Page 1 of 'A Short History of Baltimore Fandom'
© Jack Chalker, used in perpetuity by permission of his wife Eva
I discovered science fiction fandom in 1957,
when I wrote to an Alabama fan named Billy Joe
Plott who had bragged about his 'magazine' Mael-
strom in the letter column of a science fiction comic
book. I was not even thirteen years old at the time.
Soon afterwards I began writing for Maelstrom, and
a bit later for other fanzines across the country.
Fanzines were my first real form of fanac.|
Even then, I was already an avid reader of science fiction. About that same time, I had answered an ad in the back of an issue of F&SF from The Werewolf Bookshop in Verona, Pennsylvania. It was really just a book remainder house; you sent them money and they sent back lots of books, you didn't get to pick which ones. Most of the ones I received were worthless or uninteresting in the extreme, but one title I got startled me by its look and feel, and by its general production value. It was The Throne of Saturn, by S. Fowler Wright, published by a company about which I knew nothing: Arkham House. So I wrote to their address and asked for information on other titles, and in a very short time I was in almost weekly correspondence with August Derleth.
I'd also discovered another operation that advertised in Astounding, Pick-A-Book of Hicksville, New York. This proved to be the Gnome Press attempt to compete with the SF Book Club and, somehow, I wound up corresponding like mad with Marty Greenberg. Thanks to both of these men I got a real grounding in the business side of science fiction and fantasy, a lot of advice, and, in the case of Derleth, an opening of correspondence with other famous folks like Robert Bloch, Fritz Leiber, and Clark Ashton Smith.
I did my first fanzine in 1960, a very primitive affair called Centaur. It was basically of the then-popular faanish sort, and was done with my neighbor and good friend Harry Brashear, who was on the fringes of fandom but was a pretty good spot artist. He drew the cover and managed to trace a lot of the submitted artwork from well known fan artists of the time on standard mimeo stencils using a kitchen fork.
The problem was, of course, I had no money to produce it and no means, either. Harry solved this by having us walk into nearby Forest Park High School (the template, by the way, for Rydell High in Grease), go into the printing room, and run off about fifty copies of Centaur using the school's mimeograph and mimeo paper. Not a really shocking thing, except, of course, that I didn't attend Forest Park High. Instead, at that time I was going to Baltimore City College, which was a high school that also had a first-year junior college. Baltimore City was a very old school, third oldest in the United States, and it was housed in a massive stone castle-like building on a large campus. It also at the
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