Contents — eI31 — April 2007
Cover: Amazing Stories, May 1964, by Ed Emshwiller
Through EMSHwiller’s Eyes…, by Luis Ortiz
September 1962, by Earl Kemp
Torture Time in Texas, by Michael Moorcock
“The Club House,” by Mike Deckinger
For Members Only, by Earl Kemp
Christ: An Autobiography, by Rog Phillips
Godfather Stories, by Earl Terry Kemp
Roger Phillips Graham Bibliography, by Earl Terry Kemp
THIS ISSUE OF eI is in memory of two of my dear old friends, Roger Phillips Graham and Ed Emshwiller.
In the exclusively science fiction world, it is also in memory of Elly (Mrs. Robert) Bloch, Mary (Mrs. Robert) Bonfils, Patrice Duvic, David Honigsberg, David Masson, and Kurt Vonnegut.
As always, everything in this issue of eI beneath my byline is part of my in-progress rough-draft memoirs. As such, I would appreciate any corrections, revisions, extensions, anecdotes, photographs, jpegs, or what have you sent to me at email@example.com and thank you in advance for all your help.
Bill Burns is jefe around here. If it wasn’t for him, nothing would get done. He inspires activity. He deserves some really great rewards. It is a privilege and a pleasure to have him working with me to make eI whatever it is.
Other than Bill Burns, Dave Locke, and Robert Lichtman, these are the people who made this issue of eI possible: Martin Alger, Robert Bonfils, Bruce Brenner, Charles Burbee, Jim Caughran, Mike Deckinger, Alex and Phyllis Eisenstein, Carol Emshwiller, Jacques Hamon, Elaine Kemp Harris, Earl Terry Kemp, Barry Malzberg, Luis and Karan Ortiz, and Robert Speray.
ARTWORK: This issue of eI features recycled artwork by Ed Emshwiller, Ray Nelson, and William Rotsler.
By Earl Kemp
We get letters. Some parts of some of them are printable. Your letter of comment is most wanted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by snail mail to P.O. Box 6642, Kingman, AZ 86402-6642 and thank you.
Also, please note, I observe DNQs and make arbitrary and capricious deletions from these letters in order to remain on topic.
This is the official Letter Column of eI, and following are a few quotes from a few of those letters concerning the last issue of eI. All this in an effort to get you to write letters of comment to eI so you can look for them when they appear here.
Sunday February 18, 2007:
My usual "Wow!" reaction. “Fritz Leiber and Eyes” was staggeringly brilliant, one of those pieces I couldn't stop reading and will want to read again more than once.
Real class seems to be fading away today -- it's good to know we can always find it here. It's a special honor to have my story, “Neighbors,” included here, and for thank I thank you.
--Victor J. Banis
Well, CorFlu has ended and zines are popping up on eFanzines again. I was so pleased to see a new eI, that is until I read it.
You see, I never met Bob Tucker. I never met Lee Hoffman. I never had the chance and hearing about the meaning of them from all the sources I’ve been looking at since they both passed, I’ve realized that I missed a massively important part of the story of fandom. I never smoooooothed until Geri Sullivan passed around a bottle of Straight Rye Jim Bean and led the charge at CorFlu this year. I’m a sucker for Straight Rye Beam and discovering that it was Tucker’s bourbon of choice makes me even more unhappy that I never had the chance to tip a little back with him.
Perhaps it’s the fact that I never met LeeH that bothers me more. She was so damn talented. I remember seeing issues of Science Fiction Five Yearly from the ’50s and ’60s when I was young and again recently and they were just so amazing. I’ve read as much of her stuff as I could and she was so damn talented with a sense of humor that seemed to have a bark of its own just below the surface. She was an amazing writer and a fine artist too. She was either an N3F member or at least contributed to The National Fantasy Fan magazine in the 1950s, because I came across a couple of her illos in an issue I bought at an auction about a year ago. It’s a damn shame.
And it all plays to a larger story that annoys me the most. I’ve missed so many people who were the basis for this fandom we’ve built. I’ve missed so many important people, including the guy who probably had more influence over my fan writing Harry Warner, Jr. I made it a point to seek out Dave Kyle, Forry, Jack Speer, and Rusty Hevelin when I was at WorldCon this year (well, I ran into Rusty and made an ass out of myself) and have been lucky enough to get a chance to talk old days with R Twidner. It’s important to me that I get a chance to talk about those things I missed with the people who were there and not just read about them in zines and in All Our Yesterdays. Missing both Tucker and Hoffman means I’ll never get the fullest picture of the times that I had wished.
Thanks much for another great issue, and for the clearing up of the Who Killed Science Fiction problems. It was interesting to read SilverBob’s emails. Even when firing off a simple email about a small matter he’s eminently readable.
Downloaded eI 30 and printed it this morning. Really like Steve's cover. Looking forward to reading it all, but for now note that Mari Wolf in the early '50s photo attributed to Rick Sneary was a real looker. Or so I think....
Tuesday February 20, 2007:
I enjoyed this issue as always. I have to find sufficient time because -- unlike anything else I've read on the net -- it's so absorbing. I get mesmerized by tales of people whose names I've heard here for the first time. You really know how to pick 'em.
Thursday February 22, 2007:
I confess that I just started reading eI. (Corflus have a way of inspiring fanac.) It's a massive treasure trove of wonders. This neo really appreciates the reprinting of Justin Leiber's piece, as I'm sure that even if I hadn't missed it when it came out, I was probably too young to appreciate it anyhow. I hadn't been familiar with Fritz Leiber's work, but this essay has aroused my curiosity. I'm going to read "Who Killed Science Fiction," as I'm afraid it's sadly prophetic in many ways. There's more dreck to dig through these days, but there are some wonderful gems here and there.
Friday February 23, 2007:
It is always weird (to me at least) to read articles about myself even when I am being quoted accurately. But June and I were surprised to see the quote from rich brown (he always wrote his name in lower case). I met him when he was a teenager years before he moved east and always enjoyed his letters, etc. in fanzines. June has no memory of ever meeting him, which makes his take on her first marriage a puzzlement.
Eph did not forbid her to participate in fan activities. She and he are among the LASFSIANS who kept Shangri-LA, the club magazine, alive after Burbee resigned. The problem was that they couldn't afford baby sitters so often she stayed home to look after the kids while he attended club meetings or conventions. They did make it to local noncons and she managed to attend a few hours at the SoLacon in 1958.
The three kids were a few years away from being almost-adults when June and I married. Bob, the oldest came closer to fitting that description being fifteen at the time with Caty next at thirteen. Jay was only eleven. But rich was right about one thing--I couldn't have loved them more had they been fathered by me and I still feel the same way today.
A couple of corrections to the Awards list:
We CO-chaired BoucherCons in 1972, 1976, and 1991.
The 1994 Evans-Freehafer Award was given to both of us by LASFS.
The 1999 Anthony Award was given to both of us for Lifetime Achievement in mystery fandom.
The 2004 Forry Award was given to me by LASFS for Lifetime Achievement in the science fiction field.
The other listings are correct.
Some of the photos came out a bit too dark but then they weren't great photographic art to start with.
The group photo of me, Ernie Wheatley, Rog, etc. has a couple of caption errors. The man on the far right (to Rog's left) with elbow sticking out is Alan Hershey (not "Creasley"). And Bjo's married name at that time was Wells, not Welles.
All in all, a good job.
Wednesday February 28, 2007:
[In eI30, in the Len Moffatt piece, at the photo with the caption “Roger and Honey Graham and Ray Nelson”] The photo of me with Rog Phillips is definitely not me. I don't think I even owned a blazer or suitcoat in those days. I wasn't a suit kind of guy. And is that a pocket protector in the pocket of the guy who is not me? In those days I wouldn't have worn a pocket protector for less than two grand.
Saturday March 3, 2007:
Steve Stiles is one of my favorite fan artists. Remind me to ask him for a cover for a future issue of my fanzine. "Dodo Noir" is wonderful. He's so damn good, and a class act, too; withdrawing his name from the FAAn awards to give other fine artists a chance was an incredibly noble, classy thing to do. Someday I'd like to meet the guy.
Earl, your remembrance of Bob Tucker was brief, but touchingly effective. It just never ceases to amaze me at how much Bob touched so many lives. As you noted, even four months plus after his death just the mention of his name makes me pause for a moment. Nothing we write could ever plumb the depths of his influence. God speed, Bob. Great photo, by the way, of Lee Hoffman with Tucker. I never had the chance to meet LeeH, and certainly wish I had. At least her zines and writings survive, as well as many of her friends.
Perhaps that's the legacy we should be the most grateful for: knowing these people and appreciating all that they have done for this fannish corner of the multiverse. Since we have the technology, it is a Real Good Thing that so many people are archiving old fanzines before the paper crumbles into oblivion. I love paper fanzines; I cut my fannish eyeteeth on them, and doubt that they will ever completely go away. Or least, not for quite a while yet. The main thing is that I am very glad that so many people are preserving our fannish heritage, passing the mythology on to future generations. I will try to do my part.
Terry wrote a wonderful piece on Len Moffatt, someone whose history I know thanks to guys like Harry Warner, Jr., Richard Lynch, Mike Glyer, Ted White, and so on, but again, I have yet to meet the guy. Here's yet another person to add to my "hope to meet someday" list. Shit, this listing's getting pretty long...!
But back to Terry's article. This was an exhaustive work, and tells me things about Len Moffatt that I never before knew from fan history books. His service in WWII, for instance, as part of the occupation force in Nagasaki was sobering. My father, a radioman 2nd class, was probably just offshore on his destroyer at the same time. Len's duties in Nagasaki possibly influenced some of those "weird science fiction" stories he wrote in the post war years.
One other thing of note I learned in this article: I didn't know that Rog Phillips Graham was Terry's godfather. That is kinda cool. I think I have some old pulps with his godfather's stories in them. I know that old Rog wrote a lot of stories under various names.
Thank you, also, for running the Fritz Leiber piece. Justin Leiber is a fine writer, I have to say. This has got to be one of the most in-depth writings about Fritz Leiber, even considering that it's an abridged version of a much longer piece. I will have to peruse the TAMU on-line catalog to see if they have a copy on hand; I have been able to find a lot of critical sf books at the A&M library. Hal Hall, curator of special collections in the TAMU Cushing Library, is a long-time fan and has slowly been building up a sizeable SF & F collection housed in the Cushing. A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of a tour through it with Hal; very impressive collection so far. I mention this because there is a decent amount of Fritz Leiber stuff back in those movable stacks.
Many thanks for the fine effort, Earl. I have to agree with other fannish pundits by saying eI is one of the top e-zines being produced at present.
Wednesday March 14, 2007:
Great Stiles cover, and great quotation by Vonnegut on the contents page. This is a quote environmental groups should adopt. I know what you mean about recycled Rotslers…I’ve been helping John Purcell get his new zine going, and as I started digging, I found not one, but three stashes of Rotslers, one going back to the zine I did with Keith Soltys, Torus, in the early ’90s.
I wanted so much to go to Corflu, and my regrets increase with each glowing report about good times, innovations, and Pat Virzi’s conrunning skills. Now that the 2008 edition will be in Vegas…the temptation is there, mostly because for the next three years or so after that, I simply will not be able to go; they’re too far away.
Great commentary about WKSF?. You’ve got a real fan in Greg Benford. If you were to do it again, Earl, I still think it would be a valuable tool for those who can and will manage and change the genre, presumably for the better.
I have been involved in fandom for 30 years this coming December, and First Fandom will get an e-mail from me soon asking about auxiliary membership. As I became aware of the history of fandom, and what fandom was like beyond the city I was living in, I learned about the characters and personalities in fandom. So many of them are gone now, which indicates to me how much time has passed, and how long I’ve been around here myself. We need sites like eFanzines.com and fanac.org to keep those memories and personalities alive. It may just come down to sitting down and reminiscing, but in the long run, it may be all we have left as time marches on.
Earl, I saw online that you just came back from the LA Paperback Show, and that both Ackerman and Bradbury are in rough shape. This is hard to hear and bear, but I am so glad we went to the LA Worldcon to see them both while they were still alert and could enjoy, perhaps one last time, the adulation of their fans. I couldn’t get Ray’s autograph, but I did get one from Forrie, and I shook his hand. And, I regret that I will never see these two gentlemen again. Of all the people in the photo on page 25, the only person I know there is Bjo, and even though she is in relatively good health, I will probably never see her again, either. We suffer from a surfeit of geography.
I cannot add more to this letter other than to say that I enjoyed Terry’s fanarkle on Len Moffatt and Rog Phillips, and the reprint of the Justin Leiber article on his father. These are memories to be preserved for others to enjoy in the future.
Tuesday March 27, 2007:
Uncharacteristically for me, some comments on your most recent issue…
“So, who’s going to put ‘Ah, Sweet Idiocy!’ on the Web?” asks John Boston. No one that I’m aware of, but Toronto fan Taral is working on a CD edition that ought to be out sometime this year. In addition to the entire text of Laney’s “me-moirs” it will include Alva Rogers’s 1963 “FTL & ASI,” a critical look at ASI through the eyes of someone who was there. There may be other special features as well. Undoubtedly its release will be well publicized.
I really loved your daughter Elaine’s letter. Of your house guests long ago she wrote, “Remember 1960… Walking in the halls of our house I could still see the faces of my heroes. Were they heroes? Or were they the friends and delighted guests that came to our house. These were the people I’d come to know as family.” Her words so echo those of Johnny Burbee in the letter column of Trap Door No. 23, who also grew up with fans in his childhood: “Reading your publication took me back to a time when fanzines were everywhere around the house (and frequently so were visiting fans). The smell of fresh mimeograph ink is etched forever in my brain.” And, “I pity the fan who publishes at Kinko’s, missing out on the fun of creating stencils, then collating, stapling while someone turned the mimeo drum at j-u-s-t the right speed. I believe I was present and pressed into service (as a child) at the creation of a few ‘One Shot’ pubs, crafted in just such an ancient manner. And I tell you, those adults were sure having a lot fun.”
It would be interesting to know Alexei Panshin’s thinking when he wrote that he found his copy of WKSF? “just under my copy of Sex and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parsons, where, no doubt, I should have looked for it in the first place.” What’s his nexus? That aside, I’m glad for the mention of Sex and Rockets, a marvelous book (and a great read except for some chapters that dwell on details of Alistair Crowley’s OTO in much the same way some chapters of Moby Dick cover exhaustively the minute aspects of whaling) that opens a window on a portion of Los Angeles fandom of the ‘40s that overlaps in many ways with Boucher’s novel, Rocket to the Morgue, and was under-noticed by fandom when it appeared. Parsons was a fringe-fan at best, but he intersected with many fans and pros at the time. Alva Rogers wrote an article about him, “Darkhouse,” in the fifth issue of Terry Carr’s Lighthouse, which is quoted extensively in the book. Written pseudonymously by “John Carter” due no doubt to its less than flattering view of L. Ron Hubbard, the trade paper edition remains available through Amazon and other sources and to me is a must-read. A much more recent book on Parsons, Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons, plonks by comparison.
In your “Shuttering the Brick Hotel” you make reference to “Just Another Brick in the Wall,” which you say “was written for Bob’s 90th birthday celebration party.” You cite the August 2001 issue of Spirit of Things Past for its publication. Looking it up, the editorial blurb written by Dick or Leah Smith says that it was ”written for the August 4 Tucker fanquet in Bob’s hometown of Bloomington.” Since Bob was born November 23, 1914, he wouldn’t have been ninety in 2001. All that quibbling aside, “Just Another Brick” is a fine article that doesn’t deserve the oblivion of being forever stuck in a Ditto progress report. You should reprint it here sometime.
I enjoyed Terry’s article on Len Moffatt, someone I’ve known since my own early days in fandom and whom I haven’t seen nearly enough of in the past four decades since I moved away from Los Angeles and didn’t go to enough of the conventions he also attended. We were fellow FAPAns for many years, though, and I retain a large file of fanzines he did either on his own, with June, or with Rick Sneary and others. The mention of him being “a founding member of the Western Pennsylvania Science Fictioneers” reminded me that in my fanzine Frap’s January 1964 issue I published an article by Len looking back on the days when he was new to fandom. It’s called “Her Sensitive Fannish Face” and tells of an encounter he had with an older woman in a Pennsylvania town near the one in which he lived and how it played out. She learned of the WPSF through the pages of Super Science Fiction, which “chartered” the club. I’m attaching a PDF of the article, which upon rereading I think might be a good reprint for eI, although I suppose you would need to get Len’s permission.
Len remembers that Rog Phillips’s “Christ: An Autobiography” originally appeared in an issue of one of Charles Burbee’s FAPAzines. This didn’t sound right to me, and sent me to my files. I have copies of just about every fanzine Burbee ever published—he gave them all to me when he divested himself of his fanzine collection—and I can say with some authority that the article first appeared in the giant “Insurgent Issue” of Spacewarp published in September 1950 by Burbee, Laney, and other members of the L.A. Insurgent element. And ghod it’s good! You ought to reprint it, too.
By Luis Ortiz
In 1949, a French-Italian publisher Edizioni Mondiale (World Editions) had decided that the American market was ripe for Fascination, a heavily illustrated, romance-themed magazine it was publishing in Europe. The American edition of Fascination was launched and immediately failed in selling to a jaded post-war American audience. Salacious gossip magazines like True Confessions were what Americans were reading. A knitting magazine was attempted and also floundered. Casting around for alternative publishing ideas, one of World Editions’ New York-based editors suggested a science fiction magazine. Galaxy Science Fiction was born in October 1950 with that editor, Horace L. Gold, at the de facto helm.
Galaxy had to go up against the gold standard of science fiction periodicals: John W. Campbell, Jr.’s long-established and popular Astounding Science Fiction, as well as Anthony Boucher and Jesse Francis McComas’ more literate Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. To fans, Campbell was a science fiction godhead. He was believed to have the magic touch when it came to finding and publishing the best science fiction, but by the early fifties Campbell was beginning to take a bizarre turn into metaphysical quasi-science, including Dianetics, the creation and pet project of pulp writer L. Ron Hubbard.
Canadian-born Gold had little editorial experience before Galaxy. He did have an eclectic writing background: science fiction and fantasy, radio, comic books, and true-life detective tales. Many of Galaxy’s authors remember Gold as a “nagging presence.” Frederik Pohl, an author’s agent at the time, wrote, “Before Galaxy was a year old it was clearly the place where the action was.” It didn’t hurt that Galaxy was also paying the best rates for the material it published, and this forced Campbell to play catch up. Gold had bigger ambitions for Galaxy. As author Barry Malzberg once pointed out, “Horace Gold earnestly believed that Galaxy could eventually appeal to as many people as The Saturday Evening Post.”
The man who directed Galaxy and made it an immediate contender on newsstands was looking to publish upscale science fiction that was intelligent and socially aware. Physically and emotionally, Gold seemed unsuitable for the job. A spinal injury during an army stint in the Pacific would handicap him throughout his life. The whole time he worked on Galaxy, Gold admitted that due to “… being so high on anxiety and Seconal — and having agonizing back pains...my mind was in a constant fog.” Gold also suffered from severe agoraphobia and rarely left his Manhattan apartment.
Unknown to many of its writers and artists, Galaxy’s future was on shaky ground during that first year. Behind the scenes there were rumors that the magazine was going under. In September 1951, the magazine was sold to print broker Robert M. Guinn, who formed Galaxy Publishing Corporation, and for all intents and purposes World Editions left the North American magazine market. Galaxy found its footing with Gold in complete editorial control. Six months earlier Ed Emshwiller had sold his first professional art to the magazine.
At the start of his art career, Ed focused on the science fiction field. After leaving art school, and getting married to a fellow art student, Carol Fries, Ed decided that fine art was too risky a proposition, and realized that slick magazines like Saturday Evening Post, Look, and Colliers would allow him little freedom. His father was a pulp reader and Ed grew up with the images of science fiction. He thought that in smaller venues, like SF pulp magazines, he would be free to explore his own ideas. By the early fifties, the physical format called pulp magazines, 7 by 10 inches in dimension, printed on low-grade pulpwood paper, were already looked upon as old-fashioned and newsstand distributors mostly saw them as unprofitable. To survive, most of the pulps were moving to a digest size 5.5 by 7 inches format.
Galaxy’ art director, Washington Van der Poel, appreciated Ed’s ability to create evocative cover art that contained a narrative hook. Emshwiller’s appearance, in the spring of 1951, at Galaxy’s midtown offices with ready-to-use paintings in hand was any art director’s dream. From the get-go Ed had no trouble understanding the economics of pulp publishing, especially “ghetto science fiction,” as it was called by one of its early women practitioners, Judith Merril.
Ed’s debut as an artist was the June 1951 Galaxy science fiction magazine, with a gouache pulled from his portfolio. The piece was titled “Relics of an Extinct Race.” It is hard to imagine today that the scene it presented, of alien archeologists coming across the historical record of mankind’s self-destruction — as depicted through the strata of weapons deposited by successive epochs of violent human civilizations — was not painted with Galaxy in mind, but this painting was done at Carol’s parents’ home in Ann Arbor while the first issues of Galaxy were hitting newsstands.
