Light in its varied incarnations was Canadian Fandom's earliest adzine, begun circa 1937/1938. It eventually evolved into Canada's third fanzine (after Frome's Supramundane Stories and the earlier The Canadian Science Fiction Fan by an unknown faned), but which, in its final incarnation as Light, had a far wider distribution, greater impact and much longer lifespan than Frome's zine. It was in continuous production from 1937 to 1963.
Not even Croutch preserved the first 85 issues of CMMN. As quoted in the 1952 Evans/Pavlat Zine Index, Croutch stated his own records began with #86A (Sept 1940) "...when I started using regular typewriter paper. Before that I have no copies left." Most sources indicate these early issues were carbonzines, i.e. multiple carbon copies banged out on a typewriter, but surely the top copy would have been on "regular typewriter paper"? Yet Croutch didn't use such till #86A. This may have implied that the first 85 issues were hectographed. However, this is unlikely as Harry Warner, Jr., described Croutch's 1930's output as: "a carbon-copied listing of his stock for trading", and further, J. R. Columbo says that Croutch would type 6 or 7 copies, and not only mail them off to friends, but the original top copy as well! So carbonzine it is. Alas, no copies of any issue of Croutch Magazine Mart News are currently known to exist.
Though originally strictly listings of books and magazines for sale or trade, Croutch gradually began adding filler in the form of cartoons, editorials, and even fiction, gradually evolving CMMN into a genzine.
Various titles were as follows:
- 1 (1937/38) to #92 (Dec 1940) = Croutch Magazine Mart News.
- 93 (Jan 1941) to #99 (Apr 1941) = Croutch News.
- 100 (Apr 1941) to #103 (Jun 1941) = Electron.
- 104 (Jun 1941) to #107 (Aug 1941) = Croutch News.
- 108 (Sept 1941) to #135 (Fall 1945) = Light.
Then Croutch decided to restructure his numbering system based on the name change to Light. Thus if #108 is considered to have been #1, then #136 must be:
- 29 (Nov 1945) to #69 (1961) = Light.
As for choosing the name Light, Croutch wrote: "For the record, it was I who thought of the name Light. It was short, snappy, lent itself easily to punning, of which fact many have taken advantage, was easy to remember, and was distinctive."
Whereas CMMN distribution was around 5 copies per issue, and CN around 10, Light averaged about 50 copies per issue and sometimes as high as 100. Writing in #118, Croutch stated: "Let's see where Light goes. 17 go to Canadians, 5 to English, and the rest (28 approx) to Americans." This preponderance of American trades is typical of Canadian zines. That's where most of the fans are. "Let's look at Light's contributors: 9 of them are Canadians, 5 are Americans & 2 are Englishmen."
Croutch enjoyed a wealth of contributors over the years. Regulars included Americans Forrest J Ackerman, John Russell Fearn & Art Widner, and Canadians John Hollis Mason, Norman V. Lamb and Gordon L. Peck. The two fan artists most often used (apart from Croutch himself), were Bob Gibson (the better of the two) and John Cockroft (who did the only offset cover) with frequent contributions from Nils Helmer Frome (Canada's second Fan Ed) and William Grant (most famous for his art in Canadian Fandom).
Of Cockroft, Taral wrote: "Dark, and lavishly textured, his art tends to obscure itself in detail. Poor perspectives make it flat. Unartful compositions made it uninteresting." But of Bob Gibson: "He first appeared to my knowledge in '44... He did most of Croutch's covers for the next several years, only disappearing from sight, after a pause in '48, in 1951. It was all on-stencil, not overly-bad, but difficult to describe, since stencil techniques tend to disguise differences in style. His ideas were usually good, and his skills adequate for them. A Cyclopean creature on the cover of Light #33, an inside page in #34 illustrating what waits in the dark for you to strike a match, and a cover on #46 of a fan trapped in a maelstrom of fanzines not only shows Gibson at his best, but also what a wide range of topics he could successfully handle....Gibson also drew cartoon pages, fillos for the corners, and most logos that Croutch didn't do himself."
Croutch's own contributions included art, of a sort. To quote Harry Warner, Jr.: "Les kept getting into trouble with a few fans over his artistic productivity. His own sketches ran to chic sales as subject matter, usually with some kind of punchline involving sf or fandom. When he published the work of other artists, he had a habit of putting extremely ugly nudes on his front cover."
