Ted White


what was
that fandom
i saw you with...

Two cycles seemed to go hand-in-hand. One is the cycle of fandoms. The other is a cycle of speculation: What fandom are we in now?

When Bob Silverberg speculated in QUANDRY over the fandoms which had ensued since the original Speer article of over a decade earlier, he unwittingly set off a mad scramble which called itself Seventh Fandom. Since that time, fandom has not been the same. Periodically, prophets rise to announce the eminent demise of one fandom, or the Coming of the next. Different speculators have stated that we are currently in anything from Fifth to Tenth Fandom.

The average fan, old and tired perhaps, yawns knowingly, scratches his head, waves his arms, and says, "Whatinhell difference does it make?"

None, Charlie. But I want to write an article about it.

It seems to me that is wisest to accept the Silverberg thesis that Sixth Fandom began in the earliest fifties. If we want to go back to second-guessing before this point, we might as easily revise Speer while we're at it. And that could destroy the very foundations of First Fandom--they might end up having to admit fans from as recently as 1953 into that exclusive Order.

So let's assume that Sixth Fandom reached its first flower during the height of Q's popularity.

Silverberg felt that Q's death would signal the demise of Sixth Fandom, and a group of younger fans, triumphantly led by Harlan Ellison, eagerly awaited that death to announce their formation of Seventh Fandom.

For many fans of that period, the "Seventh Fandom Group" made up of such fen as Ian McCauley, John Magnus, Jack Harness, Joel Nydahl, Charles Watkins, Ellison and, while he wasn't looking, Dean Grennell, were a lot of noise and not much else. A couple of years later Harlan would utter, in PSYCHOTIC, his famous pronouncement that "the mad dogs have kneed us in the groin," but for the most part fandom just stood about and looked on, much as it would later do while Los Angeles fans romped about with swords and black uniforms. Seventh Fandom badges were in prominent display at the 1953 Phillycon and a 7APA was formed and produced perhaps four quarterly mailings or so, but fandom never took to the self-proclaimed "7th Fandom". It was indifference, not the frenzied knee-thrust of mad dogs, that killed the movement. Then, too, if one new generation of fans could announce the death of a "fandom", and the inauguration of their own, so could the next generation, following on their heels. At least one fanzine article named me as a leader of Eighth Fandom, and an issue of PSYCHOTIC carried the musings of two columnists on the subject of an "8th Fandom". This, no later than 1954 ...

If fandom was resolved that no upstart group of fans--no matter how talented--could announce itself to be the "next fandom", there was considerably less agreement over what had constituted a true Seventh Fandom, and gradually it seemed as though Harlan had won over the mad dogs after all--for fans, when speaking several years later, seemed to accept as fait accompli the existence of a Seventh Fandom in the 1953-54 period.

They were wrong, of course.

If we accept Sixth Fandom's formation as concurrent with QUANDRY's rise to dominance of the fanzine field, and the rise in popularity of Lee Hoffman and Walt Willis, together with the re-emergence of Tucker and Bloch, we will have a beginning. But it is wrong to assume the sixth fandom died with Q.

A pandemic is characterized by the quality of its kind of. And the guns did not die. It peculiar qualities of both their mission as and staff now led a--bound up in the Rev. of wit and humor--which characterized six fandom during quandaries paid a did not disappear when Q. did.

Just as Q was ekeing out its last issues, a young Michigan fan, Joel Nydahl, who, at the age of fourteen, had sold a story to IMAGINATION, began a hectographed fanzine called VEGA. With its third issue, it went mimeo, and with its fifth or sixth, it became a very good fanzine. It was monthly and it quickly attracted columnists like Dean Grennell and Marion Bradley, and printed such milestone articles as Tucker's piece on interlineations--which single-handedly revived the interlineation for a whole new generation of fans. The letter column was rarely lacking in letters from Grennell, Tucker and Bloch, an unholy trio that was as much as anything the most potent symbol of the melding of older fans with the new--for Dean Grennell was then a hyperactive fan whose explosion into fandom in late 1952 made him at once one of the most active of the "7th fandomites", and at the same time their patron, as his maturity naturally elevated him into the ranks of the ghods, Tucker, Bloch and Willis.

VEGA was a flash in the pan. Monthly until just before its last issue, the First Annish (which was mailed out in two fifty-page sections, months late), it went straight to the top of the heap and then winked out of existence. Its life span covered only the last quarter of 1952, and the year of 1953.

But, rising phoenix-like out of VEGA's ashes, was Dick Geis' PSYCHOTIC. I've often wondered about the appropriateness of that title, in the light of Geis' later activities and proclivities, but in any event, here was a dittoed, monthly fanzine, to which The Clique quickly graduated. Its first issues appeared in the fall of 1953, and within the first half-dozen, PSY was The Fanzine. Geis was a sensible editor, and he embellished his pages with the columns of Vernon McCain, and the articles of Grennell, Tucker and all the rest. It was no coincidence that Harlan's last raspberry to the foes of "7th Fandom" appeared in PSY--this was the fanzine where it was happening, baby. Like VEGA and QUANDRY before that, PSY carried the lifeblood of fandom within its pages, and most especially in its lettercolumn. There were no newszines of note then, but if you subscribed to PSY, you were up on everything, from the famous Door Incident at the Midwescon, to the fights of the SFCon with the Hotel Sir Francis Drake.

