The Fan Cave, c1940s

The next in a series of posts in support of the 1946 Project at Chicon 8.

The “experience” component of “First Fandom Experience” conveys our desire to capture what it was like to be an early fan. To date we’ve dedicated the most space to fannish interactions — clubs, correspondence, conventions, conflicts. But fans spent most of their time at home. Those fortunate enough to have even a semi-permanent residence literally papered their walls with the accumulated evidence of their devotion to science fiction.

Walter J. Daugherty, c1946. From the collection of John L. Coker III

A few prominent fans allowed us to peek into their sanctum sanctori. The earliest narrative tour we’ve found came from Wilson “Bob” Tucker in his fanzine Le Zombie from June 1940.

Tucker aspired to create a décor in which one could “picture yourself out in space.” Other inspirational adornments were more terrestrial. Common to all the accounts we’ve encountered, he cites “the ever-present desk, bookcase, table, mimeograph…”

As to the mimeograph: most fans that published had one, or access to one. By 1940, the arcane and messy chemistry-project of hectography had generally given way to the more-predictable and mostly-monochrome stencil-and-crank world of the mimeo.

Bob Tucker and his mimeograph machine, c1947. From the collection of John L. Coker III

Tucker’s essay inevitably sparked responses. Joe Gilbert of Columbia, South Carolina shared his “proletarian” retreat in the September-October 1940 issue of Le Zombie.

Joe Gilbert in Le Zombie, n32-33, September-October 1940

In the May 1941 issue of The Science Fiction Fan, prolific fan publisher Harry Warner, Jr. provided a detailed inventory of the “business part” of his workshop.

Then and now, fans have surrounded themselves with their closest “friends” — the books and magazines that offer escape from the confines of their room, their house and their planet.

Library of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, c1945. From the collection of John L. Coker III

In stylish contrast, British fan Ron Holmes presented the astonishing notion that a collection isn’t something a true fan actually requires.

What would you have expected to see if you’d visited the home of a fan in 1946? What adorns your fannish shrine? Please drop us a note with your thoughts: