Still in Wonderland

By John Hertz:  The Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, my local club, has been meeting every Thursday over eighty years.  Most of us rhyme “LASFS” with joss fuss although Len Moffatt always rhymed it with sass mass.

People often come for the business meeting and leave before the program.  That’s because our business is monkey business.  We have strange motions – I mean, in the parliamentary sense; File 770 is a public forum – and auctions.  Maybe your club does also.

Last night the program was Harlan Ellison.  Of course the room was crammed.

We didn’t call it “An Evening with Harlan Ellison”.  We didn’t call it anything.  He told us he’d like to come by, didn’t mind if we let people know, and would gladly take questions and give autographs if we didn’t make a performing elephant of him.  I paraphrase.

Of course he’s a LASFS member.  While he’s become a tremendous celebrity as a pro he’s also a fan.  Among many other things he brought about the faithful contributions of Nalrah Nosille to Science Fiction Five-Yearly – published on time for sixty years – until the very last issue.

Of course he’s good at telling stories – he says Whoopi Goldberg, a friend of his, is too –  and so many of us wanted to hear him we ended up seating him at a table on a platform with most everyone just listening.  It was all right.

Our current clubhouse (our third; we outgrew two others) also has a social hall, a computer-game room, and our library.  We even have a Null Space; one very able member was Bob Null.  Fans also hung around these spaces from time to time, including John DeChancie, me, and Harlan’s wife Susan who is herself a wonder.  He couldn’t; he was busy.  But it was all right.  In fact it was a gas.

I don’t know if Harlan was born in a cross-fire hurricane.  He was however reading by two – maybe you were also – and like many of the quick and the young he perceived and might answer more than he yet grasped.  Once someone told him “Don’t hock me a chainik” (a Yiddishism, literally don’t bang me a teapot = make such a fuss) and he said “Okay, I’ll pawn you in Poughkeepsie.”

Dennis the Menace, he said, to him was Goldilocks.

Later he served in the Army.  Just conceiving of this roused our imagination.  He was court-martialed fifteen times.  Acquitting him, which always happened, didn’t seem to make things much better.  At the end of his active duty he found nothing in his folder about where he was to go for reserve duty.  Everyone else had an assignment.  He asked.  They said “Just go away.”

Some of the legends about him never happened.  He is not always the calmest man in the world and he has found their recurrence troubling.  He told of a fellow who during another question time asked “Why did you drop that chandelier on those people?”  To that man, and to us, he explained what he’d have had to do to get at a chandelier, to detach it, and to drop it.  And what would those people have been doing in the meantime?  And what place would he have had to stand on to wield that lever and move that world?  I paraphrase.

Finally Susan, in her role as Mary Poppins, said it was time to go home.  Of course there were new books and we wanted to buy them.  Of course he preferred to sell some but was almost apologetic.  Finally Jerry Pournelle managed it by asking “Harlan, if they buy your books will you tell us why you dropped that chandelier?”  We all cracked up and it was all right.

Hertz: He Was a Lion – Len Moffatt 1923-2010

By John Hertz (reprinted from Vanamonde 913): I gave him a gilt bottle of mimeograph correction fluid for his 50th birthday. I dressed as Auguste Dupin for him in a presentation at the detective-fiction convention Bouchercon the year he co-chaired. I drank Chivas Regal with him. Len Moffatt was of First Fandom, that happy band active among us at least as early as the first World Science Fiction Convention in 1939. Born in Arizona, by his teens he was a founder of the Western Pennsylvania Science Fictioneers, doing fanzines – a word not yet invented – and corresponding with fans around the United States and United Kingdom. In World War II he joined the Navy like his ancestors and served as a hospital-corpsman with the Marines; he was in Nagasaki after the atomic bomb. In 1946 he joined the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. He always pronounced LASFS to rhyme with mass sass. He did a lot of rhyming, sometimes as the clown Pike Pickens, sometimes clowning himself.

Some fans sell s-f, some become quite active as pros. In 1949 the LASFS began a yearly Fanquet honoring the member who sold the most words in the previous year. Moffatt tied for that honor in 1951. In 2004 the LASFS gave him its Forry Award, named after Forry Ackerman, for lifetime achievement in s-f, putting him in the company of Ray Bradbury, Kelly Freas, and C.L. Moore. In 2008 his poem “What a Friend We Have in Sherlock” appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. Detective fiction has long been our next-door neighbor. Bouchercon, of which Len and his second wife June were co-founders, was named for Tony Boucher, a top and if I may say so tony editor and author there and here. It gave them its Anthony Award for lifetime achievement in 1999.

