Sunday, December 26, 2010
During all the years that I've read and studied the works of Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, and Clark Ashton Smith, I have continually come across references to a fanzine called The Fantasy Fan. This was an amateur journal of weird fiction, produced by a young man named Charles D. Hornig, which amazingly, often featured stories and poems by some of the major fantasy writers of the day. Sometimes when Smith or Lovecraft, and in one case Howard, had stories rejected by the ever mercurial editor of Weird Tales, Farnsworth Wright, the writers would allow Hornig to publish these stories in his publication. Thus, this tiny fanzine, which ran for only eighteen issues, is an important source of weird fiction.
Given this content, the age of the fanzines (1933-1935) and the small size of the original print runs, you end up with extremely scarce and expensive items. No telling what a complete set of The Fantasy Fan would set you back IF you could find a whole set in good condition.
But now another fan, a fellow named Lance Thingmaker, has made it possible for modern day fans to read The Fantasy Fan in something that comes very close to the magazine's original format. Thingmaker has produced a book which collects all eighteen issues of The Fantasy Fan, shot from the original zines, and has done everything in his power to make the contents as much like the actual zines as possible.
One of the first things you'll notice is that all the pages aren't the same color. Some are tan. Some are orange. Some are off-white. That's because Hornig's printer didn't always use the same color paper, and Thingmaker has tried to make each individual issue the same color as the original. That's the kind of attention to detail I'm talking about.
The text has been cleaned up but not altered. Every typo and misspelling remains as it was seventy something years ago. In his introduction, Thingmaker says, "My underlying goal for this project was to make it available to people who want to read the zines as they originally appeared."
Thingmaker goes on to say that he wanted the book to appear as if Hornig had taken unsold copies of The Fantasy Fan and had them bound into books. He has succeeded admirably. What's so cool for the fanboy in me is that I'm basically looking at what Robert E. Howard looked at when he received copies of FF. Far better than just reading the re-typeset contents of the zines.
Once I started reading, I realized why people make so much of the fantasy fan. Everybody who was anybody at the time in SF/Fantasy is involved. Not only does it have stories by the big three, but also by August Derleth, Robert H. Barlow, Robert Bloch, Eando Binder, and a passel of less well known writers, some of who also worked for Weird Tales. There are columns by Mort Weisinger and Julius Schwartz (Names all fans of Superman should recognize) and letters and articles from Forest J. Ackerman. I mean, history just drips from these pages.
Among Lovecraft's stories which appeared in the Fantasy fan are The Other Gods, Polaris, and Beyond the Walls of Sleep. Clark Ashton Smith gave them such classics as The Ghoul, The Coming of the White Worm, and The Primal City. Robert E. Howard's single prose appearance is Gods of the North, aka The Frost King's Daughter, which is the alternate version of the Conan story The Frost Giant's Daughter. I've read all this stuff before, but to see it as it originally appeared is a real kick. There are also numerous poems, letters, comments, etc from REH, HPL, and CAS. The Fantasy fan was also the place where Lovecraft's famous essay, "Supernatural Horror in Literature" first appeared. The zine suspended publication before the entire essay was published, but Mr. Thingmaker has you covered. He includes the complete essay in the back of the book as a bonus.
I could go on and on, because seriously, you just can't imagine how nifty this book is. For me it's even more so because I received it as a Christmas gift from by good friend Cliff who thought it belonged on my bookshelf. If it belongs on yours, I'd get a copy quick. I guarantee this book will be yet another sought after item in just a few years. Thingmaker includes a note with the book saying the books are limited but folks who want one can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org