Croutch's editorials were titled 'Light Flashes', and he frequently printed his own fiction. He also tended to include articles reflecting his Radio & Record Player Repair business, with titles like "Speaker Data" or "Strictly for the Audiophile", the latter offering this prescient advice: "At the present state of the recording art, storage of metal pressings seems most probable to give long life. Lacquer discs and magnetic tape are as yet uncertain in life, and dependent on storage conditions..."
In addition, numerous puns, jokes, and spoof ads were utilized as filler, many of a slightly naughty or off-colour nature. Samples: "A woman is a thing of beauty and a jaw forever." Or: "Here's to the ships of our navy / And the ladies of our land / May the first be well-rigged / And the latter well-manned."
In a 1970 article in Focal Point #11, Harry Warner, Jr. wrote that Light was "the best of all possible crudzines... as comfortable as a pair of old shoes.... I wish someone still produced something as scruffy and unassuming and genial as Light." In the same article, he noted: "Curiously, Les loved Christmas and tried to produce extra large issues of Light decorated with Christmas seals and sketches of holly each December, despite his outspoken opposition to organized religion."
|86A||September 24, 1940||titled Croutch Magazine Mart News, now a carbonzine|
|87||October 1, 1940||story: "The Black Castle" (cribbed from Bela Lugosi's version of Dracula)|
|88||October 15, 1040|
|89||October 31, 1940|
|90||November 15, 1940|
|91||December 1, 1940|
|92||December 25, 1940||story: "The Summons"|
|93||January 1, 1941||now titled Croutch News|
|94||January 15, 1941||story: "Aboard A Comet: A Story Of 4000 A.D."|
|95||February 1, 1941||story: "The Radio Mystery"|
|96||February 15, 1941|
|97||March 1, 1941||story: "The Haunted Classroom"|
|98||March 15, 1941|
|99||April 1, 1941||last carbonzine|
|100||Now titled Electron|
|104||June 14, 1941||back to Crouch News, now hektographed|
|105||July 1, 1941|
|106||July 15, 1941|
|108||September 1941||The first Croutch zine to be named Light, and the first to be mimeographed.|
|109||October 1941||Has Croutch's fiction: "A Child Is Born."|
|110||November 1941||Cover art, probably by Croutch himself, features a rather stiff girl in Grecian dress & sandals leaning on a sword, mimeographed in purple & pink. Plus articles by Gordon L. Peck, & Ted White, & a short story by (then fan) Ray Bradbury, called "A Tale of Mangledomvritch".|
|114||March 1942||"Mud Pack" by Croutch.|
|115||April 1942||Cover by Nils Helmer Frome, depicting four nude women, apparently high on a cliff, watching the fiery descent of a Flying Saucer-style spaceship down to the valley floor below. (Long before the 1948 sightings in Washington state which established the Flying Saucer as icon.) In a loc, Donald A. Wollheim comments: "Your mimeo Light is o.k."|
|117||June 1942||"The Devil And The Postmaster", a story by Croutch.|
|121||October 1942||Included Croutch's short story "The Horror In The Hut". Also, according to Harry Warner, Jr.: "...occasionally Light had a cartoon that was amusing enough to neutralize the impression left by the nudes (on the covers), like one by Gordon Peck (a Vancouver B.C. fan) on the last page of the Oct 1942 issue: the explorer being roasted to death in darkest Africa by a native tribesman, who is using a giant test tube supported by an ingenious array of pipes & tubes to turn it over the flames, with the caption: 'Best equipment, bwana.'"|
|122||November 1942||Features a wonderful cover by 'Nanek' (American artist Virginia Anderson). depicting two Flash Gordon-like spacecraft flying past a female space pilot who is wearing sheer tights, leather boots, plunging neck cleavage & flying helmet.|
|123||December 1942||Featured an article by Canadian fan Ted White about "The Birth of Ontario Fandom." Also a three page biography on Canadian author A. E. van Vogt by Croutch himself, containing such tidbits as van Vogt's first sale "was to 'True Story' Magazine, an 8,000 word explanation of how he was a poor girl who had had to live in a park for a while, that brought in $160..." and the story that finally convinced van Vogt that SF was a genre worth writing for was John W. Campbell, Jr.'s 'Who Goes There?' (later made into the movie The Thing).|
