Conviction – SynCon 88 – Programme Book – Carey Handfield (FGoH)

Transcribed by Elaine Walker, attempting to preserve any typos and all citations

[pp 11-13]


Carey Handfield

In the revisionist history of Australian science fiction fandom, it has become customary to canonise Fan Guest of Honour, Carey Handfield. His achievements have entered the collective fan consciousness. It was Handfield who ran Aussiecons One and Two. He is Australia’s only representative on the Permanent Floating Worldcon Committee. He runs Nostrilia Press and keeps the keys to the mysterious Australian SF Foundation. What tends to be forgotten is that one doesn’t reach such heights with accumulating a cupboard full of skeletons. Prepare to encounter – the Dark Side of Carey Handfield.

Carey the Fan Publisher

Carey first emerged from the deep recesses of the Monash University SF Association1 for whom, it is rumoured, he edited the clubzine COR SERPENTIS. (This is difficult to verify as, when asked about this, Carey refuses to comment; copies of those early issues seem strangely hard to locate.) In 1970, he joined ANZAPA2 with David Grigg, but managed to avoid doing much about it, except when forced. (He provided a cover for Mailing 13 and ran issues of the Monash zine, COR SERPENTIS, through ANZAPA.) Even this early in his fannish career, Carey’s heart was not in fan publishing and he had started to reveal his true colours:

“At the moment I am trying to help Australia in 75 by selling A in 75 T shirts.”3 And “In many cases Australian fandom is a really apathetic bunch which could do with a good kick in the arse.”4

By June 1972, Carey had well and truly been there and done that. “I have just spent most of the weekend addressing 300 envelopes for COR SERPENTIS 3. This is just the end of a three month struggle to bring out a fanzine. … I did all the work myself, with a little help from jf [John Foyster]. I think I will use a whip next time.”5

It was Carey who needed the whip. “Somehow I always seem to be on the verge of being kicked out of ANZAPA, usually for lack of activity.”6 The remark was prophetic.

Someone who was to be associated with the Official Carey Handfield Fan Club noted Carey’s strengths in a mailing comment. Christine McGowan [later to be Ashby] said, “The trouble with you is that you’re more of an entrepreneur than a performer. Handfield for OBE7.”8

Carey was not slow to confirm this opinion. The very next mailing, we see him attempting to manipulate the course of a world convention in a comment to Tasmanian fan, Michael O’Brien: “I hear that the Hobart casino is opening this weekend. Have you ever thought of having the world con in fandemons land?”9

Mind you, though not himself dedicated to the written word, Carey has never been slow to encourage others, vis the following comment to Leigh and Helen Hyde. “Welcome to Anzapa, it is about time you joined.”10

Carey has never had any illusions about Australian fandom. This is a recurring theme in what little of Carey’s writing is available. Take, for instance, the passage below, written in response to Leigh Edmond’s suggestion that ANZAPA should go monthly. “Basically Australian fans are a lazy lot, too lazy I think to make this monthly mailing bit a regular thing.”11

He was right.

Some time around the lead-up to AUSSIECON, Carey dropped out of ANZAPA, only to rejoin in the flurry of post-AUSSIECON fannishness. He was, by now, established as one of the Obvious Masters of Australian Fandom, to the point that David Grigg could coin the phrase, “It’s all Handfield’s fault”. Carey was using techniques described in YES, PRIME MINISTER before the program was so much as a glint in the BBC’s coffers. A campaign was launched to achieve Christine McGowan’s objective of having Carey become ANZAPA OBE. Carey’s reaction:

“I did not intend to stand for OBE. Derrick [Ashby] pressured me into it. Personally I feel that John Bangsund is the best person for the job. I am only standing so I can be the Emergency OBE when I come second.”12 Needless to say, Carey became OBE but things did not go smoothly, as chronicled by Keith Taylor.

