from Fouler 3, October 1970

Fouler on Maya
from ‘Eyeball’, Fouler 4, December 1970; ‘Eyeball’ Fouler 6, June 1971; and ‘Eyeball’, Fouler 7, September 1972 

Eyeball—Fanzine Reviews 
from Ritblat/Grim News 1, March 1974

Burning Hell—Fanzine Reviews
from Stop Breaking Down 2, April 1976

Burning Hell—Fanzine Reviews
from Stop Breaking Down 4, March 1977

Big Fat Book
from Rastus Johnson’s Cakewalk 1, September 1993

Now, Then
from Rastus Johnson’s Cakewalk 2, November 1993

The Best Fanzines
posted to Memoryhole elist, 6 February 1999,  25 February 1999 and 12 April 1999

The Blue Spot Returns
posted to Memoryhole elist, 12 October 2001

Things That I Used To Do

Once upon a time, longer ago than seems at all possible, I used to put out fanzines. I even used to do fanzine reviews, and you can tell how long ago this was because at the time fanzine reviewing was still a respectable occupation and had not yet been tainted with the cutting edge of thinly veiled hysteria that so many people now seem to expect. For some reason people like Eric Bentcliffe who had read very few of my reviews came to the conclusion that my style was uniformly aggressive and anti-everything, and that all I wanted was to criticise poor snivelling first-time faneds just for the pure pleasure of watching them die. I even went so far as to count and classify all the reviews I’d ever done to see exactly how they lay, and even I was surprised to find something like eighty percent of them were pretty well unalloyed praise and the tiny minority were the harsh criticisms Bentcliffe and his like fixated upon. Okay, so blood is generally more fun than butter to a jaded audience, and more attractive as critical copy in itself if you want to prove a point, and the real trouble with all this is that it seemed to make nasty reviewing kind of cool and in the last analysis produced Joseph Nicholas for which I am very very sorry. But, the point of all this is, I liked a lot more fanzines than I hated. I did a list of my top fanzines one time, which was hard enough, but not so hard at all as trying to distinguish the truly dreadful.
Excellent fanzines are easy: Wrinkled Shrew, Stop Breaking Down, One-Off, Deadloss, Out Of The Blue, Epsilon; names come readily. The merely mediocre or uninteresting take more effort: Atropos, Titan, Ardees, or K. But the really dreadful... Viridiana... Secondhand Wave... God Almighty, there must be others that were just too hideous to even bother unwrapping if you could guess the contents. Never mind the top end of things; let’s do a Frank’s APA poll of the worst fanzine of all time. I wonder how many people will find as I did that very little of such junk has actually stayed in your memory.
from Not Jumping But Falling, Frank's APA, November 1983



from Fouler 3, October 1970

Fouler’s ‘Heap’ [the letter column] this issue doesn’t contain any LOCs from the US or Canada, as you’ll have noticed. This isn’t evidence of anti-NorMerican sentiment, but is merely because this issue has followed so hard on the heels of the last that people in the States and Canada will not have had time to respond yet. Assuming they’re going/want to, that is.

Anyway, Fouler will appear on a roughly bi-monthly schedule in the future, and the publication date will be brought forward whenever the stock of worthy material is enough to make an issue worthwhile. However, the kind of material we get is more or less up to You (ghod help us), and let it be known now that nothing will be rejected unless it is either cruddily written or has evidence of out-and-out fugghead thot. This means that no matter how repellent the subject matter may be—whether it’s an inevitably useless attempt to convince me of the existence of a blues band better than Canned Heat, or a paean of praise for the skinhead faction—as long as it is well-written and intelligently presented, it has a very high chance of seeing genuine duper ink.

Whilst still on the subject of future issues, I’d like to mention two departments we have a mind to run. A fanzine review column, of a depth unheard of in the annals of fandom since the demise of Pete Roberts’s Checkpoint and only previously encountered in that greatest fanzine of them all, Amazing Stories. We consider it vital that there should be a viable well-known column of in-depth fanzine reviews. It should not only help to weed the crud out of British fanzines (all three of them) but give praise wherever it’s due to individual writers, especially of poetry and fiction, areas ignored by many LOCers, as evidenced by the comments on the last issue of Fouler. Anyway, we’d like to receive all new fanzines for potential review, well within deadline time whenever possible.

The other project is ‘Backspace’, a reprint section of small items from the fabulous fanzines of days past, such as Hyphen (which ran a singularly successful column of this type itself, upon which ‘Backspace’ is unashamedly modelled), Bastion and many others. This unit will be wide open to guest editing, so if you know of any Golden Oldie which will show the modern fan what he’s missing, then by all means send it in.



 Fouler on Maya

Maya 1—from Ian Williams, 6 Greta Terrace, Chester Road, Sunderland, Co. Durham SR4 7RJ For trade, 2/- (6/- for 3), LOC; 34pp quarto
from ‘Eyeball’, Fouler 4, December 1970

My, I thought to myself, huddled in the sweaty sheets at 8.20 in the morning, peering at Maya in the guttering light of a brace of clapped out Ever-Readies: this is a damn good fanzine. So I fell back into the arms of Morpheus; and in the fullness of time, at 1 PM and in the blinding reality of sunlight, I looked again, and stap me if I hadn’t been reasonably right first time.

This is a bloody good first issue, is what I’m trying to say in that last pseudo-lyrical paragraph. The best since Morfarch 1, in fact, and you all remember that one don’t you? (?) This is without a doubt the most interesting fanzine I’ve seen for a long time; it’s packed with the most incredible things, good, bad, and plain lousy, but all very, very interesting. It’s a weird kind of cross between the ‘normal’ type of first issue—in that it has a lot of 'unknowns' and a lot of material by Ian himself—but it’s also got a very mature feel to it, probably due to A Graham Boak’s column, and the fact that Ian has been around the fan thing for a while before and knows where it’s at.

Still, to more detailed comments. It’s a fairly smart magazine, marred only by an excess of faintness of repro and a little cramping here and there. Too many of the shorter items are seemingly carelessly bunged together, and it’s too easy to get them confused. There’re a number of reasonable illos, mostly Harry Bell reprints, but one absolutely superb one of an arm flushing itself down a bog, which I shall doubtless steal for Ratfandom badges if I can.


The actual contents, wordwise, are a little odd. I mean, a review of Dangerous Visions was all very well eighteen months ago, but now it’s a bit of an anachronism. Still, Brian Stableford manages to say absolutely nothing new very well indeed. Similarly, Mailer’s American Dream wasn’t exactly published yesterday, but I found this a rather pleasing inclusion in a fanzine, particularly as the review was quite exceptionally well done, although some of Ritchie Smith’s conclusions seemed a bit flip and suspect to me.

Ian gets in everywhere, projecting a very reasonable image of himself as professional intellectual and part-time dwarf, and it’s a bet that he’s going to be a major fanwriter in a very short time. Here he’s mostly concerned with 'science fiction’ itself, and has some impossibly individual opinions to pass on. Myself, I disagree with him almost entirely, especially where he fliply puts down Philip Dick as ‘an introspective, irrelevant, bore’ and dismisses the Jerry Cornelius stories without so much as a wasted sneer. This is nothing but crass oafishness to me, and I had difficulty in not setting fire to the damn fanzine at those points. Still, it’s all good controversial stuff (tho’ I’m not suggesting deliberately so—not in so many words, anyway) and he has got a damn good article on R A Lafferty, a much under-exposed author, and he has realised the true worthlessness of Harlan Ellison as Fictionaliser, so there’s hope yet.

And by god there’s more. Boak’s column, as you’d expect, is nauseatingly good, if typical Boak. A severe change from normal fan-politics here as the man says just what he thinks, not what he ought to, about fandom. I don’t entirely agree, obviously, when he says that a fanzine with typed heads, no artwork, etc., is a cop-out, but that’s a purely personal approach. Fouler was planned in that way, the outcome of the toss-up between a very flash fanzine appearing twice a year, or a neatly produced plain one once every month or so. If we at Fouler had the money to do it, we’d make it prettier, but we haven’t so we don’t. And I’m not saying we save any cash the way things run now, it’s just that we produce more per penny than otherwise. Anyway, suffice to say that Boak’s column is the best of its kind I’ve yet seen in a modern fanzine. He’s got a fine sense of fandom, coupled with a tough intelligence, and provided he doesn’t sell out he’ll be well worth reading. The only complaint I’ve got about him here is that he doesn't give the good British fanzines enough boost, and gives too much to a piece of generally worthless ephemera like Seagull by mentioning it at all.

What’s left is mostly smallness, both in size and significance. Newcomer Thom Penman contributes nothing much that fills some 4pp, including one of those terrible school-magazine type ‘news reports’—‘The new DEW-line designer is called Heimdall.’ Wow. This is plain packing, and it’s a pity Ian had to use it. (Oddly, I’ve got a quite good thing by Thom Penman upcoming in Fouler 5.)

Then there’s the characteristic vaguely interesting trivia from Mary Reed-Legg, which always seems to me to be manufactured rather than written; and a remarkably trite comic strip by Jim Marshall and Ian Penman: ‘I do not eat children, said the stone monster, I love them’—no, it’s not paedophilia in Comicsland, unfortunately; the infant screams, ‘Don’t love me,’ and the spurned granite-face stomps off into the ocean ‘...crying for those who reject love.’ O god. It’s not even particularly well drawn, and has absolutely no merit whatsoever.

Which leaves, more or less, the poetry. Hmm. I was somewhat amazed to find that the one I liked best, by David Barry, was meant to be a hype. I thought it was bloody excellent, a lament in the vein of the Liverpool Poets, and it all illustrates that what, in the field of art, is hype to one is dead straight to another. (See comments on last issue’s 'Unicorn' story in this ‘Heap’, for more illustration of that.) Anyway, Ritchie Smith’s offering here shows him to be a far better critic than poet, probably because he seems, to me, too selfconsciously lyrical—especially in his verbalisations of a Third Ear Band album, which vein of achievement isn’t exactly the most successful at the best of times. Still, it’s pretty good stuff, even if I don’t particularly care for it myself. I’d just like to see more before committing myself. Ian himself shows commendable restraint (or maybe cowardice, or plain good sense) in including only one of his own poems. Called ‘The Running Man’, it’s vaguely in the same idiom as ‘London Poem’ in this magazine, and as I’m particularly susceptible to what someone (Merfyn Roberts, if I remember) called ‘maudlin introverted selfpitying bullshit’ I personally found it terrific.

And that, fundamentally, is about all. That’s a reasonable précis of the actual contents, but it can’t communicate the real and particular atmosphere of Maya, an undefinable presence which marks out the truly interesting and potentially successful fanzines out from the crap. There’s an amazing proportion of crud to good in this issue, so the excellent overall effect can’t really be analysed. Maybe it’s just the sheer burning potential for the future steaming through.

