All Our Yesterdays 37
by Harry Warner Jr.
Hagerstown’s summer resembles this year the sunward side of Mercury. I feel not the slightest impulse to go into the sizzling attic and burrow through stacks of redhot fanzines, excavating molten ore as subject matter for this instalment of this column. Moreover, people who do odd things under the influence of exceptional circumstances like a prolonged heat wave are less severely chastised for those indiscretions. So, if I can avoid a trip to the stifling attic and simultaneously if I can risk attenuated denunciation for blowing my own horn, why shouldn’t I devote the column just this once to one of my own fanzines?
There’s another reason for this egocentric procedure. I was greatly flattered by the showing Horizons made in the Focal Point poll and I’ve received since the Fannual was distributed several plaintive inquiries from people who didn’t know that such a fanzine exists. The most recent book about fan history barely mentions Horizons, many fans prefer not even to think about it, and maybe the time has come when some of the facts about it should be narrated in one convenient assemblage.
I had begun publishing Spaceways in the fall of 1938 as a general purpose fanzine which ran all sorts of fiction and non-fiction, poetry, columns, and advertisements. When it was six months or so old, I thought I had acquired the fannish know-how to cope with any fanzine situation. But a fat envelope from a woman somewhere up in the Great Plains States provided me with a real puzzler. She sent a couple of science fiction stories. They weren’t good but they were better than some of the fiction I’d been publishing in Spaceways, I hadn’t reached the stage yet of rejecting anything submitted for publication, and those stories were much too long for Spaceways if its issues were to continue to offer the variety readers seemed to like. What’s more, I’d been thinking for some time about the deprived fannish condition in which I laboured, lacking the experiences almost all other fans liked to discuss: in other words, I’d never owned and used a hectograph. So I decided to start a second fanzine, smaller in size and circulation, which would emphasise fiction and would run stories too long for my mimeographed fanzine.
Everything I’d read about hectograph turned out to be true. It made the western part of Hagerstown purple, it decayed in the middle of reproducing a page, it produced barely legible copies, and a twelve-page Horizons turned out to be much more trouble than Spaceways which averaged twice its page count and drew ten times as much comment from readers.
But the lady who wrote those stories was happy to have a magazine created for her fiction, even though she never did anything else in particular in fandom. I also had the satisfaction of learning how bad I was as a writer of science fiction, by reading the comments on several stories I wrote for those early issues of Horizons. Moreover, there was one undiluted good thing about the fanzine’s first few issues: covers by Walt Earl Marconette. He’s forgotten today as an early fanzine artist, and his art wouldn’t win much favour if displayed amid the creations of the powerhouses who are turning out pictures for fanzines today. But Marconette’s drawings were smoothly executed, they weren’t jumbles of excess detail, they exercised some taste in the use of multi-coloured hecto pencils, and I still contend that they were the best-looking series of covers, taken all in all, that any hectograhed fanzine ever had.
The first issue of Horizons was dated October, 1939. I tried to maintain a quarterly schedule, deviated several times in the first few years, and missed an issue altogether when intestinal flu knocked me out completely late in 1943. Maybe someday I’ll get around to publishing that missing December, 1943, issue, because I haven’t missed an issue since then and I hate to think of a three-issue volume five of a fanzine which has four issues in every other volume for a third of a century.
But I’m getting ahead of my story. After perhaps a half-dozen issues Horizons underwent a considerable change. I’d joined FAPA early in my fannish career, but hadn’t done much publishing for it in that era when it really didn’t matter if a member contributed his eight pages, because there was no waiting list and the person who was dropped for lack of activity could rejoin without missing a mailing. But after several years as a deadwood member, I felt a bit nagged by a bad conscience, and I was dissatisfied with the reaction that the fiction-slanted Horizons was getting. I decided to convert it to a FAPA publication, sometime in 1941, I believe. I began to shift emphasis to FAPA-type material, and by the Fall of 1942, two great things happened. I stopped publishing Spaceways and consigned the hectograph to the tender mercies of the devil who had created it, switching Horizons to mimeography.
Very little happened to Horizons since 1942, otherwise. About a dozen years later, I was prosperous enough to double its size to 24 pages. Before that occasion, I’d reached such financial heights that I stopped using yellow second sheets on which Horizons had been published during financially critical years. There were occasions when issues had cover illustrations, but not often; ten years ago, Jean Young Rose did a series of cover illustrations for me that I considered a good mimeograph equivalent of the tasteful and simple drawings Marconette had provided in the hectographed era. About a dozen years ago, I did something which I still feel remorse about. I stopped cranking a mimeograph. A deadline was approaching, I was overwhelmed with non-fannish affairs, mechanical difficulties with the mimeograph were too much for me, so I bundled up a quire of stencils, some of them very inky and sent them off to Ted White who not only ran them off beautifully but somehow managed to type his Qwertyuiop Press imprint on one of the most saturated stencils. Ted, Dick Eney, and the Coulsons have successively been my mimeographers since then, and without them I never would have managed to retain the 28-year-old record of hitting every FAPA mailing.
It’s presumptive enough to write so much about my own fanzine, and I have no intention of making this worse by quoting extracts from various issues the way this column normally does, because Horizons has been mostly self-written after those first few issues. There has been an occasional outside contribution. Ackerman bared his fannish soul once, revealing many fascinating things about his early years in fandom. Walter Breen contributed a scholarly essay on Shakespeare’s sonnet mystery. And, of course, there has been a department entitled The Worst of Martin in every issue for the past decade. This baffles people who came in late and needs some explaining.
