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COMMENTS & MEANDERINGS
“Why, After 33 Years, WTF?”
So, why am I doing ‘Microzine‘ 7? The reasons exceed the number of arms in a family of Jatravartids. Partially and particularly, it’s about keeping promises, even though the person I promised passed from the living 11 years ago.
Scratch the record.
Let me explain.
It is April of 1978. I just turned 13, and thought I was the world’s biggest sci-fi fan. Posters of schlocky movies adorned the walls of my office/bedroom, well over 100 dog-eared sci-fi paperbacks lined up what little shelving space I had at the time or lay stacked on the floor, and my sci-fi hardcovers were in boxes under my bed with issues of my favorite magazine at the time, ‘Starlog’ stuffed between like packing material.
The May, 1978 issue of ‘Starlog’ arrived in my hands (monthly mags were always released a month early), and imagine my dismay when I saw the bold claim on the cover: THE WORLD’S GREATEST SF FAN!
I slyly humored to myself along the line of “Gee, I don’t remember interviewing with ‘Starlog’.” So I opened the issue, read the letters, early features, and I think it was the next day I opened that issue to the spread shown below, and — yes — I admitted THAT guy is a bigger fan of science fiction/fantasy/horror than I. Imagine the person who invented the very term “sci-fi”. Imagine the first “futuristicostume” — nowadays ‘cosplay’ — worn at the first sci-fi con, the editor of the first fanzine, the highest-paid author of a sci-fi story, a literary agent to some of the biggest names of the genre (including Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, A.E. Van Vogt, Curt Siodmak, and L. Ron Hubbard), winner of the first Hugo Award, the best-known collector, archivist and activist for the genre, small part and cameo actor in dozens of movies and tv shows, neologist and Esperantist. Not only was he the world’s greatest sci-fi fan, he was instrumental in expanding and pushing forward the genre as a whole, making it more accessible and proliferate.
Inspired by his story, I thought about doing my own sf fanzine, but it was not yet to be. Then, while walking through a small bookstore in central Ohio, after going with my mom and her boyfriend to a business meeting, I discovered an odd fanzine called ‘Future Focus’, issue no. 9, edited by a guy named Roger Reynolds. I devoured the mag and became more excited to do something similar. But I was not a good writer, I didn’t have much in the way of artistry, so what was I gonna do?
Here we move to late ’79. It was in the first few days of high school, standing at the bus stop at Vernor and Central, awaiting the Baker Bullet outbound for my return ride home. Here, someone saw me reading ‘Starlog’, and said “Hey, I have that, too”, and pulled out his copy. That guy was Kevin Colbeck, whom I became a fellow geekazoid with, while we both devoured media, discussed movies seen, books and magazines read, and I shared my love of all things Forry. It was within weeks, I recall, that we decided we would do a fanzine.
Between our pals in school, we had just several entries, including some cartoons, themed artwork, my ongoing introduction column “Comments & Meanderings” (of which this is an installment for #7) and several movie and book reviews.
Getting the formatting was a challenge, but I will have to leave that for another time.
During this time I was becoming very involved in the SF fandom scene, going to cons and sending letters to other publications. I met Roger Reynolds, editor of the aforementioned ‘Future Focus’, and he said at a convention in Ann Arbor that my early fanzines — I only had 2 issues out at this time — was better than his. I conveyed my doubt, stating how good issue # 9 was. He said his first few issues weren’t even copied 2 sided while mine was! However that may be, I was happy at my minor achievement.
Over the next few years, most of the original people involved fell off, and I ended up depending mostly on the talents and tales of two friends I had gathered in my sphere, Ray L. Heikes and Charles A. Oliver. Ray was a talented artist who did the cover of issues 3 and 5, while Charles could put pen to paper. His writing was lucid and inventive, and I have wondered many times since why he hadn’t earned a Hugo Award.
They dragged me, kicking and screaming, from putting out a crudzine to putting out a reputable instrument of fandom, warts and all. And in I believe ’80 or ’81, a local convention was hosting my hero, Forry, as one of the guests of honor. Meeting him was an honor. I got his autograph and though he had a plethora of knowledge to depart; but I was also able to entertain him.
