Fanzine reviewed: HYPHEN (#11).
Hyphen (#11) – November 1954
Faneds: Walt Willis & Chuck Harris. British Genzine.
This is a legendary fanzine. No. I mean it. In its day it was THE legendary fanzine. A product of Irish fandom (the Oblique house crew in Belfast), with contributions from British and American fandom, it was noted for the dry wit which made it a real pleasure to read. A most entertaining zine, or such was its reputation. I’ve chosen one issue at random (from the George Metzger donation to the BCSFA archive) to find out the truth of the matter.
First off, the zine is crowded with text. I had a heck of a time cropping out the text embracing each and every illo. Co-editor Walt Willis has an explanation:
“Some readers have criticised HYPHEN for being too crowded looking… I’m sorry… but we try to cram in enough stuff so that everyone will find something they like, and we give you more wordage for your money than any other fmz. If you would like some of it converted into blank space we’ll oblige—blank space is quite easy to publish—but at the moment we figure magazines are for reading.”
Damon Knight, a good novelist and an even better critic, contributes an example of his criticism titled MICROTOME. He starts off:
“My favourite monomaniac, Sam Moskowitz [First fandom veteran & author of the 1930s fannish history THE IMMORTAL STORM], is at it again in the recent 200th issue of FANTASY-TIMES. Modern science fiction, he says, lacks sincerity and a sense of wonder; that is why the magazines have been having so much trouble lately.”
“I like Moskowitz, not because he is right in blaming fifty other people for the qualities he has lost in growing up, but because at least he knows that there is something wrong with science fiction…”
Interestingly enough, given that at least three movies have since been based on this novel, Knight lashes out at Richard Matheson’s I AM LEGEND as an example of poor science fiction [horror].
“This story, about the last man in a world in which everyone else has become a vampire… is full of good ideas, every other one of which is immediately dropped and kicked out of sight. The characters are child’s drawings, as blank-eyed and expressionless as the author himself in his back cover photograph… infantile set of ‘scientific’ rationalizations… Vampires can’t be killed by bullets, for instance, because the bacillus [infecting them] causes the secretion of a—hold your hat—powerful body glue that seals up the bullet holes…”
Knight not given to holding himself back out of consideration for the author’s feelings it seems. He savages two other novels the same way, then delivers two glowing tributes which I heartily agree with:
“Two-eyed science fiction fans will want to march out immediately and buy a copy of the View-Master TOM CORBETT, SPACE CADET reels, and a V-M stereoscope to look at them with. The three reels—little cardboard disks mounting seven pairs of color transparencies each—are $1 in a gift packet, with a story booklet that explains the puzzling goings-on in the pictures. The stereoscope is $2, and won’t be wasted… The Tom Corbett story is by View-Master’s editor, Robert L. W. Johnson, and a very pleasant and sensible little space opera it is. The scenes themselves are created—the only word—by a genius named Florence Thomas. She builds the sets—in this case spaceship interiors (wait till you see those stars through the porthole), the surface of the Moon, Mars, and so on—and models the clay figurines, about 10 to 12 inches high… The photographer, who needs as many tricks as a Hollywood cameraman, is Howard Heydorff.”
It should be noted this particular set of reels and View-Master stereoscopes are frequently available on Ebay. That’s where I got mine.
The second tribute is devoted to a truly innovative SF illustrator:
“A word about Richard Powers, the man responsible for all the gorgeous science fiction book jackets we’ve been seeing lately, is long overdue. For the first time the problem of interpreting modern science fiction in line and color has been successfully solved, not by illustrating the stories, but by matching them to their nearest graphic-art equivalents. Powers has borrowed creatively from all directions—the frighteningly enigmatic forms of Yves Tanguy, Siqueiros’ metallic faces, even Albright’s silvery necrophile liquescence. His range, even considering the variety of his sources, is enormous, and yet his work is so distinctive that it signals ‘science fiction’ from a crowded display rack halfway across a room.”
Next, an article by newcomer John Berry (later famous for his “Goon Defective Agency” zines). Editor Walt Willis comments thusly: “John Berry is the latest recruit to Irish fandom and he brought this article with him the third time he came” [to Walt’s Belfast home, the legendary “Oblique House.”] It is titled COMING UP FOR THE THIRD TIME.
