Slan Shack

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Science-fiction house[edit]

The term slan shack, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the “Fans are slans” attitude, came to mean any residence shared by two or more unrelated fans. An earlier name was science-fiction house, which applied to shared apartments of some early London and New York fans, attempting to economize while seeking a pro career.

Slan shack applies not only to roommate situations but also to rooming houses and apartment buildings with a high level of of fan tenancy.

See also Slan Center, Tucker Hotel, Ozark Rest Camp.

The Original Slan Shack[edit]

The Original Slan Shack

The fanspeak phrase stems from the venue officially dubbed Slan Shack, which came into being in late 1943 at 25 Poplar St., Battle Creek, Michigan. It lasted only two years, breaking up in September 1945 when its occupants moved to California, but forevermore gave its name to the practice.

The best known fanhabitants of the original Slan Shack included E. E. Evans, Walt Liebscher, Jack Wiedenbeck and the householders, Al and Abby Lu Ashley. It hosted three Michiconferences.

Pfc. Paul H. Spencer, quoted in Harry Warner’s Horizons 20, wrote:

I’ve spent the past two week-ends at Slan Shack.... Slan Shack’s appearance is worthy of comment. Beautiful originals are omnipresent, the richest cache being Walt’s. Each room has a name over the door — more than one door entitling it to more than one name. Walt dwells in Chanticleering; Jack in Artesian Well; a closet is Stuff; another is Abbatoir {sic} (which I mistook for what turned out to be the Control Room); the dining room is Royal Gorge; a bedroom has the twin titles of Playground and Rosebud Room; the kitchen is Nitrosyncretic Lab; Evans’ room is Temple of the Ol’ Foo; the living room is the Zoo; the front door opens on ‘Civilization’, and one door is disturbingly labeled We Never Found Out. (The attic, come to think of it, is Shottle Bop.)

From “Thoughts While Thinking” by Bob Tucker, Centauri 4 (Summer 1945):

We don’t recall reading anywhere of the geographical set-up of Battle Creek's Slan Shack ---- the floor plan, where they sleep, and how. So we may as well educate and mystify you here.

Slan Shack has 5 rooms on the ground, floor, and 3 rooms on the second. Entering the front door (which is no mean feat and requires practice) you are in the parlour. There simply is no better name for it. Considering the activities in this roon, par­lour fits quite well. The rest we’ll leave to your imagination.

Immediately to the right inside the front door (did you get thru it okay?) is a cubbyhole known as the Temple of the Old Foo’, where sleeps and thinks the Evans. He has his library and files therein.

Ahead of you are two doors; the one on the left leading to the Playground, the royal Ashley bedroom. The other, to the right, opens onto the Course Room. In the old days it was referred to as the dining room. If you safely negotiate the Playground you’ll find yourself in the bathroom, which is mighty handy. If you likewise successfully negotiate the Course Room you’ll come to the kitchen, which is almost as handy. Any time after that you are apt to pop out the back door and find yourself a doormat, shoe-scrape or a mutton chop for a dog who likes to lick faces.

Upstairs, Aha, upstairs! At the top of the stairs is Liebscher's room, having a wall which isn’t a wall, and which no one is allowed to peek thru without knocking, only you can’t knock be­cause it isn’t a wall. He defies you to reach him in such manner. There is no door. You must stoop under or push the wall, aside. If it were a real wall, it would be annoying.

Beyond that is Mr. Wiedenbeck’s room, which, sad to say, is just a room. We couldn't find one extraordinary fact about this room to startle people with. Mr. Wiedenbeck is mundane. However, we like to sleep in it best, which we did with gusto and things.

To the rear of these two rooms is a gigantic attic made over into a studio. It houses thousands of books and magazines along the walls. Night-times, this is Thelma Morgan’s private domain wherein she may wander about in her nightgown as she pleases. She reads Atlantic Monthly and Fortune magazines and keeps them hidden under her mattress for fear others will see them and think her stodgy.

The one sure way to confound a Slan Shacker is to button­hole him awry from the others, put a confidential smirk or your face, and whisper: "Just between you and me, old man, what do you think of Slan Shack as a whole?" — We glee.

The residents called themselves the Galactic Roomers (see Fancy 1 article, below), a pun on the Galactic Roamers, an E. E. Smith-oriented club in Michigan.

Their L.A. abode was also called “The Slan Shack,” but wasn’t nearly as visited or famous. It broke up when the building was torn down in March 1948 to make room for an office building.

More reading:

Other slan shacks[edit]

From Fancyclopedia 2, ca. 1959
An ancient dream of fans (well, dating back to 1938, at least). The idea is to have a place where fans live together, sharing expenses and bumming off one another, and where they can decorate the walls and halls appropriately and scatter their collections all around. The first realization of this dream was the Flat, in London. It was soon followed by Futurian House and a long line of successors. In 1943 appeared Slan Shack itself, which gave its name to the idea (previously called by the more formal name of science-fiction house). Here dwelt the Ashleys, Liebscher, and Wiedenbeck, and later E. E. Evans; they moved en masse from the original Slan Shack in Battle Creek to another site on Bixel Street, Los Angeles, cheek by jowl with the LASFS clubroom. (It was the ground floor of a duplex next door. Its upper floor, "Slan Shack Annex", was rented occasionally to struggling fen and pros.) The place didn't break up till the building was torn down in March '48 to make room for an office building. Outgrowth of this was the idea of Slan Center, which Ashley conceived in early '43 as a whole block of slanshacks (to be built on the outskirts of LA) with central clubroom and publishing plant. Nothing came of this last notion.

These establishments are more or less natural developments from the fraternity and nationalism of fandom, coupled with the rise of the average fan's age to self-supporting and home-leaving time. Up to half a dozen of them have existed at one time, such as Tendril Towers (Jacobs & Cox, in LA), The Ivory Birdbath (Youngs & Stark, in Cambridge), Granny's House (Kerkhof and others, in DC) and several others mentioned in other parts of this volume.

From Fancyclopedia 1, ca. 1944
A science-fiction house in Battle Creek, charter members being Al & Abby Lu Ashley, Walt Liebscher, and Jack Wiedenbeck. Acquired in the summer of '43, it wasn't occupied by the slans till the eve of the Michiconference. EEEvans joined a little later.
From Fancyclopedia 1, ca. 1944
Galactic Roomers (Stanley) - The inhabitants of the Ashley apartment and later of Slan Shack, in Battle Creek.

Venue 19431948
This is a venue page, covering buildings from 4-star hotels to slan shacks. Please include only structures of major fannish significance. See Standards for Venues.

If applicable, please include category Asia, Australia, Canada, Europe, Ireland, NZ, UK, US, ROW or World.