We remain in Europe for another visit to Swedish fandom. Last issue, the writer of
the following article described some of the hoaxes perpetrated on Swedish fandom
over the years. This time, he tells us about some of the Amateur Press Associations
that have been active in Sweden, in particular, (and in keeping with our 'food'
theme) a secret APA called Cucumber...
The first Swedish APA was not secret. SAPA was active a few years during the mid-60s, with Official Editors like John-Henri Holmberg and Leif Andersson. (Leif was known from TV as a teenage astronomy wiz, when he won the 10 000 Crowns Quiz in the early `60s. He later became a professional astronomer, died in the US in 1979 and got a crater on the Moon named in his memory. The way for a fan to pass away, I'd say.) It was followed by UPPSAPA and SWAPA, that didn't last. In 1978 the most successful Swedish APA was founded: SFF. The letters are short for Sveriges Fanzine Förening -- Sweden's Fanzine Association. It was the existence of SFF that inspired a group of fans to start a new APA in 1979: Gurka.
'Gurka' means 'cucumber'. It's unclear why this name was chosen. Maybe because it can be mentioned with others present, without giving any hints of what it is. It also sounds a bit funny. I will from now on write 'Cucumber', instead of 'Gurka', so that you will think it is funny too.
Cucumber was different. It was secret.
The original members were: Anders Bellis, Roger Sjölander and me of Stockholm, Ingemar Carlsson of Scania, Mika Tenhovaara of Hallsta, and Lars Larsson and Jonas Söderblad of Nybro. The famous Nybro-fandom later launched the national Star Wars club. They once published a story with Star Wars characters engaged in something hinted upon as sex. Lucasfilms went mad on the other side of the globe and engaged their lawyers to 'protect their trademarks'. (No, 'sex' is not a trademark of Lucasfilms.)
Why a secret APA? I and Bellis already did a weekly newszine, The Wheek's Adfentures (WA), but had also tried small print-run carbon zines. It felt nice to write to a closed circle. My secret hobby is to write constitutions so I wrote one for Cucumber. Members of the new, young fan generation were handpicked and invited.
Cucumber was supposed to "dominate and control" Swedish fandom. WA was in heavy opposition to the board of the Scandinavian SF Association, a dusty sercon gang which we felt didn't understand the needs of the young fanzine fans. In a secret APA we could plot against that board, and as our power grew we would surely take over the whole of Swedish fandom!
Bellis was Official Editor (we called it Mailing Editor) of the first mailing in mid-September 1979 of an impressive 45 pages.
Cucumber came every week with a minac of three pages. Contributions were stapled together and always carbon copied, usually on thin air mail paper. My fanzine was called Fanner, and later I started Fanner's Crochet Supplement. Bellis would publish Hoax, often supplemented with borrowed titles of fannish fame, like Innuendo, Hyphen, Horizons, Lighthouse, etc. Jonas published Z-Stile, while his friend Lars did Fan, later replaced with Rubbish. Roger would do TIFF's Zine ('TIFF' being short for 'The Incredible Flying Fan-Reporter'). Mika used various titles, often from tracks by Led Zeppelin.
The very detailed constitution, two single spaced pages long, said that Cucumber must be totally hush-hush and anyone spilling a word would lose membership. It detailed deadlines, the weekly rotation of OE-ship, how new members could be invited, leave from the minac for illness or travels, etc. Contributions had to include an extra copy for the official librarian, Roger, who kept an archive for future fannish history. If you wanted to quit you had to give three week's notice. This was never obeyed. Ingemar Carlsson took an early opportunity to ignore it, and maybe he had the right to: the constitution wasn't formally accepted until mailing 31, though it was considered valid by consensus from the start.
Mailing comments were a big part of the contents, as well as discussions about motions for Cucumber projects or constitutional changes. Cucumber was democratic and motions were discussed and voted upon in the mailings by all members. It also had a poll of its zines, called the 'Fanalytical Laboratory'.