John Berry describes his first impressions on entering the famous attic:
“Let me describe the room. My eyes flashed back and forth, noting the important details. I saw a large bookcase, crammed with SF mags; a calendar depicting Marilyn Monroe in the altogether; an enchanted duplicator; a calendar depicting Marilyn Monroe in the altogether; a large futuristic drawing of a spaceship; a calendar…”
“I had met WALT WILLIS… young, intelligent looking fellow busily punishing a typewriter with finger and thumbs…”
“Bob [Shaw], I would say, is the poor man’s Lex Barker. Not, I hasten to add, from any apparent propensity to swing from tree to tree, but purely because of the remarkable physical resemblance. (Sorry, Lex.)”
“James [White] is like, well, James. His prosperous appearance leads me to assume that he has some professional business connection with one of Belfast’s leading Gentleman’s Outfitters…”
“George [Charters] is a punster. His whole existence is centred around puns… He listens to conversations, leaning forward avidly, and suddenly, during a temporary lull, he utters a marvelous pun which is just suited to the subject under discussion. He is considering starting a pun school, as if we don’t suffer enough punishment.”
By sheer coincidence, elsewhere in this issue George contributes his very first fannish article for HYPHEN titled MY FIRST COLUMN, which fills exactly one column on a two column page. There are, not unexpectedly, a number of horrible puns, but by far the worst is “It is reliably reported that when Napoleon was shown the first photograph he said, ‘C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas Daguerre.’”
Getting back to Berry, he describes his first game of Ghoodminton.
“After tea, kindly provided by Madelaine [Willis] at the appropriate moment, the room was energetically cleared to provide space for the unique tournament which seems to be (and happily so) a ritual at these meetings.”
“The easiest way I can explain the rules is to say that there are none. Literally, nothing is barred. It seems essential that at least an elementary knowledge of Judo is required; indeed the possessor of a Black Belt would not gain much respite, but perhaps more practice.”
“I joined in quite readily, because I am heavily ensured…”
“The basic idea is that two fans join forces and face two others across a table, over which is stretched a net. Each player is armed with a ‘bat’ (loose floppy layers of cardboard, one of the charms of the game) and a battered shuttlecock is bashed to and fro.”
“The energy expended in one set is prodigious… Walt’s chief gambit is to attempt a cannon off a large picture of a semi-nude dancing girl hanging on the wall. I think Walt chooses a special aiming point on the girl’s anatomy, because the pin-point accuracy of his shots is Astounding. On second thought, it could be that his intention is to divert his opponent’s attention to the picture. Interesting. You’ve already guessed my next statement. He should attempt a cannon off Marilyn. That would upset my game.”
“James uses ESP. He launches his bat to the left, glances to the ceiling, leaps to the right, and at the same time wills his opponents to drop their bats.”
“Now we come to George. He displays an advanced knowledge of psychology. His principal approach is calculated to appeal to one’s finer feelings…. His service, for example, is a gem. Note his apologetic smile to the two across the table. That smile says, in effect, ‘Look, I know my service is pathetic, but please don’t murder it.’ He then taps the shuttlecock slowly and gently across the net.”
“That service is dealt with in two ways. By (a), the gentle, compassionate type (me). An opponent in this category purposely LOSES THE POINT, lest George should break down; which, to judge from his pitiful expression, is imminent. Secondly (b), we have the heartless, sadistic, vengeful type (James). With methodical and murderous precision, this type unleashes itself with elemental force, and crashes the shuttlecock back with venomous hatred.”
“As George prises the shuttlecock from the wall behind him, he grins weakly. He appears to give the same service, but the discerning eye might notice a final, crafty flick of the wrist…. The shuttlecock TURNS AT RIGHT ANGLES. It does. I’ve seen it. It is surely unnecessary for me to add that George has yet to appear on the losing side—he won’t partner me.”
“Bob is in his element… It is magnificent to watch. He backs against the wall, snarling like Humphrey Bogart, and waving his bat as if it were a machete. His opponent, naturally overawed, makes a weak service. Bob leaps forward, a smooth smile flitting across his face, and with a vicious overhand flick hurls the shuttlecock back from whence it came. Like a recoiling spring, he then reverts to his original position against the wall, and with an added leer makes sure his opponent lacks the audacity to return the missile, should it be physically possible to do so.”
