By Jeanne Gomoll
The first title typed on the top of this page contained the word “history.” A reasonable reader’s expectation of accurate dates within an article that calls itself “history” compelled me to change the title to a less rigorous one and to warn the reasonable reader that numbers are not my strong suit. I will tend to be a bit vague when it comes to the whens of my story, at least as far as giving you exact dates. I’ve checked the dates that are included here, but will gladly stand corrected by those more numerically inclined than myself.
The Madison fan group has adopted several official and unofficial names in the course of its lifetime: “Madstf- SF3″ the Madison fan group. Its founders – Hank Luttrell, Lesleigh Luttrell, Janice Bogstad and Tom Murn – christened the group “Madstf” in 1974. (“Madstf” is an abbreviation for the Madison Scientifiction Group and echoes the Minneapolis fan group’s moniker, “Minnstf” – which in turn echoes an old fashioned term for SF.) The Madison group incorporated itself as “SF3” in 1976, and since then, the name “Madstf” has been largely ignored or unknown to most members of the group, except for the person on whom the annual responsibility falls to fill out the University of Wisconsin form which maintains our student status. The University knows us to this day only as Madstf. And we’re happy to continue answering to that name because it entitles us to free meeting space in Union South. Over the years, we’ve found convenient rooms there for monthly programs, annual corporate meetings, convention planning meetings, and – for a few years at the Wisconsin Center – WisCon itself.
In spite of the availability of the free Union rooms, the group has always it for its weekly Wednesday-night gathering, which tends to feel more like a party than a meeting. The formal, classroom-like arrangements of the Union South furniture encourage discussions governed by Robert’s Rules of Order and decisions based on the Australian balloting system – not very conducive for a party. Some people have blamed the sterility and uncomfortableness of these rooms for the demise of the monthly programs which for years were scheduled at Union South on the last Wednesday of every month – but that’s getting ahead of my story. In the early years, Madstf was famous for turning any party into a meeting – as opposed to Minnstf’s reputation for metamorphosing meetings into parties. We wanted a more relaxed setting for our Wednesday night gatherings.
The first meeting of the new group, Madstf, was held at the Wisconsin Student Association (WSA) Bookstore on the 600 block of State Street. A Goodwill Store took over that downstairs space eventually, and we followed the WSA Bookstore to its new quarters – a large, second floor flat on the corner of Gilman and State. When the bookstore went out of business, the Wednesday night meeting took residence in the first of three restaurant/bars, a decision that would forever alter the character of those meetings.
In the early bookstore years, most of our members attended the University or were attempting to kick the student habit. Madison bulges with SAs, (Students Anonymous) – people who are stretching out their 10th year of graduate school, or graduates who cling to their September-August calenders and cumpulsively audit 3 or 6 credits while they compete for cab-driver jobs with other Ph.Ds who love Madison too much to leave it. I was a Kelly-Girl myself, when I noticed the notice in The Daily Cardinal, one of the student newspapers for which I still had a subscription, even though I’d graduated more than a year before. I was auditing English classes in my spare time, had organized a feminist reading group with a group of other SAs and had been attempting to convince them that we ought to publish some of our discussions. It was too good to lose, I argued. My enthusiasm was not shared. Now I recall my compulsion to publish, and I wonder if maybe I missed writing term papers or if I was attempting to re-invent the fanzine. In any case, I didn’t have to push the idea any further after I learned about the new SF club: the Cardinal ad said they were going to publish a magazine.
Movie and political posters crowded the walss of the stairwell that led down to the WSA Bookstore and the air smelled of used books. There was a circle of chairs and a table at the far end of the store and that’s where I met some of the people who would become my primary social group for years to come.. The founders were there, of course–Hank and Lesleigh, Tom, and Jan. There were also a few people snagged by the newspaper notice: John Bartelt and a guy I used to think of as “purple shirt.”- I don’t remember much about that first, momentous meeting between the part – at the beginning – in which I uncomfortably, shyly hung back, and the part – later – when I raised my hand and said “I’ll help,” and gradually realized that I had just volunteered to be the artist for the fledgling publication, Janus. By the time Janus 2 was published, I was co-editing it with Jan Bogstad, and soon after that was discovering the meaning of words like “LoC,” “con,” and “fanzine.”
“What is this?” I asked, flipping through the mimeographed pages of an amateur magazine that had turned up, unrequested and unpaid-for in the mail.
“It’s a fanzine,” said Hank Luttrell.
“Fan-Magazine – Fan-zine. The editor sent it to you in trade for our fanzine,” Hank explained patiently.
“Our fanzine?” I asked, still at sea.
I will be forever grateful to Hank and Lesleigh Luttrell for the way they eased us into the fannish community. They didn’t inundate us with copies of fanzines, stories of fannish legends, or drop the names of hundreds of fans. They simply lent us a mailing list, mimeoed our zines, and answered our questions. Few of us knew much about Hank and Lesleigh’s Hugo-nominated fanzine, Starling at the beginning, and so we didn’t feel we had to live up to certain standards or assume that there was a limited set of “acceptable” fanzine topicss. We wrote and drew and published what interested us. It was only later that we figured out that feminist literary criticism, not to mention feminist points of view, not to mention fan groups dominated by feminists, were rather unusual things in fandom.