Mary the Tower

Neither of us are Christians, but living in a Christian culture, and a heavily patriarchal one at that, we can’t avoid having our lives affected by it. Its presence is felt, of course, in The Red Man and Others, in which the Brotherhood of the Wheel is a thinly disguised Christianity, with the cult in Otasring a stand-in for the most extreme and intransigent examples Protestantism – something we both feels needed critiquing, because we both grew up near examples of this.

To us, the Bible isn’t the Word of God but a collection of manuscripts compiled in the past, edited, and translated to fit a certain way of thought. In the process it has been translated, retranslated, mistranslated and, it appears, tampered with.

This blog post by Diana Butler Bass is worth reading in full, as it gives a lot of context. The gist is that when scholar Elizabeth Schrader studied a digital image of what is known as Papyrus 66, the oldest complete text we have for the Gospel of John, dating from around the year 200, she found that it had been edited. Those edits have subsequently made it into our Biblical canon, and have shifted the importance attributed to one of the women in the Bible called Mary.

The Bible, as we know it, has Jesus visiting Martha, from a certain village, and her sister Mary, who sat at his feet and listened to what he was saying (Luke 10:38-42). Then we have John 11, who has Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, who live in Bethany. You’d think that these are the same people. However, Jesus was travelling in the opposite direction from Bethany when he visited that “certain village” of Mary and Martha. So, these are two different stories, about different families.

John 11 opens with a simple sentence: “Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister, Martha.” This is where Elizabeth Schrader discovered that an alteration had been made in the 4th century: The name ‘Martha’ originally read ‘Maria’ – in Greek a difference of a single letter, changing the sentence into: “Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, at the village of Mary and his sister, Mary.” It’s a clunky sentence, for sure, but that’s what it says. The change had been carried through the text; Mary was changed into Martha, pronouns were changed and “sister” made plural.

So, it is not Martha, but Mary who tells Jesus: “Yes, Lord. I believe that you are the Messiah. The one who’s come into the world.” This does explain why this Mary was important enough to mention in Lazarus’ story. It is an important confession; one of two. The other? Peter, who tells Jesus: “You are the Messiah, the son of the Living God,” to which Jesus replies: “You are Peter, the rock upon I will build my church.”

If it was not Martha who recognises Jesus, but then further goes unmentioned, but Mary – could this then be Mary Magdalene? Did Mary see her own brother resurrected, and then was at Jesus’ grave to see himself resurrected? It would make narratively sense. Especially since Mary Magdalene is not “Mary, from Magdala” as long was assumed, as there was no place of that name at the time. Jesus liked his metaphors, and just like he called his disciple Simeon “his rock”, Petrus, so he named Mary Magdalene, “tower”.

Two people, a man and a woman, who recognise him as the Son of God. Two people he gives a title: Peter, “the rock upon which I build my church,” and Mary, “the tower.” Jesus also liked his parables of fish and fishermen – not strange for a preacher around the Sea of Galilee. The image that comes to mind if we take these very important people together, is a rock with a tower: a lighthouse. And perhaps that’s what Jesus had in mind for his church. Not a watchtower, a church wherein to huddle in fear, but a beacon of hope, a light that guides for all at sea. For him, God never lived in the temple, or in a church, but out there, in the world. Even if Jesus wasn’t familiar with lighthouses – they were around in Roman times, but the placid Sea of Galilee may not have needed them – then still Mary, the tower of strength, would be the church built on Peter, the rock.

How different Christianity could have been if Mary Magdalene’s story had not been partially erased: if that important scene of her recognising him as God’s son had been allowed to carry through to her being present at his resurrection. We might have had a more equal church; a kinder church, in which there was really place for everyone – not only as worshippers, but as its leaders.

The Labourer Who Cried Werewolf

I was poking around in the Dutch newspaper archive, and found this contemporary write-up of the Beast of Gévaudan:

Paris, 27 November. The newspapers of this city mention a strange horror-animal, which is said to have killed several people, and has shown itself in the forest of Mercoire, near Langogne (a small city with a castle and a harbour, in the north-east of Gascogne and Bazadois; on the river Garonne); according to the descriptions of it, it can not be counted under any known species of animals: some guessed it a panther or leopard, others a hyena, others yet again the cub of a she-wolf who has played with a dog, and finally others said it to be a werewolf; though some who doubt the veracity of the story guess that it has come from a story about a strange animal, which had shown itself for some years in Germany, and was shot to death there, and from which at some printers the image can still be found. (Middelburgsche Courant 4 December 1764)

The wolf shot by François Antoine on September 21, 1765, displayed at the court of Louis XV

From the same newspaper then, 16 May 1780, this advertisement: A FARM HAND, or so-called WEREWOLF, who can do all sorts, but is unmarried, and also is a BRICK LAYER, if it pleases you, will serve you in these qualities, on a sortable tractement, on a plantation in Rio Essequebo, can be reached via the publisher of this newspaper for more details.

And again, on the 5th March 1801: A BRICKLAYER and a WEREWOLF, both requiring solid employment for 7 or 8 months, with or without board – write urgently to A. Keur in Arnemuiden for information.

On 16 May 1815: A skillful WEREWOLF needed, D. 78.

So, apparently there’d been a tradition to call a labourer a werewolf. This was not something I was familiar with, and seems to have been a very local usage, as this is all in one newspaper, on one of the southern Dutch islands of Zeeland. Looking in modern and older dictionaries, I don’t find any support for it – it only mentions weerwolf as the supernatural being; a person changing themselves into a wolf.

What I did find was a windmill called De Weerwolf, erected in 1878 in Essenbeek, not a huge distance from Middelburg. There’s another one in Leiden, De Weerwolf or De Wolff near Leiden, built in (or before) 1645 and disappeared before 1820. There further are several water mills called Waterwolf, including one close to where I grew up. According to Wikipedia waterwolf refers to the water’s tendency to swallow up land (like a greedy wolf), but I think it works both ways – by naming the mill, you ask it to swallow water, as the windmill would swallow weather (weer).

Water pumping station De Waterwolf, Lauwerzijl in 1927

So, how do we bring that back to our labourer looking for work? Several Dutch werewolf stories I know are about labourers or other people of the lower classes (the upper classes stick to vampirism, I’d say). The Dutch folklore database links lycanthropy with insatiability – when calling a water- or windmill insatiable, it’s saying they swallow up the water, the wind, but also they get the work done. So, perhaps it’s very simple – the labourer calling himself a werewolf says: “I work hard; throw it at me and I’ll get it done!”

