7th Fandom

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(Did you mean a Harlan Ellison fanzine?)

7th Fandomites Bill Dignin, John Magnus and Harlan Ellison, from left, at Clevention in 1955. Photo by Howard DeVore.

Some fanhistorians maintain that there was actually a Seventh Fandom, but if one existed, it was far overshadowed by the birdbath-wielding Phony Seventh or 7F.

In an article about Jack Speer's theory of Numbered Fandoms (as deliniated in "Up to Now" and the first Fancyclopedia), Bob Silverberg updated the theory as far as Sixth Fandom in a 1952 column in Quandry. Silverberg declared that Sixth Fandom was collapsing, and predicted the imminent rise of Seventh Fandom.

HEcon and Midwestcon 4[edit]

Not understanding that historical eras don't commence by self declaration, Harlan Ellison convened HEcon in his apartment in Cleveland in May 1953, inviting a group of other young neofans to formally organize themselves as "Seventh Fandom." He claimed to have been spurred by Charles Wells. In attendance were Dave Ish, Karl Olsen, Norman Browne, Jack Harness, Bill Dignin, John L. Magnus, Sally Dunn, Ray Schaffer and Ellison. The group went on to Midwestcon 4 where they announced their advent, with symbolic birdbath, only to be thoroughly vilified for their hubris, as well as their general rowdiness.

Adding to the foofaraw, Peter J. Vorzimer began publishing his fanzine Abstract, in which he declared the arrival of Eighth Fandom, and he and his West Coast friends engaged in a number of childish antics that became conflated with the Ellison group's excesses.

In A Bas, Boyd Raeburn editorialized, "7th Fandom is really a gimmick employed by a group of asinine teenagers to publicize themselves in order to get more egoboo than is obtainable through conventional methods," and in Fancy 2, Dick Eney agreed:

That's a pretty accurate appraisal; some people who were at least nominally 7th Fandomites went on to better things as they matured, but 7th Fandom during its existence was identified with such imbecilities as the overly-public sessions of stewing and wooing that forced the Midwestcon to move from Beatley's, and other idiot-child capers....

Mad Dogs[edit]

Although fans were poking fun when they proclaimed the rise of Eighth, 69th and 200th Fandom on the ruins of Seventh, "the phony Seventh" did in fact hasten the end of Sixth Fandom, which disintegrated amid the war against the "noisy juveniles." Older fen refused to lie down and die, but the survivors largely withdrew into apas, which became the main carriers of fannish tradition while the barbarians howled outside.

Harlan, meanwhile, gafiated in high dudgeon and disillusion, indignantly declaring, "The mad dogs have kneed us in the groin!" The mixed metaphor made fandom laugh even harder (which may explain a lot about Harlan's subsequent attitudes toward fandom).

Numerical Neepery[edit]

Some fanhistorians suggest that a true Seventh Fandom began in 1954 with renewed interest in fandom as a community, exemplified in such publications as The Enchanted Duplicator and the rise of weekly and biweekly faanish fanzines. This emphasis on fandom qua fandom vs. sercon promotion of science fiction led to clashes with the pros and their satellites, resulting in dissatisfaction with NYCon II and a violent fan feud over the definition of a "real" fan. A disgraceful fight over WSFS's Plane Trip also marked an era in which fan interests began to diverge.

Other fanhistorians suggest that Pete Vorzimer and Abstract, though claiming to be Eighth Fandom, were the real Seventh Fandom. Still others hold that the true Seventh Fandom's focal point was Joel Nydahl's Vega, and the first incarnation of Dick Geis's Psychotic or Terry Carr and Ron Ellik's newszine Fanac.

See also Numerical Fandoms.

From Fancyclopedia 2, ca. 1959
(Silverberg:Ellison) was a group, mainly of neofen, who flourished during the Sixth Transition. Bob Silverberg had predicted that Sixth Fandom would presently be followed by Seventh Fandom; when the black-bordered Quandry announcing Lee Hoffman's gafia arrived at Harlan Ellison's apartment he called the HECon there (May '53) at which 7th Fandom was "organized". Its members did not realize, apparently, that historic eras do not end by some person's arbitrary decision. Early in 1954 A Bas editorialized: "7th Fandom is really a gimmick employed by a group of asinine teenagers to publicize themselves in order to get more egoboo than is obtainable through conventional methods". That's a pretty accurate appraisal; some people who were at least nominally 7th Fandomites went on to better things as they matured, but 7th Fandom during its existence was identified with such imbecilities as the overly-public sessions of stewing and wooing that forced the Midwestcon to move from Beatley's, and other idiot-child capers chronicled here under Con sub SFCon, Haircream, and Doors. Its passing in 1955 was not lamented.

