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To: memoryhole@yahoogroups.com
Subject: [memoryhole] The Blue Spot Returns
From: Greg Pickersgill <gregory@gostak.demon.co.uk>
Date: Fri, 12 Oct 2001 18:38:44 +0100

Only a moment ago in cosmic time I was standing in a sea of fanzines, duplicate copies from the MH Permacollection, constituting that which is known hereabouts as the Memory Hole Recycling Section or, in darker moments, all those fucking fanzines no-one wants.

Beats me why no-one wants them. there's some good stuff here after all - issues of BOONFARK, BLAT!, TRAP DOOR, TWLL-DDU, STOP BREAKING DOWN, LAN'S LANTERN..., but as you've heard me say more than once, you can't fucking Give Them Away. And this is a world where some guy in Reading is offering me literally hundreds of pounds for the MHP copies of old fanzines that contain anything, even a quote attributed to, Eric Frank Russell. But are we surprised? No, not any more. I no longer expect fans to be interested in fanzines, not when they've got dinner parties to plan.

Anyway, look here, at this issue of VECTOR, the BSFA's magazine, it's number 25, of March 1964. That's 37 years back, before some of you were born. Oh, OK, before your children were born, then. But it's a fascinating issue.

Look at the cover - headlining ERIC FRANK RUSSELL (John Ingham - no not that one - would probably give me fifty quid for this!) HARRY HARRISON, EC TUBB, AND ALL THE USUAL FEATURES. It's kind exciting already isn't it, and that's before we've even admired the classic proportions of the quarto paper and smelled the old duplicating ink. Got a cover by Eddie Jones too. This issue is listed as Published by J MICHAEL ROSENBLUM, but Edited by ARCHIE MERCER. No question it definately looks more like an issue of NEW FUTURIAN than ARCHIVE or AMBLE, and I wouldn't mind betting that despite Archie Mercer's assertion to the contrary Mike Rosenblum had more to do with the content than just stencilling or cranking the duper handle - in short it almost could BE an issue of NF. Which was one of the best fanzines of all time.

The piece by EFR is titled THE AUTHOR'S LOT and is a sort of precursor to the sort of PROFESSION OF SCIENCE FICTION series that runs so successfully in FOUNDATION. Indeed reprinting it in FOUNDATION might not be a bad idea, as so much that EFR has to say still bears repeating today (and while we're at it, reprinting a letter from Christopher Evans that featured in FOUNDATION 11/12 could perhaps serve as a corrective to some of the more academically oriented characters that show up there these days). Whatever, I'm not at all certain that EFR's final assertion that sf should have nothing intrinsically to do with 'science' really holds water (he's very much a 'speculative fiction' man on the basis of this) because once we abandon the whole core point of scientific method in sf then it turns into the same useless mush as any other made-up rubbish. But really it's an illuminating piece on how he regards sf and being a writer.

Well written too, which is more than can be said of HARRY HARRISON's too-conversational by half attack on the then recently published GLORY ROAD. HH is a bit of an arse at the best of times, and even though I agree with him totally (he even hints that RAH had already, even in the early Sixties, become beyond editing) this isn't a great piece of work. But it probably felt like it to the readership back then - controvery, by a real writer too.

Enormous great TED TUBB presents us with a bit of fiction, good grief, in VECTOR godhelpus, which I greet with the same enthusiasm I hold for DUMAREST CONQUERS CIVILISATION or whatever they were. I bet there was some Loccer in the following issue complaining about VECTOR pages being wasted on fiction, and I'm inclined to say they were right. Even though it is trailed as a 'thought provoking concept'. Sure.

Who was Dr Peristyle anyway? I used to be very taken with these jokey advice columns (advice regarding scifi topics rather than, well, piles or the ingratitude of ones associates) as a young fan, but they seem more pompous and selfregarding as I age. Maybe that's just because I have an idea they were by MICHAEL MOORCOCK, who of course has become startlingly more pompous and selfregarding as He has aged. (I just happened to be leafing through a few of the magazine-era NEW WORLDS, which I loved with a slavish devotion waybackwhen, and wow gosh, have they changed since I last looked, what a load of selfconscious cobblers and halfwitted posturing...)

There are some fascinating book reviews by such as DONALD MALCOLM and IAN MCAULAY, of THE DARK LIGHT YEARS and Edmund Cooper's TRANSIT - both reviews notable for their palpable fear of, well, shit and sex more than anything else. SF, sf fandom, and some reviewers in particular, were still embedded in the social mores of the Thirties even on the edge of When Things Changed in 1964 - worrying, really , when we remember that these were the people we expected to be looking forwards for us, pathfinding into the new frontiers.

But it's towards the back of the book that fannish faces appear - the lettercolumn is quite startling - look here, there's PHIL HARBOTTLE, PETER WHITE, VIC HALLETT, CHARLES PLATT (fannish as all hell, boyish as the day is long - what a pity he too turned into such a boring fart), MARY REED, HARRY NADLER, GRAHAM HALL (with his first letter to VECTOR, possibly his first to any fanzine - and how nice and enthusiastic he seems, how delighted to be among congenial company, how unlike his later incarnations - I wonder if Michael Moorcock can actually be blamed for all of this?), RICHARD GORDON, RODERICK J MILNER (yes, no question, this is the ROD MILNER who may still own a part of Birmingham's ANDROMEDA BOOKSHOP, and who I would have sworn had never had a moment's interest in sf or fandom (or any aspect of literature at all, come to that) in his entire life, and here he is with a sensible and enthusiastic letter. Good grief, illusions shattered...)

Oh it all seems like so much fun... of course VECTOR today is much better produced, and much of the content is far superior in writing quality, intellectual content and presentation of argument (fans are so much better educated now it's definately intimidating to barely literate people like me) but there's a distinct lack of the kind of community spirit one feels from this aged ish. We shall never, I feel, see it's like again. Whether that's good or bad we can leave only for the ages to decide, but I know who I am Harry.

And one more thing - listed in the NEW MEMBERS section at the back of the issue is one JH HOLMBERG, number 0-444. Takes you back a bit, don't it.... .

 

(Postscript, 23rd July 2003.
After I wrote this several people enthusiastically recommended I send it to the then-current editor of the BSFA's
MATRIX.  Which I duly did. To say his enthusiasm was lukewarm would be raising the temperature more than somewhat. To be honest, the tone of his response implied that he barely understood what I was going on about and doubted that the average BSFA member of 2001 would either. I fervently hope he was wrong, but anyway the piece was not accepted for publication.)

To: memoryhole@yahoogroups.com
Subject: Re: [memoryhole] Introductions to Fandom (was: MUFF)
From: Greg Pickersgill <gregory@gostak.demon.co.uk>
Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2001 21:27:58 +0000

On Wed, 31 Oct 2001 18:42:17 -0000, Peter Weston wrote:
>Bill Burns mused: >> And can it really be 33 years ago that a certain Mr Pickersgill wrote me  a nice letter from Haverfordwest requesting a membership in ThirdManCon?
> >Bill, you realise that Mr Pickersgill was an early subscriber to my ZENITH, >around 1965-66. Don't know how he found me, but the address was "Merlin's Bridge" as I recall >

Far be it from me, as a comparative youth and virtual neophyte in fandom, to point out that PRW might have it wrong, but it's not right that I was a subr to ZENITH. Oh that I had been and never fell into the clutches of Leroy Kettle. What a more wonderful world that might have been.

