Let me tell you about a project I'm working
Back in Mimosa 10, in 1991, I described how I'd been persuaded to take charge of the A Wealth of Fable project. The Los Angeles Worldcon of 1984, it turned out, had been financially successful enough where there was funds available to cover a number of fan-related projects. One of their top priorities was getting Harry Warner, Jr.'s history of science fiction fandom of the 1950s into print in book form.
It turned out to be a bigger project than I thought. When I began, in 1990, all I had to start with was a fuzzy set of photocopies from the three-volume fanzine published in the 1970s that had been the manuscript's only other publication. There was much to do, and it took over two years to finish. The result was a hardcover book of nearly 500 pages, complete with index and over 200 photographs.
By far, it's been the biggest publishing project I've ever worked on, and I was more than a little pleased that the book won a Hugo Award for Harry Warner, Jr., at the 1993 Worldcon. But all that happened a few years ago. Now it's time to get started on the 1960s.
Work actually began several years ago. Back at Richard Brandt's El Paso Corflu, the 1991 fanzine fans convention, I put together a one-page chapter outline of a book of the 1960s (mostly because of a challenge by Bruce Pelz), but nothing further happened until the first FanHistoricon, at Hagerstown in May 1994. It was there in Hagerstown that the outline, which had languished as a data file in my computer for three years (the original hand-written outline having vanished into oblivion by then), finally received some comments.
A couple of other things happened at the FanHistoricon that affected the course of events. Forry Ackerman was there, and he contributed $300 towards expenses for any copying and mailing costs. This immediately put the project in the black, so to say. The second was the formation of Peggy Rae Pavlat's brainchild, the Timebinders. Peggy Rae had organized that first FanHistoricon (there have been several since then), and had wanted some kind of umbrella organization created to oversee existing fan history activities, and to come up with ideas for new ones. In fact, FanHistoricon wasn't really a convention at all; it was more of a workshop for hammering out the structure for the new organization, and providing feedback on things that were already going on.
Anyway, the upshot from the FanHistoricon was twofold: the outline quickly expanded to about eight pages; and it officially because my project. So here I am. In the time since FanHistorion 1, the outline has greatly increased in size, mostly since June of last year. It's now over 170 pages, and growing; the size of the ascii computer file has passed a half a million bytes. But it's still not nearly detailed enough for any book to be written; there are whole areas where I still have little or no information, and other areas where the information I do have is only enough to bring more questions to mind.
Luckily, there are plenty of people to ask them to. One of the reasons the 1960s Fan History Outline (or FHO, as it's come to be called) has grown so rapidly is because of the Internet. It has connected me with many other fans not only here in North America, but in Europe and Australia as well. And to make things even easier, Dick and Leah Smith, who were also at that first FanHistoricon, set up an e-mail mailing list (a 'listserv', in computer-talk) exclusively for fan history research and related purposes. Using e-mail has allowed me to gather information at a much faster rate than I ever could have if I was limited exclusively to surface mail.
By now, you're probably beginning to believe that the evolution of this 1960s FHO is actually a group effort. You're right. Many, many people have played a role so far, by providing specific bits of information on people and events, or by commenting on information that's been collected in the FHO. Bruce Pelz, in particular, has provided much in the way of reprinted source material, and Rob Hansen has done much of the work on British fandom already in his own fan history project. But I'm still quite a long way from being ready to sit down and start writing -- the FHO will have to be about twice as long as it is now before that day will come.
But I'm not really in a hurry; this kind of fact finding takes time, and there's not much you can do about it. It will probably take about another year, at least, before I'm able to fill in most of the gaps in the FHO. Meanwhile, this kind of research is fun, especially when you run across an interesting bit of information or an anecdote that's been lost for decades. Here's an example:
In May 1965, members of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society had finally got fed up by the performance of their secretary, Jack Harness. Harness, who otherwise had performed exemplary service to LASFS, had become habitually late for the weekly LASFS meetings. So after being late for seven of the previous eight meetings, the club finally, and perhaps reluctantly, decided to hold a vote of impeachment of Harness, on the grounds of non-feasance of his elected duties. At the meeting where his impeachment was voted on, Harness was once again late again -- so late, in fact, that both the debate and final vote were over by the time he had arrived. When he asked the outcome of the vote, he was told the bad news: he had been thrown out of office, the first successful impeachment of a LASFS officer in the decade. But there's more: immediately after that, an election was held to fill the now-empty office. The winner? Elected as the new LASFS secretary, by a sizeable majority, was... Jack Harness.
Here's another one: At the 1962 Midwestcon, Bob Tucker brought with him a young fan to the convention, who then proceeded to be a source of embarrassment to Tucker by walking around wearing a lampshade on his head. (At the end of the convention, Tucker went around apologizing for him.) The subject of Tucker's embarrassment was not destined to make much of a name for himself in fandom, and in fact did not stay in organized fandom much longer after that. He did have a bit more success in his chosen field of journalism, however, and went on to become much better known as a movie reviewer; he was Roger Ebert.
The 1960s is turning out to be full of entertaining little stories like that, and it wouldn't take much to get lost in it all. The research has been so entertaining, in fact, that I often find I'm ignoring other priorities, such as
All illustrations by Sheryl Birkhead