Challenger Logo by Alan White   A Science Fiction Fanzine   Spring - Summer 2008

 


“GANGWAY! HOT ORGAN!”

The Saga of Satyricon I & SFPA 100

Guy Lillian

Illos by Charlie Williams, Dave Ryan, Joe Staton and Alan Hutchinson

I can’t get to it, but I know it’s there – buried deep in our storage unit amidst the boxes of books and tubs of old clothes and stacks of obsolete dot-matrix printers. When we donated 20 boxes of SFPA mailings to the SF collection at Texas A&M University, I made certain – for sentimental reasons – that I held it back. Considering that ours is a fannish storage unit, the box containing it should exude a special … shine. After all, SFPA 100 was, for all I know is, and probably will forever be, the largest and the greatest apa mailing of all time.

“Apa.” If you’re an old-fart/paper-slut like me, you know what an apa is. It’s a term from another age, the pre-internet era when fans did their thing on paper (and at cons) instead of on-line (and at cons). It stands for amateur press association, an organization to which members submit fanzines to be gathered into bundles, or “mailings,” or “mlgs,” or “disties,” and distributed at regular intervals. The fannish tradition extends ‘way back: FAPA, the Fantasy Amateur Press Association, was founded in 1937. SFPA, the Southern Fandom Press Alliance, was created in 1961. I joined in January, 1971. Ten years and three months later – April, 1981, if you have problems with calendars – SFPA put out its 100th mailing. I was in charge, and it was one of the epic fannish experiences of my life.



No one could comprehend why our 100th mailing was such a big deal without understanding the vital place SFPA has in the history of the fannish South. Look thee back upon 1961.

It seemed as if the Civil War had worked after all. The Southern United States was as alien to the rest of America as Outer Mongolia. The qualities of the Sun Belt had yet to be discovered; the region was poor. The civil rights movement, just building steam, underscored the antiquity and injustice of Jim Crow. The righteousness of that struggle made it easy to scapegoat the South for the whole society’s sin. Socially, historically, economically, the South was isolate.

Science fiction, however, knows no boundaries, and there were fans in the South. New Orleans had Harry Moore and his Nolacon. Hank Reinhardt and the Jerrys, Burge and Page, centered Atlanta’s ASFO (earning the splendid soubriquet, “ASFOles”). Harry Warner’s “A Few More Yesterdays”, in the Southern Fandom Confederation Handbook, discussed the Columbia group publishing The Southern Fan. But the South was wide, the fans scattered, the interaction negligible.

Into this void came the unlikely figure of Alfred McCoy Andrews. Al suffered from muscular dystrophy and couldn’t travel much from his Huntsville home. But this jazz and SF fan had the talent of drawing others to him, and encouraging them to share his enthusiasm for fandom … and his goals.

Al’s aim was to put Southern fans in communication with one another. To do so, he founded the Southern Fandom Group, along the lines of the fabled National Fantasy Fan Federation. A young fan named Bill Plott, remembering the N3F’s apa, N’APA, suggested that the SFG create an amateur press association of its own. Andrews delegated the job of organizing this apa to Bob Jennings, a Tennessee fan experienced in fanzines. Bob sent forth a hectographed letter to every fan in the South promoting “the SFG apa.” Response was good; he did three zines hashing out the apa’s structure and (first) constitution. Seven guys, including Andrews and Plott, did zines, and in September, 1961, the first mailing of the Southern Fandom Press Alliance went forth.

SFPA did its job – it brought Southern fandom together. Its in-print camaraderie was soon mirrored by in-person celebration – the DeepSouthCon. Starting out as gathering of five, and then six (including a very young William Gibson) in member Dave Hulan’s home, the DSC swelled to 19, then 60. The dual outlets of Southern fannish energy attracted terrific, creative souls – Lon Atkins, Len Bailes, Joe Staton, Hank Reinhardt. Southern fandom grew.

More and more people joined SFPA and came to DSC. Fandom arose wherever either touched. In New Orleans, a fan named Don Markstein was drawn into SFPA’s web – and found it very much to his taste. He became Official Editor and brought an influx of new SFPAns into the apa – among them, yhos – infecting them/us with his love for the apa.