Beware of “Reasonable” Fascists

In the first paragraph of our Oera Linda blog post I’d stated that the Oera Linda Book is a fake, co-opted by the Nazis in the 1930s, and now a darling of neo-Nazis. A while ago I couldn’t sleep, and looked on the internet for documentaries on the Oera Linda Book (as you do). The first Google result was a documentary in a series called Our Subverted History.

It had a voice-over establishing that the origins of the book were disputed, and it claimed not to have answers, just to present the facts, saying the viewer could then make up their own mind. It was a soft, measured, reasonable voice. The music was atmospheric – a low synthesiser drone; “mists of time” stuff. The footage playing beneath the voice-over was historical footage of the six-spoked wheel, central to the Book and its script (“stand skrift” – “sanskrit” aha!). In black and white, it showed the wheel in Frisian (northern-Dutch/German?) folk art, decorating farm gables, even traditionally baked celebratory loaves.

Without knowing the precise origins of the footage, I can safely say: That’s from a Nazi propaganda film. The unwary reader does well to be careful, as the material is as insidious as it’s enticing: it would be so lovely to find pagan roots in your own culture. There probably are, but first of all you have to ask whether those roots add relevance to what it is now, and secondly – is the thing really the thing we think it is?In this sequence we see real examples of folk art, with the wheel motive. The first one is introduced with runes, and a sprig of wholesome flowers.

Many images are homely. Then we see a young woman, of the Nordic type, showing an amulet in the same style to a craftsman, who sets to work – drawing out a big rune (note the swastika on the pot in the distance). We’ve already wandered in falsification here. Then children parading with what I guess is based on an Easter bread; they should be a bread cockerel on top of a wooden cross – what these children are carrying seems another falsification to me. We’re carefully led up the garden path by the original filmmakers.

By repeating the (six-spoked) wheel that forms the basis of the Oera Linda’s script, again and again the documentary makers imply legitimacy, but it’s a false comparison at best. Would we point at a car’s hubcap and say: “See?” Likewise, should we look at the Frisian folk art, as shown in the documentary, and find the Germanic sun wheel? We see a woodcarver at work in the documentary, and various examples of woodcarving work. Around our home, we ourselves have several family heirlooms carved in this typical Frisian style.

The oldest examples the various museums have of this characteristically Frisian craft are from the 17th century, so not as old as you might think. This doesn’t say everything – it was indeed an ‘at home’ craft, taught by fathers to sons, or by copying what you had around the house. It’s something that doesn’t take a lot of time to learn (though to do it well is a different matter) and definitely doesn’t take a lot of space. This spoon rack is a very good example of it.

It was made around the turn of the last century by my great grandfather, Sietze van Dijk, who was a potter in Friesland. In his spare time, he also carved various other decorative to display around the house, using the traditional motifs. We’ve got a pair of clogs, a picture frame, and the spoon rack.

We indeed see the circle motif there, which the documentary presents as the Frisian folk memory of the pagan sun wheel. Firstly, I can safely say that my great grandfather, who died in 1945 at the age of 75, didn’t have much truck with the Nazis. He’d probably have called what he carved ‘patterns’, and if prompted he’d explain that the shapes are stylised and geometric because that’s the most natural way of carving wood with a chisel and knife. If pressed, I’m willing to bet he’d recognise the circles as flowers, not suns, and definitely not pagan sun wheels.

The claim that there are pagan sun wheels hiding in plain sight in Frisian material culture falls apart when we actually look at more aspects of that culture. If the Frisians were so keen on surrounding themselves with sun wheels, then we’d see that elsewhere too. However, look at the traditional painting work from Hindeloopen, which like the woodcarving was a folk art and mainly used to decorate one’s own home, from which we also have the first examples from the 17th century. We’ve got samples of this around the house too – some household objects we bought at a second-hand shop, others that were painted by my own dad after he’d taken a course. They’re not quite identical, but definitely all from a very strong tradition. There are circular motifs here, and some even divided into six equal parts. They’re flowers.

When dealing with northern Dutch folklore, you really have to be on your guard – when researching you inevitably stumble on fascist sources, either modern or from the 1930s, and you have to double check whether the material is being correctly interpreted. And when writing it up, for the avoidance of doubt any doubt, you’ve got to be clear where you stand, so you won’t end up in a library of neo-fascist source texts. That documentary about the Oera Linda Book presented a warm bed for anyone who’d be willing to have an open mind. They were definitely fascists though, and hiding in plain sight.

All their documentaries started with this slide. I’ve reported the channel to YouTube, and I hope this in itself is enough for it to be taken down. “Our Pagan Past” is a well which is truly poisoned; one that I’m loathe to drink from, and also don’t want to stand at the handle of, cranking up buckets for others.


Van Gogh’s Ear

What really happened on the evening of 23 December 1888 in Arles? And how much of his ear did Vincent van Gogh actually cut off? And why did he do it? Usually, I’m wary of “now, finally: the true story!” books, as they’re too easily a set-up for crackpottery (no, DaVinci did not paint Mary Magdalen in his Last Supper, and Walter Sickert was not Jack the Ripper). Bernadette Murphy’s Van Gogh’s Ear, however, wipes away a century’s worth of careless reporting, gossip, myth-making and speculating, instead unearthing primary sources to bring a careful, particularly thorough and compelling narrative surrounding that one event.

The colour section contains a spread of two self-portraits Vincent painted in January ‘89, shortly after he was released from the hospital where he was treated. Murphy writes about them:

There is not a shred of self-pity or melodrama: he looks straight out from the canvas at the viewer, unnervingly steady. Vincent was not only acknowledging in paint what he had done – his own particular way of expressing emotional experience – but he was also recording his self-harm. (…)

Despite the Van Gogh Museum having accepted both portraits as authentic, there has been much debate about them amongst critics: why would he paint the same portrait twice? What about the differences between both paintings, like the colour of the fur trimming of the hat (black on one painting, blue on another)? The Japanese print in the background of the second portrait is taken as a sign that it’s the genuine article of the two, as it’s known that Vincent had it in his collection. However, others think the latter an “absolute fraud,” with the copyist omitting the pipe from Vincent’s mouth, but keeping the lips pursed. To my eye, both of the paintings are genuine. Should an art critic want to make anything of the colour of the fur trimming, they don’t understand anything about light, colour or art, and have no business critiquing art.

