WHY was this Thing Called Memory Hole?

...back, back in time, to an earlier more innocent this instance to 2004, when I (Greg Pickersgill, my very own self) wrote the following:-

The MEMORY HOLE project began in 1994, with the simple idea of getting unwanted science fiction fanzines away from people who didn't want them and putting them into the hands of those that did. Pretty soon it dawned on me that I also had the opportunity to do something else; using my own fanzine collection as a core I could build up an archive collection that would be available for borrowing, copying, and bibliographic/fanzinographic purposes. Since then things progressed. In all directions. Sometimes at once. And, like the Universe itself which sf fandom seeks to reflect, it all came to an end. Well, rather sooner than the Universe generally (as far as we know...) but you get my drift, yeah?

This all originally came about because of my realisation that far too many fanzines have been irretrievably lost or thrown away; probably 75% of the average fanzine's print-run vanishes one way or another - a lot when one considers a typical fanzine's print-run would be 200-300 copies.

It's a damned peculiar thing that sf-fans, almost to a person book and magazine collectors and usually aghast at the idea of throwing away any book, especially a rare first edition, often treat fanzines so cavalierly. Some suggest that this is because fanzines are produced for Love rather than Money, given away rather than sold (or if sold, usually at token - much less than cost - price), and thus don't have the monetary 'value' of, say, a first-edition copy of THE DEATH GUARD by Philip George Chadwick. This might be right, but is no excuse. Each fanzine, whatever its individual merits (and some are genuinely brilliant, the best reading you'd pick up all week, even though many simply devalue the paper they're printed on) is a potentially rare first edition, and perhaps might be valued more for that alone.

And that value, I submit, is not and should not be financial - fanzines are produced for love, they are genuine amateur - in the true sense - hand-made creations - and they represent the living culture and history of sf fandom, and should always be passed on freely to anyone who wants genuinely wants them. Early MH flyers carried the legend 'Dealing in Fanzines is Low and for Worms' and to be honest we here at the Haverfordwest SF and Helmet Society World Headquarters still think this, even though we know otherwise rather sound chaps who sell fanzines in order to feed their children and pension funds.

Time and experience have shown us, though, that hardly anyone else shared this opinion. What few people there were who collected fanzines proved much happier to pay money for them at conventions, auctions, or even on Ebay, than to actually ask us here whether we could give them for nothing. Incomprehensible but true. So that little bit of moral authority was thrown on the scrapheap and no more accusing fingers were pointed at bookdealers trying to sell off the scrappy bits of paper that arrived along with the valuable book collections acquired from dead or lost-interest sf collectors.

Well whatever, it was with those ideas in mind that Memory Hole was begun. Initially the project had a great deal of success. But it all petered out gradually. As the years passed less and less was donated for either the archive or redistribution, and less and less was requested. Horrifically the amount incoming soon exceeded the outgoing, so a genuinely severe storage problem built up (literally, in walls of fanzines). It eventually got to the point where our quite small house no longer had the room for our own stuff as well as all the heaps of fanzines that we were notionally holding in trust for Fandom at Large. It wasn't so much the actual Core Collection that was a problem - though at almost 20,000 items that takes up enough space in itself! - but the thousands of duplicates that no-one wanted.

Eventually severe measures had to be taken. As much as possible was passed on to other people, but large quantities of frankly less interesting stuff just went to the local tip. (You should find some anecdotes about all this elsewhere on this website.) And finally in early 2003 we took the decision - possibly long overdue - to scrap the whole project due to lack of interest.  

Oh, we're still fanzine fans and fanzine collectors here at the Haverfordwest SF, Science, and Helmet Society. If you're an Old-Time Fan, have ever been a fanzine reader but not a collector, check in your shed (you'd be surprised...), your attic, under your bed, the top of your wardrobe - see if there's anything you don't want (the older the better!). We'd be delighted to get it - as long as it's Good Stuff and not just another collection of crummy University group newsletters or local-apa junk. You know what I mean, the sort of stuff that even the people who originally produced it wouldn't want to see again. We can certainly repay any shipping charges as required - there's always the chance a complete set of VAMPIRE will surface, after all.

