in a paper sack. I asked him what he had in there and he said it was a bat or an owl and that he knew all about birds and that this critter was ten years old and would live to be a hundred if he took care of it but he didn’t have the time so he was taking it to the SPCA because it was sick. Well, I’ve never seen a bat close up, and owls fascinate me, and anyway, who wouldn’t want to see a creature that a bird expert couldn’t be sure whether it was a bat or an owl? He showed us his charge: it was a very startled and healthy pigeon.”
Miriam devotes an entire page to escapades with her cat, then gets down to business, stating she will no longer accept trades:
“I never did trade with very many people, and now that I’m married to Terry it would be pointless. I mean, between FANAC and INNUENDO he gets just about every fanzine pubbed.”
“Which brings us to the unfortunate thing of … If you don’t respond I’m not going to send you my fanzine. So, if your name is below, and you want to keep on my mailing list …”
She then names, among others, Rich Brown, Jim Caughran, Rich Eney, Bruce Pelz, Boyd Raeburn, Bob Tucker, and Ted white. THESE are the people she’s threatening to cut off? All fannish legends then and now. Sheesh. I don’t think I would have had guts enough to do that.
She concludes with a few bits of fannish news:
“Things have been very fannish hereabouts lately. Randy Brown came to town and we helped him get the beginning of his new mag GOLEM on stencil. Where is GOLEM, Randy?”
This may or may not imply he failed to publish. All I could find out about Randy Brown in the writings of Harry Warner Jr. is that Brown founded the Dallas Futurians club in 1954, and that he later claimed he saw Claude Degler at the 1957 Oklacon (even though the extremely infamous Degler was thought to have gafiated entirely from fandom years earlier, much to fandom’s relief.) No mention of GOLEM.
“I’ll bring this to a close by thanking Arthur Thomson (Atom) for sending us the empty Charrington’s London Brown Ale tin. Good grief! How fannish can you get? Like making Terry go all the way to the P.O. on foot after it, and him getting home all hot and thirsty, and the darn ole can is empty. What next?”
Next is WEDDING PRESENT FOR MARLENE by Kris Neville. A starship crew union organizer attends a wedding in a small town, witnesses a mob of citizens beat the groom to death (for being union), and is moved to start speaking about social injustice on a street corner till the police come, raise high their wooden clubs, and kill him. If I had read this in the fifties I would have thought, Nah, this is a throwback to depression era politics, the future won’t be anything like this. As a kid I expected a lot more from the future, like progress and equality. As things stand now, I fear this story is prescient. It may be the near future yet.
The story has three excellent illustrations by George Metzger, each employing purple, red and green ink in combination. Alas, tremendously faded. Too faded too attempt to reproduce. The violence depicted is kind of depressing of depressing, not really something that stirs my fannish sense of wonder. Great cinematic quality to the composition though. A very real talent at work.
Then a 7.5 page item by Harry Warner Jr. a bit long for the simple premise perhaps, but what makes it extraordinary is it is a rare piece of fiction by Harry. In fact it is the first I’ve read. He was known as the “Hermit of Hagerstown” because he almost never travelled, is known to have attended, at most, one or two conventions, and was intimately known to fandom at large by virtue of his decades long outpouring of locs to every fanzine ever published (including mine, amazingly enough). So that everyone felt they knew him even though they had never met him.
So what’s the big deal? He writes as if he were a club fan accustomed to churning out fanzines and attending conventions. The narrator of the story, Harry himself presumably, claims to be the Secretary of “The Hub City Science Fiction Club.” It’s all about his friend Jason,
“a club-type fan who bummed fanzines off other members and never was interested enough to read one cover to cover …”
Then one day Jason decided to publish a fanzine. However he
“was unable to remember the title he had intended to use for his stillborn fanzine, and he was the conventionist fan you could find anywhere. But Jason didn’t do anything by halves, and when he felt a mighty scorn for all other kinds of fans, particularly for Jerry Walker. Because Jerry Walker hadn’t replied to my friend Jason’s request for a contribution for this proposed fanzine.”
So you can guess the remainder of the story deals with Jerry Walker’s increasingly vituperative anti-Jerry campaign and the increasing cries of outrage from all of Jerry’s friends from across fandom. When Jason and Jerry confront one another at a convention, it turns out Jerry is blind, which explains fandom’s anger at Jason, who nevertheless is man enough to apologise.
The moral of the story?
“It’s really the distance between fanzine fans and convention fans that caused the mixup. Lots of things about fans are common knowledge by word of mouth but don’t get published and our crowd wasn’t in personal touch with this crowd and didn’t know about Jerry. The two kinds of fans should mingle more.”
This is an interesting observation as Harry was the leading historian of fandom in the ‘40s and ‘50s and was noted for mistrusting people’s memories and relying instead on whatever was written down in fanzines (of which he may have had the largest collection by far, since EVERYONE traded their zine for his locs). Being perfectly content with his life as a reporter for a newspaper, with fanzine fandom being merely a hobby (about which his local friends knew nothing as he never told them—very much like Leslie A. Croutch, Canada’s best known fan of the ‘40s, in Parry Sound, Ontario), it’s quite remarkable he took the time to knock some fannish heads together in order to spark some common sense in the general fannish life style.