The first portrait, made immediately on his return to his Yellow House, is a record of himself after the traumatic event, much as I have photographed myself after a serious accident, and Angeline has photographed herself immediately after major surgery. It’s a psychological need, and perhaps a way of coming to terms with a changed ‘self’. The portrait is also the work of someone who is really good at what he does, but at the same time is physically unwell. In the background and the green cape we see Vincent’s familiar technique and colour use. We know it well from so many paintings, and he could probably do that in his sleep. When he paints his face, however, he gets unstuck. He’d done many self-portraits by then, but the bandage and the new fur-trimmed hat he’d bought would’ve changed his usual set-up for painting his face. Also, being still weak, probably tired and perhaps medicated, meant he wasn’t in the best form to paint his portrait – you wouldn’t do your best work in his circumstances either.

However, he’d recorded what he wanted, and left it that for the moment – perhaps happy that he got the thing done at all. I can imagine, though, that a week or so later, he looked at the painting and had a change of heart. Rather than fixing the painting, he made a new one. After all, it wasn’t uncommon for him to return to the same subject several times. The pose he takes is knowingly similar to the earlier painting, as it is a reaction to it. We can see that the padding beneath the bandage is not as bulky; he’ll have had it renewed, and with his wound slowly healing, less padding will have been needed. Vincent’s face in the painting looks more like the one we’re used to seeing, though still clean-shaven, and he proves to himself that his painting skills are returning to him. Where the earlier red and orange background can be seen as the depiction of a mind that had been in turmoil, he now paints the Japanese print and a painting easel behind him: he is feeling calmer now, and looking to the future again, as an artist.

There’s another self-portrait which has been considered a fake. There have apparently been decades of doubt about it, but I cannot imagine why – if you’d forge a Van Gogh, surely you’d at least make it look more like one, doing some of the stripey and swirly stuff? And you’d not give him that weird expression, surely? He painted this portrait in August 1889 while in the asylum of Saint-Rémy. Vincent had been suffering from depression, and a psychotic episode that started in July and lasted for a month and a half. In a later letter to his brother Theo, Vincent wrote about a self-potrait “attempt from when I was ill”, and it’s a haunting piece of work. Van Gogh’s usual painting style is still there, somewhat, but it’s subdued by the heavily tamped-on paint. There’s no surety of line or light touch, but muddy colours and impasto noodling.

Anyone who is familiar with depression will recognise the look in Vincent’s face – it’s complete withdrawal, with slack and lifeless features. I’m not sure which title Vincent would have given it if he’d been in a poetic frame of mind, but I imagine “portrait of the artist as a hollow man” would be fitting. It’s not the portrait of a man who is mentally well at all, and yet Vincent felt the need to record this state of being; perhaps another attempt to getting to grips with this ‘self’ he had been confronting for the larger part of a year. And of course we know how it ended all too soon. His later paintings still have signs of doom and turmoil, though also colour and life; at times he had hope for the future. Resignation, at least.

Vincent’s time in Arles plays a large role in my novelette Hastur’s Canvas, out via Amazon UK and US.There’s depression in there, and Vincent’s descent on the path that would ultimately lead to his death. However, the book is set against the background of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, so fact and fiction play hide and seek with each other!


The Sea, My High Tide Lover

We’ve made a trailer for our story For All the Dead, which will appear in Flame Tree Press’ collection of horror stories, Beyond the Veil. You can read more about it here, and of course order it at your indie book store or online.

We really had fun with this one! The frame you see at the start was carved about 125 years ago by my great-grandfather, Sietze van Dijk, in traditionally Frisian style. It (usually) holds the 1895 wedding photo of my great-grandparents.

The shanty, with lyrics, is our own, though of course we’d secretly be quite chuffed if someone were to think it a traditional song:

The sea she is my high tide lover,
She provides me with her waves.
The sea she is a jealous lover,
And she took back all she gave.

In preparation for our story we wrote down several bits of lore the people of our (fictional) Soltcamp would believe about the sea. Not all of it made it into the story, though we hope that the idea of the sea as an off-page but very present character remains. We’d like to share some of those thoughts with you:

  • They knew that the sea would keep taking; a different force acted there than on the land. On the first day, God divided the Earth and the Sea. While God dwelled on the land, he was not welcome beyond the dike.
  • The sea is like a mistress: the men of Soltcamp plow her at night-time with the prows of their boats, and in daytime they return home to their wives’ beds to sleep and rest.
  • There wasn’t a man or woman born on the coast who couldn’t read the sea and the sky like a book. It was the book they read next to the Bible – they kept one eye on the Bible, the other on the sea.
  • It was a thing for the widows and orphans, and fewer orphans came every year, as the boys grew up and followed their dead fathers to the sea, or followed their own instincts inland, away from the salt air. There were some whose blood the sea never called to, and sometimes she thought they were the lucky ones.
  • The people from Ollerom look down on the Soltcampers as a lesser community. They call them fish heads, and act as if the smell of fish never leaves them, no matter how much soap they use.
  • Pastor Arend was at one point called Joannes: Oane is an old Frysian version of Anne, and I guess of Joannes. Joannes is a call-back too, to Oannes, the fish-man sage of Sumerian legend, who brought writing, arts and the sciences to man. It wouldn’t make sense for there to be a connection, of course.
  • The underlying event here is initiation into womanhood. Does the girl want the knowledge that comes with growing up and taking on the responsibility of marriage? Or, to turn it around: does the mother want to pass on the knowledge that will mean her daughter is decisively no longer a child and has to make her own mistakes?

Angeline on a very cold day in early April 2013, at the monument for the 83 fishermen of the village of Paesens-Moddergat, who drowned in the night from 5 on 6 March 1883.

Beyond the Veil

Just in time for Hallowe’en, but certainly in time for Christmas, the horror anthology Beyond the Veil is appearing with Flame Tree Press. You can already pre-order it in hardback, paperback and ebook, which we’d urge you to do, what with the paper shortages. Beyond the Veil is the second collection in a horror series; the first, After Sundown, was nominated for both the Shirley Jackson and the British Fantasy Awards for Best Anthology, with three of its stories selected for Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year.

Beyond the Veil contains twenty original horror stories, sixteen of which were commissioned from some of the top names of the genre, with the other four selected from hundreds of submissions. It was again edited by Mark Morris, who writes: “I’m not interested in reassuring tales of monsters vanquished and the status quo restored. Horror stories to be should be confrontational. They should be about things that truly disturb us; things that prey on our minds. Things like loneliness and isolation; loss and grief; illness and death; the fear we feel for our own personal safety when faced with intimidation, violence and abuse.”

You can find the full list on Flame Tree Press’s blog post, as well as links to further info on each author. It’s a great list of names, and we are really proud to see ours amongst Priya Sharma, Toby Litt, Matthew Holness (Dream Weaver, and actor, of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace of which we’re huge fans), Lisa Tuttle, and Jeremy Dyson (League of Gentlemen, another favourite of ours).

