Adventures in Speerology

Patricia Rogers is helping to sift the late Jack Speer’s fanzines, papers, and old photos. It’s such an incredible experience she’s been writing a lot about it online — thanks to Pat for allowing me to quote her here:

If y’all don’t mind I will share with you my adventures in helping Ruth sort though Jack Speer’s papers. Maybe I should be writing this up as a continuing saga for a print fanzine, as this process is going to take awhile. In my heart I think every day I spend with Ruth, and going though Jack’s papers on my own, will bring amazing discoveries. Today was packed full of them and all in the space of about 3 hours.

I had told Ruth I would drop by around 3 p.m., and out of respect for Jack’s noted punctuality I arrived at 3 p.m. on the nose. Ruth had 3 boxes of papers waiting for me in the living room. In the first box there were half a dozen envelopes of photos labeled with dates ranging from 1938 to 1951. The first one we opened was chock-full of treasures, wonderful photos of Jack and several that looked to me like folks at SF meetings. I stared at them thinking: Is that Ed Hamilton? – Is that Henry Kuttner? (And, YES! I am going to scan them for y’all to see.) The next envelope contained photos from Jack’s years in Algeria, the envelope was dated 1945. The small black-and-white photos transported me to Rick’s Cafe and had all the energy of a street bazaar. Photos of camel caravans, narrow streets with a Moroccan feel, marketplace scenes, Bedouin traders having afternoon tea, ancient ruins crumbling into the desert sand, and a few lovely ladies – one even in a belly-dancing costume. I was completely enchanted. Every envelope held treasures, both for Jack’s family and for SF Fandom. Ruth told me stories and we laughed a lot; it was lovely. We especially had fun trying to figure out who all the shapely young ladies were in the photos, and one in particular who was in many of the photos. (These photos were taken long before Ruth met Jack!)

The next box was full of fanzines – no suprise there. But wait…there was a surprise: they were all addressed to Roy Tackett! Several of us in the SF club here had wondered what happened to Roy‘s fanzines. We thought maybe some of his collection went to the Williamson Collection at ENMU in Portales but no one was sure. Ruth said to me, “Jack was the executor of Roy Tackett’s estate.” “Oh My!” I thought as my brain reeled. “Is it possible that Roy Tackett’s fanzine collection is here too?” Certainly the bag after bag of fanzines that had been mailed toRoy make that a real possibility.

Next we went into Jack’s office. There was a five-foot-tall stack of large boxes, each in the shape of a filing cabinet drawer. Written in pencil on each one was my name: “Pat.” Ruth said Jack had started writing my name on boxes of SF papers he wanted to make sure I found. That was the only moment of the afternoon that really had me close to tears. I had no idea he had been doing that and it made me think, “Wow – he really did trust me to do the right thing.” I have to work very hard not to let him down.

Ruth took me to an outbuilding and in the afternoon heat we unlocked and slid the doors open to reveal (in the words of Howard Carter) “Wonderful Things,” and many more boxes. Some were labeled FAPA, but Ruth said that is not necessarily what is in them now. I had already seen all the boxes in the garage but have not been up to the attic yet, where Ed (Jack’s son) tells me there are even more boxes. We have our work cut out for us, but for me it is a labor of love to make sure Jack’s papers are preserved and stay together for future Science Fiction fans to study and enjoy.

Ruth did tell me about the two Great Floods. When they were living in Washington State around 1950-1960 the basement of their home flooded on two occasions. Ruth said Jack did not throw a thing away but as I picked up a file folder of papers that had been glued together with ancient mold I flashed on how the first researcher of the Dead Sea Scrolls must have felt… Just how are we going to unscramble this?

Ruth and I talked photos some more and she told me about some she knew they had of Jack Williamson sitting under their apple tree in the backyard of their first home in Albuquerque. I’ll let you know when we find those. We also went into the closet and looked for Jack’s beanie hat. We did find one but not the one we were looking for.

Finally I loaded 4 boxes of stuff into the car and headed home. Ruth said it would help her if I would take the boxes home and store them as she goes through stuff, so she has work space. That is fine… I will just make my guest room into Speer Storage Land until we get stuff packed up and out to the library.

Halfway home I got waylaid by a traffic jam caused by an accident. I-25 became a parking lot and we all just sat in our cars for close to an hour. I thought, “Gee – what shall I read?” I reached over my shoulder into the backseat and like the “Claw” of a carnival game machine grabbed what was on top and brought it up to see what prize I had won.

In the inch of papers I picked up was –
CORFLU progress report #1 1993
Trans Altantic Fan Fund newsletter 1992
The Space Collectors Catalog
Scientifiction First Fandom Report Fall 2001 and Winter 2002
ASFACTS NM newsletter May 1993
Notes for Bob Peterson #49 March 1993
First Fandom Membership Roster 2002
DUFF Corroboree #4 Feburary 1993
WABE #1 and #5
File 770 #53
Minutes of 1984 WSFS Business Meeting
Terry Hughes eulogy
Science Fiction FiveYearly Nov 2001

I started reading the Science Fiction FiveYearly and found an article by Greg Benford entitled “How to Write a Scientific Paper”. At one point, I was laughing so hard I wondered if my fellow waylaid travelers were worried about the crazy lady in the car beside them, laughing hysterically. That didn’t slow me down… I just kept reading and laughing.

I can see that sorting Jack’s papers is going to be a wonderful learning experience for me. I’m just sorry he is gone and I can’t share my joy with him.

P.S. – Every zine had pencil corrections by Jack of punctuation and spelling errors. It made me smile every time I saw one.

-Patricia Rogers

P.P.S. Well, I did not think I would be posting anything again so soon but Ruth just called and in just a few minutes of listening to her on phone the “Wow” factor to our adventure just got a lot larger! I have a feeling we are in for an amazing ride.

Ruth said – “Do you know who Melvin L. Merritt is? I plead ignorance – do y’all know the name? It seems Jack was given Melvin’s collection of Pulps! Ruth just pulled the top one out of the box and it was Amazing Stories October 1930!! Wow – our adventure is really just beginning.

Think that was exciting enough first thing in the morning? But wait – there is more. Ruth said she thinks now that half the stuff in the garage belonged to Roy Tackett. I guess that answers any lingering doubts I had last night that about where Roy‘s stuff landed.

I am heading over to the Speer home later today….this story will be continued!