7th Fandom Speak![edit]

by Harlan Ellison
From Psychotic 15 (September 1954)

Hey! You there! C'mere. I’ve got a few things to say to you, and Though I know it's a foolish twist of whimsey to hope this will be the last said on the topic, still here's what the score on Seventh Fandom is, from the guy who started it all.

Maybe I didn't write the definitive work on "Fandoms" as did my very dear friend Bob Silverberg, but still, it wasn't Charles Wells or Nydahl or any of them that rolled 7F into the public eye. If it's stuck there like a cinder---it’s the public's own damned fault. But let me tell you the way I'd planned.

They say I'm the daddy of 7F. That Seventh Fandom is an idea in the synapses of Harlan Ellison. Well, maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. It started back like this:

Silverberg came out with his article, and shortly thereafter, when he mentioned a few names (one of them---in fact the only one possibly ex­tant today---was Wells), Lee Hoffman's chum Charlie got in touch with me and said that we should make something out of it since Lee and Max Keasler and Hank Burwell and (at the time) Calkins and (again, at the time) Shelby Vick and all the rest with the exception of Ian Macauley---who was gafiating noisily in New York vicinity---were definitely out for the count. I was game and told him, okay, Charles, let's make up a self-evident self-recognizing Seventh Fandom of all the Brighter Lights, and have us some fun.

So, shortly before the 1953 Midwestcon I called the HEcon at my home in Cleveland. That was the first concrete evidence of Seventh Fandom. Even before the Nydahl-Macauley one-shot called EXPOSE (which was distributed as a post-mailing to FAPA in Macauley's name). The people in attendance were Dave Ish, Karl Olsen, Norman Browne, Jack Harness, Bill Dignin, John L. Magnus, Sally Dunn, Ray Schaffer (for a short while)[1] and myself.

At the Midwestcon, after numerous bull-sessions at my place, and a fine time that I don't think has been excelled in a week-long wild-hair session anywhere, Seventh Fandom showed a concerted front at Indian Lake and everyone there knew that THIS was Seventh Fandom. And in that group there was none of the shame and ridicule and immaturity that showed up later. And showed up not through 7Fers, but through the pack of mad dogs and infuriated left-outers that clung to our heels. But back to the yarn.

That Con was remarkable for 7F in another way; it was Dean Grennell's first convention and he was there as an acknowledged member of Seventh Fandom. What developed later was not Dean's fault, nor mine, or any one person, but more the fault of those who worshipped Dean instead of respecting him as a person.

Let's delve into that facet for a split-second. Dean came on the scene, as the jazzmen would say, "Like Joshua!" and blew his ramhorn with a sound that shook fandom to its heels. He was great, no denying it. He was great with the unadorned wonder of enjoying fandom and all it stood for in its finest sense. Not the Dean of today with the introverted writings too loudly reminiscent of Redd Boggs' withdrawness. In our own way the Seventh Fandomers and myself loved Dean with a pure, unadulterated admiration few people get in life. I still retain those first letters and book-size epistles labelled GRUE sent to me under the Art Wesley pseudonym. I still re-read with undisguised chuckles the marked-up copies of HE and PEOPLE TO­DAY that Dean was wont to send me. I was one of the first handful of fans that Dean contacted when he hit fandom, and the Grennell of to­day is nothing like that gay, light-hearted, pun-cracking kidder of a year ago. I’ve never seen one year wreak such a change in a person.

It was obviously the fault of too much correspondence, but after SCIENCE FANTASY BULLETIN #13 came out, I could tell a marked meta­morphosis was overtaking the Dean Grennell personality.

But I'm saving all that for an article on Grennell that someday soon I'm going to write. But God spare the fan who tries to write it before I do . For though others may know him longer and closer, none knew him dearer. Maudlin it may sound, but true it remains. The framed pictures of Grennell and Kincannon still hang in my bedroom at home.

After that riotous Convention in which all of 7F slept in two beds pushed together, with me in the middle (and waking up next morning, with my leg slipped down between the two beds, thinking someone had amputated it) things started rolling real fine.

I began publishing the newsletter SEVENTH FANDOM which went for two issues, outlining what some of the members thought should be the practices of Seventh Fandom.

For at that time there was no throat-ripping hatred or revulsion toward the idea of 7F. Everyone---or nearly everyone---thought the Hoffman Sixth was defunct. The tiny fraction that clung to the belief they would be back, and uttered their titmouse cries in half-secrecy, only lately have stood up on their hind feet to yell megaphonically that Sixth is still breath­ing. Hell, you say! Sixth is worse off than Seventh, and Seventh is nearly strangled.