For our story, For All The Dead, we returned to the area I grew up in, close to the Northern Dutch coast, but that of a century and a bit back. We find ourselves in Soltcamp, the fictionalised version of Zoutkamp, the fisherman’s village that once lay by the sea. It’s a village where the people kept, in the words of one of our characters, ‘one eye on the Bible, the other on the sea.’ It allowed us to play with the folklore of the sea, and embroider our own mythology.

Familiar as we are with the history of Zoutkamp, we worked in elements of one of its infamous residents of the past, the seer Meldine, who was said to have made many predictions of things still to happen, and with her followers to practice her own particular version of Christianity. She is said to have appeared at funerals to preach about the fate of the departed, until the villagers felt she carried that too far and told her to stop. You can read more about Meldine, and other prophets of the sea, in our article for Northern Earth.

The sea, an ever lurking danger behind the dikes of the low-lying areas, certainly had a hold over the people of the coast. It provided their livelihood, but several big floods also devastated the countryside. Chief amongst them was the Christmas flood of 1717, claiming 14,000 lives, but there were other dangers. For our story we were thinking of the disaster of of 1883. A few years ago we visited the monument on the dike of the village of Moddergat on a cold and windy April day; its plaque tells how 109 fishermen went out on 22 ships, and how 17 ships and 83 men remained at sea.

The sea giveth, and she taketh away.

The Price of Anti-Vax

Today I read that an art academy in the USA decided that students can only attend when fully vaccinated unless they’ve got a medical or religious waiver: “Of the major religions practiced in the United States, only the Church of Christ, Scientist (whose adherents are known as Christian Scientists) and the Dutch Reformed Church are the two religious groups that openly discourage vaccination.”

Of course, the American anti-vax movement would have its roots in Dutch religious zealots. The Dutch Reformed Church would be the church of the Secession of 1834, by Reverend Hendrik de Cock, and it was his own son he carried to the grave because of his stance against vaccination. Dr. Hanneke Hoekstra, university lecturer on modern history wrote about this in her paper The Deceased Child:

In 1840 a son was born to the De Cock family, Regnerus Tjaarda. When he was one year old, the child got the feared smallpox. To survive, the little boy had to be vaccinated with cowpox, but this brought De Cock a moral dilemma. His oldest son Helenius had been vaccinated against pox in 1838; he was witness to what happened.

My father became familiar with the arguments of dr. A. Capadose and others against the vaccine soon after his conversion. Then and also later he was suspicious of everything that came from the side of the non-believers or was heavily promoted by them. (…) He constantly left the sick room and when evening had fallen I followed him without being noticed and witnessed how he poured his heart out to his God.

Trusting on his direct connection with God, De Cock decided that “Your will, and not mine, will be done.” When his son died the next day, there was not a word of complaint against God from the mouth of his father, according to Helenius. The death inspired their religious practice and their religion decided on death. (from: The Deceased Child, Hanneke Hoekstra, p. 199)

Vaccination depicted as a cow-like monster, being fed children in 1807. A precursor of the modern “not my children!” movement. Everything old is new again!

Of course, he wasn’t the first anti-vaxer; in the earlier 19th century there’d been an offensive against the pox, met by resistance from orthodox religious corners. Still; this one church, and one man’s religious verve, and we now still have people in the USA (and The Netherlands?) who are not getting vaccinated because of him. Aside from his boy Regnerus, how many have died because of it?

Farmer and writer (and De Cock’s nemesis) M.D. Teenstra had seen how tuberculosis spread like wildfire through his family in the 1820s. He’d written about smallpox in the Dutch colony of South Africa in his The Fruits of my Labours (1830):

In 1713 and 1755 smallpox must have raged terribly here. It appears that these childhood diseases are more dangerous amongst black and coloured people and make more victims than amongst Europeans. It was the knowledgeable and humanitarian Dibbetz (…), I say it was mr. R. de Klerk Dibbetz, inspector-general of the Cape’s hospitals, who in secrecy went to the Portuguese ship Belisario, anchored in the Table Bay where it had arrived on the 18th November 1803, where he got a strand of the material without the people’s knowledge, with which he in the city started his beneficial deceit, until finally governor Janssens, even though at first against the vaccine, allowed him the use the great hospital, now the barracks, for the further application of it. When the government saw the beneficial results, they showed Dibbetz their gratitude for his dangerous and courageous, his beneficial undertaking, with a genuine display of admiration for him, as well as costly gifts.

Meanwhile, in the province of Groningen (where Teenstra and De Cock lived) a 1an emergency hospital was built in 1817 because of a typhus epidemic, while newspapers in 1849 had daily updates on cholera sufferers and mortality numbers.

Article from an 1849 regional newspaper, tracking cholera infections and mortalities, much like our modern news bulletins.

All this goes to show that people of the era were well aware of the dangers and suffering caused by the various epidemics; the 19th century was an era of epidemics, but also one of enlightenment and medical progress. Not having your children vaccinated in 1840 certainly was a choice.

Hair Synchronicity

Sometimes, we invent our characters’ backstories. At other times, they write themselves.

In 1898, during the restoration of the Romanesque church of Westerwijwerd, a slab of plaster fell away, uncovering a fresco from the first half of the 14th century. It’s likely made after an example from the 12th century, and shows to Frisian warriors fighting with lance (“kletsie”) and sword. The duellists have a typical Frisian hairstyle, a status symbol for powerful medieval Frisians.

The medieval mural in the church of Westerwijwerd.

I recognised the hairstyle; my grandfather has it on a photo of him as a small child, and he still had it as an old man: shaven, except for a “tuufke” on top. It seems to me a ‘go to’ northern hairstyle in the early 20th century, and I wonder whether it’s a continuation of that old-Frisian hairdo. If it was merely practical, wherefore then the tuft?

My grandfather Hemke and grandmother Willemmina, mid-1950s.

In the middle ages the northern Dutch coastal area was a feudal society in more than one way. Rich farmers and their family clan ruled their own little fiefdoms, and they often had their strongholds in which they could retreat in times of war. And war there was often, as there was no central authority, with pope and emperor far away, the area functionally an island and rife with feuds.

This is the background we borrowed for the setting of The Red Man, in which the farm girl Ymke lives in an area of perpetual war between the local nobility. In The Return of the Uncomplaining Child we learn that our warrior woman Kaila has been in the northern region as a mercenary. Ymke doesn’t ask her on which side she fought – where nobility fights over a piece of land, the people living on it inevitably lose, whoever wins.

