All Our Yesterdays 20
by Harry Warner Jr.
Fancyclopedia I (revisited)
All fandom was plunged into war in a very real sense in 1944, when scores of prominent fans were in the services, many others were too busy with high-paying jobs to do much fanning, and nobody could be sure that the end of the conflict was only a year in the future. It was the least likely of all times for the biggest fannish research project up to then to come into existence: the Fancyclopedia, in its original version.
The Fancyclopedia II has received much attention during the nine months since its release. But few fans who are active today possess copies of that original Fancyclopedia. It might be instructive to recall some of the facts about the publication.
The vital statistics, first of all, because the Fancycle II does not define itself and it’s hard to dig up the facts about the original volume without owning a copy. It contained 97 pages of definitions, not counting the title page, the introductory page, a final page that was devoted to errata and credits, or the covers. The covers consisted of one wraparound sheet of some type of heavy, pebbled and quite flexible substance. Mine was red, with silver stamping bearing a startling combination of names: John Bristol (Speer’s first two names), NFFF, LASFS, and Forrest J Ackerman. The pages in my copy are a dark buff hue, and those to the front of the book have either faded into a strangulation blue tinge or didn’t match the rest of the pages to begin with.
The people who put out the first Fancyclopedia were so impressed by the magnitude of their own accomplishment that they put down all sorts of little statistics. It took 30 days to produce the publication, only ten days less than God required to drown the world, but that doesn’t count the two years that Speer put into research and writing. It was estimated that it would have taken one tireless fan five days of uninterrupted 24-hour work to do the mimeographing, slipsheeting, deslipping and assembling. This doesn’t count the stencilling job, which Speer did by himself. Those who speak lightly of Daugherty projects may have forgotten that he put in the third highest total of time on the production job, topped only by Ackerman and Morojo, nearly three times as much time as Laney devoted to the work. Another group that often receives less than solemn emotions, the NFFF, had a hand in the job. The introduction explains:
The original Fancyclopedia had an edition of 250 copies, compared with the 450 copies that are cited on the first page of Eney’s later work. And it had justified margins throughout, the only challenge that Eney ran away from when putting out his modern version of the work.
I’ve always felt that the finest thing that happened to the original Fancyclopedia was Speer’s decision to make it a Johnsonian type of reference volume, one that frankly and deliberately sets out to reflect the writer’s own outlook on life instead of pretending to be a publication that has just rolled down the mountain after being completed by some impartial deity with his head in the clouds. The prejudices and interests that the Speer personality manifests are there without apology or efforts to represent some kind of cosmically significant statements. Better yet, Speer has always been a much finer humorist than he’s given credit for being. This first Fancycle is boobytrapped with wonderful remarks that the casual or careless reader often runs right past without realising how brilliant they are. Under correspondence, for instance, we read: “Unless be is a regular correspondent and knows that you take longer to reply, a fan’s letter should be answered or at least acknowledged by postcard within two months.” A dutiful but humourless approach to the Fancyclopedia could have resulted in a volume so dry and grim that nobody would have remembered it long enough to update it fifteen years later.
And it’s a curious thing about this distinctive Fancyclopedia style. Speer said somewhere recently that he doesn’t believe himself capable of doing that particular type of writing nowadays. But by some empathy that reached out over the years, aided no doubt by frequent reference to the Speer volume, Eney caught the knack of writing in exactly this vein. As a result, it’s remarkably hard to be sure where Speer stops and Eney starts in the second edition. In the definition of drinking, for instance, it’s almost all Speer in the second edition, yet the single sentence that Eney added fits imperceptibly into the rhythm and general style: “Central states fen favour the amber nectar of the grain, such as Grain Belt premium, the official brew of the old MFS; inhabitants of the decadent cities of the coast also favour the grape.” Occasionally, I think that Eney has done a better job of choosing the mot juste. In the aforementioned article on correspondence, the use of Splfrsk as a complimentary close to a letter was termed by Juffus an amazing goodbye; Eney altered that for the better to exotic goodbye. However, I imagine that the score is just about even. Many of Speer’s delightful sentences were so perfect that Eney didn’t disturb them. The definition of quibbling remains unchanged, as “What you accuse your opponent of doing when it’s you that’s doing it.”
Elsewhere, in an article intended for publication by Lynn Hickman, I have pointed out the regret that I feel because some things in the original Fancyc1opedia were dropped in the Eney volume, to keep the latter down to a workable size. So I won’t go into that again, except to point out that there is a small never-never land between the two volumes covered by neither. The Knanves, for instance, will be found in neither the first nor second Fancycle. I think they came too late for Speer, and Eney was producing the second edition by the time that I informed him how the absentmindedness of a fan using a lettering guide caused the name to come into being.
There was one major deficiency in the Speer volume which Eney couldn’t have been expected to rectify in the second edition of the Fancycle, without Speer’s own research notes. I think that Juffus could have made his project more valuable in several ways, by listing source materials. A few lines after each major entry, to tell where you can read more about that matter, would have served several purposes. It would have enabled future historians to locate the publications from which much of Speer’s own information must have come, for amplification or verification of more extended writings about these phases of fandom. It might have encouraged the very slow market for old fanzines. There’s comparatively little buying and selling in the back-issue fanzine mart, and this may be caused to some extent by the fact that no reference works show which issues of what fanzines contain material of permanent worth. And it would have enabled us today to distinguish between the statements in the Fancycle which came to Juffus through conversation or correspondence, and those that he took from printed sources. I don’t imagine that much can be done about the situation at this late date. Speer is hardly likely to have retained his notes, nobody has been that brave enough to try to index fanzines by subject matter, and since 1944 it has become almost impossible to find someone who has a fairly complete set of really early fanzines for sale.
One other apparent defect of the Fancyclopedia’s original form was undoubtedly intentional on Speer’s part, to prevent it from turning into a dictionary instead of a reference book. It failed to contain the full listings of pseudonyms, pet names, and nicknames that the ideal fan reference volume should posses. It did a more thorough job with pet names and pseudonyms than the second edition, partly I imagine because its two-column format encouraged the inclusion of extremely brief entries. But fandom is badly in need of such a compilation. Determining who wrote what in the older fanzines is increasingly difficult; leafing through old issues of Spaceways recently, I found myself unable to remember the identity of the real author of several items which I was certain were not printed under the true author’s name. Some fan with a bit of spare time could do worse than go through the original Fancyclopodia and cull out all the listings of this sort that were omitted from the second edition, and perhaps publish them after asking politely for permission from Speer, since the thing is still covered by copyright. It would be a start, although much work would remain. Neither Speer nor Eney has a listing under Main-iac, for instance, although this is a title which has descended from one fan to another, from Avery, through Cox, to Hamlin.
The most curious thing about the Fancyclopedia and its success, in my opinion, is this: Nobody seems to have even thought about doing the logical thing, and issuing a Procyclopedia. Speer occasionally inserted an item with next to no relation to fandom, such as a definition of Golden Atom tales, for no apparent reason. It’s going to be another decade at least before we need a completely new edition of the Fancyclopedia. Anyone who wants to share the glory of the egoboo that went to Speer as a pioneer research publisher could do worse than to produce a reference book about the prozines and related types of commercial fantasy and science fiction. If someone tries to do something about the idea, I hope that the result is as amusing, literate and well-balanced as the Fancyclopedia.
Last revised: 1 March, 2006
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