originally published in VECTOR 43, March 1967,
edited by Doreen Parker for the British Science Fiction Association.

BEHIND THE SCENES - Malcolm Edwards

One of the best things about fandom is that you get plenty of post.

When I was a lot younger I used to write to different firms for samples, or to offices and magazines for information. I still remember the piles of gloomy prints the Martin Company in Denver sent me (they make the Titan ICBM); and the number of times I badgered the poor old British Interplanetary Society for specimen copies of their Journal.

But fandom proved to be a lot more fun.

In those early months I dived into fan-activity. As I heard of new fanzines I wrote for free sample copies (a practice, incidentally, at which fan-editors shudder, for they have quite enough troubles without subsidising their readers). When I received a fanzine I used to sit down, there and then, and write a long letter to the editor or to contributors who sounded interesting and whose addresses were given. When I discovered VECTOR and the Mail Response column I was overjoyed; then I received Ron Bennett’s Skyrack Newsletter and found that was the essential for a fan.

Ah, happy days! Each new fanzine opened up more possibilities and most of the people I wrote to answered me. I began to receive an unending stream of letters, fanzines, and all manner of cryptic notes (and some very nice foreign stamps which I steamed loose for my collection). And when after six months or so people began writing to me because they’d seen name somewhere, that was sheer bliss.

But then one day I didn’t feel like writing letters, I wanted to go out drinking, or something like that as we all do now and then. A few letters accumulated that needed answering, and by the time I’d cleared this pile, another heap had grown up. (it was about this time that I discovered filing systems, and invented my special URGENT - ANSWER YESTERDAY file, which promptly silted up.)

And I discovered something else; that the faster I sent off letters, the faster they were answered. The more correspondence I cleared, the more accumulated within a few days.

Now this seemed a bit ridiculous, especially when we’d all reached the stage of writing answers-to-answers-to-replies-to-letters to a couple of dozen more times removed. For a time I maintained an elaborate system of files and even a post book, but then it dawned on me that all this wasn’t worth the trouble.

My correspondants were probably cursing me as roundly as I cursed them. We were racing to shuttle letters backwards and forwards. Something snapped and an inner voice sobbed "Enough!”

So here I am; pseudonymous and a lazy letter writer, with plenty of time to tipple and with a huge red file of CRASH PRIORITY mail under my bed. I sometimes dust it off guiltily and think about writing, but the feeling usually passes. Does this explain why you haven’t heard from me?

But I do miss that postman.....

Tom Jones writes from the North to ask me to “say something about local fan-clubs, report on what a meeting at such a club is like, and discuss where some of the fannish terms such as ‘gafia’ originated.”

Thank you Mr. Jones, and I asked for that.

But I really haven’t been to any local fan-clubs for some time. There has been very little activity in the capital (for that sentiment read; ‘they haven’t invited me”), And in any case, every fan-club is different.

The Manchester Group were ambitious, and rented a clubroom, printed a magazine and made some films. The Birmingham Group used to visit a member’s house and play games and talk sf over cups of tea (they later moved to a pub and stopped botherering with sf - or tea). The defunct Cheltenham Circle had their own basement library-cum-house, while assorted London Groups had Plans.

In the Tyneside area a group of dyed-in-the-wool fans have been meeting in a pub for years, and they all crawl out of the woodwork at Convention-time. The Group includes Phil Harbottle, Jim Marshall, and Con Turner, while people such as Richard Gordon at Newcastle University sometimes show up. Enthusiasts in that area would be best to contact Phil for any further details.

And if there is no club in your area. why not start one?

As for fan-talk, as we in the trade call fannish chatter, I can give only a little explanation.

For instance, back in my second paragraph I mentioned “fan-activity”, if the editor hasn’t cut it out. Which is well and good, but much easier to write and say as one word fan-ac. At some time in the distant past (well, say 20 years and be not too far wrong), some fan was the very first to think of that abbreviation. And when he introduced the term in his fanzine (fan-magazine) he received lots of ego-boo (ego-boosting, or praise; the whole of fandom has been defined as an apparatus for producing pure egoboo) from his subbers (subscribers) when they wrote their LoCs (Letters of Comment). Who knows, perhaps this fan-ed (fan editor) dupered (duplicated) reams of fan-ac (but you know this one), became an acti-fan (active fan), and finally burnt himself out and went gafia (this one is tricky; watch it; Get-Away-From-It-All).

Gafia was introduced about 25 years ago, and curiously has gone through an inversion in meaning. Originally, ‘to gafiate’ meant to Get Away from Mundania (the everyday world) by diving into fandom. Today it means the opposite; to Get Away from Fandom after it has become too much of a burden. Gafia is rarely permanent; once a fan is hooked he is a fan for life.

There you are, that’s fan-talk for you. More information can be obtained from the very excellent (and very amusing) FANCYCLOPEDIA II published in 1959 by Dick Eney. It’s 125 pages thick, and out of print, but the BSFA Library in Liverpool has a copy.