WHAT STF MEANS TO ME
No other type of fiction can give the reader the wide type of variety offered by science fiction. It offers you escape from the daily grind and gives you various extrapolations of the future that are especially fascinating to me. The only thing I gain from my volumes of reading is sheer enjoyment, but I lose untold amounts of money for present and back issues. Since I have begun reading science fiction I have hardly any time to read other types of literature that I also enjoy. I expect excitement, thought provoking ideas, and a smattering of educating material, depending upon which magazine I am reading. Science Fiction should accomplish only things for the enjoyment of its readers. What else should you expect a type of fiction to do?
I consider myself a science fiction reader first and then a fan, which I think shows how active I am. I have written a few articles for fanzines, but most of my spare time is taken up with stf, girls, basketball, girls, and school work. Why am I a fan? Who can actually say why they are fen; you buy a fanzine, meet some other fans, start writing and then you're hooked before you realize it. Other than giving me enjoyment and a chance to know some mighty nice people, fandom has not changed me in anyway I can notice. Fandom should have no purpose - if it did it would no longer be fandom. It was born as a means of further enjoyment, not to bring any great message to the world. Science fiction and fandom: long may they last to bring enjoyment to people from nine to ninety, may it never be burdened with a "message and duty" to perform.
(EDITORS NOTE - The following was not submitted as a contest entry but I felt it fitted in with this group and am placing it here for your consideration...NGB)
I joined fandom for one definite thing - escape; escape from a mild inferiority complex that everyone was better than me; escape to people of my own plane; people that were'nt real. I wrote stories by the dozen in an effort to be accepted in fandom; and of course I was. For fandom was made up of people like me; people who wanted to pull up in a shell of their own, and there jeer at the outer world and all the other idiots.
What I mean is, fandom is made up of neurotics. Almost every fan earlier in life had a physical or mental trait that caused his friends to mock and ridicule him. He began to walk alone to school and spend his snare time at home because he didn't want to be found and ridiculed. Of course he had to have something to do, so he started reading and excersising his brain while others excersised their bodies. Eventually he found a magazine of science fiction and began to read stf almost exclusively, because this was even further from reality than other fiction.
He was introduced to fandom eventually, and eagerly joined. One thing almost necessary to man is companionship. He found his companionship and drew even further into his shell, for now he had two things to be teased about; fandom and his other bad trait. He changed his ideas and philosophies of life gradually through the books he read and the other ideas of his companions. The Bible soon became a myth, the idea of God impossible and undesirable for him to believe. He became an agnostic, and maybe even an atheist or he fell prey to Shaverism, Dianetics, Spiritualism, or some other off-trail subject. He could still be accepted in fandom if he were one of these, but not if he were a Christian. That is my idea of a fan.
MARION ZIMMER BRADLEY
It sounds like a foolish fannish cliche to say "Fandom is a way of life", but I could say it, and mean it sincerely--if there was nobody around to laugh, that is. For that is one thing Science Fiction does to most readers; it fosters a sensitivity, a feeling of being on the defensive; of needing to explain one's thoughts and attitudes.
What change has science fiction made in my way of life? I could say honestly that it taught me to think. Why? Because it was different.
I grew up in a milieu dominated by reactionary Republicanism, respect for the Almighty Dollar, superstitious belief in a God who was just a bigger and less admirable Grandpa, prudishness and belief in innocence as the best Gift of God, It was a smug little world, and the carefully chosen books entering into that world were delicately censored to prevent anything ever shaking rigid and bitterly held conviction that the status quo was Life in the Real.
Perhaps I read into those science fiction magazines something that wasn't there, for I made them a symbol of rebellion against the entire rigid mechanism of my constrained society, They acted- as a scapegoat, too, for my family ---- unwilling to believe that any daughter could so betray her upbringing-- blamed "those terrible magazines" for giving me such heretic ideas. Namely; that there could be more than one honestly-held political viewpoint, and that all non-Republicans were not Reds and Bolsheviks, but simply people who chanced to disagree honestly. That there was a standard of life which had nothing to say to a man's occupation or his college degree or his income bracket, but merely with his native intelligence. That the concept of God could be something wider than a Stern Parent. That "innocence" was a transitory superstition left over from Victorian days, having no relevant relationship to decency,
Science fiction taught me one thing; to examine all sides of a problem before making my opinion known. How did it do this? By introducing me to a scope not limited or terrestrial, but universal and all-embracing.
Science fiction also did me a personal service; it saved my faith in God as the supreme power. I had become so rebellious, chafing at the confining limits of "Churchianity", that I was on the point of turning atheist, so silly did the Church idea of God appear to me. Various science fictional readings gave me the idea that there might be more than one correct religious viewpoint without heresy---and encouraged me to seek for one with which my reason and intellect could acquisce with my faith. I found it: not in stf, but because my stf reading had opened my mind to new things.
The reading of science fiction did this, merely by being different; by going, in scope beyond the littlenesses of everyday society as put forth in neurotic modern fiction; by showing a wider horizon, a broader theme of life. Where every story showed a new Earth and a new Universe, my mind grow more flexible, to imagine all this; and the widened imagination showed itself in widened intellect, and at last into an intelligent questioning, where previously had been only a dumb acceptance.
(EDITORS NOTE - The following two essays by Guy Sellman and R. J. Banks were submitted as one entry and should be judged as such. Any vote for one will be considered a vote for both but only one prize will be awarded should they win the contest.....NGB)
I read Science Fiction because I like it. That is the only reason why anyone would read anything---except for religious books like the Bible, the Koran, and others which are either read because of fear of one of the various gods, or because of complete disbelief, and an interest in discrediting the stupid and disjointed writings which keep them alive in the immagination of men.
