originally published in VECTOR 40, 1966,
BEHIND THE SCENES - Malcolm Edwards
I do hope that I’m not regarded as any Great Authority on things fannish, although I will admit when pushed that there are few others around still willing to put opinion to paper. For despite the monumental conceit with which I sort wheat from chaff and present only the kernels judged most fit for consumption to BSFA members, I have yet to be more than mildly singed by the enthusiastic fire of publishing ny own fan-magazine. Somehow I feel I can be so much more objective from this comfortable position, and the occasional letter of comment and this interminable column satisfy my creative urge quite admirably.
Your editor told me some lies about my column being “well written”, and then spoilt my euphoria with that horrible qualifier “but”. “But,” he said, “can’t you be a bit different? Can’t you do anything besides review fanzines?”
Stung even through my thick skin, I told Steve (who I’m glad to say is as amenable to reason as the late great Rog Peyton) that there was precious little activity among British fandom other than fan-publishing, and would he rather I made up interesting but imaginary little anecdotes about the Social Side of Things?
But I’d probably admit if pressed that Steve does have a point. I do attempt to vary this monologue as much as I can, even though the writer-to-reader relationship in this case is about as crsytally-lucid as are our London fogs. Do complain if I get more than usually tedious - do tell (via Steve) if you want me to write about any particular subject. I’ll do my best to give satisfaction, unpaid as I am.
Meantime, the spring flood of fan-magazines did materialise, despite my predictions to that effect. My mailbox has recently been swamped with as many as three different fanzines in one day (and I hope the BSFA will contribute to the tips I’ve had to give my postman, as well as to the high cost of subscriptions to all of these things). As well as fanzines, a couple of other interesting items need attention, which they will promptly be given.
First. I’ve seen a copy of the “Fanzine Index” recently reprinted by Harold Palmer Piser. Now this is a monumental work, over 150 typed pages bound in attractively-printed loose-leaf covers, complete with black and gold index tabs and all sorts of other refinements. I’m not exactly sure what use this index can be to anyone, but experience indicates that this problem solves itself. When you have available an index to every fanzine ever published, up to 1952, you can’t help but find it valuable. Certainly I want a copy of this volume for my own small library, and I’ve sent 7/6d off to the British agent, Mike Ashley, at 2 Shurlands Avenue, Sittingbourne, Kent. There should be enough copies left for everyone... even though the index has been (and will be again) out of print for many years. Join the queue....?
Secondly, a less inspiring report from the BSFA (who’ve chosen me as the bearer of their bad news). Despite all the work that has been put into it, the Fanzine Foundation is still disorganised and as far away as ever from issuing a catalog of items available to members on loan. The Foundation in its present incarnations has gained some 5000 items, but that’s another story ... So, until the Association gets a curator and librarian rather than overworked Treasurer Charles Winstone, little progress can be made. Volunteers...?
Now to the meat of the month, even though my space has been sadly depleted through no-one’s fault but my own. Did I ever mention that you could, if sufficiently interested, divide fan-writings and fan-magazines into three distinct categories? I rather suspect that this profound observation has been dredged from the limbo to which my unwritten writings are consigned. In any case the fact is easily demonstrable - any accumulation of fanzines can be broken down into (serious) magazines about sf, (serious) magazines about almost anything, including sf, and humourous magazines. I personally regard the last class, when done well, as the finest specimen of fannish art. There’s only one really able performer of this breed that keeps on coming and that is Walt Willis’ immortal HYPHEN. One of these years, when an issue of this monthly comes out, I’ll review it glowingly. Until then I’ll be damned if I’ll give the Willis any more praise than my usual hero-worship.
But a good contender in years gone by was the American VOID, published for 28 issues by half of American fandom under the dynamic leadership of Ted White. (VOID never officially threw in the towel, though the last issue published came out around 1961 – you may yet see a resurrection.)
For the present, we must be content with QUIP, a comparative newcomer, published by comparative newcomers and deliberately and openly modelled after all that was best in VOID. I have issues 1 & 2 of QUIP to hand, and if you ever read this I shall have at least a 3rd. And the prognosis is favourable - these issues are big and they’re good. They’re humourous and interesting in a fairly adult and witty way. Damn it, they made me laugh!
Some of my pleasure comes, I’m sure, from being on writing terms with many of the people mentioned within the covers, and from knowing of their little idiosyncracies that are played upon in the magazine. But I’ve had as little opportunity as you to meet New York fandom, and if I can pick it up and enjoy it, I’m sure you can. So try a few issues of QUIP, at 2/- per copy from Arnie Katz, Apt. 479b, Allenhurst Rd, N.Y. 14226, USA. The old, old dollar problem remains - solve it however you can (and see my last sparkling advice column)
Working back through my list, there is the ‘general’ fanzine, in which you may find fairly serious discussion on almost any topic. There are a lot in this particular rowboat, such as DOUBLE:BILL and YANDRO (which I previously reviewed) and another big regular offering, NIEKAS. (That means “nothing”, incidentally, it’s Lithuanian!)
NIEKAS is so big and so regular that it depresses me to have to think of witty letters to write to the editors. (That’s another virulent trend - notice how many fanzines are team-efforts these days?) I think that NIEKAS will get a deserved Hugo Award this year, for best amateur magazine - and then its editors will be able to die weary, penniless, but happy!
Current issue is No 15. It is over 60 pages long, costs 2/6d, and I won’t even attempt to review it. Sneaky, eh? There’s a piece on early Christianity that fascinated me, and otherwise all sorts of this and that. Give it a try by sending your money to British agent Graham Hall, 57 Church Street, Tewkesbury, Gloucs.
Last but never least is a lone British fanzine, SCOTTISHE from Ethel Lindsay. Now I must watch my step here, for Ethel lives just down - or up - the road from me, altogether too close for comfort when I say that I just don’t appreciate SCOT. Considering that it usually has a Willis column, and all sorts of odd items, not the worst being Ethel’s own writings, this zine has everything to make it one of the top zines, and is so considered elewhere.
But it still doesn’t quite click into my mental pattern for some reason. I just can’t get a letter written to SCOT that says anything about all the fascinating things being discussed. Perhaps I’m wrong to ascribe what may be my own failing to the magazine, but I can’t give SCOT full marks on this column’s scoreboard. You may quite likely have exactly the opposite opinion, and I’d advise you to try SCOT, at 4 issues for 7/6d from Ethel at Courage House, 6 Langley Ave, Surbiton, Surrey.
And that is almost that for another grand finale. I didn’t get around to covering my last category, did I? - but I consider that my previous reviews of RIVERSIDE QUARTERLY & ZENITH SPECULATION cover the field here quite fully. Perhaps I’ll review a new issue of these next time; I notice that Editor Weston has turned out two new issues of ZS and has made all sorts of happy announcements about his October issue.
And finally, I’ll tantalise you with the names of DYNATRON, FUSION, and AMRA, names of goodies that I’ve received and solemnly promise to write about some other time.