From time to time we've been asked if being a fanzine publisher is, in the end,
really worth all the sometimes extraordinary lengths, in terms of time and money,
that it requires to produce a publication like Mimosa. The easy way to
respond would simply be to say yes, and point toward the recognition we've received
over the years, but in truth there's really no simple answer. This final issue of
the run is supposed to be a FIAWOL-theme issue, and we're pleased to present
articles like the following remembrance of a fan who quite often went to
extraordinary lengths of his own to do kindnesses, all in the spirit of FIAWOL.
Mimosa, though, originally came into being not from any spirit of FIAWOL but
from a more basic need to preserve bits of fan history, especially from the First
Fandom "dinosaur" era, that were then only fragilely kept in the memories of some
of the older fans. We think we've mostly succeeded, but in time the fanzine
acquired a life of its own and "being worth the effort" no longer entered into the
equation. Probably the main reason we're ending publication is that the time for
Mimosa now seems past -- there are now some other good means of preserving
fan history, and with the ever-diminishing size of our mailing list and the passing
of many of our contributors, Mimosa itself seemed to us to be slowly turning
into somewhat of a dinosaur. It's the right decision to end it now. It will seem
strange not to be planning a "next" issue, but it will be good not to be planning
life around a publishing schedule!
The other day I mentioned Ed Wood to a couple of younger fans.
"The movie director?" asked one.
"The guy who did Plan Nine From Planet X?" asked the other, almost simultaneously.
"No, the fan," I replied.
"The movie director was a fan?" asked the first one.
Well, I was looking for something to contribute to this final issue of Mimosa, and that convinced me that someone had better write a little something about Ed Wood before fandom forgets him.
The first time I saw Ed was in the masquerade at my very first Worldcon, Discon I in Washington D.C., back in 1963. He was wearing about 75 membership badges from prior conventions and he walked across stage after being duly announced as "Superfan."
How true it was.
Ed's fannish exertions were legend. He edited the wonderful Journal of Science Fiction. He contributed to fanzines. He worked on conventions. Most important, he was one of the founders, and eventually the editor, of Advent Press, which was just about the only source of criticism and pro and fannish history in the field from the 1950s to the 1970s. This was the house that published everything from Damon Knight's In Search of Wonder and James Blish's The Issue at Hand to Robert Bloch's The Eighth Stage of Fandom and Harry Warner's All Our Yesterdays, as well as Proceedings (complete transcripts) of both Chicon III and Discon I.
He was also the most crochety, wonderful, ill-tempered, generous sonuvabitch I ever met.
Example: Right after Carol and I were married, we moved into a subterranean penthouse (read: basement apartment) at the corner of North Shore and Greenview in Chicago's Rogers Park area. We were the only two science fiction fans we knew -- and unbeknownst to us, Chicago fandom met every month at George Price's apartment, which was perhaps 80 feet from our front door. It was Ed who befriended us at Discon, half a country away, and told us when and where to show up.
So we started attending the meetings. Like most newlyweds, we were broke, maybe a little more broke than most. I remember mentioning during a mid- December meeting at George's that Carol absolutely loved C.L. Moore's Northwest Smith stories (I hadn't read them yet, but I'm now their greatest fan), and I asked if there were any more beyond the two Gnome Press collections that she already owned. Someone, I think it was Alexei Panshin, said that yes, she'd written one for a fanzine that was never professionally published. I replied that I was going to start saving my money right then, and hopefully by next Christmas, 53 weeks off, I could find and buy a copy for Carol.
And that was that. The meeting broke up about midnight and we trudged back across the street through a heavy snowfall that was fast turning into a blizzard.
And at about 5:00 AM, the doorbell rang, and there was Ed Wood, covered with snow and ice. He had driven home to Milwaukee, maybe 75 miles away, in the blizzard, hunted up the fanzine with the Northwest Smith story, and driven all the way back to give it to me.
I overcame my surprise and began to thank him.
He snarled that only an asshole would want to give his wife a fanzine story for Christmas, turned on his heel, went back to his car, and drove home for the second time that night.
That was Ed in a nutshell.
Move the clock ahead a couple of decades. We had just had dinner with Ed and Jo Ann, his wonderful wife (and quite a fan in her own right, dating back to her CFG days). The talk turned to prozines, and he mentioned which ones he had complete runs of. I replied that I wasn't a completist, that the only thing I was even trying to get a complete collection of was Worldcon program books, and that I'd been within one of completing the run for a few years, but I'd been stymied -- not by the first or second Worldcons, which produced more than ample numbers of program books -- but by the 1948 Torcon, which seems to have produced only about 120 of them, all of which had been given out, and which were somewhat rarer than hen's teeth.
