When I was twelve years old, my friend Robert Kirkpatrick and I would hitch a ride with the S F Chronicle truck at 6 am. The truck would take us the forty-five miles to San Francisco, then bring us back at 6 pm. There is a lot a couple of twelve year old boys can get into in The City for half a day; nothing that we did affected my life as much as the trip one blustery day in April of 1958. We were standing around waiting for The Holmes Book Store to open when a clerk wheeled out a sidewalk rack of Specials – books they couldn’t get rid of anyway else. My eye was caught by a copy of Science Fiction Stories for November, 1957, with a cover illustrating Eric Frank Russell’s “Early Bird.”


I bought it for a nickel, took it home and read it the next day. WOW! This was no Miss Pickerill Goes to Mars! This was real science fiction; I had arrived.


I spent the next ten years gobbling up all the sf I could find. (Don’t call it “sci-fi.” That’s tacky.) My favorite authors were Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and L. Sprague de Camp.

In 1967, thanks to a little ad in the back of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction I ordered twelve fanzines for a dollar. Heck; I didn’t even know what a fanzine was, but it sounded cool. When they arrived, I discovered Fandom. Fans were people who read science fiction, thought about it, wrote about it, and published amateur magazines about it. I knew right away that I had found Family.


Those twelve were carefully preserved, as were all the others I received over the years, and formed the collection that now resides at University of Iowa.


In 1968, I enlisted in the United States Army and was sent to Viet Nam. During my tour I had lots of time to read and write, and I carried on a vast correspondence with sf fans in the USA and abroad. I spent two weeks in Australia with sf fans there. Eventually, I returned home. My fanzine accumulation was about three boxes by then. I bought a Victorian ex-church in Oregon with a file cabinet for the fanzines. I was half-way between San Francisco and Seattle, and provided an easy place for traveling fans to get a free place to “crash” and a meal. In those days, early 70s, all fans were fanzine fans; that is, they all contributed to, or at least read, fanzines. Convention attendance was still measured in the couple of hundreds. I went to Westercon, V-Con (Vancouver, BC), and even started up a little con of my own, TanKon (Tangent, Oregon). And the fanzine collection grew.


My friends, particularly Frank Denton (publisher of Ashwing), saved their old ‘zines for me and I would haul them home, file them, store the duplicates, and do other fannish things. In 1987, I bought twenty filing cabinets that had been through a fire locally. It took a lot of wire-brushing and two coats of primer but I finally got them in shape to hold fanzines. I never did get a finish coat on them; if you look at the collection at UI, you will still see those old file cabinets! I was greatly relieved to have a place to put the ‘zines, and that inspired me to finally get to sorting them. I made a big effort over the next three years to make the collection more accessible. And, too, people had started writing to me asking for copies of this fanzine or that article. I was flattered that I could help.


Those twenty filing cabinets made up about a third of the collection. Imagine the bulk of the fanzines by the 90s. Imagine my wife’s tolerance of all this stuff. (And this was just one of four major collections that I amassed.)


In 2002 we sold the house and had to move the collection to storage in an old woolen mill. I refurbished the area and it made a good home, plenty of room. Unfortunately, I had to sell the mill and the new owner didn’t want my stuff in it any longer; he was going to have the fire department do a “practice burn” to clear the buildings off the land, prior to development. That’s when I panicked. I didn’t have time to find a good, fannish home for the fanzines. I used the internet to reach fandom and wrote a lot of personal letters. No one came forth. One of my desperate ploys to spread the word was to put the fanzines on eBay for sale. This netted me one of Rob Latham’s ex-grad students who put the two of us together. The rest is, as they say, history.


I had reservations about placing the collection with a university, caused by past poor experiences with Special Collections at other institutions. I taught university for some years, by the way, math. However, I am pleased with the enthusiasm of Rob and Sid Huttner and I am now convinced that my collection could have no better home than University of Iowa. I like the idea of physically having it in the center of the country, for accessibility. I like the reality of the work that is going on to continue my filing and the prospects of making at least a part of the collection available on the internet. These are things that I could not have done.


Please take a look at what the university has posted.


Also, I do a little personal journal for fandom; you can find it here.


The name tag above was done for me by Jim McLeod.