Most Of My Days Before Yesterday
by Harry Warner, Jr.

from Pelf #7, April 1969, editors David Hulan and Dave Locke

I don't know what impelled St. Luke or Josephus to write more publicized histories about somewhat older events. But it's easy to pin down the reason why I started to write a fan history. Norm Metcalf suggested it and I couldn't think of a good reason why I shouldn't follow his suggestion.

Meanwhile, there were some excellent reasons why I should tackle the task. In the days when Norm made his suggestion, I'd just received a promotion in my job and had been promised a bigger one soon, so I felt no inclination to spend spare time on professional writing for income-boosting purposes. I'd been reactivated as a full-scale fan for several years, after a semi-gafiation that covered the end of the 1940's and most of the 1950's, and felt myself good for at least two or three more years of all-out fanac. Very few other fans who were active at that time had been around as continuously as I'd been, and nobody well known in fandom had made a serious effort to write a general history of fandom since Sam Moskowitz' THE IMMORTAL STORM, so there was a nagging suspicion that it might be me or nobody. Most important of all, perhaps, was my dissatisfaction with all the good fan histories that had been created up to then, long and short. They had all emphasized fandom as a power struggle and this seemed wrong to me. Fandom, of all places, is a field where nobody can wield power over more than a fistful of local acolytes, at best. Obviously, fans had fought other fans for control of local clubs and had formed national groups to compete with other national groups, and I felt that they'd made such fools of themselves by these procedures that their activities should get a subordinate place in a history of fandom. I felt the urge to write the kind of fan history that I had always wanted to read.

At that time, at the start of the 1960's, Norm was publishing an excellent fanzine, NEW FRONTIERS. We arranged for the history to run serially in that, a chapter per issue. Norm volunteered to work out arrangements for publication in book form, after the whole thing had appeared in his fanzine. I volunteered to rewrite the entire history between fanzine and book publication, incorporating all the corrections and suggestions that I wanted readers to make as they saw the first version.

So I was ready to go to work, and all of a sudden I started to wonder about something. How does one go about writing a history about a tiny group of hobbyists without some kind of framework or general pattern on which to build his manuscript? You can find in a large public library at least a small-scale article or a section of a book dealing with almost any other conceivable subject. But nowhere in the world was there anything remotely like the kind of history of fandom I wanted to write. One or two wise fans almost persuaded me that I should organize the history as a sort of super-Fancyclopedia, alphabetically arranged, for ease of finding what you want to read about. Someone else wanted an almanac-type narration of events as they happened, one month after the next, almost like a newszine published in hindsight with only the significant news included. I toyed with a modification of this idea, which would have given one chapter to each year, then decided that any such form of systematic organization would cause me to tire of the whole project long before I'd finished it. I eventually settled on a sort of improvised sorting out of events into a few major and some minor groups, plus some consideration of trends, and some reviewing of the general situation, almost like a history of a nation. One thing was settled from the outset: I had no intention of covering the same ground that Moskowitz had written about, because I wasn't active until the 1930's had almost ended, I lacked most of the source materials relating to that era, and most of the fans who were active then were hard to find. So the book would cover the period from 1940, approximately, to the present, 1960 or thereabouts.

Taking notes was another mechanical procedure that provided some puzzles. Jotting down information as it accumulated on 3x5 file cards, then sorting them out alphabetically by subject matter, seemed the logical way to do it. But I'd barely started when I realized that this system would dry up the entire East Coast stock of file cards and force me to waste much time buying or building cabinets to keep them in. Then I started to type out notes on looseleaf binder paper, by topic. This was fine for a little longer, until the number of topics had multiplied so alarmingly that I wasted too much time leafing through these pages to find the right one when I began a note on a new topic, extracted it from the binder, inserted it into the typewriter, removed it, and put it back into its proper place. The eventual process was a messy-looking one that worked quite well as far as time-saving and ease of filing or retrieval of information were concerned. I simply typed out notes on the long sheets of copy paper we use at the office, heading each note with its topic, leaving a couple of empty lines before starting a new topic, and doing nothing with these long sheafs of assorted notes until a whole batch of pages had accumulated. Then, every two weeks or so, I spent a couple of hours clipping apart these notes and pasting them onto the looseleaf pages. It minimized leafing through the binders, after I'd sorted out the stacks of clipped-apart notes alphabetically by topic.