Markstein’s emphasis on SFPA history showed itself in a fascination for statistics – the “Coffin Scores”, delineating how many mailings a member had hit in a row – and mailing pagecount records, which he delighted in breaking. SFPA’s “Gala 50th Mailing” was his masterpiece, coming in at over 600 pages. Its contents contained a terrific history Markstein composed and a slew of retrospective zines by others. Mailing no. 50 became the model for SFPA celebrations. Mailing no. 73, edited by Stven Carlberg, marked the apa’s 15th anniversary, and raised the pagecount record to 880 pages. Markstein composed a definitive index to what had gone before – The Fabulous Sesquidecadely SFPA Index #1.

To the best of my knowledge I was the first to mention SFPA’s 100th mailing, when I ran for Official Editor in 1979. Within the next OE term, SFPA 100 would be collated, a prize beyond measure in an apa so devoted to history and personality. Even before the votes were tallied, I declared my intention to run for re-election, for I wanted that glory.

Being unopposed, I squeaked through to victory. The bimonthly rebel apa had just endured a slump wherein mlgs seldom topped 300 pages (we were used to twice that), and member interest seemed in freefall. I wouldn’t dream of taking credit for it, but after I became OE, the apa began to recover. SFPA’s manic spirit – typically expressed itself in wild faanfiction, intricate/intense interplay in mc’s, and feuds more vicious than rat-fights – experienced a rebirth.

For a while, every mailing was larger than the one preceding, with pagecounts swinging into the 600+ range. Our senior member, Lon Atkins, who had joined in 1965, began producing huge handsome issues of Melikaphkaz of surpassing quality and satisfying bulk. Faan fiction, pinnacled by Atkins in his classic Travis McGee parody, Red as Flame, made a comeback; I tried my hand at it through Safpa’s Lot.

In apa lore, the size of its waitlist was always a key to an apa’s health – it was alleged, for instance, that it would take five years to climb FAPA’s. In the year or so before mailing 100, SFPA’s swelled to over 40 names. To tap and spark waitlister enthusiasm, Liz Schwarzin (now Copeland) and Larry Epke had founded Shadow-SFPA, along the lines of Shadow-FAPA; their apa-within-an-apa began a year-long boom. All was inspired by the looming promise of something incredible: mlg 100.

I did run for re-election as OE, and thought I had it made – until the only candidate arose who could possibly top my qualifications. Bob Jennings had been SFPA’s first “mailing editor”. In his second membership he brought along many New England waitlisters, several of them excellent zinesters. His campaign was based on the innate niftiness of having the guy who sent forth SFPA’s first disty handle the 100th – and t’was supported by some hilarious fanac.

The S.F.P.A. News & Views was a faux tabloid devoted to Bob’s candidacy – and my own evialness. It was rich with slander and lunacy, and I loved it. Bob produced two classic issues. How could I answer such funny stuff?

In GHLIII for SFPA OE, my campaign zine, I did my best. I had good arguments on my side. My own membership was … well, I’d never missed a mailing or owed pages in more than ten years. With me as OE, SFPA had had a great year, recovering splendidly from its slump. Enthusiasm, as shown by pagecount and waitlist size, had risen and was still on the rise. The apa had weathered an ugly experience with a hostile member, whom I had talked into peacefully resigning (though it took a threat of expulsion to do it). Ned Brooks said that this was the equivalent of the Iranian hostages being released. Basically, I argued that although Jennings had indeed gathered SFPA’s first few mailings, experience with the current apa was a virtue of my candidacy. Thinking to be noble, I declared that should I win the rights to mailing 100, I’d offer Bob the rights to our 20th anniversary mailing, which would come up the next September … but Bob correctly recognized that as a silly idea and pshawed that away.

With a sensational prize like mailing 100 at stake, I felt I should tap a neutral party top serve as Official Teller. Pianist Mike Rogers agreed to handle it. The better to insure a representative turnout, our official ballot was a stamped postcard already addressed to Mike. I sweated a bit, but finally, Mike’s call came, and I had won, 22-3. Well!



