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from RASTUS JOHNSON'S CAKEWALK 7 - October 1994

SCIENCE FICTION JACKASS 

This isn't the number I first thought of. What I wanted to do was a retrospective review of the first science fiction magazine I ever read but figuring out which it was was a problem in itself. Certainly the first issues I bought new were the November 1966 FANTASY & SF,an impressive issue with an excellent Bert Tanner wraparound cover (remember when sf art had style and distinction, the days of Tanner, Emsh, Schoenherr, Salter, Hunter, Paul, Finlay, Powers, Schneeman; by gar you couldn't confuse those guys together, not like the airbrushed nonentities that have disfigured magazines and paperbacks alike over the last decade or so) with a good selection of stories led by a Thomas Burnett Swann novella THE MANOR OF ROSES, and the November 1966 ANALOG with an opaquely pondlike Freas cover and an equally turgid collection of dull prose that incredibly did not deter me from buying ANALOG every month for the next five years. Before that, however, a lot of random issues had come my way. I think the first were a British Reprint Edition of F&SF from 1962, and the other a BRE ASTOUNDING from about 1960, the time when the title changeover to ANALOG was taking place. Of the latter I remember little other than the typically dull Van Dongen cover with his equally characteristic skeletal illustrations inside. Why I ever came to a stage when I have today a complete run of ASTOUNDING/ANALOG from 1946 - 1981 after this inauspicious introduction is a mystery that can perhaps only properly be ascribed to the general shortage of sf at all in those days, and a severe inclination towards completism that has dogged my every waking moment. (The original of that BRE Astounding is the May 1960 issue, a dull tract featuring unreadable drivel by Randall Garrett, Mack Reynolds, Larry M Harris, Mark Phillips - oh why go on, was this supposed to be the Dean of Science Fiction or somesuch twaddle? No wonder we were overrun by fantasy trilogies.)

Mind you the F&SF was a great deal brighter and I still remember it as a oddly frightening and exhilarating experience even now, a peek into something strange that was at the same time what I had always wanted but was afraid of too, as well as being something that I knew perfectly well was a distinct taste that would not win friends and influence people at home or school. The original US issue was the August 1961, the one with the Mel Hunter robot (and what a great series of running gags and heartfelt commentaries they were -how sad that the idea of running a series character on the cover should have been debased a decade or so later by David Hardy's dreadful green blob) recoiling in horror from a modern-art sculpture made from scrap and tin-cans. I can't lay hands on the BRE right now, and as the reprint was not necessarily issue-for-issue I can't swear stories like Vance Aandahl's COGI DROVE HIS CAR THROUGH HELL, Davidson and Tenn's KAPPU NU NEXUS and Winona McClintic's FOUR DAYS IN THE CORNER were actually in it, but bloody hell, they sound right and looking at this US issue here brings it all right back with a rush of no, not nostalgia, genuine pleasure and excitement, just like feeling that door open once again. How dreadful that F&SF has been turned into a twee little house magazine for writers-school graduates by the dimwitted Kristine Kathryn Rusch, with her homily ridden editorials (editorials! In F&SF! Great lord amighty bring back the wonder days of Avram Davidson who could say more in a sentence than this idiot child in a dozen pages, bring back Mr Pettifogle the intrepid literary detective, bring back the sense of mystery and charm! Please!)

Anyway, as my set of F&SF BREs isn't easily accessible (difficulties with lofts all over town, don't you know) and the joys of that ASTOUNDING BRE are not I feel sufficient to warrant unpacking a sealed carton, I can't really review what was in the actual issues I had then as opposed to their US originals. So I won't, turning instead to the perennial question of what would YOU put in a reprint anthology given your choice? I always get a bit exercised about this sort of thing whenever something `definitive` like the Norton or Oxford books come out and their deficiencies become manifest. I know it's a problem when you're trying to give an overall picture of the sf/fantasy short story in less than a thousand pages, so I won't try that either, but here are some of the stories that are actually memorable to me, and have been for years. The only rule I've applied is no more than two by any individual writer, and no research except to check details. These are then, perhaps, the stories that define my understanding of science fiction. They are not in any significant order, just as I thought of them. 