“Long and long had ANZAPA groaned under the merciless heel of a dictator whose fashion of ruling made Nero and President Idi Amin Dada, and even the Governor of Jamaica in CAPTAIN BLOOD, seems like models of humane concern for their fellow man. I refer of course and shudder with loathing as I refer, to the Official Bloody Editor, the abominable Carey Handfield. The misappropriated funds, the international jaunts, the secret trials, the arbitrary floggings and executions – and even dismissals from ANZAPA – these things are matter of record. Of his forcing of his vile attentions on female fans under threat of imprisonment, never again to see the light of day, in the musty dungeons of the Space Age Bookshop13, it were better not to write for the sake of his victims. But these things were remembered, and the memory was a bitter tree, that bore crimson fruit at last.”14

Carey went overseas, for MIDAMERICON, the 1976 World Convention in Kansas City. While he was away, he left ANZAPA in the hands of Leigh Edmonds who decided that Carey had not contributed the number of pages required to maintain membership and so Leigh kicked Carey out, appointing ANZAPA President, Bill Wright, as the caretaker government. (There were those who drew parallels with certain events in Australian politics in late 1975, but such similarities have to be seen as mere coincidences. Few Australian fans had sufficiently recovered from their post-AUSSIECON hangovers to note the events in Canberra.) Carey discovered this while in New Zealand and write a strongly worded missive. Leigh had, by this time, seen the way the tide was flowing and had reinstated Carey on the basis of two pages Carey had sent from Vancouver. (Carey’s technique of submitting just enough material to maintain his ANZAPA membership was, by this time, so well known that Derrick Ashby, in submitting just enough pages to save his own membership, called his contribution, “A La Handfield”. Ironically, it appeared in Mailing 52, the one in which Carey was deposed.)

On his return, Carey took over the reins again, but the whole experience had clearly soured him on publishing. Besides, he was already preparing his position as the official power behind the throne for Australian conventions, as can be seen from the following comment to Don Ashby: “Not bad for a MONOCLAVE15 report although you did leave out one thing and that was that the convention was run by me from behind the scenes.”16

Carey’s influence on ANZAPA was to linger – as noted by Denny Lien, one of Minneapolis’ finest fan writers. “It’s mostly Carey Handfield’s fault. … Carey did a spot or arm twisting and generalised sinister looming about in the cause of intimidating me into the apa when he was staying with me last summer.”17

Carey was dropped from ANZAPA in Mailing 59, his third dismissal, for lack of activity.

Carey the Enforcer

“Dear Marc,
  Since I count you as one of my friends, and I don’t like to see my friends have their heads bashed in, I thought I’d better give you a message.

“It is from Digit Plain who says if you ever try and ‘Red A’18 someone at Brunswick Street again, the Magic Puddin’ Gang will pay you a visit.

“That’s all.

CAREY HANDFIELD”19

For the benefit of those who haven’t had the fortune to read Don Ashby’s account of the Magic Puddin’ Club in the THE METAPHYSICAL REVIEW 4 (edited by Bruce Gillespie), the MPC was a fan household with Tardis-like properties which appeared to house the entire fannish population of Melbourne, plus the occasional ring-in from interstate or overseas. Don’s account makes it clear that Carey was not the saintly figure he now appears to be. “Carey discovered that both John [Ham] … and I could cook, and I have never seen Carey when he wasn’t hungry. He also discovered a nest of neofans he could exploit for the cause of AUSSIECON. Carey turned up at most meal-times, usually armed with what he called ‘wine’ (affectionately known as ‘Handfield Horrible’) and a list of jobs that had to be done yesterday.”20

Carey soon moved to the seat of power, toppling Don Ashby in a manner that Ashby describes thus: “About the beginning of September, Carey Handfield decided to move in, so I gave him my room. I’m not sure how he did that, but next time he shakes your hand, remember to count your fingers afterwards.”21

His talents recognised, Carey became the official Magic Puddin’ Gestapo, in which capacity he drafted the above-quoted letter. (He also occupied that post during EASTERCON in 1979.) His role in assigning captured neofans to STAR TREK conventions has not yet been fully established, but since he appears unlikely to aspire to the Presidency of Austria, that should not be too much of a concern.