For the most part, H.L. Gold worked out of his apartment in Stuyvesant Town on East 14th Street where it seemed that much of Galaxy’s business revolved around the weekly poker games that Gold held in his dining room. There, between manuscripts, galley proofs, cover press sheets, beer, and make-ready copies of the magazine, the Friday night games of fifteen-cent-limit, seven-card high-low, Stud, Anaconda, or Iron Cross (all played on a green baize cloth that covered the dining-room table) would engage regulars, and such semi-regulars as Jerome Bixby, Fred Pohl, Algis Budrys, Robert Sheckley, and avant-garde composer John Cage. Ed was one of the semi-regulars. (Carol Emshwiller remembers, “I got mad cause he always lost.”)
Like John Campbell, Gold badgered his writers with story ideas. Both editors were constantly polling their readers for their preferences in stories. Gold had even asked the opinions of writers regarding the layout and logo of Galaxy before the first issue came out. Boucher commented once that the SF field was rich in editors that “truly edit rather than merely assemble” by stimulating authors with seed-ideas, then reaping the harvest. Some Galaxy authors appreciated Gold’s coaching more than others.
One writer, William Tenn, wrote of Gold’s housebound working arrangement: “Horace created a unique milieu in that cave in Stuyvesant Town […] just as Campbell had earlier created one in his Street & Smith office. If you lived in that milieu, if you moved in it at all, if you did nothing more than correspond with it from time to time, you were enlarged in special ways and began to move in directions that were novel to you and remarkably exciting.” Tenn also called Gold “[…] one of the most irritating and aggravating men I’ve ever known.”
Gold had many contradictions: as an ex-radical he was afraid, at the height of McCarthyism, to publish fellow traveler William Tenn’s “The Liberation of Earth,” a story attacking both American and Russian involvement in the Korean War (Robert “Doc” Lowndes wound up taking the story for Science Fiction). To be fair, Gold did publish other stories attacking McCarthy’s methods, including Asimov’s “The Martian Way” and Bernard Wolfe’s neglected “Self Portrait,” about the sort of person who would thrive in a McCarthy world. However, by the end of the decade Gold was allowing his emotional predilections to color his selection of stories, and authors who knew which buttons to press believed they had an advantage in selling to Galaxy.
On September 12, 1952, Ed was one of the people at Galaxy’s second anniversary party. Gold knew how big an accomplishment it was to survive two years in the magazine world. The party was held at a steakhouse around the corner from Galaxy’s West 40th Street office — without Gold’s presence. Ed memorialized the event on the cover of the October 1952 issue of Galaxy, but pictured the occasion at Gold’s apartment — with Gold at the center of the party.
By any standard the 1952-53 period was a pretty good time for science fiction. Ed socialized with SF writers but got his directives from the various magazine art editors: W.I. van der Poel at Galaxy, and George Salter at Fantasy & Science Fiction, were both creative professionals and not real SF fans. Salter at Mercury Press was a German expatriate who had learned his trade in theatre and book publishing, and possessed an almost ethereal sense of design and typography, which gave the early issues of Fantasy & Science Fiction a sophisticated and classy look. Ed’s early paintings for F&SF reflected a more artistic approach, and a general shunning of pulp clichés. Other art directors, like Milton Luros at Columbia Publications (before editor Robert W. Lowndes took over the job), came out of the pulp field, and Ed’s work for them reflected this pulpishness.
Rates for cover art ranged anywhere from a high of $150 for the top science fiction magazines like Galaxy and F&SF to the bottom rate, starting at around $50. Ed could do a cover painting in two or three days and was soon making a comfortable living. For interior black and white line drawings, Emshwiller would average $20 an illustration.
By the end of 1952 Ed had achieved a big measure of recognition for himself in the science fiction field. Twenty-nine different American science fiction titles appeared in that year, with a total of 153 individual issues — Ed’s art was in a third of all those SF magazines. He had also begun to create dust jacket art and design for (“Doc” Lowndes at) the small SF publisher Avalon Books and in December 1953 Marty Greenberg, publisher of Gnome Press, most successful of the science fiction specialty houses, ordered four hardcover dust jackets. These were black and white paintings that would be converted into color by the printer. On February 3, 1954, Greenberg invited Ed on a trip to Lebanon PA, where Gnome Press did its four color printing, to see how monochromatic artwork was turned into color. Ed learned the printer’s trick of “faking of color” by using overlays to indicate where a particular color ink will appear.
Most of the editors were on friendly terms and did not see each other’s magazines as competitors. Ed saw the clubhouse camaraderie among editors, and began studying the various magazines with the intent of doing art for as many as possible. Besides his art appearing in three of the four premiere SF magazines Amazing Stories, Galaxy, and F&SF, by mid 1953 Ed was working for Thrilling Wonder Stories, Space Stories, Startling Stories, Science Fiction, Rocket Stories, Fantastic Story Magazine, and Fantasy Magazine. The only place he had not been able to break into was Campbell’s Astounding Science Fiction. Street & Smith had its own established artists and Ed was an unknown quantity to them.
Galaxy’s policy during the fifties was to keep the original art after getting it back from the printer. Ed, however, needed his samples to show to other art directors and asked to get these paintings back. Van der Poel accommodated Ed. Many magazine publishers had the same almost paranoid tic of not returning art—some created “glory walls” to display art in their offices. The official line given for hanging on to original art was to keep it from being used in other competing publications. Of course, once art began to overwhelm offices and storage rooms, it was routinely tossed into trash bins without a second thought.
Ed’s request for the return of his samples saved many of these early paintings and allowed his family to benefit from the sale of original art later. Afterward, Galaxy covers done on commission were not given back. (In an ad in the January 1972 Galaxy, publisher Robert M. Guinn made an offer to readers that they could buy art from the magazine as souvenirs, and in this way he managed to get rid of art taking up room in his garage and make a secondary profit at the same time.)
One incident worked to the benefit of both publisher and artist. Ed walked into F&SF’s offices in Manhattan and as usual spent a little time looking at their “glory wall” of art. He would use his waiting time to examine other artists’ work, but this day he noticed that one of his own works had changed. Looking closely he saw that his first piece for F&SF titled “Love” had two inches trimmed from the bottom of the painting. This had been one of his original portfolio samples and Ed hit the roof.
“What have you done to my painting? You have modified it!”
The original painting had a flat expanse of reddish color in the foreground and this area had been trimmed off to fit the frame they had available. In Ed’s view, the Procrustean cut had changed his whole composition. “We didn’t think it was important,” someone in the office said, trying to mollify him.
“It’s very important. You can’t do that to my art.”
An abashed office worker reassured him that such a thing would not happen again.
“If I can’t trust you to hold onto my art, I will have to get it all back.”
Tony Boucher, and publisher Lawrence Spivak, had an old-fashioned, gentleman’s sense of publishing and had no problem with returning art when Ed’s request was relayed to them. This began a standing policy that Ed had with F&SF. One Emsh art collector, Alex Eisenstein, believes this may have led to Ed doing his best art for that magazine.
In other cases, several of Ed’s unused early samples were eventually updated and refined by him for later use. The cover to Space Stories for October 1952 showed a group of spacemen racing to board a delta-wing rocket poised on a take-off ramp. In the original sample the spaceport is under bombardment by missiles. In the printed piece all evidence of the space battle has been removed (very likely at the direction of an art editor), but the spacemen are still racing to the spaceship, making the viewer wonder, “what’s the rush?”
Ed and Carol discovered how challenging a Manhattan tenement apartment is when in the summer of 1951 they moved into a tiny, airless one-room studio, with a shared bathroom at the end of the outside hall, on West 110th Street near Columbia University. Ed’s notion of a job went against the grain of what a million other ex-GIs across the country were doing (mostly manufacturing work). He woke early every morning, and after shaving, he would set up his art materials on a small table, along with the photo clippings he had collected from magazines and the Midtown Library Photo Department, and worked on samples or commissions. At night Ed took classes in lithography and silk-screening at the Art Students League on West 57th Street.
Ed’s art was everywhere — sophisticated, artistic scenes for Fantasy & Science Fiction; monsters threatening spacemen for Space Stories; sexy girl art for Startling Stories; gigantic rockets dwarfing the landscape for Thrilling Wonder Stories; the witty use of SF tropes for Galaxy and Rocket Stories. The only other artist in the field nearly as prolific was Frank Kelly Freas. Robert W. Lowndes, editor of Future Science Fiction and Science Fiction Stories (and Avalon books), recalled “Kelly was great fun and came forth with brilliant things; Emsh was more reliable in the long run and could do more with seemingly ordinary scenes – while he seldom matched Freas at Freas’ very best, I do not recall him ever being as thoroughly bad as Kelly could be in an off period. I refuse to try to decide which was the better SF artist; both are unforgettable for anyone who was a science fictionist during that time.”
There were times when Ed tried to push other styles of art to his clients. On May 6, 1953, he was in the offices of F&SF for an art conference with Lawrence Spivak and George Salter. Ed had the idea to do a symbolic cover for a story called “Letter to a Tiger” (October 1953). At first Spivak and art editor Salter objected to Ed’s idea. Ed spent a few hours talking them into going along with his original concept. Ed said afterward, “As far as I know it is the most symbolic, non-illustrative cover they’ve used since they have gone in for SF covers.” Ed had gotten away with a highly unusual cover for the story “Beyond Bedlam” in Galaxy, though here the case could be made that the art matched the story idea of a schizophrenic society.
Even though Van der Poel tried to have a balance of artists in every issue, the June 1953 Galaxy included Emsh art on four stories. Ed was prolific enough that magazines began using pseudonyms for him: Ed Emsler in Amazing Stories and Planet Stories, Ed Alexander and Willer in Galaxy; other pen names included Harry Gars and Ed Emsch. He worked primarily in gouache, opaque watercolors, since most other mediums were too slow drying for the tight deadlines he had to make many times. Most of his black and white interior illustrations were done on scratchboard (a board covered with chalky substrate which is then inked and scratched with a sharp object to reveal white lines in the manner of a woodcut).
Ed’s SF art was seen to good effect in F&SF and Galaxy due to the better 4-color printing and cover stock used by both magazines, but he got some unjustified flak from fans at other publications. In response to negative letters for a cover Ed did at Fantastic Story Magazine (September 1952), editor Sam Mines replied, “The story on that Emsh painting for September was mostly one of loss in printing. The original cover was very good and very effective. Otherwise we wouldn’t have bought it. But no one could foresee the almost complete loss of detail, which ensued in the printing and the general muddying up.” This was a problem Ed would encounter throughout his career.
Over the Labor Day weekend in 1953, the Eleventh World Science Fiction Convention was held at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia. Some 650 fans and professionals attended, including Ed Emsh. On Sunday, September 6, Ed served as one of the judges, along with Kelly Freas, at the masquerade. Later that night at the overpriced banquet, with Isaac Asimov serving as toastmaster, the first ever Hugo Awards were handed out (though they were only called achievement awards that night) and there was a tie for professional magazine: Galaxy and Astounding Science Fiction (which could be considered a rebuke of Campbell’s pseudo-science dalliances), and a tie for cover artist: between longtime fan favorite Hannes Bok and Ed Emsh. (The awards were for work done in 1952, a year when Bok had been mostly inactive in the field.) Then, as now, the winners of Hugo awards reflected the best of science fiction as recognized by hardcore fans—making it more of a popularity contest.
Where artists like Bok looked to older schools of art, Ed, Richard Powers, and Freas were part of a new generation of post-war artists, steeped in 20th modern century art, who had emerged with the general boom in science fiction. As if to underscore this growth, within walking distance, or a short bus ride, of the convention hotel, there were six SF&f movies playing: It Came from Outer Space; Beast from 20,000 Fathoms; Invaders from Mars; The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T: Scared Stiff; and Four-Sided Triangle. (Obviously, theaters were catering to the SF fans in town, but the wide choice of recent movies is telling.) What the general population thought of science fiction could be seen in the Philadelphia movie houses, and in one local newspaper account of the con: Would Be Zoomies Meet In Philadelphia.
The science fiction crowd saw Ed as a cool “big-name-pro.” For one thing artists were still rare at SF cons: Bok and Finlay avoided crowds; Powers appeared at one 1950s gathering and was not seen again for years. Freas was one of the few regular artist con attendees during the decade. For many journeymen artists, toiling in the science fiction fields was a minor part of their output. A teenaged Harlan Ellison first met Ed face-to-face at the Philcon after having contacted him by mail to get art for his fanzine.
Many SF artists were based in and around New York, but (with very few exceptions) seemed to lack any interest in the cauldron of modernistic schools of fine art bubbling around them, much less catering to science fiction fans. For these artists, art was a job—the more direction they received, the better they were able to produce. Their point of visual reference was more likely to come from B films, such as Rocketship X-M and Destination Moon. And, of course, Hollywood was not above using images and ideas pilfered from SF magazines.
Commercial artists did not endear themselves to art directors by bringing new ideas into the air. Then as today, art editors saw artists as craftsmen deployed in the service of an idea already fixed, if not fully focused, in the art director’s mind. (Richard Powers appears to be the only other artist making any attempt at fusing SF art and modernistic art—in his case, surrealism. Most art directors knew better than to try to give detailed directions to Powers.) Where Ed’s drawing skills and his awareness of modern art led him to experiment, most SF artists were content to stick with straightforward figurative and realistic art. Even though he was shot down many times, Ed was always mixing in a few concept sketches that pushed the boundaries of SF art when making the rounds of magazine art directors.
In January 1954 Ed produced over $1,300 worth of art, his best month ever. That month he finished four hardcover dust jackets, three magazine covers, and a dozen or more interior illustrations. Ed also learned that he had overpaid his last quarterly income tax for 1953 and had enough credit to cover his first tax payment of 1954. For the first time, he had a sense of doing more than just making a subsistence living. Ed believed that his most recent work had taken a big leap in development and would open new doors once art directors saw it.
In the mid-fifties every newsstand carried a spate of SF magazines and any writer of minimum competence, who could fill the bill, had a better than even chance of selling to the field. It didn’t hurt if a writer was already a fan reading the stuff. Most of the field’s editors were not looking to transcend the genre—it was hard enough finding writers that weren’t trying to turn westerns into SF. Emsh was seen as someone who could give instant visual cachet to a new magazine. Infinity Science Fiction appeared at the end of 1955, and after the first issue editor Larry Shaw snared Ed as the magazine’s excusive cover artist. Editor Larry Shaw knew what he was doing. He also used Robert Silverberg as one of the primary writers for Infinity, under various pen names.
“Doc Lowndes” was another SF fan turned pro who had been slogging in pulp publishing since 1941 as a jack-of-all-trades for Columbia Publications. Over the interim he had developed close friendships with many SF writers and artists, who he used in an assortment of magazines he helmed: Famous Detective, Future Science Fiction, SF Quarterly, Dynamic Mystery, Sports Winners, and Double Action Western. Lowndes began working in pulps as a young man and was one of the original members of the Futurians, a New York City kibbutz of SF fans that included Damon Knight, Fred Pohl, Cyril Kornbluth, and Isaac Asimov. As Lowndes later reflected, “… my connections, and freedom from some of the more pointless taboos of formula pulp fiction, resulted in my getting many stories which another person might not have gotten at the rates we could pay.”
Carol began taking an interest in the contents of the science fiction magazines that came into the house and tagged along with Ed to some of the local science fiction conventions. “I guess what triggered my first stories was wanting to join all those SF people I met through Ed and the fact that they talked about writing as if it was a chess game and a normal person could learn to do it.” The science fiction boom was as fortuitous for Carol as it was for Ed. Robert Lowndes, perpetually working with a shoestring budget, bought Carol’s story “This Thing Called Love” in the summer of 1955 for Future Science Fiction at half a cent a word.
Ed would have his own bust and boom period, times where he would work 60-70 hours a week and times where he would find himself mowing the lawn midweek. He was doing mystery covers for Mercury Publications, including Ellery Queen and Mercury Mystery Book-Magazine, and was considering getting an artist’s rep to go after higher paying markets. Digging up new accounts was a “grind” and a rep could do the legwork for him.
He was hoping to crack the paperback field. “If things go through as hoped I’ll get $250-$300 per cover, which is better than I’ve done to date.” He had shown some surrealistic color photos to Van der Poel who was “quite enthusiastic” about them. Ed’s aim was to get him to use them for Galaxy and Beyond, but both magazines stuck to illustrative covers.
Columbia Publications paid some of the lowest rates in the field for art and fiction, but Ed found Robert Lowndes, who had learned every aspect of magazine publishing from the ground up, one of the more likeable editors to work with and offered to illustrate Carol’s stories published in Future Science Fiction and Original Science Fiction Stories. This led to Lowndes using more Emsh art. A cost-saving trick that Lowndes used extensively was to have stories written around already purchased cover art.
Magazine publishers could get cheaper printing by “gang printing” covers from different magazines on one sheet (this led to many publishers having a stable of companion magazines to cut cost), but this also meant that covers had to be created well in advance, with stories to match — in many cases written later. (Hugo Gernsback got around this by running contests for the best story written around cover art.)
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction had used Ed’s cover art to generate the story “Love” by Richard Wilson in their June 1952 issue. (It had been one of Ed’s original Ann Arbor art samples, bought straight out of his portfolio.) This practice worked better in theory than in execution, but publishers believed readers looked for stories connected to the cover art in a magazine. All major SF writers did at least one story using this method at some point in their careers. The list includes Sturgeon, Leiber, Merril, Knight, Kornbluth, and Asimov.
Ed was adept at “dreaming up ideas” for his own “story” images, and Lowndes utilized Emsh’s paintings as inspiration for authors to write catch-up stories later. Lowndes assigned stories based on art to various authors, but was unhappy with the results—until he began using Silverberg.
Lowndes would supply Emsh sketches or a cover proof to Silverberg—sometimes Ed would be in the office and give a verbal description of his next cover, or do a quick sketch for Silverberg. “Ed’s cover ideas were always clever ones, with a clear narrative line visible in them, and I had no difficulty turning them into stories.”
Silverberg, who did quite a number of Lowndes’ art first, story second science fiction assignments, remembers: “[In] one situation Ed Emsh and Bob Lowndes presented me with: a log raft, moving through space with a kind of rocket engine clamped onto the back, with two people sitting upon it. Well, I brooded about that for a while and I worked out what I thought was a convincing enough explanation for how a log raft would be going through space, how it would hold together, and how they would ever get it off the ground. I had them leaving an asteroid where there wasn’t much of a thrust problem.”
Silverberg saw these cover assignments as “amusing challenges.” The space life raft was “…more fun than usual because of the oddball imagery of the painting.”
Another author, Randall Garrett, invented the Remshaw Drive for a story after he was given a black and white photostat of a painting showing a strange gadget. Ed had placed his signature on the circular band of a vacuum tube and Garrett saw it as the partially visible brand name of this piece of electronics.
Ed thought of these narrative paintings as “… poster[s] which [had] a gimmick [….] There have been covers where I have tried to do a little bit more; tried to imply a little sequence of events; but I think that a painting is a very limited medium in that sense. It can, at most, imply and sometimes tell a story. But most of the time, despite the Chinese with their painting that equals a thousand words, the statement that can be made with a painting is only sort of a one-shot, whereas a story is an evolution. I never try to tell that evolution in a painting.”
During the summer of 1957, Ed brought in a cover showing two men in spacesuits on a dismal planet racing away from a glass dome station melting in the first rays of sunrise. Lowndes gave Silverberg a photograph of the art and the author quickly worked out an explanation for the unexpected fiery sunrise by setting his story on the planet closest to the sun. He wrote “Sunrise on Mercury” in a day. Another time in Lowndes’ cramped, dingy Church Street office near the pointed tip of Manhattan, Ed joined Silverberg to work out an idea for a cover and story. The three hashed out ideas till they settled on one, and Ed and Silverberg walked out to the street—each reassured that they had the story concept well in mind. A week later, artist and author were surprised to see that their finished work appeared to have nothing in common.
Harlan Ellison remembers that a day would be set aside for the viewing of cover art at Amazing Stories. On that day authors would arrive at the magazine’s office to see the paintings already set up on chairs, and select one to write a story around. There would be nine or ten paintings, and if you got there late, as Harlan once did, you might be stuck with a painting of a giant praying mantis watching a girl sunbathing nude on a rooftop. Most SF authors preferred working from Ed’s art, which always used plausible scientific principles. Though Ed stated in a panel at Pittcon in 1960, “I’ve been encouraged to do…flagrantly wrong ideas on covers simply for the effect…. I believe in doing scientifically accurate work in many cases…[but] I will do jobs, gladly, that have an effect which I know full well is not supportable scientifically.”
Ed’s SF machinery looked like it could work in the real world. The cover to Infinity Science Fiction for October 1957 showed a woman (with Carol the model) in a sleek space-bubble craft waving to a man in a spacesuit riding an open tri-rocket-chair that looks perfectly functional — and fun. His robots were not Mr. Machine toys, but show honest thought on how they would function in the real world.
An arbitrary publishers’ quirk that happened to Ed more times than he liked to remember, was changes made to his art without his knowledge. In one instance, Ed had painted a scene of a spaceman in profile with an alien flying insect alighting on his bubble helmet for the August 1955 Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. His original art showed foliage behind the spaceman, with the nose of a rocket peeking above the treetops. Without informing Ed, the magazine had some unknown artist paint out the foliage and render in its place a sparse environment with purple mountains and a futuristic city in the distance. A space-rocket with fins is now fully shown in the middle ground. The changes were done either on a separate piece of illustration board, that was removed when the art was returned to Ed, or on the film pulled for printing. Even the distortions and reflections visible in the spaceman’s transparent helmet were redone. There seemed to be little rhyme or reason for these changes.
