The Clubhouse; Fanzine Reviews

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Fanzine reviewed: TWIG

 

Twig (V.2 #3 Whole Number #8) April 1958

Faned: Guy Terwilleger

RG Cameron Clubhouse Apr 1 - 2016 Illo #1 'COVER'

In 1958 Guy Terwilleger was a (high school?) teacher in Boise Idaho. His fellow teacher Tim Simpson stated Guy was “the only active fan he knows of” in Boise.

“It is a proud and lonely thing to be a fan,” said somebody (in 1949).

But, like so many fen before him (1930’s Canadian fan Nils Helmer Frome springs to mind) he didn’t let mere isolation keep him from active fanac. After all, that was what the Post office was for! In his day Guy was a reasonably active fan. At least eight issues of TWIG published and probably more. He was a charter member of N’APA, the APA of the National Fan Fantasy Federation; he published two well-received Fanthologys covering fannish writings for 1957 and 1958, (including works by Shaw, Berry, Grennell, Willis and other famous fen—which suggests he traded TWIG extensively for some of the best fanzines around), and was noted for his buzz cut and snappy bow ties.

On top of all that, he wrote a fanzine review column (however briefly) for Ray Palmer’s FLYING SAUCERS FROM OTHER WORLDS magazine possibly starting in June of 1957. Inasmuch as after the fourth issue FSFOW carried no science fiction (apart from the articles which purported to be true) a fanzine column would seem slightly out of place so I’m guessing it didn’t last long.

RG Cameron Clubhouse Apr 1 - 2016 Illo #2 'CAPED LADY'

Seems Guy wanted really good essays for his genzine. However, in the previous issue he evidently did a fine job of “misleading” his readers. Apparently he had stated he didn’t want “fannish” material. What he meant, it turns out, was that he didn’t want poor quality fan writing but it was OK to send in good stuff. And when he had said he wanted “material slanted toward the adult mind,” he didn’t mean teenagers were banned from submitting material to his zine, he just wanted to publish writing a tad more sophisticated than standard juvenilia. Misunderstandings all around.

Still, Laurence K. Randall submitted a workmanlike account of Lon Chaney’s film career titled “The Phantom never Dies.” This was about the time Ackerman’s FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND was starting up and close to when the old Universal Horror Films were being shown on TV for the first time via SHOCK THEATRE, so the timing was good. The “Monster” craze was about to begin. In light of the extensive research into film and actors which exploded in later years, the article can be described as “basic” but useful to anyone who knows nothing about Lon Chaney Sr. which was probably the majority of younger fen in 1958 when you consider that silent films were seldom if ever revived in theatres back then and probably not at all on TV as yet.

Guy was pleased to print an essay by his co-worker Tim Simpson which he described as “a fairly good article by a non-fan.” However he was at pains to disassociate himself from the views expressed. Not surprising, really.

“As I see Fandom” is the title of the article. Tim had evidently borrowed a stack of STARTLING STORIES and AMAZINGS in the forties and quickly grown bored with “spaceships and ray guns.” Ten years later, he was informed “a great change had taken place in the field” and once again borrowed a stack of prozines, this time consisting of back issues of GALAXY and ASTOUNDING. He agreed a change had taken place … for the worse.

“I soon tired of telepaths, psi powers, dianetics, psionics and the various other ‘gimmicks of the future brain’.”

Someone, probably Guy, loaned him some fanzines. Tim was not impressed.

“I’ve been suffering under the delusion that science fiction fandom was for science fiction enthusiasts. After reading several … I discover how wrong I am. What in hell are a group of folk music lovers, hot rodders, and I suspect a few sex something or others, and various other hobbyists doing in fandom? … the assumption that a true science fiction reader is out of place is rather ridiculous to me.”

It is indeed extremely difficult to explain to non-fannish SF&F fen (let alone mundanes) why science fiction fanzines often have little to do with science fiction.

“… what Guy calls fannish fiction (I abhor these fan terms that clutter fandom’s writing)” Tim finds vaguely humorous but nothing rewarding. He doesn’t understand why tales about missing bookcases or trips to the post office trigger “fans to rave about them as being great.” He finds it all rather dull.

“I don’t understand, either, how some of you … take the crap certain fractions of fandom dish out so readily. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I’ll be damned if I’d let some evidently incompetent, childish, egotistical person tell me what was what. The proud ego of these self-styled gods of fandom is really over-bearing to the point of an attack of nausea.”

