Part 7: by Race Mathews
The creative side of the MSFG was instigated by Lee and Dick. We, Lee told Dick in 1952, must put out a fanzine. What resulted after lengthy gestation was not one fanzine but five, titled respectively Perhaps, Bacchanalia, Etherline, Question Mark and Antipodes. The vehicle for all this activity was Amateur Fantasy Publications of Australia (AFPA), which owned the group’s stencils, paper and ink, and in due course – after extensive experimentation with less satisfactory devices – had the carriage of its purchase of a Roneo 500 duplicator. The initial membership of AFPA was Lee, Dick and Mervyn Binns. I was a latecomer, and two new arrivals in the MSFG, Ian Crozier and Kevin Whelahan, joined later again.
By Dick’s account:
Leo not only provided the push, but he did most of the work. He wrote letters, contacted people, suggested story ideas and cover illustrations, solved layout problems, told Mervyn when to turn the duplicator handle, and in short was the driving force (spiritual) behind Perhaps. Mervyn Binns was the driving force (material): he found us a duplicator, fixed it when it went wrong, forced it into action and was, in short, indefatigible on the production side. I? I obeyed orders, and produced all the little fillers designed to round out those big blank spaces between the highpowered stories and articles. Anyway, most of my stuff was rejected.
It was Lee’s dream that Perhaps, the publication for which he was primarily responsible, would live up to its subtitle, as The International Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. I hoped to make my Bacchanalia an antipodean counterpart for two outstanding American fanzines, Nekromantikon and Fanscient, which I had accepted on loan from Graham Stone, unwarily allowed Kevin Whelahan to borrow from me and – to Graham’s rage and my enduring shame – never been able to induce Kevin to return. Inevitably, reality in the case of both Lee’s first issue and my own fell short by far of our aspirations. At the time Lee has recorded, I was dismally disappointed. He to his great credit persisted. An incomparably more polished Perhaps 2 – and ultimately a Perhaps 3 – appeared, laying in part the foundations for his success as a professional writer. My enthusiasm waned, and the Bacchanalia 2 which finally came out was the work of a new editor. AFPA’s outstanding success story turned out ironically to be the publication in which fewest hopes and least foresight had been invested. Etherline – a newszine produced largely on a collective basis – established what may well have been a record for the fan publishing circles of the day, by appearing regularly at fortnightly intervals for 100 issues, from 1953 until 1958.
Well before the appearance of Bacchanalia 2 in 1956, my active involvement in fandom had ceased. My courtship of my future wife had been funded largely by the selling-off of the greater part of my science-fiction collection at successive MSFG meetings over the best part of a two-year period. I was reading much more widely. The Melbourne Grammar library and Parliamentary Society had already fanned my long-standing interest in politics, and the lecturers at Toorak Teachers’ College were further developing my liking for music and theatre. My three months national service training in early 1954 and my marriage two years later were circuit-breakers, marking the point where I moved on irrevocably from the world of science fiction to the preoccupations which subsequently shaped my life. The ties which held together our little circle of friends were likewise loosening. Bob McCubbin died before his time, while Dick Jenssen was detached ultimately by the demands of teaching and research in the Science Faculty at Melbourne University. It remained for Lee Harding to become the author of a series of outstanding science fiction novels which includes – to date – Displaced Person and Future Sanctuary, and for Mervyn Binns to establish – and, sadly, later close down – Melbourne’s Space Age Bookshop. Meanwhile, the MSFG has endured, in forms re-invented by successive generations of fans to serve their changing emphases, and the expanding opportunities held out to them by new technologies. Along with many like us, virtually in every country on earth, we remain endebted deeply to science fiction for the pleasures to which it has introduced us, the enduring friendships it has enabled us to establish and the additional edge which it has imparted to our curiosity, imagination and pursuit of ideas.