Bruce Gillespie: Secret Master, Institution and Fine Fellow – Part 2

The thrilling conclusion. Transcribed by Doug Burbidge.

Another sign of Bruce’s imperfection was his growing involvement in other aspects of science fiction fandom. The Metaphysical Review (or MetRev) grew out of his involvement in the Australia and New Zealand Amateur Press Association, of which he is one of the founder members. This gave Bruce an outlet for expression about his other interests; for example an unhealthy attraction to the music of Simon and Garfunkle (especially Paul Simon) and a more understandable passion for the Rolling Stones. MetRev also gave Bruce a forum in which he could write about the events of his life and the lives of his friends. Births, deaths, marriages, cats, holidays, holidays and day-to-day events all became the themes of his writing. What made his work even more attractive is that Bruce writes well, entertainingly and often with a wry smile peeping around the edge of the words. Over time the subjects that have fascinated Bruce and captivated his readers have changed, as do people through their lives, and Bruce’s ability to express himself and give voice to his friends has intensified.

Bruce Gillespie has become an institution. Others have zipped in and out of science fiction and science fiction fandom, have done a myriad of things, glowed briefly and then declined into obscurity. Not Bruce. After a brief stint out teaching in the wilds of rural Victoria Bruce discovered he was not really teacher material, so he returned to Melbourne and gradually found himself evolving into an editor for a major publisher. At the time, this process of metamorphosis seemed painful and was faithfully reported in his writings as a series of crushing blows. In retrospect, it was simply Bruce’s process of finding his place in the world. And so, in due course, Bruce found love, got married, bought a house and gathered about him a fine collection of books, music and cats (not necessarily all in that order).

We, his readers and friends — they are usually the same thing, followed this process through the pages of SF Commentary and MetRev. Over the decades, many things have changed, mutated and passed on, but Bruce’s publishing has not. True, issues arrive as heavyweight tomes of a hundred pages or more and a year or more apart, and usually two or so at a time, bombarding his readers with a treasure trove of ideas, news and insights. Everyone complains that it is too much too rarely and asks Bruce to publish less more often (if you see what I mean). Bruce smiles, in a glum sort of way, and reminds us about the cost of printing and postage, not to mention the state of his bank balance. There is some economic perspective at work in Bruce’s mind that escapes me (but then I haven’t published a general circulation fanzine in over a decade) so we will have to trust that Bruce knows what he is talking about when he says that it is cheaper to publish big fat fanzines every second year. Perhaps so, but the result is that when the next issues of SF Commentary and MetRev arrive it is like having Bruce visit for a week or two, rather than like having him drop in for a cup of coffee every month or so. It is an intense experience, believe me.

But even if Bruce publishes rarely, the quality and substance of his work is always memorable. Just as important to his long time friends and readers, the steady pulse of his publication has provided a tempo to our lives and work, a reminder of the events — the books, the music, the life experiences — that mark our passage through the weeks, months and years. The arrival of another of Bruce’s fat envelopes is an event in itself and a reminder of the eternal values of life, just the kind of thing that any good institution should give us.

So much for what Bruce has done and why he is such an institution of the science fiction and fandom community in Australia. What about Bruce the person?

When you go looking for him seek the fellow who is a little above average height, a little above average weight, whose hair isn’t what it used to be and who looks a little lugubrious. Not one of the world’s great dressers either — but many science fiction people are that way. But that’s only the exterior.

Beneath that mild mannered exterior is a person of modest passions, a love of music, literature and, above all, other people. Bruce likes talking to people, finding out what they are like, what makes them tick and what turns them on. He enjoys good company and good conversation.

And that’s as much as I’m going to tell you. If you want to know more about Bruce Gillespie the best way to do it is to get to know him personally. You can do it by finding him at the convention and talking to him about your favourite science fiction authors or your favourite composers and performers. Better still, ask him about his top ten novels of 1998 or his favourite 20 all time hit singles… I haven’t mentioned Bruce’s passion for “Best of” lists, that way lies gibbering madness. The other way to get to know Bruce is to get on his mailing list. It’s a long time between drinks, as they say, but you won’t regret it.

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