It's back to the early 1950s, now, with more from Walt Willis's correspondence files.
This installment of "I Remember Me" centers around one of Sixth Fandom's luminaries,
Lee Hoffman (also a notable fan artist), whose fanzine Quandry was perhaps
the very center of fandom the first two years of that decade. We'll also learn of
a fearless prediction by another of Sixth Fandom's notables, Shelby ("ShelVy") Vick,
an example of how not to construct a science fiction story by Mal Ashworth, a
correspondence exchange with Galaxy editor Horace Gold, and more...
Horace Gold's Galaxy
When I was in the States in 1952, I made the acquaintance of Horace Gold, and I have here a long letter from him dated June 28, 1954.
...You didn't have to explain why Galaxy has the same kind but not the same degree of pleasure that sf used to have when it was truly scarce. I went through those days too, remember. To find a Wells or a Verne on a library shelf made everything inside me that wasn't nailed down give a giant lurch of discovery and excitement. Naturally I can't possibly ever again recapture that great joy and ecstatic gulping of the stories...
As for running letters, Isaac Asimov and a few others can tell you how clear the mandate was from our readers. They went through thousands and were astonished at the vehemence and the almost unbelievable preponderance of 'antis'. In any case, the formula is successful, so we're not rocking the boat. I don't know if I've mentioned this, but we have a clear lead in U.S. and Canada circulation -- so far past Astounding that there seems no chance whatever of its catching us up. And of course, our five foreign editions. You blame us for not wanting to tamper?
I replied to this letter on 8th July:
Interested, and pleased to hear about your outstripping Astounding in circulation. I wish you would say about items of information like this whether I may quote you or not.
Your own rating of stories was fascinating. The reader normally assumes that the editor likes equally well all the stories he prints, whereas it's obvious that he must print many of them as a faute de mieux, or for some other odd reason, like encouraging a new author or because he needs a story of exactly that length. I often wonder if some editors deliberately print bad stories to make the other ones look better (like the restaurant in the old vaudeville joke that employed midget waiters to make the steaks look bigger) or even to encourage potential authors. As Bob Shaw once wrote, "I always like reading Planet Stories because it gives me the pleasant feeling that I could make money writing science fiction."
[F.L. Wallace's] "The Impossible Voyage Home" [in the August issue] had a nice idea, but the human interest angle didn't come off with me for some reason. I found myself not giving a damn whether the old folks got to Earth, especially after they played that dirty trick on the sentry who trusted them. But then maybe I take too much to heart the interests of the subsidiary characters. It infuriates me in movies, for instance, when the hero tears a page out of a phone book or knocks over a fruit barrow in a chase. I know the gesticulating barrow owner is a stock figure, of course, but I still feel I'd like to see a movie, just one, where the hero stops and picks up some of the fruit he has knocked over, or replaces the page in the phone book.
A Regretful Rejection
Now, here is a letter to Mal Ashworth in which I turn down regretfully a submission to Hyphen. This may be the last occasion in which a fanzine mentions the word 'mimeoscope'. Or indeed, the term 'wavy scramgravy'. I've lost all memory of the origin of this expression. Are there even older fans who remember it? 'Mimeoscope' is easier; it was basically a box with a lamp inside and a glass lid on which you spread out a stencil which you could then read and check for typos. This story was attributed to Algis Budrys:
There was this keen faned, you see, who couldn't bear to give up his fmz to get married, and yet couldn't work happily on his fmz for the love of this girl. His two loves seemed to be incompatible. Then one day while he was driving his girl home from a convention they had a bad smash and she was taken to the hospital with grave internal injuries. Her whole stomach was damaged beyond repair. Ordinarily her life would have been despaired of, but just recently this famous scientist had invented a mechanical stomach and took this opportunity to try it out. So they fitted in the mechanical stomach. Being more efficient than the crude natural one there was plenty of room and since they wanted to be able to observe the working of this untried invention they let a glass plate into her abdomen and installed a light inside, working off the same little atomic power pack as her stomach. Everything seemed to be OK so after she regained consciousness they let her boy friend in. He dashed in anxiously, beanie whirring, and they explain to him exactly what had happened. They draw the blanket aside and show him the illumanated frontage. His face is suddenly suffused with joy and relief. "Darling!" he cries, all his problems now at an end, "Darling, will you be my mimeoscope?"
Miss Monroe has asked me to apologise for the delay in answering your letter to the FORT MUDGE STEAM CALLIOPE COMPANY but she has been getting rid of a pitcher who didn't go often enough to the well.
Yours for wavier scramgravy,
The Short Unhappy Life of Escape
In July 1954 I got an eight-page letter from Fred Woroch of Toronto announcing the impending publication of Escape, a professionally printed fanzine. It was to be produced on the equipment he was in charge of, at no cost except that of the paper and plates used. This seemed to me a wonderful opportunity to pass on some of the material I had been holding for Slant, so I sent it all to him, including the first part of Forry Ackerman's autobiography. This was all about his childhood, first prozines, etc., and while interesting enough would have been a chore to set up in type. What I had been really hoping for was Forry's rebuttal to Laney's Ah, Sweet Idiocy.
Of course I got no response at all, and there was never any sign of Escape. Nor was there ever any complaint from Forry, a lack of reaction for which I am eternally grateful.
Lee Hoffman and Her Horse
Everyone knows that Lee Hoffman left fandom for a horse, but few fans have been introduced to the horse in question, as I was in this letter, undated but followed by another dated May 11th, 1953...
Do you remember the night we sat on the front steps and I told you that of all the really big things I wanted, like attending the Nolacon, going to college, etc., I'd gotten all but one?
I've gotten my horse.
I will tell you the whole wonderful story as soon as I have gotten over it enough to be coherent.
# # # #
Gosh, I didn't know you were sick. I supposed maybe you were gafiating like me. For a long while, there I was a negative fan. I hated the sight of mail, except for letters from a few special people. I let them lie around unopened. I actively avoided any sign of fan activity. I rode my hoss, painted pictures furiously with my oil paints, drew pics with ink, took art lessons with watercolors, read non-stf books, and saw 3-dimensional movies. But I avoided the taint of a Galaxy or Startling. I felt anti-fan.
Then one day a confusion came in which ShelVy predicted that I would return to fandom this summer with a bang. The next thing I knew, a Quandry was in the works, laden with material by Speer, Tucker, Silverberg, and others, and featuring a letter from Bloch. A stencil was in the mails to ShelVy for confusion, and a few measly bucks were deposited in my account toward a trip to the Philcon. I am happy old self, once again a fan.
I will tell you about the horse. He is a gelding. He's ten years old, and bay. He was once five-gaited but has been misused until he is thoroughly confused, and off his gaits to the extent that he paces instead of trotting. But otherwise he is a dream of a horse. He's sixteen hands, and has beautiful conformation. When one rides him, he holds his head and tail up and steps along like a really high-class animal. He looks expensive, well-bred and high-spirited, but he is as gentle as a dog, and almost as friendly. And he's a dream to handle. He doesn't shy at anything. Cars to him are a common sort of thing, dogs just another nuisance to be ignored. Nothing flusters him except other horses. They get him excited, because he is alone in the field all the time and misses the companionship or his own kind.
I would say that when he was on his gaits he would have sold for around $500. I got him for $125. I think he was a gift of the gods.
Title illustration by Kip Williams