A JOURNEY OF TEN THOUSAND MILES - WILL MOHLER - March 1963 F&SF
THAW AND SERVE - ALLEN KIM LANG - January 1964 GALAXY
THE TOUCH OF A VANISHED HAND - ROBERT HOLDSTOCK - 1975 ZIMRI 5
NO MATTER WHERE YOU GO - JOEL TOWNSLEY ROGERS - February 1959 F&SF
FOR LOVE - ALGIS BUDRYS - June 1962 GALAXY
SCANNERS LIVE IN VAIN - CORDWAINER SMITH - 1950 FANTASY BOOK 6   
ALL YOU ZOMBIES - ROBERT HEINLEIN - March 1959 F&SF    
THE PI MAN - ALFRED BESTER - October 1959 F&SF
FONDLY FAHRENHEIT - ALFRED BESTER - August 1954 F&SF 
THE LAST MAN LEFT IN THE BAR - CM KORNBLUTH - October 1957 INFINITY
ROOG - PHILIP K DICK - February  1953 F&SF  
BEYOND LIES THE WUB - PHILIP K DICK - July 1952 PLANET 
BLACK AIR - KIM STANLEY ROBINSON - March 1983 F&SF    
OLD HUNDREDTH - BRIAN W ALDISS - November 1960 NEW WORLDS   
SPACETIME FOR SPRINGERS - FRITZ LEIBER - 1958 STAR SF 4    
A PAIL OF AIR - FRITZ LEIBER - December 1951 GALAXY
ALL THE KINGS MEN - BARRINGTON BAYLEY - March 1965 NEW WORLDS 148 
GREEN FIVE RENEGADE - M JOHN HARRISON - 1969 NEW WRITINGS 14
COMING FROM BEHIND - M JOHN HARRISON - 1973 NEW WORLDS 6
AN INFINITE SUMMER - CHRISTOPHER PRIEST - 1976 ANDROMEDA 1
THE DAY OF THE BOOMER DUKES - FREDERIK POHL - 1956 FUTURE 30  
SAIL ON! SAIL ON! - PHILIP JOSE FARMER - December 1952 STARTLING STORIES 
WINDOW - BOB LEMAN - May 1980 F&SF
USHER 2 - RAY BRADBURY - 1950 THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES 
AFTER-IMAGES - MALCOLM EDWARDS - 1982 INTERZONE 4    
SUNDOWN - DAVID REDD - December 1967 F&SF
THE WAY TO LONDON TOWN - DAVID REDD - July 1966 NEW WORLDS 164   
STRANGE HIGHWAY - KENNETH BULMER - April 1960 SCIENCE FANTASY    
THE MAN WHO LOST THE SEA - THEODORE STURGEON - October 1959 F&SF   
FIDDLER'S GREEN - RICHARD MCKENNA - 1967 ORBIT 2    
EXTEMPORE - DAMON KNIGHT - August 1956 INFINITY
A FOR ANYTHING - DAMON KNIGHT - November 1957 F&SF

Of course several of these are just the tip of the iceberg, the most readily remembered stories of many real gems by particular writers; dozens of Philip Dick stories could qualify, but these, his first sale and first published story, for me encapsulate much of what is so wonderful about Dick's worldview, the awareness of the alienness and universality of empathy, the value of the small, the dogged (literally) perseverance of the little creatures, of which true humans (true empathic humans, not robots in human form) are part. Other writers have equally citable stories edged out by the arbitrary two-per rule; Budrys (EYE AND THE LIGHTNING, NUPTIAL FLIGHT OF WARBIRDS, BETWEEN THE DARK AND THE DAYLIGHT), Knight (ANACHRON, THE BIG PAT BOOM, I SEE YOU), Barry Bayley and CM Kornbluth, almost all of whose other works are so equally brilliant I couldn't decide which to place with the ones listed. Ray Bradbury too was a problem; almost anything from his classic period of work collected as MARTIAN CHRONICLES, GOLDEN APPLES OF THE SUN, or ILLUSTRATED MAN might have been included, but USHER 2, a story about stories, imagination thriving where repression is the rule, seems to both sum up and indicate the rest. And what about Vance Aandahl, Edward Wellen, GC Edmondson, Edward Mackin, TP Caravan; I reread their work with pleasure but somehow no individual title stands out. This list is not perfect.

