a factual reminiscence
While I have never in my life been in Lower
Armpit Heights, West Virginia, and although
I cannot even truthfully attest as to whether
or not there is such a place, I would nonetheless
ask you to strap on your disbelief suspenders
so you might be able to believe me when I say
I recently met my old friend ichy the cockroach
at a bar in Lower Armpit Heights, West Virginia.
I was just passing through, really. A light rain
was falling and I was on my way to a convention,
a one-shot session of a fan meeting, I no longer
recall which -- you know, the sort of things we
fen do so frequently that they pass out of memory
very quickly. Or out of my memory, anyway,
because my memory is like a cast-iron sieve.
It was drizzling and there were cars on my left
and the sign which said "Right turn only -- 20 Feet"
did me no good whatsoever. Cursing, I made the
mandatory right turn and found myself on the
main drag of the little town which I'd intended
to avoid as though it were Claude Vortzimer.
I would have made a U-turn but a neon sign
at the end of the street caught my eye. "Rosebud
Bar & Grill," it said. On the one hand, just stopping
to have a beer might make an interesting anecdote to
tell Bill ("Jim") Tucker; on the other, this was West
Virginia -- the place was likely to be crawling with
local rednecks. But the former consideration
outweighed the letter, so I stopped.
Except for the word "Rosebud" on the neon sign,
the outside wasn't at all remarkable. Once inside,
though, I was immediately struck by a feeling of
deja vu and very quickly realized how much it
reminded me, in some incredible but ineffable
way, of all the bars I'd ever been in at convention
hotels. It was full without being really crowded,
men and women in casual attire were drinking
and passing their cigarettes around and chattering,
the atmosphere was convivial. Someone was
laughing in a manner which also struck a semi-
responsive chord -- I felt I should either recognize
that laugh from having heard it before or from
having heard it described somewhere.
The waitress sized me up and evidently my aura met with her approval because she came over, smiled the smile of professional waitresses and left a mimeographed drink list. I had no time to be surprised by the list, which included selections such as Xeno, Blog, Grog, Nuclear Fizzes, "Smoooooth" Jack Daniels, India Pale Ale and Bheer (Home Brew 25¢ extra) because it was at this point that my old friend Ichabod wandered up.
I should tell you about Ichabod. I will tell you about Ichabod.
Ichabod was a trufan who had died and been reincarnated into the body of a cockroach. In the late '50s and early '60s, he made use of my typer at nights when I wasn't using it. By diving head-first onto its keys, he wrote articles and essays for fanzines. The process was a painful one, as it often took him all night to complete his pieces. He couldn't work the shift lever no matter how hard he tried, so he had to do without capital letters. But the first line he wrote as a cockroach, "expression is the need of my soul," summed it all up. He was a trufan, ichy was, and he had to write.
I thought his articles were mildly amusing and so passed them on to other fans, fans who were publishing fanzines (or "Fan Eds" as we called 'em in those days), along with my own articles and columns and stories. To my everlasting surprise, my superior articles, columns and stories were frequently rejected while ichy's musings were printed. While I admit some jealousy existed there, and even a slightly uneasy feeling on my part that ichy was satirizing me when he wrote about a fan who was forever complaining that "these new fans haven't got it here" while placing his hand over his heart, ichy and I remained great friends even when I moved to New York City. (But then, you know how fannish friendships are -- they're immortal, or they wouldn't be fannish.)
But I don't suppose it escaped every fan's notice that there came a time when I no longer sent out ichy's column and never again talked about him; to the more astute, it might even have appeared that we had come to a parting of the ways. I must admit this was, for me at least, no less than the truth. Ichy stayed for several months with me and three other fans -- Mike, Mack and Ernie -- at our slan-shack, the piebald palace, on Manhattan's Lower East Side and then left abruptly, leaving behind only a short curt note to the effect that he could not stand to spend another day "in a place with so many nonfans." This, at a time when more innocuous remarks were plunging All Fandom Into War.
