1997 Southern Fandom Confederation Handbook & History

Early Southern Fandom

An Historical Perspective on Southern Fandom

Meade Frierson III

[Adapted by TKFW from the 1980 SFC Handbook.]

Although your writer is an 8th generation Southerner, this organization is just as interested in, and open to, any fan who happens to be in the region, however temporarily and from whatever origin. Nevertheless since this region is basically the Occupied C.S.A., one cannot resist the trappings of the past in our identifying symbols (and jokes about the yamdankees).

Back in the days when the sf magazines reviewed fan mags (as fanzines were usually called back then) and carried longer letter columns than at present, one found a goodly number of southern addresses but little indication that the southern sf&f fans ever got together to do anything (like clubs and cons) prior to the 1950s.

In 1948-49 in Ripley TN one Lionel Inman, assisted by a Van Splawn and Wallis Knighton, brought forth a fan mag called Southern Fandom. One of its raisons d'etre was promotion of New Orleans as the site of the world science fiction convention in 1950.

The worldcon, as this large annual event is called, was held in New Orleans in 1951 with Fritz Leiber as Guest of Honor. About 325 people attended. Harry B. Moore was chairman, but from accounts of eager young fan historians we understand that he has no interest in the field anymore.

The Atlanta Science Fiction Organization (ASFO I) was organized sometime in the late forties but of the originals only Jerry Page, Hank Reinhardt and Jerry Burge remain in Atlanta. The group was hyperactive during the first few years of the 1950s and put out a fanzine called COSMAG. There was a later pub called ASFO. (We wonder where are Carson Jacks, Ian Macauley {Errata}, and Peter Ridley these days.) The most striking project was a hardcover book on fandom by Sam Moskowitz, fan historian, called The Immortal Storm (reprinted in the late 1970s). This first ASFO group seems to have peaked out with a convention in April 1955 and little is known after then. [See Page article in this section for more details.--TKFW]

In the early fifties Robert Madle (now in Maryland and operating a mail order SF book business) lived in several areas in the South or its borderlands and there were fan clubs, meetings and fan activity blossoming forth wherever he went. In the pre-Sputnik era people were not all that convinced that rocketry was the government monopoly we soon learned it had to be, and Bob tells some amazing stories of the good press his club received with respect to space exploration.

Doubtless, the people who published the zines in various southern locations had friends who got together, but we have lost contact with such folks as J.T. Oliver of Columbus, GA (1951), Shelby Vick in FL (1952) [ah, but see below, "Notes Towards a History of Early Southern Fans"--TKFW], and Al Alexander, Randy Warman, George L. Cole and Robert Shrader of Charlotte NC (1956). We do know that Wally Weber is now gafia in Seattle[I think he's back.--TKFW]; Lee Hoffman is no longer producing Quandry in Savannah, GA but is living in FL; and Lynn Hickman of Orangeburg SC lived in Ohio, a stalwart of Midwestern fandom (and a member of KAPA) for many years before his death a few months ago in 1997.

Madle and his Charlotte NC group were responsible for SECON in 1956, the first recorded regional con in the area, so Southern Fandom approached the 1960s with several talented enthusiasts scattered about but few opportunities to get together and do anything organized.

A Few More Yesterdays:
The Columbia Camp

Harry Warner, Jr.

[Reprinted from: . . . Another Fan's Poison #1, January 1986, Curt Phillips, Editor.]

Much has been made in recent years of the fact that fandom contained few women and no blacks among its members during its first decade or two of chronicled existence. But those situations don't seem mysterious, in the light of social circumstances and ways of thinking that predominated during the 1930s and early 1940s. Less publicized and decidedly more difficult to explain away is the fact that so few fans resided during that era in the South of the United States.

While first the Depression, then World War Two kept fandom small in numbers and limited in ways of expressing itself, the biggest concentrations of fans lived in metropolitan areas like New York City, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. There were smaller clumps of them in a few large cities in the Northeast, Midwest, and Pacific Coast. Individual fans could be found scattered in rural areas or tiny towns, but most of these lonely fans resided north of the Mason-Dixon line or west of the Rockies. The huge geographical area generally reckoned as the South had few fans, fewer fanzines, and next to no local fan clubs.