|125||Fabruary 1943||Contained the short story "Twenty Ghoul Team" by Croutch, also his "Dream Ship". The cover is described by John Robert Columbo as "perhaps the most graceful of all covers..." A simple line drawing by 'Pluto' depicting two "carefree nude dancers" (female) gamboling along a beach.|
|129||Winter, 1943||"Recordemon" by Croutch. This was also his first FAPAzine.|
|130||Spring, 1944||This, his second FAPAzine, was his "sexy number" which nearly got him thrown out of FAPA because of an artwork depicting a nude woman with just "a hint of pubic hair".|
|133||Winter, 1944||Included Croutch's short story "The Meteor".|
|134||Spring, 1945||Contains "Pokergame: A Pete The Vampire Yarn" by Croutch, also his "Bejazers, Dorothy, The Flit!"|
|135||Fall, 1945||Cover of a woman's head within a globe enclosed in a 5-pointed star against an abstract backdrop of jagged lines, probably by Croutch. This was a special "All Girl" issue, featuring articles by Mary Byers, Jessie Walker, Barbara Bovard & 'Nanek'. |
NOTE: At this point Croutch started numbering from the first issue named Light, which was #108. Thus, instead of #135, the next issue becomes #29.
|30||January 1945||"Sweet Sue" by Croutch.|
|31||March 1945||"It Came To Pass" by Croutch.|
|32||May 1945||"One Meet Ball" by Croutch.|
|33||September 1945||"Herby's Flying Pig" by Croutch.|
|35||April 1948||Cover by Faned/artist Don Hutchison depicting a nude female genie rising out of a lamp amongst a swirl of stars.|
|36||August 1948||The famous Torcon issue, with his review of Torcon 1 called "Torcon Memories" and reprints of the infamous "ZAP! ZAP!" Globe & Mail article on Torcon, and another from the Toronto Daily Star. These 3 articles were later reprinted in #33a (Feb 1957) of Canadian Fandom with the addition of an article by Ned McKeown describing the Sunday of the con which Croutch did not attend. |
Some quotes from Torcon MEMORIES: "I was less interested in the fan business or the speeches than in the personalities involved.... Ackerman turned up... After reading Laney's memoirs, and hearing the myriads of stories out of the LASFS about what went on there, I had quite a conglomerated idea of what I would see... What I did meet surprised me very pleasantly. Ackerman... didn't rant and rave or wave his arms forcefully as I had half suspected. Ackerman went up in my judgment tremendously..."
|39||January 1949||Included the short story "Christmas Story", by American David H. Keller, M.D., who'd been quite a prominent professional SF writer in the 1930s.|
|40||April 1949||Of particular note, this issue thru to #43 (Dec 1949) featured a serial article "Mimeo Ink In My Veins" in which Croutch discussed early Canadian zinedom and his own printing history. I'd dearly love to read this. (Was later reprinted in Canadian Fandom #31, Nov 1956) J.R. Columbo describes it as "an insight into the excitement he experienced acting as a writer, editor, publisher & illustrator." Also featured in this issue: "The Victorious Bride", a story by Croutch.|
|41||July 1949||"Mouse In A Stocking" by Croutch, later reprinted in Canadian Fandom #22, Sep 1954.|
|44||February 1950||"The Immigrant" by Croutch.|
|49||January 1952||Cover by Croutch depicting 4 disembodied heads floating (by virtue of their propeller beanies) up & down in front of the nylon-stocking legs of a woman whose upper half is unseen, smacking their lips as they stare wide-eyed, an angry devil's visage above spurring them on. |
"The Propositioner" by Croutch reflects the spirit of the cover. Done in a pseudo-hardcore detective fiction style about a man propositioned off the street by a pimp. Sample: "I expects this babe to start the long blather but she's quiet as the proverbial grave. Maybe she's dumb, I think, and am happy, as I don't like my women yak yakking all the time." When undressed, the woman turns out to be three-legged, and the man flees, convinced he was about to be entrapped by an alien. The character's final comment: "I feel sorry for the girl." Presumably he wouldn't have if she had turned out to be an ordinary prostitute. The SF element is very weak. The story reflects what Croutch seems to have regarded as his crusading zeal against prudery, but what more and more of his readers found to be sniggering prurience. Poor Croutch failed to keep pace with the maturing of fandom, and thus fell away from the mainstream of fannish evolution, but at least he always remained true to himself.
