Notice please, that I call myself an amateur ex-editor-NOT an ex-amateur editor. The distinction is considerable. An amateur is one who does something for the pure love of it. When I was an amateur editor, I was such for the love of it. Now that I am a n amateur ex-editor, the condition still obtains. I love being an ex-editor.
Almost anyone with two or three holes in his head can be an editor. Ex-editoring, on the other hand, is a sublime art. Any editor can become an ex-editor simply by stopping up the holes in his head with ground-up contributors. To avoid a lumpy effect, graft over the bumps the hides of those readers every editor flays in his sleep
Since it is so much fun being an ex-editor, why did I ever become an editor in the first place? Well might you ask. The one is contingent upon the other. None can know the pure joy of loafing without having worked.
But all that aside. My principal aim in writing this is to be of service to my fellow men-to that proportion, at least, which senses a restless hankering to edit. Let me make plain that I refer to amateur editing in all instances-pro-editing is a world apart; I know nothing about it (but it must be a pretty good go, to judge from the way the old die-hards keep hanging on year after year).
You to whom I speak are those who have heard the call, or are about to hear it. You feel an incompleteness of living. You seem to think that there is a place for you in the world, if you could but find it. You startle at the rustle of paper, th e bang of a typewriter is music to your ears, the smell of printers' ink is a heavenly essence compounded of spikenard and myrrh. The skids are greased under you; you wait only for somebody to cut the rope.
For the day will surely come when you will square your shoulders, lift up your head, fuse a sparkle into your eyes, and cry out: "I will publish a magazine!"
From the inner depths of your own consciousness, a Voice speaks. "You wonderful fellow you!" it says.
From East and West, from North and South, comes the answering voice of the multitude to whom you have made known your intention: "Whuffor?"
Well, hell, am-eds are a dime a dozen-did you expect to be received with breathless excitement?
When I made my first world-shaking announcement in this fashion, I sat back and waited to receive the applause.
I got three dirty cracks from three disinterested individuals. Nothing more.
I broadcast an appeal for manuscripts from a population supposedly frothing at the mouth to appear in print. What happened? I took a leaf from the book of the better pro-eds and jammed the first issue with my own crud under a variety of pseudonyms, plu s a little extra stuff I was able to cadge from some very close acquaintances.
Perhaps some of you saw that first issue of The Nekromantikon. It was quite fancily illustrated with linoleum cuts. Those lines! I spent hours carving out the stuff to make the result look as much like authentic drawings as possible. I selected the best cover stock I could find on short notice. And the mimeography was lousy.
After publication, results flowed in. "Anybody knows," said one correspondent, "that you should never try to print line-work with lino blocks. That medium is supposed to be used only for a block effect." By James White! I swore. (Ja mes White had not yet begun his own to-become-famous lino artwork, but I swore in the future tense).
Another bellyache concerned the lousy covers-they fell off in the hands. This from a young am-ed whose whole mag disintegrated in my hands.
Somebody else wrote in ecstasy, mentioning one of my pseudonyms. More from this fellow, he says, but that so-and-so (mentioning another of my pseudonyms). he should drop dead.
But everybody thought the mimeographing was wonderful. I thought, and still think, that it smelled. It was bad. A composite of half a dozen different brands of stencils. But everybody agreed on the one point that the mimeographing was excellent, so I t ook hope. At least, here was an amateur zine you could tell what was in it, besides ink.
The cost of that first issue was 27 per copy, and there were 250 of them. I gave half of them away, and peddled the other half at two-bits a throw.
I was launched. Briefly, the clanking press was stilled, the mimeograph crouched sullenly like a silent A.B.Dick in the corner. Through the long nights, the stapler slowly cooled from the heat of its labor
But the more I nursed the blisters on my fingers and thought of those egregious lino blocks, the more I thought to hell with it. There must be an easier way, I thought, and I considered the possibilities of zine engravings for future illustrations. I h ad once made a tour through an engraving plant, and there was nothing to the process, it seemed to me, which could not be learned with determination and ten years of experience.
It was about this time I got a letter from some foreigner telling me about the troubles he was having with his zine. It was a terrible book, he said, but he was sending me a copy anyway, but not to judge too harshly, etc. etc. The foreigner, of course, was Walter Willis, and the lousy zine he mentioned was Slant. When the magazine arrived a few days later, Walter became definitely established in my mind as the world's most modest man. The mag was little in size, all right, and the print ing could have been improved - but the glinting thread of pure genius ran through the entire work. Beg pardon-two geniuses. I was captivated by the marvelous concepts embodied in those razor-bladed "wood-cuts" of James White. I pride myself that I recognized in the beginning what certain pro-eds and fans did not wake up to until later issues of Slant had been published.