Maya 2—from Ian Williams, 6 Greta Terrace, Chester Road, Sunderland, Co. Durham SR4 7RJ For trade, 10p, LOC, contribution; 46pp quarto
from ‘Eyeball’, Fouler 6, June 1971

Behind a somewhat grotesque but eyecatching cover lurks a travesty of duplication. Honest to Christ, Mite, if you had to dilute the ink why not use simple ordinary water and not piss? I know it means getting off your arse and finding a tap but it works out better in the end. It’s a real waste of time pushing illegible pages, no matter how good the material. And good material it is too, even though Mite’s obviously determined to fuck it up with typos and even spacing errors (is this the magazine which is going to replace Fouler?). Rambling vaguely within, we light upon:

A G ‘Superfan’ Boak’s column which has one paragraph on p.6 which makes the whole magazine worthwhile. Otherwise he continues to comment literately and sensibly on fandom. The fact I can’t say any more isn’t a denigration, or even in this case my own stupidity, just that all he says there is so bloody right. Though I might quarrel over the fact that it’s at all possible to improve OMPA without wholesale expulsions.

Mary Legg with personal impressions of fandom that come through from the mid-Sixties and the heyday of ‘new wave’ fandom. Fine fannish history, ten Ratpoints to Mite for securing this and promises of more. More of this might well serve to give fandom a greater sense of identity and, gosh wow, bring about a revival of hardcore faaaandom.

The lettercolumn—best I’ve seen for a long time. A rather depressing fixation on ‘science fiction’, though, from which Holdstock stands out. An addition to his tirade against serconism is the fact that whatever Mite and his henchmen intend to do with Maya they’d be well advised to forget about SF entirely, leave it to Quicksilver and Speculation, where it can be handled properly. Maya isn’t going to say anything new, interesting, or at all influential to the course of SF, whereas it could contribute all three to fandom. They’re fans, part of the scene which they can build, chronicle, make the difference to that they sure as shit won’t make to the SF world. SF will go on and on and on ad bloody nauseam without them, and whilst fandom probably would too they’re at least in a position to make some kind of impression on it—achieve immortality, in fact, to be remembered. Thank Christ Maya seems to be tending towards the right direction, though, with Boak and Legg, and fine fanzine reviews by the Mite (which include a damn good Cornelius story, by the way); and the pointless, illiterate, turgid sercon crud by people like Gilbert is in a small minor part of the mag (though I must admit, shamefaced, that David Pringle’s ‘Racedeath in SF’ is a rather good article on annihilation of self and race in SF, which I’m glad to have read. Though it shouldn’t have been here!). Like, it’s meaningful enough to have a regular platform for general discussion of SF (after all, lots of fans haven’t grown out of it yet) and have it operating on a lighter level than Quick, or Spec; but I think the new 4M would fill that space adequately enough, leaving Maya to realise its full potential as a straightahead fanzine absolutely preoccupied with fandom. (Is Maya the fanzine to replace Fouler?)

Other gems... Thom Penman, being as boring, unreadable, affected, contrived, and wasteful of valuable duper-paper as only he can be when he’s trying. How charming it is to see these children eagerly seizing great truths and laying them down for us to marvel at, all dressed around with their masterful grasp of Thesaurus in one hand and dictionary in the other. The prose poem itself (and aren’t they always prose poems?) aptly committed to paper by cock dipped in ink. There’s a strange egoboo chain in Gannet fandom, which Mite contributes to but does not suffer from. It entails Penman & Mite telling Smith what a terrific imagiste he is, Smith telling Penman what a terrific prose-stylist he is, and everyone telling Mite what an AAA Ace feller he is. Ends up with Smith convinced that pretty images and no sense doth indeed a poet make, Penman confirmed in his suspicion he’s the Zelazny of the '70s, and Mite knowing he’s got these two callow kids wrapped round his little finger. The whole scene does tend to break down when verbal effluent like this is revealed to the world, though.

What else... excellent section headings and titles by diverse hands, good Bell cartoons, and a strong taint of the Mite himself overall. What more, what more? Ace fanzine, no doubt.

Maya 4—from Ian Maule, 59 Windsor Terrace, South Gosforth, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE3 IYL For trade, LOC, contribution, 20p
from ‘Eyeball’, Fouler 7, September 1972

Along with Turning Worm the best current British fanzine—sharing all the qualities of Worm, but not quite so consistently, or, sometimes, intelligently, but then it’s altogether a lighter piece of stuff. This issue isn’t necessarily the best—though I doubt Mauler will ever produce a totally superb issue; he seems to have the same editorial block as many editors, a nagging need to put in something for everyone (a ‘quality’ exemplified by the defunct Les Spinge under the editorship of one Pardoe). There’s little common ground between the articles herein, and I have the feeling they could all have been published anywhere without any loss at all. A good, really individual fanzine should publish only material which could only appear in it and nowhere else, and Maya fails by seeming to include anything that’s spelled right and vaguely literate. Edit, Maule you fucker, edit! Still and all, he’s refined the focus down from the days when Supermite Williams used to include all kinds of shit—even SF-oriented—in Maya, down to a nice fannish basis.

No doubt, Maya’s the prettiest fanzine. Stone perfect duplication and clean layout and nice heads etc. Made me so damn jealous I tried the same thing here, but didn’t allow for the fucking duper. Anyway, that aside, the best thing here is—and how it stirs me to say so:

An article by John Dennis Neilsen Hall. His best piece of work yet—maybe he’s picked up something else since he moved in with the Brunners besides clap and the crabs. Apart from the second para, which is a brief flash of his old excess, it’s exceptionally well-written, Hall having realised the true path of fannish documentary: pick the more extreme events, get the details and characteristics right, and then exaggerate only slightly. If Hall only moved in fannish circles he might well, on this showing, become a fine chronicler of events. This bit really brings it all back; it all actually happened just like that, and yes, we did used to talk like the second para on p.10. Wow.

Ex-editor Williams intrudes with a typically well-written piece, typically about nothing. If he only wrote about fandom he’d be superb, but then fandom might not be large enough to contain his huge talents. However, it’s a deal more memorable than anything in Hell. Unlike Darrell Schweitzer’s thing which I can’t recall at all and looks far too tedious to re-read. Anyway, what’s a damn Yankee here for? Maya would be better advised to chronicle British fandom exclusively (except for letters) as no one does this with any capability. Same for Piggott’s reviews of US zines, which although well done are irrelevant to me. Piggott also likely to burn himself out with these reviews, or at least appear too often for comfort. A pity Ian Williams’s excellent fanzine reviewing wasn’t kept on in Maya. Change is as good as.

Lettercolumn filled with flak aimed at me. A somewhat jarring experience (I don’t claim to be unpanicked by adverse comment) which makes me wish I’d been more explicit and detailed in my original letter, and not produced a typical printed scream. Naturally, I stand by whatever I said, and the whole thing was worthwhile to see the bits of comment on me and Fouler that appeared between the lines. Noted, buddies, noted. Most points made against me are wrong, incidentally, as I’ll prove one day in an article or something.

This fanzine really does excite me to participate in it (tho’ idly as usual I haven’t), because it’s meaningful in a way Hell isn’t. I sense that people care what goes on in it. Maule, for all his faults, is a good taking-care-of-business editor who has melded the good parts of Fouler and Egg, I believe, and created something that will in time become better than either of them—if indeed it hasn’t already. Or, I suppose, if Maule doesn’t pay heed, the whole thing could go right down the drain, and what a total shitty pity that would be.



Eyeball—Fanzine Reviews
from Ritblat/Grim News 1, March 1974

OK. Old readers start here. It’s the old ‘Eyeball’ again. Richly applauded during its life, not especially missed during its demise (where oh where was that letter from Peter Weston saying ‘where oh where is that column written intelligently and perceptively by master fanzine reviewer Greg Pickersgill?’).

Anyway, back simply because I rather like doing fanzine reviews and don’t especially want to do them full-time for another fanzine even if no one asked me to. Not that there’s a lot of need for another fanzine column these days, what with every other fan doing a review section. And not just manky old Haverings either, but often class stuff. Piggott, Williams and Edwards have recently added their names to master fanzine reviewer rolls alongside oldtimers like Boak and Roberts, so there’s not a lot of need for me. Maybe I ought to slip casually aside, content to be one of the precursors of the current school of hard-faced reviewing, and not issue new material to be judged unfavourably alongside current reviewers. Maybe I would if I had any sense, but as usual ego wins in the end as it does in the best of all fanning. ‘Eyeball’ rolls.

* * *

True Rat 1—from Leroy Kettle, 74 Eleanor Road, London E8
Scab 1-5—from John Brosnan, Flat 1, 62 Elsham Road, London W14

God, it’s a funny sensation looking at these two manifestations of Ratfan egocentricity and trying to figure something of any depth to say about them. In fact saying anything like that about either of these Ace fanzines is not only impossible but pernicious.

Actually, there’s not a lot of point in discussing Scab as so few copies actually reach fandom at large, but it does have a lot of relevance to what has become known in local circles as The Real Idiot Debacle—the almost total and entire failure of True Rat in the usual fannish terms. What happened, you see, to this Kettle fanzine, the one he’s been trying to get out ever since those weird days of Coventry in ’69 and oddly titled fanzines like Pottage and Gollywog—A Magazine of Leroy Kettle, is that of about sixty copies sent out only five letters came back. Bad scene, as we say round here. Not exactly fannish success, especially considering he’s had virtually no response in any other accepted way, such as trades, reviews, or anything. Quite a lot of personal spoken comment, OK, (that’s the big disadvantage of living close to your key readership) but that’s not a lot of good in the files, is it?

Well, fuckit, it’s easy to see why the response wasn’t exactly weighting down the mailman on his drear route through the Eleanor Gardens tenements. Simply there was nothing to comment on. It was all fall-about comedy, right through, unremitting as a machinegun but not as effective, no way. In fact, it’s true what Malcolm Edwards has been known to say: too much Kettle is definitely too much Kettle. There’s a time when all the histrionics ought to stop and unfortunately, although he knows it well enuff himself, Mr Kettle never quite finds himself in a position to pull the plug. Naturally and all, I find Kettle without a doubt the most entertaining fanwriter over the whole field of fannish writing there is. There are those better at specific things, but his is a multiplicity of little talents rather than one large one. I found this fanzine totally readable, the events realistically depicted (Kettle being one of the few fans with the Touch of fanwriting: the ability to describe actual events with a realistic tinge of fantasy that makes them and the characters both genuine and larger than life) and the whole thing a general delite to the world. The fragment-of-the-longest-con-report-ever-written was Just Like It Really Happened (to all intents and purposes), as was the Ratfandom party report. The satire on fannish poetic endeavour quite staggering in its accuracy of style and intent, and needle-sharp in its characterization of fannish poets from Ritchie Smith to Charles Platt. The ‘Truconfessions’ of Lisa Conesa showed the results of many hours spent trying to set up a hackwork factory in emulation of such literary giants as Christopher M Priest and Graham Charnock. And so and so and so on and on and on.