It's at once noticeable that of the 32 stories listed only 6 have been published since 1970, and none since 1983. This in part reflects my own lack of reading within SF in the last ten years; from regularly buying and reading ANALOG, AMAZING, FANTASTIC, FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION and other lesser magazines, as well as the original anthologies like NEW WRITINGS, ORBIT, NOVA, I have declined to listlessly leafing through Catherine's lifetime subscription copies of INTERZONE, a magazine I doubt either of us would actively seek out otherwise. I even, to my great surprise, allowed acquisition of F&SF to slip after Kristine Kathryn Rusch took hold and reduced it even more towards the writers-school common denominator that had been its gradual slippery slope of fate in the years of ELF's declining interest. (Oh for the days of Boucher/McComas, Mills, Avram Davidson every issue a fresh joy, an explosion of wonder - I have a complete set to 1994, and re-read them often with real pleasure and discover wonders still). Perhaps people in thirty years time will consider INTERZONE thus?  That's  a definite maybe. Equally unlikely is that INTERZONE could assemble an annual BEST OF  ...  equivalent to the extraordinary BEST OF F&SF 9, in which no less than four of the stories above were reprinted, and from which contains several other equally good propositions for this list. And the 1964 Panther edition had a  great  cover too!

(A word from July 2003 - almost ten years after writing that I still rate many of those stories highly. There are some I might delete, some I definitely would delete, and quite a few others more recently read - but not necessarily recently published! - that I'd insert.
I feel too that I may have been too hard on INTERZONE, which deserves to be remembered with respect for its encouragement of the wonderful STEPHEN BAXTER if nothing else.
Maybe I should do a new list.)

from RASTUS JOHNSON'S CAKEWALK 4 - February 1994

BOODLE-IT WIGGINS' DREAM 

NO TIME
Early evening, and the sun is going down. At Pembrokeshire Fandom
Headquarters Burrow Catherine is snorting with glee over some obscure
Thirties detective story and I'm rooting through The Penguin Guide
to Jazz. How could I possibly have got to the age of forty-two without
hearing HANK MOBLEY's `Soul Station'? Or anything by ANTHONY
BRAXTON, or DEREK BAILEY? Why haven't I got a copy of PETER
BROTZMANN's `Machine Gun'? Or MULLIGAN's `Age of Steam'.
And who the hell are most of these people anyway - BOB MOVER,
NIELS RYDE, the PAT BROTHERS, GEORGE `KID SHEIK'
COLAR? Good grief. I set aside the mighty tome and stare with renewed
wonderment at the ceiling; those are just the tip of the iceberg too.
There's all the other stuff I want to hear; Tuvan throat singing,
for example. The two BACK DOOR albums I've never even seen,
the CAROL GRIMES AND DELIVERY lp from about 1970 that still
hasn't been reissued (though it's probably best heard through the
golden mists of faulty recollection really), a decent LES PAUL
AND MARY FORD compilation that doesn't cost over 100, more
Moroccan music, PRINCE BUSTER's single `Johnny Cool'. The complete
BLIND WILLIE MCTELL on Document, only 50 the set. The list goes ever on.

But it's not just money that's short. Let's see, there's 1194 pages
of commentary in this Jazz CD Guide, average 10 records per page,
that's 11,940 right there and that's only what was in print at the
time of writing. And only Jazz too. Crikey, even if you just stuck
to that and average say 5 hours to get to some decent understanding
of each record (some could be dispensed with in seconds JIMMY
GIUFFRE's `Quasar', for example, uncharacteristic utter crap whereas
others might take weeks spread over years like ERIC DOLPHY's
`Out to Lunch') you're looking at about sixty thousand hours for
gods sake. Even if you had the ability to keep this up ten hours a
day five days a week it would take twenty three years bloody hell!

When I'm finished falling about in amazement over this Catherine tells
me of a Japanese millionaire she heard about on the radio who has
a standing order with record shops to sent him a copy of every cd
issued. The storage space alone defies imagining. You'd have to have
a whole crew of people just doing the filing and cataloguing. Does
he ever listen to them? How does he choose? I mean, having all that
choice is one thing but wouldn't you just get jammed by it, like
a cat won't eat sometimes no matter how hungry it is if it's bowl
is overfilled with food. I'm sometimes paralyzed with indecision
and we've only got about 2000 records.

It's the Priest Equation surfacing again. Years ago our Christopher
took a tour of his bookshelves and realised with mounting horror that
at his current rate he would never live to read all the unread books
he already had, never mind what was yet to be published. I worked
this out myself and found I'd already got enough unread material for
at least fifteen years. This is bad news when you average two or three
new books a week, never mind periodicals.