Quick story. On a show called ‘PM Magazine’ years before, I tape-recorded a 6-minute segment about Forry, his Ackermansion, his career and massive collection. I listened to the segment often enough to have been able to, without cheats, regale him with the entire episode. Other 4E hangers-on sat and stood in a circle around him, giving me a mini-amphitheatre in the convention’s hotel suite to play out my recitation. I got a small ovation, and 4E, always quick with a witty response, said something along the line of “Better than the first time I saw it.”
In ’82, my mom and I traveled I-94 to Chicago, where I attended my first WorldCon, Chicon IV, where Forry, when I finally caught up to him, showed me that he remembered my name. Impressive. It was about this time 4E began sending me items in the mail, including issues of older pulp scientifiction magazines, including (see photo) a copy of the magazine which got it started for him, the October, 1926 Amazing Stories he had in his collection for xx years.
We kept in touch, and in ’84 I journeyed to Hollyweird/Horrorwood, Karloffornia. I was 19, and it’s the first time flying the silver bird from home, my first vacation paid entirely by me, and the farthest I’d ever been from Motown. On my first night in the City of Angels I stayed at the Ramada Inn, Hollywood on Vermont. Standing on the balcony of my room, I drew in the cooling breeze of a perfect 72 degree dry night, and decided I would move to LA. Unfortunately, that never happened. But another time for that.
The next morning I had to move to the TravelLodge on Vermont, and once I got checked in, I decided to walk up Vermont to Forry’s house. It was a long walk, but I wanted to save money, plus I have always liked just walking and biking instead of taking a bus, so I put one foot in front of the other for a long walk which probably took well over an hour. Little did I know at the time I would be passing the otherwise mundane intersection of Vermont and Franklin, which would later be named the Forrest J Ackerman Square. Once I reached the Ackermansion, I rang the side bell and heard “Who dares disturb the sleep of the vampire? Enter at your own risk!” A few moments later, Forry himself came to the side gate and allowed me in to the most incredible home I could have ever imagined, the center of my sci-fi universe, the Ackermansion. The Ackermansion, was, for me, a heart-racing dream come true, heaven on earth, journey of a lifetime. Mecca. Jerusalem. Varanasi. Ise Grand. The Temple Mound.
He gave me a brief show of the main level, cramped to each inch with some sort of sci-fi memorabilia, collectible, literature or original painting. He took about 10 minutes and showed me several specific things, then sat down at one of his desks to work, allowing me a while to wander about, jaw agape at the numerous wonders inside.
One night I took a bus down to a museum near the Chinese Theater and toured a museum which included several items on loan from Forry. I also got, that night, my only jaywalking ticket ever.
In a day or 2, we went together to see Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. There, inside the Pacific Cineramadome, the sci-fi gHod (he and I were both Atheists) of my life sat to my right as he saw the movie, though I’d seen it just the day before I left for the West Coast.
I saw Forry maybe 2-3 more times then flew back home.
2 years later, now with a friend living on Paloma Ave in Venice beach, I returned to Cloud Coo-Co Land again, this time for a few months. This was for — and the reason for my long visit — and during the 1986 Worldcon, the World Sci-Fi convention in Anaheim. My first night there, I stayed with my friend for maybe 2-3 days, then off to the center of the SF universe. I stayed there maybe a day or 2, sleeping on the red couch. He drove me, in his long orange Cadillac with the license plate “SCI FI”, to the Anaheim hotel for the Convention. I was able to find someone to share room space with, and stayed at the convention for a few days. One day, after leaving the room, I took the elevator to the convention floor, and it stopped at some floor, then who should walk in but George Lucas. Alone. George Lucas and I, alone in an elevator.
I almost creamed my jeans.
A few days later, I was back inside the Ackermansion. There, I met Ray Bradbury. He was so cool, not at all self-centered, and offered to have me send any of his books to Forry, he’d autograph them and send them back. I did get his autograph on a signature pad and gave him a copy of ‘Microzine’.
