THE FANTAST #2 (May 1939)
Copytyping this issue by Keith Freeman.
Association of ideas leads us along strange paths of the mind. Even before modern psychologists discovered its sinister aspects, this habit was a source of wonder and delight alike to ordinary men and to such literateurs as Edgar Allan Poe - surely the pioneer of psycho-analysis. Let us consider the words "Mars" and "Venus" - both rich in potent suggestions, both well-suited for our purposes.
What images do they call forth in the brain of the average man? Mars is for him the god of war, resplendent in evil panoply. He pictures a bearded ogre astride the world - a laughing giant whose joy is to spread destruction.
Turning from this fearsome sight to such an incongruous contrast, as the popular brand of chocolate known as "Mars" he may pause to reflect on the red planet, of which his knowledge is limited, but with whose hypothetical inhabitants he is acquainted through the medium of the popular Press. H. G. Wells' goggle-eyed horrors may well cause him to shudder but he feels himself superior to the panic-stricken Americans who fled before their fancied invasion. Meditation on this Martian scare may move him to regret the folly of mankind in the mass; and this again will remind him of modern War, impossible without the sheeplike acquiescence of the multitude. So, having turned a full circle, he is back to his starting-point.
Venus will almost inevitably be linked in his brain with the armless Venus de Milo; he may speculate on the circumstances of her amputation, mentally reconstructing the position of the missing arms. The smug expression on the face of the statue - her generous proportions - these aspects of the subject may flit across his mind, perhaps diverting his attention to the case of the modern woman, so different in face, figure, and attitude from her predecessor of ancient times.
If he thinks of the planet Venus at all, it is as the Evening Star, celebrated in prose and poetry. He is more familiar with the properties of the "Venus" pencil, than with those of that distant world.
The reflections of the classical student will differ slightly. With no more knowledge of the solar system than our friend the Man in the Street, he is better acquainted with the doings of gods and goddesses. He can regale himself with saucy anecdotes from the mythology of Greece and Rome, preening himself on the superiority of his culture.
To the astronomer, Mars and Venus will suggest spectroscopic findings, infra-red photographs, mean distances and so on. It is possible that the dazzling splendour of the cloudy planet has power to move him; but his business is to analyse Beauty, not to admire it. A lovely colour will make him think of the element its presence on the spectrograph indicates; the creamy flocculence of clouds
will make him curious about
their composition. If his orderly mind ventures to speculate on the possibility of
extra-terrestrial life, its speculations will be rigidly conditioned by the irrepealable laws
of science. Not for him the untrammelled imagination of the fantast whom we deal with last of
A seeker after the enchantment of the utterly bizarre, well versed in all branches of fantastic literature, will find romance in these pregnant words - "Mars" and "Venus". His knowledge, perhaps almost as circumscribed as that of the average man, will not hinder the free roaming of his sportive fancy.
Sluggish plants unfurling thick leaves on the rusty surface of a dehydrated desert, dotted with bulging domes whose airtight walls enclose the cities of beings so alien to us that we can scarcely conceive of them..... Dried-up canals overgrown with crimson vegetation that stirs faintly in an icy wind, below the pin-pricks of two tiny moons or under the shrunken orb of a far off sun..... Colossal ruins of a metropolis ancient when Man fought with the sabretooth..... And some day, across that distant horizon, the gleaming shapes of torpedoes that spit blue fire, spiralling down to land on the first conquest in Man's interplanetary career.....
That - and so much more - is what Mars means to the fantast.
And Venus? Steaming jungles that stretch to the shores of boiling seas in whose viscid waters stir vast reptilian nightmares..... Gaily-coloured flying things that dip and swoop above the massive fronds between which poke the gargoyle-faces of predatory carnivores..... Hissing, lashing rain that descends in solid sheets of chemical-tainted water from those perpetual clouds that veil Beauty and Horror alike from the prying eyes of terrestrial scientists..... And the moist heat of a Turkish Bath - relaxating, ennervating..... Then, even on the face of this savage young world, the tiny figures of men in their protective suits, venturing from the chrome-steel bellies of the lightning-swift vessels that have brought them to Heaven and to the Hell that lurks in its lovely heart - Venus!
BY OSMOND P H ROBB
WE REGRET THAT owing to our decision to make the second "Fantast" a completely non-fiction number, we were compelled to leave over until the next issue the promised story by Eric Charles Maine. Like most good things, it will improve with keeping.....
May we mention that we are still very much in the market for material, not being so fortunate in this respect as the late and greatly-lamented IMAGINATION!