I like science fiction because it is better written than any other pulp variety of modern fiction. It often has a message as to what man might become were he relieved of the "four horsemen": disease, pestilence, war, and religion. The fact of its few literal prophecies has been overplayed but the fact that I believe many of the descriptions of spaceflight as set forth in science fiction stories are accuratly mirroring the near future, cannot be entirely overlooked. It offers greater variety of backgrounds, characters, themes, and plots than any other type. I could go on listing reasons why I like science fiction until I ran. out of paper and the editor out of patience; but they all boil down to one fact. I think science fiction is superior of other types; since I have one or two reasons for thinking myself superior to most everyone else, I think science fiction is the only type worthy of any degree of attention from me.
The main value that I have derived from continued reading of science fiction is escape. At an expense differing over the years from 10c to 35c, I can buy three hours in a world free of disease; free or being freed of pestilence and death; if at war, at least at war with a clearer mind, and better sense of just what one is at war against; free from the nagging evangelism so characteristic of today's religions, if not free from religion itself. For more of my reasons, you might see the self-praise ads in recent numbers of Galaxy.
Reading science fiction has helped me to a better understanding of life; and, indeed, of myself. It has widened my horizons; led me to read many non-fiction books (OUTLINE OF HISTORY - Wells, THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE- Gibbon, LOST CONTINENTS - de Camp, etc.) which have further broadened my horizons immensly and made my life more enjoyable. I can now greet religious doctrines with a laugh ( a malicious snicker, I freely admit), rather than the curses which I once answered them and which were tainted with the very religion I was maligning.
The only real purpose of any fiction is to provide escape; the fact that science fiction (as do several other types) excites an interest in the gathering of knowledge, and is, to a very limited extent educational in itself, is another purpose which science fiction does accomplish. I cannot think of anything which science fiction does not do that I believe it should, though I'll bet you get at least one article from some sweetly pious christian (Norman! Don't you dare capitalize that "c'') suggesting that science fiction become evangelical.
R. J. BANKS, Jr.
Fandom offers me a means of escape at least on a par with the reading of science fiction. Writing science fiction, even for publication in one's own fanzine is darned hard work---if the finished story is to have any worth whatsoever. Penning articles, features, and departments is not quite so difficult; but it does demand the authors full attention Proper stencilling, and even manipulating a hand-cranked mimeograph is hard work; but I find them mentally relaxing, as opposed to the mental stimulation of writing something original.
Some of. my best friends were drawn from the ranks of fandom: for instance, Leif Alen, Alan Grant, and I could name dozens of others. And all of the pros whom I call my friends were met through fandom. While I was just a reader, I could admire the magnificent craftsmanship of Rog Phillips; Sprague de Camp; Dr. David H. Keller (who prefers to be addressed by his old army title: Colonel); Chad Oliver; and Walter M. Miller, but since having corresponded with them and oth ers, I can admire them as persons. Truthfully, I can say that I have never gotten to know any pro stf writer that I didn't like.
The exclusiveness of science fiction fandom, while not nearly what. it was, can still be counted as one of its virtues. Stamp collecters and model railroad fans are so common that there can be no real mystery or comaraderie between them. Of course, we don't have the complete aloofness of Freemasonry, but it is fairly easy for two or more fen to carry on a coherent conversation in a room crowded with non-fen; without the non-fen having any idea what they are talking about.
A lot has been said about fandom being a sort of glorified apprenticeship to prodom; with Bradbury, Ackerman, Evans, Mullen, Palmer, Lowndes, Erisman, Eshbach, Hamling, Oliver and dozens of others pointed out as examples. Certainly, I admit that those writers who came up through fandom owe a lot to the experience they gained as fen, but I maintain that they HAD a certain spark that would have made them pros anyway. At least one reasonably prominent fan has suggested that fandom, with its reasonably good lines of communication, its equally proficiently talented writers, and its at least above average I.Q.s could d o wonderful work as an evangelical mission "winning souls to God." Attempts have also been made to make fandom merely a Communist Front. I won't comment on either suggestion.
I have dabbled in many hobbies (too many to list) over the last twelve or so years and have found as much pleasure and "egoboo" in fandom as in all others combined. I still play chess, checkers, monopoly Canasta and several other parlor games with more than average skill; but Guy Sellman (my usual oponent) usually beats the sox off me; he also manages to write much better fiction than I, and his articles are usually more entertaining, but I have one consolation---he can't operate my simple old mimeograph!
The most important thing that S-F does for me is to open up new realms of the imagination. Some people collect S-F books and magazines. Not me; I collect ideas. If a story fails to explore a new facet of the imagination, if it doesn't reveal a new concept of life or a new philosophy, if it doesn't at the very least introduce a few new, ingeniously coined, pseudo-scientific words, I consider it trite.
I think most science fiction should be labeled "psuedo-science-fantasy" since the science in it is often contrived and the fiction is of` the fantasy classification. Reading should furnish either information or entertainment. In S-F I look for entertainment, rather than accurate information. If I want facts, I can look in the encyclopedia.
The aim of science fiction should be to entertain and to provide an escape from the everyday humdrum existence. But more than this, its ultimate purpose should be to free us from dogmatism, and encourage mankind to plan for the future, and I mean planning not in the terms of material goods and material goals, but in the terms of spiritual goals and in the cessation of min's inhumanity to man.
It has been said that the most important revolution in human history has been revolution in thought. It is my hope that S-F will help us to break loose from the shackles of traditional anthropomorphic thinking. If S-F can help us to see our stupid selves as other creatures might see us, if it can help us to raise ourselves above the egocentric level of greed, lust, and cruelty, it may accomplish something very valuable.
Text entry and page scans provided by Judy Bemis
Data entry by Judy Bemis
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