More About Jack Speer

Some new blog posts point out more things worth remembering about Jack Speer.

Gary Farber reminds us

If you’ve ever written a blog comment you owe this man.

Well said, Gary. In 1938, Jack invented the practice of making short responses —  mailing comments — in his zine to the other zines distributed through the Fantasy Amateur Press Association (FAPA). Other fans reciprocated his comments, and it’s gone on ever since. From his snowflake to today’s avalanche.

Speer worked in law and politics during his career:

In the mundane world, John Bristol Speer was a retired lawyer who resided in Albuquerque since 1962; previously, he was a Democrat state representative from the Bend, Washington area during 1959-1961.

Speer was also a former judge. It might be said that in his day he dispensed “law West of the Pecos.”

San Jose Bidding for 2011 Westercon

Glenn Glazer will lead the San Jose bid for the 2011 Westercon newly announced by San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc. SFSFC has run many conventions over the years, including the 2002 Worldcon.

The full press release appears after the jump.

Update 6/30/2008: Made the correction noted in Kevin’s comment. Sorry about that!

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Jack Speer (1920-2008)

Jack Speer at Bubonicon 36 (2006)

“First Fandom member and writer of the Fancylopedia Jack Speer passed away this morning [June 28],” writes Patricia Rogers.

Speer’s famous Fancyclopedia, published in 1944, formalized definitions for hundreds of terms in use by fans.

Prior to that, in 1939, he wrote the first history of science fiction fandom, called Up To Now. It was very hard to find copies until just last month when Robert Lichtman recreated it as a PDF edition and posted it at eFanzines. In this zine, Speer first articulated the idea of Numbered Fandoms (fannish historical epochs), which ever since has occupied many a fan’s idle hours.

Speer also innovated several indispensable bits of faanish typography, including the quasi-quote mark and the interlineation. He contributed to faanish cosmology by inventing FooFoo, the ghod of mimeography, fearsome foe of Ghu.

According to Don Fitch, Speer was diagnosed as terminal some weeks ago. Still, Jack had managed to attend Corflu Silver in April, making his way around with the aid of a portable oxygen supply, attentive to everything going on. The con’s classic moment was when fellow eo-fan Art Widner serenaded Jack with the first-ever filksong, written by Jack himself.

Although the term “filksong” had yet to be invented, several of these songs were sung at the 1940 Worldcon. Jack created them by setting new lyrics with a science fictional theme to familiar tunes. A snippet of one goes:

We’ll build a tempo-ship
And we’ll take a little trip,
And watch a million years go by.

In 1995, Speer received the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. In 2004, he was Fan Guest of Honor at Noreascon 4. His collection, Fancestral Voices, was published by NESFA Press for the occasion.

Having spent decades thinking of Speer as a distinguished founding father of fandom, as he certainly was, I’ve tended to overlook that he was having a helluva lot of fun while making history. This point is brought home by Harry Warner’s anecdote about Speer at the 1947 Worldcon in All Our Yesterdays:

From time to time that Saturday night, the happy fans were vaguely aware of the existence of loud, intermittent noises. Several Philadelphians explained them away as a local phenomenon that occurred when sewer gas caused manhole lids to lift violently in a sort of municipal burping. However, the real facts were not at all like that. During a late drinking session…Speer had suddenly remembered the existence of fireworks in the hip pocket of the Quintessence of FooFoo, his current auto…. Several roman candles later, policemen in a squad car gave [Speer and other fans] a warning about discharging fireworks within the city limits… [Afterwards], Speer and Davis seem to have taken up strategic posts on upper fire escapes [of the con hotel]… Firecrackers and skyrockets were alternated to provide variety… When the police returned… they paid $5.00 apiece at the 21st District Station for disturbing the peace. The investment was at least partly justified because the pyrotechnics had helped Willy Ley find his way to the hotel.

A later e-mail from Patricia Rogers concluded with this request: “I talked with Ruth [Jack’s wife] for around an hour this evening. The memorial will probably be on July 8 or 9.  She has asked me to speak about Jack and his role in SF/Fandom at the service. I know a fair amount but if you or anyone you can think of has anything they would like to add – I would be happy to – just let me know.”

Yesterday’s Future: Insufficiently PC

Carlos Mondragon is not enamored of Robert Silverberg’s vintage Hugo nominee, “Schwartz Between the Galaxies”:

Overall, I found the story itself to be quite dull (as well as anachronistic, misogynistic, and slightly racist) at times. No news here; one has to take Old School SciFi for what it was – even though that doesn’t really excuse its writer, given that 1972 is not that far removed from us. In this respect, the fact that it was ever nominated for a Hugo just goes to prove that said award has never been a guarantor of quality.

Silverberg having been one of the least conservative sf writers of the Seventies did not immunize his work against the reproaches of contemporary readers, of course. But if that’s all the mercy he’s going to receive, heaven help the other favorites of that era.

The more commonly accepted idea of Silverberg’s place in sf history, which takes context into account, is the one expressed by Kim Stanley Robinson in this recently-published article:

“[In the 1960s and 1970s], that’s when [Silverberg] came into his own,” [Kim Stanley] Robinson noted. “When he saw that science fiction could be written in the styles of the great literary modernists, it struck sparks in him. He became one of the new wave. He’s so prolific that he popped off a half-dozen classics in rapid order – The Book of Skulls, Dying Inside, Nightwing. Those are among the books that marked that era as being the high point in American science fiction. Silverberg was a big part of it.”