Which brings us to the problem of what you can say about a fanzine like this, other than ‘far out, innit funny’. Perceptive readers will have noticed this problem already has the present master reviewer in its grip, and will also be the first to loudly shout ‘Fuck all’. And more or less they’re right, and honestly, who’s gonna bring out a sixteen page fanzine for five LOCs?

Which is Scab’s big deal, as it’s a crummy (though in fact not usually as crummy as True Rat in production) four-pager entirely obsessed with Ratfandom and other London phenomenons as seen by John Brosnan. Funny as hell, and most of it true. Its advantage is it can be knocked out with no effort and little money, and get one exactly the same level of praise as that accorded a larger, similar, device. Which isn’t to say Brosnan is generally as funny a writer as Kettle; over the short haul maybe, but in the longer material he tends to get a little loose, and has something of a tendency towards irrelevant nastiness.

However, more or less factual. Scab clocks out roughly monthly, and since the last True Rat in September ’73 there's been little hope of a new one. Pity, really. And what more can you say?

Magic Pudding 1—from Malcolm Edwards, 19 Ranmoor Gardens, Harrow, Middlesex HA1 IUQ 

Now, this is Class, kids. This is Class. A fine and near perfect example of the almost lost art of the personalzine from someone who many people thought was nothing more than a SF creep hanging round with big name pros in order to get himself big-deal assignments writing asshole blurbs for Gollancz SF potboilers and £40 cheques for scurfing up fanzine reviews for the execrable Science Fiction Monthly. But be big, brothers; put all that aside and see that this man’s a real fan—as if we didn’t know from his superbly fannish-tinged editorials in Vector and (wayback) Good Old Quicksilver.

Produced as a means to egoboo this works splendidly, bringing in virtually every facet of Mal’s life: home, fannish, SF fan, convention committee member. Beautifully written, very fluid, conversational without being colloquial, almost the written manifestation of a pseudy little sanctimonious bourgeois with a house in the country, a dog and a wife (loving). But, honest kids, he’s a real Buddy and a great writer to boot.

Simply, I find it incredible that someone can range over such a varied collection of subjects and treat them all with respect (or, more to the point, with such a finely judged apportioning of respect) and endow them with such interest as Malcolm does. Musings on records, fanning, conventions, sloshing boiling water on heaps of festering maggots, and Peter Presford are all made to spring alive and vibrant by Mal’s scintillating Olivetti 32. Having seen many examples of the ‘art’ of the personalzine I can assure you this is head and shoulders above the bulk of them, and is substantially better than virtually all fanwriting in this country at present. Nothing more than limitation of subject stands between Malcolm and the highest accolades of fanwriting. No shit, this is a fluency of expression rarely seen in these sub-literate days. This is an incisiveness—amply demonstrated here in Malcolm’s fanzine criticism which has all the depth of consideration he accords to his ‘real writing’ about ‘literature’—that puts most fannish work to shame as cack-handed muddle-headed drivel. It’s a testament to my own inability that I can’t—as Malcolm would be able to—extract samples or otherwise demonstrate the truth of my claims. All there is to say is try to get hold of a copy of this, though there aren’t many about. If you do you’re a lucky man, and if you don’t you’ve missed some of the best fanwriting of 1973.

Cynic 6—from Graham Boak, 6 Hawks Road, Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey KT1 3EG  

Kids, I’d lately begun to worry about Mr Boak. I’d begun to see him take on the mantle of an old and tired man, rapidly receding into premature middle age with all the stultification of thought, word and deed that that portends for the average fan. Indeed, in personal confrontations I’d been more than a little impatient with him, tending more and more to discard him without thinking; reacting, like, without any original action other than suspicion of decay. But I were wrong indeed, and was proven so by the old Superfan hisself who quietly and without fuss produced this, easily and breathtakingly the best all-round fanzine of 1973.

Actually, I’d been so put off by Boak I greeted this with no enthusiasm after its year-long non-appearance, and only a hint by Peter Roberts that I was talked of inside brought me to cracking its pages; inside was a fine fanzine, entirely to the point, totally readable from cover to cover as a unit, free from the superfluous and superficial bullshit saddling down the only two other fanzines with any claims to excellence in ’73—Blunt and Zimri.

The only bad thing is the cover, a Dave Rowe atrocity. As usual he seems to be consciously striving after an original and distinctive style and, almost as usual, succeeding in nothing more than hard-edged drawings almost robotic in execution as well as aspect. A terrible cover for such a fine fanzine, and a regrettable lapse of taste by Boak who seemed to let such trivia as Silly Animal Fandom cloud his otherwise sound editorial taste.

The only real article within is Jim Linwood’s piece on the Nova Award, and indeed Fouler arch-enemy Linwood does a fine résumé of the meaning and mechanism of the award, as well as doing a fine question and answer piece on the more contentious aspects of it. More or less he convinces me that the award as it stands is valid and workable, and I was previously one of its greatest opponents in its present form. I’d still like to see it expanded to cover individual facets of fannish achievement, such as Best Writer, Artist, etc., but I’m not unwilling to concede that that may be somewhat unwieldy. Though something like the Checkpoint Fan Poll should be conducted on a larger and more exhaustive scale.

The bulk of the fanzine is Boak’s own writing. Whilst he hasn’t quite got the actual Creative Spark of Malcolm Edwards he’s without a doubt the best writer when talking about fans, fanning, and fandom itself. Maybe it’s because fandom seems to be something more than a transient phase with Boak (as it appears to be with Ian Williams) or merely an interesting adjunct to his main sphere of interest (as it seems with Edwards); to Boak it’s the Real Thing. Something more than rubbish, definitely. I’ve lost count of the number of telling and practical points made by Boak in these pages; all of them about fans and fandom, no wandering or irrelevance. Level, controlled, literate, no great excess of style or emotion or lunacy, all solid taking care of business. It’s a great thing to see a man take his fanning seriously.

And the remainder, of course, is the letter column. Oddly controlled by fringefans, but easy and interesting for all that. Like Boak’s writing there’s no excess of anything, but it somehow doesn’t demean this fanzine into bland tedium the way it would Egg, for instance. There are some fanzines which by simple virtue of their total commitment can make off with the laurels without any spectacle or flourishing. All this fanzine lacks is frequency.

Siddhartha 3—from Ian Williams, 6 Greta Terrace, Chester Road, Sunderland, Co. Durham SR4 7RD

 There’s something bloody repellent about this fanzine. Maybe it’s because the little cunt had the gall to write ‘This is the last ish you’ll get unless you do something that impinges on my fan life’ on the copy he finally got round to sending me, or whether the format of this magazine (this one, dolts!) has set me up in unwanted competition with Siddhartha, but there’s something I don’t entirely like going on here.

No doubt, Williams is a good writer. I mean, he’s won the Checkpoint Fan Poll and all that. Fluent, he expresses himself well and precisely. He’s sincere, meaningful, soul-searching, introspective, outgoing, even kind of fannish sometimes. But fuck it, I think this is a lot of conceited bullshit and in all truth it pisses me off more than somewhat. It’s like watching someone flashing his cock in a sort of ‘looka me I can show everybody something’ spate; and shit, so what if it is longer than everyone else’s, the whole thing has been a bit ludicrous and probably embarrassing also.

All this is too sincere, meaningful, honest, and all that. It’s like some kind of intellectual game, some crummy fucking mental purge trip. A little game of playing fannish and being John the Revelator and being honest (man) and all that shit and I begin to wonder.

OK. I’m fully aware that once you start to look askance at the ‘personal’ style of fanning all kinds of doubts and shames are going to be dragged out. How should anyone be expected to take what I’m writing in this fanzine seriously if they can’t also be reasonably expected to accord much the same open eyes to Siddhartha? Why should they care? This is a line of thinking which, if taken too far, would throw the whole concept of fanning right away, so I’ll not pursue too closely, but instead try to see what it is about this particular aspect of fanwriting that turns me off.

And, of course, in my simple little fashion all I can contribute is what I’ve already said. That Williams is too blatant about everything. Not necessarily over-emotional, more to the point cold and clinical about his formal over-emotionality. This writing isn’t rubbish; it’s got all the components of good fannish work—personality, involvement, references to well-known people and events and things, everything you need—but it’s all kind of mechanical. Which is the absolute kiss of death for anything like a personalzine, which is what this aspires to be.

Christ, I dunno. This is all perfectly readable when you shut your brain off, but I always come away with the feeling that I’ve somehow been trapped into watching someone masturbating. All I can say is that I hope this feeling isn’t envy. I really do.

Malfunction 4/Madcap 3—both from Peter Presford, 10 Dalkeith Road, South Reddish, Stockport SK5 7EY

Ya know kids, it’s a hard thing to admit that there might be an up and coming fanzine which can take over the essential mantle of Fouler and maybe even become a kind of focal point of fandom—but it’s an even harder thing to do when the editor of this likely fanzine must be revealed as one Peter B Presford, hitherto known only as the True Illiterate of Fandom (since the departure of Ken Eadie and Audrey Walton at least) and also the publisher of the fanzine with the most misplaced sense of literature and culture this side of Viridiana. However, much as PEP may be sneered at for his sad lack of the fundamentals of written English and his pitiable faith in ‘poetry’ that lacks even the risible qualities of the output of William McGonagall, he is to all intents and purposes producing a fanzine which just about could become a major fannish force. Despite the fact he claims it to be a repository for all the ‘crud’ Madcap is too good to print, Malfunction is in fact one of the more entertaining and alive British fanzines. Not at all the best, as Presford’s total lack of critical faculties allows far too many sillinesses, patently outplayed jests, flat quips and outright cretinacy to creep in unstopped. But, and this is it, moving through the shit you’ll find a real irreverence, a wild capability for tilting at various fannish windmills—irrespective of the rights, wrongs, facts or fictions of whatever the issue is—and, damnitall, genuine evidence of true interest in fandom and some concern as to its future.

Seriously, fokes. I read this fanzine eight or ten times right through when I first got it. I admit it was a pretty boring afternoon at work, but shit, I’ve gone through it many times since and it’s still a nice one. I haven’t seen such potential in years, and I can hardly wait to see how Presford goes about wasting it. Either he’ll sink all his time and energy into the miserable Madcap, or he’ll get the wrong end of reality and carry on with his present ‘crud for crud’s sake’ tack.

