The Harp
that Once
or Twice

(illo: figure illustrating ancient fannish malady - Twonk's Disease)

by Walt Willis

IN VISIONS AND VENTURES, THEODORE Sturgeon has an unusual interpolation:

"He had Mother call up the office and say he had Twonk's Disease, a falling of the armpits (to whom do I owe this gem? Not my gag) and kept up his peregrinations all that night ....".

As we of course know, this particular gem comes from the Fancyclopedia. Speer's original edition in 1944 credits the discovery of Twonk's Disease to the Minneapolis Fantasy Society (c. 1942 -- Bronson, Saari, Dollens, Gergen, Russell, Brackney) but describes it merely as "the ultimate in afflictions of any nature." It was not until Eney's Second Edition in 1959 that the symptom of falling armpits was identified.

Obviously the dissemination by fandom of its medical discoveries is far too slow for safety. To help our professional colleagues keep up with the latest developments in fannish medical research, here is the first edition of the Fannish Medical Dictionary; it will be kept up to the minute in following issues of SFFY. There will be no charge for this service.

Alamnesia. The condition of having forgotten the Alamo, revealed in a letter to Harry Turner's Now and Then (#6, November 1955). There appear to be no harmful side effects, except possibly in Texas.

Anorexia Nervosa.. Recently defined by Bob Shaw as a morbid fear of parkas.

Annishthesia. A state of coma or terminal gafia induced by exhaustion after publishing a very large anniversary issue, combined with disappointment at the absence of the expected paeon of praise.. (That of course is why it's called annishthesia -- there's been no paeon.) There is no known cure except immediate and massive doses of egoboo. The ailment is also known as Nydahl's Disease, after its best-known victim (Joel Nydahl, Vega). Professor rich brown has recently promulgated a theory* of the Conservation of Egoboo, which postulates that the amount of egoboo resulting from any given piece of fanac is constant. He points out that Nydahl is now as famous for his gafia as he would have been if his annish had received the acclaim he expected. But it is implicit in this theory that fame and egoboo are the same thing. This may be true in some circles, but not I think in fandom. If it were so, it would be just as desirable to have the reputation of Claude Degler as Harry Warner, and this is not so. Annishthesia, some authorities believe, is merely a special case of the more widespread ailment known as APAthy (q.v.).


* In Sikander #11, ed. Irwin Hirsh.

(illo: figure illustrating ancient fannish malady - Annisthesia)

APAthy. A type of lethargy to which all fans are subject from time to time, and which may in time result in the end of fandom as we know it. In the fannish continuum egoboo and fanac are related in much the same way as are matter and energy in the material universe. Fanac produces egoboo, and egoboo in turn produces more fanac, in a self-sustaining reaction. But it is important to note that it is not the destruction of one that produces the other, as is the case with matter and energy in the physical universe, but rather the creation of one leads to the creation of the other. Conversely the destruction of one leads to the destruction of the other. If the ratio of egoboo to fanac falls below the critical level the reaction will cease to sustain itself and die. This condition is known as APAthy and is the fannish equivalent of entropy. It is called APAthy because the terminal phase of fandom resembles a universal APA, in which everyone writes of his own affairs and ignores everyone else. There is no recruitment; activity requirements are continually reduced; everywhere the once bright lights of fandom dim and die; it is the Universal Heat Death of fandom.

It follows, I think that the Law of Conservation of Egoboo is a moral law, not a scientific one. It is that if we want fandom to continue, egoboo must never be destroyed or withheld.

Backloggia. Every fan editor in time accumulates a backlog of material which is not good enough to publish and which they dare not return; usually it is from personal friends or respected pros. This is a great source of distress to sensitive fans and may lead to gafia. Fortunately there is a cure, which happens to be the same as for Creeping Perfectionism (q.v.).

Creeping Perfectionism. Normally during the youth of a fanzine, each issue is better than the previous one. But inevitably there comes a time when this is no longer possible, and the editor is faced with the prospect of it being said that he is slipping, that his fanzine is on the skids, and similar hurtful expressions. Some prouder faneds cannot face this prospect and cease publication. The Greeks had a word for this, namely hubris, and certainly very few of their fanzines seem to have survived. There is however a simple and effective cure. It is to nominate a Guest Editor for the next issue, send him the backlog, announce a publication date and take a long holiday. (Ideally a TAFF trip.)

Crogglement. A word invented by Dean Grennell to denote extreme astonishment, and very handy to describe the effect of his puns. One is for some reason reminded of the fact that dock leaves, which are good for nettle stings, are always to be found near nettles.

Gijophanitis. This is the harmless delusion that all American soldiers are science fiction fans. This ailment developed among British fans during and shortly after World War II, when the only Americans they knew were fans and the only Americans they met were soldiers. Thus it was that any American serviceman who happened to be in a hotel where a science fiction convention was being held found himself being stood drinks and invited to room parties. There were of course American servicemen in Europe who were fans, e.g. Lee Jacobs and Ellis Mills, but the person really responsible for all this goodwill was Forrest J. Ackerman who had, almost singlehanded, kept British fans supplied with science fiction, stencils and paper throughout the war. As a result the tradition developed in British fandom that Forry Ackerman was to be included in every mailing list and sent a complimentary copy of every British fan publication. This tradition was still going strong when I entered fandom in 1948, with the result that Forry was the only American to get a copy of Slant #1.