Anyway, jus' the fax; I definately did not then know of SPECULATION or ZENITH. The first issue I got was SPECULATION number 16, Autumn 1967, and it's about that time I was also busily engaged in buying a substantial number of issues of GALAXY from Peter (which I was, amazingly, to sell back to him over twenty years later, for pretty much the same amount I paid for them in the first place!). Somewhere I have a letter from Peter saying that I should send the cash in advance which would be perfectly ok as he had a good reputation in fandom. Wow, this was a serious man!

I was certainly living in Merlins Bridge, a funny little satellite village of Haverfordwest, at the time, and I can well remember eagerly awaiting those boxes of GALAXY and then spending all the time I should have been doing schoolwork reading them. So to a certain extent PRW is responsible for my somewhat subsurface role in society today, but he would doubtless say it is All My Own Fault.

In 1965 I was barely aware of fandom as an entity at all. Given all the recent hoohah about contact I just today went on a walk (halfway to Merlins Bridge as it happens - how art imitates life...) trying to sort it all out in my woolly little head.

What I concluded is that there's no doubt that my first glimpses of fandom came from godhelpus Kingsley Amis' NEW MAPS OF HELL. I'd picked the title up from one of the mainstream magazine reviews I habitually read back in the days when I was interested in The Arts (oh, I was so much younger then!) and when I eventually found a copy in the local library - and I bet they don't still have it - I was totally enthralled. OK, I know some of it is bollocks now, but back then, and we're talking middle Sixties here, it was about the only thing that gave any idea that science fiction was something to be taken seriously. I mean there was me, a second-former in the Grammar School (so this would be about 1964-5) scurrying about buying all the new Panther Asimov reprints with the blobby glass covers and all the Penguin SF line when they were King and had pictures of Ted White on them and everything, and no-one, not one other single soul I knew, would give scifi the time of day. I don't think most people even believed there was going to be a future at all in those days, and definately not one that was going to be materially different from their present anyway.

 
So discovering such wonders as the Elves, Gnomes and Little Men's Science Fiction, Chowder, and Marching Society and their ilk within Amis' book, was purely revelatory. And he didn't assume that these people were flat out crazy. Just maybe just a little, um, extraordinary. Well, I felt pretty damned odd then as now, so that was right then. This was, I'm sure, my first clear understanding that there was such a thing as fandom. Amis even mentioned fanzines and conventions - goshwowboyoboy indeed. This was like colonising a new planet in my head!
Mind you more important in the short term was the information on the sf magazines in NMOH - I don't know why but it was the first time I realised that these things might actually still exist, and weren't just longlost mines from which stunning stories were reprinted. At this I started to think about getting magazines, and just like that I began to find them all over the place. Oh, just a couple here and there in secondhand stores, but each one glowed brightly, I can tell you. From there on I did a bit of research and found that such as ANALOG, F&SF, IF, GALAXY, AMAZING, FANTASTIC and NEW WORLDS were incredibly still in existence.
There's no question that the local newsagent I asked to supply me with these recherche items thought I was crazy, and took a fair bit of persuading to actually get them. Like most newsagents these people were as near to subliterate as you can be and still run a business based on the written word, and I am sure simply did not believe me when I asserted that not only did science fiction exist but also that there were several magazines that published it. And anyway I was a fifteen year old boy, and reading books wasn't normal.

Time and the machinations of the local distribution services ground glacially on, and eventually I got my first issues, the November 1966 ANALOG and F&SF (of which I have written elsewhere). Pretty soon an actual issue of a BRITISH magazine showed up, NEW WORLDS 171, March 1967. And in the small ads at the back was something for the BSFA, which I instantly joined. Which led in turn to the BSFA Bulletin, wherein Mr Weston was mentioned as trading in both a fanzine of high repute and old issues of scifi magazines.

All of this came a fraction too late - by a couple of weeks - for me to get to the 1967 Eastercon at Bristol, but by Easter 1968 I was at the Thirdmancon courtesy of Bill Burns (and Bill, you have no idea how many times I read those issues of METEOR - believe me I appreciated the effort!) where I encountered not only Peter Weston, but was passed on the stairs by Harry Bell. I also met up with people I'd started correspondence with after joining the BSFA, like Peter Roberts, whose fanzine MORFARCH had just right then published my first real fanac (with whom I developed a peculiar arms-length acquaintanceship), and Archie and Beryl Mercer. Then there was Graham Hall, Graham Boak, Crut, Chas Legg, and a load of other peculiar characters including Diane Rosenblum, who was a bit odd but rather fun. They all seemed to be a LOT older than me, and very intimidating, but I guess I was just backward.

In the intervening year I'd also been getting the current run of BRE reprints of IF, which carried a column called OUR MAN IN FANDOM by Lin Carter, which I can honestly say I read and reread as if it were the secret of life itself, and although I found I could apply virtually none of it to British fandom as I was beginning to experience it - it all seemed to be coming from and about a rather more enlightened advanced race, a more glittering and intellectually bejewelled society than the ramshackle bunch of misfits I was beginning to get an inkling of -  I was by then definately a Fan. Yeah, Ted, probably for Life, although I sometimes wonder if mistakes were made.
And of course as a result of those ads in the back of that issue of NEW WORLDS I'd also made contact with Ken Slater at FANTAST, so, most definately, we were off the startline.

So, Peter, I wasn't a subscriber in 1965 as I'd barely grasped the concept of fandom by that time. I dunno whether I have grasped a concensus concept of it now, thirty-odd years later, but I am more inclined to say that it's all you lot that's out of step, not me. Sometimes. The rest of the time I just feel alienated.

Oh and by the way Peter, you were a lot shorter back in 1968. And wore a suit. And actually talked to me for a while in the corridor outside the conhall. And I thought you were a BNF, no question.

To: memoryhole@egroups.com
Subject: [memoryhole] Alan Dodd
From: gregory@gostak.demon.co.uk (Gregory)
Date: Thu, 27 May 1999 13:28:07 GMT  

I was just recently reading back through the MHML archive (something I'd definately recommend all members, old or new, to do - there's a lot of interesting stuff there; go to the MHML website or ask me for a complete set) and found the following from Jim Linwood, dated 16th February. I guess I missed it at the time as that was when my phone was disconnected for a while and I obviously didn't read through the backlog of messages conscientiously enough. Anyway, Jim said, in response to Bruce Burn -

><< and the almost hermetic Alan Dodd of somewhere a little north of  London >>
> >Alan lived in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire about an hour's commuting away
 from the Globe although it unlikely he ever visited it, at least not on any first Thursday. He was a prolific writer and letterhack during the 50/60's  who, although quite lucid and fannish, was a complete recluse. He certainly had the occasional visitor but so far as I'm aware his only real social fannish contact was at a party in the Parker Penitentiary around 1960.
> >Unfortunately he was so upset by a completely innocuous remark by Ron
 Bennett ("There must be more fans in this room than you've ever seen in your  life, Alan") that he took to the hills and was never seen again: he later wrote this up as the infamous "Snide Bennett" incident.  
>Any other Dodd sightings out there? >

Well, here's my two pence worth. A few years ago when I was getting the Memory Hole project off the deck I sent out a circular to a batch of gafiated or otherwise vanished fans. Some didn't bother to respond (forgotten who now - though I can look it up!) some were essentially unhelpful (Ian Maule, Roger Bloody Waddington, Darrol Pardoe) and others were quite keen to help - including Ian Bambro, Ethel Lindsay, and, incredibly, Alan Dodd.  

