Written in preparation for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Australia and New Zealand Amateur Publishing Association, 1993
In Slaydomania II Ms Frahm of North Queensland claims to have known me while I
was still active. I forget when I stopped being active, but it is true that I was still more or
less functioning when Leanne and I first met at Anzapacon in 1978. In that year Leigh
Edmonds and I were in our thirties, a fact that may have irritated him, because he always
thought I was very old. It follows that in 1968 we were both in our twenties: he had just
entered, and I was about to leave.
In those days, a quarter of a century ago, I was married to a lady named Diane and had a cat named Grushenka. Diane was new to fandom, but Grushenka had never known anything else, having been born at the Hardings' place at The Basin. In late 1967 the three of us were living at Ferntree Gully. Barely a week went by without some fannish gathering at 11 Wilson Street, and it was there that I began my long career of being mostly unemployed (in the technical sense, that is: I was quite busy then publishing a journal called Australian Science Fiction Review). Diane had become involved with the Melbourne SF Club, an outfit that I tended to avoid. Dick Jenssen called it "the travel agency". It seemed to attract wild-eyed young men as fond of exotic substances, loud music and strange films as they were of sf. At Easter 1968 the club organized what we modestly called a science fiction "conference". Its main venues were an old community hall and a picture theatre in Boronia, a couple of miles from Ferntree Gully, so our place and the Hardings' were packed with fans from interstate (and some locals who couldn't bear to go home), and the convention, or party, went on for some days after the conference had officially ended. The interstate people there, as I recall, included Pat Terry (a long-time Sydney fan, then in his eighties), John Baxter, Kevin Dillon, Bob Smith, John Brosnan, Jack Wodhams . . . Jack, a postman from Caboolture, had published a couple of stories in Analog, and more had been accepted. Addressing the conference, Jack said we'd better enjoy his company while we could, because in a year or two he wouldn't want to know us. But he said it in that nice laconic way that Queenslanders have.
Diane and I were getting tired of travelling forty-odd miles a day, leaving for work in the dark, arriving home in the dark, but perhaps I agreed too readily when she suggested that we share a place with Leigh Edmonds and Paul Stevens, who were moving from South Melbourne. Some time after Easter 1968 we moved into a house-sized flat at 12 Redan Street, St Kilda. When the flat next door was vacated, Tony Thomas, a frequent visitor, seriously considered moving in. We thought that eventually we could have the whole building occupied by fans, and with this awesome prospect of a super slanshack in mind we formed Skarcfuta -- the St Kilda Australia Regional Committee For Un-Terran Activities. But before Tony could make up his mind (he was about to marry John Foyster's sister, Myfanwy, and he wasn't sure how keen she would be on the idea), our agent told us we'd be wise to look for another place: the Anglican school on the corner, St Michael's Grammar, had bought the property and soon the building would be demolished.
We could only have lived at Redan Street for four or five months at most, but the place became legendary. At least three fanzines were published there: I was still doing ASFR; Leigh had revived the MSFC's clubzine, Etherline, and started a genzine called Rataplan (the name inspired by the landlord's song in Burnand and Sullivan's Cox and Box); and there may have been others. There were frequent editorial meetings, with George Turner, Lee Harding, Damien Broderick, Dimitrii Razuvaev and others -- rarely John Foyster: he was doing postgraduate work at Monash, and Elizabeth had asked us kindly not to distract him. I don't think Paul was publishing anything then. He and Noel Kerr conducted cinematic evenings in the loungeroom, screening horror films and (more often) soft porn. Sometimes I came home late and found the room full of people I had never seen before.
Odd memories come back: Damien striding down the street with a tree over his shoulder, or at least a very big branch, which he courteously presented to Diane as one would a bouquet; a rumor that the English sf writer David Rome was living in St Kilda, and one day there he was at our door, explaining that his surname was Boutland and "Rome" just one of his pennames; Peter Darling and Gary Mason posing for photos in the back yard, one of them holding up for examination the centrefold from the latest Playboy, then Leigh's turn, grinning as he demonstrated the only way to read Andre Norton's The Sioux Spaceman -- upside down; the night that someone broke into my car and stole three books: when the police came I told them to look for someone who liked Hazlitt, Simon Raven and Mao Tse-tung, and they looked at me as though I had described a very suspicious character indeed, someone like me. I can't recall Bruce Gillespie visiting Redan Street, but he can. He had a mystical experience there with George Turner, Damien Broderick and Beethoven. I think we can rely on Bruce to tell us about that.
Just before we moved I did one of the worst things you can do to a friend: I sold my car to Tony. It was a Humber Super Snipe, a huge, impressive-looking car, six or seven years old when I bought it. It had belonged to one of the big oil companies, the salesman told me, and had always been chauffeur-driven. Maybe so, but it moved like a tank, and things kept going wrong with it. I decided to trade it on a VW. Tony asked if he could buy it for the trade-in price. I should have said no, but I didn't. A few weeks later he and Myfanwy set off on honeymoon, and the car self-destructed in some desolate place in the Western District.
