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
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
In 1968, I enlisted in the United States Army and was sent
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
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.