I'd got Dodd's address from a comparatively then-recent issue of STEFANTASY. He was still at the 77 Stanstead Road address familiar to those of us who'd read CAMBER (ok ok, I read it years after the event, I know), and he responded quite enthusiastically. It turned out he had several boxfuls of fanzines that he's been hanging on to for years, wondering whether anyone else would ever want them. He would have had more, he said, but for the fact that the garden shed that he stored many of his fanzines in had burned down a couple of years previously. (That was only one of many Dodd asides that were never fully explicated, and the first hint that he was not entirely, well, The Usual.)  

We had a fairly cheerful letter and phone correspondence for a while - and every so often I'd send Alan 10 to cover the postage and he'd send me a carton of fanzines. He was obviously very short of money - he hadn't been in fulltime employment for some time, and was always sounding vaguely distressed about domestic bills and the general cost of basic living, something we commiserated with each other about endlessly and with feeling.

The fanzines were invariably interesting - lots of issues of YANDRO as Dodd had been British agent - but also lots of really good stuff like TWIG and so on. It's all a bit vague now but there were very many useful additions to the MH permacoll and a lot of good stuff that has been passed on one way or another. Getting those boxes was always a genuine delight.  

Alan at some point mentioned that he was interested in selling off the bulk of his sf collection, and I put him in touch with Andy Richards (just about the only entirely trustworthy secondhand sf dealer in the UK) who took a trip to Hoddesdon to view and offer. I'd filled Andy in on the priveleged nature of this expedition - after all, so far as I knew no other member of the sf community had seen Dodd for the best part of forty years. Take notes, I said, You Are the Camera, the Eyes and Ears of Fandom - what is Alan Dodd really like?  

A couple of days later Andy phoned me, and his voice was ashen. He was genuinely shocked by what he found. Alan Dodd, it appeared, lived in a very small and very run down terraced house; he had no inside toilet or bathroom, maybe not even running water, and the lighting was, to say the least, minimal. Almost every flat surface had books, periodicals, or boxes containing same on it. The stairway was essentially blocked by more cartons of Stuff. Alan's sf collection turned out to be in a couple of large wardrobes in the bedroom, but even after negotiating what was obviously a dangerous stairway Andy found there was not actually enough room (or light) in the bedroom to get the sf collection out and actually examine it. Most of the books and magazines semed to have been wrapped in newspaper years previously and had been in the boxes for ages by the signs of dust on them. Andy eventually made some kind of vague provisional offer open to increase after he'd actually taken away and valued the books, but Dodd got the hump and didn't want to know. Apparently he didn't believe that, for example, British reprint magazines are as valueless as they generally are, no matter what condition they were in.  

Anyway, Andy called me in a state of genuine concern; a nice well brought up boy living in decent circumstances as he is, this was like encountering a pocket of the Third World to him, and he asked me time and time again whether Alan Dodd had any friends or family or whatever, and maybe Social Services ought to be contacted, and so on. I reassured him a bit by saying that in my contact with Alan he'd seemed quite well balanced if indeed cash-poor, but apparently he'd been a bit vague and uncommunicative with Andy who'd been left somewhat concerned as to Dodd's mental wellbeing.

Well, I interceded a bit with all this sales stuff and eventually convinced Alan that not only was Andy not going to cheat him but also that he'd be a damned sight better off with a thousand pounds or so in his pocket rather than a mass of books and magazines he had no real interest in, even if he was getting less for them than he'd expected. It turned out that Alan had had some serious aggravation with a dealer in the film memorabilia field who'd made him a hopelessly low offer for a substantial collection of cinema books, magazines and film-stills, and he was extremely apprehensive of dealers as a result. But in this case all ended fairly well, as Alan got a bundle of cash and Andy got some good stock (it turned out there were a fair number of scarce British hardcovers from the Fifties, in vg condition).

Other things I discovered about Alan Dodd during our correspondence was that despite his manifest poverty he occasionally took trips abroad; this all turned out to be by the goodwill of friends of his who apparently worked in the (probably) softcore sex industry, doing photoshoots for the British mass-market sex magazines. (Which made me wonder just what was in some of those myriad other boxes, and wish for a rather greater disposal income than I had at the time....). Anyway, he'd occasionally flit off to Portugal or wherever, probably on the staff as 'temporary film-loader' or something. These trips seemed to be about the only thing he genuinely looked forward to in life, and given his surroundings I can understand it.  

Just about the last contact I had with Alan Dodd was about three years ago. He still had a load of fanzines to pass on, and because Catherine and I were due to meet John Harvey (who lived barely ten minutes drive from Dodd) in Birmingham for something I suggested that John actually go to Hoddesdon and pick up the fanzines for a transfer. Alan was surprisingly open to this - not what I'd expected at all - and John, briefed by me on the monumental rarity of the event he was about to participate in, eventually went around, fully toolled with a videocamera!  

The short but revealing videoclip fully reinforced most of what I'd gathered - Stanstead Road was a pretty undistinguished terrace, Number 77 was a pretty dilapidated sample of it, there were obviously a lot of boxes in the Dodd hallway, and Alan himself gave every impression of being a rather shabby and careworn individual who nevertheless seemed quite friendly and genuinely amused by the idea of being videoed for the benefit of, if not fandom at large, then me at least. He looked, as far as I remember not having seen the tape for three years, rather like the British actor Neville Smith - that's not much help, I know, but there you go. A pretty average guy in his fifties who could do with a hot bath and some new clothes. (Could be me, come to that....)  

I sent him a letter thanking him for that, the ultimate delivery of fanzines, but didn't hear back from him. That December (1996) I sent him a note with a fiver enclosed (after all even I was better off financially than he was!) for a drink over the New Year, but again there was no response. What with the usual one-damned-thing-after-another I never did get around to having another go, but I think now that it's about that time. He seemed a nice guy, with no more than the usual for fandom probable personality defects. I kind of liked him, from what I could see.  

Just in case some of our Younger Members (ie almost anyone under fifty who isn't a determined fanzine collector) wonder just why anyone might be interested in some crazy old fart, then a bit a background (which can I hope be filled in more by other Old Farts...)  Alan Dodd was most wellknown as editor of the fanzine CAMBER, which ran for 14 issues from the early Fifties up to 1964. (It had been started by someone else, one of the very few Welsh fans - as a sort of Cambrian (hence the name) rallying point, but as usual in Wales nothing happened - ground under the English heel for too long/no sense of identity/lack of common culture etc etc). Not an especially distinguished fanzine, it nevertheless had some good features - good art particularly (one of the covers being maybe not the best but certainly the most genuinely scary I've ever seen on a fanzine), and especially the occasional "Dodd's Fan-Dome" strips done by George Metzger (now there's a real 'Whatever Happened To...'). Written content was always pretty high on the cinematic and so on, and wasn't frankly, too great. An Interesting rather than Good fanzine. Dodd himself was a columnist for a variety of US fanzines, particularly YANDRO, but in the end is more famous for being the Hermit of Hoddesdon rather than as a great lost fanwriter.  

Subject: [memoryhole] Fanzine Collection
From: Greg Pickersgill <gregory@gostak.demon.co.uk>
Date: Wed, 24 Oct 2001 14:37:49 +0100

 I was, as you can imagine, quite wholly delighted when this thread leaped so rapidly and completely from consideration of the plight of the Memory Hole Recycling Heaps to the minutiae of the US Postal Service and other topics clearly close to the fannish heart.

