gostak index

Greg Pickersgill - Fanzinography

Now then, here's a listing of most of the fanzines I have edited and produced myself. All my own work. Except for all the stuff other people contributed, without which we'd be nowhere, wouldn't we, and of course much of the credit for whatever success these fanzines enjoyed goes to them.

Not a huge enormous deal, just 6 issues of FOULER, 2 of RITBLAT, 7 of STOP BREAKING DOWN, and 7 of RASTUS JOHNSON'S CAKEWALK. That's just 22 issues in 45 years, rather less than one a year, eh wot. Nearly as bad as characters like famous wellknown Big Name Fan Robert Lichtman, if you don't count his apazines. Well, I actually did a few apazines as well, gosh wow, must have been about six of them all told, of which only one is detailed below (I'll add the others eventually, honest...if I can ever remember what they were) but I never was an apa  -type of person, probably for the same reasons I'm not doing a blog or anything like that. (Ah for the Golden Age, when Blog was but a drink...no, stoppit, people will think you're just an old rambling fool pining on for the forgotten predigital past of Fanzine Days.)

Well anyway, not much for 45-odd years in sf fandom, but never mind, feel the quality not the width, That sounds absurdly self-indulgent but to be honest I rather like all these fanzines still. They succeed on their own terms, and that's a fundamental point of a good fanzine; they do exactly what I intended them to do when I started. You may think they're rubbish but that's your problem - I probably wasn't doing them for you in the first place. There's a sort of consistency of concept and attitude throughout - they're all the same fanzine really, despite the changes of name and the gaps between. And for the most part I find they read well now, even up here in the far future of 2012.

      2     SEP/70 m    F  14  No 1 did not exist
      3     OCT/70 m    Q  34
      4     DEC/70 m    Q  34
      5     MAR/71 m    Q  34
      6     JUN/71 m    Q  34
      7     SEP/72 m    Q  32  CEASED COMPLETE




- cover by accident

- cover by Croxley

- cover by Croxley

- cover by Croxley



- cover by Croxley

- cover by Croxley

FOULER. What a wonderful idea. How lucky I was to meet up with Leroy Kettle instead of Peter Weston. Was I? Was fandom? I dunno. Would I have allowed my irritation and disenchantment with the docile furriness of late 1960s fandom to come out with such obvious spite if I had been left to my own devices - would I instead really have produced NEW PEMBROKESHIRE REVIEW, a bizarre amalgam of a school magazine, literary quarterly AMBIT and Walt Willis' classic fanzine HYPHEN instead of this "fart in the face of fandom" (as it said inside somewhere in FOULER 2)?  No, probably not. I would have been too conscious of my desire to fit in with what I was beginning to think of as my Real Family, people I thought I shared attitudes, feelings and consciousness with. I would have been too conventional in the sense that I wanted to consciously emulate what I thought were the best qualities of fandom (see '-' again!) instead of being percieved by many as actively engaged in the process of tearing them down and throwing petrol on the ruins.

But I was easily persuaded that the sort of intellectual tearaway as personified by Kettle (another loner but one who deflected aggression with endless jokes and wordplay, frequently of a type designed to demean and belittle) was actually where it was all at. He was a student, too, when I met him, and that meant a lot to a Grammar School kid like me. I was sufficiently far away from it all in rural West Wales to believe that the Student Revolution actually meant something worth a damn, and I was a rather young very naive and easily influenced eighteen. Oh, I shouldn't criticise Kettle so much really, he was just being who is was (he certainly isn't like that any more) and it was my fault, I was looking for a role model, a big brother even, and he seemed closer to what I wanted than people like Peter Weston who just seemed so damned grown-up.

Anyway, Kettle and I had met at the 1969 Eastercon in Oxford, and for some bizarre reason I spent much of the early period believing he was Leroy Tanner, a pseudonym used by Harry Harrison for book reviews in AMAZING. But we got on well, and spent the whole convention in each others' company doing the sort of Big Kid stuff that a lot of people today think they invented for themselves at their first convention. We continued getting on very well with a huge level of correspondence;  then in August 1970 he showed up unexpectedly at Merlins Bridge, and like Real Fans we put out a fanzine right here. Bits and pieces of it came from the files I had for NPR, others were written on the spot. If you read through it with care and sympathy you'll see there's actually a very uneasy conjunction of the somewhat sercon (me) and the wildly irreverent (Kettle). I'm sure we knew what we were doing at the time but its not that clear now - half the point seemed to be to produce something that was anathema to everything the soft fandom of the day held dear; even the structure -  foolscap, stapled at the lower right corner, reading back to front -  was designed to annoy. What the hell did we think we were up to? No wonder the reviews were terrible, but I always felt they were critical for all the wrong reasons.