(Dedicated to C.S.Youd)
In the first place, it must be remembered that poets are born, and not made. So if you intend to be a poet, 'twere better if you had made the necessary arrangements with your progenitors previous to your birth. However, if you were unfortunately born without the necessary versification kink, (kinks to you my good McIlwain! - ED) then you can console yourself by remembering that "ye must be born again", but don't forget to remedy the ommission next time.
It is to the unfortunate ones that I addrsss these few hints, those to whom poetry is an anathema, a devilish contraption turned out only with the greatest of effort and much sweating of blood. You poor fishes need never be dim bulbs at a party; they won't laugh when you stand up to recite. Instead you will hold them spellbound with beautiful fantastic verse; verse calculated to turn CASmith green with envy, verse destined to enthrall the spirit of Lovecraft with its perfect technique.....
(All right - cut the preamble and get down to first principles — ED)
Now the easiest kind of poetry to write is the modern style - "vers libre". It may best be described as prose-poetry, since there is no intricate metre to be adhered to, and no rhymes to be painfully sought or concocted. Instead one just writes down whatever comes into one's head, always remembering to vary the length of the lines a little in order to make it seem as though there is some subtle purpose in them. Be as vague as possible - circumlocution is highly to be commended - as this will gain you fame as a philosopher and thinker. Thus, instead of saying "The sun set", you would say:-
"Far in the west,
Notice "sank the sun" is used instead of "the sun sank" because such inversions often make critics raise their hats and hence-forth link your name with Shakespeare.
So much for vers libre - you should have no difficulty with that. But the snag comes when you try to compose the more orthodox, rhymed poetry.
But you need have no qualms, for "poetic license" comes to your rescue very nicely. If anybody should be tastless enough to point out an error in your poems, just elevate your nose and say
License" (whereupon the rude fellow says "Yeah - minus the 'sense' -- I know!" -- ED) and your
would-be critic won't be.
The most difficult part of writing verse is finding the rhymes, and if you haven't got a rhyming dictionary, then you'd better get one quickly or you'll be in a hot spot. Thinking out rhymes is made all the more difficult by the fact that the words chosen must be relevant. For instance, if your first line is -
"Oh, lovely creature born of Psyche,
then it wouldn't be much use your ending the next line with "crikey" or "Likee" (Chinese for
like), then you'd "better destroy that particular poem. [How about this?
"Oh, lovely creature born of Psyche,
"Oh, lovely creature born of Psyche,
But substitute for the trichlor business a one-syllable word, and you're on the right road to Laureate-ship. eg.:
"There was an old man of Brazil,
It would be more prudent if we left that particular limerick unfinished, but you understand my point, I hope?
As for metre - well, nobody ever pays much attention to that. Just remember to vary it every now and then to avoid monotony, and Keats will fade into comparative insignificance beside you. Thus, instead of
"Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
you should write --—
"Little star, twinkle twinkle,
It is certainly more forceful in its effect, as you will readily admit.
And now, having mastered the technique of poetry, you will be all agog to know how to combine the weird with your verses. You needn't worry as - using the above method - your poems are bound to be weird in any case. But for the enlightenment of budding REH's, I append a few hints.
You must be familiar with mythology (including astronomy - c.f. Mr. Gabrielson's thesis in SALLY), and be able to spout strange and unusual names like an over-energetic drain-pipe.
e.g. "Down in the forest something stirred. He
sorry, wrong poem... but you get what I mean, don't you? Names such as "Shoggoth", "Naiad", "Baalam", "Wollheim" ----- horrible though they may appear at first sight, have been the fortune of their respective sponsors. If you can write a line of poetry like this ---
"The evil Palooka, son of Kaeva-kaeva, the rat,
then your fortune is practically made. Always use a "double A" in weird names, as this is a custom which it is faataal - sorry - fatal - to ignore.
Now go ahead, and turn out weird poetry by the bucketful, - you're bound to be a success. But remember, when you receive that big, fat cheque from WEIRD TALES that yours truly, the chap who trained you, would appreciate a cut - to keep him out of the workhouse.
BY DAVID McILWAIN
It was the first night in new digs and the conversation with a fellow
exile had got around to the subject of literature. After finding that my
companion's tastes were not too high-brow, I remarked, somewhat hesitantly,
"You know, I read a lot of tripe just from sheer force of habit - began before
I had any sense of literary values and haven't been able to break off."
"Westerns?" he enquired.
all, and in any case a competent
writer can be forgiven much. No, I meant nothing more than faulty reasoning.
