Harry Turner's Footnotes to Fandom
FOOTNOTES TO FANDOM #5    | FOOTNOTES Page | Obituary Page |

The Magic of Fandom

... it seems to me that sf fans should, by the very nature of their interest, be concerned with present and future trends. It's a matter of attitudes. In my young days, when sf fans were a decided minority, it was this sense of looking beyond the immediate problems and preoccupations, of shaping up to building a better future, that made us feel different, as a group, from the rest of the community. We looked up at the stars. Or something like that.

A little of the magic disappeared when my generation were thrust unwillingly into a world war. But the optimism of our outlook remained. I still have amused memories of Arthur Clarke acting as though all the radar developments were ultimately designed to promote space travel rather than to help detect and shoot down planes or bomb cities to destruction. In a crazy way, he was right, of course.

Can you imagine what it was like giving talks on space travel to a faintly incredulous audience at NAAFI discussion groups in the early years of the war? But there was always someone willing to listen and perhaps be inspired beyond the deep pessimism of the moment. And these were the sort of people who drifted into fandom in those days.

It's not a matter of being "avant garde" (whatever that is!) as of keeping alive a healthy curiousity and maintaining an attitude of scepticism against the "certainties" and accepted attitudes of today; of not closing one's mind in the face of accepted practices. The older generation of fans lived in a more stable atmosphere (which is no commendation for its perpetuation) than the present. Nowadays, changes come about so rapidly, and the amount of available information has proliferated, that one can only steer an exciting course struggling to keep one's balance. To close one's mind in an effort to create a fictitious stability is retreat and escapism. ■

Every time I return to fandom, I find the historical background tends to be patchy: you are asked so many questions by obvious neofans, that you find yourself automatically talking down to someone who happens to be better informed, and your fading memories are confronted by the certitude of a fan who has but recently read the records and got the story straighter.

The 50s crowd swallowed the concept of fannish progress hook, line & sinker. They were involved with their own affairs and all prior fannish activity was seen as primitive struggles on the evolutionary path. My reaction was to shout about the freedom of Second Fandom – essentially, fanzine fandom – the days of Sally (Satellite), Fay (Fantast) and Zenith – but the Trufannish legends and allegories were in the ascendent and few fans wished to know.

I suppose Second Fandom was a transitional phase: the passage from sf fandom and the progress of science & the arts to a purely fannish tradition separated from its beginnings. When did the academic involvement with sf (and fanzines) begin? In the Sixties? I don't recall any signs of it in the 50s, but it was certainly one of the forces to be reckoned with in the 70s. ■

one of a series of occasional pieces published by the Septuagenarian Fans Association
© RFVSDS, 2009.

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