In that newsletter, sent to 25 persons, was a ballot, for members to be chosen, ideas on an APA, policies, goals, the works. And in return came dozens of anxious answers, from everyone concerned. That was the first NEWSLETTER. By the time word had gone out that 7F was springing up full­-term from the dust of Sixth, like Athena from the forehead of Zeus, more letters plugged in from fans all over the country, asking, nay, begging, to be let in.


They couldn't seem to realize that 7F wasn't a club, it was a loose-knit group of people who had acheived something. It was a select group of fans who were after the brighter things in fandom. None of those initial 25 published a crudzine, and those whose mags weren't really good corrected themselves appreciably from contact with the glowing air of 7F til their mags were really top-grade. Take Dave Ish and SOL. The issues previous to 7F were sloppy and badly printed, even though it was considered one of the finer mags in the field. Then look at that last issue of SOL, after he had been hanging around with the pubbers of 7F. It was---and still is---a treat to look upon, with material by Charles Dye, Su Rosen, Jack Harness, myself, and others of stature. The mag was a fine piece of amateur publishing, well worth the time and money anyone would care to spend on it.

Still those fans, mostly West Coasters but a lot from all over the U.S., couldn’t see that there wasn’t any clique about being a Seventh Fandomer. It wasn't, as Peter Graham tried, a matter of sending me fifty cents and saying, "Make me a Seventh Fandomer." That was like a sinner walking up to the Archangel Peter, handing him a sawbuck and saying, "Make me right­eous,” or something.

Seventh Fandom was a state of mind. It always was, it always has been, it always will be.

Shortly after the first NEWSLETTER went its way, before the Phillycon, I went on several vacations, and while I was in Canada, in the wilds of Ontario, came a mimeographed bombshell from Norm Browne that went against everything 7F proposed, including abject worship of Grennell (a dangerous thing in itself) and "taking over FAPA" by infiltration.

Everyone talked Norm down, and from that came the first weak link, in our chain. Norm, who had prepared the SEVENTH FANDOM ribbons we had worn in Chicago, became peevish and never contributed further to the movement. It was definitely a blow.

Then we started up the SEVENTH FANDOM AMATEUR PRESS ASSOCIATION, commonly called 7APA, which we thought would provide a lot of fun for all concerned. It started out with a bang.

The whimper has been reverberating for five months now.

Good little mags like the first issue of Dignin's DEFINITELY (the magazine [undecipherable] doubt), Geis' SCHIZO, Ish's AFFINITY, Grennell's AW, Magnus' FAHRENHEIT 1, and if I may be pardoned, ELLISON WONDERLAND, not to men­tion HOO and HAW by Peatrowsky and Thompson, though they matured in la­ter issues, made a showing that while tentative and grasping at first, while we got our sea-legs, were still sometthing concrete and wonderful to behold.

You can imagine my joy when that package came in with the words "FIRST 7APA MAILING" on it. I was, if you'll pardon the pun, in Seventh Heaven.

Then all went wild.

Silverberg had no time to participate, Su Rosen could not be located, Wells failed to send in a mag, Browne peeved out, Olsen dropped out of fandom as did Nydahl, Grennell tired of so much activity, everyone became weary except---and due credit for her work must be herein paid, Sally Dunn, who stuck through and literally played the part of "the fighting editor."

Then hell, in the form of the fans who had been excluded, broke loose, 7F was supposedly a vital changing thing in which persons who made a name for themselves through honest-to-god hard work or through talent could be assimilated constantly, ever changing the ranks, swelling and modifying them, allowing for the fans who would eventually, for one reason or another, slip away into the limbo.

Those who were too small to see that leaped as one. The articles from the Nothingfen started appearing. They were sensational---if not well written---and they screamed that 7F was done, through, washed up before it started. They screamed that there never was a Seventh Fandom (though I had two mailings to prove them the liars they were), that we were an interegnum abortion, that Sixth would return, that the blood was drained out of us.

And they screamed so long and so loud that they convinced fandom. They convinced the kids who had worked. They convinced fellows like Thompson, who withdrew after three issues of what was a constantly improv­ing magazine. They convinced Dean Grennell that it was bad for his reputation to be associated with one group of fans. They convinced Dick Geis, they convinced Jack Harness, they convinced everyone, and for a while they even convinced me.

I say this to your faces: McCain, you stink! Kessler, you're a blood-hungry second-rater! Calkins, you're a guy who can't stand to see new faces prevail! Browne, you're a no-good saboteur from inside who'd knife your grandmother if you thought you could sell her cooky jar!

I say this to all of you, and all of you are my friends. I say this to you and I’m going to see Norm Browne in two weeks as his house-guest. I say this and mean it strictly in the context of 7F discussions, and if you want to beat my brains out do so as you would a kid in a fight that has seen his favorite toy broken by jealous rivals and who strikes out blindly in all directions.