Characters do things that no reasonable human being would do in the circumstances.
Situations occur which are either utterly impossible or at least extremely
improbable. The great thing about this kind of story is to give the reader an
illusion of reality and with these recurring faults that is impossible."
"And despite all these faults, you go on reading the stuff?"
"Yes. As I said before, it's largely a matter of habit. Also, I make a hobby of collecting fantastic literature of all kinds, and don't want to miss any of the magazines. And though I've painted a pretty black picture, there has been excellent science-fiction in the past and doubtless there will be in the future."
"You think there's a chance of improvement, then?"
"Yes, I think so. Most of the magazines can be written off as a dead loss, of course, but there are two whose demand is for stories that are primarily pure entertainment. That's the right idea and - well, only the future can show......."
BY GARRET SOFFER
(in this department we will attempt to answer all queries submitted, provided a stamped, addressed, envelope and a postal order for 2/6 are enclosed.)
PROFITEER (L'pool). Yes. It will be quite safe for you to continue with your racket. Fans are too dumb to know when they are being swindled; and even if they were to find out, they'd be too lazy to object.
RATIONALIST (L'pool). If your girl friend objects to your sublimating your sex-instinct on moonlit nights then I'm afreud you'll have to give up either your thesis or your g.f. - or marry her! See below.
ANXIOUS BABY (L'pool). A cure for Rationalism is an involved and lengthy process, and we cannot undertake anything of this sort ourselves. For home cures, our prescription, well tested, is - 10% Quinn to 20% Kuttner to 70% cosmetic.
THE BIG BUG (Leeds). Yes, it is definitely established that other fans have personality also and possess equal, if not superior brainpower. What's good enough today, may be non-existent Tomorrow!
THE GUARDIAN OF THE BOOKS (London). I don't know why Editors won't accept your
stories - perhaps you forgot to send them in (during one of your fits of amnesia)?
You ask how to keep library shelves clean? Well, first of all, throw out all mags
containing Quinn stories, then dust with Keating's powder.
SCHIZOPHRENIC SPHINX (London). Your pain in the stummick is nothing — NEW WORLDS gives me a pain in the neck. Yes, your story was quite convincing, cos when it rains "cats and dogs", where else do the animals in question come from but the moon?
SWING FAN (L'pool). No, I don't know what causes your clarinet to make water - sounds rude to me. It will probably grow out of it eventually.
AMBITIOUS POET (Simpshire). Can I advise whether the infraistic tendencies of Twerpism should be classed with the vorticistic movement in prosodys, or if they are both corelative to Einstein's 77th extension, and can I tell you why nobody wants your poems? Not in print, Shakespeare!
BOB SUCKER (Padded Cell 074, Bloomingwell - Nuts), Yes, you're very funny indeed. Every time I look at D'Journal, I burst into tears.
DAW (New York). Yes, I realise that you're only wanting to please Fandom. Why not try suicide - that would be sure to raise a laugh?
BY DON J CAMERON.
(EDITORIAL NOTE:- You will have noticed on page 8 a statement to the effect that this is a non-fiction number. Such was intended but owing to the exigencies of contributions, we found that we had more space than material. Consequently we decided to print this serial in this issue, instead of holding it over till next month.... Fantacynic, it would seem writes his serials a part at a time, for we are just as ignorant as you of what will happen next month!)
En passant, we might mention that fiction re fandom seems to be gaining in popularity. First there was Cameron's "The Call to Arms" and then the suspiciously similar effort in the American Cosmic Tales, and we must not forget Speer's serial " Six Against the Past". And one fan has revealed that he is writing a novel about fan life! Fantacynic informs, however that he thought of this plot long ago, so would-be finders of plagiarism may consider themselves foiled. But enough. We hope you like it - and we hope Fantacynic is able to finish it!)
The day was hot and cloudless and, gracelessly reclining on a scorched bank of grass, the Neophyte felt less and less like reading and more and more like sleeping. As the remorseless sun frizzled him, the printed page wavered and danced erratically and the energy required for concentrated reading waned swiftly. Finally he dropped the magazine and, lying back, left the hero in the middle of a battle to the death with a dinosaur. One last sleepy glance revealed the name of the magazine - Marvel Science Stories - before he fell asleep.
Almost at once, it seemed, someone was tugging at his shoulder and, grumbling, he opened his eyes and stood up. He blinked rapidly at the sight before him. Rising like giants into the cloudless sky towered the minarets and towers of a city! And what a city! His brief experience with science-fiction convinced him that here was the real McCoy, the daddy, of everything Stuart ever imagined.