Len was probably Rick Sneary’s best friend. Both were active in the Outlanders, one of the many s-f clubs outside the LASFS – often overlapping the LASFS membership – that have flourished from time to time. Sneary lived in South Gate. In 1948 he began, first as a joke, the slogan South Gate in ’58. It caught on. The Worldcon moves around so as to be each year in someone’s back yard. In 1957 the con was in London. It voted for South Gate. Be careful what you wish. Luckily the mayors of South Gate and Los Angeles by joint proclamation constituted the premises of the Hotel Alexandria as South Gate for the duration and purposes of the Worldcon. The con was called “Solacon” in honor of the combination. It also combined with that year’s Westercon, the West Coast Science Fantasy Conference. Len was in the thick of it all. A decade and a half later he was Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon XXV.

Besides fanzines we have apas, amateur publishing associations, which distribute fanzines. We did not invent apas but we gave them our own life. Our first was the Fantasy Amateur Press Association, older than Worldcons. The distinction between science fiction and fantasy has long been known and blurred. The Moffatt FAPAzine was Moonshine. This was appropriate. Among Len’s achievements was fan fiction – in our sense, i.e. fiction about fans – that Terry Carr thought was factual anecdote. Len and June were in APA-L, much younger than FAPA, over thirty years until Len’s death. June still is.

Conviviality, hospitality were with Len’s wit, amplified, if possible, by June. Together clubmen and party hosts – the suffix -man is not masculine – they also welcomed and sponsored newcomers with open arms, and discernment, for them no paradox. Fine fannish things happened at Moffatt House and when the Moffatts went abroad. They went well abroad in 1973 as the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegates, nominated by Terry Jeeves, Ethel Lindsay, Juanita Coulson. Fred Patten, and Roy Tackett. attending the British national s-f con, and publishing their TAFF report in good time. In 1981 they were Fan Guests of Honor at our local s-f con Loscon. In 1994 they were given the Evans-Freehafer Award for service to the LASFS. Shortly before I had the honor of co-editing with them the Rick Sneary memorial fanzine Button-Tack. It seems like yesterday.

He was a lion. I loved him. Good-bye.

Len Moffatt Passes Away

Len Moffatt died around 3 a.m. on November 30 reports June, his wife. He was 87.

Dave Locke adds, “June had been keeping some folks informed on Len’s hospital adventures with emails having the subject ‘Len’s Progress Report.’  This one was entitled ‘Len’s Progress Report – FINAL.’”

Len went into the hospital on November 19 with extreme abdominal pain. He had been operated on for herniated colon.

It’s a huge loss for June and all of Len’s friends from the two fandoms where he’s been active since the beginning. Len discovered SF fandom in 1939 and joined the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society in April 1946. Len and June Moffatt were Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegates in 1973. Fans in the mystery field will miss him too, as a participant in Bouchercons and as a writer (his most recent sales were to Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine).

1972 Westercon GoHs, Lloyd Biggle Jr. (pro) and Len Moffatt (fan)

LASFS Website Posts Moffatt Photos

Rick Sneary, Roy Tackett, Takumi Shibano, Sachiko Shibano 

Above: Rick Sneary, Roy Tackett, Takumi Shibano and Sachiko Shibano enjoying the 1968 Worldcon.

The Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society website now boasts dozens of fanhistorically important photos from the collection of Len and June Moffatt. What a trip in the Wayback Machine!

These photos from the end of the Sixties are a window into cons and events people were still talking about when I joined LASFS in 1970. Some are pictures of fans who made themselves unforgettable in ways good and bad but I only heard about because they vanished from the club before I arrived.

For example, they were still taking about the club’s  1965 Halloween Party. Not that you’d know it from the pictures, but this infamous party was interrupted by gunshots fired from outside into the building. Dian Pelz (later Crayne) was slightly hurt by flying wood splinters. One bullet passed between Dian and Bill Rotsler as they sat talking. A possible cause is that two crashers had been evicted from the party earlier in the evening. Police came and took down information, but no arrests ever made.

Here you can see the highlights of FunCon I in 1968 (which I recently mentioned in co-chair Chuck Crayne’s obituary.) They include a rare photo of Flieg Hollander, whose claim to fame includes mathematically proving Larry Niven’s Ringworld is unstable (the launching point for a sequel).

And there are a lot of interesting photos of well-known fans from back in the day. He’s a fannish legend, but have you ever seen a picture of the late Elmer Perdue? Or Locus’ Charles N. Brown, Marsha Elkin Brown and Elliott Shorter in their prime?

Here’s a photo of Ray Bradbury talking to Leigh Brackett.

And this is probably the fuzziest, pinkest photo ever taken of Fuzzy Pink Niven.