I don't have any guaranteed-accurate explanation for this almost forgotten aspect of early fandom. All I can do is suggest possible causes, one or several of which might provide at least a partial reason why the South was so poorly provided with fans and fanac. Average income was much lower in the South than in most other parts of the nation during those years, so fewer young people might have been able to afford to buy prozines, the accepted first step for getting into fandom at the time. Fundamentalist religions still held a comprehensive grip on most of the South early in the century, which may have prejudiced many persons against the implications of most science fiction stories. The South didn't have as high a percentage of its total population residing in sizable cities as other parts of the nation, making it harder to reach newsstands where prozines were sold.

Today, of course, the situation in fandom is sharply different. Fandom in the South began to become more prominent as soon as fandom in general began expanding through such influences as the boom in the paperback science fiction market, postwar economic conditions which meant more money for many young persons, the coming of regular conventions in every part of the nation, and the change in public attitude to science fiction created by the first sputniks and satellites. It could be argued that the South today has the most flourishing fandom of any section of the United States. It's indisputable that the South has the only United States fandom which thinks of itself as a geographical entity.

At last I have arrived at my main point. All the generalizations above are valid, but there were occasional inexplicable exceptions to the basic fact that fandom was slow to develop in the South. The most improbable refusal of the South to behave as described came during the war, when an astonished fandom suddenly found itself bombarded by fat fanzines, letters, articles, and other forms of fanac form the comparatively small city of Columbia, SC. Almost simultaneously, four Columbia fans came into prominence, Joe Gilbert, Harry Jenkins, Lee B. Eastman, and W.B. McQueen. I don't think you could find four active fans in any of the much larger cities in the South at that time. What's more the group that called themselves the Columbia Camp launched efforts to promote fandom all over the South in ways that weren't much different from the far more successful promotion of Southern fandom during the 1960s and 1970s.

The Columbia Camp members had several things in common besides their chronological and geographical positions in fandom. All four of them were quite literate, capable of writing for fanzines in a style that was better than the average fanzine prose of the era but not highfaluting enough to make them sound like scholars slumming. They seem to have had the ability to get along with one another and with the rest of fandom, a knack that wasn't at all common in the feud-plagued fandom of those years. And when they gafiated a few years later they did such a thorough job of it that I can't remember encountering any evidence that any of them made even the mildest of returns to activities in later years. Perhaps someone has encountered one or more of them at a convention in the South without recognizing the significance of the name, in recent years; that's how complete their disappearance from fandom turned out to be, and how forgotten they are today by the superactive fans in the South.

The most lasting evidence left behind by the Columbia Camp was The Southern Star, which published five thick issues in the early 1940s. Other Southerners like Art Sehnert of Memphis were editorial assistants and the emphasis was on Southerners for contributions of material. There's no need to smile indulgently while re-reading its issues today; many of the articles are still useful for the information they convey or entertaining for the high humor with which they're written. Joe Gilbert probably did more than anyone in Columbia to create this fanzine. Harry Jenkins published a couple issues of Fanart, which must have been either the first or one of the first of the good-sized fanzines devoted to drawing for fanzines. Two or three of the Columbia gans became active as FAPA publishers for a while. They contributed much material to fanzines published elsewhere in the nation. Moreover, the Columbia Camp was the moving force behind creation of the Dixie Fantasy Federation. This was an organization with aims similar to today's Southern Fandom Confederation, although it included a slightly larger area in its definition of the South. The Columbia gans even tracked down that rarity, a female fan who lived near Columbia.

In a sense, I suppose, the Columbia Camp were like the pre-Columbian explorers of North America. They're virtually forgotten because they didn't represent an influence which connected directly to later propagandists for fandom in the South. I doubt if any of them was still active by the time Lionel Inman began publishing Southern Fandom in 1948. By the arrival of the 1950s and the coming of Quandry, an entirely new generation of active fans was bobbing up in the South.

I can think of only one other example of lots of fans suddenly appearing and gafiating together in an unlikely place in early fandom. That was the Decker Dillies, a half-dozen or so men and women in Decker, IN, a small village. But their emergence wasn't quite the same thing as the Columbia Camp, because they had already been close friends in a mundane local club and happened to discover fandom together.

I'm sure there must be active fans living in the vicinity of Columbia today. If they could track down any members of the old Columbia Camp who happen to continue residing in the South Carolina city and arrange for them to be honored at a regional con, it would be a nice gesture, proof that fandom eventually remembers its good people, even if it forgets them for a while.