Jacobismus. This is a trauma named after Lee Jacobs who, at the London Convention in 1951, was refused beer in Forry Ackerman's hotel. At that period in the evolution of British fandom there was no Convention Hotel as we know it, everyone making their own arrangements. So Lee was merely a visitor in Forry's hotel and as such under British licensing laws was not entitled to drink there after hours. The harrowing course of trauma Jacobismus was described in Quandry #13, pps. 36 & 37 (Warhoon 28, pps. 77 & 78) and it made a lasting impression on me. So much so, that some 20 years later, by which time I had become a Government official in a position to influence a Government's legislative program, I quietly ensured that guests of a hotel resident could drink at all hours. Good old Lee is dead now, but I think he would have appreciated that kind of memorial.

Kentcoreyism. This is the name given to a state of untidiness so malignant as to interfere with fanac. The classic case is that of Shelby Vick who once sent me a handwritten letter explaining that he had lost his typewriter. In his den. The name derives from an incident during the visit by Professor Harris in 1954, when I made to show him a letter from Kent Corey and was unable to find it despite numerous unhelpful suggestions from Harris. It eventually reappeared, having been used as a bookmark, and since then objects which disappear are said by us to be in the Kent Corey file.

Nebormalia Agitans. This is a state of acute stress and anxiety induced by the conviction that the man next door is getting your mail. It is endemic in neighborhoods where the fan actually meets the postman every morning and is personally handed his electricity bill, newspaper bingo advertisements and Kaleidoscope catalogues. The postman then turns away, still holding in his other hand a bundle consisting of airmail envelopes festooned with American stamps, and bursting with egoboo, large and small clasp envelopes containing fanzines with letters of comment from you, and for all you know the post-Annish issue of Vega and Tom Weber's column for your fanzine. Some fans are unable to restrain themselves from wresting these forcibly from the fellow, and in his learned monograph Through Darkest Ireland with Knife, Fork and Spoon (1954) Professor Harris recounts a harrowing incident in which a prominent fan actually accosted an unfortunate postman in the centre of the city and induced him to hand over a bundle of mail. Fortunately the cure is simple. It is to go to the Post Office and ask for a Form RDM1, for redirection of mail, and forge your neighbor's name to it. It is as well not to attempt the simultaneous interception of the mail of more than a few neighbors, lest attention be attracted by the delivery to your house of mail in sacks. If this does happen, put it about that you have failed to renew your subscription to Readers Digest.

Stigwort's Disease. This is a particularly insidious disease, because it has no symptoms whatsoever. It is therefore very difficult to diagnose. However, for the same reason it is even more suitable than Twonk's Disease for claiming exemption from work when a fan wants to pub his ish. But on the other hand it attracts very little sympathy from friends or relatives, despite the fact that there is no known cure and it is invariably fatal. Victims may survive for 80 or 90 years, maybe more, and then for no apparent reason -- pouf! -- out they go like a light.

Yobberment. Apparently a fate of discombobulation with extreme crogglement. It is mentioned in both editions of the Fancyclopedia in the form of a quotation from the third FAPA mailing and its discovery is attributed to Wollheim and Michel:

"I, THE Mentator Itself, call upon all heypoloyalists to rise and slice these absolte ones, slice them, write and wrothe and then -- then -- Yobber! Yes, Yobber! This is a time for stern measures.

"But first, yob the leader. Yob the pehlth ikself! The pehlth that preens and croes. The very pehlth that durst murmulate The Mentator myself! Vah! Tho we scorn with frange these attempts, yet we warn lesser sorji that things may get out of hand. So forward -- YOBBER TO THE VERY END!"

Not much is known about the longterm effects of yobberment, but fortunately recent research indicates that the Poo remains mightier. All we have to do now is find out what the Poo is.


Yngvi sawed Courtney's boat



Rain is falling in Pimlico, turning to sleet. At the corner of Denbigh Street there is huddled the figure of something that used to be a human being: there is a tin cup beside it and a placard around its neck. Most passers-by avert their eyes from the spectacle of the ultimate in human misery. Others, more callous and more curious, pause to read the placard ... only to reel away in horror and disgust. It says "unable to appreciate the writing of Vince Clarke and Mal Ashworth."* Friends! Can you imagine what it must be like to be deaf to the soaring harmonies of Mal Ashworth, blind to the subtle brilliance of Vince Clarke? Would life be worth living? They say there is no cure for this most terrible of maladies, but it can at least do no harm and may give some hope if you all send this wretched creature small excerpts from your favourite articles by Mal and Vince. As Dean Grennell might have put it, be it ever so humble, there's no place like homeopathy.


* Gist of Joseph Nicholas letter in Xyster #9, ed. Dave Wood.


The louse



"Is not style born out of the shock of new material?" ..................................................... -- Ascribed by Synge to Yeats

"In Europe conversation like tennis -- you hit the ball to the other man and he hits it back -- whereas in America everybody goes on hitting his own ball."........... -- Peter Fleming, quoted by John Berryman in The Freedom of the Poet

"An Empty Book is like an Infants Soul, in which any Thing may be Written. It is Capable of all Things, but containeth Nothing. I hav a Mind to fill this with Profitable Wonders." --Thomas Traherne, Centuries, Poems, and Thanksgivings

"Dreams! adorations! illuminations! religions! the whole boatload of sensitive bullshit!" ...... --Allen Ginsberg, Howl

Data entry by Judy Bemis
Hard copy provided by Geri Sullivan

Data entry by Judy Bemis

Updated November 10, 2002. If you have a comment about these web pages please send a note to the Fanac Webmaster. Thank you.