Another reason for a secret APA was to spread rumours and DNQ-ed material. And Bellis immediately started: he told us that he would dig up information about a fan who had gafiated, whom he didn't like. His Cucumber-zine Hoax had lots of hoaxed material, e.g., a made-up LoC from Harry Warner, Jr.: "For an old and tired fan like me it feels ghood that somebody is picking up the old faannish tradition of publishing edited (most fanzines aren't these days) fanzines with truly faannish contents. I've seldom been as astounded as I was when I realized that these traditions were kept alive in Sweden more than anywhere else." Ah, sweet dreams! He would also quote the international press-reviews of his secret zine: "Amazing!" -- Saturday Evening Post; "Astounding!" -- Newsday Weekly; "Fantastic!" -- Standard New Yorker; "Analog!" -- Herald Tribune.
Ingemar Carlsson -- never really up to our enthusiastic standards -- reported from Seacon `79 that our stickers with 'Torsten is a cucumber!' (a parody of 'Yngvi is a louse!') "wasn't too appreciated by certain members of Herman" (the committee bidding for a Scandinavian worldcon in 1983). Cucumber had thus already stepped out on the international scene!
In my first contribution, I discussed the constitution in great length, outlined the secret plans of creating a hoax femmefan and printed the rules of the great fannish game of Stora Mossen: participants shall one after another name stations in the Stockholm underground system. The one who says 'Stora Mossen' first, wins.
"Let me give an example of a good game, and a bad game:
Anders Bellis: 'Stora Mossen.'
Ahrvid Engholm: 'Shit, you won.'
That was the bad game. Stora Mossen must be played with style. Never be sure of a premature victory. You must build up a strategy and through skillful planning trap the other player, and when he's on the brink of collapsing you can shout in triumph: STORA MOSSEN!"
An example of a tactically brilliant Stora Mossen game was given, and variations were discussed.
We cultivated a strange 'inside' humour. Lars Larsson became known as 'Lars von Laserbeam', because of his interest in Star Wars, and soon he became 'Dr. Raygun', a mystic future super-scientist wearing 'hyper-intravenous glasses'. Jonas and Lars were neighbours and Lars often came to visit him as he was typing a Cucumber-zine. Thus the famous quote: "I have to finish now, because Lars von Laserbeam just entered the room."
A fictitious fan-group started to appear: Wi Wittra (approx. 'We Witty'). They wrote stupid LoCs, often quoted in Cucumber. Stories about the space hero Raymond X Brelligan appeared, later famous for the English language fanzine Raymond X Brelligan Versus the Cosmic Space Planet which even got a review in Amazing's fan-column (May, 1980) which wondered what "gnuggade sin käcka rokokorumpa i morgongröten" meant. ("Rubbed your dashing rococo ass in the morning porridge.")
We wrote lots of linos, funny quotes between two lines, like:
Help! I'm a prisoner in the lino factory!
Mailings could have dozens of them, usually awfully bad.
My first mailing was No.3 of 42 pages. In the official organ, this time called Der Gurkischer Beobachter & Cucumberistic Herald, I announced that Ingemar had quit: "To leave Cucumber is not only a sign of a lost mind, but also of serious mental defects. Since you can get a free week due to illness (also mental) I've, as this week's editor, decided to give him one week off to get well and change his decision." He of course didn't regain his senses.
I also discussed plans for a fannish manuscript bureau and a coup against the Scandinavian SF Association. Its yearly business meeting was coming up, never visited by more than 10-15 people. We thought we easily could get proxies for more than that. Our newszine WA had already started to distribute proxy forms.
When the meeting finally came it had 40 attendees, and the board had collected about a dozen proxies for themselves. Though we had 20 proxies we were a minority. The board had noticed our plans, and launched their own proxy campaign in panic. The 1979 business meeting still is the biggest in the history of the Association. Cucumber could indeed get things and fans rotating if it tried to.