With the OEship in hand, I turned to the assemblage of the mailing. From the first, I didn’t want to restrict the mailing to its current roster. As I’ve said, SFPA’s past is important to the apa, and past members had a lot to offer. I collected addresses and sent forth Once a SFPAn to every former member I could find. One of the most important names in the apa’s past was Larry Montgomery. A call to his boyhood home in Anniston, Alabama brought his current location to me – a radio station in Colorado.

I reached Larry at his disc jockeying job – literally, on the air. And to my astonishment, he knew me. My teen career haunting Julie Schwartz’ letter columns again paid off.

Larry not only agreed to do a “catch-up” zine for the mailing, but volunteered a gift that absolutely blew my mind. Cue “the Montgomery Papers.”

On her way to a January Southern convention, a young lady stopped off in Anniston, Alabama, and picked up a box from Larry Montgomery’s parents. I had asked the girl to make the stop and met her in the hotel lobby … where I spent hours with other SFPAns oohing and ahhing over the contents: bound copies of SFPA’s first 20 mailings.

Larry had joined SFPA with mailing 9 (September 1963). He had obtained copies of earlier disties from Dick Ambrose, a charter member. All he bound into volumes – along with the four mailings of Ala-Apa, an experiment which lasted about a year. The early mailings were prize enough, but Ambrose and Montgomery had preserved even older stuff. Three issues of The Southern Apa Planning Zine, wherein Bob Jennings and others debated organizational matters, and ...

I doubt that Howard Carter gasped as sincerely when gazing for the first time on the treasures of King Tut as did I when I recognized the dim, purple hectographed sheet atop the first volume. “Dear Southern Fandom Group Member,” it began. There it was … the original come-on letter inviting Southern SFers to form a regional SF apa.

The slight little sheet had never been seen by modern SFPA. When Don Markstein wrote his epochal history of the apa, he mentioned its existence, but I don’t think he’d ever seen it. It wasn’t listed at all in the massive Index he assembled for mailing 73. Obviously, it had to run in our 100th mailing – and first.

Taking great pains with the flimsy, much-folded sheet, I took it to a local xeroxery and had it clearly photocopied. I cleaned up the show-through and stains of age with white-out, then ‘roxed it again onto the classiest stock they had: champagne parchment. As this letter originally went forth in late spring/early summer 1961, it was seeing a fine 20th birthday.

In the Official Organ for the January, 1980 SFPA mailing, I floated an idea. “Who’s up for a SFPAcon?” Considering SFPA’s lifelong relationship with DeepSouthCon, where the roster would gather in person as it bimonthly did on paper, the concept made sense. A fannish event at which to boogie and, incidentally, collate mlg 100. I reminded myself of Tom Sawyer and the whitewashing of a certain fence.

But I hadn’t the time to assemble a mailing and create a convention both, so a few months later, I called SFPAcon “probably a defunct idea.” I reckoned without the merry maniacs of Knoxville, Tennessee.

This is a caricature of the "Knoxville Crowd"

The headquarters of this berserker klatsch was on Knoxville’s Jonquil Lane. Vern Clark, Rusty Burke, and Bob Barger lived there, and others of their persuasion gathered often within its environs to celebrate the life fanatique. Well I remember an occasion when, in the midst of a Hearts game, they called me – living 300 miles east in Greensboro, North Carolina – to verify a rule. Most joined the SFPA waitlist, and, with the phenomenal talent of Charlie Williams lending savage swack to their satire, swarmed over Southern fandom .... and my plans for our centennial mailing.

T’was they who found out about Satyricon, a new convention planned for the spring of 1981, and approached the concom with an idea. Invite me to be Fan Guest of Honor, contingent only on my agreeing to hold my SFPAcon – and the collation of mlg 100 – there. They prevailed.

When the call came, I debated the issue with myself for perhaps half a nanosecond before accepting. After all, I’d never been Fan Guest of Honor anyplace, and though mlg 100 would be delayed a week, that was to the apa’s benefit: more time to prep zines worthy of the event. And … SFPA would get its SFPAcon.