I was even more gratified to find that apart from a few sympathetic notes by Peter Weston (and, transatlantically,  an offer of asylum by Ned Brooks), not one British fan allowed concern for the situation to furrow their delicate little brows or unduly trouble their contemplation of their own affairs.

I was just up in the air over the moon about all this. Because I feel that having canvassed the Massed Minds of the Last Redoubt of fanzine fandom about my problem and got a pretty clear Don't Care in answer, I can do as I bloody well like with it.

Of course I have plans. Some of them less welcome than others. there is for example the plan to buy a secondhand Portakabin (a sort of portable prefabricated shed, for those of you who don't know) and have it craned into our garden from the road, and then pack it with the MHRH. And seal the doors for ever. No, not that, I mean use it as a fanac room.

Somewhat surprisingly this hasn't gone down too well here. Quite apart from the problem of where do we get the money for the damned Portakabin to start with, never mind the cost of crane-hire, Catherine has this Thing about the garden. It all boils down to the fact that a standard size Portakabin will actually cover the only cultivable part of the garden completely, leaving just enough room to get into the prexisting sheds provided you do it sideways. And we haven't even got into the issue of where Moon is going to poo and pee.

I did try to get round this with the idea that we could simply cover the roof of the Storage Facility with a foot or so of soil so that with a couple of ladders (one big, one small) everything would be ok, but there was unreasonable resistance.

The next plan hasn't been too well recieved either, but I think it has enormous charm. We've always been rather keen on the idea that presently existing but redundant nuclear reactors should be embedded in giant glass pyramids and left for the Future to sort out (on the assumption that if there IS any Future they will be smarter than we are, and if they're not then who cares anyway...) and incidentally giving us something really mindboggling to look at, so why not a real Long Year solution to the MHRH problem. My plan was to seal everything into watertight boxes and then build an Interesting Structure out of them at the end of the garden (the really rough bit we don't even look at often, where the cats hide) and then sheath the whole business with something shiny - old mirrors, scrap stainless steel, whatever I can get hold of.

The advantage of this plan is that once you assume that no-one actually wants access to any of the fanzines they can be stored tightly, so taking up a fraction of the space. Smaller than a Portakabin, shiner than a sixpence, I felt this plan had a real charge to it. Science-fictional too, next best thing to a Time Capsule.  

But no. Not so emphatic as the refusual to conform to the Portakabin theory, but no Yes either.

Then there the real Time Capsule theory. We were deeply engaged recently in a strange story about a Digging Lunatic somewhere in North London, who'd been mining out from the basement of his terrace house into the street and under other peoples' houses, and generally causing severe distress to both people and buildings. He'd been at it for years, apparently. (It turns out that this sort of molish compulsion is rather more common than you'd imagine, leading us to startling thoughts about a buried breed of humanity that came from some troglodytic past). It happens, oddly, that I have - as well as rather moley spadelike hands - the Small Betraying Detail,  perhaps - a tendency to want to get underground. Huge subterranean galleries and endless belowground catacombs have always had an appeal.

So of course I suggested that we simply dig a bloody big hole in the garden (well, pretty much excavate the entire garden actually), line it with damp-proofing and concrete, and use that as a Fanac Bunker. We could even, I said extravangantly, eventually dig an entrance tunnel under the house to the living room so that we wouldn't even have to go outdoors to get there.

And then we could carry on, with a gallery out into the field at the back, eventually coming up fifty yards away in our Lost Garden, which actually isn't adjoining our house at all. Eventually tripling at least the size of our accomodation! This all has a frightening plausibility. In my mind at least. Peculiarly enough this plan hasn't been entirely turned down.

The only problem with it of course is the usual one of time and money. The way things go around here I'd be at least seventy by the time it was finished and then probably wouldn't give a toss anyway, even if I was still alive. And not lost in some terrible underground cave-in, trapped for decades surviving only on worms, rats, and issues of SICK ELEPHANT.

Oh it'll never happen. Charming as it sounds.

So what will happen. Well, there's a few people who actually do want some stuff, and they'll be attended to with the next few days, but as far as the rest goes then it's all going to be a bit drastic. Some of it will be going to the dump. Oh, I'll be very selective, trust me. The rest will be boxed up and shoved somewhere out of the way, waiting for the New Dawn just around the corner when neofans will crowd the door demanding copies of NO AWARD and LAN'S LANTERN.

To: memoryhole@yahoogroups.com
Subject: [memoryhole] And there I was and -
From: Greg Pickersgill <gregory@gostak.demon.co.uk>
Date: Mon, 28 Apr 2003 14:00:18 +0100

And there I was and -

I kept seeing the guy with the back end of a goat sticking out of his arse. Once you noticed him he seemed to be everywhere. And it wasn't just me; other people saw him as well. After a while there was even some conversation about whether or not it really was the back end of a goat after all. There was a theory that the poor fellow had a startlingly serious case of piles and these leg-like structures about his nether regions were simply decorative haemorroid socks. We could have asked, of course, but who wants to approach a grown man who has foot-long rabbit ears strapped to his head?

It seems like a dream now, but it was of course a science fiction convention. The 2003 Eastercon, as a matter of fact.

During the convention Catherine and I were employees of employees, working Andy Richards' booktables. The Banana Twins work the tables for Andy at many conventions, thereby freeing up his time to spend the profits on family holidays to such exotic locations as the West Indies and Dartmoor. The only problem they have is that putting all the time in makes them miss out on programming, so this year they took on some help - us. I was glad to do this. Apart from anything else it gives some kind of structure to the whole convention experience; up early, breakfast, bookroom at 10.00am, then hours of standing around waiting for someone to buy something. It's so different from the normal just standing around waiting for something to happen the we all usually experience at conventions.

Actually it's fun. As most bookdealers know you get more interesting conversation with more people in the bookroom than you do anywhere else in the convention. And, weirdly, a lot of it is about books and stuff, the very things that are supposed to have brought us together at the event. It's always intriguing to see who is talkative and who is not; some people talk readily and interestingly about what they are buying or looking for, others pointedly ignore overtures at conversation. It's also fascinating to see who comes into the bookroom, and for this reason Mark Plummer - who is usually Bookroom boss as well - tries to put Andy's tables near the door. It's illuminating to see that so many of the hardcore 'fans' rarely if ever come to the bookroom.

This time around the Cold Tonnage squad (that's us) had a spare table which we used to display a load of fanzines either brought with us or donated at the convention. How strange to see that so few 'fanzine fans' were aware of this, and how they were conspicuous in not flocking there to check things out. And there were some quite unusual items on there too. Pity they all had to be thrown away at the end of the convention.

It's odd what people don't buy in the bookroom. The Science Fiction Foundation people had lots of very cheap magazines that were essentially ignored, but the star classic knockout item was pretty much right in front of me on the Cold Tonnage table. A copy of the first edition (1960) of IN SEARCH OF WONDER, the first best book of sf criticism and still to my mind the most readable, entertaining, and inspiring. I've had copies (at least two - I'm that sort of person) of the second edition since the time it appeared, but I'd never had a first. I kept looking at it throughout the con, thinking "I want this book" but determinedly not buying it because, well, someone else could get it and be as enthralled by it as I was.