In mailing No.5, Cucumber again tried to show its muscles. Let's call the Dirty Old Pro 'DOP':
"In the Seacon-report in WA, I mentioned that DOP lived with his secretary in a suite. DOP says it isn't true: she was at Seacon with her boyfriend. He wants us to correct it in WA. Our info is from Michel Petersen, who lived in a room just above DOP, but facts are still that DOP went around holding hands with her during Seacon. It's no coincidence that she always goes to cons with him, and to Club Cosmos' 25th anniversary party. But if our info is incorrect, we can of course correct it -- if DOP AT THE SAME TIME CORRECTS HIS VICIOUS LIES. In a report from Seacon DOP says: 'And then there were a couple of Swedish fans who lived didn't wash themselves, slept in a cellar and constantly went around with bottles in their hands.' We will present an ultimatum: we won't publish a correction unless this also is corrected. And by the way, it wasn't a cellar, it was the basement of Hotel Metropol, we washed our hands every day and..."
Our requested correction wasn't published, so in retaliation we didn't publish anything. DOP claimed his wife threatened with divorce, but we washed our hands.
Mailing 7, edited by Mika, reached a new record with 56 pages, most by Mika himself. He became a very active carbon fanzine publisher because of Cucumber, and the style he developed later came to good use in his eminent Alhash, still published, reaching over 200 issues. I investigated Swedish fanzine activity 1954-1979, after spending many hours going through a fanzine-listing calculating totals for each year. I concluded that Sweden was in its 'Ninth Fandom', waiting for the Tenth. This view became generally accepted after WA re-printed the findings.
Mailing editors often competed to make the thickest mailing. In mailing 8, Bellis managed to get 59 pages, including rocket poster and slices of cucumber glued to the cover. Wolf von Witting joined as new member. He never wrote much of substance but he had lots of drawings of beanies. He lived in Stockholm but was active in German fandom by mail, head of the mighty Sigma Terra Corps Perry Rhodan Fan Supporter Club. My and Bellis' zines usually competed for the 'The Fanalytical Laboratory' top scores and I argued that the poll must have two decimal points to be fair.
I also suggested that we should write an intentionally bad round-robin sf novel and submit it to Sam J Lundwall just to get it rejected. The point of the suggestion was to inflict pain on Lundwall -- the pain of reading it all. I introduced a play-by-mail game I had invented for Cucumber: 'The Battle of the Milky Way'. People soon lost interest in it; the real galactic battle was yet to come.
My mailing 9 was as usual a new record with 65 pages. Mika had presented lots of criticism under the headline "BELLIS AND ENGHOLM LIES!!!" (he didn't like some news WA wrote about his Hallsta fan-group). I rejected it in 19 detailed sections. Official motions nine to twenty-one were discussed in this mailing. More than 45 official motions were raised during the life of Cucumber. They were constant sources of arguments.
Mailing 9 also has the official history of FBF and TDFF, which I still consider rather funny. Before Cucumber these two mighty organizations struggled for power in Stockholm-fandom, led by Bellis and me. Here both parties wrote the official history of the struggle.
In mailing 10, the '11th of December Movement' started. At Seacon, an American fan, Fred Patten, argued that World-fandom began the 11th of December 1929, with the first meeting of The Scienceers. The 11th of December Movement was a letter campaign to increase fanzine activity.
Mailing 13 was a new record of 82 pages. Lots of internal quarrel between me and Mika, but also a curl of hair from the Hallsta-femmefan Karin.
In mailing 15, Wolf got tired and quit. We soon learned that he did it to start a German language secret APA, inspired by Cucumber: CAPA (Carbon APA). CAPA is said to have been alive for many, many years. Wolf would later return to Cucumber a couple of times. Two others, Henry Linder and Henrik Gunnarsson, had also been offered Cucumber memberships, but had rejected it.
In mailing 15, I reported from a concert with Sala-fandom's rock band (in free translation) 'Muddy Superman and the Heterosexual Close Combat Command', spiced with the popular myth of Chip Delany. It is believed that the secret passion of this famous writer is to drive Stockholm underground trains. He'd sometimes take a vacation and come here for this. Every time we saw a train with black driver, we were convinced it was Samuel R. Delany.
In mailing 16, I reopened the feud with Mika -- he refrained from contributing and I felt pissed off. I also wrote an rather long informal history about the New York fan group The Futurians after having read the books about them.
