Ken and me

August 22, 2012

By W. Paul Ganley

W. Paul Ganley

W. Paul Ganley

I fear that the above title should be “Me and Ken,” since I think this essay may be more about me than about Ken. Well.…

At the beginning of the year 1950, I was finishing my last year and a half of high school. I had been reading pulp science-fiction magazines since about 1946, when my father brought some home from work. (His boss at the New York Central Railroad read them and passed them on to him.) I soon made the calculation that 15¢ for a pulp magazine was cheaper than 10¢ for a comic book, taking into account that the pulp took a couple of hours to read and the comic took about 15 minutes. From then on I bought every science-fiction pulp in sight (even Weird Tales). And I started letter hacking—writing letters to the pulp letter columns. Thus I got into contact with fandom…far flung, in those days, and accessible mainly by mail; no email or texting back then.

Publishing and writing were hobbies even when I was ten years old, when I had a Swiftset Printing Press (a child’s toy that used rubber type), and I “published” a little neighborhood newspaper, mostly with items stolen from the real newspapers.

I don’t have any of those around any more, which is probably just as well.

In January of 1950 I began publishing a fanzine, Fan-Fare, devoted to fan fiction in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, horror. I used a hectograph, which is kind of a horror all by itself…I wrote to Rog Phillips’ column in Amazing Stories, describing my problems with it, although some folks congratulated me on how clear and easy to read it was. Well, I was also involved with the ISFCC (The International Science-Fiction Correspondence Club—a correspondence club started by my pen friend Richard Abbott—I don’t recall if Ken was member of this) [Ken was not a member, but he was a member of both the Buffalo Fantasy League and the Bohemia Club during this time—Terry Kemp]; Ed Noble, Jr., of Girard Pennsylvania, did the club zine, Explorer; and he got a new mimeograph and offered me his old one, for the price of shipping it. So you can blame him for all my future publishing activities!!!!! Without that, I might have given up, and become a Nobel-Prize-Winning scientist or writer, who knows? Or maybe I would have partnered with Ken on one of his publishing enterprises, in that case.

I had previously met Al Leverentz, who was a semester ahead of me in high school, and lived a few blocks away in our town, North Tonawanda, NY; met him in the cafeteria line in high school, actually. We were both interested in writing, publishing, editing anything science fiction, fantasy, or horror (he was especially into horror and H.P. Lovecraft). I used some of his stories in those early issues—I thought they were great then, and I still think so.

I have to rely on my memory after all these years, because I never kept a diary of any kind. And I don’t recall how we learned about the Buffalo Fantasy League. But we did, and we both traveled to Pearl Place in Buffalo, where Ken Krueger lived, for the meetings, probably beginning some time in 1950…maybe even the first few months.

Except for Al himself, this was my first experience meeting and conversing with other like-minded people…the camaraderie, the information I received in talking with my new friends (for instance, Ken introduced me to one of my favorite books ever, Jack Vance’s Dying Earth, then out of print in a small edition paperback)…not to mention a couple of bottles of Champale….

I recall especially Joe Fillinger and Charlie Momberger (still among my group of best friends), Bob Fritz, Dave English, Gene Smith, Donald Westphal, and others…many of whom I later lost sight of. Joe, and Dave, and Bob (both Bob Fritz and Bob Briney) all published zines…I remember writing poems and fiction for them as “Toby Duane;” and when Bob Briney decided to write as “Andrew Duane,” we apparently perpetrated a fan hoax….at least, some people regarded it in that way, although we were just playing a game with pen names and never thought of this as hoax at all. When I met Diane Duane, in later years, I decided to give up using that name.

Ken, in those days, was working in his “real job” as a truck driver, while he was selling books by mail, and publishing things, under various names, such as Pegasus, Shroud, etc. I provided a couple of stories for these lines (notably writing as Toby Duane for Space Trails #5). I can’t say that he started me on my publishing career, since I was already embarked on that, but he certainly provided an example that I could follow. I still have copies of his various publications, including some of the early ones, though they have grown a bit battered over the years as I moved from job to job a few times.

I attended my first science fiction convention (Midwestcon) as a member of this group…including Joe, Charlie, and Ken….and later I went to a couple more cons. Midwestcon was a great time…as I recall, Ken was playing poker with a bunch of people including (as I recall…I could be wrong) “Doc” Smith and Arthur C. Clarke…. I was having a bit of fun myself, and at one time a beautiful young woman was sitting on my lap…unfortunately a bit older than I was, though…namely Bea Mahaffey’s sister. And I recall first meeting Harlan Ellison there. And Lee Hoffman, who appeared at our room the first morning, while I still had a shaving brush in my hand and foam on my face (embarrassing moments!). And who even knew before her appearance there that Lee was really Shirley and was a GIRL!!!