Notes Towards a History of Early Southern Fans

T.K.F. Weisskopf & Curt Phillips

[Toni talked to Ned Brooks, Irvin Koch, Dick Lynch, Harry Warner, Jr. & Bob Madle for this bit and random facts in Part III, the regional survey. Curt consulted The Immortal Storm by Sam Moskowitz and All Our Yesterdays by Harry Warner, Jr.]

--Branches of the Scienceers (the first organized fan group) were formed in Clearwater, FL and Temple, TX in the early 1930s.

--In the early 1930s, Clay Ferguson of Roanoke, VA had several illustrations in Fantasy Magazine (Julius Schwartz, ed.) and also had a few illos in Astounding Stories. Fegurson still lives in Roanoke, and has appeared at recent local cons there.

--In 1935, D.R. Welch of Austin, TX was a fanzine collector and dealer. He compiled the Science Fiction Bibliography (published by William L. Crawford), the first list of "amateur periodicals of fandom." It's still a pricey collectors item today.

--R.M. Holland of Owensboro, KY published in 1935 several issues of his zine, The Science-Fiction Review. This may be the Ralph Holland who was later an important figure in the early National Fantasy Fan Federation (NFFF).

--D.B. Thompson (of Louisiana) joined FAPA in 1941 and was a loccer to Wilson Tucker's Le Zombie.

--According to All Our Yesterdays by Harry Warner, there was fandom in the 1940s in Tennessee, although it was short-lived and ended after an imbroglio over a fanzine. Participants included Art Sehnert, Joe Gilbert and Bill Dubrucq.

--Raymond Washington, Jr. of Live Oak, FL published--as "official head" of Claude Degler's Cosmic Circle--some Cosmic Circle fanzines in 1944 and 1945.

--[From Norm Metcalf] "Travelling fan Billy Joe Plott] visited Panama City, FL, where he met with Shelby & Susan Vick, rich brown, and myself." In Mimosa 19, published in November 1996 by Nicki & Richard Lynch, Shelby Vick has an article about the first convention in Lynn Haven, FL, in 1948. The "Florida Flames," consisting of Vick, Charles Heisner and Sandy Land (and perhaps others--Vick's memory was hazy on the point), were joined by out-of-towners Joe Green, Joe Christoff, Lin Carter, and some ladies from a local writers club. Christoff procured a copy of the movie The Shape of Things to Come and the writer's club ladies provided covered dishes. There was also a costume party. Vick reports that he went on to sell a few paperbacks (not SF), put out a fanzine or six, formed the Willis Fan Fund in 1952, and is now returned to active fandom (and living in Springfield, FL). [For Vick's exploits at the 1951 worldcon, Nolacon, see Part IV, Miscellaneous Silly Stuff.]

--Charles Wells of Savannah, GA, guest-edited the last issue of Lee Hoffman's Quandry (#30) for her, when she got a full-time job and fell in love with horses. Wells was in SFPA for a while, then went off to college in Ohio [my alma mater, Oberlin, as a matter of utter irrelevancy--TKFW], did graduate work at Duke and was involved in fandom in NC, and must, at some point, have gafiated. For more on Wells, see Part III, Atlanta, below.

The Cosmic Legion

Jerry Page

[Originally published in the DeepSouthCon 26/Phoenixcon 3 Program Book. Revised by TKFW per Hank Reinhardt.]

The formation of organized science fiction fandom in Atlanta began with Jerry Burge's decision, in 1950, to drop any connection with the field.

In 1949, Ray Palmer, the controversial editor of Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures left those magazines to start his own publishing company, to produce a new science fiction magazine, Other Worlds Science Stories. Palmer decided that his magazine would carry classified ads. But these ads would be available only to the readers and he would charge them nothing. So Jerry Burge, deciding he wasn't getting that much out of SF any more, took out an ad to sell his collection, at that time probably the most extensive in the city.

When the ad appeared, Jerry was astonished to learn that there were other fans in the city of Atlanta. The ad was answered by Hank Reinhardt (astonishing enough in himself) and then Reinhardt contacted Dewey Scarborough and Henry Burwell. Reinhardt met Ian Macauley through a mutual friend at Grady High School. As a result, the first Atlanta science fiction club was formed.

And Jerry Burge still hasn't sold his collection.