I was then the same mild-mannered person I am now -- everywhere except on paper. On paper, in the fannish press, I was a veritable dragon, rushing in where even angels might fear to tread and where the hand of man had never set foot, delivering glows before would-be opponents could so much as remove their pinky from their gauntlets. It took all the restraint Mike, Mack and Ernie could muster to keep me from using the pages of our fanzine FOCAL PINT to denounce ichy.
I never have been an in-person dragon and considerable time had passed by the time ichy came up to me at the Rosebud Bar & Grill in Lower Armpit Heights, West Virginia, while I was on my way to some sort of fannish something-or-other, so it took me a whole to broach the subject. Ichy, who's had no notion I'd carried these feelings around for over a decade, quickly explained it all to me -- and I felt quite a fool.
You see, Mike, Mack and Ernie and I had been collectors. The things we collected -- books, magazines, fanzines, newspapers, popsicle sticks, candy wrappers, etc., &c. -- stood in high piles which, through an entropy we did nothing to counteract, frequently fell over to become ever-thinning isles through which visitors to the piebald palace had to make their increasingly difficult way. And the accumulation of paper, dried popsicle and melted candy attracted hoards of mindless cockroaches. Needless to say, it was these cockroaches -- and not Mike, Mack and Ernie or my own humble self -- to whom ichy had been referring with his line about not being able to spend another day in a place with so many non-fans. When ichy told me an entire American Legion Post had died and been reincarnated, I held up my hand -- he didn't have to explain any further.
So ichy and I enjoyed a nice conjobble. We talked into the evening about those chimerical days of yore ("mais ou sont les neiges d'atan?" ichy asked, to which I replied, "I had one once, but the wheels fell off."). I got around to asking him what all he'd been doing since I'd last seen him and he told me he'd gone down to the Tucker Hotel (he dropped into a bowl of soup for a hot bath in a restaurant there) before taking off to the West Coast. Said he'd wanted to take one last look at the Berkeley Towers -- that is, the shiny Tower of Bheer Cans to the Moon built by Pete Carr, Terry Rike, Dave Ellik and Ron Graham -- before the sercon forces tore it down to build a monument to the betterment of stf. After that, he said, he'd kicked around a bit, going from con to con -- mostly regionals, because the worldcons were getting to big to be a place where friends could get together for a good time -- and was now on his way to Ft. Mudge, where he'd landed himself a job as chief steam engineer. He thought he might get himself an electric typer because he was having trouble getting his beanie on his head over the callous which had started to grow there.
It did not seem long, but of course it was really in the early hours of the morning, before we were both deploring the current state of fandom (they haven't got it here, we agreed, placing our hands over our hearts); I had had "a few," as they say, and ichy was drowning himself in suds as only ichy can. Not wishing to get into a maudlin frame of mind and trying to look on the bright side, I asked him if he'd seen PANG, the zippy little fanzine published by Ted Steffan and Dan White. He admitted as to how he had, and added that while the writing and cartooning were as good as any fan could hope for, and even opined that Wally "The Snake" Mind was His Kind of Fan, he said overall he was really rather disappointed.
Disappointed, I said. What do you mean, disappointed?
He pointed out that, in a very early issue no less a fan than Lee Hoffperson himself had said a little feud might liven things up a bit, but no one had been fannish enough to step forward to fill the breach.
you would think
with a challenge like that
flang out by no less a fan
than lee hoffperson hisself
if a trufan or two was about
they might rise up to the occasion
was about the way he put it. When I pointed to the Martin Moose Rooster affair, ichy immediately dismissed it, as had the editors of PANG, because it wasn't really worthy. You really couldn't call it a feud when your opponent couldn't be made to eat his words only because his show was constantly in the way. I asked ichy, if he'd really felt that way, why he hadn't done something himself. He said he had -- a long piece in which he asserted that all members of the local fanclub were weird and peverty, stated without equivocation that the friction-type belt buckle was the thing of the future, opined that a poo could whip a yobber with one tentacle tied behind its back, and added (for the sake of those who might not be able to find anything controversial in his other statements) that the sky was pink. But he hadn't submitted the article to PANG; after all, the true test was whether or not the present generation of fen could conduct a feud -- since it was already established fact that our generation could.