The hell of it is that the rest of fandom isn’t quite in the mood to take up this interesting challenge. People are too ready to dismiss Presford as a harmless dolt and his fanzine as irrelevant bin-lining. LOCs are a rare event in Malfunction, and actual articles by anyone other than the prime perpetrator are as rare as free cunts at a con. Pity.

Anyway, maybe he doesn’t want to be the editor of the Fouler of the mid-Seventies—and I for one wouldn’t blame him if he declined that doubtful privilege. Maybe there isn’t a need for one—though it seems to me that in a remarkably short time this ‘new revived refurbished and revolutionary’ fandom of ours has erected a startling number of its own idols, which to my mind have more or less the same proportion of clay as any that recent attempts were made to remove. Most fanzines these days seem to have a place in them where fandom is looked at askance, and people today seem to have greater readiness to be nasty in just cause than in previous times. So, all that taken for granted, there might not be any reason for a solitary stonefisted attempt to crack whatever facades fandom erects. In all truth I’d love to see one, though, but for warped and twisted reasons (permutations of things in this paragraph) most fans don’t seem to want to get behind it in the way they did those many years ago with Fouler. Not that that’ll stop Presford if he wants to do it, as any man who’ll carry on Madcap in the face of such overwhelming scorn can do anything.

Ah, Madcap. A horrific fanzine. All the stupid pretensions of Iseult, Wadezine, Free Orbit, Viridiana, Macrocosm, and every other ‘literary’ fanzine you’ve ever seen all bodged into one icky mass, presided over by a pair of lackwits, at least one of whom is old enough not to be so idealistic.

I find it hard to believe that Presford and Peter Colley (co-editor of this rubbish) believe they have the right to continue publishing this shit. Damnit, it’s one thing to think you’re a poet—every sensitive little punk thinks that sometime—but at least try to get some sense of quality or self-criticism before smearing your work all over the fanzine. Jesus Christ, how many fans give a good goddam about poetry anyway, and how many of them want to see it in fanzines?

Not that this is totally a poetry mag; just that Presford’s staunch defence of his rights to publish it—he almost makes it sound as though he’s providing a public service by printing the stuff, whilst in fact the service would be best provided by rejecting it—colours the whole thing. Fiction fanzines are good when handled right; Macrocosm was more or less excellent (Madcap does share in some measure Mac’s good appearance) for being edited like a prozine. But it seems that for Madcap the only criterion is naive faith and conviction and starry-eyed aspiration, and silly old things like sense, good writing, perception and originality play no part at all.

Put it this way: all the poetry is derivative, shallow, simple in treatment, the language obvious, the effect odious; all the fiction is short, pointless, unfunny, unoriginal. The same fanzine stories you’ve read a hundred times before. The articles and book reviews and record reviews are as boring and monotonous as all articles which aren’t based on personal experience and offer something other than that which can be readily found in any printed text always are. Aw fuck it, Presford. Pack it in.



Burning Hell—Fanzine Reviews
from Stop Breaking Down 2, April 1976

 In ‘All Right Now’ [the SBD letter-column] reader G Rippington raises in a roundabout way the question of SF-oriented fanzines v. the fannish sort. Whilst in the past I have been notorious for my wholehearted support of fannish fanzines to the exclusion of all others I have recently found in my heart a long-dormant fascination for SF, and can now see the sense, purpose and, currently, need for a genuine honest to god science fiction fanzine based in Britain. By that I don’t necessarily mean a ‘critical journal’ of the sort typified by Speculation (a fairly serious strongly SF-oriented fanzine produced in the Sixties by a Birmingham fan named Peter Weston, who became very friendly with a number of professional people as a result) or, more recently, Vector, the BSFA journal, which is more ‘serious’ than the sort of fanzine I have in mind, and is also fairly difficult to obtain. What I’m thinking about is a solidly ‘fannish’ fanzine aimed entirely at SF, written by and for the science fiction enthusiast rather the posturing critic or dilettante intellectual. It should carry good book reviews, biographies, interviews, checklists, bibliographies, information on buying and selling for collectors, general news and scandal on or about the SF scene, and, importantly, be a place for people to talk and enthuse about science fiction, showing what they like and why they like it, making it clear how SF affects them and how it impinges on their lives. The people behind this sort of fanzine would have to know fandom well, know how to produce a good fanzine, and be intimately involved in SF—the sort of character who could (would, habitually) carry on whole conversations in SF terms, make esoteric jokes on SF subjects.

Older fans will doubtless remember the fanzines Mike Ashley used to produce, before he became a Jehovah’s Witness and in a moment of epiphany realised all he had to do was wait a few years until a hack publisher like NEL would come along and pay him lots of money for doing what he’d previously done for love. His fanzines were not totally unlike the ideal I’ve described above. The small flaw with doing a fanzine like this is that there are few people capable of it. One would need a very strong knowledge of SF, equal critical ability, genuine enthusiasm about SF, wit, humour, and a generally light touch, and if at all possible contacts in the professional world that would yield up the sort of background material that brings the whole business alive. These requirements cut down the possible applicants no end. Geoff Rippington, like most other neofans whose first fanzine is SF-oriented, has shown that enthusiasm is not enough, and in all truth all Ashley had going for him was a powerful memory and a lot of spare time in which to compile interminable checklists. Kevin Williams, a Newcastle fan, once put out a fanzine called Durfed in which, beneath a deep layer of fifth-hand sub-sub-sub-True Rat humour, a remarkable knowledge of SF lay. Robert Jackson and Malcolm Edwards both have strong knowledge, good critical ability, and excellent writing capabilities. Leroy Kettle, perhaps unknown to many people, has a truly phenomenal depth of knowledge of the SF field (matched only, perhaps, by my own, ho ho), a fantastic knack for communicating his enthusiasm for it, and a critical sense rarely communicated to fandom at large. It’s people like this, who not only like SF but know it intimately, can write well, and, above all, know how to produce good fanzines, that could make a great success of a fanzine like this in Britain right now; with the huge numbers of science fiction enthusiasts about at the moment it could, done right, be a Very Big Thing Indeed.



 Burning Hell—Fanzine Reviews
from Stop Breaking Down 4, March 1977

Everybody got to have some good times, everybody got to have some bad times. In the last eight or nine months most of my bad times have been spent at a table staring hopelessly at a heap of fanzines and a blank page in the typewriter. Actually, that’s a lie; often the page was filled, but filled alas! with little of true worth. Far from producing anything meaningful and profound, liable to shift the whole axis of fanzine fandom in one fell shudder or even finding it in me to savage some poor ignorant cretinous neofan with no possible idea of how to produce a fanzine in any competent fashion, I found I was doing nothing other than fill sheets with humdrum repetition, third hand revelations, and even more superficial than usual analyses. Bad scene man. No wonder that on several occasions—even on the three or four times when all that was required to complete this fanzine for final publication was the review column—the main thought in my head was simply ‘Fuck this shit’.

Now that sounds like a right lot of wank, really. Why should I worry about whether my fanzine reviews actually say anything either new or penetrating? Well, for a start because other people seem to expect it of me. I find it gratifying that in the past my fanzine reviews have been praised by people whose commendations are valuable to me. Apart from that, I think there could be some truth in the idea that fanzine reviewing is the only way of establishing some standard of achievement in fandom. And apart from that I think that if you’re going to bother to do anything in fandom you’d bloody better get it done to your own satisfaction first, because if you don’t what you're issuing is substantially as insulting to your readers as a fart in the face. So, taking all that into account, it’s not quite such a pose as it might at first seem. But even though I’ve more or less stated those ‘facts’, just how much truth, or use, is contained within them? Of course, once I started fretting along those lines it turned into weeks of sleepless nights, and crazy notions began to pile up in my head like so much shit in a blocked drain.

For a start I began to consider my own attitude towards fanzines. Was I really interested in them? Did all these tedious little pamphlets really have any bearing on the world as I lived in it? Could it have been that, once I had re-established myself in fandom and fanzines were pouring in at a greater rate per week than they had previously per sixmonth, I was becoming rapidly disenchanted with the whole business? Were the days when I would read even a piece of arrant nonsense like Madcap with pleasure and interest a dozen times between breakfast and bedtime gone forever? Well, partially at least. Whilst on reflection I found I had no doubt of my basic fascination with fandom, I soon realised that although I’d rather read a good fanzine than almost anything else I was becoming more and more choosy about what constituted a good fanzine. Too many fanzines on my pile were the sort that I really wasn’t too fussed about reading again, even for the purposes of review. Not that there was anything particularly bad about them—God knows if there had been I’d have been glad to put myself up to the task of pointing it out to anyone who wanted to know—but they were just, well, dull is a word that springs to mind. Tedious, mediocre, and inconsequential are others that could equally fit. By the time I’d figured all this out (lightning-flash revelations come slow around this locale sometimes), I felt more than a little pissed off with these scrappy efforts that had had me scratching my head struggling to find some snappy comment to make about them. Now I realise that makes me sound a bit of a cunt who treats fanzines with disdain, but it ain’t necessarily so. I still enjoy reading a new fanzine. No better pleasure outside a woman’s arms etc. But sometimes they don’t get you right by the brain and pull, do they? I know it’s naughty of me but sometimes I feel that those editors who are spending their time and energy putting out fanzines with such a low stimulation index really ought to be taken out the back to have their faces rubbed down the drains for a few minutes. Trying is not always sufficient. Merely putting out a fanzine is not enough. Shoot your shot and give it all you got, not fuck around.

So by the time I’d sorted that lot out and walked around the room a couple of times effing and blinding, I started to get even more perverse notions. I began to wonder if John Hall was right after all when he said fanzine reviews are a load of shit. Or if Dave Rowe had not been entirely out of touch with reality when he claimed that fanzine reviewers use their platforms to expend their own personalities at the expense of fanzine editors. I began to wonder whether all this heartbreak was going to pay off in the long run. Maybe I should push out the issue with a set of record reviews or a chunk of my porn novel in place of the reviews. I mean, you know and I know that no matter what is said, or how it is said, no one is going to pay a blind bit of attention, especially the people who should be those with the biggest eyes and ears, the neofans. I began to wonder if there was such a thing as a fanzine editor who paid the slightest bit of attention to what was said about him in a fanzine review. It suddenly became clear to me that progression and improvement amongst faneds is a long and painful business that comes with long years of experience and cannot—or often will not—be absorbed overnight from whatever quantity or quality of reviews, articles, guides, or whatever the hell. Now that fact just can’t be wrong; how else can a man explain the pathetically awful first, second, third, and even fourth issues of dull, ill-conceived fanzines that hit the mail with dread regularity. The good ones? Blind chance, of course.

