While speaking of Scotland and next year's worldcon, this is a good opportunity to point out that Intersection's Fan Guest of Honour will be none other than Vincent Clarke. Vin¢ has been a frequent, welcome contributor to Mimosa with his entertaining essays and letters; we are looking forward to meeting him next year. For those not totally familiar with his fannish background, Vin¢ is best known for his involvement in British fandom in the decade of the 1950s; the following is a tale from that era.
'Nirvana -- The Ultimate Fanzine' by Vincent Clarke; 
  title illo by Dan Steffan
In 1949, full of dewy-eyed neo-fannish enthusiasm, I went to share an apartment with Ken Bulmer, which we named The Epicentre. Ken had edited seven or eight issues of Star Parade, a small fanzine distributed with the Rosenblum Futurian War Digest ('Fido'), way back in 1941. Now, in 1949, it appeared that the editorial fires still smouldered behind the Bulmer brow. He also wanted to experiment. For years Ken had stored away a flat-bed duplicator, which had survived the wartime blitz of a warehouse and had been given to him by the salvage men. Would it work? Just before I went to share The Epicentre, Ken produced another fanzine.

Nirvana No. 1, Autumn `49, was not, it must be admitted, the sort of fanzine which you grabbed from the postman's hand. It consisted of three quarto (10" x 8") sheets, duplicated in faint blue. It had a heavily symbolic cover by Arthur Williams (man holding atomic symbol in left hand, micrometer in right, background of war -- soldiers in gas masks with war planes on one side, futuristic homes and rocket ships on the other), and it was termed a 'Nostalgic Publication'. This was apparently because Ken had gathered together a 1943 article on the real value of sf by a mundane friend, a page and a bit of a barbarian-type poem ("Axes Against Akkag"), a shorter poem written by Ken while soldiering in Italy in 1945, and a poem by Jack Curtis reprinted from Unique, a `38 U.S. fanzine.

Truthfully, the best thing about Ken's fanzine was the title, but he launched about 50 copies on an unfeeling world, and sat back waiting for the LoCs, though we didn't call them that in those days.

And waited...

And waited...

Each day the coal-dust dappled mats of The Epicentre were scanned -- in vain. It was as if Nirvana had dropped into some other dimension, as if it had attained the cessation of individual existence of its title.

And, at long last, a letter! Genuine evidence that the pillar-box hadn't contained a space warp. It was from Walt Willis. But Walt was the most active and respected fan in the British Isles, a sort of Harry Warner Jnr. squared. If you didn't receive a letter from Willis, you were dead and didn't know it.

Ken shrugged. He'd used up the odd remnants of wartime fanning, satisfied his curiosity about the duplicator, and quenched his personal faned ambitions. Nirvana was dead. In fact, apart from a marvellous run of a zine called Steam in the future OMPA {{ed. note: the Offtrails Magazine Publishers Association, a British APA}}, Ken didn't edit another sf fanzine, but helped me considerably in co-editing and publishing. In later years he even distributed his TAFF trip report over various fanzines, instead of publishing it himself.

And yet...and yet... It was a lovely title. It was such a pity to scrap it.

Now, forty-five years later, I honestly can't remember who started the myth. It was probably Walter. But in correspondence, we started to refer to Nirvana as if it was still being published: "Have to end this letter now -- got to polish up an article for Nirvana," and: "The Nirvana critic in the latest ish says..." etc.

Soon, the odd reference to Nirvana started to appear in fanzines. The myth started rolling: "Why didn't you receive Nirvana? Well, we're sorry, but the circulation is strictly limited -- the top fans and some professionals get it. We'll put your name down, and if someone dies..."

Ken and Walter also started advertising a "Nirvana seal of approval -- send a small amount of cash and you'd receive one of the better fanzines of the day, as approved." But not, of course, Nirvana itself.

Nirvana survived for years. It was not exactly a hoax, because it's quasi-existence was blatantly obvious, at least to hardened fans, but it was part of the accumulated myth which made `50s fandom a marvellous place in which to play. And if some neofans actually believed in it, then it would only spur them on to become bigger, more active fans, and to be included on the Nirvana subscription list.

It all started, as noted above, in late `49. In 1954, the second Manchester SF Convention was held, the SuperManCon, which, with the exception of the `57 London Worldcon, was the outstanding British convention of the `50s. Like most `50s cons, the committee published a combozine. This custom, borrowed (as always) from the U.S., was for examples of their output to be solicited from all the current fan editors, and these pages were then bound with the programme and distributed to all attendees.

This was something which Nirvana couldn't miss. Ken and I and another fan, Dave Newman, got together and produced four pages of Nirvana Vol.5 No.4, Issue 20. It was as carefully produced as we could make it, with an index (running to page 56), an editorial ("It is with no little gratification that we can, on the eve of the publication of our 5th anniversary issue...") and three pages of contents. The latter consisted of a single page E.C. 'Ted' Tubb story and two pages from an article on Walter Willis by Bob Shaw, which it nearly broke my heart to curtail in mid-flight -- in fact, mid-sentence.

There was also a boxed 'explanation'... "As a token of goodwill, the first 4 pages of this issue of Nirvana will therefore be duplicated in a single colour... contributions and subscriptions are by invitation only, and we regret that we cannot supply past or future copies of Nirvana under any other circumstances. Please do not ask us... a refusal might embarrass."

It appears in the combozine in all its right-hand-justified glory -- a mighty feat in itself in those non-computerised days -- and stands up well amongst Space Times, Space Diversions, BEM, an advert for Femizine (the all-female fanzine), and other outstanding fanzines of the period which had sent samples.

What I didn't know until many years later was that in the 1960s, Ted Tubb took the tiny short story he'd contributed to Nirvana 20, embellished it a little, and sold it -- an interesting addition to that short list of fanzine stories which have seen professional publication. It also gave Nirvana the distinction of having 100% of its fiction in that category.

Through the later `50s, references to Nirvana continued to pop up here and there, until in 1959, Fancyclopedia 2 pricked the bubble: "It has, I hear, never previously been explicitly revealed as a hoax."

Title illustration by Dan Steffan

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