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Science fiction

 A radio serial, The Moon Flower by G. K. Saunders, broadcast on the ABC Children’s Session in 1952 or 1953, began my interest in science fiction. I didn’t realise it was ‘science fiction’, but I knew I wanted more of the same: stories that got people up and off dull old Earth. During my first years at school I read huge amounts of children’s fantasy, but the first books I discovered that I now realise are ‘science fiction’ were Edgar Rice Burroughs’ ‘Mars’ books (John Carter didn’t need a spaceship; he just stared at Mars in the sky, thought great thoughts, and suddenly he was there. Dry sea bottoms, flying ships, thoats and beautiful princesses). I read all the ‘Mars’ books twice before I was eleven (1958). At our library, I discovered real SF at the age of twelve, with Philip K. Dick’s first novel Solar Lottery (called World of Chance in the British abbreviated edition). The same year, I discovered the SF magazines (the English New Worlds and Science Fiction Adventures). The rot had set in.

I’ve wanted to edit magazines since primary school days. In 1961, when I was in Year 9 (Form 3), my friend Ron Sheldon suggested we publish a magazine together. His father had a duplicator, and both of us had access to typewriters. In the summer of 1960-61 I taught myself to touch-type. We published 26 issues in 1961. Where are you these days, Ron?

In 1963 or 1964 I read Lin Carter’s columns about fandom in If magazine. He described the world of fanzine publishing. I knew what I wanted to do — publish magazines that included what I wanted to write. In 1968, thanks to John Bangsund and Leigh Edmonds, I published my first magazine in ANZAPA, and in 1969 began publishing SF Commentary.

The Melbourne SF Club was the centre of all SF activity in Melbourne when in early 1968 I joined fandom and became involved with the people who published Australian Science Fiction Review (John Foyster, John Bangsund and Lee Harding). Merv Binns, president, secretary and librarian of the Club, imported American books that could not officially be bought anywhere else in Australia. The Club library was already huge. And the Club’s headquarters was the old McGill’s storage loft in Somerset Place, a back alley of Melbourne, the ideal refuge for SF dropouts from the rest of Melbourne’s sports-mad culture.

My first science fiction convention was the 1968 Melbourne SF Conference, as it was called, held at the Melbourne SF Clubrooms and a scout hall in Boronia. I knew almost nobody. The only person I talked to was David Penman, representing the Melbourne Grammar SF Club, who in recent years has became Jim Penman, the bearded boss of Jim’s franchises.


Most people know me for SF Commentary, whose first issue appeared in January 1969. It had three Hugo nominations and a fair few Ditmar wins. I began The Metaphysical Review in 1984, but it hasn’t appeared for awhile. I’ve been a member of ANZAPA (Australia and New Zealand Amateur Publishing Association) since 1968, and was a member of Acnestis, the British apa for fans who (still) read, from 1995 to 2006. I was also a member of FAPA (Fantasy Amateur Press Association, the grandaddy apa of them all) from 1984 to 1994. In 2000 I began Steam Engine Time with ace British fans Paul Kincaid and Maureen Kincaid Speller, but it seemed to have fizzle out until Michigan fan Jan Stinson suggested we revive it.

To me, fanzine publishing is the one true pleasure left in life. It is also an expensive pleasure, which is why I get to indulge infrequently. Fortunately, the great Bill Burns has set up a website where any fan is welcome to post his or her fanzine in PDF format. Most of my fanzines published since 1991 are already there.

From 1975 and 1985, Carey Handfield, Rob Gerrand and I formed Norstrilia Press, a cooperative to publish books, especially SF, that were not likely to find a publisher elsewhere in Australia. Our most successful publications included The Plains and Landscape with Landscape by Gerald Murnane, Philip K. Dick: Electric Shepherd, edited by Bruce Gillespie, Greg Egan’s first novel An Unusual Angle, and George Turner’s In the Heart or in the Head, his literary memoir. Our one book of poetry was Roger Zelazny’s When Pussywillows Late in the Catyard Bloomed. Small quantities of some of these books are still available, and Gerald Murnane’s books have been since reprinted.