Vector History

A brief word of explanation for those of you who (inexplicably) may not have given much thought to the history of the BSFA: Vector has been around for a while. Way back in the 1960s, when issue numbers were only two digits and the magazine was being edited by Rog Peyton, a series of fanzine review and fannish commentary columns started to appear under the title “Behind The Scenes”, as by Malcolm Edwards. This was a pseudonym for Pete Weston (whose With Stars in my Eyes was a Best Related Book Hugo nominee last year), and caused some confusion when a real Malcolm Edwards entered fandom a few years later.

Greg Pickersgill has now put the columns online, with his own covering note:

It was forty years ago —

My copy of the British SF Association’s magazine, VECTOR, issue 43, dated March 1967, was a really big thing for me. I’d been aware of sf fandom for while, my curiosity and interest aroused and increased by various mentions in the back-issue magazines I enthusiastically collected, and in Kingsley Amis’ NEW MAPS OF HELL and Damon Knight’s IN SEARCH OF WONDER, books I read and re-read with endless fascination. Then there was the column ‘Our Man In Fandom’, by Lin Carter, which appeared in the then-current British reprints of WORLDS OF IF, and then, incredibly, in one of the last of the hard-to-get Compact issues of NEW WORLDS, a small-ad for the BSFA itself. Dazzlement! Enchantment! I joined instantly.

Even the rather rudimentary nature — poorly duplicated, folded foolscap paper — of the magazine that eventually arrived (after a worrying delay, the BSFA being in one its occasional disorganised phases) was no deterrent to my growing enthusiasm. Unlike so many sf readers who seem to be unaccountably frightened by the unfamiliar I was deeply attracted to the new world of sf fandom with its sometimes unusual terminology, and even the sense that everyone knew everyone except me was no real barrier. Of course as the only sf reader in school — as I was at that time — I was used to being the outsider, no question.

I read that issue of VECTOR so many times I’m surprised the pages didn’t drop to shreds from the endless eyetracks; all of it was new and absorbing, but the prime delight was the BEHIND THE SCENES column by one Malcolm Edwards. This character wrote fluently and knowledgeably about fandom, fans and fanzines and sounded like the right sort of person, absolutely. If only I knew someone like that, I thought. But there were no fans within at least a hundred miles of where I lived at the time, so maybe I’d better get a burst on and get into this fanzine thing, learn the language, find out who’s who about town. And I did. Not without incident, including a letter to the BSFA complaining about how all those Big Name Fans just wouldn’t get off their high horses once in a while to help the poor struggling neophyte. Well, I was sixteen, and much more stupid then.

Fandom before the internet, eh?

6 thoughts on “Vector History

  1. My first Vector issue 124 (I think) was a huge thing for me too. And I wrote plenty of stupid letters to Matrix in my time too.

  2. Talking of history…
    On the grounds (possibly unwarranted) that you’re going to be at Novacon, I gave to Mark Plummer a copy of my archive of Vector production files, and asked him to pass it on to you. Yes, I finally got together everything, sixty-five issues (185-249), in one place for the first time.

    Treasure it, copy it. (I hope you have a PC that can read data DVDs.) I think the PC I compiled the thing onto died last night, so unless I can get it fixed, or recompile it from the various backups, that’s the only one that exists.

    (And that done, I can get onto all the other BSFA tasks I have lined up.)

  3. Kev: You know, I couldn’t actually tell you off the top of my head what my first Vector was. I think it was #234, but I wouldn’t swear to it.

    Tony: Well, I have a Mac … I’m sure I’ll find a way to sort it out, though. Thanks!

  4. Niall: If it comes to that, give it back to me, and I’ll split it into CDs. (Sorry, I should have checked your IT set-up first. You can deal with Word files, right?)

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