The Good Part is, as mentioned above we still maintain a permanent fanzine collection - the PERMACOLLECTION. This began, based around my own personal collection, when I realised that in the event of a disaster (fire, flood, meteorite) occurring to the late Vince Clarke's home (then the site of the only other established fanzine library in Britain) there would be no substantial collection of fanzines left anywhere in Western Europe. So the idea of a 'Second Foundation' seemed sensible verging on vital. Since Vince's death his collection has passed into the hands of Rob Hansen wherein one assumes in the absence of other information it remains safe. And there is now also a substantial collection maintained by the Science Fiction Foundation at Liverpool University, and one day the Permacollection, or at least a large part of it, may indeed be transferred to the SFF and the friendly hands of its Administrator, sf fan Andy Sawyer.

The Permacollection presently contains 16,080 fanzines (2,809 titles) covering the period from 1934 to July 2004. The collection has been logged on a Paradox database and the current version of the fanzinographic catalog derived from that is on this website.


Greg Pickersgill

(A note from 2015:- The Permacollection still exists, sort of. At least, all the British Isles fanzines are still with me, and they represent a significant chunk of the printed-paper fanzines produced in the British Isles between the beginning and end of  Fanzine Days. A lot of the Rest of the World material has gone, passed on to what one hopes are happy homes, though I suspect much has by now been returned to produce. I did my bit, I can't  it all. It doesn't matter anyway, all is history, the moving wave of the present outpaces us all, what was once valued is forgotten.)



Now Go Back In Time - to

I don't often think of Darroll Pardoe, indeed when I do it's a sort of accident, like pouring the hot water into your cup instead of the teapot. The other day though I was rooting through some old fanzines and I thought of something Pardoe told me many years ago. Apparently, and he swore this was true, he not only threw away most of the fanzines he'd been sent, as being of no more than one-time-only interest, but from the rest tore out and kept only the bits that seemed to him, at the time, worth preserving. This seemed unbelievable and weird at the time, and now, looking back on it, it seems more so, plus frightening and actually socially irresponsible. You don't need a terrific intellect to figure out why. A big run of a fanzine is a couple of hundred - perhaps as much as five hundred copies in some cases. There are probably more copies available at the time of issue than there are people who want it, but that's not a situation that always pertains. Copies are lost, vanish into collections, are discarded by people who have no true interest, are junked by relatives when the receiving fan dies or even moves away from home. That initial print run rapidly becomes a number of extant copies substantially smaller than the number of people who want or ought to see them. When you have `fans' like Pardoe, and probably dozens of others who casually discard or deliberately destroy their accumulated fanzines it makes a bad situation worse.

I don't think there's any real qualitative difference between a good fanzine and a first edition PK Dick or WS Burroughs or an Edward Hopper painting or the last original print of METROPOLIS. All these things are precious in and of themselves, never mind any artificial commercial value, which is, unfortunately, all that most people can understand. A copy of EYE, GRUE, SPECULATION or VOID has no perceptible value at all to anyone but a fanzine fan, but to the one who wants it it is a rare treasure indeed. I feel anger, hurt and frustration when I think of the classic fanzines that few of us will ever get to see because there are no copies left in circulation, partly because people who should have known better tore them up or dropped them casually in the trash.

I've occasionally given away, with a three-armed abandon I would later regret, fanzines I no longer wanted or of which I had duplicate copies. I've once or twice stood by and seen - as at one of the Yorcons in the Eighties - large piles of old fanzines left neglected and apparently unwanted at the end of conventions, probably to be thrown away by the hotel as trash, because no-one on the committee knew what to do with them. And I feel guilty about that still, ten years later. I have never, though, thrown away or otherwise destroyed fanzines.

So what. Are all old fanzines good? No. Are all old fanzines virtually irreplaceable first editions? Yes. Would fans, active and aspirant, be improved by access to and the attentive reading of, the work of previous generations of fandom. Certainly. My concept of fandom was radically informed by getting hold of some - too few - of the best fanzines of the fifteen years prior to my own involvement. They showed me that there was a background and culture to work within, they demonstrated that some things worked and others didn't - and even though that didn't stop me from hacking down a few trees it meant I didn't have to go to the laborious effort of sawing them up and making something that rolled, unsteadily and backwards. They showed me that continuity was important - this was more a revelation at to me at seventeen than it would have been to someone entering fandom older. Also, by seeing the differences as much as the similarities, I readily grasped that there was no need to slavishly copy what had gone before, but to use that body of thinking, attitude and ideas to generate something that was of me and of my time. (That latter may not seem a particularly wild idea to many, but there are people who seriously propose that no heed whatever should be paid to fan-activities of the past and everything should be reinvented afresh every few years. If you argued this should apply to any other artform or science they'd be up all night contending it. I guess that's what Fandom Is Just A Goddamn Hobby really means, at the death.