But then, looking at that old-Frisian hairdo, it struck me: In Ymke, she’s got a girlfriend from ‘up north’, but her mohawk haircut also comes from there!

Kaila and Ymke.

My Father’s Voice

My father, Brendan Adams, was dialect curator at the Ulster Folk Museum at Cultra, and in that capacity he spent an enormous amount of time gathering and preserving the Ulster dialect, both in the field and via the ambitious Ulster Dialect Survey.

Dad wasn’t partisan when it came to language: he spoke both Irish and Ulster-Scots fluently (amongst other languages) and he believed strongly in the value of people getting together and talking to each other. So often in Northern Ireland, language and culture are weaponised to exclude and build walls between us, but Dad believed that the languages and dialects of our island belong to us all. 

Dad died right before I was born in 1981, so not only have I never met him, I’ve barely even heard his voice. Until now, the only audio sample to which I’ve had access was a snippet on a dictaphone he’d used for work, and which had been partially recorded over. 

But now Donal McAnallen at UFTM is heading up a project to digitise the museum’s old dialectology recordings, including some recordings of school children in Co. Armagh in the 1960s. Those children, now in their 60s, have been able to hear their childhood voices, as have their grandchildren, and we can all hear just how the enormous social change that has taken place in the decades since has influenced both accent and dialect.

And my father’s voice is on those newly digitised tapes too. This morning BBC Radio Ulster’s Good Morning Ulster played some snippets, which begins a little past the 1:25 mark.

You can read more about the project and my dad’s work on the BBC website.

BBC followed up with Angeline; she talks about the experience of hearing her father’s voice here.

Brendan Adams, with his uncle Richard Hayward, founders of the Ulster Dialect Survey


They Were Always Here: Tigrina

When going through the membership lists of the Weird Tales Club for our earlier post on female Weird Tales fans, one name stood out: Tigrina. I was curious who the woman was who hid behind that pseudonym. The story of Edythe Eyde (1921-2015) is far more interesting than I could have imagined, and illuminates how women’s contributions to early fandom got erased; not always by malice, but also because the stories that survived were those of the people who endured in fandom; men. For the full Tigrina story I happily point to the very extensive, three-part article on Really, do click the links – there’s a wealth of ’40s fandom in there!

What we (the general ‘we’) know about early fandom is very much depending on the stories that are told around it; the stories that were told by the men who went on to write books or did other great things in the field of SFF, and were then invited on podia to tell the old stories. And what they then told about: “Uncle Forry, please tell us again about Ray Bradbury!” and “Uncle Ray, please tell us again about when you saw King Kong for the first time, and about Ray Harryhausen!” and “Other Uncle Ray, please tell us again about Forrest Ackerman!” It became a circle jerk, in which many fans who also propped up fandom got forgotten, including the women. But fandom was as lively then as now, if not more so, and fans built networks, reached out and met up.

Forrest “Forry” Ackerman wrote in Weird Tales, March 1940, on the topic of Weird Tales Clubs: “I should like to take this means of informing the imagi-natives of Los Angeles and environs of the existence of just such an organization in this vicinity. Over one hundred consecutive meetings have been held!” He counts Henry Kuttner as a member, and visits from Robert Bloch, Catherine Moore, and Emil Pataja. “We maintain a monster magazine library for the free use of all members, with Weird Tales running back over ten years, and The Hyborian Age and A History of the Necronomicon. The ‘Ghouls’ Get-together’ takes place every Thursday night of the year (excepting rare fifth Thursdays, when we all turn into vampires and go out and ‘paint the town red.‘)”

Ackerman’s pitch was clearly skewed towards the Weird Tales audience, and his trademark hyperbole is already evident. It was catnip, though, to teenage Edytha Eyde, who can be counted as an early ‘fandom goth’. She wrote to him: “I have always wished to belong to such an organization as yours, as I am deeply interested in the Occult, particularly Witchcraft and Black Magic. Unfortunately, my family has always been strongly against my studying these fascinating subjects. I am attending college now, however, (sophomore at exclusive Girls’ School) and I live away from home, so I have more of an opportunity to study the Occult sciences, and also to write this letter to all of you.”

She enclosed a piece for Ackerman’s zine, Voice of the Imagination (VOM), aptly titled ‘Hymn to Satan’. And we’re off to the races. Further issues of VOM saw letters printed, in which she expressed the wish to attend their gatherings, and told more about herself: “My parents, although kind and understanding in some ways, have never understood my liking for the weird and occult, Therefore, they would never understand or approve of my keeping up a correspondence with those who share my enjoyment of terrifying and gruesome things. In fact, if my secret were discovered, I would be denied the privileges I already enjoy, such as an occasional horror show, or spooky radio program.”

She also countered critique of her artwork: “I believe you stated…that my pictures would meet more with your approval if the characters sketched were not wearing quite so much clothing. Well, forgive me for saying this, but I disagree most heartily with your opinion. I do not wish to hurt your feelings, but the scantily clad damsels which so often appear in your fan magazines, although nicely drawn, do not seem, to me, to fit in with the type of magazines they are supposed to be. I think that figures clad in weird futuristic costumes or mystic robes and veils would be much more appropriate.”

Astute criticism there, and one which still applies to Fantasy art. She was curious about other members of the Los Angeles Fantasy Society, with a hint of things to come: “Also, I noticed that in the picture that Fojak gave me of Morojo and him in Chicago (or was it New York?) at the Fantasy Convention, there was another girl in that picture. Who is she? She certainly is attractive. I would like to meet both Morojo and her some time.” (Fojak, Morojo and Pogo are all ‘Ackermanese’ nicknames, based on Esperanto).

Forry would eventually meet up with Tigrina, and gushing write-ups in VOM ensued: “FOLLOW THIS GREAT FEATURE:–“TALES OF TIGRINA”– EVERY ISSUE EXCLUSIVELY IN THE VOICE!” 4E’s (his own rendering of “Forry”) prose is torturous, but the undercurrent is clear. He’s smitten: “She dressed in green and brown, complete to green fingernails. Fascinatingly, her second finger left hand is longer than her middle finger, the sign the Old Norse nue for the were-ylgr…the lycanthropess!(…) She said she’d offer me a lick of her ice cream but she was very conscious about germs. I wondered it she meant me. Later she tempted we with an apple. – (Serpentigrina!) I bit. But if she thought I lost my soul she was mistaken for my soul was saved — permanently — a long time ago. In The Beginning, in fact.”