What can be seen as a concern can be found in a letter to Leigh Edmonds in 1976. Carey was travelling in the USA, laying the foundations for later worldcon bids but, it would seem, anticipating mass hostage techniques which would later be employed by less fannish groups. “Would someone please send me about $100,000? There are fifty or sixty fans I would like to bring home with me.”22

Carey the Fan

There can be little doubt that Carey’s major skills lie in organisation. Fans are, as Carey has observed, a lazy mob, and Carey has the ability to get people doing things. You will note that he seldom raises his head enough to have it crowned, but he’s always lurking in the background, in jobs that seem ill-defined, but which have a lot to do with getting the actual work done. This, then, is the truly dark side of Carey Handfield. He actually gets things done, a trait that has negative connotations to most of us lazy sods for whom ‘Real Soon Now’ is not just a philosophy but a Way of Life.

It was in recognition of these skills that Carey received the GOLD PLATED CATERPILLAR23 at AUSSIECON TWO and it was to acknowledge Carey’s role in holding together the diverse group who were involved in running AUSSIECON TWO that The Real Official Carey Handfield Fan Club was formed.

It started as a joke, I think. A circular, from the “Official Carey Handfield Fan Club”, announced the formation of such a group, with a joining fee of fifteen dollars, to be sent to “Marc Ortlieb, at PO BOX XXX, Forest Hill, Vict XXXX” and, while I’d nothing to do with the circular, I did think it was a good idea. Thus was formed “The Real Official Carey Handfield Fan Club”, with no joining fee, but with the same address. Black AUSSIECON TWO windcheaters (chosen because only Carey had worn a Black Windcheater at AUSSIECON TWO), emblazoned with the legend REAL OFFICIAL CAREY HANDFIELD FAN CLUB were commissioned. (Some members chose different colours, and those colours were declared black for the purpose of all club activities.)

The first official meeting of the group was at the AUSSIECON TWO Committee wind-up barbeque, where the members, clad in their black AUSSIECON TWO windcheaters, despite the 30°C+ weather, turned out in force. It was too hot for people to wear them for long and so, one by one, the garments were removed and tied around the waists of the members, so that each person had, stretched across his or her backside, the name “CAREY HANDFIELD”. Now that was the Dark Side of Carey Handfield.


  1. The first of the University SF Associations
  2. The Australian and New Zealand Amateur Press Association
  3. Carey Handfield, “Arcturus”, ANZAPA 16, April 1971
  4. ibid
  5. Handfield, “I Was a Teenage Fanzine Editor”, ANZAPA 23, June 1972
  6. Handfield, “Keeping the Hound from the Door”, ANZAPA 25, October 1972
  7. OFFICIAL BLOODY EDITOR – ANZAPA’s functioning official position
  8. Christine McGowan, “Ataxia”, ANZAPA 26, December 1972
  9. Handfield, “Arcturus 5”, ANZAPA 27, February 1973
  10. Handfield, “Arcturus 6”, ANZAPA 28, April 1973
  11. Handfield, “Here is Mud in Your Eye”, ANZAPA 30, June 1973
  12. Handfield, “Kiwis Are a Dying Race”, ANZAPA 48, February 1976
  13. Now defunct Melbourne SF Specialist Bookshop
  14. Keith Taylor, “Quincunx”, ANZAPA 55, April 1977
  15. Convention, with Chris Priest and Vonda McIntyre as GsoH, held at Mannix College, January 1977
  16. Handfield, “Skidhbladhnir”, ANZAPA 55, April 1977
  17. Denny Lien, “Sya-Dasti-Sya-Nasti-Sya-Davak-Tav-Vaski 1”, ANZAPA 56, June 1977
  18. A “Red A” on a fanzine was started by Leigh Edmonds and meant that, unless you do something, you won’t receive a further copy
  19. Handfield, personal correspondence, April 21st 1976
  20. Don Ashby, “Pie in the Sky”, the metaphysical review 4, July 1985
  21. ibid
  22. Handfield, fanew sletter 65, September 1976
  23. An award given, at irregular interlude, by Paul Stevens. GPCs are usually given to people for what they have done to Australian SF. On this occasion, the award was, specifically, given for what Carey had done for Australian SF.

MARC ORTLIEB

About australian sf-history

ASFDAP was set up in 2011 after the rediscovery by the wider SF community of an impressive hoard of Australian SF community related ephemera, fanzines and other materials in the Murdoch University basement.

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