Robert Madle, still with us in 2002, was already a fannish veteran in 1958. He provided the introduction to The Best of Fandom.
Almost twenty-five years have elapsed since I discovered the existence of fanzines. I can still recall, quite vividly, the very first fanzine to grace my mailbox. (However, they weren’t called fanzines then - but fan mags was the gruff appellation applied to them.) The specific magazine and issue was Fantasy Magazine, October-November, 1934. The vast new worlds of amateur science fiction publishing quite accidentally discovered by the grammar school youngster of 1934 are still just as vast and just as new to the old fake fan of 1959.
The discovery of fanzines and fanzine fandom by the general reader is usually just a freak of chance. With me it occurred because I was a demon letter-column reader. The evening I picked up the December, 1934 Astounding I first carefully thumbed through the issue noticing titles and authors, and ecstatically admiring the wonderful mechanistic art of Elliott Dold. Then to the readers’ department - it was known as “Brass Tacks” away back then, too. One of the first letters was from Julius Schwartz who was offering a free copy of Fantasy Magazine to any reader of Astounding because this was the Astounding dedication issue. Off went my postcard, even though I had no idea what to expect. And several days later it arrived.
I don’t know how many days a person can remember with complete recall. Perhaps a half-dozen such as marriage, birth of children, receipt of draft notice, and first binge. With me there are two others: discovery of s-f in magazines and discovery of fanzines.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that that issue of FM was read a dozen times. Just imagine! Articles about F. Orlin Tremaine, Elliott Dold; news columns forecasting stories to appear in future issues of Astounding, Amazing, Wonder and Weird. (They were the only professional fantasy magazines published then.) And that magnificent almost-photographic cover showing recent issues of the four fantasy magazines, drawn by Clay Ferguson, Jr., a fan artist who showed amazing talent and who, according to Sam Moskowitz, is one of the tragedies of science fiction in that he never did go on to exploit his wonderful talents.
Through Fantasy Magazine I discovered two other fan magazines: Charles D. Hornig’s memorable effort to create a publication just for the Weird Tales fans, The Fantasy Fan, and the official organ of the International Scientific Association, The International Observer. Following this came Wm. Crawford’s attempts to publish the fan’s dreamzines, Marvel Tales and Unusual Stories. By this time I had the bug myself and, along with three other Philadelphia youngsters, started on a carbon-copied fan mag called The Science Fiction Fan. This lasted one issue and we then published several carbon-copied issues of Imaginative Fiction. (“We” were Jack Agnew, John V. Baltadonis, Harvey Greenblatt and, of course, myself. All are still around with the exception of Harvey, who was killed in World War II.) During the following years many other publications rolled off our hektographs and mimeos. We were, indeed, fanzine fans!
Please forgive an old member of First Fandom is nostalgic memories. However, I did want to emphasize that my affiliation with fanzines is a little more than superficial. Besides, I might want to write a sequel - no, not a sequel - but a supplementary volume to The Immortal Storm someday, and I could expand these few paragraphs into six or seven chapters. But back to the present.
In the introduction to The Best of Fandom - 1957 Robert Bloch (who, I might mention, was writing for Fantasy Magazine about the time I discovered it) indicated that, in all probability, Guy Terwilleger would not face all the obstacles encountered by the editors of such publications as The Best from Shock Tales or The Best of Harlan Ellison. Bob said that BOF should be a downright honest “best” publication, and he was right! There is little doubt that the various fanzine editors who responded to Guy’s request for selections took what he or she considered to be the best and sent it to him for inclusion. Consequently, the first BOF included such top fan talent as Walt Willis, Robert Bloch, Dean Grennell, John Berry and Carl Brandon - just to mention a few. Formatwise, BOF was also among the best- and BOF 1957 is certainly one of the really best fan publications ever issued. Unfortunately, the complete edition was sold out prior to publication, and this outstanding fan effort could not be utilized to entice the very interested general reader into fandom. (Ah, yes - always the proselytizer that Madle!)
