Reference Director: Zotz!

Editor’s Note: John’s contribution, reprinted by permssion from Vanamonde, made me think it would be good to have a new category devoted to fannish references and in-jokes.

By John Hertz: When one is to master ceremonies one doesn’t know whether they will need stretching or shrinking. It is good to be prepared.

On the day of the L.A. S-F Society’s 75th-anniversary dinner I happened upon a used-book sale at Nick Smith’s place, the Pasadena Central Public Library, where I see him working sometimes, and there was a copy of Walter Karig’s Zotz! (1947). Of course I bought it. I had it in my briefcase, with my propeller beanie and the speech Paul Turner gave me to read about the Building Fund.

Of Zotz! I could have told, a fantasy novel well-made and worth reading, its author a United States Navy captain (1898-1956) who wrote Nancy Drew books and a five-volume Battle Report of the World War II Navy assigned him in parallel with S.E. Morison’s history; a novel whose neat satire escaped the posthumous 1962 movie (indeed I don’t perceive how the tragedy of Ch. 32 could have gone onto the screen); a novel which, despite its modest but definite merit, became the butt of the annual LASFS Gift Exchange as copies kept appearing, glutting, surfeiting, until Zotz! was a byword for an unwanted unvalued gift.

But just as the fannish god (or ghod) Roscoe brought me and the book together that day, he (or if you don’t believe, the course of human events) brought no moment to take the book forth that night. How would it have been received? Would it have been known at once? Could I have given it the honor, comic and other, it deserved? Perhaps those of us who love the small and not only the great, those who relish what might have been (indeed see “I Thought I Had a Pumpkin Bomb”, Trap Door 23), may be pleased that our dinner was adorned, among its other ornaments, with a ready but never unleashed copy of Zotz!

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