“[Madelaine] smiling coyly, holds her bat in her right hand with finger and thumb, little finger daintily raised. Still smiling, she holds the shuttlecock in her left hand, little finger also daintily raised. Her opponent (I’m speaking from experience) stands back to admire this delightful stance. Suddenly there is a barely audible flash, and the shuttlecock hums past at the speed of light. (And that’s fast.)”
“Do I employ any gambit, you ask? Frankly, no. As yet I am still an amateur at the game. I’ve tried one or two elementary diversions, but with little success. I did tear my trousers, but I am confident that James will fix me up.”
To this editor Walt Willis adds the following:
“Mr. Berry is too modest. He has been injecting new blood (mostly his own, fortunately) into the game with such enthusiasm that already we have had to make three new rules to cope with him. His ‘elementary diversions’ include shouting ‘UNPLAYABLE!’ after his opponent makes a service, with such hypnotic authority and confidence that his opponent is momentarily quite convinced. He is also the first person to attempt interference with his opponent’s play with such enthusiasm at to precipitate himself bodily onto the floor on the other side of the table. One night he turned up with a beautiful new bat constructed of best cardboard and passe-partout bearing a picture (in colour) of Marilyn Monroe on one side and internally reinforced with strips of aluminium. It lasted barely half an hour.”
All in all, the above eyewitness description of a typical game of Ghoodminton is likely to be the best and most comprehensive you will ever read.
Of the contribution by Irene Gore, Willis writes: “I am sorry to hold over the beauteous and virtuous [I8 year old] Miss Gore’s conreport till it has lost all topicality but it is worth printing to be able to say in later years that we printed the first article of hers to appear outside Lancaster.”
It is titled SUNDAY AT THE SUPERMANCON (the 1954 British National convention in Manchester). Irene had some initial difficulty finding the hotel:
“I strolled out of Victoria station into the rain where I stood and meditated, then following my little pink map I turned right and then left and then I turned the map upside down and stared at it. The map stared back. I pushed it into my slacks pocket and concentrated and pretty soon I picked up the vibrations I was waiting for (which is how I reached the Grosvenor Hotel).”
Her report is short, and the gist of it is summed up by this paragraph:
“I had a merry time. I nearly got myself mixed in a jazz session, I subscribed to a few zines, promised to write material, and sat on Church Harris’ knee. Pete Taylor proposed to me and James White almost spoke to me. Something called Burgess soaked me with a ray gun… Ken potter filled in odd moments by relating the goings on of the night previous to my arrival and his hopes for the night to come. [Can’t help but wonder if Ken’s ranting had anything to do with the ‘beautiful female fans from Liverpool who sold kisses to raise money for TAFF and took most of the laurels at a strip poker game,’ according to Harry Warner Jr.] Then he came over all fatherly and said in a serious voice, ‘I want you to take down what Ted Tubb says in shorthand.’ But Ted Tubb didn’t say anything in shorthand, so he was disappointed.”
Not enough room to quote from the other articles, so I’ll just quote a few of the fannish quotes the editors quote:
“HE FIRST SUSPECTED HE WAS BEING WATCHED WHEN HE NOTICED SOMEONE HAD BUILT A TOILET ONTO THE END OF HIS WARDROBE… DISCOURAGED, HE TURNS TO COLLECTING PORNOGRAPHY… I DON’T WANT TO GET MARRIED ANYWAY—I WANT TO BUY A GESTETNER… WE GET EXCITED BY SEEING ACTUAL PEOPLE… BUT TUCKER IS INEGMATIC… THE TROUBLE WITH IRISH FANDOM IS THAT THERE AREN’T ENOUGH DRUNKS IN IT… SLEEP PLAYS HELL WITH MY FANAC… I AM PREPARED TO TOLERATE FANDOM… “
And leaving this column with a final first, that of a soon-to-be ubiquitous and quite famous fan artist, Walt Willis writes “You’ll see a lot more… of Arthur Thomson whose first cartoon (drawn by himself) is on page 23. With typical editorial flair we allowed this new cartooning genius to discover us just a few days ago.”
Here is Arthur Thompson’s first published fanzine illustration:
BY THE WAY:
You can find a fantastic collection of zines at: Efanzines
You can find yet more zines at: Fanac Fan History Project
You can find a quite good selection of Canadian zines at: Canadian SF Fanzine Archive
And check out my brand new website devoted to my OBIR Magazine, which is entirely devoted to reviews of Canadian Speculative Fiction. Found at OBIR Magazine