“The whole thing boils down to this: what was once a constructive element backing a progressive type of fiction has turned into a trivial bunch of nincompoops listening for the sound of their own glory to fall resoundingly around their ears. Fandom has become almost entirely self-centered in the individual fan.”

Can’t get much more hostile than this. Evidently Tim didn’t “get” fandom.

RG Cameron Clubhouse Apr 1 - 2016 Illo #3 'ROBOT'

On the other hand, someone else you’d might expect to come down hard on fanzines, namely Frederic Wertham, whose book SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT blew the lid off the comic book industry, later studied SF&F fanzines and wrote a book extolling their virtues, declaring them wonderfully creative and a positive force encouraging young writers to stretch and expand their minds. He considered fanzines a very decent and worthwhile literary phenomena. Will wonders never cease?

But non-fanzine fans converting to zinedom is not something accomplished in a day through superficial reading of just a few issues. Newbies have to do what Wertham did, immerse themselves in a huge number of zines to grasp a sense of the whole, then go further and plunge into the interchange of thought and opinion to become a part of the ongoing process and truly “feel” what zinedom is all about. Zinedom is all of a piece. A “glimpse” does not suffice. You have to swallow it whole before you can begin to taste it.

A daunting task I admit. Yet once swallowed not only tasty but highly addictive. The trick is to motivate newbies to dare that first huge bite. Being a living example of someone gleefully enjoying a tremendous hobby goes a long way toward convincing newbies it’s worth the effort. At least, that’s my theory.

In his editorial Guy fretted over the state of zine reviews: “Where are the overlords of fandom? Where are our new critics who aren’t afraid to say what they really mean? … Too many of us are staying in the same rut because the comments on what we are doing are so placid. With no outright criticism, complacency sets in …”

Guy then reviews 17 fanzines. To what effect? I will quote select portions and let you decide if Guy is meeting his goal of offering genuine criticism.

FANAC (by Ron Ellik & Terry Carr) – “A new ‘news and chatterzine’ … We have needed something like this for a long time … It’s nice to have a zine giving out with the latest.”

SCIENCE FICTION TIMES (by James V. Taurisi & Ray Van Houten) – “One of the outstanding zines for a long time … [but now] most of the real news is old. Of interest, even if it is late.”

CRY OF THE NAMELESS (by “The Namesless Ones” of Seattle) – “The letter column is the finest part … The CRY is a zine that grows on you … I do hate to see so much of this zine being taken over by one group of fen though … Renfrew Pemberton still has the best prozine review in any fanzine. His comments are to the point and he doesn’t spare the scalpel just to be nice …”

GIRN (by Robert E. Gilbert) – “There are six masterful block prints in this half-size zine. The material itself is not outstanding, but get it for the art.”

RG Cameron Clubhouse Apr 1 - 2016 Illo #4 'WOUNDED'

OOPSLA (by Gregg Caulkins) – “For pure faanish type writing, this is the tops … Caulkins must be a TRUE fan … on having been published for six years … More zines with faanish type material like this and old TWIG could be wooed over to the field.”

SATA ILLUSTRATED – “Still, without a doubt, the most beautiful reproduction of art as Pearson and Adkins are masters of the ditto … Letters and fanzine reviews round out a below-par issue, as far as material goes, superior as far as the art.”

READERS DIGESTED (by Leslie Girber) – “I guess I should give a rather digested review as there isn’t much to comment on … filled with news and trivia.”

VAMPIRE (by Stoney Barnes) – “Only one more issue.”

METROFAN (by David Macdonald) – “… of primary interest to the fans of New York, but there is interest here for the more casual reader. Such as the ‘Dave Kyle Confidential’ feature of this ish. If DK has done all this article says he has, there has indeed been dirty work at the crossroads. Also of interest is ‘The Tragedy of Sam Moskowitz’, a parody in a fannish vein on William Shookelspook, the man who said that all that golders is not glist. How true, how true.”

SPHERE – “… informative and interesting. Of the poetry in thish, none is outstanding, but a short fable, ‘The Vow’, is quite good. Letters, plus a long story by yours truly, finish out the issue.”

VOID – “John Berry comes out with the best item in this issue. His ‘Son of Berry’ is up to his usual high standards … Kent Moomaw comes through with ‘Lowings in the Field,’ a column of trivia … the boy gets better as time goes by …” [Sadly, Moomaw committed suicide about seven months after this issue of TWIG came out. He was only 18 years of age.] “… a zine with a strong backbone of letters. For some reason, most fans seem to like reading letters of comment. Makes me wonder why you don’t see more successful letter-zines coming out.”

