The Two Bobs
an Interview with Bob Bloch and Bob Tucker

illo by Kurt Erichsen Chat: Let's talk about old-time fandom.

Tucker: All right.

Chat: When did you meet Bob Bloch?

Tucker: In 1946. The 4th World Convention was in Los Angeles in 1946. Pacificon it was called. And one day I was out on this lake; it was in a little park across the street from the convention hall, and I was out there boating, taking a break from the convention. So I was out there in a little electric boat, and lo and behold, here comes Bob in his little electric boat. When I tell this story, I exaggerate for effect; he really didn't ram into me, he didn't capsize me and knock me over, but I tell that he did. That's how we met. We went back and he told a story on the program about his typewriter, which introduced me to the humor of Robert Bloch. He underwent a harrowing experience not too much before then, and he was a poor struggling writer at the time. And if you remember the story, Robert, you did something with your typewriter that you talked about in 1946.

Bloch: No. I don't even remember 1946.

Tucker: (Laughs) Well, he hocked his typewriter to buy groceries, and then when he had the idea for a story he no longer had the typewriter. He couldn't get it out of hock because held consumed the groceries and they wouldn't take the wrappers.

Chat: Were you living in California at the time?

Bloch: No. I went to California for the first time in 1937; I stayed with Hank Kuttner five weeks. It was at that occasion I met Fritz Leiber, Forry Ackerman, and C.L. Moore. I fell in love with California; it was a different world, an ideal place to be. So when 1946 came around with Pacificon, I went out there again. Tucker and I did meet on the lake, we were in boats, and we did bump into one another. We switched chicks or something of that sort and we spent the rest of the weekend together, and from that time on it's been downhill all the way. I went back again in `47; I didn't move out there until the end of 1959.

Chat: When did you become a professional writer?

Bloch: I was a professional in 1934, I'm afraid to say, but it's true. I've known this gentleman, and I use the term ill-advisedly, for 32 years. It's been quite an experience.

Chat: What was your first published story?

Bloch: "The Feast in the Abbey," in Weird Tales, in the January, 1935 issue which actually came out the first of November in 1934. They always issued them two months in advance in those days.

Tucker: Robert has seniority on me. He sold that story, although it appeared in the January `35 issue, about June or July in 1934 as I recall. Magazines have a long lead time. So he became a dirty old pro, underline the word dirty, in June or July of `34 and he has a terrific seniority on me because I did not sell my first story until about January of `41, something like that. It was called...

Bloch: "Slan."

Tucker: (Laughs) "Slan!" I used the pen name A.E. Van Vogt! No, it was called "Interstellar Way Station." Fred Pohl bought it and published it in Super Science Novels. So anyway, Bob has seven years seniority on me, and believe me, on him it shows!

illo by Kurt Erichsen Bloch: (Laughs) I've always wondered about Bob's first story, you know. I wonder why he didn't quit when he was ahead.

Tucker: (Laughs) Robert and I discovered something at Pacificon; we discovered that we could have more fun milking an audience by pretending to stab one another, heckle one another, than we could by playing buddy-buddy. We get up on stage together and play buddy-buddy and they doze, they nod, they fall asleep. We heckle one another and they're wide awake and alert awaiting the next sharply pointed knife.

Chat: Bob, how did you get involved with Hollywood?

Bloch: I got involved with Hollywood when I was about 3 years old, by going to silent movies. I'll never forget it. There was one silent film where a train would rush toward the audience and everyone would cower in their seats. I went under my seat, and when I lifted my head again there was a picture on with a very funny comedian in it; it was a two-reel comedy with Buster Keaton. And it took me until 1960 to meet Bus, when I went out to Hollywood and I found myself on a baseball team with Buster. He was the pitcher and the late Dan Blocker was the catcher. That was quite a game!

Tucker: What position did you play?

Bloch: I was, um, way out in left field! (Everybody laughs) From that moment we became fast friends. But the point, if any, was that I became a movie fan, a real movie buff. And I was very, very enamored of screen work. I never thought I'd get into it. But finally in 1959, 1 got an opportunity to do a television show. I went out and did it, and at the same time my novel Psycho was bought, which was then screened and released in 1960. So I've been involved more or less ever since.

Chat: What are your thoughts on Psycho? It's made you famous, if nothing else, but has it made you famous in a way you desire?

Bloch: Believe me, I have nothing but gratitude for all the things that have happened to me in my life. Look at the wonderful things that science fiction has done. By picking up a magazine when I was 10 years old, I didn't realize I was opening the door to a world that was going to give me a whole lifetime of pleasure and enable me to meet hundreds of people that I would not otherwise have met. I'm very grateful to all it has given me, in spite of Tucker.

Chat: You won your Hugo in 1959 for the short story, "That Hell-Bound Train." How many times have you been nominated?

Bloch: That's the only time. You know, I didn't even know I was up for it. I really didn't know that the story had been nominated. In 1959, I was at the Detroit Worldcon; Isaac Asimov was the Toastmaster and he asked me to help him out because, you know, he's pretty inarticulate. (Tucker laughs at this) I was to hand out the Hugos. I was opening the envelope and I saw my name on the list of nominations. I didn't even know of it. When the story won, I was flabbergasted.

