Fancyclopedia Forever!

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Fancyclopedia Forever![edit]

By Jack Speer
(Appeared in Innuendo #3, March 1958, eds. Terry Carr and Dave Rike. Art by Rike.)

The foreword to the Fancyclopedia tells something of its origins, and this part of the article is only intended to fill that in.

It was natural that I became interested in this kind of project at the time I did. I had been strongly stefistic almost from my entry upon the scene, being fascinated by the aspects of fandom as a society, as distinguished from its relation to fantasy fiction. By the end of the thirties, the microcosm had lasted long enuf to have acquired a considerable body of special lore, understanding of which enabled the veterans to feel superior to the barbarians. As a fannish veteran, I could both gratify this sense of superiority, and do the neophytes a favor, by explaining things to them.

I had already put my hand to the consecutive treatment of fandom, in Up to Now (1939) and a simplified history some years after. That kind of presentation has its own advantages, especially for the person who knows little about the field. But most readers are waist-deep in fandom before they come upon such a work anyhow. There seemed little point in taking up their time with facts they already know (which would have to be inserted in a book intended to be read, from beginning to end by raw newcomers as well as the more established), and when there is something they do want to know -- maybe they have just caught an allusion to "unendurable ecstasy indefinitely prolonged" for example -- they should be able to find out about it without reading a whole book. Moreover, many things, such as the phrase just quoted, cannot be explained in a consecutive account like The Immortal Storm (which appeared later, you understand) without interrupting the narrative.

For these and similar reasons, the encyclopedia or dictionary method of arranging the material appealed to me (but I must say that I think many of the original purchasers of Fancyclopedia read it straight thru), and I probably first suggested to someone, Why doesn't somebody publish an encyclopedic dictionary of fandom? before I thought very seriously of doing it myself.

But there are various kinds of encyclopedias. From working with both the Encyclopedia Britannica, which features long articles, and an encyclopedia similar to the Columbia, I had developed a strong predisposition toward the short article treatment, which tells a man quickly what he wants to know. Applying this method to the Fancyclopedia may have been ill-advised at times; perhaps a skeleton of the history of fandom should have been collected under "History" instead of remitting the reader to "Second Transition", "Third Fandom", etc. But generally, I still prefer the use of a large number of short articles to a smaller number of longer ones.

Elmer Perdue has mentioned some stencils for Fancyclopedia that he saw. these were never published. They were cut in the winter of 1939-40, without any rough draft or other guide except a compilation of the headings which I contemplated covering. I typed a few pages in this manner, but the project was too big to undertake in that manner.

The name Fancyclopedia was suggested by Phil Bronson, I believe, about the time that it was adopted as an NFFF project. Though doubt remained as to whether it would actually be published, I went at the preparation of the manuscript with more feeling of responsibility.

My method of assuring complete coverage of my subject was to begin by writing the articles about the broadest topics, fantasy and activity, and then go thru these articles and write other articles about each term used in them that seemed to call for further explanation. For example, in describing fantasy, I naturally used the expressions science-fiction, weird fiction, and pure fantasy. Then in the article on science-fiction, such words as extrapolation would appear (sometimes they were deliberately employed), about which a separate paragraph would be written later and placed in the appropriate alphabetical location afterward. The result of this method was that I omitted thru oversight almost nothing that I wanted to cover, under the theory of the work.


It would be hard to say for how many revolutions this spiral was continued. I would go thru the lengthening manuscript, typing new articles, then go thru the new articles to pick up additional terms that needed explanation, and so on, and every time I added articles, I would comb them for additional subjects. Eventually, however, the volume of new subjects thus suggested tapered down. I also went thru the entire typescript a time or two, both to change the wording, and to pick up anything I had overlooked. that should be expounded.

When the first stage of the work was finished, I clipped a part the articles that I had thus written, on split sheets, and scotchtaped them together again in alphabetical, order. The long slender strings of typing were wound on a number of rodlike pieces of cardboard, something like an ancient parchment. From these scrolls I typed on split sheets, one column wide, an original and carbon of the basic typescript. After it was first presented to other eyes, a few changes were made in this, chiefly the insertion of avoidances which I had carefully catalogued.

This first presentation was on a trip to New York in midwar, during which Doc Lowndes and Julius Unger examined parts of it. Unger seemed to want to publish it himself, something which I didn’t fancy because of the carelessness with which he produced FFF, but the burden of his argument was that I should turn out a larger first edition than I had planned. I yielded on that to some extent. Unger also published in advance the article on the Cosmic Circle, which I wrote after the ms was circulating to its critics (Degler was in his prime at this time).

The manuscript (by which I mean typescript), crudely pinned together was put in circulation, roundrobinwise, to the varied critics named in the foreword. I was worried about its getting lost, but the postoffice refused to register it because of the pin. Most of the critics kept it for some time but made little comment on it. The Futurians, apparently, made some pencil notations of ambiguous import, perhaps intended to be explained in a letter (for one thing, I think they were going to make some protest about the charming little item regarding psychiatrists’ vacations). But the only letter I saw from them was from Wollheim to Ackerman, the next man on the chain, forwarding the ms and denouncing the puny attempts at humor in it, because they proceeded from such a fascist mentality as mine. Ackerman gave me a good letter of criticism on the manuscript.

