Saturday, May 29, 2021

Fanzine flashback #4: 1966's "The Twilight Zine"

Where do the years go? I launched the "Fanzines" subcategory in 2014 with a bounty of potential material in the hopper, but I never really got any momentum going. Maybe these posts are just too work-intensive. Maybe I got distracted by other ephemera baubles. There were some blogging interregnums over the years, too. 

Time for another go at it.

By way of reintroduction, here's an excerpt from what I wrote in April 2014
"Blogs are amateur-driven exchanges of information, ideas and comments (and often a lot of silliness) and, as such, are descendants of the amateur press associations of the late 19th century and, even more directly, the science-fiction fanzines that sprang up starting around 1930 and had their print heyday from the 1950s through 1970s. ... Indeed, 21st century bloggers aren't doing anything new. We're just continuing a decades-old form of idea-sharing and interaction on a digital platform. As an ephemera collector, historian of the obscure and fan of science fiction and fantasy, I have gathered a modest collection of 20th century fanzines over the past few years. But it's no fun keeping them under plastic and stuffed in a drawer. I am launching this occasional series to share and celebrate the work of these amateur fanzine editors and publishers whose passion and creativity blazed the path for the zebibytes of geek culture and conversation that now reside in cyberspace."

And so here is Fanzine Flashback #4, which I hinted at with a post earlier this month.

At a glance

  • Title: The Twilight Zine
  • Issue: No. 19 (No. 1 had been in January 1960)
  • Date: "This issue of TZ is being produced on August 5, 1966, and will come out as soon as we have ready its accompanying masterpiece, Appalling Stories."
  • Primary theme: Clubzine of the MIT Science Fiction Society. A 2014 article on MIT News explains that when freshman Rudolf "Rudy" Preisendorfer founded MITSFS in 1949, members would pass their books from dorm room to dorm room in a small plywood box. "Things have changed a bit in the last 65 years," the article states. "(MITSFS) maintains what is believed to be the world’s largest open-shelf collection of science fiction."
  • Pages: 30 (not including covers)
  • Size: 8½ inches by 11 inches
  • Binding: 3 staples, now rusty
  • Cost: 25 cents, or free in exchange for articles, artwork or LoCs (letters of comment)
  • Editors: Cory Seidman & Leslie Turek
  • Editors' location: Elmhurst, New York, but soon to be Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Artwork: Steve Stiles (cover and Page 3); plus Statton, Dorr, Schulz and Suford
  • Typing & financing: Cory Seidman
  • Data processing: Leslie Turek
  • Mimeographic consultant: Erwin S. Strauss
  • Mimeographic trainee: Edwin W. Meyer, Jr.
  • Contents page motto: "Air-conditioning is a way of life."
  • Provenance: I bought this for $1 at the York Emporium sometime prior to April 24, 2014


  • Fit the First, editorial
  • The Wanderer's Tale by J. Speiser
  • Poetry Corner/Puzzle Department by Doug Hoylman
  • Notes of the History of Machina by Cory Seidman
  • A Possible Explanation of the Term Santaclara Drug by Tony Lewis
  • A Fable, or Perhaps Not by Doug Hoylman
  • Vergeltungsflotte by Ed Meyer
  • Economy at NASA by Dick Harter
  • Randomitude by Cory Seidman, DAVe Vanderwerf and Filthy Pierre
  • The Bride of the Son of the Ghost of MITSFS by the Society
  • Grassman by Cory Seidman
  • Fecal Point by DAVe Vanderwerf
  • Graphemics by the readers
  • What Ever Happened to Good Ol' by DAVE Vanderwerf

Looking inside

Notes and thoughts on some of the articles in The Twilight Zine No. 19:

  • In "Fit the First," written by Seidman, he offers some reflections on the summer of 1966 in Elmhurst, which is a neighborhood in Queens. Seidman writes first about the heat: "One this rare day of coolth, I pause to take stock and look back over this summer of grueling, not to say gruesom, heat. For the benefit of posterity, this was the July it was going into the nineties in New York two days out of three." (There's no hyperbole here. The summer of 1966 stood as New York City's hottest summer, by average daily temperature, until 2010. The average high in July 1966 was over 90° F. The New York Times reported that the city had more than 1,100 heat-related deaths that summer.)
  • Seidman then goes on to defend the borough of Queens, despite its less-than-glamorous status as the "borough of cemetaries," in his words. For several pages, he lists the notable sites of Queens, such as Jackson Heights, Ozone Park and Flushing (at which point he campaigns to call the baseball team the Queens Mets). Ultimately, though, he gives up and agrees that Queens is far from compelling, especially compared to the other boroughs of New York City.
  • The headline for RANDOMITUDE has MIT underlined. It represents an attempt to explain some of Twilight Zine's "more fundamental jokes and references." To that end, there are long lists of things that are random vs. things that are non-random (in other words, specific). So, Stranger in a Strange Land is non-random, while "all other Heinlein" is random. But then the lists get very strange, and clearly the rest of us will never get whatever in-jokes were happening at MIT in 1966. For example, the Fifth Amendment is non-random and the Eleventh Amendment is Random. James Buchanan is listed under both categories ("he's so random, he's non-random). ... 
  • Additional aside: In the aforementioned 2014 MIT News article, then-MITSFS Vice President Laura McKnight states: "Since MITSFS is so old, we have a lot of basically 50-year-old in-jokes that nobody remembers the origin of." Those jokes include the library's collection of bananas, which could still be checked out by members as of 2014. “Be warned that we have a digital electronic checkout system, and if you return the banana late, it will fine you,” McKnight said.
  • Vergeltungsflotte
    is a piece of short fiction. Here's a sentence: "Now all that could be seen through the viewports were the flickering tendrils, of the sub-c field, but altogether too soon they would disclose the ships of the pursuing fleet as the Bilitus was forced back into normal space somewhere in the void between the stars." (An illustration from the story is shown at right.)
  • "Economy of NASA" is a short bit of satire, providing a line-item list of how NASA was able to "save" $200,000 by spending $199,999.99 in order to figure out how to achieve those savings. Among the expenses toward this goal were "Cost of the time spent by Center Director to initiate the program," "Salary for administrator of savings program," "Cost of printing posters," and "loss of time spent on reading posters." 
  • There's more humor in "Fecal Point," including this "news item": "JRR TOLKIEN has been slapped with a $20,000,000 suit for damages, says Skyrack, our well-known English counterpart. The plaintiff, Bilbo Baggins, claims that all of those books Tolkien has written were, in fact, written by him."
  • Finally, Graphemics consists of the aforementioned LOCs (letters of comment). The long first letter is by Harry Warner Jr., and is dated May 26, 1966. It that touches on Warner's role as a fannish historian (he wrote the books All Our Yesterdays and A Wealth of Fable on the topic), microfilming, British science fiction magazines, Tolkien fans, Upper Volta and much more. The reader letters take up 9 of the issue's 30 pages.

No comments:

Post a Comment