One quirky SF editor (in a field fraught with eccentric editors) who gave Ed and many writers pause during the fifties, was John Wood Campbell Jr. at Astounding Science Fiction. Campbell spent endless hours tucked away in his cell-like office situated above the printing plant of his publisher Street & Smith. The two things he seemed to like best were smoking and talking — usually done together. In outward appearance, SF was a marginal and disposable literature, mostly alive in magazines from 1926 through the 1950s, but beginning in 1938 Campbell single-handedly gave SF a gravity heretofore unknown by forcing his writers to work harder for their penny a word. He expected his authors to know their science as well as to be able to write to his standards. It is a testament to Campbell’s despotic vision that he did shift the field, single-handedly, onto a new path.
Science fiction may have been on an evolutionary fast track after John W. Campbell, but book publishers still lagged behind, afraid to publish what they considered absurd fantasies. It took two 1946 anthologies, Random House’s Adventures in Time & Space, put together by J. Francis McComas and Raymond J. Healy, and Crown Publishing’s The Best of Science Fiction—both books culled most of their stories from Campbell’s magazine—to alert non-pulp purveyors to some of the marvels available at dime-store newsstands. In a post-atomic world, both hardcover science fiction collections sold over 30,000 copies at $3 a book, surprising their respective publishers.
On February 14, 1955, Ed met with Campbell in his Manhattan office. Their previous meeting four years earlier had led nowhere. This time Campbell was more receptive, and Ed left with a cover art assignment. Astounding had the best rates in the SF magazine field and Ed was glad to get the work.
For a long time Campbell was the field, but by the fifties Astounding Science Fiction was showing some chips and cracks along its edges. Campbell’s zealous espousal of Dianetics, then the Dean Drive (an antigravity engine), followed by advocacy of the advantages of a future society having a rigorous class system (including slavery), and the pushing of psi sciences of the mind, alarmed and drove away some readers.
Robert Silverberg remembers: “Campbell put everybody who entered his office through an intense philosophical inquiry, grilling them in the Socratic manner about whatever subject was uppermost in his mind that day, and I think Ed felt a little intimidated by that. Sometimes when we left John’s office together, Ed would say, ‘Did you have any idea of what he was talking about?’ or something similar. But Campbell admired Ed’s work and probably didn’t give him a hard time as an artist, just as someone on the receiving end of the day’s interrogation. I’m sure Ed enjoyed his visits with the kindly, twinkling, soft-spoken Lowndes much more, even though Lowndes didn’t pay as well.”
In John W. Campbell Letters, Vol. I, Frank Kelly Freas recalls the limits of Campbell’s art appreciation: “He was perfectly willing to admit that he knew nothing about art, but he knew storytelling and he knew what it took to illustrate a story. John had no use whatever for abstraction, very little for stylization, and barely tolerated anything that approached the fashionable.” Freas records Campbell saying, “Look … if I could send a camera to Mars, or into your bloodstream, or into the future, I’d use a camera. But you’re all I’ve got. So be a camera, Okay?” Ed never felt comfortable around Campbell and only did a handful of covers for Astounding Science Fiction. Freas’ work fitted in with Campbell’s idea of art, and he became the signature artist for Astounding.
Ed’s Astounding Science Fiction covers were not illustrations for interior stories, but freestanding art. He often appeared in Campbell’s office with ready-made cover sketch ideas that would sell or not. One of the first paintings that Ed did for Campbell’s Astounding Science Fiction, for the March 1956 issue, showed a bear defending an exploration team from a weird-looking dragon creature. Campbell had Murray Leinster write “Exploration Team” around Ed’s painting. Ed once told a science fiction convention audience, “It’s fascinating … to see what ingenious ideas the writers come up with….” Campbell usually worked the other way around — giving manuscripts to artists he trusted and letting them have a free hand.
Campbell’s attitude was not unique among SF magazine editors. Ed remembers, “…having many battles about the response (of editors) to modern styles of artwork. The more literal, realistic, documentary (approach) was what many science fiction people thought was the only valid way.”
As good an editor as he was, Horace Gold did have his blind spots. He let two of the best all time SF stories get away from him through sheer ignorance: Walter M. Miller, Jr.’s “A Canticle for Leibowitz,” because he did not know how Catholics would respond to it (Boucher, a Catholic in good standing, quickly bought the story for F&SF); and Daniel Keyes’ classic story “Flowers for Algernon” because Gold wanted to change the ending to an upbeat one — a change Keyes refused to do. (On the other hand, it was Gold’s editorial prodding that got Alfred Bester’s classics The Stars My Destination and The Demolished Man written.) Carol and Ed read Keyes’ manuscript at Milford in the summer of 1958 and both loved the story. Keyes easily sold the story to Bob Mills, who had replaced Boucher a year earlier at F&SF, and Ed got to illustrate it for the cover of the April 1959 issue of F&SF. He wound up giving the painting to the author as a gift when Keyes’ first child was born that September.
By 1959 science fiction, as a field, was experiencing a morning-after moment. The high of 1952-53 had subsided into a sullen fatalism. In early 1960 Chicago fan Earl Kemp put out a fanzine called Who Killed Science Fiction? with an Emsh cover showing various SF archetypes gathered at a grave for the genre. Kemp had gone around asking SF professionals the headline question and gotten back many responses, quite a few taking issue with the reported demise of the field. Still, people like Silverberg and Freas were getting out of science fiction (although both would return in the mid-sixties).
While the SF magazines and small specialty book publishers had developed the field, the major publishing houses were now muscling in, and in a way helping to kill them off. Although not done deliberately, it was, nonetheless, more flowers on the coffin. Book publishers were mining the magazines for story collections and novelettes that they could expand into novels or use, in the case of Ace, for the unique format they had of putting 30,000 word “novels” back to back for their line of SF paperbacks. Science fiction authors found they could make more money from doing paperback originals. Gnome Press and Avalon, like Ballantine and Ace in paperback, were bringing out one science fiction book a month. Avon published eight to twelve SF paperbacks a year, Bantam six, and Signet five. Ed had cracked most of these markets.
Most detrimental of all of all the tribulations SF faced was the dissolution of the independent magazine distributor, American News Company, which put many marginal SF magazines out of business overnight. Those magazines with better sales, such as Galaxy and F&SF, or linked to a stable of better-selling periodicals like Astounding Science Fiction, Fantastic Science Fiction and Amazing Stories, managed to survive. Close examination of the field shows no signs of editorial exhaustion, except perhaps for Horace Gold, who was involved in an automobile accident on a rare excursion outdoors and soon after relinquished the editorial reins of Galaxy to Fred Pohl. Lowndes’ group of SF magazines limped along and saw their last issue in 1960. Of course, Campbell still had his plow in the same pseudo-science rut.
Even with many SF magazines folding, technically accomplished art with narrative content and a contemporary feel was still selling. Emsh had enough of a reputation to continue pretty much as he had throughout the fifties. The artistic rear guard, which still clung to its pulp palettes, went into other fields of commercial art, including what were then referred to as men’s “sweat” magazines. These were adventure magazines geared to manly endeavors informed by war, hunting, and the encountering of willing women in exotic areas of the world. Ed, keeping his options open, did burly art for Sportsman, Untamed, Lion Adventure, Man’s World, See for Man, and True Action.
Ed’s style would change depending on whatever commercial art jobs came his way. “I received assignments from a wide range of people. These would run from a specific assignment where I was told practically where to place the people, and how and what they were to be dressed like and so forth, through the case where I was given a manuscript and given a free hand, and other cases where there’s a discussion, give-and-take, an expression of ideas, to cases where they say: ‘We want something different from last month. We had a black cover last month, we want a red cover this month.’”
As the 1960s progressed, Ed became a fixture in the New York avant-garde, experiment film scene. In 1964, the year he was awarded a Ford Foundation $10,000 artist grant, he quit commercial art cold turkey and became a full-time filmmaker. He did a few art assignments for friends, like Harlan Ellison, as favors, but as Ed put it, “...I think that my particular way of seeing and doing has a greater range, a greater potential, in film than I was capable of giving to the static work. I more or less exhausted my vision in that area.”
- - -
By Michael Moorcock
[I asked Michael to write of his experiences in returning to fandom at Corflu Quire. It was one of the most difficult tasks I’ve performed in a long time. And following is what he wrote spontaneously and emailed to me immediately. Elder god and all that, special powers surely. But undeniably delightful. –Earl Kemp]
The experience was too traumatic, Earl. How can I ever speak of it again? Told that my old friend and ex-band member Graham Charnock had been found in an obscure Austin hotel, breathing his last, calling for gin and Moorcock (they thought -- it was later discovered he meant gin and floor-polish, his favourite tipple), I rushed as best I could on one leg to be by his side.
There had always been some talk of his leaving me his Fender bass and sometimes a person needs to secure his assets before greedy family members attempt to dispute ownership of what is rightfully his. Linda came with me, since she wanted to ask Charnock if it was true I had burned his old flat (by this time Charles Platt's) down and lost her new boots and jacket in the blaze or (as she suspected) I'd actually had him sell them for me at a nearby pawnshop.
We arrived to discover that we'd been duped. A collection of ancients, many of them hideously halt and lame, surrounded us in the lobby and bore us off by body-weight alone (and there was some serious body-weight available, let me tell you).
I tried to cry out to passing staff, telling them that I wasn't of this company, that I was being abducted against my will and so on, but they informed me that I was so obviously part of the “convention of curiosities” (as they called it) that my story wasn't in any way credible.
We found ourselves the “guests” at this Banquet of the Lost, forced to participate in one ghastly ritual after another or suffer the death of The Thousand Jalapeños -- a singularly terrible Texan torture whose details are impossible to retail in a family fanzine -- until we were weeping travesties of our former selves, no longer recogniseable, I was sure, even to our intimate relatives.
Not only were we forced to listen to Ted White's ritualistic reading of names so strange and disgusting their utterance would have caused even Cthulthu to make an excuse and leave, we then had to suffer the Ordeal of the Million In-Jokes, in which more unpronounceable names were invoked at very slow speeds designed to send us into some awful hypnotic slumber from which, we were sure, we would never awake.
I can't remember how we were taken from this ritual and borne up, up into corridors without end, chambers without dimension or form, and there forced to drink unnatural and unholy beverages which took me, at least, back into a world of the past, from which I had hoped I would never return, where I was surrounded by grinning faces, mocking masks bearing only the faintest resemblance to human features, who chanted ancient names and phrases -- Eastercon ’58, Brumcon ’59, Loncon ’60 -- the list went on.
We Met on the Steps of a Moscow Latrine, they murmured. Hum, they demanded, sway, sway, sway... No human brain can accept so much horror, Earl. I even, for a moment, thought I saw your face amongst those. Worse -- Pete Weston seemed to be there, too, pointing an accusing finger at me as the Man who knew the Man who probably threw The Glass at John Brunner.
Oh, it was worse than that. Far worse. But that is all I can recapture now. Charnock had disappeared, of course, probably born away by these same shape-changers, to suffer even worse than I. I did see what appeared as his shade, playing an imitation guitar and singing a hideously tuneless version of “Star Cruiser,” the melody's classic beauty and inspirational lyrics reduced to a few bars of sickening grunts and wheezes, to fill me with even greater horror. But such mockery, such hellish perversion of all that was decent and good and beautiful in the world, was clearly the purpose of these creatures' coming together in that place.
And then, as soon as I had passed out, disappearing into the embrace of sweet oblivion, I felt myself being shaken. “NO!” I screamed. “NO MORE!” I begged them with all that remained of my immortal soul to leave me in peace. But it was not to be.
Linda was standing over me and by her side stood those very phantoms I had hoped to escape -- Kemp, Weston, Charnock -- grinning down at me. SHE HAD BECOME ONE OF THEM!!!!
How I ever managed to get to my foot and hop, hop, hop away from there, flagging down a passing car which took me immediately to the nearest Salvation Army hostel, I do not know, but I still shudder, fearing even comforting sleep itself, waiting for the sound of soft shuffling, chinking glasses, and low, chuckling voices uttering nameless names and invoking the unpronounceable -- which come to take me back to that place of horror which is forever Birmingham in 1959 where, call it pride or curiosity or even innocent folly, I lost the right to call myself human.
They know what I am, even if I have managed to hide it from the world for years. I know what I am. And sooner or later the moment will come when I admit it at last and join the shuffling, cackling ranks of those who owe only St Fanthony and Corflu their loyalty, who walk the endless corridors of Roneo, where inky drums beat out a reminder of their wretched addictions and the ancient Stencils of Skyrack are read in a perpetual drone for endless days.
No, it's no good, Earl. My mind will never heal and my nightmares will continue to come until I sink at last into that sleep without waking. Too traumatic, as I say. You'll have to find someone else -- maybe Linda, who has not been seen since that day -- to help you recall what happened.
But what's this? Coming through the walls? The candle gutters and goes out. The blackness becomes utter. The wind whistles weirdly through the window? Is it she?
No! The face is too hideous. I recognise it. It's -- it's -- hang on, my biro's running out of ink -- it's --- aaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrgh.
Roy Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrgh, actually. I'm not sure who this is meant for, but I'll pass it along anyway. Poor old bugger's gone, I'm afraid. Wasn't even aware he knew my name.
By Mike Deckinger
The first installment of Rog Phillips’ “The Club House” appeared in the March 1948 issue of Amazing Stories. There were other lesser columns at the time; Robert Madle’s Inside Science Fiction sprinkled news from the professional side, with a smattering of fan-centric topics. Other magazines unveiled brief windows into the world of fan activities, usually conducted by judgmental, if not snickering moderators. “The Club House,” however, rapidly developed into the most probing, substantive, engaging, and observational column of those presented to the reading public.
Amazing Stories was the definitive pulp of its era. With untrimmed edges, printed on flakey and fragile pulp paper, with lurid covers, garish titles, and a stable of regulars who produced virtually everything in the magazine, it provided a reliable haven for the undemanding reader.
Phillips opened his column by observing: “It may come as a pleasant surprise to some of you readers that there is a large number of organized science fiction and fantasy fan clubs in existence, not only in the United States, but also in Canada and the British Isles.”
Although Phillips was a charter member of the Ziff-Davis writing stable, he was not as culturally insulated as the other contributing members, nor did he suffer from severe talent-deprivation, as they did. He read (and occasionally contributed to) fanzines, and attended conventions. He infused wit and understanding in his unearthing of fan-related topics. He understood the perspectives of the fan world a half-century ago, and the limited influence they had upon the professional market. He did not regard their presence as an unwanted intrusion in the industry, or the capricious ravings of unrestrained juveniles. He made it clear he recognized the league of camaraderie spawned by early fandom, without overtly endorsing their more radical or unprincipled behavioral tactics.
At the time Phillips commenced “The Club House,” fanzines were printed on mimeographs, ditto machines, and hectographs. A few publications had access to pricey photo contrivances and some laggards even relied on primitive carbon paper.
After a reasoned history of the fan scene, Phillips noted that since there were approximately 50 fanzines being published, each one capable of handling 100 subscribers at most, “fandom can take in only 5,000 more recruits at present.”
The fanzines cited were mostly undistinguished, although a few achieved some measure of fame: Fantasy Times, Dream Quest, The Gorgon, Spacewarp, Fantasy Commentator. He was generally supportive of all these efforts.
In the April 1948 Amazing Stories, Phillips discussed the NFFF and FAPA. The NFFF (National Fantasy Fan Federation) held its greatest appeal for the “average” fan (his emphasis), with the aim of bringing “publishers, authors, and fans more closely in together.” FAPA (Fantasy Amateur Press Association) offers “a means of expression for fans who join it, and an audience of highly critical readers who will read and appreciate what you publish.”
FAPA issued four mailings a year that “cost well over a dollar to put out. To keep this from becoming prohibitive, membership is strictly limited.” Interested recruits were referred to Charles Burbee and Francis T. Laney.
Among the fanzines cited were Spaceteer, from Floridian Lin Carter, and Molecule, printed by Walter Coslet on an addressograph machine! The Burroughs Bulletin, with its first four issues, is mentioned. Although the Bulletin is listed as free, Phillips generously suggests reader send a few stamps to defray costs. “Judging by the issues I have on hand, it should be worth a nickel a copy.”
A contest for the twelve best letters, articles, or stories, appearing in fanzines from, June 1, 1948 to June 1, 1949, leads the May 1948 “Club House.” There would be a first prize of $50 and second of $25. Ten runner-ups would receive a year’s subscription to Amazing Stories.
It sounded fairly straight forward, and it was up to a point, where a knotty little qualifier was inserted. Phillips stated “Each fanzine, in order to be eligible for the prizes, must have its readers vote for the best in the fanzine, during that period.” Huh? The editor was then encouraged to submit those items winning reader acclamation.
“The subtle and diabolical plot underlying this contest, is of course to entice you readers into the mad world of fandom from which there is no escape.”
The rest of the prose consisted of a guest editorial from Rex Ward, publisher of the monthly letterzine, Fandom Speaks.
Wisely slanting his article toward the vast majority of the readership untutored in the complexities of fandom, Ward offered a brief summation of the nature of fandom and its heartiest adherents.
What do fans do in their spare time? Ward has the answers: collecting (“few fans can pass up a second-hand magazine shop”), fan gatherings, and correspondence (“it is impossible to describe the fun and enjoyment one can find in writing letters to other people interested in the same type of literature”).
Back to reviews. Phillips announced the inaugural issue of Loki from Gerry de la Ree. De la Ree, who died in 1993, was a major publisher and collector for many years.
Fantasy Commentator for Winter 1948 carried part 10 of “The Immortal Storm” by Sam Moskowitz, his major history of fandom, from its stumbling inception to the current period of benign refinement.
In the June 1948 issue, Phillips ruefully admitted: “I’ve been bitten by the bug myself now. In the February Spacewar is a silly contribution by me. In the January Dream Quest is an article by me titled: ‘Where to, Science Fiction?’” Then comes the big news: on a recent trip to Los Angeles he joined FAPA. He composed a one-shot with five other members. The title was Soipdalgeif and devised by randomly stabbing a pencil into a newspaper.
The sixth Worldcon, the “Torcon” held in Toronto, July 3 to 5, 1948, received a splash of publicity. Membership is all of $1.00!!! I’ll repeat that; $1.00. A letter from chairman Ned McKeown assured the readership that Torcon is an independent gathering and has no connection with any outside fanclub, such as the NFFF – a training ground for the untutored in the fan world, regarded with derision in many quarters. A favored scenario is that the life members of NFFF exist in a hazy limbo, forever deprived of fannish enlightenment.
Phillips mentions Fantasy Times in his review; ruefully noting that editor Taurasi is losing $5 a month on the magazine’s production. Fantasy Times was a periodic newszine presenting reviews, news, and items of timely interest. Later publications that adopted a similar persona included Fanac, Starsprinkle, Focal Point, File 770, and Locus.
The July 1948 column began with a highly laudatory review of Loki, from Gerry de la Ree and Genevieve Stephens. The first issue offered the dazzling line-up of Eando Binder, David H. Keller, Richard Shaver, Dorothy Quick, Stanley Weinbaum, and Lin Carter. Remember, this is a fan magazine, not a professional publication. The price: ten cents. “Paper costs money. So do postage stamps.”
The Kay-Mar Trader, a magazine for swapping and sales, offered an ad for “Fandom Atomic Information Fund.” Its laudatory aim is to create a better understanding of the peaceful uses of atomic energy. Where does Fandom fit into all of this? We’ll never know.
The August 1948 issue of Amazing was the first one lacking “The Club House.” Rog Phillips, however, was represented big time in the fiction section, taking up most of the page count with two novelettes, under his own name and as “Craig Browning.” As a fiction writer, he was the most literate and versatile of the entire Ziff-Davis stable, and the only one with the potential to extricate himself from the dismal ghetto of lame plotting, into the more dignified and influential markets. It wasn’t until the waning days of his career that he actually began the transition.
“The Club House” reappeared in October 1948. In commenting on the epical history of fandom by Sam Moskowitz, in Fantasy Commentator, Phillips marvels over the fan movement called “Michelism” begun in 1938, which preached greater fan involvement, before it was unmasked as a communist front. Even then, in a pre-McCarthy era, communism was the ultimate crouching chimera. Always the futurist, Moskowitz foresaw the icy clutch of McCarthyism.
A letter announced the formation of Vampyre Society: a fan club “for girls only, to get girls together for fun and frolic.” The letter writer signed off as “Marion ‘Astra’ Zimmer” (Marion Zimmer Bradley).
The November 1948 installment offered a departure from previously formats. A hefty portion of Phillips’ “editorial” section was devoted to letters and inquiries about local fan organizations. Readers from VA, OH, NH, CA, NY, and IL all either plead for support in contacting a neighboring group, or offered announcements of clubs in formation. Phillips was highly supportive of their efforts and encouraged their continued progress.
Frank Dietz, Jr. appeared with a letter presenting an abstract assessment of fandom. While his missive may be quite irrelevant in the total scheme of an evolving fan presence, there is a distinguishing factor: Frank may be one of the few individuals quoted who is still around today, after a mere gap of 59 years!!!
Finding one survivor who has bridged those primitive times to the contemporary epoch, in this issue, is stunning. Finding two is a shattering revelation. Yet, we do. An article in The Mutant is co-authored by Radell (Ray) Nelson.
