Challenger Logo by Alan White   A Science Fiction Fanzine   Summer 2006


Better Late Than Never

David B. Williams

In 1960, Cry of the Nameless, one of the leading fanzines of the day, published my first letter of comment and I received an official Cry Letterhack Card. I had arrived! As a fresh-faced neofan, I couldn't have been prouder.

Then in 1962, at Chicon III, I saw Cry's lettercol editor, Wally "Wastebasket" Weber, and grandly presented my Cry Letterhack Card for his autograph. Weber looked at the card in wonder and remarked that he hadn't seen one of those in a long time. I guess two years can encompass an era in fandom. The glory of possessing a Cry Letterhack Card lost some of its luster when I learned that the Cry lettercol editor had almost forgotten them. I may have been the last Cry letterhack to receive one. Sic Transit Egoboo.

By 1970, I was a faithful reader of Richard E. Geis' Science Fiction Review, perhaps the leading fanzine of the day. I didn't contribute many locs; the battles in SFR were far too fierce for a diffident soul like me. But when the prozine review column didn't appear for a couple of issues, I wrote to Dick and urged him not to neglect the SF magazines. He wrote back and, noting that I was bright and articulate, invited me to take over the prozine review job. Yeek.

Well, I banged out a column and sent it in. Dick published it with a really great masthead drawn by Tim Kirk. Wow. I had a byline in one of the most widely read fanzines of the 1970s. With swelling enthusiasm I composed another column and it appeared in the next issue, which was also the last.

Dick Geis was one of the greatest faneds of all time, but he had one character flaw (well, one that is relevant here). Sizzling with energy and ambition, he would create a focal-point fanzine, win a gaggle of Hugos, and then become introspective and decide that he wanted to do more with his life. So he would kill his award-winning fanzine, to the despairing shrieks and wails of his vast readership. Then a few years later he would miss it all and begin again. He did it in the 1950s with Psychotic (retitled Science Fiction Review), in the 1970s with SFR, and in the 1980s with The Alien Critic (also, inevitably, retitled SFR).

So just as I was on the verge of becoming a Big Deal as a regular columnist in one of the top fanzines of all time, poof. And just to make sure that the last drop of egoboo was drained away, a review of SFR in Locus declared that the prozine review column was crap.

When I finished the first draft, I looked it over and decided that it might rate a better venue than the local club newsletter. So I boldly sent it to Rich and Nikki Lynch, who published "That Was Then, This Is Now" in Mimosa 26. Woohoo! I was a contributor to another Hugo-winning fanzine. And to top it off, Rich informed me that as a Mimosa contributor, I was now entitled to the status of Life Subscriber.

In the next issue, of course, Rich and Nikki announced that they were cashing in their chips, and Mimosa 30 would be the last. Oh well, after forty years of arriving late at every party, I was becoming philosophical. But for old-time's sake, I made sure to provide a second contribution for the final issue of Mimosa.

Then, just as that Götterdämmerung was pending, I received a complimentary copy of Burstzine #1 from Michael and Nomi Burstein. Gosh. I felt like Harry Warner. Back in my neofan days, no one sent me the first issue of their fanzine unsolicited. Michael and Nomi included an appeal for contributions in that inaugural issue, and I felt obliged to respond.

My essay titled "Napoleon, Tucker, and Me" in Burstzine #2 again earned me the rank of Life Subscriber. Elated, I began writing this memoir with a future Burstzine in mind. Alas, it has now been three years since Burstzine #2.

Note that my second column for SFR appeared in its last issue, and my second contribution to Mimosa appeared in its final issue. Now it seems that the mere act of preparing a second contribution is enough to kill the targeted fanzine, even before submission.

It is therefore with the deepest foreboding that I am submitting this essay to Guy for Challenger. If published, this will be my second contribution to this estimable fanzine. I suppose its mere appearance should be considered a triumph of sorts, after what happened with Burstzine.

Then again, let's look on the bright side. My locs in Cry, my columns in SFR, and my essays in Mimosa all appeared in Hugo-winning fanzines (hell, even the dismissive Locus review of my SFR column appeared in a Hugo-winning fanzine). So even if this does prove to be the final, doomed issue of Challenger, maybe lightning will strike and Guy will at last find himself barred from the Hugo Losers' Party.

And while I'm thinking about it, I need to figure out a way to get a couple of contributions published in Locus (heh heh heh). .



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