And I kept looking at it; incredible as it seemed no-one was buying the damned thing, and it was only 10 too, barely more than the price of a drink, or a current B-format paperback. And I kept checking and it was always there, unmoved, uninspected, apparently unwanted. Late in the con, Monday morning , just hours before final closing, I leafed through it again, and with a genuine shock I noticed for the first time the bookplate on the inside front cover. 'John Carnell' it said. Bloody hell, this was Ted Carnell's personal copy! This thing was radiating great huge yobba-rays of scientifictional historicity in all directions - first edition, great book, damon knight, Ted Carnell, personal copy - and no-one was picking it up! Incredible. Well, fuck them, I thought, as I put it into my to-be-paid-for box behind the tables, if they haven't bought it by now they don't deserve to. It's a treasure and I count myself lucky; but at the same time I wish someone else had bought it with the same joy of discovery I felt.

It was of course a science fiction convention, with a program and everything. I'd have liked to have seen more of the program, and I'm sure I would have done if I had been able to properly follow the grid in the pocket guide. Maybe I'm just getting past it, or there are too many program streams, or Julian Headlong was trying for the non-linear in his design, or I was suddenly afflicted by Alien Geometries (I had just bought a book on HP Lovecraft, was it somehow infectious...), or something, but I couldn't make any sense of it. And anyway parts of it were being rescheduled on the fly so as to take up the slack caused by the last-minute cancellation - for no good or acceptable reason - by one of the Guests of Honour. Who we won't mention here, thereby hopefully setting a trend by which she is never mentioned in the sf community again.

I would have very much liked to see Chris Evans' Guest of Honour spot. Indeed it was very much the fact that he was a GoH that encouraged Catherine and I to make the effort to get to the convention in the first place, and it was a genuine pleasure to see him again, and even more to find that we inter-related easily and well, a rare example of the truth of the old fannish myth that people meet after years apart and carry on the same conversation without missing a beat. Maybe the secret is that we can make each other laugh.

I'd been to a small group discussion of Chris' novel AZTEC CENTURY (arguably his best, except maybe INSIDER, and both of them highly recommended books around here) earlier in the convention and was delighted by it. Directed by Garry Kilworth (who looks about ten years younger now than he did when I last saw him about fifteen years ago - what's going on here?) and with barely a dozen people there, it gave Chris an excellent opportunity to talk conversationally about the book in specific, and by allusion his general creative process. It was absorbing, enlightening, and truly entertaining in the best way - exactly the sort of thing I've spent years going to conventions hoping for and see so rarely.  (The bookdealers panel item in the fanroom at Paragon was the only other in recent years that I feel succeeded as much.). The bad thing is that it would be difficult, almost impossible, to do the same thing as a mian program item; the actual physical proximity and close relationship of the 'panel' and 'audience' was one of the things that enabled it to work so well.

So I'd been keen to see his Big Item. But somehow it vanished. It was only later I realised that at the time I'd been doing a panel on  'Science Fiction Magazines of the 20th Century' and hadn't realised it clashed with Evans. No wonder there were so few people at that panel... . Which was a strange mishmash of ideas really, ranging from coming up with a convincing proof (that became more convincing as time went on) that sf magazines were being ruined by the generally downbeat tone of the fiction, that Michael Moorcock had almost succeeded in his not-so-covert plan to destroy sf, and that, god help us, what sf magazines really needed was a good dose of oldfashioned Campbellism, reminding us of  the innate superiority of the human race and the all conquering power of the White Heat of Applied Technology. Yeah!  I think we might have been going a bit far somehow, but even now in the cold light of day I see parts of that as very convincing, especially if you think of it in terms of why 'ordinary people' don't want to read sf. I mean, most people live lives of not so quiet desperation  anyway, so why do they want to be reminded of the fact that it could all get very much worse in the blink of an eye?

And we won't even get on to Gerry Webb and the surreal exploration of his early sf magazine reading days which began with two boys riding bicycles along a deserted road, travelled the universe with Dan Dare and ended with him groping around in a London fog, trying to find a bus by touch alone.

Anyway, I missed Evans. And everyone who was there said he was good. Oh.

It is of course always a joy to see one's old pals at conventions. I genuinely look forward to seeing Peter Weston,and Rog Peyton, and we spent hours together talking books, fandom, and fans. Peter is doing a fannish autobiography for NESFA and on the basis of the chapters I've read - and the anecdotes I've heard - it's going to be fantastic. (Please keep the Cliff Teague suicide story in,  Peter!). And I'm genuinely glad to see Roger getting himelf back together after the fall of Andromeda and working a big booktable at the convention. He took good money, I believe, and everyone I spoke to was most definate in the hope that he'd be back up there with there soon. It's a pleasure too to see the old stagers like Ken Slater looking so ruff and tuff; ok, he may not be staying up all night knocking back the bottles of rum like he used to, but in his mid-eighties he can do a full days work in the bookroom and carry his own damned stock out at the end of the convention. Personally I'll be glad to live to his age, and certainly don't expect to be so fit, mentally and physically, as he is. Ken donated a load of fanzines recently found in his attic to our impromptu fanzine table, including some extraordinary old convention material from Way Back that immediately vanished into the gaping maw of Pat McMurray.

Ron Bennett and David Redd also showed up for a day, separately but together, having arranged to meet there on the Saturday. Ron is in dodgy health, I know, but looks amazingly well and fit, in fact healthier and more dapperly dressed than virtually anyone else at the convention. It was a pleasure to see him and I wish he'd had a bit more time there. It was good to see David too; even though he lives barely a mile from us in Haverfordwest he works away from home and has so many domestic responsibilities that even when he is in Haverfordwest we barely see him from one year to another. But he's a great guy, with a lot more going on in there about sf and writing than many people realise (one of the great unused program participants), with an over-thirty-year writing career. And it's certainly time he had a bundle of his best short fiction published in book form.

There were others; I was rooting around on Andy's table when I heard someone say "Hello Greg." I looked up and there was Michael Eavis. What the hell is the organiser of the Glastonbury festival doing here, I thought wildly, and how in the name of god does he know ME! Aeons of incomprehension passed before I realised it was in fact Graham Charnock. Someone I haven't seen for over fifteen years. You know that business referred to above about fans being able to take up where they left off decades earlier? Well, it doesn't always happen, and sometimes it's peculiarly uncomfortable. I have no idea why Charnock and I ceased to know each other way back when, or even whether it was a choice or 'fault' thing. I'm not even sure now whether we were actually friends or just fannish acquaintances, even though we spent a lot of fun time together socially. So this was, well, oddly awkward. We chatted a bit, and to be honest I couldn't make my mind up whether he was trying to be funny, deliberately  provocative or just drunk. Probably the latter as he several times referred to having drunk half a bottle of vodka before coming into the hotel. That's stage fright for you, and I understand that; I always wonder what is the real reason many British fans - including myself - become alcoholics the moment we enter a convention hotel when we go for months without a drink on the outside. Anyway, I was a bit baffled. Later that evening, when both of us were pretty well over the edge, we almost had an argument about something. I have no idea what it was. I blame the drink, it's a sword that's all edges and no handles.

But Graham did provide a highlight moment of the convention. At his Astral Leaugue comeback tour spot (really, I'm not making this up...) he got Chris Evans out of the audience to do an unrehearsed reading of Pat Charnock's piece DESCENT OF WOMEN FOM THE TREES which originally appeared in the Astral LeagueYearbook 1977 (I'm  really not making this up!). It was wonderful - grappling with a deliberately misspelled text photocopied from the original fanzine, Evans did a terrific dramatic reading with gestures in all directions that was funny and peculiarly touching at the same time. We old stahlhelms love to wallow in sentiment - as Chris said later "there were moments during Graham's Astral  Leaugue slot when I felt that that ridiculous and disreputable sense of fun had been recovered for a few instants. I must admit I miss it, but you can't plan for these things or indeed appreciate them properly except in some fuzzy afterglow, when they've already passed." And he was, as so often, quite right.

