Ready for a trip in the Wayback Machine, to see Young Bob at age 13 publish his first fanzine?

I was hooked on fantasy and scifi as a kid. I mean, reading it. There wasn’t too much to watch back then (pre-Star Wars). Just to illustrate how hooked I was, for my 12th birthday I got $15, a princely sum back then, for buying books. That was enough to buy me a train ticket into Philly, where I walked to Leary’s, a now defunct but amazing and famous bookstore. Most paperbacks were 50 cents. I buzzed over to the scifi section (fantasy wasn’t really even a genre then) and piled a stack high with mostly Edgar Rice Burroughs – John Carter of Mars, some Tarzan, Pellucidar, and also some Lin Carter, L Sprague de Camp, and Fritz Leiber. Best birthday present ever.

But I digress. The point is that I was a major reading and scifi nerd, and that’s how I somehow discovered the world of "sfzines". Of course, they had existed since the 30’s. But when I discovered entire magazines devoted to writing about the world of sf – book reviews, art, con reports, zine reviews, and whatever else struck the writer’s fancy… well, I was hooked. Most of them were free, or you could send a SASE envelope (bonus points if you don’t need to look that up), or you could trade your zine for theirs, with a promise to review theirs.

Con reports intrigued me because they always talked about building a Tower of Beer Cans to the Sky. I could only imagine. Most zines were written by grownups, and since I didn’t personally know any grownups that cool, it opened a whole new world of possibilities. You mean you could be an actual adult and love these books, write about them, and even achieve a measure of fame in those circles? Cool!

There were definitely a few zines I read that were written by kids my age, which inspired me to write my own. Since this was over 50 years ago, I can’t recall exactly what I wrote. There were book reviews and zine reviews, and maybe even a story of a family vacation to the Jersey shore. I do remember soliciting some free artwork and remember being particularly thrilled when someone whose art I had admired actually did the cover for me! I called the zine "Meanderings."

Not only was this pre-Star Wars, it was pre-desktop publishing, pre-printers, pre-internet. Pretty much pre-everything, actually. The only publishing media available were copying (no copy machines then so it had to be done professionally), mimeograph, and ditto machines. I used the last, which meant typing onto a sheet and then using that in a ditto machine to make copies. The machine had to be hand-cranked too. And I have no idea how or where I found one to use. Usually only schools or churches or businesses had them.

I cranked out (literally) maybe 50 or so and then mailed them to other zine publishers. Naturally my 13 year old self was dying to see his name in print, maybe in one of the Really Big Zines (capitalizing phrases like that was very zine-style). I was so excited to actually be in print! Every day I’d check the mail, grab any zines that came in, and flip immediately to the zine review sections to look for My Name in Print.

Finally, one day I saw it. True, it was buried at the end of the reviews, with the other 1 or 2 line reviews reserved for those that weren’t really important enough to merit a full column. I don’t even remember what zine it was. However, to this day, I remember the exact words of the review. Verbatim:

"Act your age, even if it is only 13."

It’s probably at this point that I should draw some kind of Moral or Lesson that has stuck with me my whole life and make a Point. Nope. I can still say "ouch" about it, though! And I’m not really sure what the writer meant, even today, though my guess is that I was trying to sound like all those grownup sf fans and writers and doing it poorly. Needless to say, there was never a Meanderings #2!

However, here I am writing in my blog about it, and here you are reading it. I still love to write, probably even more so. I do hope I’m finally acting my age, though.