The pace of publishing a monthly fanzine is wearying, though, and PSY began faltering after its first year. There was no fancy annish to destroy editor Geis in a burst of what was now called "Nydahl's Disease" but PSY began to become less and less regular, although compensated for by larger issues, and Geis was obviously looking for a new direction and new challenges. PSY went photo-offset and half-size "perhaps the only fanzine in this format that wasn't overwhelmed by the pretentiousness of it", then to Gestetner print, and finally to a name change-- SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW.

It was then quite dead as a focal point--and with it died, at last, Sixth Fandom. A neofan, Cliff Gould, tried to pick up the torch but was neither regular nor good enough.

Seventh Fandom did not rise immediately out of the ashes of Sixth. Sixth Fandom had not died a sudden death, but a gradual one, a death by attrition. By the time PSY had effectively folded, there were no notable genzines being published at all.

Where were the ghods? Along with everyone else, they were channelling their activity into the apas. Bob Tucker, Lee Hoffman, Dean Grennell, Robert Bloch -- all were active almost exclusively in FAPA. Walt Willis was still publishing HYPHEN -- a beacon in the dark night of fandom -- but irregularly. SAPS was burgeoning. The Cult had been born in 1954, siphoning off the prodigeous energies of the younger fans. And in England, in 1955, OMPA was formed to perform an analogous function for British fandom.

I joined FAPA with the May, 1955 mailing. I had applied to Sec.-Treas. Redd Boggs in the fall of 1954, and had gotten only 2 FAs before I was invited to join. Two years later, the waiting list was climbing to unheard-of proportions, while at the same time, mailing after mailing, page records were being made and broken.

It was a time of a great migration into the apas. It would be neither the first, nor the last, but it had a great impact upon fandom, since for the first time, a vast majority of the best material in fandom was being published for exclusive groups and was unavailable to newer fans. The apas became the In place to be, and the greatest status was attached to FAPA. Even today, long after the high points in FAPA quality were edged away from, and the group became listless and lackluster, the waiting list remains of approximately the same size as the membership list.

But a turning point was reached. In 1958 several things happened. One was that after the abortive attempt by a triumvirate from New York, London and Antwerp, to launch a newszine, CONTACT, Terry Carr and Ron Ellik waved the other wand, FANAC, and began a weekly newszine. Another motivating force was that the ten-year dream, "South Gate in '58", was being realized. It was four years since the last west coast worldcon, and twelve since the last in Southern California, and many fans seem to have been waiting to reappear from the woodwork of gafia.

Suddenly there were genzines all over the place, and plans for more. John Magnus was publishing RUMBLE. I was publishing a weekly GAFIA NEWSSHEET. Redd Boggs brought out BETE NOIR. Later SHAGGY would be revived, and I would be publishing VOID with Greg Benford. And in the meantime, Terry Carr was turning INNUENDO into one of the finest fanzines of the period.

But FANAC was the focal point. It won a Hugo, and it consistently came in #1 on its own polls. As a newszine, it took the disparate threads of a fragmented fandom and wove them into a whole again, putting fans previously so isolated in their own lives that they'd never heard of each other before into communication. And it had news. Once again, there was a central clearing house for all the news and quasi-news, such as the furor over the WSFS, Inc. and it's legal battles.

While Terry Carr published it, FANAC, although its schedule sometimes faltered, remained the guiding light of fandom. Its circulation huge with paid subscriptions in a time when fans were notorious for their refusal to pay money for fanzines, FANAC remained the center of fandom's paper universe, making and broadcasting the scoop on everything that was happening.

The original Speer Theory of Fandoms included the concept of interregnums--a period in which fandom is in a state of flux, during which there is no central point about which fans coalesce, a time between Fandoms. Silverberg did little with the idea, but I think it is one of the most valid aspect of Speer's structure. As I see it, Sixth Fandom lasted into 1954, lapsing with the death of PSY into an interregnum which itself lasted three years. True Seventh Fandom was born in early 1958, with FANAC, and persisted into 1961, and perhaps as late as the 1962 Chicon, carried on by AXE, and the fandom-wide interest in the second Willis trip.

After 1962? Another interregnum, and one which has persisted despite the attempts of various people, such as myself, to abate it. I published MINAC in 1963 and 1964, and had plans for a monthly genzine which mor or less died amidst the Boondoggle unpleasantness. The period from 1962 on has been marked by another swing into the apas, a swing heightened by the advent, in 1964, of the local weekly apas like the late APA F and still functioning APA L. There are regional apas like the Southern Fandom, Cult-like apas like TAPS, and others, such as APA 45 and INTERAPA and N'APA, which have drawn off much of the younger talent, just as the Cult and WAPA did ten years before them. Some fans now move directly from stark neofandom into an apa without ever becoming aware of the history, traditions, or even existence of general fandom.

As for Eighth Fandom? It's been twelve years now, and we still ain't dere, Sharlie ...

---Ted White


The Curse of the Chambered Nautilus Strikes Again!


Data entry by Judy Bemis
Hard copy provided by Geri Sullivan

Data entry by Judy Bemis

Updated August 29, 2002. If you have a comment about these web pages please send a note to the Fanac Webmaster. Thank you.