Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Fanzine flashback #3: 1963's "Pot Pourri" by John Berry

Previously on "Fanzine flashback"
Fanzine flashback #1: 1964's "Con" by Christopher Priest
Fanzine flashback #2: 1964's "Hobgoblin" by Terry Carr

Flashback #1 also includes, toward the bottom, a list of all the vintage fanzines that I plan to feature in this fledgling series.

And now for the third installment...

Fanzine flashback #3: At a glance

Title: Pot Pourri
Issue: No. 30
Date: July 1963
Primary theme: Humorous fiction
Pages: 20
Size: 8 inches by 10 inches
Binding: Four staples
Editor: John Berry
Editor's location: Number 31, Campbell Park Avenue, Belmont, Belfast 4, Northern Ireland
Cover artwork: Arthur "ATom" Thomson (1927-1990)

Background: About John Berry

Although Berry wasn't as famous as the first two fanzine editors featured here (Christopher Priest and Terry Carr), he was quite well-known on the zine scene during the 1950s and 1960s.

Fancyclopedia 3 states that "John E. Berry discovered fandom while serving as an English policeman in Belfast."1 Berry published numerous fanzines, including The Loneliness of the Long Distance Goat Herder. In 1960, he won the Skyrack poll for best fan writer.

With regard to Pot Pourri, there were 52 issues published between 1958 and 1968. ZineWiki2 has a short history of the fanzine that contains this anecdote:
John Berry specialized in humourous fan writing. He recounts in Relapse giving Walt Willis the first issue: "When I gave Willis my first issue he observed, with raised eyebrows and slightly flared nostrils ... 'Er, John, this is rather a mundane title.' This was a truly wonderful moment for me, but I successfully concealed my emotion. You see, Irish Fandom in the fifties and early sixties was the epicentre of magnificent puns and verbal activity, pure spontaneous wit, and Walt Willis was the guiding genius. But he’d missed this one! Northern Ireland has always been religiously orientated ... the title is pronounced ‘po-poor-ee’ (according to my dictionary, anyway). The 'T' is silent. Hence, my title was a pun on 'Popery'! Even James White, a Roman Catholic, missed it – or did he? Maybe they collectively chose to ignore my unsubtle word-play, feeling sorry for my effort, an Englishman becoming involved in Irish religious affairs on an international scale."
Berry died of cancer in 2011, according to Fancyclopedia 3.

About this issue

Pot Pourri #30 contains a single tale, on 16 single-spaced typed pages, titled "The Return of the Goon." The humorous tale is a James Bond parody featuring fanzine-related plot points and a protagonist who uses a "plonker" (toy gun that shoots suction-cup arrows) as his weapon of choice.

The story, with its silly mix of James Bond espionage and womanizing and its absurd clues from the world of fanzines, isn't half bad. In addition to plonker, here are some other neat words and phrases Berry employs:
  • trilby — a narrow-brimmed hat
  • hobnail boots — boots with nails inserted into the soles to increase durability
  • egoboo — a sci-fi fandom/fanzine word that means "ego boost." [As in: "All of those Supreme Court justices emailing me about how much they enjoy Papergreat was a huge egoboo."]

I'll leave you with this short excerpt from "The Return of the Goon":
"When the house was empty, I couldn't restrain the temptation any longer. I went to the Lumber Room, took off my smoking jacket and purple corduroys, and put on the G.D.A. outfit. I looked at my reflection in the mirror. Yes ... the whole vista came before my eyes ... the reflection in the mirror changed ... I saw myself as I had been years before, a dashing defective3 ... plonker in hand .... hmm ... I wondered ... where exactly was the plonker? I searched feverishly through the remains of the rubbish in the trunk ... yes, there it was, red with rust. I recalled I had oiled it, but with the passing decade...

"I fitted a plonker in the barrel ... put the plonker in the specially prepared inside pocket of the trench coat, then backed away from the mirror. I had to test my draw ... once a lightening draw, enabling me, at my peak, to shoot off five plonkers before the first one splatted home. Always with dead accuracy."
1. Fancyclopedia 3 also states in the John Berry entry that he "was known for playing ghoodminton with an exceedingly physical and violent style." And what was Ghoodminton? It "was a fannish equivalent of badminton; the only place you could play it was in the attic of Oblique House, the [Walt] Willis home at 170 Upper Newtownards Road in Belfast. The net was stretched between a printing press and a chair; a decrepit shuttlecock and two squares of cardboard were only equipment there was only one enforced regulation for the game: you couldn't throw heavy objects at your opponent."
2. ZineWiki is "an open-source encyclopedia devoted to zines and independent media. It covers the history, production, distribution and culture of the small press." It was created by Alan Lastufka and Kate Sandler in 2006.
3. I'm not sure if that word was supposed to be "detective."

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