The ubiquitous Harry Warner was cited for Horizons, which may share some sort of record for longevity. On a more melancholy note, there is no possible way Harry can be inserted into the same category as Frank Dietz and Ray Nelson, when it comes to survivability in the present.
In the January 1949 issue of Amazing Stories, Phillips pondered how fandom was born and why it persists. He concluded: “it was the fanzine that crystallized fandom into an entity and it is the various fanzines that keep it that way.”
Another magazine that spanned many a year is The Burroughs Bulletin from the Coriells. Phillips reported on the latest issue, containing an open letter to Johnny Weismuller begging him not to give up his role in the Tarzan pictures. Another article; “How Old is Tarzan,” concludes he is 60 years old (that was back in 1949, imagine his age today).
The Time Machine from Gordon Mack, Jr sported artwork by William Rotsler, as well as a self-portrait of him. Would I love to see that. Wouldn’t we all?
In February 1949, Phillips opened with a literate and probing essay on the nature of science fiction, concluding (among other things) that “unexplored fields offer the best prospects for continued story development, and advances in modern technology and thinking, are fiercely uprooting them.”
He plugged the seventh world convention in Cincinnati this year. “An attempt is being made to obtain some original Bonestells from Mechanics Illustrated. Similar efforts are in progress to contact Vic Hamlin for Alley Oop originals.” It sounds like a lively time will be had by all in Cincinnati. Just don’t forget to immediately dispatch that one-dollar membership fee to Don Ford.
Phillips reviewed the first issue of Chronoscope from Redd Boggs. Spotlight contributions are from Marion “Astra” Zimmer, Art Rapp, and Dr. David H. Keller, among many others, “It’s a steal at fifteen cents.”
Quanta, official organ of Washington, DC SF Association, reprinted an article from the May 14, 1948 New York Times. To quote; “To support the propaganda of the mighty imperialist war machine, the ‘scientific’ fiction of America shamelessly threatens with atomic scarecrows. Hooligans with atomic slingshots, isn’t that the symbol of contemporary imperialism?” Don’t ask any questions, it IS written by two Russians and reflects Soviet attitudes toward the Cold-War laden West at that time.
Phillips was abrupt and dismissive when it was demanded. In a review of Ploor by Walter A. Coslet he said: “I’m at a complete loss to review this, as it seems to be nothing but terse reviews itself, and reviewing a review or a series of reviews….” This was a break from Rog Phillips’ normally very congenial and supportive approach.
At the time the March 1949 issue of Amazing appeared, 1948 had just concluded. Phillips reiterated the eligibility requirements for the contest first stated in May 1948. The cash amounts were substantial ($50 for first prize, $25 for second) and winners were afforded the cachet of recognition, and perhaps a reprint in Amazing Stories. Reading between the lines, it appeared there were few suitable candidates, and Phillips was doing all he could to generate attention.
Twelve-year-old Phil Applebaum from San Francisco has a letter exhorting like-minded fans to contact him, for membership in The Junior Club House. Did this ever amount to anything, and where did Phil Applebaum go from there? That’s yet another unanswerable riddle.
A review of Stan Mullen’s The Gorgon elicits startling figures. “Eight thousand sheets of paper were required, 7,500 of which were printed on both side. A thousand operations of the stapler and five hundred foldings brought this issue to completion. Five hundred envelopes had to be addressed and stamped. Five hundred envelopes had a copy of The Gorgon individually inserted. The result pile ready for the mailman was six feet high. Allowing a half hour for lunch, that makes fourteen hours of work.”
Needless to say, this was in the primitive days when “desktop publishing” meant dumping stacks of pages on a desktop and then laboriously marching from pile to pile, collating each issue by hand.
Phillips was clearly impressed by Stan Mullen’s sincere dedication. So am I.
The Bloomington Newsletter, published by the (almost) ageless Bob Tucker offered reports of three Labor Day conventions and book reviews.
Phillips’ editorial in April 1949, contrasted the current maturation of the fan field with recent developmental ideas. He tried to draw a parallel between the unpredictable growth of the fan population, and the steady advancements within the technical field. It doesn’t make any sense to me, but his non-fiction writing often demanded re-reading and re-examination.
A review of the latest Burroughs Bulletin cited the Ripley-esque case of a 17-year-old Tarzan fan in London. After seeing the latest feature he was observed swinging through the trees and uttering guttural yells. Jim Harmon had a short story in The Mutant, published by George Young. Perri Press offered a set of ten fantasy art postcards for fifty cents. Any ideas on what they would be worth today?
In his July 1949 column, Phillips devotes a great deal of space on what he foresaw as the future of science fiction and fandom. His predictions shine with optimism. “Gradually, science fiction is going to attain a respectable status. It is going to take the place that old thumb twiddlers with their philosophies aspired to do. It is going to do that because it is a necessary adjunct to science itself.”
“Eventually, there will almost certainly be books that will classify the development of ideas in science fiction. These will be written by serious students rather than fiction authors.”
“Eventually there will be books about books on science fiction, and textbooks giving course on explorative science. There may even be a five-foot shelf of science fiction, reprinting all the science fiction of the past, with a special encyclopedia that classifies and cross-classifies all the ideas of science fiction.”
“Maybe by the end of this century an author will have to have a ‘D.STF’ after his name to get a publisher to read his manuscript.”
“You don’t think so? Already in sf fandom are serious scholars who are writing histories of fandom, and histories of ideas developed by science fiction.”
“Perhaps a half century from now, some disciple of the historian, Oswald Spengler, will trace the influence of science fiction on our civilization and be able to prove that it was a greater formative influence than anything else today in the shaping of the world of 2000.”
Phillips didn’t get it all right, but he didn’t get it all wrong, either.
Reviews, and an article by Ken Slater, discussing the creation of the SFS (Great Britain’s Science Fantasy Society) follow this.
Phillips was astute enough to recognize that releasing large quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere would have negative impacts upon humankind. “It might be found that at the present rate, it may be only fifty years until the carbon dioxide poison will make all animal life impossible.”
“The day may come when it will be against the law to operate a gasoline motor. The millions of cars may have to be scrapped, in favor of storage-battery cartridges. Or maybe some gadget will be added to the exhaust manifold that will cut the carbon monoxide percentage way down.”
All of this may have sounded like fanciful grasping back in 1949. It doesn’t sound so frivolous now.
Fan clubs received a great deal of attention in Phillips’ open commentary in the September 1949 issue. He referenced The Universal Musketeers in Brooklyn, The Outlander Society in California, and the American S.F. Correspondence Club in Pennsylvania. To round them out, Clyde T. Hanback of Washington, DC had a letter promoting the American Rocketry Association. “We have, of course, quite a number of members, which is 325. The thing is, though, that about 300 of them are Honorary members and do not have to pay any membership fees.”
Phillips included a review of the first issue of Spaceship, from Saul Diskin and Robert Silverberg in Brooklyn. An accompany letter informs: “Dear Rog, we are sending you a copy of our new zine, Spaceship. We hope you’ll give it a ‘Club House’ review. Our attempts are very crude, because Saul is fourteen and Robert is thirteen.” Phillips amiably responded: “Your fanzine is sufficient, or will be after you bring out a few more issues.”
“Have you ever wanted to meet and talk to a Science Fiction Author?” You can, Don Ford assured, in the October 1949 column, by joining the Cinvention, the seventh annual World convention held over Labor Day in Cincinnati. Authors present, and eager to break bread with their readers included: E.E. Smith, Arthur J. Burks, Bob Tucker, George O. Smith, Robert Bloch, Judith Merril (“one of the few woman authors to be found in Science Fiction”), Theodore Sturgeon, H.L. Gold, Hannes Bok, David H. Keller, and many more. If that stellar line-up isn’t inducement enough, membership is only $1.00. Nearby attractions included Smith’s Acres of Books, with over 100,000 titles, and Klayman’s Record Shop, the largest jazz record store in the Midwest.
“Are fans fanatics?” Rog Phillips asked in November 1949. He inferred there may be a few fanatics within the fan ranks, but doesn’t see that as necessarily a bad thing. “Perhaps fandom’s greatest claim to fanaticism is its intolerance of prejudice and narrow viewpoints, its driving urge to free the individual mind of the normal lack of vision and its attempt to gain the larger perspective of all things that science fiction attempts to portray in its many and varied stories.”
Today, “fans” and “science fiction fans” are not necessarily interchangeable personalities, sharing like or identical interest. At the time Phillips wrote this, there were fewer divergences from the unifying core of science fiction literature.
Later on he wrote: “Sometimes I like to think that maybe someday, someone will perfect some scientific device or discover a great truth, as a direct outgrowth of his having read something I wrote in one of my stories, so that I, indirectly, will have contributed something to mankind.”
Among the reviews, Fantasy Times offered the tantalizing tidbit that famed director Preston Sturges is dying to make a filmed version of “L’il Abner.” It never came to pass, sadly.
Just to show that Ziff-Davis’s proofreading was far from perfect, a filler article was titled “Albert Sweizer—Genius.” The name is spelled correctly in the text, only the heading mangles it.
The December 1949 installment carried the results of Phillips’ previously discussed fanzine contest. First prize was won by Marion Zimmer (Bradley) and second prize by Art Rapp. Both stories were reprinted. Runners-up included James V. Taurasi, Redd Boggs, Wilkie Conner, Frank Dietz, and Wrai Ballard. Due to the length of the inclusions, no fanzine reviews appeared.
“The Club House” did not appear every month as Phillips had first envisioned. January 1950 was skipped and it was resumed in February 1950.
Phillips discussed the recent Cinvention, which he proclaimed “a howling success.” Vince Hamlin, creator of the then-popular Alley Oop comic strip, delivered a keynote speech. He also donated original panels for sale, which were snatched right up. Next year’s convention, a close race by Portland and New York, was won by Portland, with a plurality of four votes! (This was at a time when you could safely get a convention up and running within a one-year time gap.)
More club news concluded this column, with reports of the Golden Gate Futurian Society in San Francisco, the International Science Fiction Correspondence Trading Club, chaired by Calvin T. Back in New York, and another unnamed club, under the auspices of Morton D. Paley, also in New York.
The March 1950 issue began with a chilling note, in Phillips’ review of Fantasy Times. New York Daily News columnist Danton Walker, in his July 13, 1949 column, revealed that a Washington legislator was going to demand an investigation of those writers for the science fiction pulps who apparently knew too much about the Atom Bomb. Editor James Taurasi announced that the report was apparently erroneous, although there was no way to confirm if any type of inquiry had ever been launched, notwithstanding Cleve Cartmill’s fabled brush with the F.B.I.
Calvin T. Beck suggested that a section be added to “The Club House,” for those who wish to sell or exchange of magazines and books. Phillips curtly pointed out that this was not a swap column. There were enough fanzines in existence to satisfy that need.
Rog received a catalogue from a professional book and magazine dealer, as he reported in April 1950. (He doesn’t name the dealer.) Commendably, he observed this is a column for amateurs and it would be inappropriate to offer free advertising to a non-amateur dealer. “Fans would think, what’s Rog Phillips doing, turning his column into a racket where he gets a cut on stuff brought from dealers through his column? The sole purpose of ‘The Club House’ is to encourage fandom in its activities, and to make it interesting enough reading, so that you’ll read it each month, and eventually be trapped into subscribing to some fanzine.”
Phillips’ review of Fantasy Times cites the disturbing account of a fan in Australia who had 32 current sf magazines, sent to him by a stateside reader, seized by the Australian government. “Part of the trouble is that, glancing at the cover without reading the contents, the customs agents think science fiction too sexy and must protect the citizens from such sex.” Regrettably, a seizure of this nature was not all that uncommon in this unenlightened era.
Bob Tucker’s Bloomington Newsletter prompted this report of a recent convention. “At the Cinvention in Cincinnati, a total of $863.19 was taken in by the convention to be used toward expenses, which were over $400. That will give you an idea of how big this annual convention is getting to be.”
A lengthy and incisive discussion of his writing career prefaced Phillips column for the May 1950 issue. “In my own writing, formulae have been incidental. Plots have been incidental. In real life you find people’s lives following plots quite hack-like, without them planning it that way. The only difference between real life and fiction in that respect, is that in fiction the uninteresting must be ignored. Every story I’ve written could have been done much better. In real life, every story could be much improved by if-living, in fiction, even the confusion must be well-oiled, and the human beings must react both as characters and instruments for carrying the story along. In real life, more often than not, the characters miss their cues, fail in the pinch when everyone is depending on them, and the endings are often undramatic and unsatisfying.”
“Every science fiction story could be improved if the writer wrote an essay first, and then built the story on that essay.”
“I’ve done a lot of thinking about the coming fifty years, and in the next two or three ‘Club House’ editorials, I’d like to discuss some of the things that I think will happen. For instance, color television is a cinch. Politics and historical prophecy, such as predicting war or no war are touchy subjects and better left alone.”
Due to the lengthy editorial, the reviews were skimpy and offered Phillips’ customary encouraging demeanor, without projecting any real depth.
June 1950 arrived with an editorial focused on a jet propulsion device called a “stovepipe” which uses superheated air to attain measurable thrust, allowing attainable interstellar commercial travel. “It may be that it would take less fuel to go to the moon than it takes to drive from Chicago to Los Angeles.” Unlike his other columns, this one reads like some preliminary speculation he’s first tentatively advancing, before using it as the foundation for a novel, much as he suggested in the previous month’s column.
Among the fanzines on display was Etaoin Shrdlu from Stephen Taller. “The poetry section of this zine is devoted almost exclusively to limericks; a fact which I’m sure will interest most fans.”
Shivers was a new fanzine devoted solely to the macabre, edited and published by Andrew Macura.
The legendary Slant, from Walt Willis was reviewed and heavily praised. E. Everett Evans and Forry Ackerman contributed to this issue.
Space Magazine, edited by Clyde T. Hanbuck, presented a real coup, an article tracing the history of science fiction by John W. Campbell, Jr. How many times has Campbell ever contributed to fan magazines?
Mutant, from William James in Big Bay Michigan offered illustrations by Trev Nelson and William James, and a cover by Rick Sneary!
Editor W. Paul Ganley submitted the first issue of Fan-Fare, along with a letter detailing the myriad difficulties he encountered in producing the magazine. “I had everything except ribbons for the hecto, I had to venture forth and purchase carbon papers, when the carbons finally arrived the gelatin had burst, broken, shattered, or whatever verb is most suitable to describe the rending of the film. Another week went by in which I tried three times to remelt the darned stuff. It didn’t emerge too good from the heat treatment….” This hapless editor is describing the hectograph, a primitive form of reproduction, probably dating back to the Mesozoic era, which many fans struggled and cursed over. You don’t know what it is? Be thankful, very thankful.
The August 1950 column began with a report by Phillips of a recent meeting of the Eastern Science Fiction Association. Featured speaker was Hugo Gernsback who “is along in years now, but his eyes are alive and young, and his smile turns on very easily.” Gernsback expressed dissatisfaction with much science fiction being written. “In his original conceptions of a science fiction story, the primary requisite was that it must not violate the current conceptions of science, but, on the contrary, must rise from them into the unknown.”
Phillips agreed with this. “He is right that science fiction must not violate proven facts of science. Circumventing proven things by plausible devices is something else; too many stories of sf violate elementary science clumsily and for no purpose.”
In his review of Fantasy Times Phillips observed: “Any of you who have tried it know that you can’t read all the fanzines, prozines, and books that come out….” The meager volume of printed science fiction, when this column appeared in August 1950, has risen in gargantuan leaps to an unceasing flood of material today. Imagine Phillips astonishment and befuddlement if he had been transported to present times.
“The Club House” for September 1950 opened with a dialogue between Phillips and Amazing Stories editor Howard Browne. Browne warned Phillips that Amazing was going upscale, and he would have to compete with the likes of Heinlein, Van Vogt, and Bradbury. If Phillips didn’t measure up to this top-of-the-line talent, there were other, less respectable markets. Did Browne want Phillips to write for him? No, he’s quoted as saying.
Phillips concluded: “I’m going to have to use psychology to get into the new Amazing. Deluge Howard with telegrams, saying WE WANT ROG IN THE NEW AMAZING STOP. Meanwhile I’ll put on an old worn-out suit and leave my diamond studded wristwatch home, and stagger into Ziff-Davis with a haggard look when I take down a manuscript.”
The latest Fantasy Times had a massive spread on the recent death of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Forry Ackerman devoted considerable space to just-released Rocketship XM.
In Art Rapp’s Spacewarp, it’s noted “H. Rider Haggard did not have a very good education; this is because he wrote a book called SHE. The correct title would have been HER.”
Rog reviewed the first issue of Mezrab from Marion Zimmer Bradley and Robert Bradley in Tahoka, Texas. Both editors contributed, Marion with fiction and Robert with an article addressing Lao Tzu’s Tao the King. “Mezrab is a neatly put-together fanzine with good material….”
The latest issue of Shivers presented the compellingly titled “Poltergeist in his Pants,” by Bob Johnson. Rog doesn’t get around to reviewing this. We can only speculate.…
In jarring contrast, lurching from the fanciful to the obtuse, The Journal of Space Flight headlines: “Use of the Space Station for Space Navigation,” “The Proper Military Use of the Space Station,” and “Nitrogen Dioxide Derivatives in Rocket Fuels.”
The October 1950 cover for Amazing Stories depicted a scene from the novelette “Weapon from the Stars,” by Rog Phillips. It was not uncommon, and in fact it had become almost an unyielding rule, that Phillips was represented both by “The Club House,” and a lead story in most issues of the magazine.
The world convention this year was in Portland, Oregon. Rog did his part to promote the event by lavishly praising the sights to be viewed on the way to Portland: the great Kaiser Shipyard, Puget Sound, Grand Coulee, Yellowstone, and “rocks out there bigger than the Empire State Building.” Any Chamber of Commerce would be thrilled to receive such glowing pronouncements.
Convention chairman Donald B. Day went on to describe what the newcomer is liable to find. “Until you have met a few fans you will be astonished at how congenial they can be. You will find yourself gabbing with some complete stranger five minutes after you meet, as if you had known him for years. Greybeards will be engaged in frenzied discussions with sixteen year olds, the gap of years swept away by their common interests.”
The May issue of Science Fiction and Fantasy Fiction Review offered “A Summary and Truths relating to the Flying Saucer,” by Charles E. Alithia, Ph.D. This redoubtable prober uncovers “what may be going on right now under ours noses.” There was an active UFO cult at this time (encouraged in many ways by editor Ray Palmer), and though most fans were sophisticated enough not to succumb to nonsensical conjecture, it was inevitable that the UFO brand of paranoia would seep into the fan publications.
“When the readers stop writing to you or about you I’ll stop buying from you.” Rog Phillips quotes editor Howard Browne, about his fiction, in the November 1950 column.
Phillips elaborated: “He was touching on the perpetual nightmare of all writers, reader reaction. That indefinable something about a story that appeals to the reader, whether the story is well written or poorly written. I doubt if any writer really know what it is so far as it applies to his writing. If it’s there, he is successful. If it goes, he finds that no matter how well he thinks he’s writing, his stories fall flat. The time hasn’t come yet when I will have to go to work (horrible thought). Writing for a living is like being a rich man, without all the worries about one’s millions. It isn’t really work, in one sense of the word, because as I’ve found, when it becomes work, it doesn’t come out as good work. It has to be fun. All absorbing, intensely pleasing fun.”
No obfuscations, no attempts to elevate the craft to a higher plateau, just a simple and refreshing declaration of his purpose, motivations, and limitations.
You may recall the previously announced contest, offering $100 in prizes for exemplary fanzine material. “It was found that it had no noticeable effect on fan activity. The biggest thing wrong with the contest was that the fan editors of some of the zines containing the best efforts of fan contributors, made no attempt to have their readers pick out what they thought was the best material, so that prizes would have been awarded without fair representation.”
Another statement documenting his scrupulous drive to establish fair judgmental boundaries for the fanzines followed. “I know that some of the worst looking jobs of mimeography I receive were more of a labor of love than some of the finest professionally printed ones. One thing I will never do in ‘The Club House’ is sneer at the sincere efforts of any of the fans. For example, one of the fanzines being reviewed this time arrived practically unstapled, with pages mussed and some of them poorly mimeographed. It’s readable, every bit of it, and the material in it is tops. Should I sneer at it because the postman got careless, or something? That would be poor reward for its editor who spent more time publishing it than I can spend reviewing all the fanzines. My policy has always been and will continue to be to ignore shortcomings.”
In this Internet era, scams to defraud the gullible are commonplace. Rog reported that similar chicanery was occurring in 1950. “The American Rocketry Association, apparently a one-man operation, is charging $300 for ‘non-research members’ and $100 for ‘research members.’ A list of ‘members’ totaling 6,000 names is being sent to prospective members. A couple of which are pen names of mine, some are house names, and also ‘members’ who are persons who have died. One complainant states that Rog Phillips is listed as a member. I am not a member of the ARA, nor have I received any literature from them listing me as a member. Both Ziff-Davis and I would be very interesting in receiving any literature of this sort sent through the mails by the ARA that shows such evidence of misrepresentation and fraud.”
At the end of this column Rog indulged in some fanciful visions of future innovations, possibly to be shared by the readership of science fiction. “…perhaps the first man to reach the headlines by having the leg of a dead man grafted on successfully, with nerve grafts that make him able to control it. Not to mention a few people who will have artificial hearts under their ribs before the century is over.”