Actually what I regret is that I didn't get more old fanzines. This is partly due to the fractured structure of British fandom in the middle-to-late Sixties; most of the `established' fans when I came in had actually been on the scene barely five or so years themselves, a large number of them less than that, and few had any particular interest in or access to collections of older - pre 1964 - material. There was little or no reference to or discussion of anything other than the present or the immediate past. Good lord, old time fans in 1969 meant Peter Weston, for god's sake, who'd been active since the dim recesses of the past - 1964. Not that I helped much; when I started the situation was so weak and insipid - all those dull PaDszines, Mary Reed and OXO fandom, happy-days-toytown fandom - that there seemed no other course than to draw a line and start again. In doing that the thread of continuity was buried if not broken.That meant that startlingly few fans in the following decade and a half were even so much as aware of, never mind sought out or actually read anything published before, say, 1968. OK. I can hear the restlessness from here; Get to the point, already, before you start trying to make a case that even the Sixties fans showed no awareness of Fifties fandom (arguably true, at least from 1965 on) or that Fifties fans never saw a copy of NOVAE TERRAE; You can stretch this a bit far, says the Body of Fandom. Alright alright.

Well I was wondering, as you do, between planning my huge ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BRITISH FANDOM (I'm up to C already. Clarke, Joy. No not that one, the one who did the really terrible fanzine in Manchester or somewhere; anyone remember? Bloody big problem these Encyclopedias, wait 'til I get to W), and compiling an Index to my monograph HANSEN - THE MARRIED YEARS, anyway, I was wondering, why not collect old unwanted fanzines. And give them away again. Like a sort of Salvation Army of the fannish mind. It all made a sort of sense. I'd make the populace in general aware that I would take their unwanted fanzines, sort them, issue simple lists on a regular basis, and anyone could have on a first come basis anything they wanted for their own collections or whatever. So wrote to my friend and advisor Vince Clarke who said:

"A clearing house for old fanzines. Not many people collecting these days, and even some of those who have sizeable collections - like Keith Walker, Howard Rosenblum, or Brian Burgess - are just sitting on them. Peter Roberts has given up, so presumably has Harry Bond. Ken Bulmer has a lot, merely because he can't get up the energy to sort them out. Current collectors are Connor, Hansen, self, - damned if I know any more. So I don't think there'd be any takers for your scheme."

Which might be true and all that, as far as the right now goes. What I'm afraid of is that there's not much duty now for the future going on. If it's hard verging on the impossible to get twenty-year old fanzines Now what's the situation regarding Now going to be like in that scifi year of 2018. I can see a lot of this stuff just sliding down some landfill somewhere between now and then. So I'm going to give it a go anyway. Here's my plan. If you or anyone you know who is now or has ever been a fan has any quantity of fanzines that you don't want, ship them to me, address as inside front cover. I will sort them, and issue a list, probably bi-annually, available on demand, giving an outline of what's in stock. All fanzines will be available free on a first come first served basis, though postage will be charged at cost. A portion of multiple copies will be available for Fanfundraising in the case of the more famous items, and other overstocks will be assembled as representative bundles again available on demand. I am prepared to repay the costs of shipping fanzines to me whenever necessary. It could cost you nothing other than a little time to contribute your unwanted fanzines to this scheme, which I might as well call MEMORY HOLE. What I'll get out of it is satisfaction that I'm doing something that while it may seem futile today may have some long term benefit. Oh, OK and maybe a few fanzines for my own collection. This is not a joke; I know it sounds a bit crazy but I think it's a worthwhile idea. I'm willing to be proved wrong but I'll at least know I tried. MEMORY HOLE should be looked at as a supplement to Vince Clarke's Fanzine Library, and indeed a first priority would be to ensure gaps there are filled. I am able to do what Vince can't, though, (I've got the time and space and he hasn't) and set up a collection and redistribution service that might, with co-operation, be of benefit to all fanzine fans, now and forever.

(With the benefit of hindsight from the scientifictional future days of the 21st century I can safely say, Good grief what a complete fantasist !)

Greg Pickersgill/Memory Hole