In the next couple of years, several things happened. The pages of pasted-up notes began to jam an increasing number of binders, I found my enthusiasm for the project increasing instead of fading as I'd secretly feared, and Norm became so busy that his fanzine publishing suffered. By 1963, I was beginning to write the history and fans in various areas were starting to tell me that there would never be another NEW FRONTIERS for the history to appear in. This was upsetting, even though it was countered by the discovery that I had invented almost exactly the same note-taking system that another diligent historian used. John Gunther filed his clipped-apart notes in large envelopes instead of pasting them onto binder paper, but that was the only real difference between our methods.

This situation caused me to wonder if I should call the project INSIDE FANDOM. I also thought of JOSEPH FANN AND HIS BROTHERS, after the Thomas Mann novels, or AND THEN THERE WERE FANS, in an effort to draw a parallel between fandom and Eric Frank Russell's society. I regret to say that I never did make up my mind. ALL OUR YESTERDAYS became the eventual title through a sort of tacit agreement which nobody ever really made out loud. I'd been using that title for a history column in fanzines for many years.

Eventually, Norm published just one chapter of the history in a 1964 edition of NEW FRONTIERS. By the time it was distributed, I'd already decided to withdraw the manuscript, and the lack of reaction to that chapter in fandom as a whole caused me to wonder if I shouldn't forget the whole project. Remarkably few people mentioned to me their reactions to the chapter. I don't know if it was a bad chapter, or if that issue didn't get widely distributed, or if most comments were direct to Norm. Then Advent: Publishers got interested. Someone in the firm managed to soothe both Norm and me, and I signed a contract to provide Advent with a history of fandom.

By now, it was obvious that I could never cover the entire twenty years of fandom's history in a single volume of the size that would be economically feasible. Besides, the time between 1940 and the present had increased by 25%, so there went any thoughts of creating a history that would be virtually up to date. I decided to restrain myself to the 1940's, with just as much attention to preceding and succeeding events as convenience dictated.

By early 1965, I'd completed most of the first volume and also acquired a new set of worries. Earl Kemp, who had been working with me for Advent, moved from Chicago to California and retired from the firm. I had the awful foreboding that Earl was Advent, as far as interest in the fan history was concerned. Fortunately, Ed Wood took over the editing duties, and I found that by 1966, we'd organized the entire first volume far enough to draw up a semi-firm table of contents. Then things bogged down again, from Advent's standpoint, and I didn't even bother to inquire what the trouble might be. By now I was positive that Sam Moskowitz had arranged with providence to be fandom's sole and exclusive historian and that inescapable, inexplicable circumstances would make it impossible for me or anyone else to publish a book-length work, thanks to Sam's influence on the workings of fate.

Then I went to the Nycon in 1967 and met Ed for the first time. He broke the news that I was getting a new editor, in the form of George Price, and that publication would now go forward after all these delays. All during 1968, George and I corresponded about various fine points in the long-completed manuscript, and as this is written, the book is supposed to emerge from the print shop Real Soon Now, in a matter of weeks. Maybe it'll be out by the time you read this.

I'm grateful to Advent for bailing me out and keeping alive a project which would have probably been stillborn without the firm. I'm not listing this outline of the delays to put Advent in a bad light; I'm simply anxious to make it clear to fandom in general that I'd finished my work years ago. After the twentieth time I read a reference in recent years to how long it was taking me to write the book, I began to wonder if I really had completed that manuscript. I hope everyone will rush out and buy a lot of copies of the history, so Advent won't regret undertaking a manuscript that appeals to a more inner-circle type of fan than most of the firm's titles.

My original thought that the work should appear in fanzines first, for greater accuracy of the book version, may not have been too justified. A few sections of the book have been reviewed by people whom they concern, and the corrections those individuals have supplied have been few enough and minor enough to cause me to believe that the level of accuracy is fairly high. Of course, if I wrote the history of the 1940's today, I would do it a little differently, but I'm not too dissatisfied with the way I wrote it five years ago. The delay helped in one respect. I mellowed a trifle over the years, and expurgated a few items from the manuscript that would have served only to embarrass individuals without any real cause. I know that a long-ago fan got written up in the New York tabloids for molesting a little boy and a more recent fan spent a term in prison that caused temporary gafiation and a couple of fringe-fans were communists and whores. There were other things that had more effect on fandom than those juicy morsels so they got tossed in the garbage pail where I should have relegated them in the first place. I hope older fans don't think they're missing because I don't know those things.