“Like all fan organizations, the SAFANNAHIANS want to put out a zine.” So begins a letter in the December 1950 issue. The fanzine will be titled The Quandry and published by unknown Lee Hoffman in Savannah, GA. Yearly subscriptions are to run $1.00 and the editors are hoping “we’ll be able to obtain some material from the better known fen before publication time.”
In his January 1951 column, Phillips had a sobering appraisal of the current world situation. “The War going on – some have called it World War 2-1/2 -- is making itself felt. The world is knit so closely together today, that events in one part of the world throw their shadow all over. For example, plans of publishers must now take into account possible future wartime curtailments. Amazing was to have gone slick, but now in all probability will remain pulp, because the change to slick paper would be risky. It will hit a lot of new magazines on the stands, too, because they will have to fold for lack of paper, if things get worse.”
Phillips berated Bem for only listing six of his pen names, in a compilation of professional pseudonyms. “Tsk tsk.”
Issue #2 of Quandry featured “an outstanding short titled ‘A Martian Oddity’ by Stanley Weidbottom and Joe Kennedy.”
Two reviews of West Coast club fanzines were given prominent placement in the February 1951 column. Rhodomagnetic Digest presented the proceedings of the Elves, Gnomes and Little Men Science Fiction, Chowder, and Marching Society of Berkeley. “All the articles have a good adult viewpoint.”
Shangi-LA followed, published by LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fiction Society). “A questionnaire was sent to 40 West Coast editors and writers, asking them to write on their conception of what life in 2150 would be. This issue contains the results, submitted by luminaries like Ray Bradbury, A.E. van Vogt, Eric Temple Bell (John Taine), and E. Mayne Hull.
Quandry had already produced three issues. “Lee Hoffman shows evidence of being quite a gifted editor.” Phillips never had a clue that editor Hoffman was female, thanks to her identity being masked by a gender-neutral name.
The second issue of Mezrab, from Marion Zimmer Bradley and Robert Bradley was given a favorable review, but little of the content was disclosed.
The cover for the March 1951 issue of Amazing demonstrated precisely why “space opera” and “horse opera” had become interchangeable descriptions. A muscled hero clad in dark, futuristic form-fitting tights fires two ray guns at an unseen, oncoming menace. Behind him, a short-skirted alluringly clad maiden cowers under his protection. With just a few slim elemental substitutions of dress and weaponry, this cover could be transformed into a standard western or garish gangster scenario. Covers like these insured sales among a less demanding readership; the sophisticates went elsewhere.
Rog Phillips announced his marriage to Mari Wolf on October 24, 1950. (He tosses in some punnery about keeping the wolf from his door to whet appetites.) He envisioned that “The Club House” would become a two-person operation. Mari will write all the reviews while he concentrates on the editorials.
Ironically, shortly afterward, Mari Wolf began a similar review column, the very well received “Fandora’s Box,” for William Hamling’s Imagination. “Fandora’s Box” outlasted Mari Wolf; when she dropped out several years later it was taken over by the esteemed Robert Bloch in the mid ’50s and became one of the most popular fan columns ever printed.
Reclusive artist and author Hannes Bok was also a dabbler in astrology. In his May 1951 column, Phillips related a recent visit he had with Bok in New York. Bok prepared a chart with two specific predictions. Both of them came to pass, much to his astonishment. “The mind has a way of rationalizing and possessing, and doesn’t like to think it might be, to some real extent, the victim of forces not brought through the ordinary senses.”
Phillips exults in his having been elected an honorary member of the National Fantasy Fan Federation (the NFFF), under the auspices of Rick Sneary, President.
“Did you know that there are forty eight active local fan clubs? I just received a list of them as a new member of N3F.”
He offered neither frothy sneers nor contemptuous byplay over his membership. He seemed genuinely pleased at the gesture and aggressively encouraged others to seek entry, lending his imprimatur to the organization.
The latest Quandry, on its ascendancy, boasted material by Bob Tucker, Redd Boggs, and Harry Warner, Jr.
The June 1951 Amazing gave Phillips the cover illustration for his novelette “Who Sows the Wind.”
His editorial offered a gathering of metaphysical musings on the nature of existence. It can’t be described and surely can’t be summarized. He offers some intriguing concepts; more questions than declarations, and winnows out the theoretical from the absolute. There is no real conclusion, but Phillips does extract some intriguing philosophical sidebars open to multiple interpretations.
While reviewing Fan-Fare, which specialized in amateur fiction, Phillips presented some useful writing tips. “A good story can be almost unreadable because of stilted and artificial dialogue. It’s not exactly any single line of dialogue but the overall thing. You can argue that the talking is being done by people of the future or of another race or civilization; but the fact remains that if that is accepted as true, the story is still ‘translated’ into language of today, and must therefore sound like people talking. Languages often change but meanings seldom do in the abstract. Stick to the language the reader knows. Things like ‘Hail Worship,’ cried the chief physicist, stamp a story as unreal with a big bright glaring stamp. The real trick is not to make them speak artificially, but to think differently, in a convincing manner.”
Elsewhere Phillips talked of a recent visit with Katherine McLean (“one of the newer of the pro authors to climb to the top”) and her husband Charles Dye, also an up and coming sf writer. Phillips and new wife Mari Wolf were living in Flushing, New York, while McLean and Dye had moved to nearby New Jersey.
“The Club House” for July 1951 opened with an unsettling dilemma. “I received a fanzine for review which contained not one thing I could quote in Amazing, without having that issue barred from the mails. I wouldn’t have to quote anything in the review, but the fact remained that issue was 100% lewd. I sent a card to the editor telling him I couldn’t review his fanzine, and why I couldn’t. I received a friendly and sincere letter back, suggesting I review it anyway, and come straight out and say ‘it is not fit to grace the home of young innocents and is revolting blend of low bred phraseology, suggestiveness, and ill-will.’
“The issue of his fanzine was nothing but lewd description and dialogue, of the type that doesn’t even have an unusual twist to make it interesting. The subject matter was aberrant sex and anti-religion, with more than a little perverted artwork. The only ethical thing it had to the name of fanzine was that it was mimeographed and it was sent to an sf magazine to be reviewed. (Yeah, yeah, if I mentioned its name now the poor kid would get 5,000 subscriptions, so I’m not going to even hint at it. The only way you can get it is to go through back issues of ‘The Club House’ and subscribe to every fanzine I’ve ever reviewed.)”
Phillips is truly perplexed about delivering the appropriate response. He could vigorously and cruelly pan the fanzine. He could just list the content without any comment at all, only reviewing those issues he felt of significant merit. He contrasted this impasse with comparing the impeccable mimeography of Fantasy Times with receipt of a review copy, sloppily produced, lacking in professional appearance or content, but clearly an inspired labor of love from a young editor relentlessly toiling away. How can he best cite virtues and shortcomings, taking into account the inexperience but dedication of the editor? He has no answer, if indeed there is one.
Shangi-La Affaires conducted a poll gauging opinions on future events. One of the questions asks the readers to assess when the next depression will occur. The most common response: August 1951!
Fantasy Advertiser offered a mint copy of the first issue of Amazing Stories for $50.
Fantasy Times recounted an article in the slick, Liberty Magazine branding Dianetics as the number-one fraud of the year. Phillips, clearly no defender, lamented: “the trouble with articles that attack a thing is that they make a lot of readers get interested in it.”
Science Fiction Weakly was an early parody publication, issued by Allan Pestesky in New York. Produced as a current news publication, its headlines included “Fandom Fights North Korea,” and announces the death of Will Sykora, after a house bombing by unnamed attackers.
Rog Phillips announced one of the most unusual guarantees in the history of fan columns, in the August 1951 issue. “From now on, any reader who buys a copy of a fanzine I review who thinks he hasn’t received his money’s worth in entertainment from it, and I haven’t warned him in the review that it isn’t worth the price, if he will send me the copy and a statement to the effect that in his opinion it wasn’t worth the price, I will personally refund his purchase price.” Just how many responded to this over-generous offer is not recorded, however it again demonstrates his steadfast determination to support the fan audience, whether it be the editor or the reader.
Phillips recently moved to New York and since he lived in the dawning of the atomic age, he was subjected to the rabid paranoia and fears accompanying it. “Letters from friends all over the country during the past few months have asked me why I want to live in New York, when the strong possibility exists the Atom Bomb might be dropped here. Driving through Long Island I see large signs on the highways that read: ‘In the event of enemy invasion, this highway is barred to civilian traffic.’ It’s science fiction in the making, it’s fascinating.” He’s willing to accept the inherent risks in order to live in the city of his choice. Six decades later, long after Phillips had departed, the predicted trauma echoed through New York and the nation. It was not the result of the discredited Atom Bomb, but proved just as devastating.
Slant, from Walter Willis in Ireland, was introduced in this manner. “About a year and a half ago I received the first copy of the only fanzine printed in Ireland, was quite surprised at its high quality. In that issue, editor Willis said has father had been a printer, and he was merely reverting to type.”
An article by Marion Zimmer Bradley in Rhodomagnetic Digest asserted, “magazines such as Amazing Stories are going to print what keeps circulation up, and fans aren’t a big enough percentage of readers to have the right to try to get what they want in it.”
Phillips immediately responded. “I disagree, and I’m sure that Howard Browne and Sam Merwin, the two editors she defends, will also agree with me that fan opinion is valuable and is always listened to, though not always agreed with. There are times when a hundred objections to something will be ignored, and other times when one small voice from fandom produces a drastic change in a magazine. Freedom to view criticism and be heard is fundamental to our system of living, and I definitely don’t advocate the policy of like it or leave it alone.”
“A successful writer is one who can write along on a theme, think back over what he has written, and then come out with quite logically inevitable results that 99% of the readers wouldn’t have guessed, yet which after seeing, they recognize as being most inevitable.”
This followed Rog Phillips’ admission in the September 1951 column, that at a very young age, he became enamored of H.G. Wells, viewing him as a historian capable of extrapolating from the current events of his time to a studied speculation of what the near future would hold. By buying numerous newspapers, Phillips could dabble in examining current affairs and then project them to their future repercussions, in a process that was both reasonable and logical. It was a work method he still employed and found it more comfortable than any other predictive procedure.
In a startling pronouncement, Phillips revealed that he’s written an article, at the request of editor Dennis Strong, for his fanzine Chimerical Review. The article is a primer in writing, but writing fan fiction, not pro fiction. “I didn’t go into the mechanisms of story writing, nor touch on much of anything else. I just gave and explained briefly seven points that anyone who wants to become a writer must become OBSESSED with to the point where they mold this outlook 24 hours a day.”
Sandalwood and Jade was a lushly printed booklet of Lin Carter’s fantasy poems. “I am convinced that Lin is destined to be proclaimed one of the century’s greatest poets. As the Japanese say: ‘May he live ten thousand years.’”
Walter Coslet published Stefcard, quite regularly on the back of a postcard. (It was a penny postcard at the time.)
Mobius from Ken Beale was “most unusual in that it not only has one sheet, but that sheet has only one side. I mean it’s printed on paper that has only one side. A mobius strip. The contents naturally, don’t include any long stories.”
The October 1951 column began with Rog unraveling the tastier aspects of his recent itinerary, driving at a leisurely pace from New York to Los Angeles. He detoured along the way to visit numerous science fictional stalwarts including; Ray Palmer, William L. Hamling, Mack Reynolds, and Frederic Brown. He absorbed the lush scenery, marveled at outré vegetation and living quarters (“Taos, New Mexico is an inexpensive place to live because you can pick up an acre of ground and a two-room adobe house for $600.”), and saw eye-opening vistas that most residents never see; (“There were places where the landscape might have been a Bonestell painting of a scene from the surface of the moon.”) Fatigued and satiated, he then turned to the monthly fanzines.
Bob Tucker’s Science Fiction News Letter carried such enticements as an article on the problems with travel to New Orleans (in conjunction with the recent NOLACON), an announcement that Forry Ackerman and his wife sailed to Europe, and the unveiling of a new original art portfolio by Hannes Bok, available for a scandalous $3.
Fantasy Times reported Life Magazine ran a comprehensive article on science fiction. “I read the article yesterday, and while it’s well written, it’s largely a misrepresentation in my opinion.”
Misrepresentations and outright inaccuracies became commonplace, as the mainstream press fumblingly focused its gaze on the fan world, in later years.
Manly Banister wrote in Tlma: “…one gathers the impression that Dianetics is not a science of the mind at all, but is rather, an intellectual approach to sex…such bawdiness as this has never been equaled in print.”
“Surely you realize that readers have limited time and funds to indulge their hobby.” Ed Wood grumbled in the November 1951 installment of “The Club House.” Why should these be squandered among the trivial, unimportant stupid fan magazines? Among all the fan magazines of the past decade, how many were of value? One shudders to see such worthwhile productions like Fanscient, Science-Fantasy Review, etc. give up the ghost, while hordes of one shots, humor, oddities, etc, come up and are just as quickly forgotten. Most aren’t worth the price of the postage. Even when given away they do not justify the time spent in looking at them. I think it is unfair to the rather few excellent publications in the fan field, to equate them with the magazine which has only the enthusiasm of the editor and little else to recommend. Why let the weeds kill off the food plants?” he concluded in simmering righteous indignation.
Phillips didn’t totally disagree with the Wood’s declaration “You have a very good and valid argument there, Edward.” He didn’t totally accept it either, and with diplomatic finesse clarified his views: “The main thing wrong with it, is, who is to decide who are the weeds? Me? In looking back over the years, there are definitely patterns. Type one begins as a mediocre effort by an editor who never ran a mimeograph…in a few issues the editor gains his skills…finally it becomes top-notch. Then somehow the editor loses interest and suspends publication. Type two begins as a mediocre effort by someone who never ran a mimeograph…he doesn’t improve…gets tired of publishing and quits. Type three is a one-shot and says so. Type four has been appearing for ages and will continue to appear until suddenly, without warning, the editor stops for one of a million reasons.”
“No one claims that any fanzine is professional. Some are almost pro in quality, but most are published in the same way you play ball at a picnic. The way I look at it, your dime or twenty cents is not buying something, but merely acting as a donation to the fan editor to help him pay expenses. Fun is the key to fandom. When you stop having fun, you drop out.”
Wastebasket edited by Vernon McCain carried a number of stories Phillips found to be admirable and worthy of mention, including “The Planaria,” by Lee Hoffman. “He just touches on the most interesting aspect of the planaria though, when he says ‘It is very difficult to clear a planaria’ from the accompanying drawing of one, it seems they are victims of congenital cockeyedosis (a disease caused by engrams).” Like everyone else, Phillips automatically attributed masculine gender to up-and-comer Lee Hoffman.
“One sour note this month.” Rog warned, as he opened the December 1951 installment. “Fanvariety, published and edited by W. Max Keasler, whose address will not be given here, was read by Ziff-Davis officials, who found it to contain a drawing by Ray Nelson that by any standards could only be classed as lewd. It also ran an article by John Davis that was calculated to create the emotion of plain disgust, to put it mildly.”
“Now I am saying that no fan editor will be subject to unjust censorship. I want you to know that this one issue of Fanvariety came very close to causing an issuance of an order permanently ending the appearance of ‘The Club House.’ In all probability Max Keasler, Ray Nelson, and John Davis didn’t have the slightest idea this thing would happen. Neither did I. In all the time I’ve conducted this department, I’ve only refused to review one fanzine for lewdness.”
“With the exception of the one-page article and an illustration covering one eighth of a page, Fanvariety was okay. So in the future guys and gals, please be aware that you do have some responsibility for what goes into your fanzine. Any one of you could conceivably ruin things for all the others.”
There is no description anywhere of the offending items, so we can only conjecture at what might have been so toxic in the unenlightened ’50s.
Arc Light was a magazine devoted to the new Dianetics craze. Phillips displayed skepticism toward it, if not downright hostility. He quoted one of the claims: “The Science of Dianetics is capable of removing all the causes of psychosomatic ills (70% of illnesses known to mankind).”
He’s clearly not buying it. “What I and a good many quite sensible people would like to see done is for L. Ron Hubbard to pause in his training of auditors at $25 or more an hour in group classes, and try his technique on a few people who actually have psychosomatic illnesses and publish the results of concrete cases.”
Dianetics was on the cusp of morphing into the much more extensive and lethal cult of Scientology, which Hubbard merrily propelled until his death.
Quandry #12 from Lee Hoffman (still quite masculine in Rog’s mind) got high marks for content and appearance. The only thing that drew a quizzical note was the Walt Willis column, “The Harp That Once or Twice.” Rog Phillips mused: “Wonder what that means. Could it be a pun, like the racehorse that wuns or twies?”
Rog Phillips began his January 1952 column with some bracing but questionable predictions. “The day may not be far off when a doctor will have one or two medicines in his little black satchel and one testing outfit. Whether you have cancer, or leprosy, or allergies or the common cold, he will make his simple test which will tell him which of the two drugs to use, and one injection will make you well in 24 hours. Your cancer will wither and go away, or you will no longer be poisoned by your sensitivity to certain foods.”
The two substances he was predicting, as he explained, were glandular secretions, modified to combat human ills. Not only was Phillips wrong in foreseeing a panacea, but he was equally adrift when referencing the doctor’s “little black satchel.” Doctors no longer make house calls, and the once ubiquitous little black satchel is probably buried deeply in an archeological dig, to be unearthed by future generations who will puzzle over its purpose.
Melvin Noodnic in Portland, Oregon published The Noodnic Quarterly. “A distinctly novel idea in fanzines, this presents one and only one thing, a story in radio-script form entitled ‘Takeoff,’ containing characters that are take-offs on prominent fans in and around Portland.”
Utopian #5, by R.J. Banks, Jr. provoked a very favorable review from Phillips, citing several features that were enjoyable and above average. There’s one critical problem, however. “Mr. Banks simply forgot to put his address anywhere in the issue. I’ll try to find out that address by next issue. Let it be a warning to all fan editors. Don’t neglect to have your address somewhere in your zine, where it can be found easily. Having it on the envelope it’s sent in is not enough, because those envelopes are discarded.”
“I want to say here that anything of mine that has appeared in any fanzine can be reprinted by any fan in his zine without asking my permission.” This gracious gesture appeared in the February 1952 installment of “The Club House.” Rog Phillips goes on: “My fan articles have been different from my pro writing. They’re short and perhaps some of them are my best writing. In any case, I can do that sort of thing only when I’m in the right mood for it. So if you’re an editor and you want to put something by me in your zine, you’ll have to be content with reprinting something of mine, unless you catch me in person and in the right spirit of levity.”
Fantasy Times announced “the forthcoming appearance of a new science fiction magazine, that is, to say the least, mysterious. I myself have a story in the first issue and I don’t know the name of the zine or who publishes it. Its editor is Paul Fairman.” Phillips is referring to IF, which had its debut in March 1952.
Phillips offered some favorable commentary on a new fanzine published by Ken Krueger of Buffalo, New York. All of this would be of minimal noteworthiness, except for the title. Krueger had boldly attached the incendiary designation Abortions to his publication.
In the March 1952 issue of Amazing, Rog Phillips opened “The Club House” with a lengthy review of the tenth anniversary issue of James Taurasi's Fantasy Times. Damon Knight, William Hamling, Jerome Bixby, and Theodore Sturgeon were featured. Taurasi announced a contest, requesting the readership, to submit their ideas on: “What three things would influence man the most if developed during the next hundred years?”
This led Phillips to muse on what three elements had the greatest influence on civilization today. “The first is the symbol, the substitution of something for something. A grunt, for the symbol of the emotion for pleasure so that the listener knows you are pleased, the memory of the grunt as being uttered by you which makes me able to recall you were pleased. It made language possible, and then written language, and finally formal logic and mathematics.”
“The second is the experimental method. It had to flower in the mind of the first scientist before he could create the first super weapon; the stone tied to the end of a stick.”
“The third? Standardization. The thing that created widely used alphabets, that lifted the experimental method to a precise technique. But more important than those, the thing that makes every part in anything you buy today exactly the same in every respect as its corresponding part in all identical devices, and exactly the same as that replacement part stocked in the repair shop.”
In his review of Quandry, for the first time Rog alluded to editor Lee Hoffman’s gender identity: “There are some rumor going around as to whether Lee is a guy or gal. It was a gal who showed up at the Nolacon, but up to that time the other fans thought Lee was a guy.”
In News Letter from Bob Tucker, Phillips reported on Tucker’s discovery of a new and ambitious artist: “His name is Richard Bergeron and he was discovered through the NFFF manuscript bureau.” He also helpfully reminds the readers that Bob Tucker is the same person as pro writer, Wilson Tucker.
Rog Phillips continued his flood of philanthropy toward the fan world by closing his column with these words: “Why don’t you go back over the fanzines I’ve just finished reviewing and pick out half a dozen and send for one copy? It will give that boy or girl a real boost. And maybe you will like one or two enough to send for another copy. Will you? Swell.”
Phillips’ editorial, prefacing the fanzine reviews in the April 1952 issue of Amazing Stories, presented some heady rumination on the subject of instinct, prompted by a reader’s letter. Phillips discussed the instinctual actions of birds, fish, and dogs, and allies this force with the human desire for expansion. Like so many other insertions he’s presented in “The Club House,” it offers copious story concepts, ripe for development.