I had expected to send it to Bronson for stenciling, but as my projected departure overseas was held up by some snafu, I had time before leaving Washington to cut the stencils myself. This enabled me to make a number of minor changes I would not have done otherwise, and it avoided the possibility of mistakes for which someone else would be to blame.

I had filled out each line of the ms with nulls so I could justify the right-hand margins, and I did this, though changes in wording sometimes threw the justification off (and with nonstoparagrafing, the difference carried over from paragraf to paragraf). One thing I was not aware of was that my corflu was not working as well as it should have been. After I saw the result, I felt like revoking my poem in praise of obliterine.

Sometime early in 1944, the stencils were finished and I sent then off to Bronson. The rest is on record: Bronson’s gafiapathy, Daugherty’s Santa Monica blitzkrieg to get the stencils, Ackerman’s slavedriving of himself and others to get it reproduced and assembled, while his social world crashed about his ears. At the suggestion of Laney, I believe, the finished product was bound in heavy paper so that it could be mailed at book rates, which saved more than the cost of the covers, and made a handsomer publication. In a year or two the edition was almost sold out, and the price on the last copies was raised.

The publication marked my definite graduation to BNFdom. It also tended to stamp fandom with my version of its past. I hope the total effect has not been bad.


Reactions immediately after publication were mixed. Laney seems to have been scornful of the thing at first, perhaps because he was just going over to the Knanve side in the first great LASFS blowup, but afterward was impressed. 4SJ told me that I should be there to lap up the praise that was coming in, but I saw little of that. I had earnestly requested that people write me about errors and omissions, and a few did, but perhaps more wrote in very general terms of criticism.

Among those who got specific, Ossie Train bitterly criticized an offhand reference to himself, and an apparent projection of my name where it didn’t belong. There were other criticisms based on the emphasis given to fan feuds. Doubtless there was some justification to this, but when I resolved at the outset not to duplicate what was in the S-F Check List, I closed the door on a large part of the constructive activity of fandom, its individual fanzines.

My self-criticism has been as intense as any of this. When I found what the second verse was of "And my mind goes soaring upward", I wished I could expunge that. I felt, and feel, that certain classifications and attempted definitions, such as pamflets and booklets, were uncalled for (but none of these were as bad as the categories for analysis and synthesis, which I had listed for headings in the abortive edition). And that others should have been different; for example, the names of clubs should not have been collected according to whether they called themselves association or societies or something else. Ideas I held at the time, which were embodied in Cy, such as the preference for regional fan organizations, were afterward changed, and there are other little things here and there that gave me twinges. Perhaps the toughest test was a couple of merchant marine cadets looking up things about me in while I looked on; it is ever a trial to watch savages handling our culture.

Yet there’s more pleasure than pain to me in Fancyclopedia, and I give some thought to its further development. For reasons which Harry Warner has pointed out, Cy is out of date now, even in its description of the world before 1944. It would have been Timesque pseudo-objectivity to speak in the past tense of persons who were still active at the time of publication, but the past tense is very appropriate now for most of them. Then emphasis must change as the purposes for which something is to be used change, and I wonder what, If anything, could be told about the many personal things mentioned in the original, if a revision were to produced for today's much larger and less closely knit fandom.

A supplement or revision of Fancyclopedia was in my mind from the first, when I asked that corrections and additions be sent in. On the coming back from Africa I started a biographical index intended to accompany the supplement which would mention every article in the book in which a given person’s name appeared. The move for a supplement never got very far, however.

In recent years, there has been some interest in publishing a revised edition. Once somebody theoretically undertook this for the N3F. Boggs and Willis actually formed a three-man committee to work on it. But last year Boggs withdrew on the ground that he could not give the time to it to carry out the revising and updating as he believed it should be done. For nearly as many years of fandom have elapsed since 1943 as elapsed from the beginning of fandom to that date, and it has been a much larger fandom, more devoted to coining terms, harder to keep track of.

This suggests the desirability of a large committee working on a revision, but I do not believe that it can be done by a voluntary committee. A good many years’ pulling and hauling at fen to channel their impulse for wild self-expression into pedestrian constructive tasks has disillusioned me on that score, and experience with the N3F and the line had made me a confirmed individualist in certain respects.


Yet the thought of an up-to-date and vastly enlarged Fancyclopedia still haunts me. I had even given it a name, using the augmentative suffix -on, but a classical student tells me that the word encyclopedia is ultimately of Greek origin, and the Latin suffix would not be appropriate. The project as I imagine it would he very expensive in time and money, but it would be ne plus ultra.

It would be a total encyclopedia of fantasy and fandom. It would combine in itself all of the indexes of books and prozine stories, and classify them decimally. There would be comprehensive treatment of all recognized aspects of fantasy instead of the scattered Fancyclopedia articles on dressed-up mundane, ghouls, ktp. There would be basic biographical data on every author as well as every fan. On the stefnistic side, it would incorporate Pavlat’s revision of the S-F Check List, including all one-shot broadsides, though not necessarily with all the data about each which Swisher and Pavlat compiled. All local clubs as well as other organizations would be listed as a matter of course. Conventions, incidents, and terminology since 1943 would be treated as fully as in the original work. Almost everything in The Immortal Storm would be included in some form. It--

Steady, Juffus. You wasted the better part of your youth on that stuff. You wanta corrupt somebody else?

Jack Speer 19 May 56

(Thanks to Kim Huett, who found this article!)