So then, like, what’s it all for?

Well, no doubt fanzines as subject-matter provide for some of the best and most fascinating of all fannish writing. Recently this has been superbly exemplified by D West’s major article in True Rat 8 (an otherwise undistinguished fanzine by a minor member of the ‘Britain is Fine in ’79’ Committee). This was a well-wrought piece of a quality rarely found in fanzines on any subject down to and including science fiction. Here we see a man with definite ideas and thoughts and the ability to express them well, with cutting incisiveness where needed, with pungent humour when necessary. By virtue of its subject matter it is intensely fannish, with the super-value of being almost essential reading for each and every one of the fanzine’s readers. No doubt, any worthwhile article on fanzines in a fanzine creates, simply by virtue of its existence, one of the rare occasions when a fanzine item is of importance and interest to every one of the readers. Of course, there still exists the notion that no one will have their attitudes improved or altered one jot by what is said, though that’s no fault of either the writer’s or the article’s. Therefore if you subscribe to the idea that criticism (of whatever kind or level) must have a practical purpose, must be essentially instructional no matter what, fanzine reviewing is a waste of time.

OK. So let’s pause a moment in this nosing motion towards trying to elevate fanzine reviewing to some sort of critical level and examine the other side of the coin: fanzine reviews as merely incestuous comments on our own small world and its media. Everyone likes to read about themselves, as virtually everyone likely to read fanzine reviews will do regularly, occasionally, or eventually, depending on their degree of involvement in fanzine work. And most people share an interest in picking up on what others thought about something they’ve read (the justification, so I’m told, for the mass of halfwitted book-reviewing found in a certain class of fanzine). Of course, to do even that with any realistic hope of entertaining it has to be done with some style, flair, and a reasonable level of perception throughout. Some sort of contents-listing type short reviews with ‘liked A/hated B’ type crap ladled over it is really neither use nor entertainment. So no matter what, you get back to having to consider the beast before slaying it. The trouble, still, with most fanzines is that they are such unappealing prey that often enough the hunter loses interest in the game. Still and all, even the shortest, least considered review fills up a page or so, puts another item on the contents page, strikes off the obligation of a letter-of-comment, and gratifies whoever sent you the fanzine with the thought that at least you took it out of the envelope. Big deal huh?

So where have I got to with all of this? Frankly, I’m unsure. I, myself, personally, believe that good writing on fanzines is the highest art in all fanzine writing and I aspire to some sort of pinnacle within the field myself. I rarely achieve self-set goals, but I’ll keep on keeping on. I’m still not entirely convinced that fanzine reviewing has any practical value; how much is there to be said anyway? Once you’ve panned one crudzine you’ve panned them all, really. And if people can’t recognise material of worth without having their noses rubbed in it then maybe they don’t deserve to see it at all.

Maybe all of this muddled head-searching is consequent to the fact that nothing especially remarkable has happened in fanzine publishing in Britain recently. Maybe worthwhile reviewing is too closely tied to the material under consideration. I mean, silk purses and sow’s ear and all that. Anyway, the hell with it, even if I had developed some entirely new ethic or critical code of fanzine reviewing no one’d give a damn anyway. So let’s go to the crossroads and see what’s been going on wrong.

* * *

I suppose a damned near perfect example of the sort of worthily dull fanzine that is the bane of fanzine reviewers everywhere is Dave Cockfield’s Atropos, the third issue of which came out some time ago. That, really, is all I should say about it, for although I grabbed it eagerly enough when it arrived I only let it slip from my grasp in favour of re-reading Bill Millar’s excellent book on the Coasters and, shock-horror, hardly looked at it again, even for the purposes of review. I’m told that my negligence has not been to my detriment, but that’s neither here nor there because I’m vaguely ashamed not to have read Dave’s fanzine with anything like interest. However, I find it easy enough to rationalise away any presumed failure on my part by claiming that any fanzine must above all attract and involve its readers (‘a fanzine without involvement is a failure’ once said a very wise man) because—even though it drops unsolicited, though tacitly invited, onto one’s doormat—it really has no intrinsic appeal greater than that held by any newstand magazine, which one must be in one of a million ways cajoled and coerced into buying on the promise of goodies within. A promise rarely fulfilled as I have discovered on many forays into Soho porn-shops. What I’m getting at is that even though the damned thing is a fanzine and all fanzine fans are presumed to be interested in it per se, that presumption is something that can lead the aspiring faned well awry. Really, if a fanzine gives every appearance, even on inspection, of being uninteresting, there’s no reason why it should get any more of a fair shake.

Too many faneds seem to believe that merely pubbing their ish and cramming it with things they like is sufficient. Well, it may be if you just want to do it for the sake of it, but if you look on a fanzine as something which will grow and improve with every issue this ain’t good enough. Someone like David Griffin, for instance, who publishes a remarkably nondescript fanzine like After the Flood which is notable only for his persistent use of binary for issue-numbering, can wonder in all naivety why he only gets two or three letters. After all, he’s putting in the sort of thing he’s interested in, isn’t he? Yeah, but maybe no one else is. You got to play to the audience no matter what. And not just rubbish either, not just amazing bin-lining like articles on Rosicrucianism  (Atropos 2) even though they draw actual fucking letters of comment (Atropos 3). Which is something else that never fails to amaze me; would any one of the people who wrote anything to Atropos about Rosicrucianism ever have thought spontaneously about the cult without the stimulus of the article? No, they probably wouldn’t, and contrary to expectations I am not going to say that is a good thing. I don’t for one moment believe that anyone needs articles like that in fanzines, and it’s a testament to the dimness of many letterwriters that they often say things like ‘Coo, if not for Jimmy Phan’s article on pig-fucking I’d never ever have thought about it. What a fascinating etc.’ And of course they’ll have forgotten about it in a week’s time. Makes no impression, lasting, and is thus worthless from the beginning. The only sort of fanzine writing that ever makes an indelible impression is the sort of straight from the heart personalised stuff, and don’t let anyone kid you otherwise.

Where was I? Yeah, I wonder why faneds never seem to think in terms of drawing the reader into their fanzine, making it deliberately attractive as a reading proposition. Why does anyone embark on the expensive and time-consuming task of pubbing the fucking ish and then just sling in any old crap lying around? Who knows? Not me, said the little brown hen, or whatever the bloody creature was.

All of which makes Dave Cockfield sound cretinous, which is a pity ’cause he isn’t. In Atropos 3 he has at least conquered the dreadful mock-humility of his previous editorials, and in articles published elsewhere has shown himself an interesting and readable commentator on fannish characters and events. But he has, completely and totally, failed to build his own fanzine around an interesting central core. In it he says he thinks this was his best issue so far. No wonder, then, that the fourth issue has been so long in appearing.

By contrast we have Leroy Kettle. For the nonce reconciled to the fact that his way to everlasting fame may not lie along the path trodden by such auspicious fans-into-pros as Christopher M Priest and G Peyton Wertenbaker, Kettle plunges onward ever onward in his ambition to become the Hugest Name Fan since Peter Weston. His most recent step in this direction (marathon articles in Maya and favourable reviews of appalling stories in the Times Lit Supp notwithstanding) was to make over his one-time personalzine True Rat into what is known by the cognoscenti as a ‘genzine’, which doesn’t mean ‘genuine fanzine’ as one might expect, but that it contains material by several diverse hands other than the editor/publisher. (Stop Breaking Down—the Neofan’s Oracle.)

And some tasty diverse hands appear here too, proof indeed that they who ask shall receive. Would that more fanzine editors take the trouble to request material from worthwhile writers instead of snatching wholesale at the efforts of brothers, cousins, and old school magazines. Graham Charnock, Peter Roberts and D West are all tuff men with a bunch of syllables at the best of times and most anything by them is worth a moment’s bated breath. Unfortunately, although a grand maxim oft expressed in several great blues lyrics is ‘Everything’s gotta change’, change is not always for the best, and sad to say this ‘new’ True Rat is an experiment which does not quite come off. For me at least. (Well, I bet ya thought I was stating some kind of fucking universal law again then, didn’t ya?)

Let’s put it this way; the shift from personalzine to genzine is a shift in idea only, not in style. The fanzine itself, despite the addition of a few headings and some good cartoons by D West, looks just like the old True Rat, the essential appearance and flavour of it remaining unchanged, giving the curious feeling that here we have Kettle carrying off a substantial coup in pastiche of his best buddies’ styles but having forgotten the comic punchlines at the end. What I mean is that for all his legendary ability to pick up and correct the most unobtrusive typo, Kettle has yet to extend such meticulousness to such gross items as layout. The slipshod approach that virtually worked in favour of True Rat (personalzine) here seems untidy and uninteresting. The worst example of this occurs in Peter Roberts’s article, which could well be a fascinating bit of fan history, but is laid out so badly—for instance several lengthy quotes are hardly distinguishable from the main text—that it looks quite unreadable. Casual layout is one thing, careless layout is another. And apart from that I’m far from sure articles on fanhistory should be in True Rat anyway. I tend to think that each fanzine has a specific character and their editors would be well advised to select material that is in keeping with the overall image.

Other pieces don’t suffer so badly as regards layout; Charnock writes well, if like a nutter, and West provides one of the best pieces of fanzine criticism I’ve ever seen.

This could be a damned fine fanzine, properly produced; but no matter what Kettle doesn’t really need it. His own material is lost and wasted amongst the rest and despite a great ability to draw excellent material from ace fanwriters he seems reluctant to work sufficiently hard to do it justice. And why bother? He’s one of the great fanwriters. There’s enough genzines, only one Kettle; he should do what he do do best.

And, talking of genzines, the surprise of the century is that young Geof (sic) Rippington’s Titan is really coming up roses after all. The fourth issue is interesting, varied, literate, and even witty on occasion. Nicely produced, open and neat, with lots of Terry Jeeves illos (‘Jeeves for TAFF’ says Titan, surprise surprise). Good compilation of fanzine reviews, fan history, book reviewing and letters. The whole thing probably succeeds because Rippington is no great shakes as Mr Personality and the onus is entirely on the fanzine to be interesting and readable, and it succeeds. In fact the only noisome patch is that occupied by Andrew Tidmarsh, the fan who is taking old notions of criticism as self-aggrandisement to all new heights. No one on earth sounds as portentous and pompous as Tidmarsh in full flight and I rather tend to dismiss him as a sort of jejune John Brunner, especially when he opens an article branding fans as ‘childish’ in thinking and expressions. This sort of opening invariably leads me to wonder why, if he thinks we’re such shit, he’s allowing his work to be published in a fanzine at all—though I grant he may have the notion of bringing eyesight to the blind (but I don’t want to see things his way)—and when I read later some sort of crazy idea that the western world is causing over-population by forcing the Third World to overproduce raw materials I really do lose all patience. The trouble with Tidmarsh is that he isn’t merely iconoclastic and aggravating but is fucking dull as well. In fact I’d swear that the Andrew Tidmarsh I once had a perfectly fascinating conversation with about Gary Glitter singles is a completely different person.