Chat: Bob, you won your Hugo for Best Fan Writer, I believe. When was that?

Tucker: The award was granted in 1970 for the year 1969. But do not accept that at face value. I've been writing for fanzines since my first fanzine appearance in 1932. When they got around to nominating me in 1969 for the 1970 award, it was for those 30 or 40 years of fan writing rather than the previous year. They were simply giving me a grandfather award, and it was understood as such.

Chat: Have you felt disappointment never having won for fiction?

Tucker: I've had two books nominated. The first Hugo awards were given out in 1953 in Philadelphia. They weren't called Hugos then; they were merely Achievement Awards. My book The Long Loud Silence, published in 1952, was one of the nominees for that year, but lost to Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man, which truly deserved to win. In 1970, The Year of the Quiet Sun was nominated along with Silverberg's Tower of Glass and Niven's Ringworld. And Ringworld won. My book came in number four of the five finalists. So I've been nominated twice, and quite honestly, I've been beaten by better books both times.

Chat: Thinking back over your years as a writer and a fan, can you think of anything especially significant or noteworthy?

Tucker: Go back to 1943, the first time you were Guest of Honor.

Bloch: Oh, yes, Toronto! I was Guest of Honor at the Worldcon in Toronto because this character over here made that suggestion. He's the guy who said "Make him Guest of Honor," so they did. We went up there; things were a little bit different. There were about 200 people at this affair and they had a small banquet. We paid for our own banquet tickets; I mean, the Guests of Honor and Toastmaster paid for their own banquet tickets!

Tucker: No freebies in those days. The cons were too small and too poor. They couldn't afford to pay for it. At that Worldcon he was Pro Guest of Honor and I was Fan Guest of Honor. This was the first time we appeared on a program together. That's how we discovered we could play straight man or jab at each other.

Bloch: What happened was that Tucker had gotten together a very elaborate survey on fandom; an anthropological study complete with charts and diagrams. He'd done considerable serious and intensive research through correspondence, questionnaire, and documentation. He presented this thing as part of the formal program. As luck would have it, they had to have something to do at the banquet; it was a matter of whoever was there would contribute something. So, I turned up the next day at the banquet, and I, too, had a survey of fandom with some charts which I had done in my room the previous night. It was a deliberate contradiction of Tucker's findings.

Tucker: (Laughing) Bloch did the most beautiful job imaginable. Now, picture me with this solidly researched and backgrounded survey; I actually sent out hundreds of questionnaires, and my charts were accurate as of that day. Imagine Bloch getting up there with his fake charts and very neatly in a few words, a few quick slits of that knife, he cut the ground from under me and I fell through the stage. He sabotaged me wonderfully well.

Bloch: What was the situation when you laid down on the streetcar tracks?

Tucker: Ah! In 1948, the United States was abandoning streetcars in favor of buses. Canada, being more enlightened, kept their trains and trolley cars. And Toronto, on a Sunday in 1948, was the deadest thing next to Jacksonville, Illinois in 1978. I live in Jacksonville. {{ed. note: at that time, anyway}} In Jacksonville now, during the week the good citizens go out in their backyards, sit on the patio and watch the grass grow. That's excitement! On that Saturday night in Toronto in 1948, the whole con goes down to the intersection and watches the red light blink. So the next day, Sunday, we left the hotel and went to the restaurant and it was closed, we got to the bar and it was closed; the only thing to do was go down the street to where the convention was in the process of closing. And it happened that we had to cross the street where there was tramway tracks in the middle. We looked up and down the street and there wasn't a damn thing to be seen, so to show these backward Canadians how forward-looking we Americans were, I laid down on the streetcar tracks and dared one to run over me! And nothing happened! All the streetcars were in the garage!

Bloch: But there was a streetcar on Sunday. That morning I took one to a park to see the elephants. I'm very big on elephants.

Tucker: Well, Robert has always followed the elephants. Usually with a shovel. (And everybody laughs)

Chat: You two are amazing. Have either of you any last comments? Or rebuttals?

Bloch: I'm so glad you did this on Friday night while we're still alive.

Tucker: And reasonably sober.
- - - - - - - - - -
There was much mail in response to the Chat mini-history. Harry Warner, Jr., wrote that "Your overview of Chat is the kind of aricle that should be written about every fanzine that had a substantial life and some success." Teddy Harvia amused us with his letter: "I had forgotten about my nonsensical explanation of the origin of that Chat character. For all these years I've thought that I stole the idea from somebody else (a tradition among cartoonists). A cartoonist having an original thought is scarier than any image of a saber-toothed tiger."

Mimosa 8 was next, and was published in August 1990, just before we had the biggest adventure of our lives to that point -- our first trip ever outside North America, to Europe for the 1990 Worldcon. Perhaps appropriately, one of the articles in M8 was about another adventure-filled trip to a Worldcon, fifty years earlier:

All illustrations by Kurt Erichsen

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