In mailing 17, I had to regret the outburst -- Mika's contribution had only been delayed in the mail. (Though he had sent it to late, too.) It didn't add to internal harmony. In mailing 18, Mika reported about Hallsta-fandom's fannish 8-mm film, I reprinted two of the Futurian wall-fanzines (found in damon knight's book), Bellis began reprinting a Irish Fandom history by John Berry. Roger would also often reprint foreign fannish material.
In mailing 19 the feud started again. Hallsta-fandom hadn't sent a number of their fanzines to me and Bellis. In Sweden we call this a 'fanzine blockade' and it leads to instant retaliation! A fanzine blockade must be met with a blockade of your own, so I devised an intricate plan: If Mika didn't send me the zines, I couldn't send him any of mine -- including the Cucumber zines. I would formally leave Cucumber and start a Shadow-Cucumber, that would be traded for the Cucumber zines (excluding Mika's). There would be no copies of Shadow-Cucumber for him unless he stopped the fanzine blockade. I secured the necessary trade agreements and sat down to wait.
I mailing 20, the situation hadn't changed so I put the plan into operation. In a long letter I demanded that Mika should be excluded from Cucumber, meanwhile I'd publish only through Shadow-Cucumber. Mailing 1 of 16 pages appeared alongside the ordinary Cucumber mailing of 30 pages.
Mailing 21 (misnumbered 22) of a mere 14 pages was accompanied by a Shadow-Cucumber of 25. Mailing 22 was to be edited my Mika. No one got it. He was furious and simply skipped it. We now had a couple of weeks of no Cucumber-mailings, but Shadow-Cucumber appeared with mailings 3 and 4 with a total of 26 pages and contributions by Lars and a revived Wolf. In mailing 4, I presented a proposal for a Shadow Cucumber constitution, but it was now redundant: the members had agreed to exclude Mika. They were angry that mailing 22 never appeared, and I announced my return to Cucumber. Cucumber 23 and the last Shadow-Cucumber, No.5, were stapled together.
Shortly something new to annoy us appeared: some femmefans started a female-only-group in Stockholm, and they refused to trade their fanzine. We started to plan different ways of assault on those neofannish feminists.
But Cucumber was on the downslide. All mailings from 24 to 50 were thin (10-20 pages), uninspired and often late. I think the only worthwhile zine in it was my Crochet. I began to distribute it both inside and outside Cucumber, without mentioning the APA in the zine. I carbon-copied it in 15 copies in one go, with forefingers as sledgehammers.
I debated the nature of humour. I published poems, and the nature of poetry was discussed. There was a fierce debate about the nature of girls, where the subject of love was thoroughly investigated on a highly theoretical level. I detailed my plans for a local sf club in my Stockholm suburb.
In mailing 31 there was indignation around the first Nasacon (January 1980). Some Stockholm fans never bothered to show up, and we felt they were traitors to fandom. We identified and listed the traitors in Cucumber and started a letter campaign against them. We announced a special club on their behalf, 'The Union of Fakefans', administered by us but with these people as automatic members without possibility to resign. They were so lazy that we would start their club for them.
In mailing 33 you could read about 'Courtney's Boat Trip' held after a 'Fan Week', i.e., an open house for a week where everyone could come by and do some fanning. Bellis hosted the Fan Week and I the boat trip with my family's small outboard motorboat.
Mailing 34 reported from the Stockholm Tolkien Society's carnival. We didn't like the Tolkien Society, since we thought they were immature, introverted, did strange things, and used strange language. And they didn't like us, for some reason. We made our own alternative parody carnival, that would take place at the same time, at the same spot: "I dressed up as JRR Hobbit, with a kitchen pot of aluminium as helmet, a big black plastic bag over my body, colourful bands on my legs as decoration, armed with a mighty plastic toygun. Bellis dressed up as Gandalf, with a huge cardboard box as helmet, a plastic bag as chain mail, long underwear as trousers, armed with a long kitchen knife. As the book Gandalf had found in Moria's Mines he carried a Modern English Grammar." Our alternative carnival was stopped by the police. We protested and said they had invited everyone in fancy dresses to join.