Regrets? One is that I didn't try to list in this first volume all the fans who helped me. I put it off until the history of the 1950's appears, and a lot of deserved egoboo won't exist if I drop dead too soon. Some fans went to untold amounts of trouble for me. One got Ackerman to fill a reel of tape with his memories. An Australian filled nine or ten single-spaced pages with a detailed, orderly account of events down there from a time which had previously been opaque to North Americans. Others were generous with searching their own memories or sending ancient correspondence or files of rare fanzines. I don't dare to mention any by name here, because it would be unfair to those I don't name.

Another regret is that I failed to include a chapter on prozine letter sections. I didn't exactly forget or choke up over the task. I thought it would be better to describe the prozine letterhacks and their influence on fandom in a chapter of the second volume, since there wasn't much difference in those letter sections over the years. Moreover, it might be simpler to work out arrangements for reprinting extracts of this copyrighted material if it's all in one volume. But it may look as if I just didn't know about the letter sections as a recruiting grounds and tradition-source.

Finally, not exactly a regret, but rather a sorrowful fear, is that fandom will have the wrong idea on what the history is like. I've been writing ALL OUR YESTERDAYS for QUIP and doing a serialized biography of Willis in WARHOON and some other historical items for other fanzines. Now and then a fan reacts to these with the remark that they make him more than ever anxious to see the fan history. I keep wondering: will that fan be horribly disillusioned when he opens the book and finds how much more detailed the fanzine articles are than the book? A moment's thought will show how impossible it was to cover so much ground as the book required in great detail. Giving three or four pages to each important fanzine of the 1940's would have filled the book completely. Or I could have filled a 300-page book simply by publishing all the biographical information I had about prominent fans of that decade. Obviously, any such procedure would have created much greater disappointments in purchasers than the more inclusive, less detailed philosophy that I adopted. But I hope that the fanzine contributions don't cause bad reviews for the book, or from another aspect, I hope old-time fans understand that there just wasn't room to give more than a passing mention to a lot of active, valuable fans of that day. I refused to lure purchasers by giving a lot of space to people simply in the hope they would purchase out of flattery over getting the space.

Assuming that the book is on sale by the time you read this, what happens next? I'm not sure. The contract that I signed with Advent (really a memorandum of agreement) refers to a two-volume fan history. So technically, I suppose I'm doomed to write another volume about the 1950's, if the first volume sells in sufficient quantities to keep Advent interested. When I feared the book would never get published, about three years ago, I stopped doing research and halted the practice of taking notes from new fanzines. Much, probably most, of the preliminary work is done on the 1950's, but I really should dig hard for a while before trying to write any of the second volume. Things have gone wrong with my job, and I'm on the verge of quitting it, which would give me more spare time for fan history writing, but until I do make the break, I have an awful urge to devote a lot of spare time to writing several novels instead of the history. One thing is definite: my fanzine letterhacking will undergo an almost complete halt if and when I go to work on the history of the 1950's. I'm barely about to keep up with letterhack duties now, and they'll never survive the loss of a couple dozen hours of spare time every week to fan history work.

There are just two other things about the fan history that you would never guess from reading this book. Unless I haven't looked closely enough at the proofs, George Price didn't give himself credit for doing a job that I could never have accomplished, no matter how hard I tried. He indexed the volume. I don't have the kind of willpower that would enable me to do this kind of work, even though I had no real trouble forcing myself to spend hundreds and thousands of hours on researching and writing the book itself.

The other matter: this will be fandom's first big chance in many years to see non-first draft writing from my typewriter. I can recall only one other item in more than a decade which was published from a second draft after I'd revised the first. That was one chapter of the Willis biography. If you think that the fan history has a different style, now that you know it isn't first draft, I challenge you to figure out which chapter of the Willis biography got rewritten.