An Iron Man Steps Down
by John Hertz
reprinted from Vanamonde 817
Marty Cantor phoned at nine or ten o’clock at night. He never does that; he rises by dawn; this is a terrible hour for him. It must have been important. It was. As Official Collator of APA-L he had just heard from Fred Patten that Patten was no longer able to continue a weekly Lzine. “The world,” said Cantor, “has come to an end.”
The Amateur Publishing Association of Los Angeles began in October 1964. Since then L has been collated and distributed every week (except one break of a few months in the 1960s). Before the rise of E-mail and the Internet that was almost unheard of; it is still breathtaking. It remains unparalleled. Patten has been in every distribution. APA-L 2279 contains No. 2279 of his fanzine ¡Rábanos Radiactivos!
The science fiction community has since earliest days been enlivened by the amateur publications by fans, for fans, which we call fanzines. Fanzines are our joy, fanzines are our delight, fanzines are our heart of gold. But notoriously they come and go. They last a few years, or a few issues. Into long runs gaps creep. Fanziners drop one title and take up another. “A frequent fanzine” is a rallying cry.
An apa collects and circulates its contributors’ zines. Apazines at best sparkle with the interplay of wit and reflection, the interchange of comments and of comments on comments. Like other sapient beings we in apas do not always rise to our ideals. We find it hard enough in most apas, quarterly or monthly.
Over almost forty-five years Patten’s Lzine was faithful and sound. He noted, reviewed, commented. He was outstanding — and he was mild. His wit and reflection thus interplayed. Of him “prosaic” was praise. He was a founder of the Down Under Fan Fund (visits between Australia – New Zealand and North America), he chaired Westercon XXVII (1974; s-f convention in the North American west) and Loscon XIV (1987; Los Angeles — incidentally, his had the highest attendance to date), he was a worthy fanhistorian, he became an international expert on animé, all with a place in his zine, as is the fannish way. We could read him for his view of what we were not ourselves interested in. That’s writing.
In 2005 Patten suffered a stroke. He was not a lumberjack, or a pianist; his enterprise did not rely mainly on his bodily health. He had already retired as a librarian. He had to give up his s-f collection, and his apartment. But he continued fan activity by other means. He was indomitable — but not, it has at last and bravely appeared, indefatigable. He has done more than dozens, or hundreds. Long may he wave.
Update 1/23/2009: Corrected to 1974 Westercon. (The Roman numeral was right — I know for sure 1978 was 31 and could count back, after all…)
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Actually, Fred chaired the 1974 Westercon.