Two weeks later I get a manilla envelope in the mail. I open it. Out falls a near-mint copy of the Torcon I program book. I look for a return address. There isn't any. I check the postmark. It says Hurst, Texas, which is where Ed and Jo Ann lived.
So I phoned him to thank him for such a rare and thoughtful gift -- and spent the next 90 minutes listening to him harangue me, on long distance and at my expense, about the idiocy of collecting Worldcon program books.
Ed Wood -- the pure quill.
Ed was a purist. By this, I mean he was Gernsbackian in his tastes, rather than Campbellian. He liked Tony Boucher and Horace Gold personally, but was sure their literary taste had contributed to the ruin of science fiction, which Campbell himself had seriously weakened when he gave up writing space operas and produced the Don A. Stuart stories such as "Twilight."
My first two science fiction novels were Edgar Rice Burroughs pastiches, and my third was a Robert E. Howard imitation. They came out in the late 1960s. I took a good hard look at them, appraised them honestly, then didn't write another word of science fiction for more than a decade, to give people time to forget those rather abysmal efforts. (They still return to haunt me at autograph sessions.) All of my friends understood and sympathized.
All except Ed, that is.
Until the day he died, he simply could not understand why I'd given up writing fabulous gems like The Goddess of Ganymede in favor of all that effite literary shit that kept winning Hugos. I can't tell you how many times he tried to talk me into giving up Kirinyaga and all this Inner Frontier crap and go back to writing what (he was sure) we both knew to be Pure Science Fiction.
I remember running into him at the 1976 Worldcon. He was sitting by himself in the lobby, a pre-publication copy of Dave Kyle's coffee-table book on the history of science fiction on his lap, looking like he'd lost his best friend. At first I thought Jo Ann must be critically ill. No, he said, she was fine. He held up the book. It was this, he explained.
He'd been doing some reviewing for Analog. I knew Dave was one of his oldest friends, and I knew that Ed was as honest as the day is long, and I naturally concluded that he hated the book and was filled with remorse at what he was going to write.
He was filled with remorse, all right -- but only because he and Dave disagreed about various aspects of sf, and the book had no misstatements and only two typos, and he was going to have to give it a rave review. Which he did.
Other memories. People talk about Sam Moskowitz's voice. Yes, it was louder than Ed's, but not by much. Along with being a member of First Fandom and half a dozen other organizations, Ed was also a member of the Burroughs Bibliophiles. The BB met at Worldcons through 1978, and always held the Dum-Dum -- their annual banquet -- there. Usually Vern Coriell, the BB's founder, would announce the end of the banquet and the beginning of the speeches by screeching out a Johnny Weismuller cry of the bull ape to gently grab the diners' attention. One year Vern either wasn't there or had a sore throat, I can't recall which, and Ed gave the ape call -- and it was so loud and so startling that one of the waiters dropped an entire tray of dirty plates.
Ed was a loving and doting father, and his son, Larry, was a bit of a prodigy. (He used to win long philosophical arguments with Phyllis Eisenstein when he was three years old.) I remember at one Wilcon when Larry was still a preschooler, he asked Ed why the sky was blue. Ed began giving him a scientific explanation that was quite beyond my comprehension. I went away for a cold drink, chatted with a couple of old friends, and when I returned Ed was still explaining it to Larry.
(Laura once asked me why the sky was blue, and I came up with what I thought was a perfect four-word answer: "Because it isn't green." Larry became a cipher expert for the Navy; Laura became an award-winning fantasy writer. I think both careers were inherent in the answers they received.)
Ed didn't care who he yelled at if he thought he was right. He once told me a story -- and John Campbell himself corroborated it a year or two later -- that Campbell, whose Astounding was regularly publishing Heinlein, Asimov, Kuttner, Leiber, de Camp, and that whole group, was prepared to reject Doc Smith's Children of the Lens back in the late 1940s, when Doc finally wrote and delivered the final novel in the series. It was just too crudely and clumsily written and characterized for what Astounding had become.
It was Ed who took Campbell aside and explained to him (as I'm sure only Ed could) that Doc had supported Astounding for years when he was the biggest name Campbell could put on the cover, and it would be the ultimate act of ingratitude to bounce the book now that Campbell didn't need him anymore.
(Now that I think of it, Ed was probably the only person who could win an argument of any sort with Campbell.)
Ed did something with atoms for his living -- I have no idea what, but he was so highly specialized that only four or five places in the country were doing advanced enough work to hire him -- and when computers came along, he wound up teaching computer courses in college.
And then one day he was gone -- a heart attack while on vacation with Jo Ann in Los Vegas -- and fandom lost the most intelligent, foul-tempered, passionate, growling, generous member it had.
And I lost a dear friend with exactly those same traits.
All illustrations by Marc Schirmeister