Early in the 1960’s, FAPA dropped a member named Edgar Allen Martin on the grounds that material which he’d published for activity credits was not original. This ignited a fuss that lasted years. The material was a group of short stories which Martin had written, based on ancient jokes. In the end, everyone admitted that they were original material and that Martin had been dropped as a result of a mistake, but officialdom ruled that Martin had not adopted the proper procedure to have the mistake rectified and so couldn’t retain his membership. I don’t normally hold grudges but I did in this case, since the incident destroyed much pleasure I’d formally found in FAPA. I decided that Martin would be represented in every mailing of FAPA as long as the membership roster contained anyone who had opposed his reinstatement. I began to reprint the poorest examples of his writings I could find, in and out of fandom, usually filling one or two pages per issue with them. Occasionally I got pressed for time and wrote some Martin material myself instead of wasting hours digging through old mailing. Nobody seemed to notice the difference. To this day, I don’t know if Martin knows that he has been subjected to these reruns.
I think I can claim Horizons as the oldest regular published fanzine which hasn’t undergone changes in editorship or lengthy suspended animation. It isn’t the oldest title still being published, because The Fantasy Amateur, the FAPA official organ, hasn’t missed an issue since FAPA’s organisation, several years before the first Horizons. But the FA has had dozens of editors. For a while I was reluctant to make this claim, because much of the material in Horizons down through the years has been on mundane topics instead of concentrating on science fiction and on fandom. But then just recently I realised the fallacy of such modesty. As certain experts on science fiction have proved, anything which a professional writes or does is important, even if it’s an inter-office memo written by someone who once edited a prozine. I sold perhaps a dozen stories to the prozines during a brief period when I was doing other irrational things, too. Therefore, anything I write or publish has significance in the world of science fiction letters, because it emanates from one of the sacred congregation of the select few who have accepted money for science fiction stories.
Material in Horizons has taken several forms down through the years. During the early FAPA years, I wrote a lot of reviews of science fiction. Later, I began to publish some of my own fiction again, sometimes straight science fiction or fantasy, on other occasions faan fiction, once a chapter from a novel which was to be published until a magazine folded and then I couldn’t get the manuscript back from my agent until I became ashamed of the story. That chapter, incidentally, was the only thing I’ve ever published in Horizons after trying to sell it. Articles about events and people in Hagerstown have grown more and more prominent in recent years, mainly because I can write them with less forethought and fewer halts to contemplate what should come next. Mailing comments have always been prominent in Horizons: they’ve led off most issues for thirty years, except on a few occasions when I couldn’t get a mailing read in time.
Of course, sheer luck is responsible for this feat of not missing an issue since World War Two. I’d stencilled a new issue just a few days before the Christmas Eve fall in 1960 which busted a hip and prevented all forms of fanac for nearly three months. A six-week sentence to the hospital and convalescent home a couple of years later also came at the proper time between mailing deadlines. I had just enough time between orders to have an operation and entering hospital in early 1971 to stencil an issue which I probably couldn’t have written in time during convalescence. Similar good fortune or extra devotion to duty had characterised the people who have been doing the mimeography, and whatever its other deficiencies, the post office system has been consistent about delivering stencils and completed copies.
There’s a persistent legend in fandom to the effect that I dummy each issue and revise a first draft of all material. This erroneous belief apparently comes from the fact that each item in Horizons ends at the bottom of the page. Everything I write for Horizons is done without previous first drafting on paper and things come out even because I’ve had a lot of practice writing to space requirements for the newspaper. The Martin material fits because I cut it or choose items of approximately the right length.
The most entertaining thing about Horizons is the thirty copies which are left over after FAPA’s requirements are met. I never know how to give them out. I owe obligations to perhaps three hundred people in fandom that I’d like to meet with exchange fanzines. But I consider Horizons principally a FAPA magazine; much of its material has meaning only in relationship to previous issues or other magazines in the mailing, and I don’t want to order lots of additional copies, then feel impelled to change its nature because of the wider distribution. For nearly two years, I’ve solved the dilemma by doing nothing. Once every month I tell myself that I’ve got to send out to someone all those back issues that are piling up and every week or two I get a request from someone to go on the mailing list. The best procedure, I suppose, would be to ask various fanzines to reprint the things in Horizons that might have general appeal. Bruce Gillespie did this with one long article and has another lengthy one in the works. Over the years, material has been reprinted occasionally, and I believe one little story about fans got published in three or four different publications at one time or another. Occasionally I get the urge to dig out lots of back issues of Horizons, select from them whatever seems worth salvaging, rewrite them to make some improvements, and send them to people who ask me for stories and articles. A half-hour walk in the nearby town park usually gets such impulses under complete control.
Some people apparently collect Horizons. One almost complete thirty-year run of issues recently was advertised for sale, and I understand someone actually bought it. I hope collectors won’t be too attentive, because some thing about Horizons have always been lamentably slapdash. Its pagination is wrong, for instance. I never put numbers on the pages until one of my mimeographers found it impossible to figure out what should come after which, so I just made a quick guess at the approximate number of pages that might have been published until that issue and started numbering from that estimated point. Bill Evans claims that there is a mistake somewhere along the line in the volume and whole number calculations. Writing in the stick causes me to omit the things I’d wanted most to put into a mailing comment or an essay and I’m getting increasingly careless about proof-reading. The inconsistency of quality that goes into Horizons can be proven by the outcome of the Egoboo Poll, which showed it to be tied for 20th place as best all-time fanzine, but only in 21st place among currently published fanzines.
Last revised: 1 March, 2006
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