The Fan Who Hated Quotecards
Terry Carr's tale of the rise and collapse of a (fictional) Big Name Fan appeared in Goojie Publications, edited by Miriam Dyches Carr. The dramatic date is 1953-54, the period of fandom's "quotecard" craze. Harry Warner describes it thus: "'Quotecards' were fandom's answer to the short snorter currency which United States forces popularized during World War Two. Soldiers had collected names on dollar bills. Fans, who on the average were richer in ideas and poorer in greenbacks, invented quotecards for names to be written on. Normally, they were small rectangles of paper or thin cardboard containing a brief, bright, typed or duplicated remark from a fannish or mundane source. They circulated by hand or by correspondence from one fan to another, picking up another autograph each time they changed hands. The fan who wrote his name into the last empty space was expected to mail the quotecard back to the person who had started it on its travels." (A Wealth of Fable, pp. 168-9)
It’s been a couple of years since any of us have seen Chuck Tigert, but we still talk about him every now and then. We’ll be sitting around at a club meeting or one-shot session or something and one of the guys - usually George Denison - will say something like, “Seven quotecards today. Seven lousy quotecards!” Then we bust up laughing and we’re off on a bit of reminiscence for awhile.
Chuck was quite a guy. He wore glasses sometimes, and he was fairly short, but he had a hell of a build. When he was first attending club meetings he was all redhot for the girls - he’d just finished high school and to him a fanclub meeting seemed like a school social or something, especially since so many of us were teenagers and at that time there were so many girls in the club.
He was dating this one girl in the club - Clair, a real honey-blond with this figure. But all of a sudden they stopped seeing each other and hardly talked at meetings, even. It wasn’t long before Chuck told some of us what had happened. They’d started some pretty heavy petting and all of a sudden she stopped him. He said what’s wrong, let’s go, and she said, she was afraid she might get pregnant. “After all,” she said, “science fiction fans of all people should be able to look to the future.” Chuck said she was too God damned much of a fan.
But later he got pretty involved in fandom himself. He got to flexing his biceps for us and telling us that that arm was the one that cranked out thirty pages or more of fanzines a month, for ghodsake. And there’s a story that George Denison tells about Chuck: that later, when he got so well-known in fandom, he was trying to make time with this femmefanne and she wanted him to say some love-words or something to her. Well, Chuck must have been pretty bad at it, because she got completely cold and said why couldn’t he be poetic once in awhile. Chuck blew up and said, “For Chrissake, I’m a BNF, isn’t that enough?”
Chuck started publishing back in the middle of the Seventh Fandom ruckus, when I wasn’t much more than a fringe-fan myself. In six months he’d worked his way right to the top of the heap, if you want to put it that way. Chuck always did, anyway. He said that fandom was like anything else, you had to work like mad if you wanted to get anywhere. “I never knew a guy who could take a dame to bed without working his ass off for it, and fandom is the same way,” he said.
And he went at fandom like he was on the make. He had two zines going for awhile, Clockwork and Here There Be Tigert. Clockwork was a monthly mag, and he prided himself on its regularity, as you might guess from the title. Here There Be Tigert was shorter, and usually appeared more often - it was one of the “snapzines” that were appearing so much then, like Larry Balint’s, and John Magnus’, and Charles Wells’ and so forth . It was the thing to do then.
Well, he had these two zines, and he really played for all they were worth. He had this driving urge to get to the top, to be a BNF, to be a force in fandom or something like that. It was just that there were a lot of things he didn’t like about fandom, and it seemed the most natural thing in the world for him to try to change them. The only way he could do that, he figured, was to gain some sort of stature in the field.
Clockwork was the zine he used to set himself up at first. It was a pretty decent zine, all in all. He never had Willis or Bloch or any of the really top writers, except maybe in the letter column now and then, but he had a pretty good eye for new talent, and he developed his own stable of writers, as he called them. George Denison was one of them, of course - he had a column in there. And there was Marty Beyne with his “Fanhistory Rewritten” series, and Sylvia Harrison’s cartoons. Ron Ellik did fanzine reviews for him for awhile, I think.
Well, by his fourth or fifth issue Chuck was really hitting his stride. The letter column had expanded to around ten pages an issue - that’s with Sylvia’s cartoons padding it out a bit, of course. Chuck often bragged that he wrote fifty letters a week, and though I don’t know whether that was true or not, it probably wasn’t much of an exaggeration. The guy spent all of his evenings writing letters, and he was a fast typist. I don’t know whom he corresponded with in particular, but George says his letters were mostly fanpolitics of one sort or another - “Smoke-filled envelopes,” George like to call them.
