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.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Friday Reads: Memorial Day weekend edition

I'm not reading these books at this exact moment, because it's the Friday afternoon before a three-day holiday weekend, and I'm plugging away at all the extra work it requires just to be off on Monday (an odd concept — work extra so you can take time "off").

But these are the books I've been reading the past couple of weeks. I don't generally having five books going at once. Three is my preferred number. But this is just how it worked out. The titles:
  • Cascadia's Fault: The Coming Earthquake and Tsunami That Could Devastate North America, by Jerry Thompson
  • Hippie Food: How Back-to-the-Landers, Longhairs, and Revolutionaries Changed the Way We Eat, by Jonathan Kauffman
  • Lost Children Archive, a novel by Valeria Luiselli
  • Supernatural in Cornwall, by Michael Williams (one of the spooky books I inherited from Mom)
  • Monkey Food: The Complete "I Was Seven in '75" Collection, by Ellen Forney (graphic memoir)
Hoping to finish two and make meaningful progress on a couple others this weekend.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Lost Corners: Amy and her dad

Singer-songwriter Amy Helm did a short Twitter thread yesterday about her late father (The Band; The Right Stuff; legendary John-Taupin song named after him). It's poignant and it involves ephemera & memories, so I'm going to help to preserve it for posterity. Here's a JPG of the first tweet, which includes the photo.
And here's the text of Amy Helm's story about her dad:
"I found a bunch of old disposable cameras, brought them to CVS, and just picked them up yesterday. A lot of the pictures were from 2000/2001, when my Dad and I were constantly driving across the country, touring in his blues band. He was 2 years sober, had just filed bankruptcy, and was 1 year past his radiation treatments for throat cancer. His voice, ravaged from the radiation, was always hovering just above a whisper. He couldn’t sing a note, but told me he was determined to be the best blues drummer there was. He wanted to master the shuffle, and he did just that. He changed his set up, and went from traditional to match grip. He loaded his own drums in and out of the trunk of his half broken down car. We played small clubs, dives, a couple biker festivals. He walked out every night, facing small audiences that wanted to hear him sing [Up on Cripple Creek]. He would whisper a few words to greet his fans, and then he would sit down and get to work. He wasn’t phased, he wasn’t ashamed he wasn’t afraid - he was just fiercely determined. It was like watching a force of nature. I want to celebrate his birthday today by sharing this picture with you, and telling a small part of his story, when he rose up from despair and changed the course of his life through music. The lesson he gave by example was to stay connected to what you love, and be ready to follow the call."

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Royal Mail bummer sticker

The Postcrossing card I received today has a honkin' huge Royal Mail sticker plastered across the front, informing me that the sender didn't pay enough postage and, as apparent punishment, my mail was routed the long way. 

And what was on this postcard? I see a teapot and a clock.

The postcard writer — from the tiny village of Strathblane, Stirlingshire, Stirling council area, Scotland — describes what I'm missing: "This postcard shows the writer and illustrator Judith Kerr with cat, Katinka."

Indeed, now I see that cat leg sticking out from underneath the Royal Mail sticker.

Here's a look, from the National Portrait Gallery in London, at what the sticker has obliterated. Katinka doesn't looked terribly pleased about the situation.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Sonoran Desert snapshots

Over the years, I've subjected you to many of my photographs of cemeteries, dilapidated structures, Pennsylvania scenery and even an Atomic Warehouse. Now it's Arizona's turn. Here are just a few of the snapshots I've taken since we moved to Florence, Arizona, in the Sonoran Desert, where the temperatures are forecast to hit 105° F within about a week. 

Desert cactus blooms
Historic downtown Florence
From downtown Florence, you can see the big "F" on F Mountain, atop of which sits the pyramid tomb of Charles Debrille Poston, who is referred to as the "Father of Arizona."
Joan and I hiked to the top to visit the pyramid.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Book cover: "Moment in the Sun"

  • Title: Moment in the Sun
  • Cover subtitle: A Dial Report on the Deteriorating Quality of the American Environment
  • Authors: Robert Rienow (1909-1989) & Leona Train Rienow (1903-1983)
  • Excerpts from "About the Authors": "Robert Rienow, Ph.D., Litt.D., is professor of Political Science at the Graduate School of Public Affairs, State University of New York at Albany. ... Through long association with conservation movements he has brought an ecological orientation to his writing and teaching in the fields of government and public affairs. ... Leona Train Rienow, his wife, has collaborated with him on several books and is an author in her own right. The Rienows live in a remodeled 200-year-old colonial farmhouse near Selkirk, N.Y., which they bought in 1941. When they took over the 138-acre farm it had been exploited almost beyond repair. Since then the Rienows' conscientious reclamation program has restored the land and renewed its wildlife so that the farm is today an ecological showplace."
  • Publisher: The Dial Press,  New York
  • Year: 1967 (This edition is the 1970 third printing)
  • Dust jacket design: La Liberté
  • Book design: Slavomir Dratewka
  • Pages: 286 (which includes about 60 pages of sources and additional notes)
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Price: $6.00
  • Dust jacket excerpt: "The quality of the American environment is sharply on the downgrade. Day by day and step by step 'America, the beautiful' is becoming something of the past, something to be remembered with nostalgia as part of 'the good old days.' Here is an item-by-item presentation of the ways in which we have ignored ecological principles and abused our environment under the pressures of a burgeoning population and an outmoded frontier creed of exploitation."
  • Provenance: This book was formerly part of the Northland Pioneer College Library in Navajo County, Arizona.
  • First sentence: Every 7½ seconds a new American is born.
  • Last sentence: The sacrifice must now be made, if not of much personal effort and much public money, then surely of more precious things even than these.
  • Random excerpt from middle #1: In the society in which man is submerged in the mob his political ends are defined for him and his approval manipulated. There is no opportunity for creative or individual solutions because the channels of communication are clogged.
  • Random excerpt from middle #2: But man added new complications for the majestic saguaro. Man hates the coyote, whose regular food consists of desert rodents, notably the ground squirrel, wood rat, and rabbit. The ground squirrel and wood rat feed on the saguaro as much for water as for food. Since, however, it became official government policy to exterminate the coyote by all means ... the rodent population has multiplied astronomically. There are now fears that the Saguaro National Monument may not survive. We will have exchanged an eternal wonder for a beefsteak.
  • Excerpt from Amazon review: In 2013, Jenny Hanniver wrote: "Yes, I'd read SILENT SPRING and Fairfield Osborn's OUR PLUNDERED PLANET, but it was the Rienow book, MOMENT IN THE SUN, that inspired my husband and me to get off our fannies, study ecology, and become seriously committed environmental activists as a married team, like the Rienows. ... Was this book important to me? You bet it was! It changed my life for the better, and at 77, I'm still involved! We now know just how fragile our entire world habitat is, and that it may be toxic to my grandchildren."