gostak index



Page under construction.
This version -
15th September 2007.

The Printing and Distribution Service. Now here's an interesting thing, a minor byway of the history of the British science fiction community, indeed, and a piece of BSFA history too, and one that might well be totally forgotten.
But not yet...


A PaDS fanzinography

Some PaDSzine covers

PaDs - brave new idea

PaDS began with Charles Platt and a burst of enthusiasm. Platt was an extremely enthusiastic young sf fan, who since engaging with fand a year or so earlier had been very active, producing a number of fanzines ranging from the blatantly silly (GORMLESS) to the genuinely serious and constructive (BEYOND). He took sf and fandom seriously, seriously enough to want and expect a high level of informed participation. At that stage in his career he was most definately inclined to be a builder rather than a breaker, and certainly a supportive of the BSFA; in BEYOND 5, dated - with some precison - 20th April 1964, he alerts the world ;

WOULD-BE FANZINE EDITORS: it is proposed to start the PADS, or publishing and distributing association, for BSFA members only. This service will include the duplication of your fanzine, and even the typing of it on to stencil if you are without a typewriter. Each member of PADS sends his stencils or manuscripts to me, stating the number of copies required, and preferably including payment in advance; I then duplicate all the magazines and send a copy of each to every member, plus extra copies when they're asked for. BUT, this service will be restricted to BSFA members ONLY; yet another inducement to join if you are not a member....

BEYOND 5 was produced and distributed immediately following the 1964 Eastercon (RePeterCon).
The first announcement to BSFA members, the apparent target audience, came in VECTOR 26 dated May 1964, in Rog Peyton's editorial;


At the con, Charles Platt volunteered to start the BSFA Publishing and Distribution Service (PADS). this is for would-be fan editors who have not got their own publishing facilities. Mrs Doreen Parker has volunteered to type stencils and Charles Platt will duplicate them. PADS is open to all members of the BSFA. There is no membership fee, but members will, of course, be expected to pay for the materials used. It will operate like any other publishing association; ie each member contributes his own material and, in return, gets everyone else's sent to him. Charles is hoping to get the first mailing out in June and from then on at quarterly intervals. If anyone is interested please write to Charles Platt, 8 Sollershot West, Letchworth, Herts.

On the face of it, from a 21st century viewpoint, all this looks mad, unnecessary, or both. However it is worth remembering that in 1964 many people would certainly not have owned or even had easy access to a typewriter, much less a duplicator.  And that applies especially to the usually young people, commonly still living in cramped conditions in their parental home, who would have most wanted to publish a fanzine. This idea of Platt's was actually at root sensible, altruistic, and socially useful. The fact that the products of the plan were sometimes badly edited, ill-written, or unnattractively presented does not negate its genuine worth.

Rob Hansen's indispensable history of British sf fandom THEN says -

Though some of the zines it contained were ready in June, the first PaDS mailing didn't appear until October. It included fanzines by Newcastle's John Barfoot (BUMBLIE), Graham Hall (DOUBT), Charles Platt (INSOMNIA), Beryl Henleyand Mary Reed (LINK), Peter Weston (NEXUS), and Charlie Winstone (with WHIM, and NADIR 3 -- the first two issues having been general-circulation and edited by Weston). Hall had previously been critical of the efforts of those who produced fanzines, but after doing DOUBT, and discovering for himself what was involved, he never did another, confining himself to things such as book reviews for VECTOR. LINK anounced itself to be a 'femme-fanzine', a sort of successor to FEMIZINE (a position it soon abandoned), and contained the first of Mary Reed's 'Tribe-X' stories. These were a fan-fiction variation, with Reed, her friends, and a number of famous rock stars appearing in the tales under various pseudonyms (Reed herself appeared as 'Mushling', after the real-life life nickname, 'Mushy', she had acquired from a character in TV's 'Rawhide'). Most of the zines in this first mailing were quite promising, all also seeing some distribution outside, and it looked like PADS might have a bright future ahead of it.

Appropriately, one of the items in the first PaDs mailing of mid-1964 was from Platt, the one and only issue of INSOMNIA. The bulk of the four pages is as typical an example of pointless crud as any that Platt would later spend a lot of time accusing others of producing. Of course he undercut potential critics by the time-honoured escape of labelling it crud himself first. The only segment worth recalling from a 21st century viewpoint is the small section on PaDS itself;


AN HYSTERICAL EVENT : The first mailing of PADS. And only two months late too

Actually, PADS has no schedule; for the obvious reason that if it did have one, it wouldn't be kept. At least, not until everyone's got used to producing their own zines...
So are there any objections to my fixing the date of the next mailing at the middle of November 1964? This way the stuff should be out by Christmas - a Christmas issue, in fact - and after that perhaps a quarterly schedule can be stuck to fairly rigidly.

MORE FOLDED SHEEP NEEDED: One thing PADS needs is more members; and if anyone has any ideas on either new methods of recruiting (ie persuasion, brainwashing, violence, etc) or of people they think might be interested please send them (the ideas or the people - it doesn't matter which) along...

DRAGGED UP FROM THE CONFUSED DAYS OF YOUTH: And so to INSOMNIA - which in case you hadn't guessed it is Charles Platt's contribution to PADS. (The only reason PADS was started was so I could excrete crud (as Jim Marshall would say) over a captive audience).
In line with what I would like PADS to be, INSOMNIA I hope is going to be predominantly casual; and will contain anything that comes along. This issue there are one or two dregs dragged up from 5 years back when I was publishing a spirit duplicated rag containing general fiction, called 'Fact and Fiction in Confusion'. It lived to the third issue; when you see the items duplicated here that were to have appeared in the fourth CONFUSION, you'll know why it didn't last another issue.

