For those of you who haven't seen too many previous issues of Mimosa, you
may be wondering if we deliberately go out of our way to find and publish essays
about past fan eras. The answer to that is yes, we do. There are still far too
many stories about fandoms past and their folklore that are still preserved only
in the memories of the people who were active back then. But not only that, fan
history articles often make for entertaining reading, as the following
The propeller beanie, 'poctsarcds', Room 770, ghoodminton, "smooooth", the tower of bheercans to the moon, the secret handgrip of fandom, "Yngvi is a Louse", blog, Foo-Foo, Ghu, Roscoe, Carl Brandon... Fannish myths and legends fascinate me. The creation and spread of fannish folklore along with the brisk intercourse in ideas not only helps define fandom but are the fuel that keeps it alive. The food of the ghods...
If this be so, then I have a couple of morsels, and what better time for them to be cooked up than when I am writing this -- Thanksgiving. Nearly twenty years ago it was my pleasure to be at Chambanacon, a convention held in Champaign, Illinois, on Thanksgiving weekend. As is fitting for a weekend after a feast, it was about as relaxed as a convention could be without being a relaxacon.
In 1976 one of the panels was 'The andy and Joe Hour', an irreverent forum for andy offutt and Joe Haldeman. I was in the audience heckling the pros on the stage. Actually I was assisting Mike Glicksohn heckle. I am, after all, merely a neo when compared to the heckling abilities of the hairy hazer from Canada. I was feeding him Scotch and he was hazing his mind.
Sometime around the middle of the panel andy mentioned that at the Nebula awards he and some other filthy pros had decided that the proper pronunciation of 'Sci-Fi' would forever more be 'Skiffy' (like 'Skippy' with a harelip). He added that they had gone so far as to invent a mascot for Skiffy: the Spayed Gerbil. The proclamation passed without anyone realizing the repercussions of this seemingly simple statement.
Champaign is fairly centrally located for many of the attendees, and such a good time was being had that departing for the mundane world was put off until the last possible minute. So Sunday dawned early in the afternoon. Since we knew we wouldn't be heading home until late in the evening we immediately headed for the hotel bar. To our horror it didn't open until 4pm. Being intrepid fans, and wanting a bit of hair of the dog that bit us, we left the hotel for a bar about 10 blocks away. The story of that expedition in sub-zero weather with Mike Glicksohn, Joe Haldeman, and Eric Lindsay is a long one. I'll not go into it here except to say that all of us were bundled up, due to the arctic-like conditions -- all of us that is, except for the Canadian. Mike claimed that the cold this far south wouldn't bother him, and if it did there would be enough antifreeze in his system to sustain him. We stayed there just long enough to be sure the hotel bar would be open and that Mike wouldn't freeze.
Upon returning to the hotel, the three of us and the hairy icecube were joined by several other fans on the way to the bar. Soon we were safely ensconced at a long table in that hospitable place. And soon, I was in a heated conversation with Eric and an even more heated observation of the cleavage of the scantily clad barmaid clearing the table next to ours. Mike was thawing quickly.
The concepts being tossed about by Eric and I had nearly managed to drag my eyes off the waitress, when a short hairy voice asked the fateful question: "Want to order a Spayed Gerbil?" I muttered a distracted, "Sure." Joe Haldeman put his conversation with andy on hold long enough to throw in with us and "make it three." He then picked up his dangling conversation in mid-thought.
Mike, ever the classy one, showed no surprise at being taken up on his rather absurd suggestion. He stood up (to be sure that he could be seen) and beckoned our waitress over. She didn't seem at all bothered by Canada's version of the abominable LoCman asking her for three altered female rodents. I guess she was inured to shock by the previous three days of the convention. She undulated her way to the bar, shook her head, pointed at our table, undulated her way back and asked, "What goes into a Spayed Gerbil?" When no answer was forthcoming she looked at me. While I was mentally forming images, from the absurd to the ticklish, she shifted her gaze downward to Mike. Mike winked and looked at Joe. Joe, in a rather tired and bored voice, as if everyone should know this, said, "It's 1/3 Campari, 2/3 Gin, stirred over ice and served straight up." They soon were.
Presently, blood-red drinks adorned the tables of all the fans in the bar causing the greatest run on Campari the bar had ever encountered. As we were leaving Joe attempted to set the bartender right. He told him that he had been making bogus Spayed Gerbils. After all, "a real Spayed Gerbil is made with a blender and a hamster..." That was as far as he got before the bartender threw him out.
I wrote "The Weird Tale of Spayed Gerbil Fandom" in Ben'Zine 1 but the story didn't end there. In Ben'Zine#nbsp;2, Mike related how he got the hotel off his back (they were unfairly billing him twice for a room) by taking the offensive and then ending on a conciliatory note. The bartender in the sixth floor bar, he wrote, "Made the best damn Spayed Gerbil I'd found anywhere in the Midwest!" Ben'Zine 3 had further evidence that Spayed Gerbil Fandom still lived. In between two superb pieces of joan hanke woods artwork, andy offutt wrote what he called "The Real Tale of Spayed Gerbil Fandom." He claimed that the SG drink was invented by those same filthy pros who came up with the infamous rodent. It was, he blurbbed, made with vodka, root beer, and a cocktail onion. And, andy added, since we were drinking not the 'true' Spayed Gerbil, but Joe's invention, we should call it by name -- a 'Spayed Haldeperson'.