In the true tradition it was built of a gleaming white material, and the
inescapable trellissed bridges and flying buttresses,
sweeping up and down, in and out, in dizzy perspective, made it a huge maze of
intricate light and patterned shadow. An occasional cigar-shaped airship lounged
across the sky and amongst the "levels" of the city there was bustle of tube cars
and scurrying of ant-like figures. Pondering who could live in so strange a place
he turned to look at the interrupter of his rest.
He was a small peaceful-looking man, though rather ludicrous with a bulging cranium and over-sized ears. A broad smile spread over his face as the Neophyte turned to him, and he waggled his ears sympathetically, with an ingenious rotary movement. Wonderingly, the Neophyte asked him where he might be.
"You might", pronounced the little man, "be in Babylon or Chicago. Actually
you are in Fanopolis - the city of the Fans" he rendered kindly.
It was a long mile, the Neophyte thought, and it seemed that his companion was of the same mind for he soon stopped for breath, and rested on the velvety grass. For a while the Neophyte was too
occupied with getting his second
wind to ask questions, and by the time be had recovered his attention had been
drawn to a group of people approaching them across the fields.
They were an odd collection of people, but in the van were three who seemed to be leaders of some sort. One of these was bent double under what the Neophyte realised at last was a Grand Piano! He enquired of the little man if he was right.
"H'm, you're right, alright" returned his friend. "That is the Fantasy
Reform Publications assortment. The one with the big feet calls himself the
Fantaspoet. That one on the left with the thing like a cornet (actually a
clarinet) is John P. Barke, while beneath the piano is Macinpain. The rest are
their adherents - there aren't many; the rest of us don't went reforming."
As he spoke the party had milled around into an irregular troup and were marching off. Across the meadows came the strains of a song:-
"For ten long years they had suffered it in silence -
Several verses after this were indistinguishable -- and when they next became audible they were carolling:
"The Fans were marching, marching through America,
New York they seized, and captured all the Editors -
The wind carried most of the rest away and but for one verse it was lost. This seemed to run,
"Then the mood spread far across the ocean,
His guide was apparently refreshed now, for he rose end beckoned him to follow. A little reluctantly, for he was tired, the Neophyte obeyed, and they soon reached tho open gates of Fanopolis. Before he followed the little man thru them, he cast one look back and saw that the procession had split up. Macinpain was rolling down hill on the piano, while on the breeze came the faint but heated voices of Barke and the Fantaspoet luridly discoursing on the merits of Robert E. Howard.
Puzzled he entered Fanopolis.
There are few scientific fiction authors that can to have come so near perfection in the field of the long-short story as Don A. Stuart. His best stories are models of the art and practice of short story writing as applied to the greatest form of literature yet conceived. They contain the first essential, a new and magnificent idea, backed up by a wealth of convincing scientific detail work. They contain characters, each of which is distinctive, unique and natural. They are built up neatly and skilfully, without waste of words or ommission of essential detail. The climax comes in its proper place, inevitably, without any mutilation of the natural time-order. The prose is unhurried and unspectacular -- but with far more snap and vitality to it than the jerky and superlative-ridden styles of the action-and-glamour school.
"Forgetfulness" is in a class by itself, the grandest short story yet published in the magazines. In the scope of this short work the author covered the same ground that Stapledon pounded massively over in "Last and First Men", and with greater imagination. Stapledon was conventional and
prosaic, Stuart original and inspired, and he succeeded in
giving us a glimpse of the glorious future of mankind and the greatness of the
knowledge yet to be won, A superb piece of literature, one that has a right to a
place amongst the immortals.
"Twilight" and "Night" are two other stories that give us a vivid impression of the vastness of Time; "Elimination" a splendid tragedy; "Who Goes There?" a drama that might have been the result of the amalgamation of the best in Lovecraft and Howard. These I place as his outstanding efforts. "Frictional Losses" was perhaps the best of his brilliant stories of scientific rebellion and battle, and "The Escape" a delightful little story. But there is little to choose between any of these lesser stories for they are all so far in advance of the average that it would be churlish to say which is the worst, if, indeed, such a word may be used in such a connection. The Stuart facet of Campbell is the most brilliant of the sparkling aspects of this truly masterly author.
BY D. R. SMITH.
(Ken Chapman writes: "Editorial should have been included in "Fan's Folly"...." Good advice!)
