In and Out of Quandry
by Lee Hoffman
63 pp*/August 1982
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
When I checked e-mail this morning, I had received a notice that Lee Hoffman had died. Hoffman was a long time fan who also wrote some successful fiction in both science fiction and, more notably, western genres, with her Spur Award-winning novel The Valdez Horses being turned into a film starring Charles Bronson. In 1982, Hoffman was selected to be the Fan Guest of Honor at Chicon IV, the fortieth World Science Fiction convention. To further honor her, NESFA Press elected to bring out a short collection of some of Hoffman's fan writing, as well as her fictional contribution to Harlan Ellison's Again, Dangerous Visions.
In and Out of Quandry refers to the title of Hoffman's first fanzine, Quandry, which ran for thirty issues in the early 1950s. In fact, of the nine pieces selected for this volume, only one of them, "A Terrifying Tale" originally appeared in Quandry, with the majority of them appearing in Self Preservation in the 1960s. However, their origins are less important than the pieces themselves which run the gamut from the fanhistory pieces "The Bluffer's Guide to Publishing a Fanzine" and "A Surprise for Harlan Ellison" to the personal "Buying a Swordcane" and "Return of the Red Baron" to the downright silly "The Truth About Steam."
Because of the nature of the pieces collected in In and Out of Quandry, mostly memoirs, the collection has an undated feel to it. Hoffman's recollections of her first flight in an airplane still manage to capture the sense of adventure, even in a world in which air travel is commonplace. Leading a mystified Harlan Ellison around New York is written with Hoffman's wit and enjoyment and can be easily translated in a reader's mind to their own experiences.
The first piece in the collection, "The Bluffers Guide to Publishing a Fanzine" serves as an excellent introduction to both Hoffman and the niche of fandom to which she first belonged. While the mimeography techniques she describes may only be used by a few hard-core fans in the twenty-first century, many of the trials and lessons she learned in 1950 can still apply to the creation, distribution, and egoboo of a fanzine, even in this age of computers and the internet.
The two specifically fictional pieces in In and Out of Quandry also stand up well. "Dialogue" purports to be a conversation between Pontius Pilate and Herod Antipas about a way to ensure that the crowd does not elect to release Barabbas at Calvary. It is a cute piece which holds up well even as it leads the reader to desire more. "Soundless Evening," which first appeared in Again, Dangerous Visions telegraphs its heinous ending. Nevertheless, it still is a successful, if revolting, story despite that drawback.
In the best of cases, fannish memory can be fleeting, despite the efforts of fanhistorians. Fortunately, books like In and Out of Quandry are an attempt to pass along knowledge of fan writers to subsequent generations. Not only preserving fannish history from the extremely ephemeral medium of fanzines, but also giving an indication why we have honored our own.
|The Bluffer's Guide to Publishing a Fanzine||Lindbergh, Buck Rogers and Progress Department|
|A Terrifying Tale||Soundless Evening|
|Dialogue||Return of the Red Baron|
|Buying a Swordcane||The Truth About Steam|
|A Surprise for Harlan Ellison|
*In and Out of Quandry
is a double book, backed with A. Bertram Chandler's Up to the Sky in Ships.
I am only reviewing the Hoffman half of the book in this review.
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