In a post on Facebook, long time fan, editor and con-runner Gary Farber (credited with championing Fan History exhibitions at Worldcons and other conventions after they had grown moribund) reminded us all that the Rusty Hevelin Fanzine Collection that the University of Iowa continues to digitize those dusty, musty, twill tone & mimeo-inked fannish time capsules, all of which are available for a look-see and a read.
Rusty (James LeRoy) Hevelin was a member of First Fandom, arriving on the shores of LASFS in the 1940s, attending Denvention 1 in 1941 (the 3rd Worldcon) and quickly became a fanzine publisher, fan historian, pulp collector and regular convention attendee.
Over the years Rusty has been the Fan Guest of Honor at Denvention II, the 1981 Worldcon, a recipient of the 2003 Sam Moskowitz award for excellence in collecting, the Big Heart Award for service to science fiction and, in 2012, the Rusty Hevelin Service Award was named in his honor, the award presented at Pulpcon to persons who have given of themselves to the pulp community.
Rusty’s fanzine collection was donated to the University of Iowa – some 10,000 volumes – and volunteer help has been busily digitizing them for public consumption ever since.
Boy, what a ride it can be, digging back into fannish history, a Schliemann-like dive down through the layers of time. Be forewarned though – many of these volumes are rife with fanspeak, fannish monikers and references to bits of history that may leave you scratching your head in wonder, trying to puzzle out the signifigance of subjects that, by there very presence seem to carry import.
Remember also that conversations, arguments and even feuds only took place at the speed of snail mail: 3 to 5 days to cross the country and the same for a return (of course, composing, typesetting, printing, collating and mailing would add time as well).
If you dive right in, you might find yourself at a bit of a loss, though websites such as FANAC The Fan History Project and Fancyclopedia can give you some background. (If you’re really inspired to dive into the details, pick up Moskowitz’s The Immortal Storm, Harry Warner’s All Our Yesterdays and A Wealth of Fable, Knight’s The Futurians, Then by Robert Hansen, Pohl’s The Way the Future Was, Asimov’s In Memory Yet Green.)
Speaking of Then, Robert Hansen’s history of British Fandom, I was reminded of the fact that David Langford maintains his long running fanzine Ansible (where he publishes a variety of works including Hansen’s history) which, serendipitously, covers a museum exhibit devoted to the Gestetner and mimeo art (the Gestetner was a brand of mimeograph machine, popular among fannish publishers).
On the other hand, a bit of head scratching is part of the fun as you read through some of these stories texts. Take, for example, the first page of Bob Tucker’s Le Zombie (vol 2, whole no. 24 from 1940) and the letter column (LoCs – Letters of Comment – were a BIG THING in fanzines) which appears under the heading –
-our own vox plop–
OPEN LETTER TO ALL GHOULS DEPT: -Again this issue we present a cover by Le Zombie’s own “find”, Damon Knight. If you don’t like it, tak, tak..,if you do, pause and snicker. Palmer rejected it. -bt
This is followed by a letter from “Ack”, proclaiming that he had resigned from the SFL prior to being removed from office, stating “”One fan may not serve 2 masters,” & my support, for what it’s worth is for Super Science Science Fictioneers“;
a letter from Jack Speer recounting a meeting between a “westerner, a south westerner and a damnyankee” wherein he refers to this meeting’s hall as rivalling the first convention’s “First Phone Booth Convention”;
Bob Tucker pokes fun at “Ack” as “Balloon Pants Acky;
and notes discussing the formation of fan groups that will affiliate with the IFF.
“Ack/Acky is Forrest J Ackerman; Damon Knight is, of course, the founder of SFWA; the Palmer referred to is Raymond A. Palmer, then editor of Amazing Stories; Balloon Pants probably refers to Ackerman’s costume at the first Worldcon; the IFF is the Illini Fantasy Fictioneers, one of several attempts at a nation-wide fan group set up to rival the Science Fiction League.
If you are in any way intrigued by any of this, you need to visit the Hevelin collection and get to reading!