First of all, our sincere thanks to all who obliged with comment on our first issue and our heartfelt gratitude for the articles, essays, stories, etc., which the more energetic have supplied. We trust that these will continue their valuable support and that the lazier brethren, too, will cast a pearl or so before our snouts.
We judge from experience that you will have read all else before turning reluctantly to our vapourings. You will agree, we think, that the promise of improvement made last
month has been well kept. The duplicating and type are better and, as an
experiment, page 5 and onwards have even edges in text. This naturally entails
more work for us, and, unless it is fairly enthusiastically greeted, will be
dropped in future.
Also, without a doubt, the contents are far better. There are two definitely humorous articles which we think will serve as an antidote to the famous "No Grave!" We regret that co-Editor Burke rather ruined MACK's cartoon with a similar joke in the latest "Sally" but such unfortunate accidents are not always avoidable.
In conclusion, we congratulate the S.F.A. on getting the "Satellite" as their monthly publication. Perhaps now Mr. Carnell will have time to improve "New Worlds", were such a thing possible.
Colleague J.F.Burke writes from 57 Beauclair Drive, Liverpool
"The cover is a bit odd - the space-ships are too highly decorated, and there are a hell of a lot of stars knocking about in the sky. Or is it meant to be symbolical? Anyway, no symbolism can account for the very squashed appearance of that guy's head in the foreground. What's the hard top to his shirt for -- must have taken some starching to get like that, and he's liable to cut his throat every time he looks round to watch a pretty girl go by. [Full of bright ideas as usual, -— that collar is shadow under Ego's chin!] The lettering is grand -- keep it like that. Before I go on, let me tell you a story. When this thing arrived, I gave a happy shout, and descended upon it. I then attempted to remove the sticky tape. After tearing half the back off [the advertisement of "Sally" we hope] I removed the tape from, the magazine, and transferred it to my thumb, where it remained. Several flicks of the index finger only served to transfer it to that finger and eventually I had to shove hard against the mantelshelf and leave it stuck thereon, to the subsequent wrath of my aunt who had some difficulty with it, I think. Tired of this, I cut all the tapes with scissors, opened the magazine to read it, and got caught on a loose end that was hanging over. For cryin' out in an unmodulated voice, use ordinary sticky paper, or, better still, buy some envelopes. Ego's poem failed to click. Nice, but not inspiring. Dave's little thing is very pleasant. I rather expected one of his usual demoniacal 'twists' at the end, and was surprised to find the ending so straightforward. [My fault - last two paragraphs editorially written] The next article in the mag is so good that I can't find words to describe it, [we're not surprised] but will just pass over breathlessly. "Dreamer 3" is nice - where's "Dreamer 2"? [Rejected] "No Grave!" - no more! In its way quite a good story, but rather unsatisfying, and certainly not good material for a fan-mag of this kind. Did you write it -— the name sounds artificial. Or maybe I'm wronging
your girl friend? [Both answers emphatically in the negative] Ths Editorial is
hectic in the extreme, but Editorials usually are, and I don't think anyone ever
pays any attention to the things, anyway. I had been storing up some lovely
cracks about letters. You said you would have a large readers' department, and I
was waiting for the first issue so that I could write in and demand why you hadn't
got one - for obvious reasons. I have, however, been foiled. These letters all
seem very straggly though, and will probably puzzle some of your readers quite a
bit. Still we hope for the best in the future I retch at the horrible DRS-worship
throughout your pages. Damn it all, there's no need to fawn over the fellow - he's
only human (more or less). And DON'T obtrude yourself in the answers - you're the
Editor, don't forget, and if you start to chuck your own personal opinions about
people get annoyed. You can do that in other folks' magazines but if you do it in
your own it's all wrong - silly isn't it? [Ridiculous! If we go to the trouble to
edit and publish this magazine, we intend to express our opinions in it. And as
long as we allow opponents equal space, we think it fair enough.] Generally, the
"Fantast" is a swell magazine, and it packs a punch. For a first issue it's really
swell, and I can see it being the mag wherein people take off their coats and say
all the nasty things they've been wanting to say for years. Encourage 'em to be
nasty - you'll do fine then, [No encouragement needed in some cases we could
mention, were we so minded] Your attitude over conscription is very low. [Higher
now] I intend to fight that with everything I possess (even to the extent of
chucking portions of my collection at people who attempt to arrest me). In the
first place I refuse to bear arms against any human being, and in the second
place, I am certainly not going to fight to defend a country overburdened with
taxes, oppression and restrictions as ours is, and stinking from top to bottom
with the rule of the patricians and a form of Fascism just as dictatorial as
Germany or Italy."