There was some good stuff in FOULER 2 though; one piece I can single out for particular note is a poem called SPIN by marginal-fan Richard Barycz. Deserves reprinting.

So how much impact did Leroy Kettle actually have on FOULER? Both a lot and a little. For most of the FOULER days I  relied on him for material and approval; but the fact of the matter was that even though he was listed as 'editor' he did little other than lettercolumn responses. Most of the Kettle material was in fact extracted by me from yards of jumbled text included with the substantial correspondence we were carrying on. It all felt very Beat generation at the time, like making sense of Kerouac or Burroughs from pieces of paper randomly strewn about the floor. Oh, he did contribute towards the costs - all of 2 an issue - but that's about it, and sometimes grudgingly. But I would be lying if I said that it was not his spirit, and worldview, than animated much of FOULER, even though with its tendency to fill the forepart of the fanzine with opaque little microfictions and absurd poetry the shade of NEW PEMBROKESHIRE REVIEW hung on still.

And why begin with FOULER 2, you wonder, why wasn't there an issue 1? Because we thought this was an enormously clever brilliant new idea that would shock and surprise the dullwitted fandom of the day. Oh we really were right up there along with the people who years later did SECONDHAND WAVE and all the bright young things of the 21st century. Little did we know of course, blinded by our own genius and ignorant of fanhistory as we were, that this little trick had been worked at least once before, most successfully by Ron Bennett who in launched his fanzine PLOY with issue 2 back in 1954, complete with internal references to the non-existent first-issue.

      1     MAR/74 m    Q  26
      2     APR/74 m    Q  30  CEASED COMPLETE



- cover by Croxley

- cover by Croxley

Just the two issues of this reasonably well-received fanzine. The title comes from my momentary fascination with the name Conrad Ritblat, a West London estate agency of the day, which always put me in mind of a Philip Dick character-name. It was quite odd, sometimes, wandering around Shepherds Bush and Kensington seeing a apparent Dickian reference everywhere. The 'Grim News' part came from a subdivision of the fanzine which was supposed to be a news-zine, taking over from CHECKPOINT, which had ceased, apparently, with number 46 of March 1974, Peter Roberts having tired of it.

After two issues in less that four weeks (I think, hard to remember now decades later) the whole deal fell apart after the 1974 Eastercon, Tynecon. Not only did Darroll Pardoe quite unexpectedly start up CHECKPOINT again but there was also a bit of a kerfuffle at the convention which left me feeling extremely depressed and disenchanted with fandom.

It all had to do with the overnight construction and mounting of the successful bid for the next year's convention, Seacon '75, held at Coventry. A lot of us, especially those then known as Ratfandom, had been really appalled by the style and form of the Manchester and District group bid  for the 1975 Eastercon, and resolved to do something about it. I'd felt very much a part of the spontaneous bid but Something Happened (I'm still not sure what it was) and I believe that I was eased out of the committee by some of the others, including Malcolm Edwards, Graham Charnock and Roy Kettle. The convention happened, was a acknowledged success within limits, Ratfandom disappeared, and some went on to greater success with Worldcons and the like. Some didn't. And I didn't have the enthusiasm to continue with R/GN, though perhaps I should have.

      1     MAR/76 m    Q  28
      2     APR/76 m    Q  36
      3     JUN/76 m    Q  42
      4     MAR/77 m    Q  54
      5     AUG/77 m    Q  48
      6     MAR/78 m    Q  40
      7     AUG/81 m    Q  28  CEASED COMPLETE





STOP BREAKING DOWN 1 - cover by Graham Charnock (from an lp sleeve)

STOP BREAKING DOWN 2 - cover by Greg Pickersgill (from an lp sleeve)

STOP BREAKING DOWN 3 - cover by Harry Bell

STOP BREAKING DOWN 4 - cover by Jonh Ingham





STOP BREAKING DOWN 5 - cover by Harry Bell

STOP BREAKING DOWN 6 - cover by Rob Hansen

STOP BREAKING DOWN 7 - cover by Harry Bell

STOP BREAKING DOWN, my favourite fanzine title? I dunno. I like RASTUS JOHNSON'S CAKEWALK as well, but SBD does have its charm, charm that was lacking somewhat in such as FOULER (intentionally), or even RITBLAT. I will one day discourse upon the Right Qualities of a fanzine title, as soon as I remember what they are. (No more than three words, no more than two syllables per word, having allusion to something that maybe even only the faneditor knows - that sort of thing.)