The place in Redan Street was probably built in the early 1900s. There were four apartments, two up and two down, each with a big bedroom at the front, behind that the hallway and a huge lounge, a smaller bedroom and bathroom off the wide corridor, then a big kitchen and dining area, and at the back a pantry and a tiny bedroom, presumably for a servant. For our purposes it was ideal: three private spaces separated by large communal spaces. (Leigh cheerfully accepted the servant's room, and managed to fit his enormous collection of model aeroplanes and Andre Norton paperbacks in it.) The place we moved to, about September 1968, was quite different. It had modern plumbing, for a start, and a laundry. It was one of a block of two-storey flats in Glen Eira Road, Elsternwick, just east of Hotham Street. It was almost house-sized, but not as big as Redan Street. Upstairs were three bedrooms and a bathroom, downstairs the lounge, a dining room and the kitchen. We converted the dining room into a bedroom for Diane and me, and I took one of the bedrooms upstairs for a work room.
The part that visitors seemed to like most was the staircase: Paul, Leigh and Diane used a variety of impromptu sleds on it, and most of our visitors couldn't wait to try it. Having stairs naturally meant that we had a cupboard under them, which we instantly dedicated to George Turner, but we usually referred to it as "Dillon's Room". Kevin Dillon was reputed to be able to sleep anywhere. For a few years afterwards the broom closet or other suitably small enclosure in most fannish households in Melbourne was called Dillon's Room. The practice continued in Adelaide, in Gary Mason's house at least.
When Ron Clarke visited us at Elsternwick we had a special insult ready for him: the latest issue of The Mentor was hung in the toilet, and above it the notice "Emergency Use Only". I can't recall whether Ron was amused or upset, or even whether he let on that he had noticed, but then that's the way I recall Ron generally. Ron had been talking for some time about starting an Australian apa. Whether he did anything but talk about it I don't know, but in the event it was Leigh who started APA-A (renamed ANZAPA by the third mailing), and that happened at Elsternwick in October 1968.
I forget how long ANZAPA's original constitution remained in force, but I remember very clearly where it was redrafted. Despite having a functioning laundry, while we were at Elsternwick we used to go to a laundromat just west of Hotham Street, and that's where Leigh and Paul and I rewrote the constitution. This is the kind of thing, Bruce Gillespie tells me, that it is essential to record for Australian Fannish Posterity. It would have been better recorded at the time, but unlike Bruce I don't keep a diary -- and although I keep apa mailings, I keep them only in the very general sense that I don't throw them out. So I don't know when we rewrote the constitution, only where. Leigh and Paul went on using that laundromat after we parted company, and I sometimes joined them after Diane and I parted company, so it could have been as late as 1971.
At Redan Street we tended to congregate in the kitchen, at Elsternwick in the loungeroom. Part of the reason for this, I realize now, is that even then I preferred to relax with my elbows on a table rather than sit in a lounge chair. Another is that any fanzine-publishing household must have a collating table, and there was a lot of fanzine publishing going on at Redan Street, so one way or another we spent a lot of time at the kitchen table. At Elsternwick the only communal space was the loungeroom, which also served as dining room and collating room. It was big enough for these things. At first the flat didn't seem big enough for Leigh's music and mine -- a problem we hadn't struck at Redan Street, because there, if you happened not to like Shostakovich or Mahler, the Rolling Stones or Cream, you could go somewhere else in the house and not hear it. At Elsternwick there was nowhere to go, so we gradually got used to each other's music, learning what we could put up with and what we couldn't. When I was out, Leigh would play heavy metal; when Leigh was out, I would play Bruckner and Bach. One day I came in and found Leigh listening to a Mahler symphony -- memory suggests (see how cautious I am becoming?) that it was the third. I have always thought of that moment as a turning point for Leigh: soon afterwards he was devouring classical music, learning piano, studying music with Felix Werder, composing music. But it might be closer to the mark to say that it was a turning point in my perception of Leigh: he was becoming his own person. I don't know when Leigh and I first talked about our view of life, or how often, but we agreed in general that it's a matter of deciding what things are important to you, then organizing your life to make the most of those things. Over the next few years I watched Leigh doing that, while I fumbled opportunities and lurched from one crisis to the next.
Bernie Bernhouse, a regular visitor at Glen Eira Road, seemed to have unlimited access to the latest American records, and other exotic things, and he couldn't wait to share them with us. I listened with as much good grace as I could to his records -- some I actually liked: Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant, for instance -- and declined the other things. Late one night Bernie dropped in (having earlier, so to speak, dropped out) as I was listening to one of Bach's unaccompanied violin sonatas, and he couldn't believe his ears: he had never heard such sublime music, he said. And having heard it, he couldn't bear not to hear it again. He insisted I play it again, and again, and again, and sat there fiddling along with it and moaning with ecstasy and crying out "Wow, man!" and the like. I don't know what he had dropped out with that night, but from then on he said mine was much better gear. Music also had the distinct advantage of being legal. Bernie was usually good company, mainly because he always seemed enthusiastic about something. When Leigh started recruiting members for ANZAPA -- yeah, man! -- Bernie was in like a shot. He was listed as a member in the first mailing, but was too excited by ANZAPA to publish anything. As far as I know, Bernie is the only person who has been in ANZAPA without contributing to a mailing.