The new fan illustrator and our cover artist, Osmond Robb, writes from 107 Montgomery Street, Edinburgh:
"You did a nice job of work on the first issue of "Fantast". I liked your terse review. [why blame us? Someone's been kidding you] and should welcome others of the same high calibre.
McIlwain's short amused; although delightfully original in treatment, it awoke memories of Well's humorous satire "The Wonderful Visit", with which it has many points of similarity. As for "No Grave" - I can understand your reasons for hesitating over it, but in my opinion at least it was a strikingly well-written essay in the macabre; I don't say that you should make a practice of running such tales but one every now and then is quite all right. The sketches for "Fantast's Folly" were
genuinely funny in their deliberate absurdity, [Did noone
else like our faery elephants? No other comments received] I await "The Introvert"
with ill-disguised impatience. From your advance notices I sense a 'mutant' plot
development - more deserving of that description than Campbell's much-publicised
innovations. [?] I take it that we shall see more poetry in future numbers - your
"Dreamer 3" was hauntingly beautiful and one of the best things that you have
dones while Clarke's contribution was like meat and drink to the true fantasy-lover.
What do you think of conscription? [We hardly like to say!] As a pacifist I am
against it; I disaprove of wars as an instrument of policy and I must therefore
disapprove of any measure to facilitate war. Even were I not a pacifist I should
still doubt the wisdom of the Premier's decision, arrived at in spite of rejected
pledges to the contrary. Conscription is the thin end of the Fascist wedge that
may be driven between us and our freedom of thought and action; there are not
wanting Parliamentary advocates of a muzzled Press - that may well be the next
step - and succeeding stages with such precedents behind them will be correspondingly
easier of accomplishment. [At a modest guess, we should think we are two years off
concentration camps, and fans will contribute handsomely to the personel!] If to
meet the threat of totalitarian aggression this country is turned into a
totalitarian state, then we have been conquered from within as surely as
otherwise we should have been conquered from without. Signs of the times .... The
newsreels are going all jingoistic; [other complaints received] hardly one is
shown without its complement of marching troups, Union Jacks waving in the breeze,
and big guns in action, all to the accompaniment of super-patriotic comments in B.
B. C. accents. [We hear one reel calls itself "This England of Ours" - we
As was to be expected our severest critic hails from the western vale of Nuneaton. D.R.Smith writes from 13 Church Road, Hartshill, Nuneaton, Warwks:
"The subject of the day is, of course, the first issue of your stupendous production, THE FANTAST. To lend some degree of system to my remarks I will start with the first feature of the magazine and work systematically through it to the last. The cover was obviously symbolical of no end of things, but my attention centres on the grim-looking person holding up his arm in what is too slack to be either the Fascist or the Communist salute, and which cannot be, in one so blood-and-ironish, a mere friendly wave of greeting. However, I suppose it could be more confusing than it is, and it is certainly fantastical. The contents page is well laid out, though as a matter of fact I did not know there was one until I stumbled on it by accident a few minutes ago. To be frank I did not enjoy the "Twilight of a Sun". For one thing I could not make up my mind for a long time whether it was supposed to be poetry, or only a prose recitation set in a novel form. When I had got rid of
this confusion it still took a good deal of solemn
thought [how un-British of you, Smith!] before I got at the meaning. It wasn't
worth the fag. My mood has not yet toned in with "The Parson and the Fairy" which
seemed to me a very flat-footed sort of fantasy. The first page and a half seemed
quite promising, but when the fairy began talking like an exceptionally brainless
flapper and generally behaving exactly like a full-sized girl my interest in the
story vanished, for the sense of the fantastic was no longer there. If fairies are
exactly like humans there is no point in writing of them. Burke makes a timely
protest on the over-anxiety of editors to publish every last word of a defunct
author of note. But I don't agree that "The Tree" or "The Nameless City" ought
not to have been published, because they were both about average standard, and I
certainly don't think Weinbaum would ever have become a hack. There was nothing
published during his lifetime that even indicated such a possibility. "Dreamer 3"
was a decided improvement in technique on Clarke's effort but I am out of sympathy
with the sentiment and I have a very take-it-or-leave-it attitude to poetry which
does not appeal directly to some existing feeling in me. "No Grave!" I feel
justified in saying that it is so fan-magazine-ish that it is not worth its place.
