Fannish History Panel – Continuum 13 – 2017

by Elaine Walker

I went to the panel on Fandom History at Continuum 13 (Triskaidekaphilia) in Melbourne in 2017. Originally it was meant to be a panel on Fandom: Where Did We Come From? Aussiecon 1975, but they had some extra people there who remembered earlier, so the focus of the panel was mostly on Fandom in Australia in the 1950s. The panelists, as far as I can remember, were: Rob Gerant – Assistant editor of Australian SF review; Dick Jenssen – founding Australian SF club (meteorologist?) fond of games, inventor of Ditmar; Lee Harding – involved in fanzines and Leigh Edmonds – former fanzine writer, now writing a history on fandom 1956-1975.

This panel did appear to be recorded, but as yet has not appeard on the continuumcon youtube channel (though I do recommend the GoH speeches which are on there). So this is based on the brief notes that I made during the panel.

Leigh mentioned iOTA which is an efanzine about his project  to write the history of fandom. The supplement Australian Fandom Adventures in Time of iOTA 7can be found at the above link and was available in hard copy at the panel. It contains the timeline from 1927-1966 and some photos.

There was some discussion about how the panelists had got into SF fandom. Leigh Edmonds was stuck in bed for a number of weeks with pneumonia and his parents gave him Dan Dare comics which introduced him to SF. He remembered that George Turner was grabbed by Amazing Stories.

Dick couldn’t remember a time when he wasn’t interested in the strange and usual while his father was a SF fan but pretended he wasn’t. Race Matthews grew up with SF and he pointed out to Dick that the school library had SF books and that the History of Time and Space was buyable in the city. In those days it was not cool to be a nerd (drongo, wet weed, dill)… it was a non-technological society and SF was not approved of. In the 1950 very little SF was to be found in bookshops but the library bound SF american magazines and loaned them for 6p a time.

Melbourne Science Fiction Club (MSFC) was discussed. It was considered to be strange by the generl population  and a comparison was made to jazz clubs in the 1950/1952 era according to Australian Fandom Adventures in Time.

Lee Harding felt like an outsider and found a niche in SF Fandom.

Franklins (the library mentioned above) had fanzines and letter columns. Operation Fantast Magazines got sent to Ken (Jeffreys) by American fans and then distributed from there.

Dick considered that MSFC was the best therapy / support group for someone not sure of their place in the world. He did some basic physics and apparently used the first computer at university to do weather modelling.

Rob, a more recent convert (1966) found out about the Australian SF Review when McGills went to find it and Merv Binns was there. Rob had scientific interests at home while his library had the yellow Gollancz SF hardback classics. The literature that he read was mostly about family and people interactions, but SF helped him look at a bigger part of the world.

Dick stated that in the 1950s and 1960s he was in to very subversive literature – e.g. the Lovers by JSF Human ( alien insect love). The books encouraged acceptance of each other, while the normal world view around that time was restrictive.

There was a discussion about the signs of creativity in fans with the two main ones being producing fanzines and wanting to write Science Fiction.

Etherline was an early magazine/fanzine and a stack of which were sent around the room for people to look at and keep, provided they promised not to dump it in the bin larter. I took Issue 72.

In the initial SF meetings nearly everyone had, or wanted to write science fiction. Lee had been reading New World etc. and ended up writing, in same place as JG Ballard

Blue air mail letters were used for international correspondence as there were no local SF markets.

It was noted that it was important to have your own inbuilt shit detector to enable you to read your own work critically because there was no one else around who could.

There was a mention of Space Age Books run by Merv Binns, which was opposite the library of the university. The university itself proving to be a very good source of customers for the bookshop.

Dick tried writing and decided five pages in that he couldn’t write another 200, so he produced  a couple of SF stories for Perhaps(sp?) but found that he prefers drawing.

Rob did some writing. Bruce had written a lot on Philip K. Dick with his first book being published by Australian Press. At that point they set up the first Australian SF press which included such writers as Greg Egan and Damien Broderick. Together they produced a book on Australian SF from the 50s up.

Rob thought that the snobbery of the establishment was the reason fans had to set up their own publisher / press because the main publishers were not much interested. It appears this has not changed a great deal. For example Penguin are not hugely interested but Harper Collins are now doing a fair bit.

Dick said that SF changed his life, without it he would not have gone on to do physics and use computers. His interest only fell away when his job became more fun.

Lee got solidarity and support for his work but stopped writing and reading 30 years ago. He felt that SF had done its job for him.

Rob thought that SF had enriched his whole life, not just when he sold part of his collection. *grins*

Short summary of Etherline Issue 72

Etherline Science Fiction Journal was published by AFPA (Amateur Fantasy Publications of Australia). It had agents in USA, West and East Coasts, and the UK. It cost 6 pence (6D). A specific date was not given but based on the contents it was published sometime in the last half of 1956.

Issue 72 had on its cover a picture of a crashed spaceship with a robot and a human who was aiming a gun at the robot.

Featuring: (hand written note)
Fletcher Pratt Dies in USA
Nova Novels Suspended
New Mag From Ziff Davis?
Adelaide and Brisbane News

Internal page (2) was an advert for the 5th Australian Science Convention in Melbourne, December 8th and 9th, 1956.

Page 3 was Adelaide News.
Pages 4-9 was an Author Story Listing (32) for Fletcher Pratt compiled by Donald H. Tuck, apparently Fletcher had passed on recently.
Page 9 – the latter half was a short note on the irregularity of Etherline of late and how they hoped this would be fixed soon.
Page 10 had the first instance of Nova News, by E. J. Carnell and also had information about a Convention in London, and the suspension of Noval Novels. There was also an Illustration by McIntyre.
Page 11 – Advert for what was currently in at McGills
Pages 12-13 contained information on a new quarterly magazine called Tomorrow: the World of Science Fiction.
Page 14 had information about the Blue Centaur Book Company and Operation Fantast.
Page 15-16 had Book Reviews (Deep Space by Eric Frank Russell; Escape to Venus by S. Makepeace Lott)
Page 17-18 had Magazine Reviews (Fate; Science Fiction Monthly; Astounding Science Fiction)
Page 19 had a Global Round Up which contained information on fiction sales locals had made, incoming books, magazines that had ceased publishing, and rumoured new magazines.
Pages 20-21 had the Brisbane News.
Page 22 had Fanzine Reviews (A Minus Z Infinity; Peon 36; Umbra 12)
The final internal page, 23, had adverts for the Melbourne Science Fiction Group and someone who apparently did binding of SF collections, presumably magazines. The back page had the contact information, and a 3d Australian stamp.

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