Another of the routes to FIAWOL, as this next article (by a past Hugo Award winner
and worldcon Fan Guest of Honor) describes, is a few decades of persistence -- if
you stick around long enough, people will believe you've been there forever. The
advantage of this method is that along the way, you'll get to know many fascinating
personalities. It's an approach we highly recommend.
When I first encountered science fiction fandom, over the Labour Day weekend of 1966, some thirty six-and-a-half years ago, I was immediately attracted to the world of fanzines. As I made my first tentative baby steps into that world I quickly became fascinated by its history (although there was only a small fraction of what there is now) and it didn't take me long to realize that certain names kept appearing and reappearing in the old fanzines I encountered or read about.
Names like Laney, Burbee, Purdue, Bloch, Tucker, Hoffman, Ellison, Ackerman, Speer, Warner, Moskowitz, Willis, and Shaw, to name some of the most prominent. Who were these jiants, I wondered, what was so special about them that they'd made such an impression and had such as impact on this newly-discovered world? I'll never know, I thought, and I'll certainly never join them.
Well, I was right about the latter (although I'm proud of and content with the reputation I established as a fanzine fan) but when it comes to the former I'd overlooked one important fact: sometimes all you need is time. And although my thirty-six plus years don't come close to qualifying me as an Elder Statesman of Fanzine Fandom, they do mean I've been around for almost 60% of the time individual fanzines have been around. And longevity can sometimes do what a lack of great talent might preclude...
I never met Laney and only once encountered Burbee and Purdue. But at least I got to tell them that I knew of their many contributions to "our" fandom.
I was in an invitational APA with Lee Hoffman for a while and she seemed to enjoy our one meeting -- at Chicon IV -- possibly because I knew exactly what it felt like to be a Worldcon Guest who was unknown to over ninety percent of the attendees.
Jack Speer has invariably been the epitome of class when we've been at the same convention and I'm delighted he's going to finally add his name to Andy Porter's annual list of the "Not Gone But Pretty Much Forgotten."
Back in the `70s, I once tagged along with someone visiting SaM at home. I was absolutely stunned when I shook his hand and said something like "You probably don't know me..." and he acknowledged who I was and opened his correspondence files and showed me the originals of a few things I'd written to him and copies of anything he'd written to me. Years later he bailed me out of a difficult situation at a con I was Fan Guest at by coming out of the audience to join me on a "panel" I was alone on.
Forry got me into fandom through his monster magazine and later graciously showed me around his collection on three trips to LA. He out-bid me on a copy of Fancyclopedia at the 1973 Westercon and shortly afterwards presented it back to me, suitably inscribed. I know of no one to whom fandom meant more than it did to Forry.
Everyone admires and respects The Hermit of Hagerstown. But to be arrogant, no one but me can even have an inkling of what it has been like to do what Harry has done all these years. I walked -- far behind him -- in his footsteps for less than half the time he'd been Doing His Thing. The man was a Fannish National Treasure. And I will forever treasure the visits I made to #423 so #1 and a very distant #2 could chat in person. My wife called him "courtly." I call him "incredible."
Shortly before he died, Robert Bloch took the time to sign a copy of his autobiography for me and send it back to me in the mail along with a letter in which, among other things, he told me to aim at celebrating my 25th anniversary with Susan. In a few weeks we'll reach our 10th. And less than two months after that Bloch will be honoured as "GoHst of Honour" at Torcon 3, the obvious continuance of his Guest of Honourships at the first two Toronto worldcons. I fought for that and then was allowed to explain why in Torcon 3 publications. Friends with the author of Psycho? Amazing what enough time will do for you.
Over the years of my first ventures into fandom I got to be friends with Ellison too. He'd call me up when he was coming to Toronto for some television gig and ask me to find him a date. I visited "Ellison Wonderland" and even pushed his car through Hollywood when he ran out of gas. Then I wrote an article saying fans should read Chris Priest's fanzine suggesting that The Last Dangerous Visions would probably never see print. Harlan asked me not to publish it (I'd sent him a copy out of courtesy). When I declined to have my voice stifled he said our almost twenty years of friendship were over. That was almost twenty years ago. His book still hasn't been published. The man remains one of the most talented individuals I've ever personally known but he does have more than his share of demons.
I went to the Orlando 1992 Worldcon to meet Walt Willis. Again. Our paths had crossed many times, briefly in person at a con in Britain and often in the pages of many fanzines. It was like meeting an old friend, so warm was Walt's greeting. And when Walt wrote a report on Magicon which included a line something like "And I was delighted to see my old friend Mike Glicksohn in the audience for the panel." I'm sure my 1966 self was flabberghasted. Hell, my 1993 self was flabberghasted!
Bob Shaw was a legend when I first became a fan. In 1966 I'm sure I thought it highly unlikely I'd ever get to meet the man, let alone go beyond that. But I became pretty active in British fanzines in the `70s and attended a couple of British cons and got to share drinks and pints with Bob and listen to his Serious Scientific Talks. Eventually I was asked to write the introduction to a collection of reprints of those talks (and had a ball doing so) and a few years later Bob fell in love with a dear friend of mine, Nancy Tucker. And to my stunned amazement Bob asked me to be Best Man at their wedding.
In a little over five lustrums Bob Shaw had gone from Ghod to Groom. Time had once again wrought its miracles. Sadly both Bob and Nancy are no longer with us. But I'll never forget and always cherish the one and only time I ever took communion. To my surprise, the wedding party was to take communion. As Best Man, I was the first to be offered the wafer. I attend church twice a year so I know how communion works but I'd never participated myself. But I would never have embarrassed Nancy or Bob so I knelt and accepted the wafer and sipped the proffered cup. Bob was next and he did as I had done and then Nancy was next. And as she took the wafer Bob half-turned his head to me and muttered "I'd've preferred a pint!" I can't recall that moment to this day without the taste of communion wine suddenly in my nostrils.
And then there's Tucker. Possibly the most famous of those old-time famous fans. Certainly on every fans' list of the Top Five Most Influential Fans Of All Time. And hence possible the person my 1966 self would have thought least likely to have made contact with. Ha! If I'd known just a little more than the pages of old fanzines told me I'd have realized how inaccurate that assessment was bound to be!
Over the years I've come to know Bob well. And I like to think I've had some influence over him just as his career as a fan has influenced me. I take pride in knowing that Bob calls me "The Only Fan I've Slept With On Three Continents." I treasure the various stories we've established together: forget "Rosebud" and "The Footprint On The Ceiling," I'm talking about "The Goose That May or May Not Have Been," "The True Story of Aussie Smoothing," "The Secret of the Purple Booze," "The Breakfast That Wasn't," and "What Window?" It is truly amazing what time will tell. (Even if Bob won't.) And I hold myself personally responsible for showing Bob that a hug (and occasionally even a kiss) with a male fan was just as politically correct (although possibly not quite as much fun) as with a female fan. We've come a long way since 1966, eh?
If someone had told my neofannish self in 1966 that all it would take to become a part of the fannish pantheon I'd been reading about was the passage of sufficient time, I'd never have believed them. But time passing accomplished many things and the lesson of my fan career is that if you hang around long enough you too will get to play a small part in the on-going saga of science fiction fandom.
Hell. All you have to do is stick it out for at least two decades and you too can be involved in the on-going career and winding down of Mimosa, one of the best damn fannish fanzines ever published. It worked for me.
And let's face it: two decades, that's not too many!
Title illustration by Kurt Erichsen