Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Fantasy Fan

Over at the REHupa and REH:  Two Gun Racontuer sites, Damon Sasser recently made an announcement about Lance Thingmaker's publication of the entire run of The Fantasy Fan in facsimile.  This was one of the earliest fanzines, running for 18 issues from September 1933 to February 1935.  The list of contributors reads like a Who's Who of fantasy from the heydey of Weird Tales.  People like Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, August Derleth, Forrest J. Ackerman.  The editor, Charles D. Hornig was a high school student at the time.  His work on The Fantasy Fan caught the attention of Hugo Gernsback, who hired him to edit the pulp Wonder Stories.  Eric Lief Davin published two interviews with Hornig in Pioneers of Wonder (Prometheus Books,1999 ).

Damon quotes from Lance's introduction, so I won't repeat that here.  My copy came a couple of days ago, so instead I'll talk about the book itself.  Original copies of the zine were scanned and have been reprinted as they appeared, with only minor touch-ups to improve legibility.  All the typos and errors are still in place.  The binding is hand-sewn.  This is clearly a labor of love. 

It's a common practice of libraries to collect runs of periodicals and have them bound in hardcover.  The bindings are usually plain, with simple lettering.  That's the effect here, except the result looks much better than the typical library binding.  I know partly because I'm looking at two examples on the shelf as I'm writing this:  Unknown October 1941-April 1943 and Astounding Stories January-November 1932.  (Yes, some of the old pulps did manage to make it into library bindings.)

So, what's it like to read old copies of one of the most influential fanzines of all time?  Well, I can't rightly say because I haven't read the thing.  It just arrived a couple of days ago, and I've been swamped this week.  I have perused it, however.  This is not a book I'm going to rush through.  It's one I'm going to savor.  Robert E. Howard's "God's of the North" was first published here.  (This was a rewrite of "The Frost Giant's Daughter", an early Conan storied that had been rejected by Farnsworth Wright.).  Lovecraft's Supernatural Horror in Literature is here as well.  Poetry by Lovecraft and Smith.  Fueds in the letter columns by names you would recognize, such as Ackerman.  Columns by Julius Schwartz and Mort Weisinger.  A cornucopia of great stuff.

If you're interested in Robert E. Howard, or H. P. Lovecraft, or Clark Ashton Smith, or Robert Bloch, or the history of early fandom, then this is probably the must-have book of the year.  The book is limited to 200 copies and only costs fifty-five bucks, including shipping.  A bargain at twice the price (no, Lance, that doesn't mean I'm going to send you more money), I can't imagine this one staying in stock long. If I were you, I wouldn't wait for Santa to bring one.  That might be too late.

There's no web page for The Fantasy Fan, but you can order it directly from Lance Thingmaker.  Just send him a email.  You'll be glad you did.

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