There are shots of fans paying tribute to Star Trek at the 1966 Worldcon (Tricon), and of William Shatner mingling.

There are photos from any number of Westercons: the 1965 Westercon, 1966 Westercon, 1967 Westercon, 1969 Westercon, 1970 Westercon, and 1972 Westercon. Why no pictures from a 1968 Westercon? Because after winning their 1968 Westercon bid the same group successfully bid for the Worldcon and held a single con to satisfy both, BayCon, the 1968 Worldcon. From that Worldcon: Void Boys Ted White and Greg Benford;  Bob Bloch, Betty Farmer, and John W. Campbell, Jr. having cocktails; and from the masquerade, Cory Seidman (later Panshin) as a Corflu Bottle

There are quite a few pictures documenting the LASFS’ efforts to buy its first clubhouse. Bruce Pelz led the LASFS to reorganize as a nonprofit corporation as a step in acquiring a clubhouse. These pictures were taken at the first LASFS Board of Directors Meeting in 1972, held in Milt Stevens’ apartment. (I was there!)

LASFS bought its first clubhouse the following year, a property on Ventura Boulevard. Most of these shots are of fans refurbishing it.

[Thanks to Lee Gold for the story.]

John Hertz Reports:
A Very Merry Unbirthday

By John Hertz: The birthday party for Forry Ackerman that Ray Bradbury hosted on Saturday, November 22nd, at Bookfellows (also called Mystery & Imagination bookshop) in Glendale was full of people, books, a cake, Ray, a theremin, and a giant card we all wrote good wishes on. Forry’s 92nd is Monday, November 24th.

We sang Happy Birthday to Forry by phone, for which he thanked us from his home, the mini-Ackermansion. He is physically weak but his mind is sharp.

The cake was chocolate. It had a big photo of Forry in a blazer with his First Fandom badge, and a big photo-montage of monsters. Ray spoke eloquently. So did George Clayton Johnson and other friends.

That night was a small unbirthday party for another member of First Fandom, Len Moffatt, who was only 85 on Thursday, November 20th. I asked Ray if he’d like to sign a card for Len, and he said certainly, so I went across the street and made one at a copy shop.

Len’s wife June had contributed a 1972 photo of Len for the cover of APA-L 2271 last Thursday, so I used that. APA-L has been published every week for only 44 years.

The photo was from Westercon XXV where Len was Fan Guest of Honor. It shows Horrible Old Roy Tackett, Len as the clown Pike Pickens, Stan Woolston, and in back Dan Alderson. After Ray, I went over to Forry’s so he could sign it. A nurse’s aide let me in.

Forry said “I’ve always enjoyed you over the years,” which I told him was mutual. I took the card to Len’s party and confessed it was another ruse to dodge the no-presents rule. At his 80th it had been a balloon.

Len Moffatt in EQMM

Len Moffat’s Sherlockian poem “What a Friend We Have in Sherlock” appeared in the November issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. It’s about Holmes’s alleged relationship with Irene Adler.

The November issue is apparently off sale, but electronic texts are available from several online services, including

Len and his wife June are past TAFF delegates and long-time LASFSians, who helped organize several early Bouchercons.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster for the story.]

LASFS Cuts the Birthday Cake

The Los Angeles chapter of the Science Fiction League (No. 4) began meeting in 14-year-old Roy Test Jr.’s family garage in 1934. On October 28, the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society celebrated 70 years of friendship and fanac. Founding member Forrest J Ackerman performed the duty of gaveling the 3,507th meeting to order with President Van Wagner’s pink plastic lobster.

For Ackerman, Len and June Moffatt, this was their second consecutive day of celebration. A group of eofans gathered on October 27, the real anniversary, at their old stomping grounds, Clifton’s Cafeteria in downtown LA. Local TV news covered the get-together because it also included those teenaged fans who grew up to have stars in the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Ray Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen.

The October 28 club meeting drew around a hundred fans, about evenly divided between the usual crowd of active members and old-timers from bygone decades. The more widely-known regulars included John Hertz, Joe Minne (who introduced me to LASFS), Rick Foss, Matthew Tepper, Elayne Pelz, Drew Sanders, Charles Lee Jackson 2, Marc Schirmeister, Marty Massoglia, Christian McGuire (L.A.con IV chair), Francis Hamit, Leigh Strother-Vien, Ed Green, Liz Mortensen, John DeChancie, Marty Cantor, Tadao Tomomatsu (“Mr. Shake Hands Man”) and Mike Donahue. Some of the graybeards present were notables in national fandom back in the day, like Arthur J. Cox, and others remain well-known, like Fred Patten, John Trimble, William Ellern, Dwain Kaiser and Don Fitch.