Chambanacon `77 added another page to fandom's book of folklore. We went there anticipating a wonderful con since we would be celebrating the first anniversary of Spayed Gerbil Fandom. We found it to be a ghood omen when the bartender in the bar produced Spayed Gerbils (the real ones, andy, not your spurious species -- we were in print first, after all) without having to remind him of the recipe. But the SG, while present, was not to be the focus of that year's festivities.
Early in the convention, Mike said he wanted to introduce me to Sam and Mary Long (no longer together but still fans). "They are ghood people," he said, "but I'll introduce you, anyway." And he did, shortly and hairily. They were and we hit it off quite well.
On Saturday, a couple of hours before the banquet, Sam, Mary, and I went up to the magical bar on the sixth floor. We sat down at a table with an empty seat and waited to see who would have the good taste and judgment to join us. We called it 'trolling'. Sure enough, in a few minutes, Mike Glicksohn walked in, saw us, and sat down. Sam, and I had a quick argument over whether Mike was too small and should be thrown back, but we ended up keeping him.
Mike and I ordered Spayed Gerbils and took turns relating The Weird Tale Of Spayed Gerbil Fandom. About midway through the story I observed Mike stroking Mary's left knee. This seemed an eminently worthwhile endeavor, and since she was sitting between us, I joined in. After all, there was a knee just as ghood as the one Mike was caressing at hand. About an hour later (Mike and I, by unspoken agreement, padded the story to about twice its length), the saga and our ministrations came to an end. I think it stopped there because Sam's incessant questioning about what we were doing to his wife's knees threw our timing off.
There followed many atrocious puns that none of us kneeded. Just as the punkneeng got to be as bad as the one in this sentence, Mike noticed that it was time for him to go to the banquet. Since our friend from the north was the only one of us masochistic enough to want to eat banquet food, the three of us adjourned to the convention registration area. This was the gathering spot for the convention since it was located such that one had to pass by in order to get to any of the events or the doors to the mundane world. It was here that Knee Fandom was born, about 90 minutes after its conception in the bar.
Mary, Sam, and I sat down on a couch and trolled again. We found quite a few people with taste had decided to forgo the banquet. Figures, doesn't it? When the crowd had grown to about eight people, Mary asked the fateful question: "You and Mike have been playing with my knees; what's so special about them? Lets see what the fascination is. Show me your knees, Ben!" So I rolled up my pants legs to bare my knees for her observation and stroking. My example was soon followed by the other fans in our little group. Then, whenever anyone passed by, they too showed us their knees. Soon our group had grown to about thirty fans, all of whom had flashed their knees. But, happiness was not possible for our little band until a small matter was taken care of. We had to see Glicksohn's knees! But the banquet was still inflicting itself on its attendees.
To pass the time we sat and talked and groaned (every time someone came up with a new and outrageous pun), and posed for Jim Odbert to sketch us, knees and all. Some of the lines that still disturb my sleep today are worth mentioning if only because misery loves company.
"We must be the knights who say knee."
"Alms for the kneedy."
"Knee fen abound in MinKneesota and IndianKnee."
"I suppose the headquarters would be in Kneesdon, London."
Or, as Mary asked Brian Earl Brown, "Do you know that Cockney song, 'Knees Up Mother Brown?'"
And to make a long story longer, I will add my favorite, from Sam: "Women have an advantage in Knee Fandom because they are born 'Nee' such-and-such. Mary has a larger advantage by being Mary Long Knee Legg."
A couple of hours of this was enough to cause the departure of Sam and Mary. They wanted to beat the bad weather and worse puns forecast for that evening. They left with the request that we check out Glicksohn's knees for them.
And, we did, much to the dismay of the hirsute letterhack.
He was totally unsuspecting, imagining that the strange feeling in the pit of his stomach was from the banquet chicken, not a premonition of things to come. As he left the banquet hall and tried to pass through the registration area he was confronted by a small mob of fans chanting, "Knees, knees, show us your knees!"
Now, Mike is not a coward and he proved this by attempting to ignore us. This failed as we surrounded him. I, as leader of the pack, moved in and confronted him.
"Mike, you are required to show us your knees. It's no big thing, Mike. You're not ashamed of them," I kneedled him.
"I can't do that," he responded.
It was then that the mob got out of control and knocked him to his fanKnee. His pants legs were rolled up and the space where ordinary mortals have knees was exposed. He was correct, we couldn't see his knees, they were completely covered by hair. We did designate a couple of intrepid fans to explore the thick black jungle in the area where his knees should be, and they reported (after borrowing a machete from a SCA member) that there was indeed evidence of knees. So he was passed and our obligation to the Longs discharged.
Shortly after this took place I apologized to Mike, "Sorry, but we had to finish off the story of Knee Fandom with it's originator, you know. Let's go up to the bar and I'll by you a whiskey Kneat. So, arm in arm we headed up to the bar, where the puns and whiskey flowed until we were both inkneebriated.
All illustrations by Joe Mayhew