It has been four years since George Fields began this monumental work, and a little over two years since I caught the torch from his falling hand when he gave up the great race and gafiated. Still, though he never set hand to stencil for it, to him belongs the greatest credit for creation of The Willis Papers -- inspired by the writings of Irish Fandom and the plans to bring Walt over to the States for the Solacon, George began compiling articles which Walt had said he considered among his best, and preparing a publication to benefit the fund which was being raised at the time.
When that fund died, so did George's interest. He never really recovered from the blow, and faded into gafia the following year. But loath to see his greatest project left uncompleted, I got the manuscripts and what little work had been completed -- George's lettering for the Clarke and Berry introduction, and the title page -- and took over, with his dying blessing.
This was about the time the LASFS purchased their Gestetner, and I was able to begin cutting stencils with the security of knowing how they would be run off. In 1959 I finished some twenty stencils, and then got sidetracked on other projects; in 1960 the dust gathered undisturbed on the already-run pages, and the bundle of manuscripts eyed me forlornly from a top shelf in my closet. I cut one stencil that year -- I had been waiting for an explanation of what looked like a typo in one manuscript, and when it arrived, I completed that article and then shelved The Willis Papers once again.
Then came 1961 and the announcement of the new Willis Fund, and it became clear to me that this was the purpose for which George had given his fannish life. I buckled down to work, promising enough people to have The Willis Papers ready for the SeaCon that it would have been tantamount to suicide to have failed. I advertised for the last two needed articles, got them from Les Gerber and Richard Bergeron, asked Bjo to do the cover which Atom had never prepared, and, in August of 1961, I have completed The Willis Papers. Now maybe I can get back to work on Zap #2 ...
This publication, I fear, has been a training ground for me. The first stencils were the first I had ever cut and the first I ever ran off; I'm afraid they show it in spots. My unsure hand learned to wield a stylus on these stencils. But I hope the technical weaknesses will not distract from your enjoyment of our star entertainer; in many cases, the original publication was much worse.
My thanks to all for your patience; my special thanks to the fifteen fans who had enough continuing faith to enter advance orders. And finally, thanks to Walter Alexander Willis, without whom this publication would have been a great deal shorter -- and duller.
-- Ted Johnstone
18 August 1961
Data entry by Judy Bemis