But then it's the having them that's the important part, knowing that
if you ever want to read THE HOUNDSDITCH MURDERS AND THE SIEGE OF
SYDNEY STREET, or GENERATION OF VIPERS, or INDONESIA-BIRTH
OF A NATION, they're right there, dusty but undiminished.

I wonder, though, whether it's as much a guide to character to assess
the books a person owns but hasn't read, as much as those with which
they claim familiarity.

IDIOTIC THING
I found out a couple of weeks ago that I'd done a really stupid thing
at the last Novacon that didn't even involve drink or women. Martin
Easterbrook phoned to remind me about the piece on The Philosophy
of the Fan Room I'd said I'd write for the Glasgow Worldcon internal
newsletter. It's surprising how you can bluff your way along acting
just like you know what people are talking about sometimes. Though
there was some vague memory of this, and I did after all have a copy
of the November 1993 newsletter supposedly to remind me. I had sent
Steven Glover (who with Jenny Glover is Fan Affairs supervisor this
time round) a few pages of hints and recommendations at the turn of
the year and I suppose subconsciously had discharged my obligations.
But gee, when they ask so nice you can hardly refuse. Though I soon
wished I had.

I rapidly realised that I wasn't sure what I was doing, in what context
and for who! Not only did I have no more than the vaguest idea of
who was actually on the Worldcon committee, but I had as little understanding
of what their overall idea of the convention was. A sort of all-encompassing
typical Scottish fandom Bigger and Betterism, or what? Or has the
apparent wholesale takeover by a rescue commando based in the South
East of England changed all that? And what the hell was this Fan Fair
or Fan Concourse shit anyway? Sounds like some dumb American idea
to me.

Apart from that doing an outline of the why and how of a fan room
for me is like describing how to walk or chew food - you know,
you just, like, put one foot in front of the other, or move your jaws
up and across and down, everybody knows that (oh and try to keep the
two processes as separate as possible). Call me pitifully old-fashioned
if you like but I've got a set idea of what the Fan Area of a convention
(especially a Worldcon) should be and I can't envisage anything different.
The idea and ideals of what I think is a successful Fan Room are so
deeply embedded that I could just do one without thinking, so as
far as explaining it to someone else goes I was really struggling.
Even with the help of local firm CATHERINE MCAULAY-EXPERT
WRITING SOLUTIONS
things barely improved. We rewrote the bloody piece
so often we lost contact with the alphabet, never mind the words and
concepts.

So naturally since then I've been getting great big attacks of the
Fear. God, what if I've done this wrong, what if because I'm proposing
a real trad fannish fan-oriented layout these onward-and-upward go-getters
will just think it's a load of old-fashioned cobblers and ditch it
all as a matter of principle. Who knows, but already I feel a burden
of guilt settling upon my shoulders. Not just because the piece was
so ill-written and expressed either.

Look, read it for yourselves;

THE WORLDCON FAN ROOM - AN OUTLINE PHILOSOPHY

So there's the Worldcon, a huge thing, and inside it is
something else, the Fan Room. What is it? What's it for? Who's it
for?

The Fan Room, including the Fan Program about which see
later, is a convention within a convention, running parallel to and
in association with its giant parent (or offspring, depending on how
you view the evolution of conventions). It provides an environment
and schedule of events, programming and services not specifically
catered for elsewhere in the Worldcon, and although in essence it
is aimed at only a few hundred people rather than its coexistent's
thousands, it offers up a quite distinct experience available to all
the convention's attendees.

The Fan Room is the secret heart of the convention. Its
core constituency includes those most familiar with the worlds of
sf and sf fandom. Many of them are the people who, by organising conventions,
running fangroups, and producing fanzines over the decades have contributed
mightily to making the whole Worldcon event a reality although
many of them might well say that things have not quite turned out
as they planned! These people - the fans - veterans of
many conventions, don't need to be catered for in quite the same way
as the majority of attendees. They can to a large extent make their
own amusements; they participate fully in the main convention as program
participants as well as comprising the audience. But they do need
a place to be, a place where they can congregate, talk, drink, socialise,
get fanzines and other publications, and engage in programming that
is much more tightly focused on their interests than could be accommodated
on any of the main program tracks. And in simple that place should
be the area sf fans, as well as many other convention attendees, most
enjoya large comfortable bar.