Cast all your stones at me as an individual making nasty cracks at you, cast as a 7Fer who has seen something that could have been fine and good and lasting torn to shreds by a pack of mad dogs who wanted to tear down an edifice before it reached completion.

Look to yourselves!

Is what I say truth or am I a lying bastard?

        **********      **********      **********

Seventh Fandom is not dead! Alone amidst the dead bodies of fallen com­patriots I say it: Seventh Fandom is not dead! It is not dead because the "feel" of 7F is still with us. You can't kill off American Patriotism (if there is such a thing and I’m certain there is) by killing off Americans. As long as there is a breath of untainted air flowing over the North American, continent there will be America.

And so it Is with 7F. As long as there are fans who knew there was something clean and fresh and new-direction-seeking in 7F, there will be a Seventh Fandom.

Thank God gone are the hangers-on who want­ed the fame and glory they thought would come with the movement. Thank God is gone the misdirected devotion that led me to try blackmail on Dick Geis to get him back in the fold. Thank God there are fans today who knew what the score was.

For five months now I’ve held my peace now and said nothing while They have ranted and screamed and gibbered about 7F going down the drain.

You know, it has been almost fanatical the way they have decried it all. As though 7F was a symbol, a thing which held nothing but evil for Them. Why so much knocking and yelling you pack of Mad Dogs? Why the fear of letting the child grow up? You say it was for fear of a horrible mutant, but was it fear of a Homo Superior? I wonder.

Five months later I wonder good and loud.

Everyone else, including Charlie and his uncle have had a swing at the problem. If it is a problem. Here was my swing. Now here is my counter­ attack:

7F will go on being. If only in the mind of one lone, lousy fan sitting and publishing his fanzine. Until the time when a true 8th Fandom emerges, not the cast-offs who say they are now, that has something new and of value to offer, one lousy fan will consider himself a Seventh Fandomer and his publication a Seventh Fandomailing. If need be I'll be that one lousy little fan.

Everyone has to have a cause to be glad to fight for. I wouldn't die for it, because there is no cause in the Universe that is not worth living for. No cause is worth dying for.

7F is one of my babies. I helped create it out of whole cloth and I think that in its weave there is a pattern that can please many. I'll stick with it. I've faltered, but now it is clear---through the sheer din of scream­ing opposition to it by all the Mad Dogs---there is something there worth battling over.

If you don’t want to consider all this sincere, then ridicule me and 7F by declaring, "Yea, brother, I've been saved, I done seen the light!" But if you consider what I've said, some of it in the heat of passion but most of it cold and methodical, then I call you who were and who want to be 7Fers to rally round the standard. The first round is over and it was a bloody debacle. But the second round bell has rung and out around that ragged banner we come.

7F could have been a thing of laughter and joy and forward-striding for everyone, like the mammoth composite 7F fanzine that was to be issued, but the Mad Dogs have kneed us in the groin, they’ve rubbed dirt in our eyes and rabbit-punched their way to a first round decision.

But we aren't to be downed quite that easily.

Mr. Silverberg, sir, take note; the era of Seventh Fandom is not over. Seventh Fandom still breathes, bloody and decimated though its ranks be. It will survive, if only in strong memory of having gone down with a battle cry on its lips.

I'm afraid the point of mere rebuttal has been reached and I sidestep into melodramatic rhetoric. If so, believe me when I say that it was done in the fire of battle.

I’m sick to the teeth of all the crud thrown around by people who came on the scene lately and who know nothing, I'm equally as sick of the backstabbers and the hangers-on and the chicken-hearts who now come to feed off the corpse.

Let them all beware, the corpse is still kicking, and even in its death throes it can land a solid blow or two.

        **********     **********     **********

I still publish ELLISON WONDERLAND as a 7APA magazine, in no way connected with DIMENSIONS, and anyone interested in reading a rather hilarious fan satire of Seventh Fandom by a composite figure of Seventh Fandom, Wally Balloo (not myself, I assure you), send me your name and address on a postal card with the words SEVENTH FANDOM on it, and I'll send you a copy of that issue and all subsequent issues.

There was a time when it all started out fresh and clean and in fun. But you aren't going to raise any clean new facade of Eighth Fandom with all the filth and sneakwork and nastiness of Seventh’s fate still stenching up the landscape.

I repeat it to you, SEVENTH FANDOM IS STILL ALIVE, and damned if it won’t speak loudly in the future.


  1. Schaffer was going to the Con with us, though he only arrived at the HEcon the night before we left, but he remembered the Army Deferment Physical he had to take and so leapt out. As memory serves, that was the crowd, however there is a niggling thought at the back of my mind that there was someone else of importance that I've forgotten. If there was, I'm sorry, and one of you other HEconners fill his identity in for me in a letter to PSYCHOTIC.

Fanhistory 19531955
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