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Bah! Humbug!
Robert Bloch carried on simultaneous careers as a fan and a pro. By the time that this piece appeared in Gregg Calkins' Oopsla, he had already been Author Guest of Honor at one Worldcon (Toronto, 1948) and would later repeat that honor (Toronto, 1973). "Bah! Humbug!" pokes fun at various fannish fads and fantasies of the era. A reader who recognizes all of the allusions (extra credit for "Sergeant" Joan Carr) may consider himself moderately well versed in the history of fandom.
ďRobert Bloch sounds to me like an old fan growing sour.Ē
Ė Randy Brown, Oopsla #24
There is probably no more horrifying a phenomenon than the sound of an old fan growing sour. Those who have been so unfortunate as to have heard it will never forget the experience. For sheer soul-rending terror, it has country music beat a mile.
Sadly enough, we few old fans who still remain in the thin grey ranks are usually unable to detect our own decadence in terms of decibels. Our senile senses, raddled by long exposure to fannish outcries and deafened by the war whoops of younger and more vigorous enthusiasts, fail to respond. Besides, we are too close to ourselves; like many an old dog, we canít see the forest for the trees.
I am indebted, therefore, to Randy Brown for thus forcibly calling this matter to my attention, and I cannot hesitate to admit the soft impeachment.
Alas, it is all too true. I am an old fan growing sour. Once upon a time I was filled with a sparkling elixir, compounded of two familiar substances; now, one of them has evaporated and all that is left is the vinegar.
But lest Randy be inclined to think too harshly of me for my cranky, morbid, SerCon mutterings about fannish affairs, I hasten to raise my feeble voice in a word of explanation.
I know young folks like Randy are naturally impatient with us old gaffers and our continual ill-tempered outbursts and pointless reminiscences, but Iím asking his indulgence here. Forgive an old man his memories, Randy, and Iíll try to tell you just what has soured me so dreadfully on fandom, and why I write such nasty, abusive articles as the one which recently aroused your critical perceptivity in Oopsla.
Actually, Randy, itís all a matter of disappointment. A man can take just so much frustration in the course of a lifetime, and when you reach my age (if you ever do; should you boys down in Texas actually get a World Convention, youíll find it will shorten your life expectancy considerably), youíll realize that long years of fanning will take their inevitable toll.
Fandom, to me, has been a source of endless disappointment and disillusion. Consider just a few of the disenchantments Iíve suffered through the years:
They lied to me about my birth. Yes, thatís right, Randy; shortly after the time I entered fandom, one of the most prominent fans proclaimed that we lovers of science-fiction were star-begotten. Innocent youth that I was, I proudly rushed in and told this news to my parents. They promptly showed me (a) my birth certificate, and (b) the door. The same fan wanted me to sign up for an organization of super-fen known as the Cosmic Circle, but this proved to be pretty much of a bust. I didnít even get to spend a vacation in the Love Camp in the Ozarks.
They lied to me about ruling the world. All during the late Thirties a group of prominent New York fans were banded together in the belief that science fiction was a great potential political force. By advancing social and economic doctrines, fans were to assume power in the future. While it is true that a number of these fans have risen to positions of virtual dictatorship (theyíre magazine editors), I havenít even been able to get a job as dog-catcher.
They lied to me about themselves. During the ages that Iíve been a fan, Iíve been the victim of countless deceptions perpetrated by other fans. They told me, for example, that Tucker was dead. Not once, but twice! If this is actually the case, then I sure would like to know who it was that won $1.32 from me at poker in Cincinnati last year. They told me there was a beautiful young femme-fan named Joan Carr, and she turned out to be a rough, tough, brutal Army Sergeant over in England. Still worse, they told me that Boyd Raeburn was a hoax and Ė cruel and bitter disappointment! Ė he actually exists.
They lied to me about England. No less a fan than Bea Mahaffey reported to me on how hospitably she had been received during a visit to the London Convention some years ago. She said that all the men had lined up to kiss her. Well, as you know, last year a whole plane-full of American fans went over there for a Convention. I checked recently with Bob Silverberg, who attended the Con, and he swears up and down that those hospitality reports are a lie Ė not a single man even offered to kiss him.
They lie about everything. As a faithful reader of science-fiction, I read everything Richard Shaver wrote and not once was I able to remember Lemuria, nor have I so much as seen a single Dero (except, of course, at Conventions). I studied Dianetics, but I never became a one-shot clear Ė in fact, I can still drink as many as ten shots and all that happens is I get foggier than ever. I bought a Hieronymous Machine, but it isnít even sticky enough to seal envelopes with.
No, an elderly fan like myself can endure only so much without cracking. After all, Iím a mere mortal, not a Texan. And thus it is, when confronted with the fakery and falsity of fandom, I totter to my feet, brandish my truss, and croak:
ďFandom? Bah! Humbug!Ē
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