Tigrina enjoyed being amongst like-minded folk, seeing Forry’s write-ups as a ‘welcome to the group!’ She cosplayed, bringing into practice what she saw as appropriate science fiction dress, started a petition to have Bela Lugosi guest star on the Inner Sanctum Mystery radio show, then just launching, and soon took another swipe at VOM‘s cover nudes: “Believe me, I hate to say this, but I thought that the cover was disgusting. It is well drawn, but it is just the picture itself which is repulsive to me.” She herself provided the cover of VOM 22, of April 1942, portraying her alter-ego, the witch Hazel with her cat Spoox.

She wrote in this issue: “To be able to retain the powers of performing spells, reciting incantations, etc. one must be possessed of a strong will. In dissipation, the will is steadily weakened so that it can easily be dominated by others. So students of the occult should not indulge in harmful practices. I am interested in Devil worship and Black Magic purely for revenge, power, love of mystery and just ‘pure devilishness’, but no further than that. I know also, that my interest in the Black Arts is, to a certain extent, a rebellion from the exceedingly ‘straight and narrow’ path that I have sometimes been forced to tread.”

And, again: “I was glad to see there were not so many of those horrid pictures this time. I feel that I must, however, express my extreme disapproval of the damsel in this edition of your magazine. Why, she is not even pretty! If all, women appeared thusly, I think that they should be exterminated. Ugh, she is posilutely rePULsive! And the title of the picture makes it doubly so. I can readily see how one might call the small picture on the cover of your magazine ‘art’, that is, if you like that sort of thing. (Said ‘art’ does not include the monster, creature, or oversized balloon she holds in her hands). But how can you even for an instant think that there is anything artistic or beautiful, or fantastic about that horrificaricature on page seven.”

Tigrina referred to part of the photo collage; a nude in the lower right corner, her nipples and genitals covered by the text “SPECIAL VOMERMAID”, holding the head of Ray Bradbury. She herself was marked with number 13. The drawing on page 7 indeed has nothing to recommend it, and nothing to do with SFF. I wonder how many female fans were turned off by these repeated nudes. They may seem tame to modern eyes, but they still give off the signal: we allow women in, but actually we’re still a boys’ club. How many women considered putting up with this as the price of admission? And how many women were unwilling to pay at all?

Her admission of Satanism got pushback in VOM 23, June 1942: “Tigrina is a silly girl.” and “Well, I don’t believe in forcing people to live religious lives, either. But she didn’t have to rebel that much!” Henry Kuttner, at 27 perhaps a bit older than other VOM readers and by then already married to CL Moore, had a more considered reply: “I do feel that Tigrina is sincere, and also that she has rather got off on the wrong foot, so to speak. Also I’m a little dubious about her expressed motives – revenge and power and so on. I have no personal criticism to make, but I feel it advisable to say that if those are Tigrina’s chief and only motives, she should consider carefully before investigating the real Satanism. (…) I thought it advisable to write her through Madge, in view of the always possible danger of an amateur student being victimized by fake cults.” It’s worth reading in full.

Tigrina’s reply to her critics was revealing, but you need to take her age and her conservative background into account: “It is true that occasionally I dabble in the Black Arts (what person does not who is interested in that sort of thing?) but only as an experiment or as a harmless (?) manner to give vent to my injured feelings. And I do not limit myself to experimenting with evil spells against those whom I dislike! But if there are truly such opposite beings as god and Satan, if such opposite beings do exist, I think that you know which deity that I would accept as Master!”

After this, there was radio silence from Tigrina, presumably because of college work. She returned with VOM 36, October 1944, (“Now that I’m not so closely supervised”), an issue that saw several of its members writing from overseas, in uniform. There had been gossip about her, which she now caught up with: “I was amused, amazed, and dismayed by the many conjectures and opinions concerning my character, physical appearance, etc. Evidently, some of you do not even believe that I exist. I assure you that I do, although I have often wondered why, and so, I imagine, have some of you.” She called out one Bob Tucker in particular, who apparently was an early champion of the ‘fake geek girl’ theory. Even then! “I shall probably never ‘keep company with any half-baked fans out of sheer gratitude’ as you so quaintly express it, nor am I in the habit of keeping company with friends for reasons of sheer gratitude anyway. I associate with my friends because of mutual enjoyment in companionship.” She also had no time for Sam Youd: “I was amused at Sam Youd’s aversion to me, and his calling me an “affected young school girl”. Perhaps I am affected, and it is true I am young in years, but I am no longer a school girl. So you would like to give me a thrashing, eh wot? What on earth for? What ever have I done to you? Do you feel the urge to beat up everyone whose opinions perhaps vary with yours?”

Then she finally read Kuttner’s open letter to her, and she reflected on the preceding few years: “I wish to express belated gratitude to Mr. Kuttner for taking the time from his writing of weird fiction in order to give me his opinions and advice. Many of you held an antagonistic attitude toward me in bygone days. I can see how you came to the conclusion that I was a spoiled young schoolgirl. Consider my position, however. There I was, for the first time away from the confines of home life. What was more natural than that I should immediately take advantage of my new “freedom”, and delve heart and soul (?) into the study of Black Magic, etc., and all the things that had been so strictly denied me? I was like the youth who, being denied the use of liquor at home, went to his first cocktail party, imbibed with great gusto, not discriminating in his choice of liquors, and who, as a result, became slightly confused.”

While Ackerman caught up with her during 1945, her contributions to VOM tapered off. She summarised: “Fantasy, to me, is an escape and refuge from the troublesome, work-a-day world, and I am sure that it is the same for many other fen.” She then capped it with a response to a humorous piece by Robert Bloch, stating that the world needed more Ackermans, and that it was therefore Forry’s duty to breed. She said: “Since Forrest Ackerman is a steadfast leader in Fandom, and a prolificontributor to Fantasy, the problem then, is not to ‘find Ackerman an Ackerwoman’, but (although this is not a ‘problem’, since the great Forrest J shows no inclination of forsaking Fandom) ‘how to retain such a valuable personality in the realms of Fantasy’.”