[No more horror in "Fantast. We don't like it and nor. it seems, do you] After all
there is nothing fresh or original about the plot, and it is written very much in
the "and then" style. We are not brought to realise the true horrors of the heroine's
plight because the style is neither consistent to the simplicity with which she
would herself tell the tale, nor the dramatic skill with which it must otherwise
be told. To get the real effect such stories must be told in the exact manner with
which the old lady herself would have told it, which would be to see the horror
in retrospect, and to give not the feelings she had then but the feelings the
memory aroused in her, particularly In view of her age and the imminence of the
grave. "He Gets on my Nerves" had sentiments that appealed directly to me, and
some day I will send you an effort of my own on that subject. The editorial was
suitably modest yet optimistic and properly ambitious. The letters were as
entertaining as anything in the issue which is going some as the Americans would
have it. By the way, I hope this accursed conscription does not affect you? [Not
yet - and then in a negative sense]
Now for it! Erstwhile Guardian of the Books, and Very Busy Fan Eric Williams, cat-calls from 11 Clowders Road, Catford, S.E.6:
"Your argument that because I had not asked for a copy of "Fantast" you could not know whether I wanted a copy cuts both ways, for, without first seeing a copy, how could I know whether it was worth having? As for my being a Vert Busy Individual, that's only a rumour I've been spreading
around in order to get a bit of peace from writing letters to twerps
[Mr. Williams' correspondents please note] - please don't take this as meaning you.
[We're still suspicious!] Perhaps it is fortunate that I've backed out of some
things because it seems as though the Kings' Army will swallow me into its
blood-stained bosom any day now... The cover by Osmond Robb was very
disappointing. When the rumour went round that you intended to turn out a fan mag,
one or two of us said 'you can bet your life it will be an arty turn-out'. But
that cover! So like these flashy hectographed things turned out by young
Americans, and such an ordinary study! Considering the difficulties of working
with stencils, Mr. Robb has made a pretty detailed picture in parts, but he could
not have chosen a more hackneyed subject or a more difficult one to put with
effect on a stencil. Here's where your editorship should have come in; you should
have asked for the drawing first so as to give your OK on it and then let him get
on with the job.....perhaps you did. Well, if you did your lack of taste is
further emphasised. Boy oh boy, I guess this is shaking you some! [Private
Williams, you flatter yourself. Let us tell you a few things. 1 - Osmond had never
seen a stencil before in his life. Upon receiving instructions, he did three
covers and despatched by return of post. He had no correcting fluid. 2 - We
liked his cover and damned be all who gainsay. 3 - As for hackneyed work, see
first two covers for NEW WORLDS -— by a pro. artist. 4 - how do you like
Atlantis"?] Arthur's poem did not go down so well with yours truly; it was so
confused and so obviously a poem, if you know what I mean. Half the time I could
not tell whether it was the planet speaking (just imagine) [Corporal Williams,
you have one swell imagination] or a human being. And this breaking of sentences
into two verses was just being deliberately eccentric - like the majority of
these cubists. [And such incompetents as Tennyson, Flecker and Shakespeare,
Sergeant Williams] Your poem on the other hand read smoothly and its words were
well chosen. ASTRA's was so definitely of the Burke-McIlwain brand that for a
moment I was reading beloved Sally. Dave's "The Parson and the Fairy" was just
the sort of thing I like, it has that quaint air that characterises some of
Dunsany's incredible tales. It seemed likely to flop at the end, but the very last
paragraph picked it up and smoothed all frowns away. Johnny's sarcastic article
tells the truth with his usual acidity. "No Grave!" considering its extreme
brevity told a meaty story. The idea is somewhat reminiscent of Lovecraft's
"Pickman's Model", but taking into consideration that it is about 100 times
shorter than that classic and only 10 times less horrific, then I congratulate
you on a good piece of editorial selection and Miss Hawkins on a nice bit of
writing. The "Review" by FANTACYNIC is welcomed from me. Too many of these reviews
are by people who are afraid or incapable of putting down the sordid truth about
the stuff we get today, if Dave - sorry FANTACYNIC can keep an unbiased or
unperverted judge on SF then I for one will delight in having my views confirmed
from an intelligent source. And so I draw to a conclusion with a few words on
little tit-bit on the
last page. I might say that you, as a comparatively new reader of SF
['32 vintage] are a poor judge of whether Stuart and Taine are the brightest
lights in the sky, but I won't say that because it vould not be fair. [We thank
you, Captain Williams] I will venture to remark that Taine's plots, particularly
his "Time Stream", are very confused [Duff Cooper forgive you for the blasphemy,
Major Williams!] and that Stuart's pictures of nostalgia might be considered
stilted and over-poetic. [Vide "Appreciation" by an old timer. But we sincerely
thank you for your comments, General Williams, and we wish you the best of luck
in your new caree-ah.]|
(For the Scientists --- Folly in Brief --- or almost anyway.)