And then there was that bloody woman in the way. We were at Andy's table and Catherine said Look, there's David Redd! Where, I said, staring shortsightedly around as usual. There look, right in front of you! Where, I was thinking, I can't see anything. Look, right there, wearing the Welsh flag shirt, Catherine said again, as if pointing out the obvious to a child. I still can't see anything, this bloody woman is standing right in front of me, in the way, blocking my view. As I tried to peer around the person she spoke to me. And I realised that my view was obscured by not just some run of the mill fans but Jeanne Gomoll and Scott Custis. Unbelievable, even more incredible than seeing Rich Coad and Stacy Scott the night before. Surprised reunion, assurance to meet later, never saw them again for the entire duration of the convention. What is it sometimes, is it just me?

Off to one end of the excellent (if you discount the occasionally varying-upwards bar-prices) rambling hotel (just big enough to lose people - where did all those individuals I saw for a fleeting instant actually go to....was Jeanne Gomoll really there....) was the Lakeside, scene of the infamous fanroom of Paragon 2001. Even though it was being used for programming (no fanroom at this con, if nothing else the committee had learned that lesson...) I felt reluctant to go into it. It just had a bad feeling for me. I didn't want to return to the site of past failures.

But of course you have to go and look at even the most grisly accident, so one evening when I was feeling alienated already and thus had nothing to lose I wandered pointedly casually in there, hoping no-one else would be about. (I'd tried earlier in the day, to tell the truth, and met Simon Bradshaw there, waiting alone for the start of a program item - we chatted briefly and I made my excuses and left, it wasn't right.) The place was empty, but all the chairs and staging and PA and everything was in place. No bloody tables full of fanzines, though, thankfully. I walked every inch of the room, rewriting everything I knew about being there, but I still felt a vague feeling of loss, that sense of something not having worked. I was standing there drinking a glass of water from the watercooler when the door to the toilets opposite me opened and a fan who I had not seen - and frankly did not want to see - for many years came out. He looked at me, I looked at him, he reflexively said, 'Hi', I said nothing, and he walked away, both of us slightly embarrassed and possibly slightly angry about being alone in this room together. And suddenly it was all over, the Lakeside was now just another bit of a hotel, nothing important to me had ever happened there, it was just a place where people did things and individuals you didn't want to know went to the toilets. Great.

So later I went to the 'Lost Classics of SF' panel there and it was good. Well, the potential content was good, though it was hampered by no microphones in a room where sound easily vanished into the cavernous roof-dome. And not helped either by slack moderation which failed to keep things moving and allowed lapses and longeurs and failures of momentum into which more material could have been fitted. But, predictably, Rog Peyton, Julian Headlong and Pete Weston, excellent and experienced panellists and talkers on books, excavated a number of titles, many of which I'll actively seek out. Maybe not anything by Dean McLaughlin, Peter, but I do have a copy of Don Bensen's book ...AND HAVING WRIT and bloody hell it doesn't half remind me of HARD LANDING. That's spooky to the point of plagiarism. And Rog's praise of Jerry Yulsman's ELEANDER MORNING was more than enough to get me to re-read this excellent book. I must email all three and get copies of their notes, as many books were not discussed through lack of time.

Of course many more things happened. I skate over the long discussions in the bar about how peculiarly sexless so many fan women become the more overtly 'sexy' their clothing becomes. Of course it's just 'dressing up' and to a very large extent there's no intention of sexuality in their costuming (and I use that word specifically) but it is unsettling  how successful they are in this. Suddenly perfectly ordinary non-fan women, hotel staff or barmaids or whatever, seem to personify a level of true eroticism that seem entirely absent within the fan community. And yes, I know, I and we have no room to talk.

Oh, there was lots of other stuff, properly meeting Dave Lally for the first time was big fun. We've been acquainted for years but this is the first time we've actually talked together properly, and it was amazing how many things we had in common, even leaving aside vexillology. He's someone I'll look forward to seeing again, if we can motivate ourselves to another convention.

And then there we were, at the end of the convention, sitting watching what has been variously described as an Albanian bread queue or an asylum seekers waiting line; a shuffling ribbon of fans checking out of the hotel. All of them looking, frankly, rough. Tired, hungover some of them, laden with odd assortments of baggage including supermarket carrier-bags bulging with paper. All of them still trying to be 'fans', trying to be animated, talking, witty, but on the cusp of being returned to mundania. Where their clothes, their speech patterns, even their exaggerated gestures - all the things that they adopt to bond, to be together -  would all change and become 'normal' again; it's like watching a butterfly return to its chrysalis.

Subject: [memoryhole] Wallowing in memory and sentiment again
From: Greg Pickersgill <gregory@gostak.demon.co.uk>
Date: Fri, 12 Oct 2001 16:35:40 +0100 

I was just cleaning my Shield of Umor.

No, honestly, I was. It's been in Catherine's gardening shed for a while (now how fannish is THAT, eh) because for one damn reason or another we've been short a bit of wall to put it up on. Anyway, to cut a long story short I've found a bit of wall and now all I need is a couple of big hooks and we're away to the races.

The Shield is in pretty good condition considering it hasn't been used for a while - a bit dusty, some strange aluminum-type corrosion on the backside, but the legend and the cheerful face are A-Number-One. Looking at it brings all sorts of times and places and people back to me - maybe I ought to be using it as a meditation piece, an aide-memoire to put myself back into a time when fandom was if not a nicer more interesting place then at least one I felt at home in. As opposed to the one with too many  boring shitheads in it that I seem to see whenever I open the gate. Sorry, should have been more moderate there, must go and gaze into the Shield again, and see the funny side of it all.

I'd love to say that my Shield of Umor appeared by my bedside one night years ago when I was but a tiny fan reading a few pages of ALL OUR YESTERDAYS with the committment of a convert every night before I forced myself to sleep at three in the morning, homework undone (yes, that's why I'm a poorly paid clerical at best, instead of running the country) but many scifi magazines read. I'd love to, indeed, and  I wonder sometimes if it did. But the real story - as I remember it anyway - is more prosaic, but still charged with a kind of fannish fervor.

The Shield I have - I would say 'own' but that's not strictly true - originated with that person from Porlock, Peter R Weston. I can't for the life of me remember why Peter had one of his skilful minions in the door-handle factory run him up a Shield of Umor - it was almost certainly his entrance into a fancy-dress competition as Jophan (well, that's obvious isn't it!) but I definately don't recall when. I was probably in the bar at the time anyway. But it must have been before June 1983 as the cover of one of the two issues of Peter's rather good little fanzine PROLAPSE issued that year featured a cartoon of him plus shield.

Anyway, time passes and we arrive at the 1987 Worldcon in Brighton.

For no doubt positive reasons Peter donates his Shield to the fanfund auction, which takes place in the Fan Program Room towards the end of the convention. I was Bossing the whole fanroom setup during that convention and like many of the staff I'd got a bit overwrought about it all - it was a peculiarly stressful convention in many ways, and far too many people got far too carried away with it all, sometimes in quite the wrong directions; we won't even go into the paper planes, for example. Or the unknown young twerp I had in a strangling deathgrip at one time. Let's just say that we had our little war, then and there, and fanrooms have never been quite so Involving ever since. Some of them have been fucking useless, it has to be said.