I remember that he started getting irregular in his attendance at the club meetings then, and it was because he spent so much time at his correspondence. When he did come to meetings he invariably started a harangue about how the rest of us ought to get into fandom more, not just sit around at meetings talking. “Get off you cans!” he’d say. “You guys are completely unknown in general fandom!” And we’d tell him we liked just reading and talking about stf and that fandom could go hang. He finally said, “Oh Christ, forget I even brought it up. You guys would just go join the N3F anyway.”
Along about this time Chuck decided to start his snapzine, Here There Be Tigert. He always used my mimeograph, of course. It’s funny how he could make that thing reproduce a neat page when I couldn’t run off anything that looked better than one of Ray Thompson’s things. He wrote fanzine reviews in the zine to start with - long ones, maybe a page or more on each zine - but before long he was expanding his opinionating to more general topics. He got off onto this kick against the apa’s for awhile, saying they were draining the lifeblood of fandom away. “Fandom’s Never-Never Land,” he called them, “where they build castles in the air and argue over how many mailing comments can dance on the head of a pin.”
Well, he went on for several issues, a week or two apart, and naturally his opinions started quite a bit of controversy, of which he printed as much as he could. He was attracting a lot of attention to himself, all right.
But he was also expanding his list of correspondents, and it got to the point pretty soon where it was a choice of dropping some correspondence or spending absolutely all his time writing letters. He chose to drop some correspondents, and unfortunately a few of them got mad about it. First thing he knew, good old Chuck Tigert was involved in two or three feuds.
If there’s anything that will undermine a fan’s reputation in fandom, it’s feuding. Fan-feuds rarely are conducted on a strictly honorable or even logical basis and as is usual, Chuck came in for some pretty heavy personal attacks. One fan jumped on him for a typo he’d made in Here There Be Tigert, and harped on that for all it was worth. Chuck got really mad about that - after all, there he was publishing this thing almost every week, and trying to keep up with his correspondence and Clockwork too, and then this guy started yapping about a simple little mistake like spacing wrong when referring to “Destination Moon” as “George Pal’s hit movie.” You can’t really blame Chuck for getting mad.
Actually, though, he went overboard himself in his reply, and some of the language he used wasn’t in the best taste - probably not even legally mailable. After all, as somebody (I think it was George again) wrote in the next issue, swearing was an old fannish tradition, from Tucker to Burbee, but even they had purposely invented and used circumlocutions like rosebud and fugghead.
Chuck around this time was in his greatest period in fandom, but he was already starting to slip, at least as far as his plans for fannish fame and influence were concerned. You can’t maintain a respected position when you’re under personal attacks like Chuck was, and especially not when you’re as thin-skinned as Chuck. He got blasted, he blasted back, and before long even the formerly neutral fans were making cracks about Here There Be Tigert being run under the law of the jungle, and so forth. You know how fans are. To make it worse, he wasn’t able to keep his monthly zine very regular, and one of his critics sent him some Ex-Lax that Christmas.
Chuck might have pulled out of the slump - he was pretty hot-headed, but he had good sense underneath - if it hadn’t been for the beginning of quotecards right then. I don’t know who originated the things, but the first ones Chuck got were from Harry Enevoldson, the guy who’d teed off on him over the “Destination Moon” typo. I remember the night Chuck came over to my place to run off an issue of Clockwork, and he brought these two quotecards from Enevoldson with him. “Son of a bitch,” he said, “look at these things. I’ll bet old Harry-butt thinks he’s really come up with something fabulously fannish here.” He showed them to me, but I didn’t think much of the matter at the time.
Chuck didn’t get out another issue of Here There Be Tigert for a couple of weeks after that, and in that time he got about half-a-dozen more quotecards, including some more from Enevoldson. Well, in his next issue Chuck cut loose with a blast at quotecards. He knew by this time that Enevoldson hadn’t originated them, but that didn’t matter. He said they were just the sort of rubbish that Enevoldson would go for anyway.
I’m afraid he wasn’t very coherent in his blast, though he managed to come up with some of the most bitter prose ever written in fandom. What was really griping him about the things, he said, was that their only purpose seemed to be for fans to show off what big wheels they were by signing them and sending them to some BNF. Then, he said, other fans would get the impression that these guys were corresponding regularly with the big names. He went on for paragraph after paragraph on that, but my favorite line was, “Quotecards are the most perverted form of self-gratification that fandom has.”