At the last Globe I went to a curious thing happened; this funny little woman came up and sold me a fanzine. 30p. Lots of money especially for a Star Trek fanzine. Now I’m not so crazy as I sound because it so happens the producer of that fanzine is one Helen McCarthy who works in the same building as I do and who walks right past me in the corridor occasionally. So altogether it was as good an opportunity as any to check out this curious sub-fandom. And curious is just about the right word too. Similar enough to a ‘real’ fanzine to lull one into a sense of false familiarity, some huge culture-gaps soon open up. Not so much the mere fascination with Star Trek—which as far as I’m concerned is not much crazier than any fascination with SF anyway—or even the ST fiction, crosswords, and all the rest. No, what rocked me back was the peculiar glittery innocence of it all, a sort of Rowesque community bathed in light and friendship where everyone helps everyone else off and on with their Fancy-Dress and oohs and ahhs at the appropriate times at the Fashion Shows at ST cons, and gives an ovation for the hard-working organisers at the end, and generally all is sweetness and light. No one gets drunk, falls over, feels anyone else up, or feels shitty. It’s the Fashion Shows that really knock me out, though. The descriptions of them herein are quite lyrical, exuding an almost perverse girlish fascination that almost but not quite slips over the line into the tastefully erotic. OK, so I’m exaggerating a bit but the thought is there. Actually City 3 (which is what I’m talking about) is not too bad, considering. Considering what, though, I’m not saying.

From the ridiculous to the sublime, great joy fell my way when the unexpected bounty of Bryn Fortey’s Relativity 7 hit the door-mat. The first Rel written entirely by Fortey (bar a few letters) it hits a new high for a generally enjoyable fanzine. Fortey’s article on his days as a boxing man is a pure delight: vivid, punchy (pun!), and damned funny. Exactly the kind of article I’d dearly love to publish in Stop Breaking Down. And amazement on amazement, poetry in a fanzine that is not merely slightly readable but fucking Good! Mr Fortey is often a god amongst men. There’s not a lot can be said of a fanzine like this and not a lot that needs to be. Let us enjoy it while we can.

Another fanzine somewhat similar—in that it has formed a distinct personality that does not need to be matched against any sort of criteria of fannish excellence—is Richard McMahon’s Inverted Ear Trumpet, of which 4 was the last issue, McMahon having gafiated temporarily though due to return some day soon with another fanzine with an equally cretinous name. Editorial personality is the name of the game and McMahon wins through with a genuinely funny article about going to the dentist which may well be all lies but bloody ’ell made me laff. Nice cartoons too, by the Howard Hughes of fandom, Paul E Thompson. There are signs too that Richard is giving up his pointless crusade against ‘obscenity’ in fanzines and concentrating more on producing worthwhile fanwriting.

Glimpse and Nebula were two new wave-type fanzines that always struck me as similar in their ‘professional’ approach, with an emphasis on fiction, layout, subscription rates and all that. Even so, I soon found them worth looking forward to. Glimpse 4 is, according to editor Paul Hudson, the last. Obviously he held to his ideas of getting his fanzine to grow gradually to full professional status somewhat too strongly, whereas David Taylor and his gang over at Nebula have become more and more conventionally fannish in style and format in the last few issues. Artwork is Nebula’s strong suite, with Tony Schofield and J Mike Barr (Jim Barker) producing the best illustrative art I’ve seen in British fanzines ever, a pure delight. All the fiction is crap, of course, and I didn’t read any of it; but the columnists, particularly Brian Tawn (publisher of the rather good fanzine Scribe), are both readable and interesting. If these boys can keep up their standard of artwork and columnists—and maybe produce more of the humorous pastiches like their marvellously funny one-off ‘Dawn Patrol Blaster Aces’—the world will be a better place. Don’t be put off Nebula because you think of it as a fiction fanzine; there’s too much good in it to miss.

What can one say about Triode that hasn’t been said before? About ten or twelve years before, more or less. A peculiar dinosaur existing in a sheltered corner of the North-West where scant sign of the 1970s has penetrated, whenever contemporary fans (I can’t quite bring myself to call editors Terry Jeeves and Eric Bentcliffe ‘contemporary fans’) write for it they always seem to adopt a slightly peculiar style that reeks of the most jocular affectations of British fandom of the late Fifties, the school brought up on The Goon Show and copies of Punch. Thus Robert Jackson, in writing about a rock-band causing alarm in the countryside by practising at night, rather makes the whole thing sound like something taking place in a different century to this one and, worse, makes it sound as though he is totally unfamiliar with the whole thing. I dunno. And Tom Perry’s affection for puns is, to say the least, over-indulged. It somehow pains me to think that people like Mike Glicksohn and Terry Hughes think this fanzine is fannish fandom incarnate.

And here we are at last with the big one. Maya. My initial reaction to Maya is inevitably that it is too cold, too professional, without even the glaring fault of publishing awful fiction perpetrated by other quasi-professional fanzines such as Nebula. But when it is filled, as this issue is, with what are manifestly excellent articles laid out and illustrated in fine style, I begin to reconsider. Could it be, I wonder, that my reaction is merely a subconscious cover for my actual realisation that Maya is really just another fanzine essentially, something within the field to which I myself contribute, but at the same time so far above my abilities in its appearance, the quality of its contributors, its drawing power for same, and its depressingly healthy and clearminded intellectual attitude? Do I recognise this and recoil from it in awe? Is this fanzine just too good and to save my eyes I search for some trace of flaw, some evidence that it is not a fanzine at all and I need not judge my own efforts against it any more than I would against Let It Rock, Whitehouse, or F&SF? Maybe, maybe. I can never quite make up my mind.

Having said that, Maya 12/13 probably seems so supernaturally good because of its material: superb examples of fanwriting by Peter Weston (making it clear once and for all what a destructive influence Charles Platt was on fandom in the ’60s), Larry Chortle on how to be a failed pornographer, and Malcolm Edwards writing fanzine reviews just like as though he’d read the fanzines concerned. Remarkable stuff. Two years ago Maya was merely a promising fanzine; nowadays if only Robert Jackson could insert a bit of genuine editorial personality I’d give it the Goddamned Nova Award with my own two hands.



 Big Fat Book
 from Rastus Johnson’s Cakewalk 1,  September 1993 

Got the new edition of the SF Encyclopaedia a couple of months back. Mad keen as usual. On the phone to Peyton at Andromeda, credit cards flying in all directions. Despite much snuffling of dissatisfaction from the other end ('Bloody Edward Mackin still not in,’ says Roger) eagerly await package and tear it open with carving knife as usual—Andromeda mailroom may be slow but they put together a package sturdier than an Anderson shelter.

What a big book: Ian Williams must be loving it; it’s as heavy as half a dozen pelicans. Despite that, my first impressions are poor. In a blatant effort to make the thing academic-friendly they have dumped all the illustrations, making it look stark indeed compared to 1979. This seems a shame when one considers just how much of SF is involved with images, and how many of the entries concern artists. If this is the price to be paid for ‘respectability’ it is doubly too high, as not only are the illustrations necessary but there’s been little sign this sop has paid off in serious reviews. (The only one I encountered was on the terrible Radio 4 ‘arts’ programme Kaleidoscope and it was frankly embarrassing.) The page layout isn’t especially welcoming either; the columns are wide, leading between lines narrow, and the typeface unattractive. I found it hard to adjust to and unpleasant to read. It put me off so much it wasn’t for some time that I realised that a well-used tome around here—the Guinness Encyclopaedia of Popular Music—has almost the same characteristics, having slightly wider columns but a smaller, neater typeface and wider leading. The effect is totally different, and as I had found the Guinness readable from the first, it took over a week to realise the comparative similarity.

However, what gems of knowledge lurk within. Well, bloody hell, no Vance Aandahl for a start. Probably only got into the 1979 because then-assistant Malcolm Edwards still had a few vestiges of fannish humour left in him. Still, Aandahl deserved an entry anyway and it is signal that he is not here now. You will also search in vain for Joel Townsley Rogers, David Redd, T P Caravan, Will Mohler, Holley Cantine, Robert Presslie, Lee Brown Coye, Bert Tanner, Mel Hunter, George Salter and any one of a score or more that I have paged in vain so far. You will find out, though remarkably little in some cases, about some extremely minor characters who are present by virtue of their one foray in the realms of scientifiction being stuck for a brief guttering moment between wood or pasteboard. Never mind, editorial theory says, that Soandso was the one bright spark that justified the existence of any number of issues of Average Imagination Stories, he didn’t get a book reprint so that’s him out for a start then. Oh, the injustice of it all.

I doubt whether it would do much good complaining either; the editors’ enthusiasm for the magazines is such that they have had all the entries re-written in a more compact form, doing away with all that ‘Collectors Should Note’ biblio finickiness from 1979. The justification for this is Astounding, if not Amazing. There are, apparently, now so many other publications where detailed information on the SF magazines can be had that it isn’t necessary to be so meticulous in the SFE. Well, lordy lordy, another secret of the universe revealed. Is it the Austral Leueg at work again, or just a load of evasion about space problems? Or am I the only SF magazine collector who thinks that there is only one word and that is the wonderful Tymn/Ashley Science Fiction, Fantasy And Weird Magazines which not only costs a fortune (£85 in 1987!) but is also startlingly difficult to get, as Greenwood Press publish primarily for sale to institutions and can’t really grasp the idea that individuals might want to buy their books. Perfect in every detail as in this case they certainly are. But then again, maybe Grafton put out an A-format paperback that I haven’t noticed. Maybe not.

But then I guess the editors assume that the average SF reader of today knows nothing about the magazines and cares less. After all, would an Interzone reader (and we’re really desperately narrowing down the focus here) even recognize a 1951 Other Worlds as being, essentially, the same thing? Never mind the sort of literary farts who enthuse over, say, Terry Pratchett or Robert Holdstock. Isn’t it, though, the responsibility of reference works to ensure that the magazines and the writers they fostered are not covertly shunted off to the shredder of history?