Forry could have read these words more closely, yet decided it was a good idea to propose to her, via a public letter to Tigrina: “Finding myself in the incredible position of being in love, I choose this unorthodox (certainly fantasstic!) method of proposing to U. U are a beautiful phantasy treasure, darling + measure up to so many of my ideals that I feel U could bring a lasting source of happiness into my life. I should very much like to be engaged to U. Please reply via ‘Dunky’ – who will be in the enviable position of knowing before me if U will do me the honour to be my fiancée. Je elske dig! Mi amas vin. Forry, 13 June 45. RSVPDQ”

An uncharacteristically pun-free cri du coeur from Ackerman. Puns, as well as common sense, an admonishment and plenty of emotional labour, were supplied by Tigrina, in her response: “So you envision us reading from the same copy of our favourite fantasy magazine, and want to play ‘ring around the rosy’ with my third finger left hand as a target? Tsk, how romantic! I’m honoured, to be sure. (…) I must compliment you upon your unique and utterly fantastic method, but there are those who might question the good taste of this public avowal of your affections. ‘Marriage is a Private Affair’, or so the theatre marquees proclaim. So are proposals! As this was rather an unexpected turn of events, I must reply with the trite phrase supposedly used by the average blushing maiden when being asked the Fatal Question, and say: “Oh, Forrest, this is so sudden!’ And as long as I am keeping myself in suspense, and you in suspense, well– let’s keep the rest of the fen guessing too, shall we?”

Tigrina was not going to turn Forry down in public, but it may be clear that marriage was not on the cards. While (relatedly?) her contributions to the ‘Ackerman group’-centred VOM waned, she was not done with fandom yet. A two week visit to Los Angeles, and Forry’s banquet in her honour got a write-up in the STEFNEWS of August 1945. Are they or aren’t they was still pretty much a topic of debate: “After the meal was finished, 4e had brought forth a cake lettered ‘Welcome Tigrina’ which was served with ice-cream (…) Tigrina wore a pea green outfit which included a hat with a veil, which she remembered to raise before eating. (I had remarked to Evans that her lifting or failure to lift this veil would indicate how excited she was.) It is fortunate that Ackerman did not wear a veil!”

FANews (also August ‘45) reported: “Last Saturday Aug 4 TIGRINA of Palo Alto came to LA to spend two weeks. Her time is being completely monopolized by 4e who is undoubtedly pressing his suit. 4E threw a welcoming party Sat. Nite in the Tamarack Room of Clifton’s Cafetaria, where the LASFS used to meet in the good old days. Most of LA Fandom attended, I believe there were about 17 altogether. ((We sincerely trust that a proper impression was made and that TIGRINA will enjoy her two weeks stay. Good Luck, everyone!))”

Further reporting from the LASFS has Forry indeed schlepping her all over town. And then, in LASFS #9 of 26 August: “Tigrina has tied herself to Los Angeles with a secretarial job at the Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers in Hollywood.” While Forrest served in the US Army from 1942 to 1946 he often drove to town to attend LASFS meetings. As several fans lived nearby, the clubhouse at South Bixel Street was the social centre of a whole community of fans.

Tigrina, now also in LA, soon became a mainstay. The hormones of Shangri-L’Affaires’ 14-year old editor, Gerald Hewett, rose to the occasion: “Well, I am amazed. I am dazed. I am with glazed eyes. I got help on ‘Shaggy’ (…) The only persons present who did any actual work were the afore ahindsaid Laney, TIGRINA (lovely as the petals of the desert rose), EEEvans, SDRussell, Tigrina,(graceful as the nodding lily), Forrest J Ack-Ack, Robert Hoffman, Tigrina (radiant as the morning sunrise), and Pete Granger and I. Oh, yes, Tigrina arrived here today for the meeting. Charming girl.”

Tigrina was soon made club secretary, and made notes of club meetings. They are a fun read: “Kenneth Bonnell, not to be outdone by Wally Daugherty’s enthusiastic ideas for Club publicity at the previous meeting, piped up with an idea of his own, suggesting that the male members of the Club choose from among the many classy lassies prevalent in the motion pictures the one with whom they would most enjoy being marooned on the moon. This idea was somewhat squelched, however, when some far-seeing member suggested that the originator of this plan might find himself in quite a predicament if such a thing were actually to happen.” Tigrina laid on the burn.

FANews had several pages on LASFS affairs by her in October. “you’ll just have to take our word for it that she writes up (normally dry stuff) in a very interesting manner.”. And even in condensed form, we get nuggets of fandom tribulations. During S.D. Russell’s lecture on witchcraft: “The speech was unintentionally highlighted by a bit of modern skullduggery when Master Gerald Hewett, annoyed no doubt by the blasphemous snored of Niesen Himmel, who was obtrusively seeking the Land of Nod, proceeded to apply, by means of a lighted ‘Lucifer’, prodigious heat to Monsieur Himmel’s pedal extremities.” And, another lecture: “Russell’s second lecture was postponed because Sam arrived too late (he’d been studying the subject and lost track of time)…” And later: “Meeting adjourned at 9:36 to hear a lecture (third and final) by Russell but it had to be postponed as Sam pleaded insufficient notes… General discussions prevailed.” October 11th: “Betty Northrup and Jack Parsons came up from Pasadena especially to hear Russell’s lecture, but Russell didn’t appear.” Those lectures on witchcraft would’ve been in better hands with Tigrina herself!

Reading through the notes, you see that keeping the Club running and maintaining the Club room was a community effort: a roster was drawn up, there was a Rent Payers’ Committee, and things were taken care of (who’ll get the mimeograph fixed?). LA fandom, 1945, was more than just Forrest J. Ackerman. An acknowledgement: “All of the aforegoing ‘minutes’ have been condensed from ‘carbons’ sent to us by the LASFS Sec’y, TIGRINA. We publish them as a service to fandom to show what Fandom’s most active club is doing. (…) Thanx, LASFS. And Thank you TIGRINA!”

Editor of The Acolyte, Francis Towner Laney, wrote a memoir in 1948 about the heyday of LA fandom. On Tigrina he wrote: “One of the first arrivals was Edythe Eyde of Palo Alto, a rather handsome young lady who through her VOM-publicised romance with Ackerman received more notoriety and less fame than she deserved. Tigrina, as she preferred to be called, took a genuine interest in weird fiction and cinema, was a not incompetent poet and, in a pedantic sort of long-winded way, a pretty good fan writer. She was rather short, neatly built, and with a whooping laugh that sometimes embarrassed her. Everyone around the club seemed to like Tigrina, and she managed to stay around for close to two years without becoming embroiled in any fusses, apart from one memorable occasion when E. Everett Evans unadvisedly patted Tigrina’s little posterior one night after the meeting, and came within a hairsbreadth of having his face slapped as T told him off in a way I hugely loved. Right there in the clubroom, too.” At the end of 1946 she put her name forward as candidate for Director of the LASFS for 1947, but didn’t get the majority vote, and stayed on as secretary until June 1947.

