One slight disadvantage of living in Maryland is that it now will take a lot longer to drive to Midwestcon in Cincinnati each June. And Midwestcon, as we mentioned last issue, is a true fannish nexus, an event where fans from all regions and all eras convene. The following was written by Roger Sims and Howard Devore, who have seen and participated in their share of fan history, not to mention just about all of the 39 Midwestcons that have been held so far.
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The Definitive Story of Numbered Fandoms
A Play in One Act

by Roger Sims and Howard Devore

illo by Kurt Erichsen Our story opens on a sunny afternoon in late March 2058, in a large room with no windows, some one hundred years after the organization of First Fandom. There is no one in the room. A large box stands in the middle of the room. It is approximately three feet high. A table with a candle which never seems to go out has been placed at each end of the box. There is a very large fireplace on one wall, not burning. The only other piece of furniture is a chair located at one end of the box. It faces the box.

The door opens and a very old man enters. He walks over to the chair amd sits down. Looking at the fireplace, he thinks 'fire' and immediately the fireplace springs to light. However, as the smoke rises up the chimney, some of the smoke escapes into the room, drifts over to the box and seeps into its cover. Soon the lid opens and a very well-preserved man sits up. The man in the chair speaks:

Roger: Well, Howard, how was your sleep?

Howard: Fine, but what do you want now? I was in the middle of a dream of a very erotic nature, and I might add you interrupted the cl...

Roger: Never mind. It's time to tell the Story once again. It was decreed on the death of the last First Fandomite that First Fandom would never let the rest of Fandom forget what they did for all new fans.

Howard: We taught them to drink, play poker with a deck of cards that had a missing ten of clubs, and to worship Ghu. Should we have done more?

Roger: Sniff glue?

Howard: No, Ghu, the only true Ghod.

Roger: Good, but now you must tell the story of how First Fandom began.

Howard: Well, it was at some drunken party somewhere in the Midwest. I believe at something that was once called Midwestcon -- not MiddleAmericaCon, which as we all know stretches from the Allegheny Mountains to the Rockies. However the date is still the same last full weekend in June and the place is still the same Cincy. But for the last several years all attendees have been teleported at the same time to the lobby, which as I remember from the last one, created a very big mess and caused the firing of many desk clerks.

Roger: That's all well and good but let's get back to the issue at hand. Namely, the question that I've been waiting to ask you ever since the last First Fandomite, you, died: "What happened to the bottle of Brandy?" As you know, as permanent head of Second Fandom, it was to be my task to open the bottle for the last First Fandomite. However, as you're aware, we couldn't find it when you became the last one. And at that time, we decided that when you meet up with Lou Tabakow in the Great Fanzine Room upstairs you would ask him, so that when you woke up on the first hundred-year anniversary, you would tell me and I would make sure that the bottle was ready in 2158. So?

Howard: That son of a gun took it with him. I've seen it but he won't give it up. You'll need a "Rite of Habeas Corpus" before you can exhume the body, then he'll have to give it up. You'll find it tucked under his left arm bone.

Roger: Good, that's cleared up. We'll have no trouble bringing the bottle to you on your next anniversary. Now, how did First Fandom really start?

Howard: Well, a bunch of the boys were whooping it up at the Malamute Saloon when someone said that we were losing our heritage. The new kids don't know that we are responsible for all of this. They don't treat us with the reverence we deserve. We must do something so that we can have our proper seats at all functions. That is, in the front. After all, our eyes and ears aren't what they used to be. And we don't want to miss any of the beautiful girls in their no-costumes. Long Don Ford, as I recall, asked, "What will be our underlying purpose," and stubby Bob Madle piped up with, "We will tell them how Ghod and Hugo Gernsback created the Universe." Scrawny Lynn Hickman piped up with, "It took them six days to build it and Ed Hamilton 15,000 words to wreck it. Back in the thirties he could do that twice a week and sometimes on Sunday, too."

Roger: Well, how did you decide who belonged in First Fandom?

Howard: At first, we decided that you had to have a long white beard, but Margaret complained. So we finally settled that you had to have been more than just a casual reader of science fiction before January 1938, and prove it by correspondence, published letters, or some such.

Roger: But what kind of activity did First Fandom do before 1938?

Howard: Well, the most notable and the most fun was the Staples War. Bob Tucker wanted to eliminate the metallic staples from science fiction magazines and bind them instead with chewing gum. Wollheim opposed this, and wanted the plain metallic staples replaced with platinum ones. That way you would be able to read a 15-cent magazine, then remove the staples and sell them for 30 cents with which you could buy two more mags. The war ended when Bob Tucker sent out his newsletter with blood-covered staples, indicating that he had given up.

Roger: OK, how about the associate members?

Howard: They're not really members. What they really are, are camp followers. They are allowed to sit in the far corner of the room, that is, during the business part of the meeting. After the business meeting when we really get down to business, they are expected to carry the booze down from upstairs, provide the ice, pay their annual dues, and bow their heads when a true member speaks. And, in very rare cases, drink Beam's Choice and say "smoooooooooooth" for anyone who can't do it for him/herself. As you can see, they are really handy to have around. Bill Cavin makes sure that we have a free meeting room wherever we are. And little Ray Beam is encouraged to send out newsletters at his own expense. Now, Roger, it's your turn; talk about Second Fandom.

illo by Kurt Erichsen Roger: Well, let me see; where should I start? Best I start with Dapper Dave Kyle, the darling of the airwaves and the Air Corps. He wanted to make sure that there would be an organization patterned after the great First Fandom to carry on the traditions that started in the dark ages of fandom. He enlisted the aid of some unsuspecting fans at SunCon, and here we are, carrying on just like the old days. But as you might imagine, we aren't long for the fray ourselves, and are about to give the steering wheel to the latest group. The question is, which group? What at one time constituted Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Fandoms have now dried up and blown away like the ghosts of the writers that gave them breath. For as history tells us, they really only existed in the small minds of Jack Speer and Bob Silverberg, who in fannish days wrote long-winded articles of their greatness. However, Seventh Fandom was more to the point, what with its great ghod Ellison. But as we all know, Ellison changed his religion and disappeared into the great mundane world. So, what we are left with is 117th Fandom, which as memory serves me was organized by the 135 direct descendants of George ("Don't Ask Me How Many Times I've Been Married") Young.

Howard: Yes, but tell me about the 117th Fandom. You know that I've been asleep for some time now, and don't know anything about these new fandoms. The last one I remember was the 50th. Didn't we decide that it was to be the last?

Roger: Yes, we did. But you know how young folks like to do their own thing. And who is there to stop them? After all, you're here only to be waken every hundred years, and even I won't be around to wake you the next time. In fact, I understand that I am to occupy the box next to you. Yes, I know that it isn't visible yet. However, I've been told it will be ready when I am. Anyway, to get back to the explanation: these youngsters of Young got together in one mind, and created the Last Fandom, which they christened the 117th. And why not? Who has a greater right? We certainly don't; out time has come and gone. And now, on that note, I'm out of here. So until next time...

The smoke which had been slithering around the box slowly removes itself. As it leaves, HOWARD also very slowly lies down as the lid closes. The fire goes out, and ROGER gets up from the chair and slowly drifts out of the picture as a smaller box begins to show itself.


All illustrations by Kurt Erichsen

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