There are 4 other little stories of my time at the Ackermansion/Ackermuseum/Ackercenteroftheuniverse I would like to tell:
— One of the days I was at the Ackermansion (I’m not positive if this was before or after the convention) I asked what I could do. Forry walked out the back door onto the patio, reached up to the doors to the back entrance to his garage, which he called the Garage Mahal, and put an upturned bucket or something to boost me in. There, with a wall-bound bookcase and 2 long standing bookcases, and piles upon piles on the floor, were fanzines, such as mine, from his lifetime of collecting, and aficionados such as I, sending him their feeble attempts at fanzine stardom. He asked me to get them in some order. I worked on it for maybe 4-5 hours before I conceded, saying something like “maybe if I had several tables to lay things out on, and several people to help”, but I know, at least, I made a dent. He did have me help him with some mailings, and even pre-open a few items sent to him so he could save himself valuable seconds opening his fan mail, mailed items and others.
— One of the days I stayed with him, he received a box of items from John Landis. Landis was one of the many people who contributed his early love of all things sci-fi and horror to Forry, and on this day, Landis send some of his early action figures to Forry. He asked me to put them in a room where several of his most prized items were located, and to use an old school Dymo label maker. The label he had was red in the center with a gold top and bottom border. I also used it to make a punny label for the model of the Hercules satellite from the movie Meteor.
— One of the mornings I was there, his wife, Wendayne, made a light egg scramble and a side salad. On the salad were green tomatoes, grown by her on their lovely garden porch with a view. To this day, over 3 decades later, they were the most fucking delicious and unforgettable tomatoes I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. One of the true mouth orgasms of my life.
— One morning, maybe it was the day before leaving for the convention, Forry had me shower in his personal upstairs bedroom master bathroom. I noticed something odd about the gold handles of the shower, not thinking a second more about it. Several days later, there was either a fan, a writer, a reporter, or someone Forry was speaking to, as I was in the room. Explaining that his home had previously been the home of the actor Jon Hall, I interjected something like “That would explain the shower”. Both looked at me quizzically. I explained where most showers had an “H” on the left handle, and a “C” on the right for “Hot” and “Cold”, his gold shower handles had “J” and “H”, probably for Jon Hall. Forry said he never noticed this, but later admitted I was right. By that time he had been in the home for at least a dozen years, and had not noticed. But then again, I was at the time a meager 21 year of age, probably only 5’4″, and Forry was, to me, tall. Go figure.
I stayed in LA with my friend in Anaheim for a few more weeks, earning some money walking dogs, taking up myomassology as Rose’s School of Myomassology and once I was about to get my certification, had to leave for home for a medical emergency in my family. I stayed in Hollywood 1 more night, then visited Forry, borrowed $ 20 bucks from him, and took a long series of busses to LAX, then a flight to MI, never again to return*.
* With the exception of layover flights to and from Hawaii.
A Completely Unnecessary Issue-By-Issue History of ‘Microzine’
The original name of the project was Encyclozine. A fellow fan I hung around at that time chortled at the name, saying something like “Sounds like a lot of information involved, like encyclopedia, but it’s too damn small!”
Size: 8.5″ x 11″
Cover art by Anthony Maxfield
We quickly changed the name to Microzine, given by the same pal who complained about the original name. I showed the first two issues to Roger Reynolds, editor of a fanzine influential to me called “Future Focus”, and he said my first 2 issues were better than his. I argued that seemed impossible, considering how good his #9 was, and he said his were only single-sided. It was a boost to my ego, however small.
Size: 8.5″ x 11″
Cover art by Anthony Maxfield
Arguably the best issue, I changed the format to fit the name and began copying the masters onto 8.5″ x 14″ legal paper folded in half, stacked on top of each other and stapled together. With the super-duper help of my friends Charles A. Oliver and Ray L. Heikes (both of whom I have tried, over 2 decades later to contact to no avail (finding Heikes having died)), they helped me improve the cover, using transfer lettering and allowing me to use one of Ray’s excellent illustrations and Charles’ brilliant story.
Also includes an illustrated poem by Meri McGhan, “The Return of the Ghostdancers” by Kevin Colbeck, a twisted story by Charles A. Oliver, a tribute to Harlan Ellison, comics, book and movie reviews.
Size: 7″ x 8.5″
Cover art by Ray L. Heikes and Gene Day
This issue included an essay by David Gerald.
Size: 7″ x 8.5″
Cover art by
description in the works
Size: 7″ x 8.5″
Cover art by Ray Heikes