In mailing 35, we were shocked to learn that the former member Ingemar Carlsson had told Erik Andersson about Cucumber. Erik edited the top fanzine Der Leuchtturm and planned a big disclosure article, but not until No.6 due in August 1980, several months in the future. We had time to act. Plans began to form.
In mailing 39, we learned that Mika Tenhovaara had started to leak too. He of course had no reason to feel loyalty, but he had spread it in personal letters rather than in a major fanzine announcements. He didn't reach the fannish mainstream the way Der Leuchtturm would.
In mailing 42, the Der Leuchtturm scoop was out. Only I and Bellis had been named as members, and Erik had written it as a section in a parody issue of WA. The disclosure wasn't done in a very credible way. Who would believe in a false issue of anything?
I wrote: "I will myself take measures in the form of writing a false Erik Andersson-article in next Fanarchistic Writings, which in a subtle way will spread the impression that the Cucumber-news in Der Leuchtturm is false. The article will be called 'A reply to the Falsehood'. Everyone will obviously see that it is false as soon as they begin to read. And they will assume that the thing in Der Leuchtturm was false also." All members would certify that Cucumber had just been a hoax to fool Ingemar and Erik.
In mailing 44, problems of delayed mailings were met by a motion to make Cucumber biweekly. The motion didn't pass, but mailings became even less than biweekly. I detailed the Cucumber-is-a-hoax-plan: "I and Anders and Roger one evening last year proposed a super hoax. We contacted a couple of others (under pressure we'll admit it was Nybro-fandom) and revealed the scheme for them. We wrote a future history for the organization, what would happen with it, a few words about what was in each mailing, planned which mailings we'd really write, who we would fool, plans for splits in the organization (like Shadow-Cucumber). We fooled a number of people to believe the hoax was real, by producing singular mailings that looked realistic, and then we let them sweat blood to produce zines for future mailings. That part of the hoax was especially funny. The story would be spread in personal letters, labelled 'super-DNQ' (so that people would beinterested in publishing them)." We would also spread false and greatly exaggerated info about Cucumber to confuse. We made a list of around 20 'people that with 100% certainty know about Cucumber'.
Then this happened: Bellis sold his old typewriter to Sala-fandom's David Nessle -- with the carbon ribbon still in place. David rewound the ribbon and read what he had written, including Cucumber material. David called us in triumph and told about his findings. Despite drawbacks like this most people didn't believe in Cucumber, or maybe they didn't care. We could go on.
The APA's death was instead caused by inactivity and downfall of WA. Mailing 49 came in November, several weeks late, and in December the WA editorialship was quickly disintegrating. (A subject for another article?) In early January, I published the last WA, No.89, and revealed Cucumber myself. Bellis managed to produce the 50th Anniversary mailing where he noted that Cucumber now was revealed beyond any reasonable doubt, and I was expelled. But there were no more mailings to be expelled from.
In about 50 mailings (49 without No.22, or 53 including the separate Shadow-Cucumbers) five to seven people managed to produce 1200 pages in about 16 months. It had immense influence over Swedish fandom. It was the first secret APA, and it became the 'in thing' to repeat the feat. More than half a dozen secret APAs were started during the `80s: DET, SF-APA, Krull-APA, the Cult, Neofan-APA, MF-APA, SKAPA and probably others. They even repeated the internal feuding and struggle for power, as true carbon-copies of Cucumber.
Mika was especially active and ran DET for 46 mailings. David Nessle produced the parody SMOF-APA, intended "to take absolute control over the whole of Sala-Fandom."
In my last Crochet I reprinted an article about writing, just accepted by Sam J Lundwall's Jules Verne Magazine: "A good writer only lets the sun explode when it is necessary." One might say that good faneds only let their publishing explode when it is necessary. The gang around Cucumber let their activities explode, and after the fall of the first secret APA giant forces were unleashed over a fandom that too late realized what had hit it.
All illustrations by Teddy Harvia