Wheels of IF

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The Wheels of Irish Fandom began with Walt Willis, James White and Bob Shaw, three fanzine fans living in Belfast who had achieved worldwide renown and popularity in fandom fairly early in the 1950s. (The name is a play on the title of an L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt story, "The Wheels of If".)

On August 26, 1947, the teen-aged James White and Walt Willis, who was in his late 20s, met in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and discovered that they were both fans who collected the prozines. Soon Willis acquired a typewriter and started writing amateur sf. The following year, he published his first fanzine, Slant, which he produced on a letterpress with hand-set type. (James White's first printed words were published in Slant 4 when, in an article critical of E. E. Smith, he inserted "[These opinions of the great Smith are not those of the typesetter, J. White]".)

The following year, they got in touch with the British Fantasy Library and Willis found an abandoned small printing press, and he and White, began to typeset the first issue of Slant. (Halfway down the first page, they ran out of i's, so White produced his first woodcut.) It took months to typeset Slant, but it didn't get mailed until near the end of 1948 because Willis and White couldn't find the names and addresses of enough people who might like it.

Willis quickly became well-known as a fan writer (his column, "The Harp That Once Or Twice..." in Quandry was very well-received) and fanzine publisher and by 1952, WAW With the Crew in '52, the first fan fund was organized to bring him to Chicon II, the 1952 Worldcon.

1952–53 also saw the beginning of Hyphen and the last issues of Slant, marking a shift from fairly sercon to a more fannish and light sort of fanzine. (Harry Warner comments that "White, Willis and Shaw discovered it was more fun to talk than to publish.") 1952 also saw James White's first professional sale (to Ted Carnell) and during the 50s he (proudly) added the title of "vile pro".

In time, Irish Fandom attracted other fans, including John Berry, George Charters, Madeline Willis, Peggy White, and Sadie Shaw.

The early 50s were when Bob Shaw and John Berry joined IF, and it also saw British fans such as Chuck Harris and ATom become remote adjuncts (at least). (ATom produced a stream of creative cartoons for Hyphen, and Harris wrote. (One of the more fannish early incidents was a fake feud between White and Harris over the rejection of a story Harris had submitted to Slant (see the Harris-White Feud).

Probably the culminating event of the annus mirabilis of 1952 was the discovery (it had to have pre-existed as a Platonic form) of ghoodminton, the ultimate fannish game which could be played only in the attic of Oblique House, where Walt and Madeline Willis lived.

Scarcely less important was the 1954 publication of The Enchanted Duplicator by Walt Willis and Bob Shaw.

Irish Fandom built and then retained an almost legendary status in fandom, combining fascinating people, great fan writing, a touch of exoticism, and some remarkable pro careers. From the 50s on, fans from around the world went out of their way to visit Belfast (not otherwise in those days on anyone's list of tourist destinations!) to meet Irish Fandom.

Later noteworthy events included the 1955 wedding of James White with Peggy White, a second fan fund, the Tenth Anniversary Willis Fund to bring Willis back to North America, and the departure from Oblique House in 1965. Their fannish Christmas cards were sent to many fans in North America and Britain.

John Berry was so prolific that some fans began to question whether or not a fan publication could be considered a "real" fanzine if it did not contain one of his "factual" articles, and George Charters claimed he wasn't really so old and the rumor that he was must have sprung from the fact that as a schoolchild he'd carried little girls' stone tablets to school for them. Bob Shaw and James White went on to become professional sf writers, but neither ever abandoned their joyful participation in fandom.

Besides the Willis fan funds, members of Irish Fandom received real formal recognition:

See also: Belfast Triangle.

From Fancyclopedia 2, ca. 1959
(DeCamp: Sixth Fandom) The BNFs of (Northern) Irish Fandom; same personnel as the Oblique Angles.

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