It was at this point that the bartender came over --
a friendly sort he was, generally, although ichy had
warned me he'd have no truck with sci-fi talk in
his bar. He apologized but said he'd have to take
the typer which ichy had been using to type out his
replies -- it was needed for a one-shot. I recalled the
press of time -- I had to get off to wherever it was I
was going when I'd stopped off -- so I told ichy I'd
really enjoyed our fangab and maybe I could drop
by the bar on my way back from wherever it was
I was going.
It was early morning and the rain had stopped when
I walked out of the Rosebud Bar & Grill. I made it
to my car, made it to wherever I was going and (I
assume) had a good time. Somehow, though, on
the way back I missed the turnoff. I suppose by
now, ichy has hitched up with some fan caravan
and long since made it to Ft. Mudge.
Now, I can't pretend I didn't agree with what
ichy said; at the time, it seemed quite sensible to
me. It wasn't until later, after considerable reflection,
that I reached an entirely different conclusion on
my own. What he had said was indisputable, but
it was quite unconscionable to blame the current
crop of fans because they could not conduct feuds
in the grand old manner. How, after all, could they
be expected to "know better" when no one had
ever pointed out the error of their ways? Nothing
exists in a vacuum, you know. And, to paraphrase
something someone once said about the weather,
we old fen constantly talk about the shortcomings
of neos but no one ever does anything about them.
Well, I decided to do something about them. I
thought perhaps I might start "The Great Feuders
School of Writing," but got no further than designing
-- and then only in my head -- the ads I would place
in the prominent fannish fanzines.
I figured at the top of the ad, in bold letters, I'd
have something like "MOSKOWITZ! ACKERMAN!
LANEY! WHITE!" and below that, "The Great
Feuders School of Writing." And then, using a
little humor by way of enticement, I would use fake names (instead of the real names of fans which the bold type might lead you to expect) in the body of the copy: "Yes, our staff of fandom's finest feuders -- Sam Moskowitz, Forrest J. Ackerman, Francis T. Laney and Ted White -- will instruct you in the fine art of conducting a feud!" Having thus gotten their attention, I would then go on to more serious points to get them to send for free details. I also thought there might be some profit in doing a Charles Atlas-type ad, like the ones which used to grace the backs of comic books, with before and after pictures. In "before" a bully-fan would be shown forcing a non-feuder to drink a bottle of hair cream; in the "after" the non-feuder would be pictured flying across country to kick sand in the face of the bully-fan.
But I am an old fan and tired and I can still recognize a Dougherty Project when I see one. I could all too easily envision myself running out of enthusiasm as soon as I finished the ads, which would fall short of the intended objective. It would be much easier (and, therefore, something an old and tired fan might actually accomplish) to write a series of articles like Walt Shaw's "The Lectures on Fansmanship" (albeit more serious in intent) in which I would guide the much-erring neos along the True Path.
I realized this could also become a Herculean task, but remained determined to go through with it -- despite the obstacles littering my way and the opposition I was certain to encounter.
I know precisely where that opposition will come from, too. There are those who have long deceived newer fans, making believe fandom a pleasurable association of people with whom it is enjoyable to exchange good will and bright wit, a virtual utopia of creativity. Hiding behind their sense of humor, these depraved individuals have even implied that it is not only possible but preferable to exist in fandom for years and years without ever once engaging in a feud.
I realize it will be no easy chore to dispel this illusion. And yet I am willing to try, even if I have to knee the mad dogs in the groin and run them out of fandom on a rail. Fandom will then be a much better place, since it will be comprised only of right-thinking fen -- i.e., those who realize the microcosm is an arena in which an image of feral ferociousness must be maintained at all times, since the strong inevitably triumph over the weak, and in which no quarter can be asked for or given. Fandom will then be what it was always intended to be -- a place in which to enjoy the suffering of fellow beings while wielding auspicious power.
My articles will not only tell you, in graphic detail, how to inflict such grievous suffering but how to gain and properly wield this power.
Tune in next issue.
-- rich brown
Good humored and condescending BNF
Data entry by Judy Bemis
Hard copy provided by Geri Sullivan
Data entry by Judy Bemis
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