(NOTE TO WALTER: The above constitutes fee in kind as payment for the publication of the herewith article. Please tear off coupon at bottom of page, endorse it back to me, and file with Lloyd's of London. MB)
Now, let's get back to this other interesting fellow-me. But why should I go into detail about the process of photo-engraving? There are simply too many details, as I found out, to bore anyone with the recital of them. I should, however, like to mentio n an initial difficulty which I solved with great neatness, and it may be of help to anyone desiring to take up engraving. In some musty tome or other, I read that the next step after fixing the image on the zinc plate is to "immerse in 20% nitric ac id solution and swab gently with a pad of cotton." I swabbed and swabbed and nothing happened, except that all of my body hair fell out. It occurred to me, then, that perhaps it was the zinc I was supposed to immerse, and not myself. As later experim ent proved, this was the case.
Enough of technical matters. Let us get to the fun of the business. One day the mailman staggered up to my door and deposited a basketful of manuscripts. Heavens to Betsy! I thought (cleaning up the expression), fandom is certainly WILD about Nekro !
I read through script after script happily accepting this one, joyfully rejecting that one with the terse comment: "We can't print everything, you know." This kept up for days. The manuscripts poured in. But one funny thing - I couldn't find the names of the writers in any of the numerous lists of fans. Who were these people?
Then, one day, the horrid secret came to light. I received a printed card from A Certain Writer's Magazine That Shall Not Be Named. It said, to this effect: "Here is a sample of your listing as we have been running it. Please check, make any neces sary corrections, and return." That listing looked to me as if it were set in 72-point type, though actually it was something less than six. There was poor little Nekro, listed with all the hot-shot paying professional markets...and the blurb concluded: "Payment by arrangement". How this came about is too long a story to tell, and I don't know most of it myself anyway.
I fell upon my knees. I wept tears of chagrin. I tore my hair and beat my breast. My God! My files bulged with accepted Scriptos. I could only write letters of apology and permit the authors to withdraw their creations. Before I could get started on th is project, the postman brought another dismal burden. But this one contained three acrid and injurious epistles wanting to know when in hell that "payment by arrangement" was forthcoming. Just because those authors were nasty, I sent back their pieces (which weren't very good anyway) without notes of apology. To the others, I crawled as the lizard crawls upon its belly, limbs akimbo. One expressed his own apology in reply and requested the return of his manuscript. The others generously consent ed to permit their work to continue toward publication. I am still not completely recovered from the shock of this experience.
One of the oddest manuscripts that I ever received was really a lulu. The author was congenitally incapable of spelling, and his punctuation was fragmentary, to say the least. The script was single spaced, and the lines ran from the top edge of the pap er to the bottom edge, and from the left edge to the right, so that every inch of the paper was filled with typewriting. When a word arrived at the right margin, what was left was carried to the next line at the left margin, even if it were only one lette r. In some cases, when the last word of a problematical sentence ended at the right, the period began the next line to the left. It would not have been funny if the script had been prepared by some Smarty-Pants. Actually, it was high humor because it was written in honest ignorance, and would have been well worth publishing just for laughs had not my Christian nature come to the fore and bade me refrain.
One character I am not about to forget is one who wrote to me several letters in quick succession, recommending himself highly as a literary artist. The fact that his letters sounded like drivel could have nothing to do with it, for most literary men, when writing personal letters, sound like fugitives from a chain-letter-gang. This gizmo told me all about his agents and his contacts with various editors, and gave me to believe he had a few rejects which were "too good" for pro pubs and would like to see them published.
All agog, I told him to forward his stuff for a look-see. He had, he said, written a story that was word for word in a great many places identical with a certain story written by a well-known name author. He wrote another story so closely like another name author yarn later published, that he accused the editor who had rejected his story of copying it and putting a "house name" on it. His letters were full of stuff like this.
And the wonderful story came. It was terrible, and I told him so. So he wrote me an 8-page letter telling me what was wrong with me. "You are frustrated," he said. And this was the very truth, for I sweated with frustration of a desire to clo bber the cuss.
Now, gentle reader, you know in some part the reason for my enjoyment of ex-editing. Another of its joys, besides affording from the freaks and vicissitudes of inclement chance, is the opportunity to cultivate quietly the finer things, the nicer people , and so on, it was my fortune to meet while editing...only then I didn't have time for them.
I hope I have discouraged no one from editing a magazine. This has not been my intention. It is great fun...while it lasts. And by the way...if any of you would-be editors think photo-engravings would dress up your mag nicely, please contact me. I have a complete outfit of very fine photo-engraving equipment...For Sale Cheap!
Data entry and page scans provided by Judy Bemis
Data entry by Judy Bemis
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