In the next Official Organ of the Southern Fandom Press Alliance, I announced that SFPA 100 would be collated at Satyricon in Knoxville, Tennessee – the city of its birth – on or about April 5, 1981.

As 1981 dawned, work began in earnest on mailing 100. Lon Atkins circulated a questionnaire to each of the nine other guys who had served SFPA as Official Editors, querying us on how we handled the job. I gathered photos for The SFPA Family Album, a collection I’d planned for years. To supplement stats I had made myself, Jerry Proctor, husband to the noble Charlotte, halftoned dozens of shots submitted by SFPAns past and present (and waitlist). (Jerry was then an editor with The Birmingham News, for which Bill Plott himself would later work.) And I began my regular SFPAzine, Spiritus Mundi.

Numerologically, the issue was blessed: I was the 62nd fan to ride the SFPA roster and it was my 62nd Spiritus. I pulled out every stop. I recounted the story of my membership. I reprinted an idiotic faan fiction I’d written years before, “The OExorcist”, parodying both the novel and movie and my fellow SFPAns. (Lon Atkins liked it; I cast him as God.) I penned an article about the first volume of the Montgomery Papers – SFPAs 1-5. I typed up a confused and confusing work of fiction, “Turista”, written before I realized that I have no talent. And, of course, I did the usual apa business: mailing comments and natter about life outside of the SFPA bubble. Fronted with the same “Laughing Lion” etching as Challenger no. 26, and backed with elegantly calligraphed lines from the Yeats poem that gave me my title, SM62 came out at 112 pages.

Printing this lump was, to say the least, a chore. Fans of today do not know the epic joy of “slipsheeting” to blot up excess ink, but I was a mimeographer, with my own – used – Gestetner, which means I primed and inked and churned forth the pages myself, and the occasion demanded slick bond paper. To assist with slipsheeting I drafted the closest soul – my first wife, Beth. For days the poor kid stayed up till midnight separating printed pages from slipsheets. Beth slaved until her eyes were bleary and her hands were stained fulgian black. The fanzine hobby, she decided, was some sort of neurological disorder pursued by drooling lunatics. It wasn’t until she began to hang with the Knoxville nuts a year later that she started doing zines herself – and won SFPA’s Egoboo poll.

One more note about Spiritus Mundi: I had no stapler capable of penetrating its 57 sheets. A call to mike weber (he prefers lower case) and Sue Phillips in Atlanta solved that problem. They would bring their heavy-duty stapler to Satyricon.



My efforts to draw contributions from anyone involved in SFPA – past, present, or waitlist – led to the only problem the mailing experienced. “Handy” was a great apan. He had invited me into another apa that, in its time, I enjoyed almost as much as SFPA. In return, I convinced him to join SFPA’s waitlist and encouraged him to contribute to mlg 100 … but there the problems began.

Handy noted that I was interested in producing history’s largest apa mailing. To this end, he offered his services as one of fandom’s premiere frankers. He had access to reams and reams of NASA material which he offered to collect and pump through. I freaked and begged him not to foist this stuff on SFPA. True, we wanted a majestic centennial, but we were people-based, and despite all our fulminations, pagecount – even in #100 – was secondary to personality.

Okay, he replied, what about this: a zine wherein everything he wrote would be collated into one gigantic zine. Without waiting for a response, he sent me two volumes of 100 pages each. The first contained not only natter about his everyday life but copies of every letter received and sent from his household, including notes to his mother. The second volume was far worse. It held NASA handouts and zines Handy had printed for other people for other apas – mailing comments to and from folks SFPA had never heard of. Having the idea that Shadow-SFPA and its parent apa were in a pagecount war, he told me to count his stuff as part of Shadow … and not to be “an asshole of an OE.”

Reinforcements arrived as Lon Atkins called. He’d heard of Handy’s activities and like me, feared that SFPA’s centennial was in danger of drowning in irrelevant paper. A former OE himself, Lon impressed on me the most salient fact: asshole or not, I was in charge. Nothing prevented me from deep-sixing Handy’s nonsense and returning his check.