As it happened, the day after getting my copy the movie Phase IV showed on TV... somehow Peter Nicholls’s write-up in the SFE doesn’t seem like it was of the same film. If there’s one positive thing to be said for the film—among several, actually; it was better than I expected—it is that it is about science, scientific method, and investigation, the same sort of ‘what’s going on?’ viewpoint of, say, Quatermass. Nicholls makes a specific point of saying that it is not any of these things. Crikey, I thought, looking up a few more. Now, it appears that since 1979 the majority of film entries have been done by Peter Nicholls, and he appears to have laid editorial hands on the residual 1979 entries by John Brosnan too. It also appears to me that he might not have, well, actually seen some of them. Now this is intuition, I know, but often the write-up reads like a distillation of others’ commentaries. A consequence of ‘encyclopaedia style’? Perhaps not. It just seems to me that there are too many instances where the general tone of the film as perceived by Nicholls is quite different from my own memories. Mind you, that being said there are many quite spot-on bits where it all rings true and there are genuine flashes of illumination. I dunno. Is there anything wrong with cribbing it anyway? Has John Clute really read all those terrible books by dreary nonentities? One rather hopes not; life is too short.

Well, gosh wow anyhow. Despite the lack of pictures there’s lots of knowledge and a genuine quantitative increase in information over the first edition (even allowing for those who have been dumped by the wayside). Pretty much all the ‘new’ writers are in and written up in adequate detail; it’s definitely up to date to the end of 1992 and it is said there is some 1993 detail in there as well. Good lordy, computer typesetting, what a miracle.

So I can now tell you all about Harry Turtledove without having read one tedious word of his overblown prose. Or is it Ian McDonald I’m thinking about? Actually, I couldn’t care less. Reference books, I love ’em. Novels are a fucking bore.



Now, Then
from Rastus Johnson’s Cakewalk 2, November 1993 

This is not a review of Rob Hansen’s latest issue of Then, his history of fandom covering, this time, the 1970s. I’m saying that to keep things in perspective, as I’m going to make comments about it that I think are valid but certainly don’t constitute a real piece of reasoned criticism of the sort that this work deserves. I hope someone else will be doing that, but I can tell you here it won’t be Don West repeating his work on earlier volumes, as published in Critical Wave a couple of years ago. That’s because Don, as well as thinking he said pretty much all he needed to on that occasion, has the same problem with Then—The Seventies as I do. He can’t read it.

There’s hardly anything more interesting to your average actifan than mentions of his own name, and Then is studded with mine, but I’ve tried and tried and my eyes are just glazing over at the approach of Hansen’s steppe-like prose. It just stretches off into infinity on all sides, littered like some World War Two battlefield with the relics of past conflicts and daring pushes, signs here and there to mark the passing of full-strength combat teams of great initiative and élan, but all seen through a sort of grey mist that renders everything colourless and drab. The writing has no drive or intrinsic interest. His misconceived use of ‘scene-settings’ from the real world at chapter-openings gives something like the Yom Kippur War the same emotional weight as Ian Maule moving to London.

Using those links to ‘reality’ is a dodgy process in itself. The real world, I think, is in fact irrelevant except for its impact on fans themselves. That might be profitably explored perhaps in the forthcoming Eighties volume where Hansen might examine the upsurge of comparatively wealthy fans leading to a convention boom and decline of interest in publishing fanactivity.

Obviously I’ve read bits and pieces of it, enough to see where he’s wrong in detail and emphasis, and I’ve tried to distinguish whether he this time follows through the story any better than he did in the original The Story So Far which continually had me asking, with mounting frustration, ‘And what bloody happened next?’ This is near impossible to do because there’s no index; and the whole thing is so badly produced anyway, the conceit of the quarto format lending nothing to readability. An index is absolutely essential and easy to achieve using any sensible word-processing package—easy but time-consuming to achieve using paper and pencil, come to that—and the sort of work that ought to have been done for this assumed serious effort. Another reason that following lines of thought through Then is hard is the continual chaff and clutter of detail larded into it. Does anyone really need to be reminded here about Ben Burr and Benzine for example? I don’t mean that we shouldn’t know about his/its brief flicker, but not in this way. This is incidental detail in every sense. It’s the sort of thing that should be presented in a chronology of people, fanzines, and small events done separately but cross-referenced to the main thrust of the narrative.

I recall, from the discussions that Robert Hansen and I had years ago, even before he did the basic work on The Story So Far, that we theorised that what might be needed was a primary basic outline history that would be elaborated on later with proper detail and analysis. Well, I thought that’s what The Story So Far was. What we have here is more of the same writ larger. There’s no analysis or evaluation at all, and many of the same faults in the primary work still exist—questions unanswered, no index and so on.

Hansen may yet insist that this is groundbreaking work and the True History is yet to come. This seems to me unlikely. The very way that he has done it discourages further in-depth work. It seems like the full story—and, judging from the letters included here about previous issues, is being taken as that. The form he’s chosen—the straightforward narrative—has changed what he wanted to do. If it had been a heavily annotated indexed chronology, for example, that would have genuinely served as a skeleton around which to build, with many diverse hands if appropriate, something more investigative and interpretative. This flat story, though, is a closed question. This looks like the Standard Reference, and who else other than Hansen has the working notes to go over the job again? And the more time passes the more stories and memories will fade, the events will become legends, the people gods or demons, or just dead. Nothing will be added. It reminds me, prosaically, of Halliwell’s Television Companion, a terrible piece of junk issued in the Seventies purporting to be an Encyclopaedia of TV. It was completely useless to either the enthusiast or the common browser, didn’t sell a damn despite a later updating, and the whole idea has been wiped out of possibility because well, Halliwell did one, didn’t he, so there’s no need for another, and it didn’t sell anyway so nobody wants it, and anyway it’s Been Done. Which is what people will think about Then. Fanhistory? Been Done.



The Best Fanzines -

i) All Our Sixties
posted to Memoryhole elist, 6 February 1999 

On Friday, 05 Feb 1999 17:02:11, Bill Bowers wrote: If you were to be stranded on a Fannish Desert Island, which ten titles from each fannish decade would you chose to take with you? Naturally, since it was My Entry Decade, I’d like to start with the 1960s.  

Bloody Hell—I love lists! I can’t resist this at all so I flung an enquiry into the Memory Hole and came up with 517 individual titles published in the Sixties, with 1,909 issues between them. While I’m pretty sure MH has at least 90% of the British fanzines published in the Sixties I know I don’t have half of what was published in Europe and Australia, and less than that of American material. Anyway, there were a lot of fanzines in them days.

But the list provided a fine aide-memoire, particularly useful to me as I didn’t really become aware as a fan until 1967, and even after that until at least the end of the decade I saw few US fanzines.

Given that, a fair amount of the calculation used in my assessment of them for Desert Island (or Time Capsule) qualification is based on reading them after the fact. So, in alphabetical order:

Badinage—5 issues 1967-68, produced by the Bristol and District SF group, usually edited by Graham Boak (and whatever happened to etc. etc.). The first ‘real’ fanzine I saw from beginning to end, parts of it still enchant me, parts now seem appallingly ill-written and well deserving of the negative criticism such as T E White heaped upon it at the time. But still, in a way it’s one of the things that pops into my mind when I hear the word ‘fanzine’.

Bete Noir/Cockatrice/Discord/Newhom Review/Retrograde/ Spirochaete—lots of issues, all the time, Redd Boggs. Cheating, I know, to put these all together, but I doubt even Boggs would claim they weren’t all of a piece. It’s a well-informed, literate, adult mind talking to us. Just endlessly interesting. What more do you want?

Habakkuk—8 issues, five in 1960, 3 in ’66/’67—Bill Donaho. There were two issues of the second series put though OMPA in 1966, and I was given copies by Beryl Mercer soon after I became fannish. It was a revelation in every sense of the word. I’ve often cited getting copies of Hyphen as the time that I became convinced that fanzines would be worthwhile, and normally I believe it myself, but I now realise that these issues of Habakkuk, exceptionally well produced, incredibly varied in content, all as cosmopolitan and intellectual as hell, were what really turned the switch. The earlier series is almost as good (the recent third series, good as it is, is a third placer) but the second series is really brilliant. Wish I’d done that.

Hyphen—12 issues, 1960-65. Well, it has of course been said. Funnily enough I didn’t see these issues actually in the Sixties, not for years—decades—later, in fact. My epiphanitic contact was with issues of ‘-’ from the Fifties, when it was at its best. But there was no bad period for this fanzine.

Les Spinge—the Dave Hale issues, numbers 7-14, 1961-65. Again, something I read after the fact. LS had an extremely varied profile, with this as the top of its curve (and the ends of that line being pretty low down before and after). Hale produced big (up to 100 pages) well-produced, intelligently edited fanzines—sort of British Habakkuks to my mind. Some brilliant writing—I well remember a Charlie Smith conreport that somehow makes every convention I have ever actually attended seem pale by comparison—and excellent layout.

 Quip—10 issues (?), 1965-68(?). Arnie Katz, Lenny Bailes, and lots of other guys. We’re still in big substantial genzine country here, with high production values, careful editing, attention to detail, but with a load of determined fannishness folded in at every opportunity. Of course I didn’t read these at the time—not until the late Eighties in fact—but bloody hell it must have been great to get this come through your letterbox in 1967!

Smoke—4 issues, 1960-63, edited by George Locke. Incredibly British, crammed pages, small type, top-of-the-head layout, but full of fascinating things that should appeal to any genuine science fiction fan: books, magazines, fanzines, fanfiction, gossip, letters. What else is there that makes up a good fanzine? It’s a real shame that Locke went completely off fandom to become a rare-book dealer—but if you can get hold of a copy of his annotated library list Spectrum of Fantasy (Ferret, 1980) it will entrance you.

Speculation (also Zenith)—24 issues, 1963-69—edited by Peter Weston. Quite simply one of the best fanzines about science fiction ever, and one that I find bears endless rereading. It’s all just endlessly interesting in a sort of po-faced way, full of useful knowledge and commentary. A very British version of Geis’s magazines, without the strange professional fannishness that flourished in them, but much more orderly and readable than anything Geis ever did.

Warhoon—16 issues, 1961-69, edited by Richard Bergeron. Just brilliant stuff, like Redd Boggs’s fanzines at greater length (though Boggs is always my preference) and full of informed commentary of damned near everything. Even things I’m not interested in seem fascinating. And in the later issues Bergeron’s graphics are fantastic. This man’s departure from fandom was a tremendous loss in every regard.

