It's a bit paradoxical, but science fiction fandom is both old and young. As of next year, fandom will have existed in *nine* different decades. And yet the activity is new enough that there are still many active fans whose presence in fandom spans the range from the present all the way back to its very earliest days. The writer of the next article is one of them. In his previous article, Forry wrote about some of those early days. This time he takes us on a trip to some far-off lands in Europe and Asia, replete with visual wonders, cultural challenges, and even some communication difficulties.
'Through Time And Space With Forry Ackerman (Part 9)' 
  by Forrest J Ackerman; illo by Teddy Harvia
Knock, knock. Who's there? Soviet. Soviet who? Ve vere hungry, so ve et.

Back in 1978, in the days when Russia was still the Eeee-veal Empire, a couple dozen of us sci-fi folk decided we would all go there en masse. The group included Cylvia Margulies, who was associated with a magazine called Fantastic Universe. There was Joe Haldeman and his wife Gay, and Lil Neville, the widow of Kris Neville and who had collaborated with him on at least one science fiction story. There was the long-time science fiction fan Art Widner, and Tom & Terri Pinckard, who were creators of the Pinckard Science Fiction Writers Salon. There was Charles Brown of Locus, the French fan and writer Georges Gallet, eofan Clifton Amsbury, and, of course, me and my wife Wendayne.

We were told in advance, when we were planning the trip, that since we expected to meet a number of science fiction authors and fans, to bring along any books or fanzines or things we would like to make gifts of. So I went out and spent about a hundred dollars for copies of a book I had published called Science Fiction Movie Gold.

Well, when I got to the customs inspection in Moscow, there was a young kid there looking very officious, somebody I wouldn't have given the time of day, necessarily, in L.A., but I wasn't about to fool around with Russian customs inspectors. He immediately wanted me to open the package of Science Fiction Movie Gold. Immediately, a frown appeared upon his face; he looked very unhappy and pressed a red button. A very dignified-looking soldier with all kinds of medals and ribbons on his uniform came over; as he paged through one of the books it was obvious he didn't know or even think much of science fiction, so in desperation I began throwing out names I thought he might recognize ("Movies? Solaris? Stanislaw Lem?"). But this didn't seem to impress him at all; he kept looking through the package and frowning: "Monsters, monsters -- Nyet! Nyet! Confiscata!!" Now, I don't know any Russian at all, but I could understand what that meant!

So that was the end of my hundred dollars worth of movie magazines. I imagine they immediately went on the black market -- or maybe the red market. Cylvia Margulies was infuriated. "Why don't they realize you are Mr. Science Fiction? You go right over there and demand your books back!" But I was only expecting to visit Moscow, Leningrad, and Kiev -- I didn't want to get a free trip to Siberia!

# # # #

illo by Teddy Harvia Despite of that rather rude greeting we actually did manage to have a memorable time of it while we were there. I came back with my share of adventures and even some misadventures. In Kiev, I thought I would look up an old Sci-Fi Esperantist friend and surprise him by greeting him over the phone in Esperanto. But unfortunately, there were no telephone books! (Sorry, Dmetrio Viktorov Chekovitch!) And while we were watching the armored might of the May Day parade in Moscow, I was spotted by a radio interviewer who told me just that morning from Washington he had heard Ray Bradbury!

I've had many international science fiction experiences besides that one, of course. I've already mentioned the first one {{ed. note: in Mimosa 19 }}, my trip to England for the International Science Fiction Convention in 1951. And just recently I got back from a ten-day visit to China. We had learned that China was going to jump the gun on the year 2000 and celebrate it in advance. This appealed to science fiction people, of course, and it was arranged where we could go there for ten days to exchange ideas. And it was more than just Americans. There were a couple of Japanese there, one Australian, and some Russians, besides the half a dozen of us from the States. And it was more than just the science fiction genre represented -- there was an American astronaut, Shannon Lucid, and three Russian cosmonauts.

It turned out that nobody there was familiar with Frankenstein or Dracula. I was also surprised they didn't know of Ray Bradbury or Isaac Asimov or H.G. Wells. I was given a gift of about twenty science fiction books, and can you imagine what one of them was? It was Hugo Gernsback's Ralph 124C41+. Of course, the book's title is a pun -- 'one to foresee for one plus' but I don't know how that came across in Chinese. It must have appealed to them because there was so much about simple science.

There are one billion two hundred million potential readers of science fiction in China. The first science fiction magazine had been created there by a woman. The first time her science fiction magazine went on sale it sold 600 copies. But she has kept right with it -- I think it's called World Science Fiction -- and she's had me interviewed in it along with my picture so I was rather well known to a number of Chinese. We went to her office -- we couldn't believe our ears, that she'd only sold 600 copies of the first issue. Nowadays she's up to 250,000, and we thought, well, she must be living quite high on the hog. But she didn't get a penny more -- it wouldn't matter if she sold a million or even ten million. She would make the same salary. There was absolutely no financial incentive for her to make the magazine better and more successful from a marketing perspective -- it must have been her love of the subject matter. I was really astonished to see that's the way their society works.

illo by Teddy Harvia It may be that they are attempting via their science fiction magazine to do as Hugo Gernsback tried to do back in the 1920s -- sugar-coat science and get a generation interested in becoming chemists and physicists and astronomers and so on. They may be trying to get children interested in science via science fiction. At one point, at an pre-arranged event in a giant auditorium in the city of Chung-Du, I was literally deluged by little children. And after two-and-a-half hours of signing autographs one of them said, "How many times have you been in space, Mr. Ackerman?" And I realized they had thought I was an astronaut!

I had a good time in China. There are one billion two hundred million people there, and I think there were eight or ten who didn't get my autograph. They practically chased me up the Great Wall of China. Now I had not counted the number of steps going up, but going back down I had nothing better to do, so just to amuse myself, I did count, and how many steps had I climbed? Not 450, not 452... Thank you Ray Bradbury -- 451!

All illustrations by Teddy Harvia

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