Damien Broderick was another regular visitor. It's odd to realize that he was only 24 at the time: he had already made his mark as a writer. None of us knew where Damien lived, but I had driven him home once and he asked to be let off at a telephone box in Prahran, so we decided that he lived in telephone boxes. Damien has never been a fannish fan. You can tell that from his novel Transmitters (1984), a delightful book, which is largely about fandom, very well researched, very funny, and contains almost recognizable portraits of many local fans, but when he attempts fannish humor it doesn't ring true: it always sounds like Damien, who is a great humorist in his own right, but fannish humor is a complex mixture of individual voices and shared allusions and in-jokes. Having said that, and recognizing that Damien would probably prefer not to be thought of as a fan at all, I have to say that he provided the funniest occasion I can remember at Glen Eira Road. In ASFR 16 I had reviewed Philip Harbottle's The Multi-Man, an extensive annotated bibliography of John Russell Fearn. This project was greeted with disbelief in Melbourne, where the consensus was that Fearn, under his own name and as Volsted Gridban, Vargo Statten, Astron del Martia and others, was the worst sf writer the world has ever known. We must have been talking about him when Damien picked up a copy of Fearn's The Intelligence Gigantic and began reading it to us.
Three men stood quietly thoughtful in a wonderfully equipped laboratory, each holding in his hand a sheaf of papers upon which were executed abstruse mathematical formulae, and sections of the human anatomy, correct to an amazing degree.That's about as far as Damien got, carefully enunciating every dreadful adverb and adjective, before he joined us in uncontrollable mirth. For weeks afterwards we had only to describe anyone or anything as "less severely chiselled" and we would pack up all over again.
One night Dick Jenssen came to see us, a fairly rare occurrence. As I recall, the committee organizing the 1969 Melbourne Easter convention met at our place, and Dick may have been a member of that committee. Dick (more formally Ditmar) was something of a legend among the older Melbourne fans. Along with Mervyn Binns, Race Mathews and others, he was a founder of the MSFC. I first met him at the Degraves Tavern (when it was still Jenny's Cellar) in late 1965 or early '66, and what I'd heard of him was true: he looked too young for his age, far too young to have a doctorate, and he could wiggle his ears at will. He had a wicked sense of humor, bordering on the perverse, and a repertoire of disgusting, brilliantly funny jokes. He was urbane -- a perfect gentleman, Diane said. A meteorologist by profession, at the least prompting he would talk about the geometry of art, or classical music, or the secret life of Ludwig of Bavaria: he seemed to know everything. But his most passionate interests were sf and film. At our first meeting he talked about Lawrence of Arabia, which he had seen overseas. They cut the part where the Arab shoves a stick up his camel's arse, he said sadly. We didn't believe him: typical Jenssen humor. In 1992 I saw the uncut version of the film, and he was right. We always took Dick seriously, but we weren't always sure whether to take him literally. What he had to say that night, this cheerful, unfathomable man, was that we really should have our own equivalent of the Hugo Awards, to recognize Australian achievement in sf and to provide a distinctive Australian recognition of world achievement in sf. If we could work out a system of awards, he said, and he would help us with that, he would put up the cash for the trophies. You could call them Ditmar Awards, he said, with just the hint of a twinkle in his eyes. Twenty-four years on, we still have the Ditmar Awards. Well, not all of us: I have one, and Italo Calvino had one, and Gillespie seems to have the rest.
My Ditmar Award was for ASFR, which by then had become more of a burden to me than a pleasure. It had twice been nominated for a Hugo, and I was proud of that. Many of my enduring friendships in the sf world were founded on it. But I simply couldn't afford it, and to tell the truth, I had become a little tired of sf and very tired of retyping other people's writing. I wasn't sure at first how much I wanted to be involved in ANZAPA as well, but the experience was liberating.
I enjoyed writing The New Millennial Harbinger for ANZAPA, and the reaction to it was very pleasing. Lee Harding wrote: "Offhand I suppose I could think of a round dozen reasons for ASFR to fold; I had thought that ASFR 17 was the best reason yet. But now you've gone one better. The no.2 Harbinger is so good it makes one wonder why you persist in this pose of Guardian of SF. I enjoyed every word of this delightful effort -- and the material was so much more interesting than this weary old sf kick." If you had had as much strife as I had with Lee over editorial policy you would have found that pleasing. John Foyster produced ASFR 19 in March 1969, and I did the final issue in June. That final issue had a photo of Thomas Love Peacock on the cover; looking at it today I remembered that it was originally meant to be the first issue of Scythrop. And Scythrop begat Philosophical Gas, and here we are.
According to Leigh Edmonds' list in mailing 64, I contributed 740 pages to ANZAPA in its first ten years. I suppose you could fairly call that active.
Philosophical Gas 84, February 1993