“I received a type of letter I don’t like.” Phillips lamented. “It says, among other things, that my reviews often make or break a zine. It tells me I’ve got as lot of power in my typewriter. I don’t think that’s true and I hope it isn’t true. The last thing I would want is the power to make or break anything, or even to exert any power of any kind in fandom, except the power of influence toward a healthy norm in fan publishing, and the power of influencing against extremism. But actually, there’s very little need of exerting either of these influences, so my primary power is, and will always remain, that of introducing fans and heretofore non-fans, into the fun of fan literature and fan gatherings. When I succeed in that I’m happy.”
Phillips quoted editor Walt Willis when reviewing the latest Slant. “He says the unit of ink is a smidgin, which is three nyimfs, and five smidgins make one dirty great dollop. Don’t know whether he was serious.”
Wonder, edited by Michael Tealby of Leics, England “is devoted to an investigation of the Shaver Mystery, with the aim of either proving or disproving it.” What conclusion, if any, Mr. Tealby reached in his exhaustive researches is not known.
Dave Ish of Ridgewood, NJ, who’s all of fourteen years old, submitted the current issue of Sol.” He puts out a darn good fanzine, and why not? I was intelligent at fourteen myself. I think that’s the age when I.Q. is at its peak.”
Don Ford of Sharonville, Ohio, has reprinted the January 1941 issue of Bizarre. “It’s a dollar apiece. Too much? Not to collectors. It was printed by Bill Hamling when he was a fan. Cover by Hannes Bok with interiors by Bok and Marcomette. There’s the ending to A. Merritt’s Dwellers in the Mirage which didn’t appear anywhere else, the original appearance for the first time of Lovecraft’s ‘The Thing in the Moonlight,’ and an article by John W. Campbell, Jr. ‘To Write – Be Wrong.’ Drool you collectors, and even you non-collectors will find it worth a buck to see this ghost from the past.”
“We’ve experimented around with automobiles for half a century,” Rog Phillips observed in the May 1952 issue of Amazing. “Today we have functional types ranging from the farm tractor with all its attachments, to the Chrysler and the Cadillac. Another half century should about exhaust the field. What then? Right now I would like to see the Model T Ford revived. Maybe when large areas like Russia and China become industrialized, the Model T Ford will be manufactured in those areas by the millions. Meanwhile, we may be going ahead with a combination auto and helicopter, or a car that can cruise at 200 miles an hour, with rudders incorporated into the rear fenders, and retractable side fins for balance on curves. But at the year 2000 we’ll have arrived at a point where about all that can be done for next years’ model is to change the chrome around a little. What then?”
“What makes good fan poetry?” Rog pondered. Then, to answer his question, he cited the following limerick by Emili Thompson from Star-Lanes #3.
“A bashful young bachelor from Mars
Cosmag Stf Digest, published by Ian Macauley in Atlanta, Georgia, was a photo-offset publication of 40 pages, highlighted by Walt Willis’ “The Immortal Teacup,” a history of British fandom. After a brief rundown of the content, almost as an afterthought, and with little enthusiasm, Phillips acknowledges a remaining short story; “The Land of the Shadows,” by Terry Carr!
The very first issue of Lee Hoffman’s Science Fiction Five Yearly received a spirited review, reminding readers that it’s only for FAPA members, and urging them to try and obtain a copy. He took delight in Lee proclaiming herself a Pogo enthusiast. “Me too. L’il Abner used to be my favorite but Pogo tops them all.”
Science Fiction Five Yearly proved to be astonishingly durable, steadily ambling along, long after Rog Phillips had distressingly been forgotten.
Phillips concluded this issue of “The Club House” (written at the end of 1951) quite poignantly; “I hope 1952 brings a continuation of my conducting ‘The Club House.’ It and fandom have become more than just part of my job to me. It has brought me so many friends I couldn’t begin to list them. It has brought me a feeling of being worth something, as I get letters from fans who tell me of my reviews bringing them subscribers who make continued publication of their zines possible, and letters from fans who thank me for introducing them to the finest group of people in the world, you readers. I know hundreds of you in person from meeting you at conventions and the various club meetings I’ve attended. I hope to meet many more of you at the big science fiction convention to be held in Chicago over the Labor Day holiday. I will definitely be there and so will my wife Mari.”
“The Club House” for June 1952 began with Rog Phillips reflecting on a novel he’s just completed. “Today my novel is finished and I feel a sense of loss. You create a world, and people it, and live with it. And then you write the magical words The End. You sit back with a feeling of having accomplished something. But the next day you feel you’ve lost something. In a short time you have to try to recapture what you’ve lost by starting another story. You recapture it, only to lose it again when you finish that story.”
Elsewhere is his editorial, he wrote; “In an expose of Walter Winchell that is running in various newspapers, the accusation was made that he remarked, ‘A hundred years from now Walter Winchell will be the only reporter of these times who will be remembered.’ I have a sneaking hunch that that hope, if not belief, animates all the other best known news analysts and commentators.”
Phillips may be right, but was Winchell? We are several decades short of his proposed target date, and already the name “Walter Winchell” has faded into irrecoverable and deserved obscurity, along with every other columnist of his era.
The Tenth World convention will be in Chicago over the 1952 Labor Day weekend. Registration is one dollar and room rates are reasonable: five dollars for a single, eight dollars for a double. Phillips urges potential attendees to place their reservations immediately. “Over Labor Day every hotel in Chicago is filled to the gills.”
Beginning the Future was published by an individual calling himself “Mr. U” out of New York. The content is viewed as mediocre. The reproduction method: handwritten. Most publishers had access to a typewriter at this time, but there were always a few forced to resort to longhand. Considering the difficulties in navigating through someone’s clumsy penmanship, Phillips did Mr. U. a real favor by even mentioning his publication.
Journal of Science Fiction had an article by Ed Wood titled “The Case Against Bradbury.” Wood’s leanings can easily be deduced from the title, and are further elaborated with remarks like; “There is hope for Bradbury if he can achieve a firmer writing discipline before present dazzling success overwhelms him. He may even attain some measure of lasting fame…Some day he may even write science fiction.”
“This is the first issue of a fanzine I hope some day to make one of the top ones in fandom.” So wrote Gregg Calkins in the premiere issue of Oopsla. He got it right, too.
Bill Venable wrote about the hardest job he could think of, in Fantasias, “It has been said that the hardest job in the world would be Wheeling West Virginia.” He shifted this heady insight to fandom, offering the opinion that amongst the atmosphere of fandom, the hardest job is organizing and maintaining a successful club.
In “The Club House” for July 1952, Rog Phillips wrote of two near-identical letters he received, written by relative newcomers who are planning to publish their own fanzine and seek subscribers. “One of the zines is to be photo-offset and sell for thirty five cents and be the best one ever published. The other is much more down to Earth. In the past I have published such announcements. These two, coming together, make me realize it isn’t a good practice. If the fanzine is actually going to come out, I know it would be nice for the reading public to know of it ahead of time. But too often the idea is just a passing fancy with the one who writes me announcing his intentions. Three months go by before the announcement appears in ‘The Club House,’ and by then the idea is forgotten. Subscriptions arrive, but ambition is gone. So starting now, I review only actual fanzines that I have received, and if you want to publish one, you had better start publishing. You may be sure that when that first issue arrives on my desk, I’ll give it all the breaks.”
“He’s a nice guy, though I had to be quick to get a taste out of the fifth of Irish whiskey I took him when Mari and I passed through Taos a year ago. He finished it off and used half a gallon of wine as a chaser.”
The borderline alcoholic Rog alludes to is Mack Reynolds. The recollection is provoked by some comments about him in the current Peon.
Flying Saucer Review, published by Elliott Rockmore, was precisely what the title describes, a comprehensive reportage of recent UFO sightings. Phillips was clearly skeptical about flying saucers, but genially remarks that this was an adequate journal for those who may be more inclined to accept the presence of UFOs.
Time Stream contained a prozine review column titled “Bonfire” conducted by Jan Romanoff “ …who is about to get fired because he thinks reviewing prozines is synonymous with knocking them. At least that’s what Time Stream’s editors states at the end of the department. A column supposedly reviewing something, which merely says it stinks, makes the average reader think the writer of that review stinks. Right?”
“That winds up the fanzine reviews for this month. Each month I am amazed at the tremendous amount of fan pubbing. And fan writing, for that matter, since each fanzine has its contributors as well as subscribers. It’s a wonderful thing, fandom: a crucible in which anyone can find enjoyment and self-expression. Maybe that’s why it appeals to so many. Where else can you find a medium of self-expression ready made? I don’t know of any other. Not for the budding writer or poet or artist or editor. Some of our present day highly successful men began in fandom. Ray Bradbury, for instance.”
Phillips’ review of Rhodomagnetic Digest, in his August 1952 column is a rarity; one of the few occasions in which he failed to bestow a rosy benediction on a magazine. “This fanzine is the official organ of the Elves, Gnomes and Little Men Science Fiction, Chowder and Marching Society, a group which fandom needs like a hole in the head. Along with their recent petition to the United Nations for extensive claims of mineral rights on the moon, which got them mentioned on news broadcasts, they are making a bid for attention by loudly proclaiming that Amazing Stories never has a good story, Galaxy doesn’t have science fiction stories, Imagination had one good story of 1,500 words which unfortunately is ‘too superficially written to do justice to the theme.’ Fantastic Adventures is ‘a perfect example of how a magazine can stink…and Thrilling Wonder Stories editor ‘must have been rather tired.’
“One of the major perpetrators of the Little Men’s bid for notoriety is proudly proclaimed to be a teaching fellow in the English Department of the University of California, a Ph.D. by the name of David G. Spencer. Mr. Spencer’s special field is eighteenth century literature. This obviously makes him just the man to review science fiction.”
Rog closed his column with a smattering of speculative reasoning: “I often wonder if human life did originate on the Earth. The probability is that it did. We are so like the apes in structure, and they are so like dogs and the bear family, that it seems unlikely they aren’t related through some common origin. But when you consider all the legends about man’s origin, and the current flying-saucer mystery, you begin to wonder if there might not have been extraterrestrial contacts with us, or, even an original landing of some life form similar to ours, from which the whole related family descended,”
The October 1952 Amazing Stories opened with an inner cover biography of a new artist whose output was beginning to seep into the magazines. The name given here is “Ed Emsler,” but he has also appeared as “Willer” and “Ed Alexander.” Ultimately he became “Emsh” or “Ed Emshwiller.” Although he’s gone, his widow Carol is still active in the craft today
Phillips mentioned a letter received from Robert R. Wheeler of Port Jarvis, NY. Jarvis had tackled the unenviable task of cataloguing “The Club House.” He reported, “as of May 11, 1952, there were forty seven published columns, which reviewed over 200 different fanzines and 40 other publications. Six hundred reviews; 116 in 1948, 111 in 1949, 128 in 1950, 180 in 1951, and 100 in 7 months of 1952.”
Dick Clarkson extended an invitation for all to join the Baltimore Science Fiction Forum, noting that the club is open to all fans regardless of age, sex, race or creed, Rog responded; “You know, that’s almost an unnecessary thing to say in sf circles. We are the most unbiased group in the world. That’s a natural thing. Prejudice generally springs from a type of thought, which I call localism. You see it best in its extremes, where people in small communities in some sections of the country become completely class-conscious. Get away from localism and you get away from class or race or creed-consciousness. Get away from it, as sf fans do, divorcing your perspective from the time-binding and planet-binding point of view, and you get away from prejudices of that type completely.”
“The Mad Monster of Mogo,” by Don Wilcox was blazingly presented on the cover of the November 1952 Amazing Stories. The title was typical of most of the lead stories delivered by the Ziff-Davis group. Pulpish, fittingly enough, with a maximum of melodrama and a minimum of restraint. If that wasn’t enough of an inducement to ensnare the unsophisticated, then the first inner page of the magazine was sure to complete the odious task. “I Was Hitler’s Doctor,” by Otto Strasser (“The Beast That Ravaged A Million Women And Made A Bedroom As Well As A Battlefield Out Of The Whole Continent”) is offered for a mere $1.98 from those innovative folks at Beacon Books of New York. This was truly a profound example of dignity shamelessly flushed down the drain. Good taste never intruded when it came to exploitative marketing.
“If you think a quarter for a fanzine is high,” Rog Phillips admonished, “try publishing one yourself. You’ll never make money and more likely you’ll lose money. A fan editor knows this ahead of time and expects it. All he hopes for is that his zine will prove popular enough to bring in enough subscriptions to cut down the loss to what he can afford.”
Rog Phillips clearly understood the prime motivational factors within the fan world, and profit is transparently not one of them. Even better, he is conveying this with clarity to the broad unschooled audience.
An announcement in Fantasy Times that Richard Shaver will henceforth write just science fiction elicited some reflections from Phillips. “Shaver always has written straight science fiction and some of it is the best in the field. After all, what is science fiction? If it is good, it could be true ands might be true. Maybe some of it is true.”
Rog Phillips was much too astute a critic and a reader to have been enamored by the clumsy writings of Richard S. Shaver. I can only assume that this show of support is more for the benefit of propping up his credentials with Ziff-Davis, than expressing acceptance of Shaver’s misbegotten prose and theories.
Bob Johnson’s Orb had a three way collaborative story from Fritz Leiber, Judith Merril, and Frederic Brown!
Peon contained “the most wonderful bit of deadpan humor, a perfectly straight letter attacking those who claim there is no sf in Russia. It sounds genuine until its authors start describing various Soviet sf stories. ‘Trouble on Titan’ deals with the thrilling adventures of a young lady tractor driver who goes to Titan to establish a collective farm. 'Kolkhos in the Stars’ concerns a young lady tractor driver who….”
In the December 1952 installment of “The Club House,” Rog Phillips offered some heartfelt pastoral pondering. “This country is achingly beautiful. Here, you can get away from all the world-shattering crises that break every hour, in the papers. The more you contemplate nature’s manifestations, the more baffled you become by the frantic actions of the bipeds, the tailored and neck-tied variety, that is. Here, under the sky, with the trees and the vastness, you get a feeling that there is definitely a plan to all those. A plan that will work out; that if we want to go along with it, and benefit in the end, that’s fine with the Master planner. If we want to beat our own brains out, though, and be extinct before the payoff, maybe that’s all right too.”
There are no great insights here, no weighty observations, and nothing at all pertaining to the sf or fan world, but this declaration goes a long way to outlining Rog Phillips’ abiding and passionate faith.
“I seldom say this about any fanzine, but if you want just one fanzine, this is the one to get.” Here, Rog was talking about Science Fiction Advertiser from Roy Squires of Glendale, CA. There’s an article by Arthur J. Cox on A.E. van Vogt (“every sentence of this article shows evidence of being carefully thought out”), numerous book reviews, professional artwork, and impeccable photo-offset reproduction.
Terry Carr hit his stride with “Fantastuff” in Peon (…a highly entertaining department that debunks a lot of bunk in the fan and pro fields. I hope it keeps up as a regular feature of Peon.”)
“There are certain malfunctions of my body that have grown to such proportions they threaten to destroy it.” Rog Phillips announced in the January 1953 Amazing Stories. “Vapors from fresh paint, cleaning fluids, and more and more things, are entering my body through my skin, and going to my sinus cavities, carried by body chemicals which pile up there in gummy fluids that block sinus passages. This has been going on for several years. The current crisis that precipitated things was the blocking of a small sinus cavity just under the left half of my brain, right behind the left inner ear. Totally blocked, it continued the function of collecting fluids with offending substances in them.”
Rog goes on to relate the risky but successful treatment he received at Loma Linda Hospital, utilizing the new process of Cortisone therapy. Cortisone acetate molecules were introduced into his body, for the purpose of reimposing proper cellular functions, and the results appeared to have been favorable.
The highlight of Ghuvna was editor Joe Fillinger’s account of taking his draft, pre-induction physical (remember those days). “If there wasn’t another thing in the zine it would be worth more than a dime.”
The latest Fantasy Times featured on article “delving into why several of the pocket sized sf magazines on the stands seem to be aping each other’s cover setups. Lester del Rey states that the format isn’t brand new with Galaxy. Magazines with exactly the same cover bleed were on the stands twelve or fifteen years ago. News distributors want rows of similar appearing magazines. They push those, and shove the unique-appearing ones off in a corner. Editor Taurasi invites the readers to think up cover formats for the digest sized magazines that don’t repeat this overworked format.”
“Also reported is the formation of the SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) at the fifth annual SouWestercon in San Diego late in June 1952. About five hundred writers will be asked to consider joining the organization. The three aims of the SFWA are (1) to improve the financial status of sf writers by bettering the conditions of rights and rates (2) to enable sf writers to know each other and to compare their work and experience in the field, and (3) by publicity, awards, and other methods of promotion, to improve the prestige and standing in the eyes of the general public.” Inquiries go to Forrest J Ackerman.
Science-Fantasy Bulletin, edited out of Cleveland, Ohio by Harlan Ellison, discussed the war between Galaxy and Astounding. Phillips had his doubts that any such conflict existed…“I don’t see any war going on.” He did approve of Lee Hoffman’s report of the 1954 Westercon, and the plentiful cartoons filling every page. “If you’re a newcomer to sf, you would especially enjoy this zine, for its definite fannish quality, and its tone of invitation to get better acquainted.”
“I’d like to ask a favor of you.” Rog addressed his readers. “These two boys are trying hard to put out a good fanzine. They’re eager to do the work. Somehow they haven’t clicked yet. They need subscribers and they need more contributors. They’re getting discouraged. Send them a dime and when you get their zine send them a letter after you’ve read it. That’s very little and it will go far to make them happy.”
He’s talking about Renaissance from Joseph Semenovich and Warren Freiberg. This was another example of the extreme generosity and thoughtfulness he lavished upon the fans in his crosshairs.
There was even a brief mention of Stalker Bulletin. Despite the provocative title, it was typical initial effort, published from the Stalker Bookshop in Newark, New Jersey.
The cover of the February 1953 Amazing Stories presented a good example of the transparently deceptive practices utilized by Ziff-Davis publishers for content promotion. “The Floating Lords,” by Chester S. Geier (real person) is given the banner treatment at the top of the page. The cover art illustrates “Outlaw in the Sky,” by… Guy Archette (hmmm…).
In this issue, Rog Phillips spoke with great affection of the recent Chicago convention. Departing Los Angeles, “We drove a thousand miles a day to get to Chicago, and Codeine by the bottle kept me able to be aware most of the time of what went on.”
Phillips voiced concern that with over 800 attendees, “the convention was just too big.” He worried that there may be a split in the near future, resulting in two annual conventions: the regular one and one put on by amateur fandom. “I’d hate to see that happen.”
“I propose that in the future all groups putting on their bid for next year’s convention, should present their choice by mail to the entire membership, including those who aren’t able to attend…so that the pros and cons of each site can be weighed in advance by the members. I further propose that membership in the convention, not attendance at the convention, entitles a person to a vote on the next convention site. The vote would then be mailed to the secretary of the current convention. Then the city that receives the most votes (not necessarily a majority) would be the site of the next year’s convention.
“That, in my opinion, would be a fairer method. It would mean more mature consideration of where next year’s convention would be. It would mean that no pressure groups could maneuver things to their advantage. It would mean that a city that desired to hold the next convention would not be forced to spend large sums getting to the convention and putting on a show. It would mean that the fan who helped support the convention by sending in his dollar (and $1,500 were provided for the Chicago convention in this way) would have his vote. If that system had been used in 1952, there would have been fifteen hundred voices in the matter instead of one fifth that number.”
If Rog Phillips could see the size, scope, and cost of present day conventions, he would be awed and dumbfounded, at the very least, and I would hope, gratified too.
“We are a group of people of all ages. Some of us earn a living writing, or editing, or owning publishing companies that bring out science fantasy stories. Far more of us are people who buy a science fiction magazine at the corner stand. Many of us are publishers that publish the amateur magazines that further our interest in the subject, and further our feelings of kinship with each other. And that, to me, will always remain the miracle of science fantasy.”
“The past four years have seen it grow to such proportions that now the several local conventions are each bigger than the national convention used to be. I like to think that I have been of some help in that growth. Before ‘The Club House’ began, it was common practice among fanzine editors to write to those who write letters in the reader’s columns and try to interest them in subscribing to their fanzine. I know of no fan editor who has to do that today. It is the fan review column that treats the fan as a person of respect, and as a thoroughly likeable human being, that has drawn the thousands into fandom that are there today. You, perhaps. If you haven’t seen a fanzine, if you haven’t joined in the fun of corresponding with people who have your interest in sf, then here’s your opportunity to start in.”
The current issue of Cry of the Nameless “contains a factual report of the impeachment of the club president, which sounds very authentic until it’s realized that the president himself instituted these charges.”
This issue also reported that club officer Mrs. G.M. Carr was injured in a hotel accident at the Hotel Morrison. An inexperienced elevator operator was on duty.
Rog Phillips quoted from Harlan Ellison’s Science Fantasy Bulletin, “…from the woman’s viewpoint we view the second annual Midwest Convention. Late, but spicy, by associate editor Honey Wood. A million laughs.” Honey Wood was to become his second wife at a later date.
Microcosm announced the formation of the Fantasy and Science Fiction Book Club, offering new hardbound books from both veteran and novice writers at hefty savings. The current selection was Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s Player Piano for $2.50!!