From the one and only (thank God!) McIlwain of 14 Cotswold Street, Liverpool 7:
"Osmond's cover is very well done, but what has the chappie got a quill-pen stuck in his chest for? The Contents page is very neatly laid out and easy to read. As for Arthur's poem -- well it was good, definitely, but rather hefty for fanfare, doncher think? [Can't take it?] "He Gets on my Nerves" was much more to my liking; a bouquet to ASTRA. "How to be Famous" by co-ecrivateur JFB was tip-top, and there is much truth in his argument. And now we come to "No Grave". I hate to hurt the feelings of Miss Harriett Hawkins (a pseudonym for your honourable self I suppose). [come again] but this story most definitely was not. The idea embodied was fair but the striving after effect was too obvious to be successful. The ending would appear to be one of the surprise type -- too bad it didn't surprise us. Actually the whole trouble lies in the fact that the story is far too morbid and gloomy for a fan magazine. I object to one thing in the Editorial, and that is the apology tacked on the end. Nobody would have noticed your pronouncical grammaticalapse [call in the anti-Ackerman squad someone] had you not mentioned it.
The readers' feature was without a doubt superb! [How do you like it now? And does anyone object to it occupying the enormous amount of space it does?]
B.I.S. Brain-Bulge. Arthur C. Clarke from 88 Grays Inn Road, W.C.1 gushes:
"Fancy I've got a cover at last! But I don't care for the bloke on it ... I never did like Hannen Swaffer. I liked Dave's effort quite a bit, and enjoyed Miss Hawkins' gruesome little story more than somewhat. As Maurice remarked, it was in the best charnel house tradition. John F. Burke's article was also good, and I'm drawing Bill's attention to it. The writing of all three items was much better than average. Your verse, I'm afraid was over my head, and ASTRA's was rotten. That sort of thing has to be written very carefully to redeem itself. I agree largely with Fantacynic's
of Doom" I thought very good [so did we] and told Wally so. He went up in a sheet
of flame and as soon as he cools down I'll tell him again."
Spriggophobe Eric Hopkins of 2c Stirling Road, E.13, says, in the course of a 23 page letter:
"The immortal question: does stf. appeal to broadminded geezers or does it make them. so, has reared its ugly head again. Your reply to Skerbeck's letter is exactly right. To attribute broad mindedness, love of art, and a sugar-coated scientific education to S.F. is now the sole prerogative of Wollheim, Tucker and other mentally ten-year-olds. But I wonder why we fans always assume that a World State is necessary for surely to construct such is a titanic task and one that would need such a concord of wills that at the distant time when it is possible it will be unnecessary, all war-like tendencies having been bred out. Concerning this double-damned Conscription, I think the most nauseating fact is that the collection of fools in power should find it necessary to forcibly train youths of twenty in the delightful arts of war, in order to "frighten" the dictators into a pacific mood; something that the inexplicable stupidity of the present Government found it impossible to do with all the other powers at their command. That the course of events should have been clear to a pore proletarian like me, and not to those ramifications of Croesus that are supposed to represent our most brilliant minds, speaks a great deal for our fine democratic principles. I don't think."
J. Rathbone, Editor of the projected "Macabre", comments from 5 Parkhill, 24 Heriot Place, Edinburgh 3, Scotland:
"I was surprised when I read in your Editorial that you were doubtful about "No Grave!" It was the best bit of writing I've seen in any fan magazine and deserves much praise.
Would it be possible for me to get in touch with the Author, in order to secure as good a story for "Macabre"? But if not, would you inform the author that there will be a magazine called "Macabre" and we'd very much appreciate a contribution? [Page Miss Hawkins! And any other budding weird authors!] "The Parson and the Fairy" was far more doubtful - and though it was all right, obviously doesn't belong in "Fantast". [Uh?] "How to be Famous" was all right. It had some construction in it and was as reasonable as fans are able to reason. The essay on "Education" was very like an H.G. Wellsian scheme on a small scale, and interested me. Maybe someone will begin to tell people things one day. Meanwhile the people able to do things are very conveniently dying out."
Exhortation and Appeal -— When you comment on this and future issues. of "Fantast", would YOU, be so kind as to write down a list of contents and administer marks out of ten? We know you are lazy but it won't take long and will help us with a kind of "Analytical Lab." Contents include everything - cover even.