Emboldened, my manhood restored, I held my head high and … asked Lon to call Handy. (Well, they did live in the same city.) Perhaps our most respected member could get our errant waitlister to understand. Supreme SFPAtriot that he was, Lon gave it a try … and got through.

The final furious letter from Handy ordered me to dump his zines and return his cash. That I did – every cent, postage donation and waitlist fee. But I did exercise my OE’s prerogative and kept the first of his zines in the mailing. It was personal material, which is what we wanted, and to tell the truth, I kind of liked it. His second volume – NASA franks and other apas’ zines – ended up in landfill. Except for a single copy, which I still have.

Looking back on this episode, I felt bad. Wasn’t Handy simply responding to my pagecount mania? Didn’t the rest of SFPA do the same? I sent my first FAPAzine, Vainomoinen, through #100. But, I reassured myself, Vain contained a mini-autobiography, material of general interest. As for others, Ward Batty sent a wonderful Fandom Calendar – which he had personally worked on. The Nashvilleans sent through a genzine devoted to Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser and Vern Clark a collection of Karl Edward Wagner’s poetry, Songs of the Damned – each their own work. No one could possibly complain about such gifts to the apa.

But Bob Jennings and his Massachusetts Mafia shipped an issue of Green Lantern through the mailing! Wasn’t that pure page-pumping?

I’d argue not. That GL was penciled by Joe Staton. In his Tennessee youth he had been one of the most vital members of early SFPA; his caricatures of Lon, Len Bailes, Arnie Katz, Hank Reinhardt and others played an integral part in creating the apa’s in-group mystique. (Katz still has one of his portraits on his office wall.) Now he was a professional comic book artist, so Jennings suggested – and I agreed – that his work belonged in #100. Do wish Bob had found 50 copies of E-Man, though; the GL art was just a job, but E-Man was Joe’s personal creation, and every panel sang with joy.



Zines began to pour in. Our mailman told me that ours was the only address that gave him muscles. Larry Montgomery sent an inspired zine – with a naked lady on the cover. Clint Hyde brought stencils and paper to our Greensboro apartment for me to print, an account of a recent European trip. Lon Atkins chimed in with a Melikaphkaz for the ages, a magnificent Joe Staton cover (starring Lon and Hank) covering 140 great pages, including his Red as Flame pastiche. Dian Crayne – SFPA’s first female member – sent a special illo; that’s it at the fore of this article. (I re-used it as the cover to my history of the apa ten years later.) Weeks before Satyricon, I already had almost 600 pages on hand. When Knoxville fan Connie Neal came to Greensboro for a media convention, I entrusted her with carrying a huge boxful of SFPAzines home with her. She delivered the goods straight to Jonquil Lane – not the last service she would do for SFPA 100.

Despite this, I still had five boxes packed with fanzines and a typewriter to load, with suitcase and self, into my itsy-bitsy Honda Civic. On Friday, April 3, 1981, I bid Beth so long, pointed my nose to the west and booked it.



I would like to say that I was greeted by dancing girls and a 21-gun salute when I pulled up at Knoxville’s Ramada Inn West, but not so. At the registration table just inside the door, a volunteer asked me, “Have you pre-registered?” “I’m the Fan Guest of Honor,” I replied. Later, when Toastmaster Andy Offutt introduced notables at Opening Ceremonies, he didn’t mention me at all.

But these were outsiders in the great story of SFPA 100. The insiders were In Step. Waitlister Jim Cobb helped me lug in the five boxes of SFPAzines and the box Connie Neal had schlepped here earlier was brought in. Congivers Burke, Clark and Co. escorted us, and our load, a small, featureless enclosure just off the lobby, thenceforth known as “the SFPA Room”.

There I was joined by three former Official Editors – Don Markstein, Stven Carlberg, and, nattily attired in tee shirt and baggy pants, Bob Jennings. I had met Bob at his comics shop in Massachusetts during Noreascon II.; quite a trip to introduce him to his successors. Trying to figure out how the members would wend their way through the walls of fanzines we were erecting, we arranged collating tables, began to stack zines thereupon, and sat back to watch more come in as SFPAns arrived.