At the conclusion of this column, Rog marveled at the variety of publications he received. “I’m continually amazed at the work done. Black ink, gold ink, silk-screen artwork, and a thousand other things. Dozens of fans working into the small hours of the night to write, stencil, draw, staple, address the fanzines. Each month I ask myself the same question. When will it end? When will the last issue of the sf fanzine be mailed to its subscribers? Or will it ever end? The possible future of sf fandom is an intriguing subject.”
The first interior page of Amazing Stories for March 1953 ominously announced that the issue in hand would be final issue in the present format. After a rocky and uneven genesis under the sure hand of Hugo Gernsback, Amazing Stories (as well as its companion magazine Fantastic) was transitioning to a digest publication, succumbing to the brutal dictates of newsstand economics.
The new slick digest size Amazing Stories, dated April-May 1953 boasted a robust, all-star line-up consisting of Robert A. Heinlein, H.L.Gold, Theodore Sturgeon, Ray Bradbury, Alfred Coppel, Richard Matheson, and Murray Leinster. “The Club House” was not part of the line-up.
Ironically, the final appearance of “The Club House,” in March 1953, is one of the shortest installments, with a truncated editorial and handful of reviews. It’s likely Phillips had an inkling of its pending discontinuation, though he drops no inferences in his text.
His editorial cites a truly compelling program feature from the Chicago World Convention: a debate between Willy Ley and Ray Palmer on the nature of flying saucers. “Willy was inclined to the belief that they were a natural phenomenon, possibly reflections from temperature inversion layers of air. Ray, perhaps for a gag, predicted they would be found to be alive. Living forms of gaseous structure, or something, I suppose he meant.”
During the run of “The Club House,” Rog Phillips unerringly and aggressively, created an active interface between the fan population and the general readership. With unflappable aplomb, steady wit, a dash of bemusement, and intense empathetic devotion, he sought to explain and illuminate the fan world. With great finesse, he created a column that towered as a model for years hence.
- - -
By Earl Kemp
By 1951 the group of Chicago science fiction fans that had been running things their way began slowly and inexorably releasing the leashes to an entirely new group. These old-line fans were people like Mark Reinsberg, Melvin Korshak, Ted and “Judy” (Julian C. May) Dikty, Oliver and Ginny Sarri, Bill and Francis Hamling, and others who had been the first line of Chicago fandom since the late 1930s who were turning over the reins to people like Ed Wood, Evan Appleman, Rick Prairie, Sidney Coleman, Jon Stopa, Jim O’Meara, Francis Light (who brought her friend, the incredible Martha Beck, to her first convention), and…dare I say moi? We would be the new front-line fighters carrying the flag of Chicago fandom forward through the 1960s and into the ’70s.
Rog Phillips’ column “The Club House” had already been running in Amazing Stories since March 1948. Three years in the works and I had never read a one of the columns.
Then, in April 1951, “Fandora’s Box” appeared in Imagination, conducted by Mari Wolf. She managed the column until her private life interfered too much and Robert Bloch took over the column in June 1956 and continued with it until its demise in October 1958. From that original appearance of “Fandora’s Box” until March 1953, when “The Club House” last appeared, the Roger Grahams were the most outspoken couple in the entire science fiction genre advocating all things fannish. A husband and wife team completely dominating the field.
The tale of how I began corresponding with Mari Wolf and “Fandora’s Box” has been told a time or two before. Mari insisted on making a face-to-face hookup of me with Ed Wood. At the time Ed was a grouchy, bombastic bibliophile and full-time recruiter for new members for the University of Chicago Science Fiction Club. That Ed Wood, editor of The Journal of Science Fiction with Charles Freudenthal, began pushing me into a career in science fiction…but it was to be a bibliophile career that somehow went all awry and turned into an editor/publisher role instead. With Ed everything related to science fiction had to be sercon, in the antique reference form of the word. It wasn’t science fiction, it was about science fiction.
In short order Ed was dragging me around Chicagoland behind him while he introduced me to his favorite used book stores, old pulp death traps, and possible fellow fen. He gave me all kinds of cast off fanzines (Slant, Hyphen, etc.), urging me to read some of them and destroy others. Then, together with Mari Wolf, they began giving me lists of names and addresses of reasonably nearby fans that I should establish contact with right away. And I did, and within a year I had more close friends than I could handle.
Almost without stopping to think, I had become swept up and carried away by a rolling wave of energy associated somehow with enjoying reading science fiction. The rest of that story is history.
One of the things that Rog Phillips did relentlessly, that I never read at the time, was to publicize science fiction conventions to a great extent. He did this through his “The Club House” column in Amazing Stories. For months leading up to the 1952 ChiCon II, he kept encouraging fans to become members, attend the convention, and patronize fanzines and faneditors. Eventually, in one of his columns, he wrote that he and his wife Mari Wolf would be attending ChiCon II.
It was my first in-person contact with Mari and I went out of my way to make sure it happened. She was not only much nicer than I had already known her to be, but one damned fine looking lady. She continued to encourage me toward fandom and toward fanzines. I have a clear memory of that first meeting with Mari, and there’s not even a shadow of Rog Phillips anywhere lurking along the fringes of my memories.
It was almost as if he didn’t even exist. I had never read his columns. I had never read his fiction. I didn’t know him at all.
Then, in March 1953, the final installment of Rog Phillip’s “The Club House” appeared in Amazing Stories.
In the Winter 1953 issue of my fanzine Destiny, issue No. 7, I wanted to thank Mari Wolf for all her help, and for having opened the doorway to unbelievable delights within fandom for an otherwise naïve, unformed unknown.
For Mari Wolf
My dedication to Mari Wolf was successful. Our correspondence continued and she wrote a short story for me named “Prejudice.” It was published in Destiny #9, Winter 1954, and reprinted in eI5 LINK and appeared with a nice illustration by “Judy” (Julian C. May) Dikty.
He came in very quietly, almost unnoticed, and took a seat in the background. I didn’t even know it was happening, or when it happened. Then, before I knew what had happened, he had picked up most of the pieces of me and was giving me back to myself, and arranged in much better order than ever before. That was hard to say of a person like Rog Phillips, big and almost awkward…all banged up and face streaked from a long, hard life…. He always reminded me of the comic-strip character Joe Palooka, like a retired heavyweight boxer who had managed to loose a few too many fights.
He was a vague blur in my mind at the time, somehow all confused with the leftovers from a once magnificent pulp mill known as Ziff-Davis that abandoned its Chicago offices for the promise of a greater future in New York City. Those leftovers included Raymond A. Palmer, Richard S. Shaver, William Lawrence Hamling, Francis Yerxa Hamling, Harold W. McCauley, and many lesser lights of pulpdom. And Rog Phillips. As far as I knew, he had always been there, in Chicago, just another of the gang…making up the future for a quarter a cent a word.
That Roger seemed to know absolutely everyone in science fiction always amazed me. It wasn’t so much that he just knew their names, and who they were and what they did, many of them from contacts through “The Club House,” as it was he really knew them. He was comfortable and at home with them whenever and wherever they met, and they with him as well.
One thing I never admitted to Rog though, was that I didn’t read his prose. I was far too sophisticated for that. I only read the real good science fiction writers…people like Heinlein, Van Vogt, Williamson, Vonnegut, Kuttner/Moore/Padgett…the A-list crowd. And I was hopelessly in love with Leigh Brackett as only a naïve youngster can lust after an “older woman.” I was so above it all that I didn’t have time to read anything written by outright hacks.
Little did I know at the time that within just over a decade, I would be surrounded by the largest bunch of full-time hack writers in the world, and many of them old friends from the science fiction field, turning out porno enough to satisfy the masses of the world.
But there was Roger Graham, who had somehow become a fast friend, mentor, and accomplice, without ever knowing I didn’t read his prose. I didn’t even read his “The Club House” because I almost never ever read anything in Amazing Stories. Insufferable snob…!
I remember a time when I asked Roger how to tell the difference between acquaintances and friends. “That’s easy,” Rog said. “When people who are separated for even long periods of time and are reunited, and the conversation picks up exactly where it discontinued earlier, then you know they’re friends.”
But anyway, there was Mari Wolf, Mrs. Rog Graham, writer of the second best science fiction fan column in the whole universe trying to make an sf fan out of me at damned near the same time her husband, writer of the then defunct first best science fiction fan column in the whole universe, was doing his thing with me.
And things weren’t going well at all for the Grahams. It had to end; a divorce was inevitable. Rog won. Mari lost, and quickly faded out of science fiction fandom completely.
So there was Rog Phillips, big bear hulk wrapped around Mr. Wonderful, and as far as I could tell, not a single person who ever met him noticed his rough-hewn exterior, the insides shined through so brightly. All warmth and comfort and security and the fountain of all knowledge, wisdom, and fan history. Everywhere he went, Rog was a magnet for women…they flocked to him as if he was the only Alpha Male in existence, and all they really needed was just a little bit and it was clear to them that Roger had a lot to share with a lot of people.
Roger transcended prodom. That had happened to me once before, with Fritz Leiber. Fritz, a fellow science fiction fan and local club member was just that, first and foremost. That he was also a professional writer of some critical acclaim didn’t even count. Rog was number two. It was easy to forget he was a writer, he was such a good fan.
Rog couldn’t help but encourage fandom; it oozed from his pores like nectar of the gods. He was ready for the next club meeting, party, dinner, fan trip, or convention. He would do everything he possibly could to make sure that everyone had a grand time. He preached, almost to the point of boredom, how necessary it was for fans to produce fanzines and for other fans to PAY for those fanzines and TO WRITE meaningful letters of comment to those faneditors. The litany of his lessons on behalf of Good Fandom was legion.
For those after-Ziff-Davis years in Chicago, while Rog Phillips decompressed from his divorce from Mari Wolf, he was employed in a writer’s fantasy dream position. He was the night watchman in a casket factory. Roger constantly bragged about how well he had it at work. His boss knew that he was a writer and gave him blanket permission to use the office typewriters, ribbons, and blank paper.
They were, consequently, the most productive years of his entire fiction-writing career. Roger said that there wasn’t ever a single person who interrupted his nighttime chores, of guarding the casket factory and of creating endless reams of deathless pulp prose.
Throughout the middle to late 1950s, Rog Phillips was a regular member of the University of Chicago Science Fiction Club. He almost never missed a meeting and freely entered into the discussions and program events. And the political events as well surrounding the movements of the various Midwestern fan groups, each grasping for more power of some sort, all wrapped up in egoboo and outstanding accomplishments. Rog also never missed a really good party either. I frequently wondered how he could keep up the pace of his fanac, his all-night overnight fiction output, and his real-world existence.
Of course, I had a lot more energy then also, and could work late hours into each evening producing some fanzine that would be quickly discarded, never commented on, and completely forgotten.
In 1955, when my first son Earl Terry Kemp was born, I asked Rog Graham to be his godfather and Roberta Collins (soon to be Mrs. Joe Gibson) to be his godmother. They both agreed to the responsibility and, on May 15, 1955, Terry’s baptism took place at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Chicago. A photograph of the event is included in “Godfather Stories,” elsewhere in this issue of eI.
In 1956, Roger Graham married Honey Wood, the pride of Cleveland fandom. This greatly confused my children. Honey graham crackers were a favorite cookie for them; they didn’t understand how a person could be named after a cookie. Honey Graham was always edible to them. They didn’t have to worry about it long, because in short order Rog and Honey Graham packed up and moved to the West Coast, deserting the Midwest forever.
In 1960, Roger Graham was guest of honor at a science fiction convention in Boise, Idaho. I placed that convention at the top of my priority list for the year. When it came time, we loaded up the kids in the car and took off cross-country for Boise. I was determined to spend the weekend honoring old pal Rog as best I could.
Guy Terwilliger was con Chair, and a nifty faneditor to boot, but Boise was something else entirely. Idaho had the weirdest liquor laws I had ever encountered. It was illegal for any person to move or walk holding any drink containing alcohol. If you were seated at a bar having a cocktail and good friends Jim and Joan drop in and sit at a table, you could not pick up your drink and walk to their table and join them. It was necessary to have a waiter pick up your drink and walk with it to the table. This law applied as well for private parties inside private residences. Parties serving alcohol always had their drapes pulled closely together and shutters in place lest some passerby see a lawbreaker with a smoking gun in their hand.
We spent a wonderful time at that convention motel in Boise, and shared more great yarns with my old friend Roger. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
That was the last time I ever saw Roger. He died on March 2nd, 1966.
By Roger Phillips Graham
There was a man in Canada who claimed seriously to dislike Roger P. Graham, and to be in almost constant telepathic contact with Rog Phillips; a woman in Los Angeles who proved by letter and verse from the Matrix stories that Rog Phillips was perhaps the greatest "adept" of modern times; a man in Virginia who published an announcement that Rog Phillips is the incarnation of an Archangel; and a man in St. Paul who was genuinely surprised that any of the stories by R.P. Graham were anything but straight science fiction and fantasy.
There was a young man in a southern state who thought he was taking his life in his hands in writing me, and took careful precautions to prevent my killing him. He had penetrated the secret message hidden in "So Shall Ye Reap," and was demanding to be included among those who went into the radioactive-proof artificial caves being constructed to house mankind. He had written all this down and given it to an unnamed friend to hold, to be turned over to the police if he met with some mysterious death instead of getting a ticket to the caves. There was a young lady in Michigan who wrote after the announcement of a Russian atom bomb being exploded in Siberia that she and a few others now knew that "So Shall Ye Rape" was true, and when I answered her telling her that I, who wrote the story, didn’t believe it was true, she answered thanking me for trying toreassure her, but she still knew it was true—facts were facts.
Those are a few, a very few, of the letters I have received, or that Ziff-Davis has received and I have read, that my stories and articles have given rise to. They have nothing to do with the Shaver Mystery. From the very start of my writing I have consistently steered clear of sounding like Shaver--not for any personal reason, but simply because a second fiddle, no matter how sweet, is always a second fiddle.
By far the majority of my mail, mail from people who have never written me before, has been sensible and ordinary. I've made many friends through that mail. A good many of you reading this article have written me at some time or another, and some of you have letters from me in your files. A few of you know me personally or have met me in person. Or maybe more than a few. Probably at least 50 of you. So I'm quite sure I won't be starting a feud or creating a misunderstanding in this article in which I’m going to tell about some of the more unusual contacts and experiences I have had on account of my writing.
The most unusual by far was a young lady who lives near San Francisco. A letter from her came to Ziff-Davis two years ago. At that time I wasn't so snowed under with correspondence, and was answering most of my mail. I wrote her a thank-you letter for her kind words about my stories, since the letter had been sent to me personally. I received another letter from her immediately. I would have scratched it off as“crackpot.” but that night I had a very vivid dream in which I saw her face. The next morning when I woke up I had the conviction that it had been she.
I wrote and frankly told her of the dream, and said that I was interested in such phenomena that might have evidence of supernatural things such as ESP, and would she send me her picture so I could compare it with the face in the dream. She refused, but countered by asking for my picture. I happened to have two snapshots of me in my office, one sitting at my typer, the other of me lying on my davenport. I took them out of the drawer and studied each, trying to decide which one to send her. I looked at the one of me sitting at the typer. My eyes went to the legs, and the thought entered my mind that they were the legs of a cripple. I frowned at the thought, stretched out on the davenport, and the thought returned. "Those are the legs of a cripple." It wasn't so, and the thought was irrational. But I've had a good many experiences with ESP, and this thought had the “feel.”
To make a long story shorter, I did go up and visit her, staying for several days. Her features, so vividly etched into my mind through those two dreams, were exactly as I had seen them in every detail. The first time I saw her in the flesh she was looking out a window, as my taxi drove up, and I recognized her. It was genuine ESP, over a distance of 2,400 miles.
And here is where the subtle changes in ESP come in. Instead of her legs being cut off or paralyzed or anything like that, she had heart trouble in an advanced stage that prevented her from staying out of bed more than a few minutes at a time. She was not given more than a few months more to live.
But the moment I arrived I “felt” that something wasn’t quite kosher. I couldn’t lay my finger on it. I had already discovered that she believed that all dreams were genuine psychic experiences with an objective existence on spiritual planes. She was all mixed up, and there wasn't much that could be done on that score.
I went to town alone one day just to get away and think things out. In town I had my second surprise, and one that I can't explain. I got into a poker game, lost a few bucks, and then wandered down the street. I met and passed the Filippino I had seen in that dream in Chicago, as authentic in every facial detail as this girl’s features had been.
I went back to her house still undecided about things. Then she really let her hair down and I discovered what had been bothering me. She had a certain ability at ESP, but the combination of that and unrestricted dreaming with the belief that they were all the same and objectively real, had led her to a pretty absurd goal.
She believed I was the incarnation ofChrist, and that I had chosen her as the instrument to prove my identity to the world. She was going to die and be pronounced dead by the doctors. In three days after she died I was going to raise her from the dead, and she was going to be my disciple, and all the world was going to accept me as Christ.
Under my breath I said, "Christ!" and made a graceful exit. A fortunately timed letter was my excuse for hurrying back to LA. She was a die-hard, and for a year after I got letters from her in which she imagined I was still talking to her via the astral planes. It was a close call. One thing I must not do is let the world know I'm Christ. That business is too competitive. There are fewer good writers in the world today than Christs, and more demand for them. John L. Astley-Cock, one of the associate editors ofthe Chicago Tribune came out and had lunch with me a couple of months ago. During the course of conversation he mentioned that an average of a Christ a week walks in and demands the Trib announce His presence to the world. Some ofthem get quite bitter about all the imitators that gum things up. I thought ofmy experience and said “ha ha” quite hollowly into my coffee cup.
The second most remarkable experience brought to me through my correspondence was a letter from Dick Shaver when he lived in Barto, Pennsylvania, and I lived on the west coast. The letter's contents weren't unusual. I was horne alone except for my dog, a wire-haired terrier, since deceased. I don’t know how to explain what happened, and I can’t make head or tails of it, so I’ll tell it just the way it happened. I brought my mail into the kitchen and laid it down on the drain board. Pepper was standing there wagging his tail, looking up at me. I opened Dick’s letter. Something seemed to jump out of it. Pepper backed up, and then ran into the front room like the devil was after him.
I “sensed” that something came to a pause in front of me about two feet off the floor. I focused my eyes carefully where I “knew” the something to be. My eyes could see absolutely nothing at any time, yet I followed this something from the kitchen into the front room, studying my impressions of it. It either had no size or was no larger than an insect, and invisible. I “sensed” a shrill whining like a high-speed machine. When I went into the living room Pepper tried to hide behind a chair, whining in intense fear. He ran about the room like he was having a fear fit. I followed this something around, bending over and trying to make out at least some visible evidence of it, always “knowing” its exact location, as did Pepper.
It was there for half an hour, and then suddenly was gone, and never returned. The instant I "felt" it leave, Pepper quieted down and wasn't afraid any more, though apprehensive for an hour or two afterward. His reactions preclude the possibility of this being my imagination; but of course this is a personal experience of no value evidently to myself.
I’ve often wondered what it could have been. Some phenomenon connected with Shaver and his caves? Probably. Whatever it was, it arrived inside an ordinary letter that contained nothing unusual and was purely friendly chitchat from Shaver.
Once several years ago, Ray Palmer and I almost got into some trouble over a guy who had spent his life concocting a theory about the origin of planets and solar systems. We listened to his theory. It had many sound things in it and many not so sound. We couldn’t do anything with it though, and several months later a story that appeared in Amazing had some stuff in it vaguely similar to his. He threatened to sue Ray, and although he didn’t it taught me a lesson never to read supposedly original stuff from strangers. So when I got a letter from someone all hot to become my partner to solve all the mysteries of the universe I felt very uncomfortable, and spent several days wondering what to do about it.
During those several days he wrote several dozen pages expounding all his theories--which I didn't read. Finally I returned them to him with a brief note saying that since I was also engaged in research parallel to his I couldn’t either read his unpublished stuff or discuss my own unpublished stuff with him, because ownership would be infringed if any of it coincided. I mention that because it was a good idea, and some of you might benefit by it yourselves if you ever get in a similar situation.
My third most unusual letter came to me without being mailed. It was back in the days when the deCourcies were in Seattle cultivating my friendship so they could sell Ray Palmer stories. They were dangling their “bait” in front of my eyes—a mysterious spirit that talked through Jack deCourcy and made all sorts of claims. Later Jack and Dot asserted in an open letter to fandom that this spirit Joe was a hoax they had used to sell stories, but—well, listen to this:
I had dropped over to their place in the housing center at White Center in West Seattle. Dot said to Jack, “Maybe we should—“ and Jack said, “No, we should wait. Joe doesn’t want us to.” Dot said, “But if we wait until it happens Rog could never be sure we hadn’t written it then instead of now.” Jack said, “We didn’t write it. Joe did. But you have something there. Maybe we should give it to him sealed, to open when we tell him.” Dot said, “But if we let him read it now he can have that encouragement.” To which Jack said, “You’re right.”
On my next visit to the hospital I asked the doctors if they had any idea when she could be released. They hadn't. I mentioned this date. The doctor said, "'Most emphatically no. Her improvement would have to be miraculous.”
On the exact date predicted by this hoax “Joe” she was released from the hospital. To make it even cuter, her recovery had been so good that the doctors had planned on releasing her a week earlier than that date, but at the last minute decided to keep her another week to make sure there would be no relapse.