Anyway, there we were, wired up tight like that and the Shield of Umor comes up for auction, Immediately this great light goes on behind my eyes and I'm thinking of this as just the most Fannish Damned Thing ever to have existed on the planet - in my state I'm probably convincing myself that it actually is the Shield of Umor itself. It is a wonderful thing, it seems to glow with a deep internal brightness and the murky surroundings and dulled and exhausted faces of fans who have had Too Much Fun seem illuminated by its very presence. To cap it all, the first bidder is bloody Moshe Feder. Bloody hell, the man's an American, for gods sake. OK, he's a fan, and he's a right guy as far as I can tell (hangs about with publishers a bit much for my taste tho...but you have to make a living) but crikey that means that the Shield of Umor will LEAVE THE FUCKING COUNTRY!

Of course this can't happen. I instantly resolve that whatever happens the Shield will be British. We need it for gods sake, we take fandom so seriously here. (Oh how I wish I'd actually thought that at the time - as it was I was just roaring away on a huge wave of fannish nationalism, this was Our Worldcon, we'd just run a pretty damn fine Fanroom, we deserved a Symbol, a rallying point, something that linked us directly to the heart and soul of the ENCHANTED DUPLICATOR!) So whatever Moshe bids, I top, thinking the hell with it, I will win and worry about the consequences later.

We rapidly charge up the scale - fifty pounds passes and the damn thing is now more valuable that a double room in the convention hotel - sixty, the price of two nights drinking in the hotel bar - seventy, two nights drinking and a hotel meal - eighty, drink, meal, and enough cash to waste on books....

Moshe wavers, he obviously hates to let it go, but I also sense he thinks I haven't got infinite reserves (well, I haven't, but at this point I don't give a damn) so he pushes it up to 82  pounds (drink, meal, books, and the price of medication for liver failure...) in the vain hope I'll crumble. But no. My 85 pounds is too much for him, and with obvious diappointment he let's it go. (Of course he claimed later he only kept bidding to keep the price up and make sure some substantial money went to TAFF or whatever it was...yeah, sure thing...).

The Shield of Umor is mine, it's part of British Fandom now and forever, it is a wonderful moment. I'm genuinely elated and I carry the thing to my hotel room with real pride and tears in my eyes, and no doubt nonfan convention attendees passing me in the corridors and halls percieve me as a crazy man.

Later while in the bar I discuss the idea of the Shield being owned cooperatively by British Fandom - part of me already wondering where the hell I'm going to get 85 pounds from, but overall I genuinely want it to be an Us rather than My thing. There's a chorus of agreement to my suggestion that a group of us contribute towards the actual cost of the Shield; I certainly don't expect any cash at the end of a pretty damned expensive convention but feel, in my position as Fanroom Boss that all of these people, all of whom had been in my team, all of us flushed with Unit Pride and a job well-done in the fact of almost overwhelming hostility, that everything will be alright. The responsibility won't be mine alone, we will share the burden, work together.

Of course it doesn't turn out like that in real life. Within days it's all forgotten. The fans who were so behind the idea at the time appear to have no memory of it - except, oddly, one AM Berry (Master Locksmith). Tony Berry comes through with a small sum of money - ten pounds or so (or was it 12-50?) and from thenceforward owns a proportion of the Shield of Umor. It's almost unbelievable how inappropriate this is; not that Tony is an especially humorless individual, but he's more known for his dour cynicism than anything else.

But he has done the decent thing, and eventually even more; some months later he presents me with the Sword of Angst, a peculiarly British-fandom complement to the Shield of Umor. Made with his own hands from a sturdy wooden pick handle, it's name neatly painted on and well-varnished, I have it still, and for years it rested along the top of the Shield when we had a wall to put it on.

So here we are today. I didn't consciously extract the Shield with any fannish motive - I was just cleaning out Catherine's gardening shed - but I do feel I need it more now than ever. I must try to see the joke; I don't have any problem with picking up and pointing out the fundamental foolishness of life in every other circumstance, but setbacks and disappointments and collision with unsavory fools and unpleasant shitheads in fandom bring me down very low.  

It isn't that I need to convince myself that It Doesn't Matter - I don't want to do that because it does matter and if it didn't, bloody hell, I might as well just take up gardening or collecting typewriters or steel helmets or some pointless shit like that - but I have got to be more reasonable and balanced about it all, not want to discard the whole business because of disappointment with things or people.

I must be more reasonable - I will see the Joke - I will look into the Smiling Face and remind myself of what I liked about fandom, and try to find some evidence for it around me.

Maybe everything will be alright in the end. 

(A few days later Peter Weston, the Maker, responded to this with useful knowledge, reprinted here)

To: memoryhole@yahoogroups.com
Subject: Re: [memoryhole] Fandom is just a mailing group
From: Greg Pickersgill <gregory@gostak.demon.co.uk>
Date: Thu, 01 Nov 2001 16:00:49 +0000

 Dave Locke wrote

>On the other hand, to me being "currently active" means participation in the online forums.  I do other fanac of various sorts, but definitely I'm a "walking fossil" when it comes to doing any further general-distribution fanzines.  I might do an online equivalent of one, but it's been three years now that I've been taking notes on a re-do of http://www.angelfire.com/oh/slowdjin/ . I'm in PlaceHolder Fandom. 

And the reason this has stuck in my mind is because of course I suspect I have done one hell of a whole lot more written fanac online since 1996, and particularly with regard to MHML, than I have ever actually done anywhere else, which is vaguely frightening, shaming, and peculiar.

I began written fanac (as opposed to running conventions and like that) back in 1968, when as previously mentioned I did stuff for early Peter Roberts fanzines.

Soon after that I began publishing FOULER, influenced by, it's true, Leroy Kettle, but the fanzine was definately edited by myself (and its about time Robert Lichtman grasped this!) and ran for six issues between September 70 and September 72.

Next came RITBLAT/GRIM NEWS which was just two issues in 1974, and then STOP BREAKING DOWN (my favorite fanzine title) which ran for six issues between March 76 and March 78, with a belated number 7 in 1981.

Then came RASTUS JOHNSON'S CAKEWALK  (the name most definately loaded with hidden allusions, one of my criteria for a good title) which did seven issues between September 93 and October 94. That was the last fanzine I actually produced.

Interspersed in all this were a dozen or so one-offs and apazines, some of which do not really bear detailed examination, frankly.

One thing that's quite conspicuous in its absence is a rollcall of contributions to other fanzines. To be honest there aren't a hell of a whole lot, and I wonder how I've got away with it for so long. Apart from a few pretty dire things in MORFARCH and suchlike (oh, I was young and stupid, but then so must Roberts have been to publish them) there was, um, a piece about the first British STAR TREK con in an EGG, a contribution to a Peter Roberts tribute one-off, a fanzine review column in ZIMRI (which didn't half piss off a lot of American fans as I remember!) and that's about the size of it. I really can't recall how many there have been - more than six and less than twenty, most definately. Eeeek. Small anthology, that one. Not that good either.

LoCs? What're they? Honestly, if you think it's incredible that I've been able to get away with so few contributions to other fanzines then it's probably a crime against civilization, nature and fandom generally that I've managed to produce barely a  dozen LoCs in the last 33 years of fandom - that's probably about as many as some people did in a day way back when there were that many fanzines your postman needed a special handcart just to deliver them all.