So there’s my top ten of the Sixties. It’s worth remarking that some fanzines that mightily impressed me at the time are not in this list—Phile, Beyond, Morfarch, Con, for example. They’re all British fanzines that really are overshadowed by the presence of Charles Platt and his associates for whom fannishness in any form (even genuine enthusiasm untempered by cynicism) was anathema. It seemed to make sense to me at the time, and I sought to emulate them in a way for a while, but in the end it was Hyphen and Habakkuk that really lit the road to travel.

 ii) The Seventies
posted to Memoryhole elist, 25 February 1999

 I’ve churned the 1970s around in the MemoryHole database and come up with 506 fanzine titles. Scanning through them was a bit of a depressing experience. Using Bill Bowers’s original criteria of ‘favourite’ rather than best (and apologies for perhaps muddying the water by using ‘best’ in my roundup of the Sixties message) I found remarkably little that made my little heart lift. OK, there’s lots of Good Fanzines, things I’d put forward as Excellent Examples of good fanning to anyone who wanted them, but not a hell of a whole lot that made me go all misty-eyed and long for the days of say, The Next Best Thing to Perfect Legs (an obscure Merf Adamson fanzine, FYI).

I came up with a shortlist of 16 titles (19 originally, but I dropped three as being only really-marginally Seventies fanzines) from which I selected the following Top Ten (in alphabetical order):

 Dr Faustenstein–David Redd—3 issues, Feb ’79-Jan ’80. Haverfordwest’s Greatest Living Fanwriter—honestly, the only other fan in West Wales. He’s never written enough either fannishly or professionally, and this is his only 'real' fanzine. It’s just got charm, and it’s genuinely interesting on a whole variety of topics.

Four Star Extra—Katzes and Kunkels—7 issues (I have only 3-7, all 1978). Not especially fannish except in tone, just really great fan-type writing about things that really fascinated me—I always remember the ‘sex’ issue with great fondness.

It Comes in the Mail—Ned Brooks—28 issues, ’72-’78. I have to be honest, I didn’t really pay much attention to this at the time, but reread it some years ago after getting and really liking Ned's It Goes On the Shelf. Wow, it was really good! OK, I’m a list fan, I have no regrets. Especially for lists of fanzines and books and idle gossip and news, which is essentially what this is. Pleasant, in the most commendable way.

Maya—Williams, Maule, and Jackson, variously—15 issues, ’70-’78. OK, the first two Ian Williams issues are a bit crap, the next few edited by Ian Maule are a bit Ian Maule (you know what I mean...) but when Rob Jackson took over from issue 7 it was a whole new deal. I used to roundly criticise Jackson’s Maya for having ideas above its station productionwise (too much of a Sunday Supplement, I would say facilely) but like an idiot I was ignoring the incredibly high quality of the writing therein in my criticism of the overall apparently unfannish package. Now of course any idiot with DTP software (even me) could do it, but that doesn’t detract from Rob’s effort and skill then, or, more importantly, his highly motivated editorial determination, getting fine material from a lot of brilliant fanwriters which is as readable and interesting today as ever.

One-Off—David Bridges—8 issues, April ’76-Easter ’80. A nut or what? Bridges sprang from nowhere with a genuinely individual consciousness and fanzine style—the first two issues of O-O are amongst the most entertaining and enjoyable fanzines I’ve ever read. It became a bit more conventional after that—I’m using ‘conventional’ loosely here you realize—and by the end was identifiably a ‘fanzine’, but still excellent. Bridges went totally bonkers after that—ended up locking himself in the house with the door barricaded, making a brain out of string, marrying an American, moving to Texas. Sad. But One-Off was great!

SF Commentary—Bruce Gillespie—at least 46 issues between ’70-’79. OK, sometimes the production and general presentation is crap (and sometimes perfect) but the content—for science fiction fans—is indispensable. Some brilliant writing, some brilliant ideas. What can I say?

Siddhartha—Ian Williams—8 issues, ’72-’77. Williams was a bit of a dead loss as a genzine editor but as a writer—and this is a personalzine—he may be a forgotten genius of British fandom. OK, he takes himself far too seriously here and there, but he writes with wit, charm, and perception (even when he’s wrong, if you see what I mean). It’s a shame he isn’t still active—apparently his wife thinks fandom is a waste of time.

Speculation—Peter Weston—9 issues, ’70-’73. Well, obviously Spec was just as good in the Seventies as it was in the Sixties. No more need be said. Steve Green’s idea of a Best of Speculation would be well within Peter Weston's lunch-money budget, but unfortunately Weston has a peculiar view of his fanwork these days, and tends to think it of no continuing value. In fact Weston has a peculiar view of fanning all round—almost like an elderly Mike Ashley or Don West he seems to believe that if it isn’t being done Here and Now it is of no value. Even great faneditors can be completely wrong sometimes.

Twll-Ddu—David Langford—16 issues, ’76-’79. Really brilliant funny stuff (with some serious commentary now and then) about almost daily events in British fandom. My favourite period of Langford writing. I was also tempted to include the sercon fanzine he did with Kevin Smith at roughly the same time (Drilkjis) but something’s got to go. For all that, Kevin Smith’s Dot (8 issues, ’77-’79) is a pretty good contender too. Smith is really up there with Bergeron as a great loss to fandom.

Vector and other British SF Association publications—at least 50 of them during the decade. Oh, what can I say; I just like this sort of sci-fi-oriented stuff. The Malcolm Edwards period in particular was excellent. The David Wingrove period considerably less so. Wonder if those issues are sought after by whatever Chung Kuo fans might exist. Good grief, nothing’s impossible.

Well, that’s the top ten. The others on my final 16 were:

Boonfark—Dan Steffan—mostly an Eighties fanzine.

Deadloss—Chris Priest—as Boonfark.

Epsilon—Rob Hansen—a few ’70s issues, but the best were in the Eighties.

Notes from the Chemistry Dept—Dennis Quane—at least 14 issues, ’74-’75. Another sercon fanzine, full of reviews, commentary etc etc. How many of you remember it? Who the hell was Dennis Quane?

Vibrator—6 issues, ’75-’77; Wrinkled Shrew—8 issues, ’74-’79. I have real problems with a lot of what are perceived of as ‘Ratfandom’ fanzines, some of them purely personal. However, whoever it was that said (Ted White?) that other than being a social group there were vast differences in written fanac approaches was right. Anyway, these two fanzines are still readable and enjoyable. Pat and Graham Charnock probably deny all knowledge of them.

iii) Fave Fanzines of the Eighties
posted to Memoryhole elist, 12 April 1999 

Somehow (and it’s not just because I am reluctant to post a List...) I’m finding it hard to come up with a ‘favourite’ list for the Eighties. I’m sure that’s at least in part because during the middle Eighties I managed to convince myself that fanzines were on the way out, and that all meaningful fanactivity could be done Live, In Person, At Conventions (and pub meetings, parties, etc etc). This all seems amazingly stupid in retrospect, but also does mean that I really didn’t connect properly with fanzine fandom in the Eighties at all hardly.

Anyway, I went as usual to the MH permacoll databanks for assistance, and found I had on record details of 608 separate fanzine titles, with an amazing 2,460 issues published in the Eighties.

OK, in no particular order (even though it might appear alphabetical) here are my favourite Eighties fanzines... many of which I have become truly familiar with and enthusiastic about in the Nineties...

Boonfark—Dan Steffan—5 issues, (3-8, 1981-1983). A brilliant fanzine full of great fanwriting—I am ashamed to say I paid scant heed to it as it was published, but since ‘finding’ it years later I really love it. If I hadn’t been a true fan beforehand this would have made me one. If any fannish fanzine from the Eighties deserves a reprint this is it.

Epsilon—Rob Hansen—12 issues (7-18, 1981-1985). An excellent fannish fanzine—Hansen was witty, funny, and wise. He had a particular ability to knit together various strands of argument and comment on the issues that affected British fandom of the day and come out with intelligent summaries and sometimes definitive conclusions. His covers were also often quite brilliant. A set of Epsilon is a wonderful thing.

 Metaphysical Review (New Series)—Bruce Gillespie—14 issues (1-14, 1984-1989). I don’t think there’s anything I can add to the general high opinion we all have of this fanzine (well, all of us except Joseph Nicholas anyway...)—but I would like to add specifically that I really love the lists...

The Monthly Monthly—The gang of Four/Robert Runte etc—12 issues (1-12, 1980-1981). Really a monthly—incredible. I never saw this at the time but got a set via the MH project. I like it because it’s a real sort of old-fashioned fanzine, not a personalzine, not a fiction zine, not even really fannish. It’s the sort of serious-minded with humour thing that might have been published in the Thirties or Forties, when Fans Had A Mission. A sort of Science Fiction Fan for our times. I really recommend it.

Sikander—Irwin Hirsh—14 issues (1980-1989). Just a really good fannish fanzine, the kind you don’t see no more hardly. Actually you don’t. What the hell’s gone wrong?

Stomach Pump—Steve Higgins—10 issues (2-11, 1980-1986). I’m a bit reluctant to include this as it was one of the first venues to allow the dreadful Michael Ashley to spew biliously over us all, but that aside I always liked it. It was alive and lively, had a good well-edited letter column, and talked about fans, fanzines and records. What more?

Wing Window—John D Berry—11 issues (1-11, 1981-88). A real grown adult talking to us as if we were intelligent. Sometimes I think this is what fandom was invented for.

Past Present and Future—Graham Stone—12 issues (I think) (3-14, 1980-1989). A genuinely engrossing fanzine about SF—a sort of ‘Notes and Queries’ really, wherein Stone and his correspondents get into the byways of SF history and information. I’m a bit vague on the bibliography because the ‘set’ I’m most familiar with is a reprint of the run done for PEAPS by our very own Curt Phillips a few years ago. A genuine contribution to SF history (and I mean both Stone’s original and Curt’s reprint).

 The Big Sleaze—Terry Frost—5 issues (1-5, 1987-88). Badly produced—terrible typeface, peculiar photocopying—but funny and interesting Australian fanzine. I have to admit I only read through a run a matter of months ago, but it entertained and informed me. Frost comes across with real character—and he included in his fanzine a number of comments and bits of history about Australia and its original inhabitants that were wholly informative. This fanzine doesn’t seem to have been at all well-received at the time—there’s even a letter from John Bangsund in one issue asking to be taken off the mailing list. But I like it a lot.

 Pong—Ted White and Dan Steffan—40 issues (1-40, 1980-1982). This fanzine reads better and better as time goes on—and one becomes somewhat distanced from the various arguments and controversies. There were times when I actually avoided it at the time.



 The Blue Spot Returns
posted to Memoryhole elist, 12 October 2001 

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, E C Tubb, and All The Usual Features. It’s kinda 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 definitely 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 stenciling 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—controversy, 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 Civilization 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 one’s associates) as a young fan, but they seem more pompous and self-regarding 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 self-regarding 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 self-conscious cobblers and half-witted 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 letter column 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 definitely 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 its 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 J H 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.