It also represented the opportunity to gently satirize fans, especially fanzine fans:
“Jason’s fanzine didn’t appear on schedule, because of an acute lack of material. Tucker promised an article if Jason would provide a topic suggestion and Jason couldn’t think of anything. Ted White moved three times before Jason’s letter caught up with him, then requested a delay while he caught up with personal matters. Bob Bloch sent a very funny story that I almost busted a gut over, but Jason lost the manuscript before he put it onto a stencil and couldn’t make up his mind to confess his crime and ask the writer for the carbon copy.”
Actually, I think the main point of Harry’s story is that fanzine fans are fans of ideas, but that the more immature fans are prone to believe something is true merely because it has been conceived, and never think to check their supposed “facts.” Alas, all too common in politics nowadays. Great galloping Ghu! Could it be that modern politics has finally caught up to the trailblazing work of early fandom?
PEOPLE TO PEOPLE, by Les Nirenberg, which I gather is a spoof of a TV show where the camera follows a housewife of the week showing off her fabulous fifties home (I wouldn’t mind watching a few episodes. They probably feature half the furnishings of the home I grew up in), reveals the inner wonders of the home of Sylvia Vanderfaan:
“Sylvia: This is the living room. It’s only 4 feet by 6 feet. It isn’t very big because the rest of the house is occupied by the library. Every fan must have a good-sized library for fanac, and here’s the library, Ed.”
“Edward R. Munro: It certainly is large, Sylvia. What would you say the dimensions are?”
“Sylvia: It’s 63 feet by 82 feet. The north, east and west walls contain cases of my INNUENDOs, CRYs, A BAS, and other fanzines, and this remaining wall contains my rare file of EIATCG, which is the name of my fanzine. It stands for “Egoboo is a Thing Called Joe.”
“Ed: What does that small two-foot shelf of books contain?”
“Sylvia: Oh, this is for my prozines.”
Things have progressed further since the fifties. Many a fanzine fan’s library today contains no SF literature whatsoever, or so they claim. A bit odd, this.
INNUENDO was put out by Terry Carr, A BAS by Canada’s Boyd Raeburn, and CRY was originally the clubzine of the Seattle Fan group “The Nameless Ones.” Mrs. G.M. Carr began it as a newsletter in 1950, and it went through a series of editors till F.M. Busby and Elinor Busby settled in circa 1955. Not only did they stick to a genuinely monthly schedule, by 1958 496 page issues were not uncommon. To quote Harry Warner Jr:
“It became a staple in fandom during years when fanzines were paying scant attention to current prozine fiction. By the decade’s end, the fannish material was also exceptional in quality…”
The letter section of SYZYGYhas some interesting bits.
Marion Zimmer Bradley writes:
“I take it from your remark in your editorial (I’ll become Miriam Carr”) that you are being married, not adopted, by Terry.”
Charles Burbee offers a very interesting explanation as to why Francis T. Laney blew the lid off LA fandom with his expose AH, SWEET IDIOCY! Especially since Harry Warner was unable to come up with any explanation at all, commenting that anyone who compared AH, SWEET IDIOCY to St. Augustine’s CONFESSIONS would find “the saint’s work the more pallid of the two.”
“Particularly perplexing is the extreme violence of Laney’s harping on homosexuality in Los Angeles fandom. There is no reason why he should have expected the club to be any more free from fairies than the average Boy Scout Troop or Sunday School Class.”
(Harry’s job as a reporter evidently gave him a more knowledgeable perspective on reality than most.)
But according to Burbee:
“Did I ever tell you my opinion as to why Laney was against homosexuals? We all know he disliked them but now I’ll tell you why. His best friend in fandom was seduced by an LA fan and Laney lost him utterly to homosexuality. From then on FTL disliked homos … but remember he was not railing at homosexuality per se but actually was crying ‘Stop thief!’”
Well, there’s an old fannish saying, something to the effect that “All knowledge is found in fanzines.” Or is that “all explanations”? At any rate Burbee’s “revelation” of why the emotional level of portions of AH, SWEET IDIOCY! seem like a personal vendetta rings true.
Terrible thing, really. It’s just not on to reveal that fans are as human as anyone else. Frustratingly egalitarian. Might even give mundanes the impression we’re not really Slans after all. A sad day for Ghu.
Overall I have to say SYZYGY was a darn good fanzine full of interesting stuff. Still shaking my head at Miriam’s threat to cut off Bob Tucker though …
Oh, and the meaning of SYZYGY?
“Point at which the heavenly bodies are in conjunction or opposition, esp. the moon with the sun.”
I gather this is somehow symbolic of Miriam and Terry’s recent marriage. Well, it’s as good a theory as any.
#1 – Adkins
#2 – Atom
#3 – Atom
#4 – Adkins
#5 – Ray Nelson
#6 – Atom
#7 – Atom
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