The next mention of PaDS in BSFA publications comes with the inaugural issue of the BSFA BULLETIN, December 1965, edited and produced by Archie Mercer. In a 'Secretarial Report' Doreen Parker says

We have formed two new departments within the organisation. One, PaDS (the Printing and Distribution Service), was previously run for the benefit of members, though unofficially, by Charles Platt. 

In the same issue Archie Mercer writes -

PaDS, the Printing and Distribution Service of the BSFA is preparing to give birth to its first mailing under the BSFA's official auspices. Run by Archie Mercer and Beryl Henley, it promotes the exchange of amateur magazines produced by members of the BSFA. Members can if necessary have their magazines duplicated for them at cost by the service, and there is even a panel of volunteer typists to cut stencils (again at cost) for those without access to typrewriters. PaDS magazines are distributed to all PaDS members, and the editor can order as many copies as he requires.

It appears that Charles Platt had completely lost interest by this time, eighteen months after announcing his big new idea. Indeed Platt had contributed just three fanzines (one issue of INSOMNIA and two of GARBISTAN) to the first three PaDS mailings, and nothing thereafter.

To be continued...

 this space here will contain information on the Days of PaDs, as well as more about its beginnings

The final days of PaDs

It had, as we see above, become an arm of the BSFA and was powered in part by BSFA typists and duplicators even though some PaDszine producers were either doing the typing or duplicating themselves. Charles Platt had removed himself from the equation long since; despite an assertion in BEYOND 8 of April 1965, the last issue thereof, that "The PADS and my letter-writing will continue, but there'll be no more grand efforts." 'Grand efforts' in this case meaning large stand-alone fanzines such as BEYOND, one assumes, but this is all rather overwritten by his assertions in the same editorial that "Fandom is a waste of time" which no matter how he qualified it rather did change his position apropos the BSFA, conventions, fanzines, fandom, and the rest.

The end of PaDS may have come simply because Archie and Beryl Mercer, the two people on whom most of the responsibility for duplicating and sometimes stencil-typing fell, simply stopped being happy to do the work, or because there was a general lack of demand for the service. To a certain extent it could be assumed that the service would be used as long as someone else did it, but when the Mercers stopped no-one else cared enough to continue, despite a last-ditch effort by Dave Sutton detailed below.

Looking back it may even be true that the generally poor reputation that PaDszines had among fanzine fans generally gave the whole operation an unsavoury cast and newer fans who might otherwise have needed the sort of assistance on offer were unwilling to be associated with it. Certainly in the late 1960s and early 1970s the term 'PaDSszine' was shorthand for something badly written, badly edited, and unnattractively produced. That may not have been at all fair, but sf fans are, alas, no more immune from sheeplike behaviour and received wisdom than the rest of the populace.

The BSFA BULLETIN number 10 of January 1967 had this notice -

PaDs - the Printing and Dustributing service of the BSFA would like a new home. Archie and Beryl Mercer, the present administrators, are willing to try to keep it going for the remainder of 1967 if they can, but are becoming increasingly short of free time. Anybody with access to a duplicator and a certain amount of time to devote to the service interested in taking over?

The BSFA BULLETIN number 14, of September 1967, carried this slighlty more desperate announcement;

PaDS, the BSFA's Printing and Distribution Service, which makes arrangements for the production at cost of amateur magazines for members without access to typewriters and/or duplicators, has for the past couple of years been run by Archie and Beryl Mercer. At the end of this year (1967) though, the franchise is being surrendered - and thankfully so, because of the pressure of sundry other activities. No new administrators have yet come forward, and unless someone is available to take over the Service it will have to be discontinued.
Qualifications needed include the fairly unrestricted use of a duplicator, and a certain amount of free time. Assets of the Service that will be passed on to any new administration include a panel of volunteer typists, a streamlined set of rules, and goodwill.
Volunteers, please.

The following BSFA BULLETIN, number 15 of November 1967, makes it even more final;

PaDs, the Printing and Distribution Service of the BSFA, still has not found a home to move to when Archie and Beryl Mercer turn it out at the end of the year. Unless an administrator is found to run it, it will be suspended. The use of a duplicator, and the time in which to use it and to wrap up packets, are essential qualifications for anybody wishing to rescue the service.

The last PaDs mailing, number 10, was actually issued about this time, with only one fanzine included, Adj Cook's WARLOCK, dated November 1967. No further information for a while but then a surprise and final anouncement in the BSFA BULLETIN 19 of September 1968 -

what happened to PaDs, the BSFA's Printing and Distributiion Service for members, it is about to be suspended indefinately. Several months ago David Sutton ((note - later to become a big name in the British Fantasy Society)) of Birmingham took it over and the matter was advertised. Since then, he's only had one person (already a PaDS member) show any interest in the service's continuation. This being so, it is understandable that David's enthusism is no longer quite what it was, and it is regretted that suspension seems the only reasonable course to take. And yet another BSFA service (one that was, incidentally, founded by NEW WORLDS writer and designer Charles Platt) founders for lack of support. Though it can at least be said of PaDS that it flourished in its season. Possibly the idea might be revived some day.

Quite where Dave Sutton's PaDS was advertised is unclear; it certainly wasn't in the BSFA BULLETIN which would have been the obvious place to inform members. Neither do we know the name of the one last die-hard PaDS member. An unsung hero, or idle nitwit, the record is probably now erased. As was any mention of PaDs from further issues of the BSFA BULLETIN, which continued until May 1972 and contains a fascinating outline of the course of the British sf community and the BSFA over those years.