Whatever, SBD started with a fine run of pretty frequent issues in 1976 and petered out in 1981. The title of course came from the Robert Johnson number - not, as Chris Priest once thought, an allusion to a defective duplicator! It just had the right ring to it, it felt like it meant something, anything depending on how you looked at it. And it was really of course a somewhat more adult version of RITBLAT, which was of course FOULER in adolescence. By this time I was publishing real articles by real people about real things - in fact some of the best British fanwriting of the 1980s was in SBD, even if I do say so myself. Particularly notable were excellent pieces by Rob Holdstock and Malcolm Edwards which read every bit as good today as they did twenty-odd years ago. Is it too late to say that Rob Holdstock's best writing was in fanzines?

Some excellent covers too - the first two were done from the old CBS Robert Johnson lps - that on No 1 by Graham Charnock, to a high standard for an off-the-cuff idea, the second less eptly by me, when I wanted to get issue 2 out in a hurry. Later covers were much much better, very good fanart from a variety of hands, though mostly Harry Bell. John Ingham is indeed that Jonh Ingham, if you're a music fan. He was sort-of familiar with sf fandom (probably via Greg Shaw) and we came into contact occasionally as he lived quite nearby. Alas there was not sufficient commonality (ie, I wasn't interesting enough, I guess) and he took the drastic step of moving back to the USA. Looking at the cover of SBD6 with its dragon - also used as an identifier for a short-lived and shambolic attempt at a Unified Theory of Welsh Fandom - reminds me of the good old days when Rob Hansen was an excellent fanartist, fine fanwriter, and one of the funniest people I knew. And genuinely funny, without the undercurrent of malice present in some. Hansen produced some great stuff back in Fanzine Days.

      1     JUN/81 m    Q  6   CEASED COMPLETE
      1     SEP/93 x    A4 18
      2     NOV/93 x    A4 24
      3     DEC/93 x    A4 28
      4     FEB/94 x    A4 26
      5     APR/94 x    A4 30
      6     JUN/94 x    A4 32
      7     OCT/94 x    A4 30  CEASED COMPLETE












Ah, RJC, my favourite fanzine. Well, my favourite of my fanzines anyway. It is the one where I got most of the thinking straight and the image and actuality seemed to merge on paper as well as in my head. Mind you I think doing it with Ventura dtp (courtesy of production editor Catherine McAulay - later Pickersgill) helped a great deal. And laser printing gave a far better finished copy than any duplicator. And we did some clever stuff with expanded and modified details from clipart for the covers which I am still very pleased with. So it was a nice clean elegant and readable product. But it is still the words that matter in the end.

The best thing about RJC was the letter response, and most issues have substantial lettercolumns. I always did a lot of editing of the LoCs - microediting, even, as Robert Lichtman called it - paring away anything unnecessary but making sure the writer's character and genuine view come through clearly. I hate slackly edited, rambling letter columns; I believe it is the fanzine editor's task to turn whatever raw material he gets in the form of a letter into a little article that could almost stand alone, with just enough reference to whatever inspired it to keep the dialog alive. (I think that's what I hate about a lot of online- mailing list and internet-type fanac, it's all written first draft, rarely re-written or even re-read before someone prods the go-button, and there's no editing! It's like listening to a lot of drunks in a bar sometimes, all rambling on at cross-purposes, repetitively and pointlessly.)

Anyway, back to RJC. The letters were the stars, no doubt, and one of them, from David Redd in issue 7, discussing such apparently diverse topics as online fandom, the Bronte family and the Spadeadam rocket test site, is one of my favourite bits of fanwriting of all time. I actually recommended it, strongly, for inclusion in that year's annual Fanthology, but the person who recieved my message chose not to transmit it onwards to the actual editor.

There were a few articles, other than the usual stuff by me; one, a John Hall piece called TIME WAS, had been in my files for years, back to the old FOULER days. There was a very entertaining piece by Dave Langford on the early days on online fandom, and a long book-review of a Dave Garnett NEW WORLDS anthology by David Redd. But the letters took up best part of each issue, and, I say again, were the stars. I wouldn't go so far as to say I followed Walt Willis' dictum of "If the LoCs aren't good enough rewrite them until they are" as that would be insulting to people who provided excellent material, and plain wrong as all I did was trim and tidy them into a series of neat micro-articles, which read as well today as they did on first publication. I'm really pleased with that.