Some people already know their natural home is in the Fan
Room, others will find it by accident as they wander the convention
looking for that indefinable Something that appeals to them. Some
may come along to see a Fan Program item, intrigued by an unusual
write-up in the Program Book, and stay around in the Fan Room afterwards.
The idea is that because the Fan Room is set up with the traditional
fan in mind it potentially has appeal to a wider audience, not in
spite of its apparently exclusive philosophy.

One thing the Fan Room must do is to provide, via its displays
and various tables, a clear, coherent and above all engaging picture
of the world of sf fandom, its history, ideas, culture and aims. SF
fandom has a history and background that goes back long before the
first episode of STAR TREK, and it is as well to bring this to the
fore from time to time lest it be forgot. And this should be no dry
raking over of memory either; the Way of Life portrayed should be
echoed in what actually happens day to day in the Fan Room and Fan
Program. This is not an archaeological recreation after all, but a
vision for the uninitiated of a particular enthusiasm that they might
well care to share in.

The Fan Room might well be criticised for setting out to
appeal to just a few hundred people, but you might just as well say
that about anything other than maybe the Hugo Ceremony. The whole
point is that it is a running event through the whole duration of
the Worldcon, a social setup scattered with fan-artifacts that can
as much engage the interest of the newcomer as the old hand. Anyone
looking for a place to sit, drink, listen to music, chat or browse
through the displays or fanzine tables should be quite at home. Indeed
the whole point of having a Fan Room rather than just another bar
is that it has a specific purpose, it is the known place to be for
its core constituency.

The Fan Area is exclusive to an extent; its often easier
to characterise it by what is not there. Indeed anything that doesn't
actually clash with the basic mission statement can be included, but
there are some things that might be inappropriate. It's not really
for the novice sf reader interested only in news of the latest trilogy,
or those whose interests are primarily television shows, films or
computer gaming. Filksingers, the JLAS, or Darkover fans will find
little to concern them. These are all `fandoms' of course, as nowadays
almost everything is, but they are separate from the traditional roots
of sf books and magazines, conventions and fanzines that the sf fans
for whom the Fan Room is constituted spring from. These other interests
certainly should be catered for at a Worldcon, no doubt, but elsewhere
in the convention by dedicated teams with the right specialised background.

That being said, the Fan Room is open to anyone. There's
no secret password to get in, it welcomes all Worldcon attendees who
may get from it what they will as long as they understand that what's
on offer might perhaps not be for them any more than a Phil Dick fan
who produces a fanzine and likes small book-oriented conventions would
appreciate, say, a Gerry Anderson event. It should be remembered that
the simple act of providing a sociable environment offers something
for everyone, especially in the Fan Room where the services are optional
extras to be reacted to. This is in contrast to most other areas of
the Worldcon where the services on offer are the whole point of the
facility.

When the Fan Room is well organised it is inevitable that
even those whose ideas of sf fandom are sketchy or nonexistent will
find a pleasant area to socialise with friends old and new.

In the best possible world the Fan Room would be a large
room seating over 200, with plenty of table and circulating
space given an air of intimacy by layout of furnishings and
arrangement of fan-oriented displays and sales/giveaway tables. A
full bar open for most of the Fan Room opening time is essential;
without it the area will not be colonised in the first place and will
scarcely draw in its prime constituency of fans, never mind anyone
else, and the whole thing will rapidly decline into a forgotten backwater
of the convention - this has happened.

There must be a staff of fan room organisers and helpers
available round the clock, alert and reactive, keeping things neat
tidy and going according to plan, cheerleading whenever necessary.

There's no advantage in having too much going on in the
Fan Room, this isn't Butlins after all. Most people just want a venue
where they can be sure everyone else they know will show up sooner
or later. People will, in fact, be driven out if they are subjected
to organised events. There will be more than enough endless movement
and activity elsewhere in the convention, and this should be a place
where everyone has a chance to sit and talk unhurriedly.

It's important that there are unobtrusive distractions,
like the displays, sales tables et cetera, all perfect in this place
because the onus of involvement is on the individual, and as long
as they're there and worthwhile they'll be used as
and when required. There must be no skimping or making do here - these
things should be good enough to make people want to see/use/search
through them even if that was not their first idea.

