gostak index


For a short period between March 1966 and June 1968, British science fiction fan Peter Weston, now famous for his excellent fanzine SPECULATION and his superb memoir of a sf fan WITH STARS IN MY EYES, produced under the pseudonym 'Malcolm Edwards' a short series of columns of fannish commentary and fanzine reviews for the British Science Fiction Association's journal VECTOR. Never before collected, here is an opportunity to get a glimpse of how it was.

March 1966

April 1966


March 1967

July 1967

June 1968

The last ever installment of BEHIND THE SCENES, published in
VECTOR 250 of January 2007.

It was  forty years ago -

My copy of the British SF Association's magazine, VECTOR, issue 43, dated March 1967, was a really big thing for me. I'd been aware of sf fandom for while, my curiosity and interest aroused and increased by various mentions of fandom in the back-issue magazines I enthusiastically collected, and in Kingsley Amis' NEW MAPS OF HELL and Damon Knight's IN SEARCH OF WONDER, books I read and re-read with endless fascination. Then there was the column 'Our Man In Fandom', by Lin Carter, which appeared in the then-current British reprints of WORLDS OF IF, and then, incredibly, in one of the last of the hard-to-get Compact issues of NEW WORLDS, a small-ad for the BSFA itself. Dazzlement! Enchantment! I joined instantly.

Even the rather rudimentary nature - poorly duplicated, folded foolscap paper -  of the magazine that eventually arrived (after a worrying delay, the BSFA being in one its occasional disorganised phases) was no deterrent to my growing enthusiasm. Unlike so many sf readers who seem to be unaccountably frightened by the unfamiliar I was deeply attracted to the new world of sf fandom with its sometimes unusual terminology, and even the sense that everyone knew everyone else except me was no real barrier. Of course as the only sf reader in school - as I was at that time - I was used to being the outsider, no question.

I read that issue of VECTOR so many times I'm surprised the pages didn't drop to shreds from the endless eyetracks; all of it was new and absorbing, but the prime delight was the BEHIND THE SCENES column by one Malcolm Edwards. This character wrote fluently and knowledgeably about fandom, fans and fanzines and sounded like the right sort of person, absolutely. If only I knew someone like that, I thought. But there were no fans within at least a hundred miles of where I lived at the time, so maybe I'd better get a burst on and get into this fanzine thing, learn the language, find out who's who about town. And I did. Not without incident, including a letter to the BSFA complaining about how all those Big Name Fans just wouldn't get off their high horses once in a while to help the poor struggling neophyte. Well, I was just sixteen, and much more stupid then.

Eventually of course I discovered more of the BEHIND THE SCENES columns in other issues of VECTOR - though never as many as there should have been - and even found that 'Malcolm Edwards' was actually Peter Weston, who was already hugely famous to me through his inspired editing and producing of the excellent sf fanzine SPECULATION, to which I was already a subscriber. And one day I actually met Peter Weston. And one day too, several years later, we actually had sensible conversations, and a bit later became quite matey indeed.

Even more incredibly, about three years after the 'Malcolm Edwards' column ceased in 1967, along came a Real Malcolm Edwards, a younger fan who was nothing to do with BEHIND THE SCENES, and who himself became a genuine Big Name Fan for a number of years - including editing VECTOR in one of its best periods. Malcolm eventually became what is perhaps the Biggest Name Fan you can be as a top man in a variety of publishers, often with a serious and constructive involvement with science fiction, the Gollancz SF MASTERWORKS being only one of his genuinely substantial achievements.

Anyway, for those of you unable or too idle to get hold of those forty-odd-year-old back issues of VECTOR, here's a complete set of the BEHIND THE SCENES columns, and a new installment writen for the 250th issue of VECTOR in 2007. OK, I know they won't have anything like the impact on the reader here in the 21st century (another world altogether from that of the late 1960s, I can tell you) but they're worth a read, and believe me there's some little observations in them that are as - perhaps even more - valid today than they were at the time. They deserve reading. More than once.

Greg Pickersgill


maintains it was


Rog Peyton was responsible for the ‘Malcolm Edwards’ columns. In early 1966 he was coming to the end of his second year as editor of the BSFA’s VECTOR,  and realised he was going to have a hole to fill.  Vector had always relied upon a couple of regular columns, one being ‘For Your Information’ by London fan Jim Groves, who was in process of emigrating to the United States.  The other fixture had faded away; this had been ‘Dr Peristyle,’ a similar question-and-answer session in which the perennial query was always, “Who is ‘Dr Peristyle?’"  (Amazingly, no-one ever guessed the obvious; it was Brian Aldiss, President of the Association).

I was deeply absorbed with my sercon fanzine ZENITH at the time, preparing for the great title-change to SPECULATION, but a few months earlier Rog had witnessed my Pauline conversion to ultra-fannish fan (with the discovery of THE ENCHANTED DUPLICATOR and some of the great fanzines from the recent past) and so he asked if I was interested in writing a fanzine review feature.  Since I was getting most of the current fanzines in trade I was in a good position to do this, and I relished the opportunity of trying my hand at something more fannish.  Foolishly, I made the mistake of using a pen name.  Again, I can see the hand of Rog in this – he was always intrigued by pseudonyms, and I suspect he tempted me with the thought that a new ‘mystery man’ would excite the same sort of curiosity as had the elusive “Dr Peristyle”. So we put our heads together and decided on some misdirection, choosing my pseudonym by combining the names of two authors with whom Rog was corresponding at the time, these being Donald Malcolm and Edward Mackin, both members of the BSFA.

The first instalment appeared in VECTOR 38 (March 1966) and was deliberately intended to be controversial, reviving the old controversy about the purpose of the Association.  My title came from a throwaway remark in the first paragraph, and in “Behind the Scenes” I set out to promote the various aspects of fandom to the BSFA members.  I enjoyed writing the columns and in one issue emulated James Blish by giving a tough review to my own work (that’ll really fool ‘em, I thought).  It was my first attempt at structured fan writing rather than last-minute composed-on-stencil pieces for NEXUS, but far from the buzz of surmise and speculation we’d hoped for, the columns attracted almost no attention.  

Looking back, it was an object lesson in stupidity; how to do a lot of work and get absolutely no egoboo.  Worse, under my own name the columns might have improved my image among older fans, at a time when many of them still regarded me as some sort of sercon devil.   And as we all know, I inadvertently smoothed the way for a real 'Malcolm Edwards,' who by incredible coincidence popped up shortly after the last column was published and became the only real competitor to Speculation in the early seventies.  Cosmic jest, do you think?

More information can be gained from Peter Weston's really superb autobiography of a science fiction fan, WITH STARS IN MY EYES ,  from NESFA Press , very much recommended ; see also this webbed supplement to the book at Bill Burns' EFANZINES website.