by Don Fabun

The December '51 issue of Bob Silverberg's Spaceship No. 15 has at last struggled through the snows at Emigrant Gap and lies palpitating on our desk. The issue is reviewed elsewhere in the Rd so I won't go into it here except to call your attention to Pg. 25, where, under the heading "Backtalk (A Review of 1951)" Mr. Silverberg says:

1951 was a big year for fanzines, with quantity predominating and quality the keynote. But, in an era where fanzine tendencies are toward the up and up, leaning toward litho format, it's refreshing to note that the outstanding fanzine of 1951, Quandry , is but a mere mimeo publication which has to depend on the sparkle and personality for its popularity, rather than on the $$$ its editor lays out each issue. . .

Now the point at issue here is the apparent thought behind the last sentence. The argument would seem to run like this:
1. There are two types of amateur publications in the fan field; quality magazines and fan magazines.

2. Of the two, only "fan" magazines are truly representative of fan publication.

3. The "quality" magazines achieve their effects because they spend a lot of money, whereas the "poor" fan magazine editor has to make up with good copy what he lacks in finances.

Somewhat the same idea, differently expressed, can be found in Greg Calkin's new Oopsla (Vol. 1, No. 1) in the "Slush Pile" review column and in Rog Phillips' article "How to Pub a FMZ and stay sane." It is also vaguely behind the controversy in Lee Hoffman's Quandry no. 16 concerning the abandonment of the slang "Chicon" in favor of the more dignified "Tenth Annual Science Fiction Convention." Commenting on the name change, Morton D. Paley in Quandry adds, "No one bothered to ask whether fandom wants a respectable convention."

To me, these are straws in the wind that indicate that there is a gap widening between what we are pleased (and probably wrongly so) to call the more "mature" element among science fiction readers and the vociferous, but usually adolescent, "true fans" who seldom, it seems to me, even read science fiction and even less often comment intelligently on it.

In many respects, the "true fan" groups represent a cult. In common with many other more or less spontaneous movements, they have invented an esoteric vocabulary that prevents "outsiders" from knowing what they are talking about and helps to conceal the fact that the "fans" frequently don't know what they are talking about, either.

The manipulation of this esoteric terminology takes place in "fanzines" which, by definition, are mimeographed, leaning heavily towards revealing the amazing fact that there are two sexes, and sometimes, if the editor runs out of material, even mention science fiction.

But there must also be a fairly large group of people who actually read science fiction, who are quite capable of spelling out big words like "magazine", and who attach no special significance to the fact that four letter words can be printed on a mimeograph machine.

These same people feel that it is possible to hold a convention for the purpose of discussing science fiction, meeting authors and publishers in the field, and exchanging ideas. It isn't absolutely necessary to hold a convention for the sole purpose of showing how drunk one can get, or for telling others how many old magazines one has in the attic.

In short, the old style fan is perhaps passing like the dodo; disappearing into that special limbo that now holds the old-style space opera, the bug-eyed monsters, and all the rest of the toys of the infancy of science fiction.

It is a passage that is already reflected in the professional magazines of the field. They are better printed, on better paper; by and large they are printing stories that have some intellectual content. The art work is better; the non-fiction articles are sharper and better informed. The field now supports three quite good magazines, the larger publishing houses are putting some effort and money into printing or reprinting (for the most part) the better science fiction stories.

No, the difference between the "quality" fan magazines and the "true" fan publications is more likely one of attitude than of money, and of the amount of work that is put into it. The attitude differs in that the "quality" magazine is attempting, through the best artwork it can get and a wide range of subject matter and presentation, to reach those science fiction readers who would not be caught dead at a convention, who actually read not only science fiction, but possibly a wide range of other types of literature as well; and to whom the true fan appears as a rather glorified bobby sox type.

The field of imaginative literature is very wide. There is room -- and to spare-- for every type and degree of reader awareness, for every approach and presentation in publication. And, to the extent that they are published by science fiction readers for science fiction readers they will all be "fan" magazines.

Data entry and page scans provided by Judy Bemis

Data entry by Judy Bemis

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