..... One of the cleverest pleas for materiel for someone else's fanzine .....

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The Consternation of Orion

by Walt Willis


(Orion #6, Oct. '54)

IT WAS JAMES WHITE who first noticed it. He belongs to the BIS and reads the articles in Astounding (though of course he doesn't understand them any more than you or I) and he's got what, among fans, passes as a keen serious constructive scientific mind. You would realise this if you ever saw him sailing his motorboat in my bath or flying paper aeroplanes in my living room. All his work shows his deep understanding of the theory of wave mechanics.

Some of the rest of us had of course noticed that odd things were happening in fandom. You couldn't miss it. Fanzines folding and other ones starting with bewildering rapidity. Those that survived changing editors, publishers, formats and titles every issue. Eighth Fandom succeeding Seventh Fandom while Sixth Fandom was loudly protesting its continued existance and Ninth Fandom was rampant in the crudzines. Fans becoming BNFs and retiring into FAPA or OMPA before anyone has heard of them. English fandom active. Derek Pickles paying out money. The London Circle publishing a fanzine. Obviously there was some force at work shaking the very structure of the microcosm.

It was however James White who noticed that each wave of inexplicable phenomena occurred just after the eighth of every other month, and who made the correct deduction.

The explanation came to him as he was re-reading George O. Smith's "Pattern For Conquest". In this story, you will remember, the hero forcibly increases the speed of a beam of light. Since in this universe it is a natural law that the speed of light is constant at 186,000 miles per second, our intrepid hero and his accelerated lightbeam were flung into another universe, one whose natural laws were such that a lightbeam of that speed could exist.

James cleverly reasoned that something similar was happening in fandom, and identified the fannish equivalent of the Mad Scientist. It was Paul Enever, an apparently normal happy-go-lucky fan who concealed beneath his innocent exterior a wild and desperate resolve.

He was going to publish a regular fanzine.

Now in the savage early days of our fannish civilisation many foolish and ignorant people attempted to publish regular fanzines. Only gradually was it realised that such a thing is quite impossible. The natural laws of fandom simply do not permit it. After this had been proven beyond doubt a countless number of times, the concept of a regular fanzine was relegated to the region of chimeras along with Perpetual Motion and the Philosopher's Stone.

Until Enever came along. No one knows what complex and intricate machine is concealed in the framework of that flatbed duplicator of his, and it is better thus. There are things into which the mind of man is not meant to pry, mysteries so awful that they are better left undiscovered. Suffice it to say that by the use of this devilish machine Enever contrived to strain the very fabric of the fannish continuum, and published a regular fanzine.

The results we see all around us, in ever more dreadful form. We live in a strange, half-lit fandom, in transition to the Unknown. All around are the portents of approaching chaos. Nothing is secure or certain any more. Awful things confront us on every side. Already the graves are yawning open and giving up their dead. They stalk among us, the Undead, their disintegrating corpses sending neofen away screaming with terror. Rosenblum and Tucker in the tattered shrouds of The New Futurian and Le Zombie, Harry Turner, D. R. Smith, Dennis Tucker, Nigel Lindsay, Sam Youd, Damon Knight, all walking the earth again as if they were alive.

Friends, we must turn Enever from his mad course before it is too late. We must make him go irregular: preferably more frequent, but at least irregular. A band of stalwarts have by a clever ruse delayed publication of Orion No. 5 by two days and earned a brief respite, but it is not enough. Enever is still bent on his mad endeavour and all our arguments and blandishments have proved to no avail. We need your help, for there is only one way left. The man is a True Fan at heart. We must deluge him with manuscripts and letters of such trancendental brilliance that they will tempt him to alter a publication date to fit one of them in. This is our only choice if fandom as we know it is to survive.

I know it is a lot to ask, but imagine the alternative. One morning we may wake up to find ourselves in another fandom altogether, one where fanzines appear on schedule, faneds keep promises, and Projects materialise as planned. What's wrong with that, do I hear some dewy-cheeked neofan say? Child, think! What would become of Vin¢ Clarke? Have you forgotten SFN?

* "SFN was the title of Vin¢ Clarke's magazine, which was notorious for its inveterate unreliability ... (he had a penchant for Projects too at the time, none of which ever materialised.) However as it happened Paul Enever deleted that [last] sentance, because presumably even by then most of his readers had forgotten SFNews ..." -- WAW, in one of his letters of explanation and encouragement to the publisher [of 'The Willis Papers']

Data entry by Judy Bemis