YANDRO (by Buck and Juanita Coulson) – “… do a fine job. Three of the best sections are always ‘Ramblings,’ ‘Rumblings,’ and ‘Grumblings.’ Two editorials and letters in that order … I have learned to appreciate Gene DeWeese’s movie reviews … The one on ‘Fire Maidens of Outer Space’ was no letdown. My choice of top piece for this issue, though, would go to Ed Wood and his ‘Realities at Thirty-One and One-Half,’ a matter of fact presentation of what he thinks of current SF trends.”

HAZE (by Vince Roach) – “… would do well to check over its layout and get the material together instead of scattering it about so much … Vince has done a fine job of duping, just needs to watch where he puts things … John Mussell’s two sci-fi fables are the best in the issue, followed closely by ‘An SF Fan Goes Slumming’.”

RG Cameron Clubhouse Apr 1 - 2016 Illo #5 'OUT HOUSE'

DEMENTIA PRAECOX – “Slanted for the more adult minded, in other words, the older fen, but interesting, none the less.”

OMNIVORE (by Bob Ross) – “I would say …” [of the total number of zines published in 1957] “… the total exceeds fifty, easily, and these were all zines that had come out at least twice … and doesn’t take into account the new ones that saw only one edition … It’s easy to say one of the most pretentious of these is designed to be a literary fanzine … it is worth looking over. Could go into detail on changes of format that are needed, but have been informed they are being made.”

IMPROBABLE (by Vowen Clark) – “The reproduction … has me wondering … done on Hectograph? … best job done with that medium I have ever seen. ‘First Contact’ is a story by Colin Cameron that could have been much better … Hugh Redmon’s famous murder case left me cold. An attempt at fannish fiction that didn’t jell too well … reviews of books … at present lack the vim it takes to do a good job of covering … worth a try.”

SIGBO (by Jerry DeMuth) – “… takes up the question of SF films, and in the various articles, comes up with a readable issue. The thought of an entire zine on SF films rather takes one aback … I’d pick Bob Tucker’s ‘James Dean Meets the Apeman’ as tops … When I saw that Champion was reviewing ‘Mesa of Lost Women’, I had hoped for a better understanding of this film. I don’t know any more now than I did before, but was more amused by the article than by the movie.”

All of these reviews are still pretty much the uninformative type which, in my previous column, I quoted Joseph Nicholas ranting about as useless. For the most part vague and not really presenting a sense of what the zines in question are about except in general terms.

If I were a newbie back in 1958 seeking zines to trade with, I would probably, after reading these reviews, contact FANAC, CRY OF THE NAMELESS, OOPSLA, METROFAN, VOID, YANDRO, OMNIVORE, and SIGBO. The others sound boring and dull. If true, Guy has done his job. I just wish he’d been more to the point, more descriptive, and offered interesting quotes.

If these reviews represented his new commitment to a no-holds-banned approach, I shudder to contemplate how placid and relaxing his reviews in the previous issues were like.

In the letter column Kent Moomaw exhibits greater “vim” than does Guy’s reviews:

“Oh come now, Guy: how can you fabricate this tale of a powerful, fandom-wide teen age pressure group on the basis of one damn letter from someone who disagreed with your choices in prozines? Is there evidence that this group you speak of actually exists? Have any other editors been complaining of receiving similar type letters? In short, do you have the least idea what the heck you’re talking about? Perhaps you have access to some information I don’t know about, and that this teen Age Conformity Cult is real … but until I see some evidence, I’m going to doubt it very much. Indeed, it seems to me that if any such group of conformists exists in fandom today, it’s not composed of teenagers, but of older, middle-aged, married types.”

Now THAT’S a choice piece of criticism!

RG Cameron Clubhouse Apr 1 - 2016 Illo #6 'BLAST OFF'

ART CREDITS:

#1 (Cover) – Dan Adkins

#2 – Juanita Coulson

#3 – Bourne

#4 – Dan Adkins

#5 – Deindorfer

#6 – Dan Adkins

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

And while checking out OBIR, click on the sub-heading “Polar Borealis Magazine” to see the first issue of my semi-pro SF&F fiction zine.

2 COMMENTS

  1. As with all fan writing, a good review must be a balance between keeping the facts straight, serving the reader’s needs, and enlivening the presentation.

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