What Passes for History

Cheryl Morgan points out Tim W. Brown’s poorly-researched post on Galley Cat masquerading as a brief history of zines, chortling over the prospect that Core Fandom will stroke out when they read such “facts” as —

The most widely credited ancestor of the contemporary zine was the “fanzine” first appearing in the 1970s. An offshoot of the fan club newsletter, fanzines published bits of fact and rumor about favorite rock bands in pamphlets mimeographed in editions of fifty or a hundred.

Cheryl’s not the only one who enjoys the idea of Core Fandom finding a little grit in its oyster, but this post should offend anyone who uses the Internet as a learning tool. The correct information about 30’s sf fandom’s role in inventing fanzines is readily available without having to sift the Eaton Collection. Brown would not even have had to personally read Fredric Wertham’s World of Fanzines if he’d sought out articles like this one by Steven Perkins, author of the far more accurate essay “Science Fiction Fanzines.”

Space: Your Name Here

Marvin the MartianWhen Phoenix landed on Mars on May 25, arriving in the baggage was the Visions of Mars mini-DVD, containing the names of the members of the Planetary Society and a series of Mars images from U.S. comic strips, pulps, animation. Included is Windsor McCay’s Little Nemo, in a 1910 adventure featuring an airship ferrying Nemo and friends to Mars, and a poster from the 1936 Flash Gordon serial. Among the other artists represented are Chuck Jones (of Marvin the Martian fame), Ed Emshwiller, Chesley Bonestell, Frank Kelly Freas, Richard Powers, Michael Whelan, Don Dixon, Alex Schomburg, Vincent Di Fate and Frank R. Paul.

There’s also a library full of sf that takes place on Mars or features Martians, such as Wells’ War of the Worlds, and works by Brian Aldiss, Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, Greg Bear, J. G. Ballard, Greg Benford, Otto Binder, Ben Bova, Leigh Brackett, Ray Bradbury, Fredric Brown, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Arthur C. Clarke, Samuel Delany, August Derleth, Philip K. Dick, Harry Harrison, Fred Hoyle, Otis Adelbert Kline, Michael Moorcock, C L Moore, Larry Niven, H. Beam Piper, Fred Pohl, Kim Stanley Robinson, Carl Sagan, Theodore Sturgeon, A. E. Van Vogt, Kurt Vonnegut, Jack Williamson, Roger Zelazny, etc.

This was The Planetary Society’s second attempt to send Visions of Mars to its namesake planet. It was originally created by the Society to ride aboard Russia‘s Mars ’96 spacecraft, which failed shortly after launch. 

I’ve read positively wistful comments from a few people whose names are etched on this souvenir of cosmic immortality. And who knows, maybe Marvin the Martian will be pleased to read the names of everyone responsible for introducing him to the greats of science fiction. Yet I can’t help remembering that when I received the DVD of Fellowship of the Ring, the credits including I don’t know how many charter members of the Official Lord of the Rings Fan Club, I let it run after the end of the movie for quite awhile and scanned the names for friends of mine, but that was not endlessly fascinating even though there were people I knew on the list. Who will Marvin the Martian know besides Chuck?

Still, if this kind of thing turns you on, don’t miss the June 27 deadline to get your name on the disk going aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Amy Sturgis Gives Voice to Science Fiction

Amy H. Sturgis has begun narrating contemporary science fiction stories for the U. K. audio science fiction magazine StarShipSofa. Her first assignment is Elizabeth Bear’s “And The Deep Blue Sea.”

She’s also become a monthly contributor to StarShipSofa’s “Aural Delights” Wednesday program, providing commentary about science fiction topics. You’ll find her first installment here approximately 10 minutes into the podcast.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the link, via the Middle Tennessee Science Fiction Club newsletter.]

Brass Cannon Books Right on Target

Shenandoah Spy cover

The new print edition of Francis Hamit’s Civil War novel The Shenandoah Spy boasts a handome cover.

The Shenandoah Spy is based on the true story of Belle Boyd, a young woman who became one of the most famous personalities of the U.S. Civil War. A scout and spy for Turner Ashby’s 7th Virginia Cavalry, she was instrumental in the success of Stonewall Jackson’s famous Valley Campaign of 1862. At the Battle of Front Royal on May 23, 1862, Belle ran across the battlefield under fire to deliver her vital intelligence. She became the first woman in American history to be commissioned an Army officer.

The illustration of Belle Boyd was done by David Martin, a well known artist and illustrator that Hamit met last year in New Mexico at Bubonicon. The jacket’s final design is by George Mattingly.

You can get a personally signed copy from Hamit by purchasing it through his website, The cost currently is $18.95 plus sales tax (California residents only) and $3.95 shipping.

Update: 6/28/2008: Deleted ‘print-on-demand.’

How the Hugos Work, In Case You Wondered

The Crotchety Old Fan, Steve Davidson, has taken a swing at explaining the mechanics of the Hugo Awards voting process. It should be good info, since necessary corrections were made after rules expert Kevin Standlee dropped in to vet the article. (Factchecking articles about WSFS rules is a little like visiting a restaurant and going into the kitchen to proofread the sausage recipe, isn’t it?) You have been warned.