In SF Digest, Walt started a column on the history of Anglofandom. Since it consisted largely of an article by Bill Temple, reprinted from Novae Terrae (1938), we decided to take a trimmed version of Walt's introduction to the article. Besides, we had to fill just one page here to bring our page count out correctly .....


by Walter A. Willis

(from SF Digest #4 November, 1951)

"I shall never break completely with fandom." -- Arthur C. Clarke, VoM #40, March, 1945

Some years ago Rick Sneary sent a questionnaire to various prominent fans. One of his questions was whether it would be a good thing if all fans lived in the same town. With uncommon common sense, most of the fans replied that it wouldn't, because if fans could talk to one another instead of writing, some of the most enjoyable of fan activities would tend to die away, such as fan publishing and letter writing. In London, this is what has actually happened. It has at once the biggest number of fans and the least activity of any city in the English speaking world.

But London fandom is far from dead, whatever unkind things we provincial barbarians may say about it from time to time. Old English fans never die, they merely fade away into the saloon bar of the White Horse Tavern, where every fan in the greater London area congregates on Thursday nights. Coming into this place, the astounded neo-fan feels like his American counterpart entering FAPA and encountering the giants of a former era. But the White Horse is no elephant graveyard, full of whited sepulchers fulfilling their minimum activity requirements. It is more like the Elysian fields. There, any Thursday night, can be seen our ancestors, the legendary heros from the Fancyclopedia, alive and fanning still after their fashion.

So that quotation was not a gibe. Clarke has not broken with fandom, however little he may be known to fandom at large as a fan. He fans still, in the circumscribed way of the London Circle, that microcosm in the microcosm. And as everyone knows who has ever been to the White Horse, or attended a London Convention, Clarke is a very important fan indeed. So important that when Norman Ashfield suggested some time ago that I write a History of British Fandom, he added, "But who knows the full story, except Arthur C. Clarke?"

Well, Ted Carnell, for one, I should think, but we were talking about Clarke. I can air my Carnell Knowledge later. At the time he made the promise quoted above, Clarke was a Flight Lieutenant in the RAF and had just sold his first story. As for the man himself, I have met him only a couple of times and found him very amiable. I can't really say, on that acquaintance, what justification there is for his nickname of "Ego", but on the one hand, it has certainly stuck, and on the other it seems to be used with real affection. As for instance by William F. Temple, that old friend and sparring partner of Clarke's, who shared "The Flat" with him at 88 Gray's Inn Road, one of the most famous addresses in the history of fandom.

Data entry by Judy Bemis