One page is devoted to Let's Swap. Offers pocketbooks like A. Merritt's Face In The Abyss for 50¢, and 1940's SF magazines from 25¢ to 50¢ each! Sounds cheap now, but most new pocketbooks were in the 35¢ range at the time, so Croutch was actually charging collector's prices
Typical Croutch pun: "'Well, bless my soul,' said the ram, as he plunged over the cliff. 'I didn't see that ewe turn.'"
A crossword puzzle by Robert W. Gibson offers such clues as "Author who introduced tendrils, callidity, and toti-potency." (Answer: Van Vogt.)
The longest article is 'Light Flashes' by Croutch, on the subject of record players. He reveals that cactus needles damage the grooves, and that taking out a steel needle and putting it back in is a bad idea, for one or two plays will have ground the end of the tip into a chisel shape and "you are sure to get it turned so the chisel tip becomes a chisel in fact and it will cut into the record groove and ruin the record."
|51||August 1952||No cover art. A 'serious' article on blood by 'S. Wilmer Midgeley' is probably by Croutch, judging by such puns as: "White corpuscles are all named, and all possess the same name, namely, Luke O'Cyte (these Irish emigrated everywhere)." |
'Fantasy Vignettes #8' is the 8th in a series of book reviews by Norman V. Lamb, in this case a single-author anthology of horror stories titled 'The House of Lost Identity' by Donald Corley. It is a very poor review. Instead of discussing the strengths & weaknesses of each story, Lamb simply describes the plot, including the ending, of every story, thus ruining any chance of the reader actually enjoying the book.
In his "excuse for an editorial column" 'Light Flashes', Croutch complains about always being in hot water for what he prints, such that "I am a heel, a low crude character, or one of the devil's minions in disguise!" He then attempts to offend more people.
On the subject of the Korean War: "...it is a made to order testing ground for both sides to try out their new weapons... We are told the Communists do not want peace. What proof do we have that OUR side want it any more?... After reading the theories of censorship & propaganda & conditioning in the SF magazines, one goes on to the idea that perhaps there is no war... This hypnotic conditioning might also be carried to the armed forces so THEY believe they are at war and so report when writing home..." Conspiracy theories nothing new it seems.
Croutch goes on to attack Christianity: "What assurances do we have that ANY of it is the gospel truth?" and SF writers: "These days the writer is so danged scared of predicting something that WON'T come to pass that he plays safe and contents himself by being sickeningly puerile!"
Light being a FAPAzine at this stage, Croutch concludes with reactions to the previous FAPA mailing which included zines with titles like Choog, Fantasy Jackass, Al la Baboom, Unasked Opinion, Duckspeak and, of course, Harry Warner, Jr.'s Horizons.
|57||February 1954||No cover art. The lead article is a reprint of an article which appeared in the Canadian Industrial Equipment News the previous November. Fortunately funnier than it sounds, for it's an opinion column on nightclubs being the "monument to man's knack for self-delusion". There are instructions on converting your living room into a nightclub, such as: "Tie a hammer to the turntable of the record player" & "Into the fireplace throw a few large chunks of French tobacco & some old mops. Light fire & close damper." |
Croutch has three lengthy fake advertisements with the headings: "When did you last get a raise?" (a sort of proto-Viagra pun), "She's lovely, she's engaged, she uses FIG LEEF" which turns out to be "The implement of rapturous desire that the first Woman used to get the first Man", and "GENETICS, the Science of the Bowels." Typical Croutch humor.
In his article 'Strictly For Audio-Philes' Croutch discusses the likely lifespan of the relatively new invention, the magnetic tape. Everyone's best guess is a maximum of 50 years. "We do know definitely that storage under hot, dry conditions may reduce the life to a few months..."
FAPA response & locs by Sam W. McCoy & Norman V. Lamb make up the remainder.
|64||Dec 1956||"The Authentic Apologue, or The Maladroit Iconoclast Exposed" by Croutch.|
|68||1959||"Jason Crull" by Croutch.|
Light online at fanac.org
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