By John Hertz: Last month I gave a talk at the Eaton Collection on fanzines. Eaton is one of the Special Collections in the Rivera Library, Riverside campus, University of California; the largest publicly accessible holding of s-f in the world.
At the 2004 Worldcon, Fan Guest of Honor Jack Speer in presenting a Hugo Award said the fanzine remained the most distinctive product of the science fiction community. He knew; he’d been with us seventy years. It still is.
When Bruce Pelz died in 2002, Eaton already had Terry Carr’s and Rick Sneary’s fanzines. The Carr zines, thanks particularly to Robert Lichtman, were fairly well indexed. The Sneary zines were indexed. The Pelz zines had been beyond Bruce’s powers during his life. Early in 2009 Eaton finished a preliminary indexing. I had put in time – it’s only two hours’ travel by freeway or rail – bearing a hand.
To the uncivilized mind there are no interests but personal interests. If it doesn’t gore my ox I don’t care. If the book isn’t about me I won’t buy. The civilized mind is broader. My question for the day was, what good are fanzines to people who are not part of the s-f community, who may not read science fiction? Dr. Melissa Conway, head of Special Collections, had long been alert to it. What if drinking companions of King James’ translators had published amateur journals about the work, and the apple crop, and the latest songs? Kipling’s imagined glimpse in “Proofs of Holy Writ” is delightful, but its focus is close on the topic – as many people mistakenly think of fanzines. And, besides the resonating note of s-f, fanzines are a voluntary world of letters, where people write, and read, for love.
I had no trouble overflowing a display table with fanzines that come in my mail. Mike Glyer had kindly sent with me a few dozen of the latest File 770, which I gave everybody. In my audience were students, librarians and staff, and people who didn’t speak. Except the library folk, most had evidently never dreamed of such things. Those who knew s-f knew books, films, prozines. Why wasn’t there fiction? Why on paper? – as they wrote in paper notebooks. Why wasn’t there pay? – as they thought ahead to basketball. The usual. I didn’t mind at all. Two plus two made four last year too. We adjourned to fruit and cookies. None of File 770 was left behind.
Eaton had kindly made a flier which spoke of 50,000 Pelz fanzines. Was this a typo? We had long heard of 250,000. Actually there are about 70,000 – someone rounded down – but indeed something happened. Space. Pelz had a lot of fanzines, like many collectors had acquired others’ collections, and had never gone all through to organize the lot. A judicious retention of duplicates, the ideal policy, calls for comprehensive knowledge, beyond the powers of Eaton’s staff – I said Space, but it’s related to Time. Joe Siclari had always told Pelz he’d take anything Eaton didn’t. He and Dr. Conway confirmed this disposition. I asked Siclari “Have you provided for them in your will?” He changed the subject.