Roger Ebert on SF Fandom
Ed here: I ran across this piece by accident, Roger recalling his days in science fiction fandom. We'd both been publishing fanzines for some time. Roger was the best writer of our group. He already had great style and humor. I lived in two worlds. After I cleaned up my act and decided that being a thug was not a worthy goal, I got seriously involved in fandom. I wrote for any zine that would have me. I also published a zine called Ciln (I have no idea what the title meant) and managed to cadge Roger and Bob Bloch and Marion Zimmer Bradley and Greg Benford among others to contribute to my truly humble enterprise. Here's Roger writing about his own days in fandom.
This is one of the finest pieces I've ever read about being a science fiction fan in the late fifties and early sixties.
A year or so after that I joined Tucker and Ed Gorman, a fan from Cedar Rapids, on a trip to the MidWestCon in Cincinnati. We drove in my family’s Dodge, nearly skidding off a road in Indiana, talking all the way about fandom in a giddy rapid-fire exchange of inside jargon. At a motel in Cincinnati, I made people laugh with my reproductions of Bob and Ray routines, and drank a little beer, which felt like a lot of beer to an inexperienced drinker, and–here is the earth-shaking part–I actually met Buck and Juanita Coulson, Dick and Pat Lupoff, and Harlan Ellison! The Coulsons struck me as two of the nicest people I had ever met, the kind of people where you would like to move into their spare room, and the astonishingly long run of their Yandro was one of the monuments of fandom. The Lupoffs were enormously funny and smart New Yorkers–that city that the novels of Thomas Wolfe had forever colored in my daydreams. Harlan was–how old? Twenty? Young and cocky, with the color proofs for the cover of his new paperback that Berkeley Books was about to publish, and as he showed me the glossy reproduction, I knew envy of a desperately sincere kind.
These meetings, these connections and conversations, were important because they existed in an alternative world to the one I inhabited. Fandom grew out of and fed a world-view that was dubious of received opinion, sarcastic, anarchic, geeky before that was fash-ionable. In those years it was heretical to take comic books or "Captain Video" seriously. Pop culture was not yet an academic subject. From Lenny Bruce, Stan Freberg, Harvey Kurtzman, Mort Sahl, and Bob and Ray we found an angle on America that cut through the orthodoxy of the Fifties and was an early form of what would come to be known as the Sixties.
From time to time I’ve heard from friends from those days. I spent time with Ed Gorman during a visit to Coe College; he became a mystery writer and wrote a novel about two movie critics who had a TV show. Harlan Ellison and I have had dinner in Los Angeles–once in the home of the eccentric film collector David Bradley, who had a concrete bunker filled with prints behind his house, and showed us the rare early cut of "The Big Sleep." I ran into Dick Lupoff in San Francisco during a book tour–he has a show on Pacifica Radio–and we remembered that New York visit, when he and Pat seemed so incomprehensibly metropolitan to me. I actually sold two stories to Ted White when he was editing Amazing and Fantastic, circa 1970.
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