The Fan Program organised on exactly the same lines
as that of a small convention must be in a separate room adjacent
to or as near adjacent as possible to the Fan Room. The program should
pursue ideas and entertainments aimed primarily at the sf fan community
rather than the general Worldcon audience. Whatever goes on there panels,
interviews, playlets, competitions, games should not intrude
into the Fan Room itself. Naturally, Fan Program items should be written
up in the most attractive terms in the Program Book, so that those
unaware of the fan culture might be drawn in by following up a interesting
program idea.

None of this happens by accident you've got to
have a clear idea of what you want and stick to it. Encourage people
who want to engage with the philosophy of the room and redirect to
other areas the rest; don't allow the space to be misused or disrupted,
the ambience destroyed, and the people you wanted to attract driven
away by unwanted activities.

It's worth remembering that although the Fan Room is open
to everyone it's not the organisers' responsibility to provide something
for everyone; that would be as impossible as it is undesirable. Certain
American fans might complain for example about the lack of free food
and drink they expect at their equivalent, the `Con Suite'; point
out this is a British fanroom run in Britain and that hotels here
don't like that sort of thing unless they're paid enormous sums to
do it themselves.

That's a trivial example, but it is worth remembering that
this is a British fandom show and there should be no imperative to
provide the visitors with a version of what they have back home, Instead
it should be something that springs organically from British fandom
culture, ideals and ways. An imitation of someone else's fanroom will
be just that, an imitation.

The best way to run a Fan Room is by following the route
we know and are familiar with and by building on and expanding the
ideas that have worked well at British conventions since the first
truly successful Fan Room in 1977.

The Philosophy of the Fan Room. Hardly De Sade is it, though there
were hours of suffering there you know, and for wot eh. This here
following is what I said in my covering letter to Martin Easterbrook:

"I really hope this is some use; I'm actually getting
the feeling that the prevalent thinking about this whole Glasgow Fan
Area thing is so far removed from my own ideas that virtually nothing
I have to say would be either welcome, interesting, or relevant. I
really don't like at all the idea that we in the UK are going to end
up with a copy of something the Americans have generated to please
a culturally quite different set of fans; there's a real danger in
my view that not only will we not imitate it successfully because
British fan thinking is just not that way, but that it will not capture
people's imagination anyway. I'm worried that a lot of the individuals
who are most obvious proponents of this are not in fact the people
who will be in and around the Fan Area when it's actually runningeither
as Fan Area Team or users."

"I think that you ought to beware of setting up an
agenda to please a set of Americans (who I do not think will actually
be at the event anyway) and alienating the American fans who do
come and want a `traditional' British Fan Room set up as well as our
own people. The American experience is one that we can take relevant
ideas from but not attempt to reproduce. There certainly should be
no real interference or imposition of ideas from the Main Worldcon
Committee onto the Fan Area people who should be given a open brief
and budget to run what is in effect a satellite convention in itself
in whatever way they so choose, and not have to bow to the wishes
of people who might not in fact be seen dead in the Fan Area anyway.
"

Well I dunno. I know they've got themselves stuck with this thing
like two Wembley stadiums and it's the only place they've got for
Fan stuff but I think what they're going to do wrong is try to make
the Fan stuff fill the space rather than change the space to enclose
the Fan programming. All this Concourse business sounds like a particularly
horrid sort of funfair to me - a holiday camp atmosphere recreated
by the organisers of a village fete.

According to the November 1993 newsletter part of a meeting was a
brainstorming session on ideas for the Fan Fair -  "some
of these were not intended seriously", but here's an honestly
random selection (about 20%)

KITE MAKING      TURKEY READINGS
KIDCON      DRY ROWING
COSTUME WORKSHOP      BOUNCY CASTLE
WARGAMES      EGG RACE
JUGGLING      FLAGS
PROGRAMME INFO      CUSTARD PIE FIGHT
SUPERMARKET REVIEWS      BLOOD DRIVE
BONDAGE DISPLAY      READING AREA
CALVINBALL      PATIO FURNITURE
PROGRAMME SPACE REAL ALE BAR
AUTOGRAPH SESSIONS      PILLORY
SF PUNCH AND JUDY      SPRODZOOM
CEILIDH      SPORRAN-MAKING
CLIMBING WALL  FAN REPRO
FOREIGN GUESTS      SMOF HUNTING

That's thirty out of about 150 items, and gives a fair flavour from
the sublime to the ridiculous. Some of these might please: Peter Weston
I know has a soft spot for bouncy castles and the idea of designing
flags for fans certainly appeals to me, and I wonder why I never thought
of it myself. `Sprodzoom', however, leaves me wondering, and I'm not
sure even what. We had the idea for a Punch and Judy for Conspiracy,
but like so much nothing came of it and in the end I was glad as it
would have been just one more damn thing to supervise and cater for.
`Smof Hunting' was actually tried at the (I think) 1977 Eastercon
and was a dismal failure.

