Fandom in a Neoclassical Vein
Vanamonde; 2 pp/week; distributed as part of APA-L or for the usual
Editor: John Hertz, 236 S. Coronado St., No. 409, Los Angeles, California 90057
If most fanzines resemble sprawling collages, flinging together a myriad of editorial enthusiasms with little attention to arrangement and decorum, Vanamonde is a finely painted miniature, small in size and elegant in composition. John Hertz, best known in the fannish world for his stewardship of Regency era dancing, has been publishing it, week after week, for over eight years. In form, it is simply a contribution to the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society’s weekly APA-L, and its mainstay is commentary on what other contributors have written (itself usually commentary on earlier commentary on . . . well, eventually one reaches the original subject of the comments, but maybe not without delving back a few years’ issues). In substance, however, it is one side of a free-flowing conversation, skipping from subject to subject (usually with an SF or at least literary connection): The Tale of Genji to the writings of L. Sprague de Camp to Japanese haiku to SF art to comic strips. The tone is never contentious, many of the observations are sharp and unexpected, and the range of interest is wide.
A few quotations, plucked pretty much at hazard, illustrate what the zine is like:
Alas for cons that make space for names on badges the smallest part, or print names in teeny tiny letters. Alas for con-goers who put on useless nicknames (not to decry those who have cared to adopt a distinctive fan name and actually become known by it), or wear badges elusively on pouches or shoes. I keep saying, “To a slave, everything is a shackle.” Also (not changing the metaphor very much) “What if that thing isn’t a lid, but a springboard?”
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Let us fanziners more show other fans how much fun it all is, than gripe how dull they are in failing to notice.
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Let me commend this well-made book [Conrad Hilton, Be My Guest (1957)], which happened to fall into my hands at a used-book shop. Copies may without my looking have awaited me in Hilton hotel drawers over the years. If Conrad Hilton wrote it himself he did sound work; if with a ghostwriter he picked a good one. Memoirs may tempt the author even more than other history. Then some are valuable historically even though, as writing, they are sad stuff. Here is a sense of event; a telling of tales which are both colorful and fit to be told; a story that rouses, instead of requiring, an interest in the subject, and for merit depends on neither happy approval, nor angry disapproval, of the author’s sentiments. And after only a few years enough water has gone over the dam in Earth life - the comedian Jack Paar used to talk of blood over the dam - that this tastes of another world.
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Hall costumes and stage costumes are really two distinct media. They differ by the distance they’re designed to work at, or if you will their intended arena. A good stage costume may be too bulky for wear in the halls, or look coarse close up, or succeed only as part of the event that was its Masquerade entry, or not survive if worn more than a few minutes! A good hall costume is intended to be met, at a panel, in the Dealers’ Room, on an elevator. Compare a needle and sword, or a thumb piano and a grand Bösendörfer.
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When stars seek the clouds,
Who will light the lonely sky?
Waiting April night.
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I can’t recall if I knew of Boris Godunov (1551-1603) or Mussorgsky’s opera (1872) before meeting another Boris in Rocky the Flying Squirrel. I do remember inventing a Question Man response, “What was the cry of every patriotic Russian at the death of the childless Tsar Feodor in 1598?”
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Ideally one explains in a Goldilocks amount, not too much, not too little, but just right. Also not explaining the wrong thing while omitting the right thing. I’m impressed with Tom Whitmore’s suggestion, applicable beyond its named subject, Concomms worry too much about how a thing in made and not enough about how it will be used.
Not everybody will like Vanamonde. To some its neoclassical sensibility will seem precious, and others will find its severe pruning of context and explanation impossibly cryptic. Those two groups may, indeed, comprise 90 percent of fandom. The remnant, however, rejoice at this well-wrought gem and hope that no criticism will ever tempt the editor to add so much as a single superfluous syllable.