Joan W. Carr

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Joan W. Carr (aka JoCa and JWC) was a popular UK femmefan in the early 1950s, who turned out to be a hoax created by a male UK fan, Sandy Sanderson, and Frances Evans. A sergeant in the British Army stationed in North Africa, Sanderson reported meeting a WRAC (British WAC) who‘d expressed an interest in fandom. This was at a time when there were not a lot of females in fandom.

"She" was soon writing to various fans back in England, and was eventually asked (and agreed) to edit Femizine, which became a very popular focal point for female unity in the UK. At the height of its popularity under Joan's editorship, it had a respectable circulation over 200 and generated reader response of roughly 50% – which was unheard of, before or since. When the hoax was finally revealed early in 1956, it shook up many of the fans, and particularly the femmefans who had responded so positively.

But it was not as if this sort of gender bending had not taken place before. In the US, when Lee Hoffman first started publishing Quandry, the fact that there were two other fans named Lee who were prominent BNFs(Charles) Lee Riddle and Lee Jacobs – led everyone to simply assume that LeeH was a he rather than a she. But the distinction, perhaps, is that Shirley Hoffman had not intended to hoax anyone when she used her childhood nickname on her fanzine. When her attempts to hint otherwise – e.g., writing about sitting cross-legged on the bed while typing or sending columnist Walt Willis a Valentine's Day card – failed to alert anyone, she became amused and continued it, just telling it to a few friends, until she could unmask at the Nolacon, the 1951 Worldcon. See Lee Hoffman Hoax.

Fanzines and Apazines:

From Fancyclopedia 2, ca. 1959
One of the more popular hoaxes in fannish history, which boasts a good many. She was a femmefan, first born in the mind of HP (Sandy) Sanderson back in October 1952. When he was posted to the Middle East, Sandy [a sergeant in the British army] concocted with Frances Evans a plot against the male members of the Northwest Science Fantasy Club (of Manchester, his home town). Soon after arriving in North Africa he told them of meeting a WRAC [British WAC] who took an interest in fandom. Later "she" wrote letters to various Manchester fans, using a typer (Sandy never did) and signing "her" signature in green with a special pen. Later, she came into contact with fans outside of the original Northern group, and by May 1954 was well-known in Anglofandom. It was generally assumed that she and Sandy would be married at the end of their overseas tour. (One British femmefan worried a bit about their future, remarking that Joan sounded like one of those ultra-masculine sergeants the WRACs develop and would probably not make anybody a good wife.)

Meanwhile, back in England, Frances (who had been studying the reaction among Anglofen while Sandy animated his creation in Egypt) had been in touch with Ethel Lindsay, and had put forward the idea of uniting all the female fans thru a magazine of their own. Joan "volunteered" to edit it, and so FEMIZINE came into being. It was more popular than expected. Suddenly femmefandom turned up plenty of talent that had previously been hidden. In short order FEZ had a circulation of 200, with up to 50% letter returns -- an amazing reader response. By March 1955 Ethel Lindsay had been brought into the plot, Joan was known thruout fandom, and time was running short. JoCa had grown out of all consideration of the original idea, and began to go gafia. FEZ was turned over to Pamela Bulmer (who produced issues 8&9) in July 1955, and presently Joan had reduced her activity to OMPA only and was slowing down there.

When the hoax was revealed it dealt British female fandom a jolt from which it has yet to recover (1959). The fear of this had led Frances and Ethel to decide that Joan should go gafia; Sandy started to take over Joan's activities in his own name, spreading talk of a quarrel between himself and Joan. Unfortunately, in May '56 somebody blew the gaff; Ron Bennett was intending to create a mythical wife, also named "Joan", and someone in the secret told him it had already been done. Hints and suggestions were flying around the '56 Kettering convention, and it was decided to break the story in FEZ 9.

Joan's name in the first place was taken from a box of Carr's biscuits and from Carrs Mills, where a non-fan cousin of Sandy's (who later posed for photos of "Joan") lived. It was chosen without any thought of the various meanings that could be read into it and its contractions JoCa and JWC. It says something for the differences between Yanks and Britons that many of Sandy's Army acquaintances knew of his hoax yet didn't think there was anything odd about it, even picking up "her" mail and holding it while Sandy was on leave.

For more, see Chapters Four and Five of Then by Rob Hansen.

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