the serial that the
(illo: Shiffman: Ted)
IT WAS HARD TO DEAL with. He knew that. Every time he thought he understood the dynamics involved, something else would occur -- something unexpected.
Take that business with Don Vegas, for instance: what could you make of that?
Vegas put out VAGUE, a fanzine that had started out as a personalzine -- hell, a letter-substitute, one or two sheets. But he put it out so frequently, sometimes three or four a month, that it had generated its own momentum. Soon he was printing letters, and it was a dozen pages. Some of the letters were thinly disguised articles -- fans quickly learned the kinds of letters Don liked to print -- and from there it was an easy step to the monthly genzine of 20 pages which VAGUE became: an inevitable evolution.
He didn't begrudge Don his success; hell, he'd been a part of it, one of VAGUE'S first regular contributors. He liked VAGUE, he liked it a lot. The arrival of a new issue made his day. (He'd put it aside and read all the rest of his mail first -- sometimes he even answered the rest of his mail, or some of it, first -- saving VAGUE to be savored, saving it to be read slowly and completely, from its first pages to its last, never egoscanning it, never paging ahead.) Vegas was a damned good editor, and he crafted VAGUE. You had to read it carefully and thoroughly to get everything out of it, to grok its fullness. He admired Don for that, an admiration that held not one twinge of envy or jealousy.
All he wanted was to be part of the fanzine -- for his letters to be quoted in the early issues, for his pieces to appear in the later, genzine issues. He worked hard at that. He'd figured out that what he wrote for VAGUE should be linked to the fanzine, an organic part of it. He worked in references to topics which appeared perennially in the fanzine, alluded to running jokes, and took for his themes incompletely realized thoughts expressed by others in earlier issues (though rarely those of Don Vegas himself). At the same time, he avoided incestuousness -- you could read one of his pieces from VAGUE in a fanthology and still enjoy it.
So it was incomprehensible to him when Vegas cut him off VAGUE's mailing list.
He'd noticed that VAGUE #30 was late, and put it down to either a problem with the mails (never too dependable), or Vegas's own schedule. Hell, it was amazing how regularly Don pubbed his ish; you had to be superhuman to maintain a monthly schedule for so long.
Then he received another fanzine and discovered within its pages a review of VAGUE #30. Stunned, he dashed off a hasty note to Vegas: "What happened to my copy of V#30? Just saw it reviewed in Temple's BELLES LETTRES, ferghodsake, and I never knew you even traded with that crudzine ...."
Vegas didn't reply directly, but in a letter in Arnie Farber's SPOT he said, parenthetically, "... (some elitist assholes, who consign zines like BELLES LETTRES to the purgatory of 'crudzine', can't even figure out why they're off my mailing list) ..." -- which seemed to be addressed obliquely to his own note.
It made no sense to him. They'd been friends, ferghodsake. It's true they'd rarely exchanged personal letters, but he'd been one of VAGUE's most frequent contributors, often in response to topics Vegas himself had suggested. There had been a sense of fannish kinship, damnit, an implied warmth between them. Had he just imagined that?
Then came the open attack.
Bob Miller had never been one of his friends. They'd always rubbed each other the wrong way, and Bob had often sneered at him as "one of those jerks who has no life outside fandom, obsessed with being a big frog in a small pond, one of life's failures vegetating in the fannish asylum." But that was typical of Miller: Bob always put down what he considered to be "excessive fannishness," and he had few friends in fandom itself.
Significantly, Vegas had never been one of Miller's friends. Indeed, Don had once written an editorial in VAGUE about "fans like Bob Miller, who make a career of putting down their fellow fans. You have to wonder why Miller himself remains at all active in fandom. Is his cynicism just a schtick?"
So Don Vegas's attack on him in the pages of Miller's ARSEWIPE came as a complete surprise. In the piece Vegas excoriated him as a liar -- by juxtaposing lines he'd written at widely separate times, from totally different contexts -- and as a "fannish snob who thinks most fans are beneath him." Vegas apologised for having associated with him for so long -- "I was completely fooled by his syncophantism, although it embarrasses me to admit it" -- and said that as far as he, Don Vegas, was concerned, fannish ostracism was the only answer for a fan who thought he was "too good for the rest of us."
He was shocked. Shocked, and hurt. What did it all mean? Why was Vegas doing this to him? He wracked his memory -- and the carbons of his correspondence -- for an answer, and found none.
Then he rallied. He began writing to his other correspondents, his fannish peers. "What do you make of this?" he asked. "Is Vegas off his rocker, or what?"
He received few replies to his letters, and no support. One of the letters he did receive angrily denounced him for attacking Vegas's sanity: "It's just like you to decide that anyone who doesn't agree with you is insane. I suppose you'll say something equally rabid about me, now ...."
Stunned and embittered by the experience, he decided to gafiate for a while.
* * *
In a room under the lunar surface, only a short distance from the white picket fence that delineated the boundary of his property, others watched him on television monitors. As technicians maintained the illusions of Terran gravity and environment, their superiors checked the computers which generated his incoming mail.
"This new program has created some interesting reactions," said one man. "But do we wish him to lose all interest in this 'fandom'-construct?"
"Of course not," replied the second. "But he was slipping into an easy routine. Boredom would have followed. This has jolted him out of that. We'll let him stew a little longer -- then we'll feed him some support, pick him up again."
"The timing will be tricky," the first said. "We don't want to mess up on this." He glanced upward. "We don't want to get them upset."
The other looked sharply at him, then involuntarily looked up, his eyes seeing beyond the room's opaque ceiling. A brief shudder passed over his body. "Don't even think of it!" he said.
- To be continued in 1991 -
Ted White, 9/28/86
(illo: Shiffman: Fannish pinball game with "mysterious Jeff Sorenson groundfog"
Bob Earl Butz
Pearl City, AK
12 November 1982: Dear Mr. Hoffman: Thanks for sending me Science-Fiction Five-Yearly, I guess, but you should oughta know that us modern fans don't much go for that artificial, forced Sixth Fandom Fandom stuff any more. You sound like a promising young fellow and if you take my advice you'll work to develop your own voice instead of slavishly imitating all those olde-timey Sixth Fandom fans like Charles Burbee or D. West. Look at some good American fanzines like RATS IN CREAM SAUCE or DUMBER BY HALF. See how they don't rely on hoary old
[cont. p. 72]
Data entry by Judy Bemis
Updated November 10, 2002. If you have a comment about these web pages please send a note to the Fanac Webmaster. Thank you.