In truth I've always had a bit of an aversion to writing LoCs -  I've always taken the view that if I was going to produce something cleverly written and full of interesting commentary and asides (this is all going on in my own head, note!) then why the hell entrust it to some nut who'll edit it down to the best part of fuck-all and maybe even make bits up themselves. (nb I only ever did that when the LoCs weren't good enough to start with, Willis told me it was ok so that's alright then innit...).

No, seriously, I find writing such a pain a lot of the time that if I ever produce something I think is publishable then I'd just as soon run it myself rather than let some other spotty herbert fiddle about with it behind the bikesheds. And LoCs are hard anyway.  

So, strangely, doing this sort of thing (MHML and like that, pay attention!) actually suits my style down to the ground. I can produce the piece, work it up a bit, find most of the typoes and errors and the crap bits of style that even I don't like, and then we're away to the races, rattle rattle click click and it's off, and quite a large proportion of the people I want to read it may well do so, as well as a bunch of others who're just reading over their shoulders.

 And there's no doubt that all told I have produced maybe more and maybe better stuff for MHML - particularly in the last few weeks - than I have at any time in the last three and a bit decades. Ought I be admitting this? Yes. This is attempting to prove my point that I am an active fan.

Quite obviously too it is MHML that suits me best of all the online options. I don't have enough time left in my life for rassf or whatever its fucking called and who are most of those people anyway? (they're not active in my fandom!) Timebinders just doesn't seem to have any heart to it, and frankly you couldn't pay me to get involved in some of the others. MHML was secretly intended to be my covert fanzine right from the beginning, and while I've been apallingly delinquent in doing the leading from the front (aka 'editing') too much of the time - witness the dire periods of the Eney controversy and suchlike - the last month has been extraordinarily successful.

So where does this leave us in terms of 'being active in fandom'?

Well, it depends on what one means by 'fandom'. It's certainly true that with MHML we don't have the permanence of print or the serendipity of discovery that print donates uptime to The Ages, but from my point of view I'm still hitting much of my intended audience (and I wish I could work out a simple way of covering the others  without actually producing the damned fanzine...) and that to me counts as being 'active in fandom'. In fact whichever way you look at it that means active in fandom.

When you look at the generally crappy nature of some of the fanzines being produced by people who are percieved of as 'active fans' then without blowing my own horn too damned hard I can claim to be at the very least as active in fandom as some of them. And to a damned large extent more concerned with fandom specifically.

Of course the problem is with the conflation of active fandom in terms of fanwriting and publishing on the one hand and socialising fandom on the other.  Some people - even including me sometimes, old habits learned young die hard - feel that to be an active fan means being a social fan, meeting all the Right people, being in all the Right places, generally doing the social rounds and equating relative status according to who is seen where and with who. When looked at dispassionately of course this is bollocks - it's got nothing to do with fanac at all and no matter how many hours of drunk or drugged jabber you add together they aren't as much use or ornament either now or in the future as a good wellcrafted bit of fanwriting. OK, there's an illusion that one might be in with the Movers and Shakers, but I'm not so certain as I once was that that's much more than a very small hill of beans. A lot of talk is usually just that. And I do not necessarily exempt convention runners from this - if conventions were as wonderful proportionate to the amount of time spent talking about and planning them we'd all want to fucking live there.

Anyway, what I think is that we're just as much active fans as anyone else, its simply that fandom has been so thoroughly balkanised by the variety of different special interests and with the option of creating different online comunities that it is no longer possible to say that there is a core fandom to be active in. There simply isn't  'fandom' any longer, so we all have to measure our activity by our own peer yardstick - honestly, whose opinion really matters to you? Think of the number of total farts and shitheads who are 'active in fandom' and consider whether you really care what they think about any damned thing at all, much less their opinion of your own fanactivity.

So we (and I use the term loosely- see previous para) don't have to 'get back to being currently active fans' - we ARE. It just depends on whether we accept the change, the move away from true generalism, or fret endlessly about things that in fact don't matter a toss.

Yeah verily, I am an Active Fan. A legend in my own living room.

Nothing changes, eh.

Subject: Re: [memoryhole] Wallowing in memory and sentiment again
From: "Peter Weston"
Date: Tue, 16 Oct 2001 18:28:09 +0100

Greg said

> I can't for the life of me remember WHY Peter had one of his skilful minions in the door-handle factory run him up a Shield of Umor - it was almost certainly his entrance into a fancy-dress competition as Jophan  (well,that's obvious isn't it!) but I definitely don't recall when.

Greg, I'm not going to miss this chance for a little late egoboo on The Shield of Umor - but let me say first of all that I'm delighted you valued it so much and still appreciate it now.

It wasn't made by "one of the minions" because I didn't take over the door handle factory until the following year. No, the Shield was made by me, myself, personally, in one frantic Saturday afternoon of creativity in my shed, just before the 1983 Glasgow Albacon.  I'd missed Eastercon for a year or two, and you'll remember this was when I was trying to get the Brum Group "Renaissance" underway, so for both of these reasons I thought I'd make a special effort to be fannish, and would go as Jophan to the Fancy Dress.

The Shield started as a piece of aluminium sheet, originally part of a display board we used at an exhibition in France in l968 when I was with the BSA company. When I left I took various bits of wood and stuff like this away with me, on the general basis that it might come in useful. So when inspiration struck in 1983 I just had to get off the lettraset, using an abrasive pad, then I cut the sheet into a rough triangle and drew the face in felt-tip pen. (modelled on the Eddie Jones illo in the second edition of TED, produced by Ted Johnstone and LASFS in 1962. This is my preferred edition and I have it now).

Next step was to put the thing onto a thick bed of latex foam, and then I started tapping away with a small hammer and punch. If you're careful, you can gradually distort a sheet of aluminium in this way, but it takes a long time since each 'tap' makes only a tiny dent, and you don't want to tear thesheet. (It's called 'panel-beating' and that's how Morgan Motors made body panels for their cars until recently, at their factory in Pickersgill Road, Malvern [thought you'd like to know that!])

Finally I sprayed the face with some aluminium car-paint to brighten it up a little, outlined the features in black gloss paint, and bent the top around and secured across the arc with a piece of broomstick, which holds the shape and gives you something to grip. I think I put a piece of  polished brass strip across the top as well; that was also scrounged, and was originally due to be used as a rain-deflector on my back door.

Anyway, I went up to Glasgow on the train with Steve Green, Martin Tudor and (I think) Tony Berry, but my problem was that the Shield was too big to put on the luggage rack, or behind the seat, so I had to sit and hold it, allthe way up (5 hours).  And when I finally went into the Fancy Dress line-up, I felt a bit of a prat because no-one, not a soul, knew what it was supposed to be. There I stood with fanzines stuffed in my socks and a knapsack on my back, along with all these people with swords and cloaks. "Not much of a costume, is it?" they said, and "Maybe if he had a dragon on his shoulder..." (You can read all about it in Prolapse).

The best bit was when I shambled around the area and got a round of applause from Mal Ashworth, who had chosen that year to re-enter fandom. He was almost the only one to recognise the Shield for what it was. (You certainly were in the bar - I mean, you NEVER go to Fancy Dress).  So it was all a bit of a waste of time, really, but I enjoyed making the Shield and I'm very pleased it went to a good owner.

Now make sure you keep it well polished, Gregor. You know what will happen if you don't!

Peter W