We watched SFPA 100 accumulate, greeting our fellow members. A special delight came when a slight fellow entered wearing a jacket emblazoned with a First Fandom symbol. I’d never met him, but he was unmistakable, and I leapt up to greet Lynn Hickman. I later presented him with River, a book of poetry by Fred Chappell, my one-time writing teacher; Lynn had driven the teenaged Chappell to Nolacon I. The volume includes a poem addressed to me. Hank Davis brought zines, and a gift – an autographed copy of one of his stories. Dennis Dolbear brought his zines and Alan Hutchinson’s. mike weber and Sue Phillips brought zines – and the heavy-duty stapler that would bind Spiritus Mundi. In came Rich and Nicki Lynch, zines in hand. The pagecount rose and rose – for a while, we figured, at a page per minute.

Paul Flores, the Editing Official of Shadow-SFPA, brought his contribution to the main mailing, and the uncollated Shadow disty. Over 200 pages. The pagecount record fell. It became clear that one member, Iris Brown, would bring SFPA 100 to two milestones: 100% roster participation and 1000 pages. We waited and waited … and when the lady walked in, her zines in hand, she was honestly puzzled by our whoops.

An incredible afternoon.

Friday night passed in frenzied bacchanalia – or so I was told. Being a responsible and respectable married man, I spent the evening studying Ecclesiastes, the text thoughtfully provided by the Gideons. I did venture forth on a couple of occasions, to play a new video game in the con suite – Pac-Man -- gab with Justin and Annie Winston, who had driven up from New Orleans – answer a kid’s interview question about Star Wars. Who was my favorite character? He was surprised when I said Darth Vader, since something told me the whole series was about him.

I noted some of the other attendees – Nancy Collins, long before Swamp Thing and Sonja Blue – John Mayer, looking more like Jack Nicholson than Nicholson himself – Donna Neslund, the con’s beautiful chairman, reminding me so much of Bobbi Armbruster – lovely and lanky Leslie Jones, short hours from the generous service that would enshrine her forever in SFPA history – Karl Edward Wagner, at the height of his powers, with his then-wife, the unspeakably glorious Barbara Mott – present to celebrate not only SFPA 100 but the record-length Shadow-SFPA mailing, waitlister college beauties Elizabeth Stewart and Gretchen Fontenay. We made frequent trips to the SFPA Room to gaze upon the rows and rows off SFPAzines, six tables strong. Mindful of fannish temptation to chaos, I kept the door locked. N.B., I was supposed to have the only key.

The next morning I was to chair a panel on apas, featuring Jennings, Markstein, Carlberg, Nicki Lynch (then OE of SAPS, the venerable Spectator Amateur Press Society) and Brian Earl Brown, central mailer of REHUPA, the Robert E. Howard apa. All gathered – but we were alone. No audience whatsoever. Undaunted, we arranged our chairs in a circle and entertained ourselves with a righteous discussion of the apa art form.

After lunch, I moved my typewriter to the SFPA Room, opened the door to late-arriving zines, and began work on the last and most important item of the mailing: the Official Organ, The Southerner.

The Official Organ – go ahead; we’ve heard all the jokes – had been on my mind a long time. I had commissioned special lettering for its logos from the talented calligrapher, Lynn Hodges, and Vern Clark had found a Knoxville copy shop which stayed open Saturdays until 4PM. As for content, I’d typed up the apa Roster, Constitution and Official Rulings back in Greensboro, and now had to bring the Contents, Treasury, Notes and Waitlist up to date. And add something special. Together, Don Markstein and I made up the first listing ever of SFPA’s OEs and Presidents.

It was probably the most special moment of the entire weekend. Markstein and I had a long history, much of it very unpleasant. If not the worst feud in SFPA history, our seven-year in-print brawl was probably the meanest. But on this day it was forgotten. SFPA came first.