The club called itself the Cosmic Legion and decided to published a fanzine called Cosmag. [..] Henry Burwell [produced] Science Fiction Digest, a highly regarded publication, [that] reprinted the best work from other fan sources. (Burwell's fanzine is not be confused with the digest sized prozine of the same title that appeared a couple of years later.) After some scruffy early issues, Cosmag evolved into a pretty good fannish genzine, edited by Macauley, and combined with SF Digest. They maintained separate identity through the trick of publishing issues back to back in the manner that a few months later would be used by the Ace Science Fiction Double paperbacks.

The group quickly realized that Cosmic Legion was not a serious name. They rechristened themselves the Atlanta Science Fiction Organization. The main members were Hank Reinhardt, Henry Burwell, Jerry Burge, Ian Macauley, Carson Jacks, Walt Guthrie and Dewey Scarborough. Macauley was the organizational brain of the group. But Henry Burwell was something of a go-getter himself.

[In 1950 Arthur C. Clarke came over for the first of two visits to Ian Macauley who had become a correspondent of his.]

A. Langley Searles' great fanzine Fantasy Commentator had, for some years, been serializing Sam Moskowitz's history of fandom, The Immortal Storm. Burwell arranged to reprint it and, in 1952, issued a mimeographed edition which he sold for $2.00. Shortly thereafter, personal problems forced Burwell to withdraw from fandom, but by that time plans were already underway to publish a hardbound edition of the book, considerably expanded by the author. It was one of the most important projects undertaken by a fan group up to then. Jerry Burge and Carson Jacks quietly assumed the responsibility for the book's publication.

Most of the money was provided by Carson. He was older than most of the other ASFO members and a successful businessman. To produce the book it was necessary to acquire a typewriter with a clean typeface and manually type the pages which would be photographed for the actual printing. To do this you simply typed the book through, marking the unfilled spaces of the lines thusly:////. Then you counted the spaces left over for each line, take a pencil, indicate where you really want them to be (inside the lines, preferably after punctuation so they don't annoy the eye) and type the book a second time, putting the spaces in so each line comes out the same length. And you do this without making any mistakes.

Jerry got halfway through the book before being informed he was typing it in the wrong size. So he typed it over the correct size, then typed it yet again to produce the final camera-ready copy and lo and behold, ASFO Press was ready to go with its first book. Moskowitz was working as managing editor of Hugo Gernsback's Science Fiction Plus at the time and arranged for the legendary Frank R. Paul to do the dust wrapper. Paul had not only done the cover on the first science fiction magazine ever produced, Amazing Stories, April 1926, but of the first 66 covers produced for SF magazines (those produced during the '20s), only 8 are not by him. His last cover appeared in the '60s.

[IMAGE: Caricature of Al Andrews by Al Andrews]

The Immortal Storm appeared in 1954. The group was growing. In 1953, Arthur C. Clarke visited Atlanta, staying with Ian while he was here. Together they edited an issue of the group's fanzine, ASFO, the first fanzine Clarke had done in the ten years since his own zine, Novae Terrae folded. Some new members came into the group including three teenagers, Jim Benford, Greg Benford, and myself. In 1956, the first regional science fiction convention ever held in the southeast was held at the old Dinkler Plaza hotel in Atlanta. It was called Agacon and boasted 56 attendees. The guest of honor was SF writer Theodore Cogswell.

Agacon was the last real effort of ASFO as a group. Several of the major fans departed later that year or early the next. Reinhardt, [who had embarked on a life of crime, didn't get caught but did drift away from things, and was invited to join the Army in 1956.] Macauley took a job in another city, Scarborough and Guthrie moved. All three of them dropped out of fandom. For a time the only ones left were Jerry Burge, Carson Jacks and myself. Then I moved and Carson dropped out of fandom because of the press of business. When I returned, a year later, Jerry Burge and I were fandom in Atlanta. That condition continued for almost five years. Then Reinhardt came back, I finally met him, and other fans began rearing up in other parts of the south. It was from this group that what we today know as southern fandom grew.

[IMAGE: Cover of Cosmag] [IMAGE: Cover of Science Fiction Digest]

[IMAGE: Collage (Big)]

Questions? Comments? Send e-mail to: ssmith@smithuel.net

Copyright (C) 2000 Samuel A. Smith and T.K.F. Weisskopf All Rights Reserved
Last Revised: Sat Jan 22 14:25:44 CST 2000

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