Overall though the feeling I get from this list is that it's proposed
by people who will not be actually doing the work and have no idea
how time consuming and irritating to organise these jolly little diversions
actually are. If I felt that the Tim Illingworths of the world (to
mention one recently resigned committee member) were actually likely
to be habituees of the Fan Room at all I'd be a bit more sympathetic
but I don't believe that's the case. (NB I except Martin Easterbrook
very much indeed from any implied criticism here - I have considerable
trust in his abilities.) Running a Fan Room at a Worldcon is heavy
work no matter who's doing it; at Conspiracy I was doing fifteen hours
a day every day, and that's with Martin Tudor taking all responsibility
for the Program. What I'm getting at is that it's ok having all sorts
of terribly terribly amusing ideas but for a start who's going to
make them actually Go (even if they are in any sense workable) and
more important are they in fact appropriate for the purpose. It seems
to me that little thought has been given to the former and an almost
Thatcherite revolution has taken over the latter. `Fan Area' doesn't
mean Fan as in you and me any more, but Fan as in convention attendee,
punter to be entertained. I could go on here detailing the various
sorts of subfandom (in every sense of the word) that that applies
to but that would be invidious and of no real help. But I am wondering,
in the absence of any other information, whether those of us at Conspiracy
have already seen the only working Worldcon Fan Room and Fan Program
we're ever likely to in Britain.

Well anyway after reading through my newsletter piece you've probably
got some idea why I've developed certain anxieties. I feel a real
responsibility about this and it's one I don't think I've discharged
adequately. HELP! If anyone has any pertinent commentary to make
I'll be delighted to publish it here and ensure that it gets through
to the Worldcon people. Or you can send your views direct to Steve
and Jenny Glover (address in the back of this issue) if you prefer,
although I would like to know what you have to say for my own self-improvement.

I am apprehensive that my ideas about a good Fan Room might be out
of date, but I still think they're right, it's just the rest of these
bastards that are out of step.

 

A TWENTY DOLLAR WALK IN FIVE DOLLAR SHOES
Quite contrary to the arms-length attitude to fandom as expressed
by such as Ian Williams, Rob Holdstock, Harry Bell, John Jarrold et
al (arms-length verging on twenty-foot pole for some of them) I'm
actually more interested in and enthusiastic about fandom than I have
been for years. Maybe that's because I've had a couple of years off,
moping and complaining about the various injustices of the multiverse
we call life. I have no sense of `going back' to previously covered
ground which is something I intuit is felt as a wholly negative movement
by, say Williams and Bell (who I am picking as simply the most obvious
examples of once-enthusiastic fans still on the RJC mailing list for
now who might respond). To me it's more like picking up where
I left off, in the fabled manner of fans carrying on conversations
at conventions a year apart as if nothing had intervened. (Can the
same frisson of familiarity really be there when you last saw the
person at a convention just a couple of weekends back, and will again
twice before christmas?). I guess I've been a fan more on than off
for so long that doing this actually seems normal to me in a way that
stopping doing it would be a denial.

One aspect of this renewed enthusiasm is a real neoish penchant for
schemes for which the word `Grandiose' would be an absurd understatement.
Like the Compleat Illustrated D West, a handy compendium of of the
Austral Master's cartoons and artwork, nice A4 flat-opening item with
preface and biography etc. Or the HYPHEN reprint, three volumes in
hardcover with index, biographical sketches, and historical overview.
How about a Best of STOP BREAKING DOWN, even. I read through my copies
the other day and was quite taken with how good much of it including
the letters was, and immediately in the worst throes of vanity-publishing
sketched out a plan for an anthology done as SBD number 8 including
reprints of articles, columns, and selected letters. Eeeee, great
it would be.