I doubt that even Chuck was surprised when his tirade drew heated comments from other fans, but he kept up the crusade, slipping in comments about quotecards even into the fanzine reviews - those of them he still had time to write. He was in so many feuds by now that his correspondence was stupendous - and Chuck was never one to let an insulting letter go unanswered.
Enevoldson, of course, was his prime opponent in the feuds. He wrote two letters to Chuck which Chuck printed in full, replete with editorial interjections. But behind the scenes, I know, the feud was even hotter. I doubt that many fans know that Chuck once paid almost a buck postage to send Enevoldson a jagged stick, labeled “Short-snorter shaft. Ram it and pass on.” Chuck was quite a guy.
Well, when you come right down to it, there really isn’t much you can say about quotecards, either for them or against them, and before long the subject started to peter out. I guess the whole thing would have blown over in time, except for something that happened while Chuck was stenciling Here There Be Tigert #11. He was just about done with the issue, and it had been pretty mild, on the whole. He started digging around in his notes for some other things to write on to fill the last page - and just then the mail came.
At my house that night running off the issue, he explained to me: “I was sitting there when I heard the mailbox clunk, so I got up and got the mail. And God damn it if there weren’t seven lousy quotecards in the batch! Now son of a bitch! I haven’t got enough trouble trying to keep up with my correspondence, but I have to mess around with reams of bastard quotecards too!”
Here There Be Tigert #11 will probably be remembered by anyone who received it as the most incoherent issue of all. Chuck went completely overboard, writing two more pages right on stencil. He ended up by saying that if anybody sent him any more quotecards he was going to keep them bighod. “I’m going to start a collection of the damn things,” he wrote. “I’ll file away every one I get, until I’ve got them all, every one. Maybe that way I can keep them out of circulation!”
Three weeks went by before I heard from Chuck again. He showed up at my place one night with ten stencils under his arm, ready to mimeograph. I told him my mimeo was on the blink just then, which it was - the roller wasn’t engaging properly. But he hardly heard me; he just stormed into my den and slapped the first stencil on the drum. “Don’t bother me with excuses,” he kept saying. “I’ve got some of the most classic insults ever seen by man in this issue. I invented at least five new Anglo-Saxon idioms, right on the stencil!”
“What happened this time?”
“Happened? I’ll tell you what happened! Since the last issue I’ve been getting more God damned quotecards than ever before! Enevoldson has started a bastard campaign to send me quotecards! He calls it the Tigert Shafters’ Club, or T.S. for short!”
I had to laugh at that.
“Very funny, very funny!” he snapped. But I fixed their asses - I saved every single quotecard, just like I said I would. And last night I put them all in the center of the floor in the basement and burned the damn things. They made pile a foot high, I swear to God! They flared up and threw sparks all over the damn place. My goddam collection damn near caught on fire! I’ve got a Startling with the best parts of a Bergey cover burned away to thank Enevoldson for.” He stopped. “What the hell’s wrong with this idiot mimeograph, dammit!” He’d been cranking the machine all this time, hardly paying attention to the way the paper just got torn into shreds.
“The roller doesn’t engage,” I told him again. “It won’t run; you might as well give up.”
That didn’t stop him, though. He just muttered something and started cranking again, only faster. And the sheets of paper ripped all to hell as they went through - if they went through at all. “What the hell is this thing, a confetti machine?” Chuck said, and kept trying to make it feed properly.
There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to use a machine that’s acting like that. Chuck stood there bitching and swearing and turning the crank round and round, then trying to fix the roller, trying to again, and swearing even louder. Finally, after he’d already wasted half a ream of paper, he threw back his head and yelled at the top of his voice, “BALLS!” and started cranking furiously, the paper tearing and shredding all over the mimeo table and floor. Then he stopped cold and very deliberately and silently cleaned everything up, removed the stencil from the drum, picked up his stencils and paper, and stalked out.
He turned in the doorway and said, “Why don’t you get a God damned hektograph?’ and slammed the door.
George says that after that he came to him and wanted to use his mimeograph, but George read the stencils and said he wouldn’t allow them to be run on his machine. Chuck blew his stack, told George what to do with his column in Clockwork, and left.
He hasn’t been heard from much since. That issue of Here There Be Tigert never appeared, and Clockwork folded too. The last I heard of Chuck he’d graduated from college and had a job as a salesman somewhere, making close to $10,000 a year, mostly on commissions.
Every now and then George and I get together, sometimes along with a few of the older club members, and we talk about him. But George never has told me what was in that last issue. He says he doesn’t use that kind of language.