Tigrina read fortunes as her alter ego Witch Hazel at the group’s 1945 Hallowe’en party, and on a coast-to-coast Memorial Day broadcast, she talked about the Pacificon, and especially the costume party. It was valuable publicity for the group; it would be the first post-war WorldCon, organised by the LASFS. It was held on the weekend of July 4-7 ’46, and Tigrina helped to run it: she and Virginia Daugherty organised the Masquerade, then as now a popular event, and took part herself: “Tigrina describes her costume as Dracula’s Daughter, but it didn’t follow any movie. It was all black, spangled with black sequins. A headpiece like Batman’s was at first accompanied with a black eyemask, the only mask at the masquerade. Elbow length gloves, bra, and tights from waist to ankle, with over all a peekaboo cloak. She sang a couple of songs of her own composition” I am reminded of that Weird Tales cover.

A photo of LASFS’s 1945 Christmas party shows a group of 17 people, including six women. Ackerman is in the top row, and his hand rests on Tigrina’s shoulder. The program book of WorldCon has a page with their photos and their names combined; people were shipping them – or was it a last ditch attempt by Forry himself? They visited Edgar Rice Burroughs, were photographed together at Pacificon, but still those distant wedding bells came no nearer. It slowly dawned on Forry that no matter how smitten he was, no matter what good friends they were, it could go no further than that.

Tigrina’s account of the ‘how and why’ is under the pseudonym ‘Lisa Ben’ because she was “concerned that she would upset elderly relatives”. Her parents had already been concerned about her liking for Weird Tales and supernatural radio shows. What she could not reveal, not even to her science fiction friends, was her first love. I think that where ‘Tigrina’ was an aspect of Edythe Eyde that she kept carefully hidden from her parents, ‘Lisa Ben’ was another aspect carefully compartmentalised.

“A few years later, in 1945, I moved down here to Los Angeles to get away from my mother, who was always coming by and going through my things. (…) I found out one day when I was sunning myself up on the top of the garage of the place where I had a room. Some other girls that lived in the building came up and spread out their towels and started to talk among themselves. I noticed that although there was plenty of talk, they never mentioned boys’ names. I thought, Well, gee, that’s refreshing to hear some people talk who aren’t always talking about their boyfriends and breakups. I got started talking to them just out of friendliness. I DON’T know what brought up the subject, but one of the girls turned to me and said, ‘Are you gay?’ And I said, ‘I try to be as happy as I can under the circumstances.’ They all laughed. Then they said, ‘No, no,’ and told me what it meant.”

It’s worth reading in full. It’s a poignant account of her first love and the disapproval of her mother. In Los Angeles, the girls she met took her to a gay bar, and she got the full initiation when policemen entered the bar: “Well, I was frightened. I said, ‘I think I’ll leave.’ The two women at the table said, ‘Don’t leave yet. Wait a half hour because sometimes they lurk outside and then as you leave they’ll take you in.'” It wasn’t a real raid; those policemen just came to intimidate: “In those days, every once in a while there would be an article in the newspapers like, ‘Party of Perverts Broken Up at Such and Such,’ and there would be a list of names.” It’s a tactic still used by media and politicians about gay and trans people: call them perverts, and let the readers’ imaginations come up with something infinitely worse than what really went on in those clubs: dancing.

She started publishing her magazine for gay gals, Vice Versa, in June 1947, coinciding with her stepping down as secretary for the LASFS: “I wrote Vice Versa mainly to keep myself company. I called it Vice Versa because in those days our kind of life was considered a vice. (…) And vice versa means the opposite. I thought it was very apropos. (…) I put in five copies at a time with carbon paper, and typed it through twice and ended up with ten copies of Vice Versa. (…) Then I would say to the girls as I passed the magazine out, ‘When you get through with this, don’t throw it away, pass it on to another gay gal.’ We didn’t use the term lesbian so much then. We just said gay gal. In that way Vice Versa would pass from friend to friend. I wrote almost everything in the magazine, although once in a while I would get a contribution. I wrote book reviews, although there were very few books around at the time that said anything about lesbians.”

Loose ends: By the time of Ackerman’s proposal, she knew she was gay, even though she may not have been able to put the word to it. I can imagine she did weigh up whether to marry him; it would offer a certain stability, respectability… a beard. But, there’s this occasion, earlier, when she ran into her first love: “out from this hotel doorway came my friend. ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘How are you? I thought that was you. You know, I’m married now and you should see Junior. I have the cutest little boy.’ She had grabbed hold of my arm, and before I could think, I said, ‘Don’t touch me!’ I reacted that way because all through those years I had never resolved my love for her. (…) I went home and I was just crushed, although, since she was married, I wouldn’t have taken her back. I didn’t want her. She was tainted.”

Ackermanclaimed(in the program book for 1994’s GalaxiCon V, where he was a Guest of Honour): “I sort of nudged her out of the closet. In 1947 she went on to boldly create the legendary VICE VERSA, America’s first underground ‘Uranian magazine,’ a type-written and carbon copied affair. She had so few contributors that I, as an empathetic writer, adopted the pseudonym Laurajean Ermayne and wrote reviews, poetry and fiction.” I honestly think he’s overstating his own role in her ‘coming out’ (such as it was), but Ackerman has been known to be a relentless self-promotor – and architect of our collective memory of early fandom, with him as main star. Still, they kept in contact, as Tigrina she made fandom appearances, wrote stories (with Ackerman) and even appeared as fan in his Famous Monsters of Filmland with Ackerman, Don Glut and ‘Schlock’.

She put what she’d experienced in SFF fandom into practice in her newfound life, trying to find and build a community, and in the process she became an unintentional trailblazer. There was one difference though, as she reported later: “I never realized how serious it was. I blithely mailed these things out from the office with no return address, until one of my friends phoned me and said, ‘You know, you really shouldn’t be doing that. It is against the law and it could land you in trouble.’ And I said, ‘Why? I don’t mention the city it’s from. I don’t mention anybody’s name. And it’s not a dirty magazine by any stretch of the imagination.’ And she said, “Well, it would be dirty to the straight people because it’s about girls'”

After Vice Versa she started writing and performing gay song parodies, like the filking at SFF conventions. She did this as Lisa Ben, an anagram of ‘lesbian’; protecting herself, but also harking back to the days of nicknames in SFF San Francisco. Tigrina had retreated to the background, but Lisa Ben was to stay for quite a while. A favourite of hers is not a parody; written in the 1950s, it starts like this:

Scattered are we over land, over sea.
How many we number will never be known.
Each one must learn from the stars.
She must wear a mask on her heart.
And live In a world set apart.
A shy secret world of her own.
Here’s to the days that we yearn for.

Hear Edyte reminiscing on her past on the Making Gay History podcast.