Then of course there's the ongoing BRITISH - FANDOM ALL THERE
IS TO KNOW, our little world's equivalent of such household indispensables
like ENQUIRE WITHIN; a one-volume guide to the personalities, events,
and general wonderments of the last fifty years. And we're not even
beginning yet the selection of GREAT BRITISH FANWRITING - THE
FIFTIES (SIXTIES, SEVENTIES etc) which will have to wait until I get
back from the local printer with the colorised reprint of Rob Hansen's
brilliantly evocative example of blatant hero-worship STARFAN, which
I opine has been out of circulation for far far too long.

The only problem with all this is I don't have a penny to scratch
me bum with. While others wallow in newfound riches life remains marginal
here and even the fairly small outlay on RJC is endangered. Well,
I suppose I could cut back to a quarterly or somesuch but it's the
very frequency of it that helps keep my interest up even though
it's not doing much for some of the more comatose of the readership.
Harry Bond was telling me recently that one reason he's continuing
on with his games-fanzine rather than coming back to fandom-proper
is that he gets actual subscriptions forthalovagod and the thing
virtually pays for itself. The Hermit of Keighley his own self also
suggested I put in a subscription option; hardly a good example talking
there, the Johnson of Yorkshire, where has the money for Collected
Writings Volume 2 gone Don?

But there's something in it. Back in the old days it was quite the
done thing to have a proper subscription rate or exchange for books
or prozines (now there's an evocative word from a different world
altogether now isn't it) but I imagine that gradually fell out of
use with the comparative wealth of the late Sixties and Seventies.
In the early Seventies I listed FOULER as available for 10p each or
six issues for 50p ( it just seems so little as to be hardly worth
bothering about, but it was probably a pint of beer back then, altho'
perhaps not the meat pie and taxi home with it), and some years later
SBD at 20p a unit. Good lord, probably made a per-copy profit at that
price!

But bloody hell will people actually pay for fanzines these days or
have we been acculturated to expecting them for nothing? And do we
value them as nothing as a result? Rog Peyton has always propounded
the idea that the more something costs the more desirable and hence
valued it is; he claims that if he increases the price of moribund
second-hand stock it sells like hotcakes. It sounds insane on first
thought but I believe he's right. Moreover I'm sure that part of the
failure of my various bookdealing ventures has been that I've priced
things too low in order to encourage buyers but in
fact put them off because they felt what I had was too cheap to be
worth having. What a cretin.

It seems incredible now but almost the first thing I did at my first
convention was buy a fanzine. It was Howard Rosenblum's SON OF NEW
FUTURIAN
, the first issue, and it cost me 1/- which translates
as 5p but was equivalent in purchasing power to about 90 pence now.
I still feel ripped-off twenty-five years later but I still
have that fanzine too.

A copy of RJC costs on average 80p a copy to produce and mail, the
actual unit price increased by the airmail postage particularly. Page
count changes have obvious effects, but postage is over half the average
55 cost per issue. This isn't apparently a lot over say eighteen
weeks but the way things usually go it means a stationary order of
about 100 periodically which is a lot in one go. That sort of
dissipates after the initial shock but then there's the 30
postage.

Maybe it is time to try for a few pounds here and there. Perhaps Don
and Harry are right, but it's a hard idea to implement. I can't see
actually dropping people from the mailing list because they don't
pay - that's ludicrous. And equally why should others shell
out to get something I'd joyfully give them anyway. I suppose the
point is that to a very real extent publishing a fanzine is a cooperative
venture in the sense that without the feedback of the readers there's
no earthly point at all in doing it; should that feedback be extended
to the idea of cash as well as correspondence and articles? But then
where are you if your readers feel that having sent the money there's
no imperative to send their ideas and commentary? Up shit creek that's
where, with a boring bloody fanzine you wouldn't give tuppence for
yourself, so you have to fold it and either abscond with the sub-money
or pay it all back and go on a bean diet for a month.

It would be both wildly optimistic and somehow dangerous to think
of getting enough money to cover the costs of this bloody fanzine,
but if I want to keep doing it roughly bi-monthly some tin-cup rattling
might have to be ventured. I'll feel guilty as hell about this, especially
as I know my near-future finances are going to affected by an expensive
something I don't want to mention yet but is fannish as anything.
What do you think? But don't feel any obligation, honestly. There's
no-one at all on the current mailing list I wouldn't be glad to send
RJC to free indefinitely. Well, not many anyway. And before you ask,
no there aren't any fanzines I currently subscribe to; trades should
cover that for the lifetime of RJC I hope. That's called the Ashworth
Defence. Is this a tangled web of reasoning or what?