Circumstances did not permit that Ken be known as the founder of the Annual New York State SF conventions…but we tried. We had our own convention in May 3/4, 1952, called Bufflocon. Remember, in those days, science fiction conventions were few and far between…not like the present. So it was quite an undertaking.

150 copies of Space Science Fiction were donated to the con; we had a representative from Fantasy Press, we had original artwork to auction, and a movie to show. We had David H. Keller, Betsy Curtis, Basil Wells…it was a nice con, and I recall it (though vaguely through the haze of the decades) with pleasure.

Bufflocon was billed as the First Annual New York State Convention. We had several bids to hold the second convention, and as I recall the voting, a group from Cornell University got the vote. Unfortunately, they didn’t follow through for some reason (I never knew why), so the first NYS Con was also the Last NYS Con.

After a number of us left town, got drafted, etc, the group dwindled, but we still met at times…often, we went out to the Hippodrome and played pool; we also played penny ante poker (2 and 4 cent bets in those days).

Ken looked somewhat younger than he really was in those days…I still remember the time several of us were having a beer in a local establishment, at a time when the legal age for drinking was 18. A couple of us were slightly younger (including me). Who got carded? Ken!!! And he didn’t have a draft card…because he had already served in the army…but the rest of us were laughing so hard at this occasion, that the waiter finally relented and served him his mug of beer. (He didn’t even consider carding the rest of us.)

When I left town to take a job in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, I turned over all my copies of our book Shanadu to Ken, and my pulp collection, in exchange for a few books that would be easier to carry with me than all those boxes. But I would still come back to Buffalo occasionally to visit relatives and friends, and then the remnants of the group would get together for a poker game.

Even when Ken left to go to California, the rest of us still maintained the poker game, and of course, we still were all interested in science fiction.

I did see Ken one weekend a few years later…I believe it was at the World Science Fiction Con in Cleveland, in 1966…I was there trying to get publicity for my new zine, Weirdbook (then in the initial planning stages), and he was there with a dealer table; one of his daughters was helping at the table also.

Over a decade ago, the local science fiction convention (Contradiction) was cancelled, and some of us decided to revive the Buffalo Fantasy League and to do our own convention—Eeriecon (still going—check out www.eeriecon.org). The situation had changed, in fandom; there were lots of conventions nowadays, but one more wouldn’t overload the system; and we were so pleased when Ken came to back to this area in his last years…you’d better believe we put him on a panel immediately!

When I think of my early years in fandom, I have good memories…and I think of the people who were my best friends in those days (three of them still are)…among others, Bob Briney, Rich Abbott, Ed Noble, Al Leverentz, Charlie Momberger, Joe Fillinger…and Ken Krueger.

W. Paul Ganley
20 May 2012

W. Paul Ganley Bio

W. Paul Ganley is a fanzine publisher and editor of science fiction, poetry and horror fanzines.

He has contributed to many zines and small press publications, sometimes using the pseudonyms Toby Duane, A. Arthur Griffin, or Walter Quednau.

The first fanzine published by W. Paul Ganley was Fan-Fare. The first issue was released in 1950 in North Tonawanda, New York, U.S.A. Fan-Fare was published from 1950-1954, reaching at least three volumes of issues.

During the run of Fan-Fare, Ganley also released Snowflakes in the Sun, a one-issue-only poemzine, illustrated by Nancy Share. It was published in 1952, though the Preface is dated March 9, 1953. It is subtitled “A Collection of Fantasy Verse.” In the Preface, though, Ganley comments that “many of the poems herein belong to the realm of science-fiction.” Also during this time, he was one of the co-editors of Cataclysm.

However, Ganley is perhaps best known for his contributions to the genre of weird fiction and horror, both as a writer and publisher. Ganley returned to publishing in the 1970s with the release of Eerie Country, devoted to weird fiction, suspense and horror stories and poetry. Published in Buffalo, New York, U.S.A., nine issues were released, the first issue appearing in 1976, and the last in 1982. At the same time he was also publishing Weirdbook, which was so successful it quickly became a semi-professional magazine. In 1988 Ganley published the one-shot Weirdbook Sampler. In 1990 Ganley began publishing Weirdbook Encores, giving the first issue under this title #11, noting that it was a continuation of both Eerie Country and Weirdbook Sampler. Encores ran four issues, ceasing publication with #14 in 1993.

Starting in 1980, Ganley also published Amanita Brandy, a small press publication of weird, horror, and fantasy poetry. Four issues of Amanita Brandy were released, beginning in 1980 with issue #1, followed by Issue #2 in 1989, issue #3 in 1992, and the last issue published in Summer 1999.

As a publisher of books, he has released a number of titles by authors such as Joseph Payne Brennen, Peter H. Cannon, Brian Lumley, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Darrell Schweitzer, and Nancy Springer.

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