Backward, O Time!


Terry Carr

So I get a letter from Paul Mittelbuscher a few months ago, saying in part:

"Your 2nd installment of 'Backward O Time' spurs me to dash off something which I hope will bear some resemblance to a fan letter. You know, I rather like this column though I should be hopping about like an ogre or as jazzed up as a vampire lost in a blood bank. I should be threatening all sorts of measures on account this is merely an extension of that miserable thing I used to have in SF, but I shall be charitable. Merely ship me (post-paid, of course) ONE (1) beeeeeautiful California babe, preferably blonde, preferably tall, preferably rich and 42-25-39 would be interesting dimensions, wouldn't you say?"

And Ray Thompson, in BIBBILITY #3, says while reviewing ABstract:

"About the most jarring note I find is the Terry Carr 'column' which consists of nothing but a letter from Mack Reynolds to Terry, which as far as I can judge, has absolutely not a whit of interest to anyone but Mr. Carr. It is, I think, a rather transparent attempt at name-dropping."

Now wait a minute, boys.

In the first place, BOT is not an extension of Mitty's "VIA THE TIME WARP" which appeared in Magnus' SF for an issue or two. Until he reminded me of it, I hadn't even thought of the dubious connection between the two.

I say 'dubious' advisedly.

Until a short time ago I had not even read PM's column in SF. Yea, and verily, Magnus stopped sending me copies of that paragon of fannish effort after issue #5, which was before Paul's column was begun. I recently received a copy of SF #8 along with some old fanzines from K. Martin Carlson, and had my first look at the column in question.

Kiddies, it's nothing like "Backward, O Time!"

Superficially, perhaps, it does bear some slight resemblance. Both are printed on paper with ink, and both employ words. In fact, both reprint words of the past; but there the resemblance ends. Paul didn't go digging through his personal correspondence for material; he reprinted letters from prozines, short bits from fanmags, prozines, etc., etc. That was the full extent of it. BOT, thus far, has devoted itself to my Letter Litter's offerings, plus about an equal amount of my own verbiage on remembrances of fannish happenings.

So there, Mr. Mittelbuscher, pah.

As for you Thompson (this chap was not so friendly as the former), from what Pete tells me and from my own personal experience, I'd say that the Reynolds letter in question was quite interesting to quite a few people other than myself. And there was, as mentioned earlier in this installment, an equal amount of my own reminiscences in that column.

Name-dropping? You must have a pretty low opinion of me.

I mean really, Ray, you admitted yourself that it was a pretty poor job. And after all, I've been in fandom for quite awhile. One of the first things a fan learns is how to drop names in such a way that they won't make a dull thud. One must drop them so that they flutter inobtrusively to their destination and rest there quietly, smugly, even.

Really, Ray, if I'd wanted to drop names I wouldn't have mentioned as I did in that installment, that I wouldn't print many more letters, from Pros, because I didn't have many. I would have said something more like, "I want to mix the fan letters with the pro letters, so I'll have to look around for some good fannish ones for next installment. Trouble is, every time I dig into my Letter Litter, I come up with an interesting pro letter."

You see how much easier it would have been, Ray? Why, name-dropping is so elementary in fandom that Shaw even disdained to comment on it in his Fansmanship Lectures.

* * * * * * * * *

When I speak of my Letter Litter, I'm not being facetious. There's a story connected with it that might bear repeating. And I most certainly do mean repeating. You see, I've told this story before. In the installment of BOT that was supposed to go into the CONish, to be more specific. I worked like a dog on that installment the afternoon before the SFcon so that I could have it ready for PJV at the Con. So I got it done and gave it to him. So What? He lost it.

But I'm wandering. I could devote a whole column to the fuggheadedness of one Peter James Vorzimer, a fan who is big enough to beat up Ron Ellik, but I've done some pretty fuggheaded things myself that this person knows about and I prefer to remain silent for a while. Anybody, got a fanzine that Vorz isn't likely to see a copy of, who would like the Fugghead Chronicles for publication?

Well, back to the Letter Litter and the attached story. It seems that Boob Stewart and I got into terrificly fannish moods this summer (1954) and decided to see who could make his room the most fannish. Foe weeks we scurried about, arranging and rearranging our rooms as ideas occurred to us. Mine finally ended up the underdog, but it was fun while it lasted.