While I labored, the Contents grew. Paul Flores and the waitlisters assembled and stapled Shadow-SFPA – two volumes of approximately 100 pages each! Markstein collected scribbles for The SFPA 100 Autograph Page. Jerry Page borrowed a typewriter for a short zine to add to the mix. We passed the bottle of white correction fluid back and forth – remember, my younger readers, this was 1981, and word processors and laptops were ideas straight out of science fiction. We had to do our writing on paper.

The hours were growing short. Much remained to be done. I sent Mike Rogers out to buy an extra tape for my typewriter, sure that the one I’d brought would run out in the midst of a word. I checked and rechecked the Treasury figures on Beth’s calculator. The Contents continued to grow. I began to panic. What if I didn’t finish before 4?

At 2:30 I declared the Contents closed, and, with New Orleanian Doug Wirth reading out each zine’s pagecount, toted it all up. The room sat stunned. 1,748 pages.

(Turned out that was wrong. I’d missed a sheet in one of Dave Hulan’s zines. So SFPA 100, the grandest apa mailing of all time, was 1,750 pages.)

Picture of text: SFPA * 100

But I had no time to gloat. Connie Neal was a Knoxville native and my guide to the printer’s. She knew how far it was and how long it would take to get there. “We’ve got to go!” she exclaimed, again and again. But the 40-name-and-address waitlist had yet to be typed!

“How will I repro this thing?” I screeched. Kindness personified, Rich Lynch volunteered to run me to his house in Chattanooga – a 230-mile round trip – to electrostencil and print the thing. But at that moment, Page finished his zine, and I was able to put patient and saintly Mike Rogers to work on his typewriter, typing the waitlist – which had grown even as we’d sat there. He hammered away. Connie came in again. “We’ve got to go! We’ve got to go!” It was 3:15.

And lo, like the Lady who shone before Bernadette of Lourdes in the Academy Award-winning performance of Jennifer Jones in The Song of Bernadette, the solution blossomed in my mind: finish at the printer’s.

I had Connie get our car ready. Leslie Jones would be our driver; she had once made deliveries in Knoxville for a living.

The instant that Mike completed the last address on the waitlist, the paper was ripped from the typewriter. I carried it atop my own machine as Connie led the way towards the front door, where our ride was waiting. “Gangway! Gangway! ” I shouted. “Hot organ!”

Leslie awaited us, revving the motor. Gloomily we eyed the building Saturday traffic. I carried my typewriter, the masters for the OO, the autograph zine, Page’s contribution. “Drive!” I shouted, and Leslie burned rubber taking us on our way.

The ladies argued routes. Which streets would be congested, which passable? We had but minutes! Zoom, zoom, around dawdling traffic we careened, Leslie’s slim but sure hands steady on the wheel. Through intersections we plunged at the last instant of yellow signal, beeping, swerving, zooming, two-wheeling about corners and through gaps in traffic where a shoe couldn’t fit. There is a God. He was on SFPA’s side. We made it., and in one piece.

The printshop, as I recall, was near Vanderbilt University, and it was a satisfyingly hang-loose type of place. I found out later that Connie had called and alerted them to our approach. I was given a bench on which to finish the OO. While the Xerox man printed up the other zines, I pasted up Hodges’ logos, corrected an address or two, wrote up the last-minute notes, cleaned up what smudges and mess I could find. I handed the guy our masters, and in a few minutes, it was done.

Oops! I had little money and no checks. So Leslie paid for everything. Of course, we paid Ms. Jones back, as if anything could repay her for her heroic services to SFPA … and she wasn’t even on the Roster. We took the long, slow, scenic route back to the hotel, savoring the beautiful overview of the Tennessee River.



I won’t say much about the banquet that intervened between the completion of the Official Organ and the actual collation, except that the buffet was good, the Pro Guest (Gordon R. Dickson) was gracious, Donna Neslund was lovely, and my speech was … magnificent. I bragged about our awesome pagecount – the SFPAns in the room applauded, the others gazed blankly – hailed Bob Jennings for getting SFPA underway in that very city, praised P.L. Caruthers’ red hair (she poked her face in at just that moment), told a Hank Reinhardt joke, and mentioned that Joe Celko, seated nearby, had once thrown a dye bomb into a hotel pool.