As difficult as it would seem, The Best of Fandom - 1958 will have to be downright unbeatable to surpass 1957’s volume. However, I believe this will be done - for 1958 was a wonderful year for fanzines. Having collected fanzines for almost a quarter of a century, it would seem to me that they have their good, bad and indifferent periods. Perhaps, in reality, it is me who is having a good, bad or indifferent periods. Be that as it may, last year was, to me, a good year for fanzines. And when I think of 1958 I think first of Fanac - that marvelous little bi-weekly (formerly weekly, but who can keep up that pace?). Someone has said it before - but I’ll repeat it - “Fanac is indispensable!” A Hugo Award was not given for the best fanzine this year. But if it had been, I’m quite sure Fanac would have been right up there. Thanks, Ron and Terry, for helping make 1958 a red-banner fanzine year for me!
1958 was also the year of the “letter-substitute” and general gossip zine. Thus, we had such interesting publications as John Magnus’ Rumble, Ted White’s Stellar and Gafia, Ralph Holland’s Quoth the Walrus, and Wm. Rickhardt’s The Swinging Bore. Not to mention the excellent work accomplished in this area by Dick Eney and Bob Leman - with Stupefying Stories and The Vinegar Worm, respectively. Bob Leman, incidentally, could possibly win the award as the “Best New Fan of 1958”. Of course, old faithful, Science Fiction Times, continued to appear, albeit late usually. Ray and Jimmy - some excellent news items were marred by late publication. Sure hope you can catch up - even if you have to make it monthly for a couple issues.
There were also some new fanzines. Now, as a general rule, new fanzines do not stand out or make an impression. However, one of the neatest - formatwise - to appear in 1958 was published by a neofan - Sylvia White (née Dees) with Flafan. Then the boys from Purdue (Ken Fickly, Bob Ross and Jim Tunis) have published two sercon issues of Omnivore, which show promise. Young Vincent Roach (only 14 years old) has spiraled out with Into the Haze. Vince was 1958’s Spelling Bee champ for Indiana. And oldtimer (comparatively speaking) Dick Ellington appeared with Fijagh, a commendable effort. Mimsy is a nice effort from LA.
And then there were oodles and oodles of the old standbys. Only one issue of Ron Smith’s Inside appeared - but a formidable job it was. Surely something from that well-rounded collection should make 1958’s Best. Bob and Juanita Coulson’s Yandro and Guy Terilleger’s Twig were the most reliable of the general zines. There is a tremendous assortment of material to choose from in these two cases. The same applies to Lynn Hickman and his JD. Lynn published quite a number of issues in 1958, and JD is certainly one fanzine I eagerly anticipate. (I wonder why?) And let’s not forget Gregg Calkins and his consistently excellent Oopsla! And that applies to Polarity - published by F. M. and Elinor Busby. I used to enjoy another of their excellent publications, Cry of the Nameless, but didn’t see a single issue last year. I guess I must face facts - they cut me off their list! Sad, sad. Grue appeared but once - sad, sad.
The above briefly displays the excellence of 1958. There are undoubtedly numbrous fanzines I have not mentioned. Naturally, it is impossible to mention all of them. However, there is so much to choose from this year that 1958’s Best of Fandom should be the best of the best.
In closing I would like to mention that I was unable to review many fanzines in my “Inside Science Fiction” during 1958. When Science Fiction Quarterly expired, I lost my regular space, and Bob Lowndes has had to squeeze in the large amount of my stuff he had on hand whenever he could find space. This year I hope this will be remedied and I shall, again, be able to devote an appreciable amount of space to fanzine reviews. In this vein, I’d like to mention that Nebula Science Fiction will soon be starting a bi-monthly fan column by me, and I expect to be able to publicize fanzines and fandom with regularity. So please keep the fanzines coming, because I expect 1958 to be another great year for science fiction fan magazines.