The first book publication of my history of UK fandom is now available for purchase
in hardcover and trade paperback. Weighing in at 450 pages it's 20% longer than previous
versions and has been substantially overhauled. Treating the original version as a first draft,
I spent a year in doing additional research, correcting, deepening and expanding. Now fully indexed
and featuring 300+ period photos of contemporary fans, it's available from Ansible Editions
at the link below. (Don't worry about prices being quoted in US Dollars if you're not American, btw. Follow the
'Order print edition' link and when you click on lulu.com next to the edition you want it
should take you to a page with prices in your local currency.) There's also a link to the
The book has been receiving emails of comment. If you're happy to have any comments
sent this way appear here please indicate this in your email. Contact details
here. Thank you.
(8 Sep 2016)
Rob, we've never met, so far as I am aware, but I just want to say how
impressed I am with THEN. (And, I love the title!).
Many people might feel that British science-fiction fandom is such an
obscure or unimportant group, it doesn't merit a Boswell to record its
minutiae. But to me, the cohesion of fandom during the decades before
the internet was a truly exceptional phenomenon. Its participants were
drawn together not just by loneliness, or by alienation from the
conventional world, but by shared dreams of a human future. They
didn't always talk about that very much, but I think it was the
implicit basis for a feeling of affinity.
Fans generally didn't do anything tangible to turn their shared dreams
into a reality. There were some exceptions; for instance, I see in
your book the name of A. M. Low, who was a slightly wacky scientist,
author of at least two predictive nonfiction books (which I own), and
a friend of my father, as it happens. But for the most part, the
stereotypical fan was just quietly waiting for human transcendence to
occur, and in the meantime enjoyed hanging out with others who shared
Fandom was a community largely without rules. It resisted conventional
leadership, and sustained itself without a profit motive, at a time
when long-distance communications were challenging. Even the expense
of postage was nontrivial for many fans, and the speed of
communication was glacial by today's standards. Yet enduring
friendships formed, events were organized (by people who were mostly
untrained and unpaid), and most important of all, little newsletters
and zines were created. This required patience and great dedication,
as tools for the purpose were primitive in the extreme, and only
someone who has labored to mass-produce text and pictures on a stencil
duplicator (or, worse, a hectographic machine) can know the
All of these activities constituted a sincere and selfless endeavor.
Fandom was an idealistic model of human interaction, and fans showed
that in a simple way their dreams of human transcendence were
realistic, because you did indeed have to transcend everyday
limitations to sustain the group.
This has been a long preamble. But it leads to an important
conclusion. No one in UK fandom took much trouble to write its
history, beyond some brief documents that were local in scope. Thus
the information about this entity would have been lost without Rob
Hansen. Moreover, you took great pains to see that the history was
compiled thoroughly, without bias, and without personal favors to the
people involved. My own thread in this tapestry is fairly described,
and I suspect that everyone else can say the same.
If any sociologist decides to write about British fandom as a master's
thesis, they'll have a very easy task, because you have done most of
the work already. It is a singular achievement.
I didn't value fandom much when I was in it, because I was young and
self-centered. It served my needs, and I moved on. But when I grew
older and acquired some objective detachment, I saw more clearly that
many people had been very kind to me, despite my youthful angst, my
prickly personality, and my huge social gaffes. Fandom sustained me at
times when I was literally suicidal, and it did what no therapist
could have done. It provided an antidote to my cynicism, calmed me
down, and demonstrated that not all people in the world were hostile
or felt that I was delusional in some of my dreams. Thus fandom helped
greatly on a personal level, and I think it helped other people
I'm happy that a cover of one of my fanzines is reproduced in your
book. Even while I was feeling exasperated by some aspects of fandom,
and was critiquing it harshly, I was simultaneously and unwittingly
feeding the network with the power that sustained it: human
interaction, human energy--and if truth were known, some human love.
Thank you, Rob Hansen.