Among other things, I had a sign on my door saying, "Carr's Crypt", with the directions, "Non-Fans Pay Admission" and "Bow before Entering", below that. Inside, of course, I had originals on the walls, the room cluttered with my collection, and the usual fannish characteristics. Then I began to improvise. I collected all the pictures I had of fans and put them on a large board suitably labelled. (Under Pete Graham's pic: "Have you heard? Willis is dead!" Under Don Wegars': "Why a Wegars?" Under a group photo of various teen-agers with glasses of coke in their hands: "Yep, they're Seventh Fandomites". Etc.) I put up the covers of all the fanzines I've ever had a hand in all across the wall. I dumped all the correspondence I had collected in five years of fanning on the shelf, above my closet and labelled it "Letter Litter" -- Beware of the Rike letters". Later on, when Boob and I bought propellor beanies for the convention, I displayed mine prominently. I hung a churchkey from the ceiling on a string. I got the last pulp-size Amazing and threw it into my wastebasket, in such a position that it showed prominently.

Ah, but Boob's room was much more fannish. He'll have to tell you about it in his column some time.

Later on, when we went at fiction writing rather deeply, I injected a little proishness into the room. I set up my typer in the closet, with a light coming over my shoulder, and put a sign at the door: "Inner Sanctum -- No Fans Allowed". Inside I had a lot of pictures of pro writers, headed "MY COLLEAGUES", with the pro coat-of-arms beneath (a pair of crossed pipes.)

To end this self-egoboosting on a note of modesty, I'd better mention that I just remembered that I did not write this for the CONish. I wrote it for Deviant, and lost the thing myself. Tsk.

* * * * * * * *

"Don," I said, "why did you call your fanzine FOG?"

"Well," he replied, "do you remember the Native Califans in Fantasta by Balint?"

"Yes," I said. "Certainly. Boob Stewart --"

"Well, they were on the mailing wrapper," Don went on. "There was a sign there: MAILED FROM SUNNY CALIFORNIA."

"Yes," I said again. "Boob Stewart --"

"So I called my zine FOG," Don continued, "so I could say it was mailed from FOGGY California, that being the San Francisco Bay Area. Get it?"

"Yes," I said for the third time. "But Boob Stewart --"

"Boob Stewart what?" Don prompted, hearing me for the first time.

"Boob Stewart of San Francisco originated the Native Califans and the MAILED FROM SUNNY CALIFORNIA slogan," I said. "He used them in his fanzine, BOO!"

"Hmm," Don said, "I seem to have goofed."

"Yes," I said. "And since your title depends on that pun -- which turns out to be invalid -- your fanzine will never be a success."

"Tsk," he tsked, eyes downcast. "Such are the trials of fandom."

But FOG is a good zine anyway.

* * * * * * * * *

I was thinking, the other day about people who collect bibles (as Coswal, f'rinstance) and the troubles they must go through. Imaginary incident when our bible collector goes into a second-hand bookstore in search of grist for his shelves:

Collector: Hello, I'm looking for a Bible; do you have any hard-to-get editions of it?

Proprietor: The Bible? Certainly, we have a copy right here. Latest edition, complete with illustrations.

Collector: Latest edition? Heavens, no I want something older, much older!

Proprietor (winking): Oh, I understand sir, you want to get an earlier edition so that you can read the Words of God in as literal a translation as possible, eh?

Collector: No, no, I collect Bibles, and I'm looking for a rare copy. Do you have any?

Proprietor: Collect them? Well, er, ah ... that seems to be a very commendable pastime and I'm sure you must be a very religious soul to have such an interest in the Good Book ..."

Collector: Religious, hell! I'm an atheist and I have no more interest in the Good Book than I have in the size of your underwear! I collect rare copies of the Bible, can't you understand that, man?

Proprietor: Bu-bu-bu-but ... what do you do with them after you buy them. Surely you read them?

Collector: Read 'em? My God, no! I'd get eyetracks all over the damned things. Now listen, my good man, do you or do you not have any rare copies of the Bible?

Proprietor: Sir, I wouldn't sell you the most ancient, ragged and holy copy of the Good Book on this Earth unless you intended to make a Christian use of it.

Collector: Well, it so happens I wouldn't buy the most ancient, ragged and holy copy of the damned Good Book on this Earth! My collection is mint and it'll stay that way! Exit the collector in a huff.


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