The Fannish World of Arthur C Clarke

Notes from reading Odyssey: The Authorized Biography of Arthur C Clarke, by Neil McAleer.

In my ongoing attempt to digitise interesting bits of information recorded on paper and kept by me, before finally sending them on their way, the following text has been transcribed from notes made some time in the late 1990s. I was researching the history of fandom, for my undergraduate dissertation, and took particular interest in “sf professional’s” involvement with fandom, and in the ways fandom and the sf subculture might have influenced life outside itself, while grasping towards a ‘neo-tribal’ (after Maffesoli) interpretation of how and why fandoms form.

Despite a 1950s prudishness with the words fanzine and fandom (enclosing these terms in quotes) the book informs on Clarke’s involvement in fandom. The told story fits the standard pattern; entry via the letter columns of the early prozines, but after Clarke meets friends by chance who are into sf. From couple to neo-tribe, from normal social intercourse to the symbolic perdurability of the ‘scene’ – the BIS and Terra Novae.

Clarke therefore seems constructed by fandom.

Fandom as a pathfinder for capitalism may be suggested by p.83. In the US for the first time, Clarke has cocktails with Clifton Fadiman in the Plaza Hotel (ref: Clarke [ed] 1959 ‘Introduction’, Across the Sea of Stars). Fadiman writes:

Clarke is…otherwordly. He spoke of space satellites…interplanetary cruises as other men would discuss the market or the weather. As he explained how, within a decade, three space stations…would make possible (indeed one fears inevitable) simultaneous world-wide broadcasting, our right-hand neighbor (a V-P of CBS) went into a kind of catalepsy…

To understand a mind like Clarke’s we must realise that during the last 50…especially the last 25 years a new mental species has emerged among us. They are the men who in a real sense live in the future…for whom the present is merely a convienient springboard.

pp89-90
At the first televised political party convention [nationally? – seems to have been the 1952 Republican Convention http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1146322] Chairman Joe Martin talks of space travel in opening address. Clarke commented: “Maybe one of the elves or gnomes had got Martin’s special ear in a smoke-filled room”. (ref to the Elves, Gnomes and Little Men’s St Chowder and Marching Society, where Clarke had just been).

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