Texas Fandom

TKFW: Texas has a long and colorful fannish history, most of which is unknown to me. Nevertheless:

[From Curt Phillips.] In 1938 Dale Hart formed a "tri-cities chapter" of the Science Fiction League in Texas [per Harry Warner's All Our Yesterdays, those "cities" were Baytown, Pelley, and Goose Creek]. It grew into a sizable group and sent big delegations to the early Worldcons as well as publishing zines.

[From Richard Lynch's outline of fan history in the 1960s, living, and still growing even though it's over 800K, on the Internet.] In 1960 Lloyd D. Broyles of Waco, TX co-founded with Al Andrews of AL the short-lived Southern Fandom Group. Based on the NFFF it published a dittoed newsletter The Southern Fan until 1963. Though it died of lactivity, it set the stage for SFPA in 1961 and the SFC. However, this organization did not lead to formation of fandom within Texas.

My first contact with Texas fandom was at a Chattacon in the early 1980s when I helped Dennis Virzi shop for a bid party (a Worldcon?) he was throwing there. There was a NASFiC in Austin in 1985. I vaguely recall a DSC bid from out of Texas one year (I think they were trying for a Worldcon, a Westercon and a DSC all around the same time--just to be completists--of course, that's not so bad--there was a Canadian DSC bid for a while...). I've attended a number of the curiously sercon Armadillocons in Austin put on by FACT in the 1980s and seen a number of clubzines come out of Texas in the late '80s and '90s. In 1988 Pat Mueller (now Pat Virzi) won a Hugo for The Texas SF Inquirer. Karen Meschke and her husband Fred Duarte have been active both as dealers and con organizers (Karen chaired the 1997 Worldcon in San Antonio). Bookstore owner Willie Siros, Diana Thayer and her husband artist Teddy Harvia (real name David Thayer--MLR) are all part of the "usual suspects" of modern Texas fandom. Teresa Patterson in Dallas has also headed up a series of big conventions. Cepheid Variable, a college group in College Station puts on Aggiecon. Alex Slate is publishing a genzine called PhiloSFy from out of San Antonio. I've heard Alabama boy Greg Benford reminisce evilly about his part in early Dallas fandom. And Richard Brandt, fanzine fan and author of the article on El Paso below, wafted through SFPA a few years ago. Yet Texas has seemed less a part of Southern fandom than its own contained thing. For more on early Texas fans, see my notes on early Southern fandom in Part I.

(Postscript by MLR: AggieCon still functions. Dallas now has an established convention called FenCon which hosted Deep South Con in 2011. Pat Virzi and David Thayer showed up at that one. Otherwise, I am also clueless about Texas fandom. Perhaps someone with more knowledge of the situation would like to fill us in.)

Fandom West of the Pecos

Richard Brandt

[First published in a Corflu Ocho zine, but lifted from his reprint in The Times that Bind #1 in the February 1996 mailing of the Fan History Apa.--TKFW]

Details of the fannish prehistory of El Paso are sketchy at best. Claude Hall is known to have published a well-known fanzine, Muzzy, from El Paso during the Fifties, and other fans residing in the Sun City during that era included Eva "Wildcat" Kreuger and SSgt. Art Rapp, but the first known attempt at any organized fandom waited until the Seventies.

Zothique was the brainchild of a few young El Pasoans who had met each other over the science fiction racks at a local bookstore. Filing as an official student organization in order to reap the advantages of university affiliation, Zothique included such future stalwarts of Austin fandom as Willie Siros, Robert Taylor, Ed Scarborough, and Christine Pasanen (later Christine Morris). After driving to California for a Westercon, Willie said to himself, "Hey--we could do that," and Solarcon was born.

The first Solarcon met at the Plaza Hotel, where local film buff Jay Duncan was working; Jay also coordinated the film program. Philip Jose Farmer was GoH; this experience led Willie to the practice of inviting novice authors to their first GoHship (a practice he took with him to Austin and Armadillocon). Future Solarcon "discoveries" included George R.R. Martin and Howard Waldrop. Solarcon finally fell victim to staff losses in 1980.

The interim between stfnal conventions was filled by Scott Blacksher, an enthusiastic comics fan who started the El Paso Comic Con (later renamed El Paso Fantasy Festival, after Scott realized mundanes in El Paso inferred a negative connotation to the word "con"). Scott was an inspired promoter--he once delivered press releases to every newsroom in town while wearing a black-and-white costume with "Generic Superhero" emblazoned on the chest--but was hampered by his calculations that every con was bound to break 500 in attendance. Mounting debts killed off the Fantasy Festivals before the end of the Eighties.

Starquest formed as a group of fans, mostly from the west side of town, who coalesced around costumer Michele Ellington. The club began putting on Questicons in 1981, and by 1982 had even invited an author guest (Bob Vardeman). None of the first three cons had attracted more than 35 attendees, but this did not dissuade the club from flying andy offutt in from Kentucky as GoH for a disastrous fourth and final Questicon. The treasurer closed the bank account on the day the convention opened, some punk in an assassin costume banged on the GoH's door at seven in the morning, friendships were ruptured, marriages dissolved, and a couple of locals were left holding the bag for several hundred dollars they'd advanced the convention. That weekend pretty much put the kebosh on Starquest as well.

Another group coalesced around former Monkey House resident Jane Swatzell and evolved over time into the El Paso Science Fiction and Fantasy Alliance. After a false start at organizing a convention, in which the first choice as Chairperson and two of her officers absconded with two-thirds of the treasury, Amigocon got under way in 1986. Linguistics professor and ardent Dr. Who fan Marianne Phinney took charge of the art show for the second year, and since Amigocon has developed quite a reputation among artists; their guests have included Real Musgrave, Brad Foster, Kelly Freas, and David Cherry, while Mel White and Ingrid Neilson are semi-regular visitors.

Fanzines from El Paso were generated on a reasonably regular basis between 1986 and 1989, but have not been seen outside of apas for a little while now.

[Richard's zine included a request for more information on the following tantalizing topics: (1) The Science Fiction Syndicate of Austin, TX, publishers of "Science Fiction Bibliography" (1935) which ran a KTF review of Bob Tucker's first fanzine, (2) The Dripping Springs, TX, worldcon bid, (3) "Astra" Zimmer in Texas, (4) Greg Benford's articles in VOID on Texas fandom 1958-1963, (5) [Tom Reamy's--TKFW] Big D Worldcon bid, (6) Friendly Texans. [?]

For those seeking more information about the rest of Texas fandom, I suggest scanning the 1997 Worldcon progress reports and program book.--TKFW]

[IMAGE: Armadillocon 11 Badge]


Special thanks go to Samuel A. Smith, who digitized the SFC Handbook 2nd edition and gave gracious permission to use his existing work in the preparation of the 3rd edition. The main text of this page came from Sam's hard work.--MLR


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