Some of my most interesting mail has come from the female of the species. There have been outright proposals of marriage, but more often just nice letters with a (Miss) before their names. Usually, of the ones I’ve answered, they turn out to be young ladies who have no thought of marrying Rog Phillips. The female mind is adroitly “transparent” in that respect, and can find more ways of saying something without saying it than any null-A I ever heard of.
In spite of the fact that my mother and father married after having only corresponded, the idea doesn't particularly appeal to me. (My dad was in the Spanish American war, and one of his buddies had a sister. Since my dad didn’t get any mail, this buddy talked him and his sister into writing each other, and when the war was over my dad went up to Christman, Illinois, resplendent in his army uniform and handlebar moustache, so naturally Mom was a pushover.) A girl that falls in love with me from reading my stories is falling for a different man than she’ll ever meet in the flesh. He is a part of my mind that hides, for the most part, when others are around. Even noise or troubles cause it to pull in its head. It manifests itself only through my fingers on the typewriter. So any girl that falls for that part of me is in for a sad awakening when and if she meets me. Knowing this, I feel it’s like carrying on a romance by proxy for a guy who will run and leave me holding the bag—get it? I just got it myself; that’s why I asked.
For the most part letters are extremely pleasant to get. I have received two letters that made me extremely uncomfortable. They were over “The Club House.” The first was from a postal employee in Canada who took me to task over a statement I made in my column about Canadian discrimination against US magazines. He accused me of deliberately and criminally trying to upset diplomatic relations between Canada and the US, which had been amicable up to then.
The other upsetting letter was from a Britisher who from his wording was writing for his Great American Public, although the letter was addressed to me. Its essence was that when I said in “The Club House” that “the statue of liberty was the only thing we ever got from any European country” I was alienating the affections and loyalty of all Europe—and we Americans would need all the loyalty we could buy when Russia started in. He demanded that I publish his letter in “The Club House.” Naturally, I didn’t. All Europe including England (which I have never considered in the same breath with Europe in my own mind) will just have to keep on having its feelings hurt, and embrace the slavery of communism when the time comes, just to spite me, rather than fighting to maintain what freedom they have. (Rah, rah, rah, our side!) [It is blasphemy, no doubt, but I’ll bet that some of the less semantic, or more sensible, Europeans have never heard of our boy Rog. –Francis Laney]
I even got a letter a few years back from a fellow writer who was having marital troubles. He didn’t love his wife, he said, and was in love with a wonderful girl in Denver whom he had never met but had been corresponding with. He wanted my (Rog Phillips’) advice. It was terse. I just asked him, “Why don’t you stop being a son of a bitch?” He showed my letter to his wife who agreed with me, or so he said. My reaction made him admire me so much he wanted to meet me in person—and my reaction to that was to move. (I had been thinking of moving anyway.)
Every once in a while I get a letter from some fan who seems to have the belief that I am the leader of sf fandom and exert a tremendous influence, being able to use “The Club House” to exert pressure on fans. Two of these letters have been from fans “being run out of fandom by some SOB” asking for my help to save them. Another was from a “fan” who had decided fandom was too tame lately and wanted to get another feud of some kind started, asking my help. He would write a hot open letter to fandom if I would write a hot reply. Obviously I have neither the ability nor the desire to exert any kind of pressure or disciplinary movement against any part of fandom. The only exception to that is when I have exposed the reading public to possible mulching in what seems to be fraud. If and when that happens I will publish in “The Club House” just enough of a statement to warn the public against sending any money to the thing, to correct my previous boosts. Even there I can’t do it if Howard Browne cuts it out. The particular case in question is the A.R.A. of Washington, D.C.
Fan Mail is the answer to my being able to so consistently sell my work. I’ve had rejections from publishers, but I have never written a story I haven’t sold. I hear that other authors have their sacred pile of rejected stories that have made the rounds and been given up, their current half-dozen hopefuls that might be sold yet in the expanding market. I don’t have a single reject hanging around, nor do I have any stories out “making the rounds.” When I write a story it’s sold. Fan mail has done that. There are two ways in which it has done it, besides the fan mail that comes in on a Rog Phillips story.
The first and most important way that fan mail has helped me is this: a great deal of my stuff is published under pennames invented by the editors. The stories are apparently the work of brand new and unknown writers. Fan mail comes in giving the stories high rating, and often top rating, and asking for more of that new author’s stuff. That’s the type of thing that boosts my stock with editors. There have even been times when fan letters have placed the “new” author way above Rog Phillips—and by fans I know, who would be very surprised to learn I was this other author too!
The second way in which fan mail has helped me follows the same pattern but with a different angle. As often as not Ziff-Davis and Clark buy my stories without reading them. They know they can do so safely because if a story were to prove too poor for publication I would make it good with another story of the same wordage without protest. And when I say too poor for publication, I mean in the editor’s opinion. There was one story bought without reading it, and when the magazine was being put together it was behind schedule. They took a chance and sent the manuscript to the typesetters without reading it until they got the page proofs to correct. Then they read it and were horrified. It violated every rule of writing. It was definitely no good. They got me on the phone. I rushed right down and read it myself. I had to agree with them. It was absolutely no good. But there was nothing that could be done. It was set in type; there wasn’t time to replace it, let alone stand for a bawling out from the front office for wasted typesetting. I was set to work on the problem of “saving” the story in some way by minor cutting out and equally minor corrections that could be rushed through the typesetters. I couldn’t find anything that could be cut out and improve the story. One of the editors and I cooked up a couple of paragraphs, one in the middle of the story and one at the end. Also the name of the author was changed. Fan mail rated the story excellent, and objected only to the two paragraphs we had inserted!
Speaking of that, I got a big kick out of the fan mail published in Thrilling Wonder Stories [April 1949] on my story “Quite Logical.” That story had originally been 11,000 words. Sam sent it back saying he wanted it if I could cut it to 9,000. I didn’t see how it could be done, but I did it and sent it back to him. I got it back with a note saying they would buy it if I cut it to 6,500. I had already done all the cutting in the first half. I still refused to change a word in the last half, the descent on Washington and the White House. I cut the damn thing to 6,500. Sam bought it. One of the fan letters published said it was cut too much in the first half!
There are two more letters I think will amuse you. One came to Ziff-Davis from a large radio and TV production agency in New York. It said that this agency was desirous of entering into the science fiction field, and in surveying the market had settled on two authors they wanted to contact first, and requested their addresses. The authors' names were Rog Phillips and Craig Browning.
Howard Browne called me on the phone and read the letter, suggesting that I answer. My answer was very short: “Dear Sir: Inasmuch as I am both of these authors your task is much simplified. Yours truly, R.P. Graham.”
They called me long distance the moment they received my letter. And, at this writing it seems fairly certain I will be having a half hour TV sf show before long. I've written the first three stories for this series, the first of which appears in the first issue of Imagination on the stands August 1st. A Rog Phillips story.
By nature I’m a skeptic, so I’ll not really believe this show will go on the air until I see it—and when I see that show it will be my biggest thrill since my first cover story, “So Shall Ye Reap.”
I’ve spoken in this article of a couple of mysteries in connection with letters I’ve received. The biggest mystery to me is why my writings are popular. I think that is the big mystery to all writers who sell. At the start I recognized a definite cycle to successful writers: (a) the period of learning to write and finally selling, (b) the period of success during which stories create favorable reader response but the writer doesn’t know why, and (c) the decline, during which the writer is doing better work than ever but it’s unpopular or creates no response. I’ve realized I was vulnerable so long as I didn’t know why my stuff was popular, and have tried to isolate that factor which made a story popular. Not having ever found it, I’m still vulnerable. I may often sound like an egomaniac, but with each story I write I pause to frown and consciously realize my vulnerability, and to admit to myself that with this story my decline may be starting, with me helpless to prevent it.
Consequently, when I receive a letter like the one I’m going to quote verbatim, I feel very good about it. It came with my latest check from Ziff-Davis, and was written by Howard Browne. It was:
Dear author: Christ, if I could only write as good as you!
And as soon as Howard finds I’ve made public his letter I will be fired. –Roger
- - -
By Earl Terry Kemp
Roger Phillips Graham was a man of many names. He wrote under several pseudonyms, among them: Clinton Ames, Robert Arnette, Franklin Bahl, Alexander Blade, Craig Browning, Gregg Conrad, P.F. Costello, Charles Lee, Charles Mann, Inez McGowan, Melva Rogers, Chester Ruppert, William Carter Sawtelle, A.R. Steber, Gerald Vance, John H. Wiley, and Peter Worth
And of course, his best known pseudonym, Rog Phillips
But I knew Roger Phillips Graham by yet another name: godfather.
Rog was my godfather. He participated in my christening, along with my godmother, Roberta Collins, shortly after I was born on April 9th, 1955. Roberta would marry Joe Gibson a few months later, also a period pulp writer (and another great guy). Rog was a friend of my father, Earl Kemp. They met as fans of science fiction. Earl hoping to emulate his mentor and become a science fiction writer too, but this was not to be, instead my father became an editor, but that’s another story.
When I began this project I knew very little about Rog. I knew very little about his life and slightly more about his death. My godfather died on March 2, 1966 of heart complications, at the much-too-young age of 56. Searching the Internet for facts about his life, I learned that he had been under a doctor’s care for his last six years and was scheduled to have heart surgery to replace a defective valve. After being hospitalized for a pre-operative period in late February 1966, he was placed into intensive care after he entered a coma. He never recovered.
Graham was a prime example of someone who was an author and a fan at the same time. According to the Oxford English Dictionary it appears that Rog Phillips invented the word “actifan” (active fan), as he is cited by them with the earliest known usage of the word (Startling Stories, January 1947).
So what are the facts about Rog? In The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy (through 1968), Volume I, Who’s Who and Works, A-L, by Donald H. Tuck, Advent:Publishers, I gleaned a few more precious facts about the man and his life.
I knew that he was a United States author. Also, that he was better known to the science fiction and fantasy field by his pseudonym “Rog Phillips.” As time went by I learned that everyone just called him Rog.
Rog was born in Spokane, Washington, and graduated from Gonzaga University, Spokane. He also studied at the University of Washington in Seattle. The breadth of his education was new to me, but it can be seen in his writing.
He was in power plant engineering until World War II, when he became a shipyard welder. I recollect that I had heard he was a longshoreman during this phase of his life.
After the war Rog became a full-time writer, and wrote some 3 million words under 20 pseudonyms. It wasn’t easy to track down all of his pseudonyms, and it was even more difficult to find all of his works. A work-in-progress list of his writings is available elsewhere in this issue of eI for those who may be interested.
He is primarily remembered for some notable stories in the Ziff-Davis magazines in the mid-1940’s, which did much to raise their standard of quality, and also for his column “The Club House” which ran in Amazing Stories 1948-53 and was one of the best of its kind in reviewing fan magazines and covering fan affairs.
I am indebted to Len Moffatt (see my companion piece: “Len Moffatt: A portrait of a fan”) for his fascinating stories about Rog and Amazing Stories. After compiling Rog’s bibliography it was no surprise to hear about his prolific, deadline pressing, production where it seems he sometimes nearly single-handedly wrote the entire latest issue of Amazing Stories.
That Roger was married to Mari Wolf for a time, I didn’t know, but Len gave me some insight into their romance. In 1956 Rog married Honey Wood. Yes, I will always remember sweet Honey Wood.
The Yellow Pill is a short story about a psychiatrist who has a visit from the cops bringing someone who has just committed a murder, but who is obviously insane. The man spins a tale that is unbelievable—those he killed were Venusian lizardmen, and he is on a spaceship, and it is the psychiatrist who is hallucinating. The psychiatrist is bemused, and then increasingly worried as the evidence that the murderer may be right begins to mount.
Donald Tuck in his bio/bibliography of Rog lists several stories of interest, including “Atom War” (AS, May 1946); “So Shall Ye Reap” (AS, August 1947); “M’Bong-Ah” (AS, February 1949); “The Cyberene” (Imagination, December 1953). It seems that everyone has their favorite. At the SciFi.com website Barry Malzberg has listed “The Yellow Pill” and “Game Preserve” as Roger’s two most noted works. Yet, it seems that all of these works have been eclipsed by his psychological thriller “Rat in the Skull” (IF, December 1958).
As Rog Phillips he also had fun, writing such stories for his Lefty Baker series as “Squeeze Play (AS, November 1947); “The Immortal Menace” (AS, February 1949); “The Insane Robot” (FA, November 1949); “But Who Knows Huer or Huen?” (Fan, November 1961).
A Golden Age science fiction masterpiece from a Hugo Award nominee writer! Rog Phillips’ The Involuntary Immortals, the story of a woman who finds herself outliving her lovers—and the incredible peril she faces when she sets out to discover the source of her involuntary immortality.
Before his too-short career ended, Rog had not only broken into paperback and hardbound publishing, but also deserves yet another kudo for being among the very first to do so. His first hardbound novel The Involuntary Immortals, enlarged from a Fantastic Adventures novelette (December 1949), was published by Avalon in 1959 shortly before he started to become too sick to write.
His original work, Time Trap, published by Century (a notorious Chicago publisher alleged to be mob run) in 1949, has been cited as being one of the very first, if not the very first, original science fiction paperback printed, because it was the first printed in mass-market rack size. Century followed Time Trap by publishing Worlds Within (1950) and World of If (1951).
1952 brought a big change in paperback science fiction. Ace Books and Ballantine Books began their massive output, specializing in science fiction as still more publishers got on the SF bandwagon. As you can see, Rog was there at the very beginning.
These three paperbacks represent a very short list of his better-known works. The paperbacks are difficult to find, and expensive to collect. His one and only hardbound also goes quickly to collectors. The rest of his work, his incredible number of short stories, novelettes, and articles, has all fallen to the wayside, forgotten by most.
The “Game Preserve,” which first appeared in the October 1957 issue of Worlds of If can be found by collectors in Judith Merrill’s SF: 58 (Gnome Press, 1958). Perhaps his best known work, “The Yellow Pill” (Astounding, October 1958), can be found reprinted in Judith Merril’s SF: 59 (Gnome Press, 1959).
All this happened in his lifetime, before he got sick and faded away. Rog was clearly poised to step into the eyes of the masses as one of the pre-eminent science fiction and fantasy writers of his time.
Not only should he be remembered as a noted writer, but also as a fan.
Shortly before he stepped out of the limelight he was the Guest of Honor at Westercon XIII in Boise, Idaho during the July 3 to July 5, 1960 weekend. It was the last time that I ever saw my godfather. I do remember meeting Rog and his wife, Honey, at the 1960 Boise Convention. I was five years old at the time. Several photos taken then have helped me to refresh my memory over the years.
Of all the things that I remember from that meeting, the thing that I remember the most is having my first Dr Pepper soda pop with Rog. It was quite a treat. Usually I had to share everything with my two older sisters, but not that small bottle of pop. I believe that it was fairly new to the marketplace at the time, as I could (and still can) recollect the early commercials with their 10-2-4 jingle (the various times that it's best for a Dr Pepper).
During his lifetime, Rog is credited as being the voice of Fifth Fandom (from Philcon I to the Korean War). Robert Silverberg and Dick Eney both agree that Fourth Fandom (late 1944—Philcon I in 1947) and Fifth Fandom mostly took place in the long letter columns published in pulp magazines.
The “Shaver Mystery” began in 1945. These were a series of stories and articles which might have been an amusing and ingenious piece of fantasy as written by Richard Shaver, but Ray Palmer, editor of Amazing Stories, decided to publish it as fact. Fans, as might be expected, rebelled against any such claim, seeing in it the completion of Palmer’s shift from science fiction to superstition.
In February 1946 Palmer wrote to the Fantasy News claiming that fandom had missed a great opportunity by failing to embrace the “Shaver Mystery.” This was followed in June 1946 by assistant editor Bill Hamling announcing that Palmer had cracked up and was confined in an asylum. Ziff-Davis confirmed that Palmer was “seriously ill” and Hamling was doing his job. In the same issue of Fantasy Times, Palmer denounced Hamling as perpetrating a hoax with his claims about him, while Hamling wrote that it all had been a deliberate trick on his part to maintain interest in the ongoing debate.
Due to considerable ill-feeling generated against the “Shaver Mystery” by fans, in particular a boycott of Amazing Stories urged by Forry Ackerman, editor Ray Palmer instituted a column in late 1947 of fan news and fanzine reviews in Amazing called “The Club House,” which was written by Rog Phillips. This precipitated one of the more fascinating feuds in fandom, the Graham-Ackerman Feud.
Ackerman, leading the fan opposition to the “Shaver Mystery” accused Phillips as being an agent of Palmer attempting to seduce the fans by “drowning them in butter.” The feud didn’t last very long. It all blew over when Rog walked into a LASFS meeting one evening and fraternized. Fans meet writer and discover yet another fan in the writer.
Fifth Fandom was a sharply transitional time in the history of science fiction fandom. Fans began to notice prozines once more with the establishment of Rog Phillips’ “The Club House” column. This period saw the ending of the “Shaver Mystery” with its ejection from Amazing.
Also, perhaps the most significant event of this period, it brought the resignation of Ray Palmer as editor, and his subsequent replacement by Bill Hamling, a former Amazing writer and assistant editor. Bill Hamling would later become a major publisher in his own right. In yet another twist of fate, my father, Earl Kemp, would become his editorial director many years later.
Rog lived and breathed fandom and science fiction. On March 4, 1958 Roberta Collins, my godmother, moved to the San Francisco area with her husband, Joe Gibson. Quickly relocating, on May 5, 1958 they move to Berkeley. Of small note, in September 1972, I lived with them for a while when I began attending the University of California at Berkeley. Their dear friends, Rog and Honey Graham threw a party for Joe and Roberta at their house on June 2, 1958, many fans from the Bay Area as well as Los Angeles attended.
Joe Gibson, aside from being a pulp writer and peer of Rog Phillips and Bill Hamling, was also known for being a bit of a practical joker. Back in the 1940s Gibson attempted to hoax fandom by inventing a sister, Jay Gibson, who—among other activities—produced fanzines that she dubbed snapzines because they were a snap to produce and mail.
In Memoriam: George Price, Advent:Publishers:
“He was a fairly regular attendee at the University of Chicago Science Fiction Club in the late fifties. I still have a sharp memory of him sitting in the audience (while I was presiding, I think)—wearing a pair of fake eyeballs that fitted over his eyes something like monocles. It made him look as if his eyeballs were much bigger than normal and without lids to cover them. Disconcerting at first glance!”
“The Club House” Years: A short interview with Robert Silverberg:
“This is true. He brought me in.” --Bob Silverberg, 3/23/2006
“I didn’t know him very well. Met him at the 1953 Worldcon, when I was a kid just about to make my first professional sales, and we would run into each other occasionally at conventions over the next ten years, but I don’t remember any extended contact with him. We lived on opposite coasts all of that time. I did tell him, once, how much his fanzine columns had meant to me, and the big impression his fiction had made on me when I was young.” --Bob Silverberg, 3/23/2006
Another mystery solved, shared pseudonyms:
Gerald Vance (also: pseudo: Randall Garrett)
“I didn’t write any of these. Rog stayed behind in Chicago when the Ziff-Davis magazines moved to NY, and when I joined the Ziff-Davis s-f stable in 1955 I inherited some of his pseudonyms, which had become house names by then. The only ‘Robert Arnette’ story I can remember writing was ‘Cosmic Kill,’ a sequel to something by Paul W. Fairman. Same with ‘Gerald Vance’ –that name was hung on some of my work in the Z-D mags and maybe the Hamling ones, but only after 1956.”
A Belated Tribute to a Great Man:
“This is the very least that I can do for my godfather. I never really got to know the man, as he died when I was quite young. I have a handful of photos of the two of us together, that is all.
“The bulk of his work has fallen to the wayside, and can only be found in pulps. He died when he was just beginning to enter the mainstream. Yet he lived at the forefront of the pulp era.
“I would like to think, and hope, with this final tribute, that maybe a last hurrah would find its way into the world, and a book collecting his best works produced so that another generation of readers can be acquainted with his genius.”
“I agree that Rog was just hitting his stride as a writer when he died—the early stories that so impressed me in 1949 probably would strike me as pretty crude stuff now, but in the last five years or so of his life he was doing work of very different quality. I liked and admired him and wish I had had a chance to know him better.”
“(Rog) Phillips was an interesting, paradigmatic figure and I suspect that ‘The Yellow Pill’ will be read as long as science fiction is.”
Good-bye, Rog, and so long! I’m sorry that I never did get to know you. I wish that I had. Never enough time, right!
Your godson, Terry
[INTRODUCTION: Roger Phillips Graham was a man of many names. He wrote under several pseudonyms, among them: Clinton Ames, Robert Arnette, Franklin Bahl, Alexander Blade, Craig Browning, Gregg Conrad, P.F. Costello, Charles Lee, Charles Mann, Inez McGowan, Melva Rogers, Chester Ruppert, William Carter Sawtelle, A.R. Steber, Gerald Vance, John H. Wiley, and Peter Worth. And of course, his best known pseudonym, Rog Phillips. Every effort has been made to insure that this is the best bibliography available for Roger Graham. Naturally it is an ongoing work and any help of any kind to make it better and more informative will be appreciated. Please send your data to me c/o email@example.com and thank you for helping.
Roger Phillips Graham Bibliography
Compiled by Earl Terry Kemp
Return to Earl Kemp page