“Idiot!” shrieked Joe. “This is the hotel!”

And much more of the same. “You’re an eloquent son of a bitch!” Ken Moore observed. I didn’t argue.



I had scheduled the collation of SFPA 100 for the next morning, but a hassle immediately arose. A member of the concom – not a SFPAn – had messed up the checkout time for the SFPA Room. We would have to do the deed … now. Before unleashing the assembled multitudes onto the centennial mailing, I made one more scan of the six zine-packed tables. Puckishness abounds in Southern fandom and I smelled a prank. It was bad enough that an unsigned, unclaimed page, The SFPA TimeTravelCon, had appeared (its author asserted himself after the collation). But I would not allow anything else to gum up my works.

Right away, I spotted it. Someone, somehow, had talked the hotel into opening the room, and slipped a single page right where most people wouldn’t have noticed. But they reckoned without the GHLIIIOE Eagle Eye. I grabbed The Screw Guy Lillian Oneshot, by Bob Jennings, etc. and held it for mailing 101. It was followed on the contents by The Screw Bob Jennings, Etc. Oneshot. This carried a single line of text: “Ha ha, I found it.”

I opened the SFPA Room, banished all but SFPAns from the vicinity, and began. I asked Bob, our first mailing editor, to lead the way. From The Southerner, in one corner … down the backs of two tables, then along the fronts to Melikaphkaz … a 90-degree turn, progressing down the back row of two other tables, back along the front … to the table in the center of the room, up one side, down the other … thence to the final table, capping all with the two volumes of Shadow-SFPA. Crowded? Stven Carlberg, a musician, had tried to fit an upright piano into that room! No wonder he’d been forced to move it to the con suite!

Don went through. He passed out buttons: SFPA 100, read Alan Hutchinson’s drawing, I WAS THERE. Stven went through backwards. We collated P.L.’s copy for her, redheadedness deserving every such courtesy. Rich and Nicki, and mike, and Lynn … I asked each to take their mailings back to their rooms and check it against the OO for completeness. Dave Ryan, bless his soul, went through, and Jim Cobb, and Sandy Barger. Rusty. Vern. Iris. Cliff Biggers. Deb Hammer-Johnson. Rich returned to help collate extras. 50 trips we made about that maze of tables, those walls of fanzines. It was awesome.

When all of the SFPAns present had their mailings, it was nigh upon midnight. The extra mailings threatened to collapse the table they sat on. After all, each weighed ten pounds! I locked the SFPA Room and went to help judge the masquerade.


Sunday morning, as Satyricon went the way of all conventions, I loaded the mailing copies of SFPA 100 into boxes for Burke and Clark to mail. We gave some wicked thought to disguising Lon Atkins’ copy as computer manuals. Other mailings were addressed to Larry Montgomery … and Bill Plott. Just before I drove away, I seized Nicki Lynch and danced the elfin charmer about the parking lot.

SFPA 100 drew appropriate awe from the membership. mike weber’s response was adapted from Olive Oyl’s impression of Bluto in the movie version of Popeye: “It’s … large.” When I mentioned SFPA 100 in LASFAPA, one member replied, “A 1748-page apa mailing? My head hurts …”

In time, I left Greensboro, and Beth and I went separate ways. The Knoxvilleans scattered and moved on from fanac. Gafia worked its evial will on Leslie Jones. Bob Jennings and the rest of the “Massachusetts Mafia” left SFPA eventually, as did Lon Atkins, Stven Carlberg, and many others. Dave Ryan, P.L. Caruthers and Lynn Hickman, alas, joined the great convention in the sky. But SFPA abides, well past 260 mailings now … Markstein is still there, Rich Lynch is still there, mike weber is still there, and I am still there, borne along not merely by glorious memories like Satyricon I and SFPA 100, but by the community of the rarest critters in life: like souls.

Picture of button

The button passed out by Don Markstein at Satyricon differed from this illo in one respect. Illo by Alan Hutchinson.

 

 

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