Considering how large Donn Brazier's fanzine loomed in my life for several years, I find it hard to believe that the whole run would fit easily into a smallish cardboard box. The fifty odd issues I received aren't impressive to look at either. Leafing through their inelegant pages, cluttered with fragmentary quotes and bad artwork, the uninitiated might decide that nothing much had happened during Donn's six years of publishing. But Golden Ages never actually happen. They are only remembered. And memory tells me that TITLE managed to be, at the same time, unique and the essence of fannishness.
Not that TITLE was "fannish" in the normally accepted sense. It didn't draw upon the styles and preoccupations of fans who'd gone before, even though pleny of fans who'd gone before were included in the editorial mix. Rather, it drew upon the primordial soup of eofandom - the enthusiasm, naive curiosity, and sense of community - out of which emerged the Tuckers, Willises and Carrs.
Donn had lived Fandom's past, publishing with hecto ribbons and boxes of orange jello back in the forties when Fandom was still being invented. He gafiated before Jophan went in search of the "The Enchanted Duplicator" and spent the next quarter century raising a family. When he reemerged, to edit TITLE, he was Director of the St. Louis Museum of Natural History. Whether he kept up with Fandom during his years away, I don't know. He had a way of turning politely cryptic when asked about his personal affairs.
My impression is that when he returned he just took up where he left off, unencumbered by the decades of fan history he'd missed.
My first encounter with Donn occurred outside his own pages, when I took exception to something he said in the letter column of a fanzine whose name I've forgotten. I hate to admit it, but I went overboard. Donn's reaction, after my diatribe appeared in print, was typical of him - not a public counterattack, but a private postcard, smoothing the whole thing over.
To Donn, what mattered was communication, not confrontation, and that theme ran through every issue of TITLE, for the first, where readers were asked what three people they would invite to a dinner party, to the last, which presented "The Kindred Spirit Poll," an "attempt to apply the formula for connectivity, p(p-1)-p+1, to the reader/fan circle in an attempt to discover something about the links between fans."
The poll was vintage TITLE. In searching out areas of common interest, it recalled the era when fans were glad enough of each other's company to tolerate mundane differences of opinion which might not go unremarked today. And the somewhat wacky nature of the experiment was a reminder that fans could still look at the world in ways that really were askew.
TITLE's vital statistics are easy to list. Born April 1972. Died April 1978. 73 monthly issues appeared, running around 24 pages in length, with a circulation which ranged from 98 to 150 but hovered for the most part between 115 and 125.
TITLE's contents are much more difficult to describe.
While most editors are content with a blue pencil, Donn used scissors. Literally. He chopped letters into trenchant shreds which he routed via a complicated filing system to various departments - Vectors, Hooked, Qwikquotz, Rambling in the SF Patch...To this collection of comment hooks Donn added a few short articles and editorial ramblings. The result, according to which critic you chose to listen to, was "taut and economical" or "amazingly sloppy, incoherent and flaccid."
In acuality, it was whatever "Titlers" as Donn's readers called themelves, chose to make of it.
One reader called TITLE a mail order cocktail party and that might be the best description. Donn compiled an intriguing guest list. Top notch fanwriters like Mike Glicksohn and Ed Cagle rubbed shoulders with pros like Gene Wolfe, There were overseas fans - Mae Strelkov, Dave Rowe, Terry Jeeves. Donn kept things lively by including plenty of new fans - I was one - but First Fandom was amply represented both by oldtimers who had remained active in mainstream Fandom - Harry Warner and Bob Tucker - and others, like Claire Beck, who hadn't. Donn's guests ranged in age from 14 year-old C.D. Doyle to 76 year-old Frederick Wertham.
Doctor Wertham was famous for his campaign against violent comic books (and, some would say, free expression) in the fifties. It was to Donn's credit, I think, that he published one of the few, if not the only, fanzine in which Dr. Wertham could participate without being reviled. Donn had a soft spot for certifiable oddballs. There was Bill Bliss who invented things in the back of his radio repair shop, and Dero driven Richard Shaver who saw faces, and alien messages, in rocks...grainy photocopied images of which duly appeared in TITLE.
Donn wasn't judgmental. Maybe he figured the mundane world is judgmental enough. Or maybe he just wanted to see how many clashing personalities he could mix together in solution without precipitating anyone.
I prized TITLE's heterogeneity and the good natured tolerance Donn's readers displayed towards one another - or that they appeared to display when Donn was done with his scissors. I didn't feel entirely at home in some of the bigger, self-proclaimed "focal point" fanzines. I thought they protested their faanishness a bit too much and some of their contributors took Fandom too seriously.
TITLE was a fannish version of James White's sunken Gulf Trader in "The Watch Below" - a closed environment, a zine full of fans which had sunk in 1949. The society that evolved after the sinking bore similarities to the Fandom of the 1970s but was not the same. For instance, TITLE, like Fandom, was rich in myth. But who, outside TITLE, was familiar with the Wilde Pickle mythos? Donn probably had a better perspective on Fandom than most of us. He never seemed to feel the need to prove a point. He was a teacher at heart - he'd hosted a local "Mr. Science" type TV show at one time during his career - and he strove to get his readers excited not about his ideas but about their own.
Although TITLE was never what anyone would call a "focal point" fanzine for Fandom as a whole, it was a focal point for its readers. TITLE often finished high in both the FAAN and the Locus polls, despite its low circulation. More importantly, in its six years, TITLE attracted more tahn 6,000 LOCs, the lifeblood of fanpubbing. Donn regularly received 80 or 90 replies to the 115 copies he mailed out. One issue, mailed to 145 readers, garnered 140 replies. Titlers loved TITLE. Their loyalty to their fanzine must have been one of the most intense Fandom has ever seen.
The philospher Nietzsche said that we invent those with whom we associate. This is certainly true of faneditors who, by selecting a mailing list, culling LOCS, and choosing certain types of material, shape the sort of responses they receive. Because of its style, frequency, and the terrific volume of mail it generated, this evolutionary process was especially noticeable in TITLE.
Like many fan editors, Donn, I suspect, chose to create an audience resembling himself, willing to discuss topics that interested him and sharing the same turn of mind. Since he was able to print such a small portion of the responses he received, and did so largely within categories of his own invention, it might be said that TITLE was a personalzine written in the selected words of other people.
This may have been, as some pointed out, an egotistical approach, but Donn never chose to invent adversaries to vanquish or acolytes to fawn over him. While discovering what he had in common with his readers, he revealed to them what they had in common with each other.
Donn had a knack for making his readers look good and I, for one, was perfectly delighted with the Brazierized Mayer who appeared in TITLE. Out of college, but jobless, I was going through a distressing period. TITLE seemed to hold the promise that the creativity, curiosity and enthusiam of childhood, of so little use to me at the employment agency, might yet find some meaningful place in my future.
TITLE was faulted for not publishing fanwriting that will stand the test of time. The criticism was misplaced because TITLE was a live performance. Donn himself advised readers to discard their copies like old newspapers.
Although I could never do that, Donn was right. The fanzines in the box in my basement might have "Title" stenciled on their covers, but the TITLE experience can't be recaptured by reading them any more than a baseball fan's experience of a team's championship season could be recaptured by reading the daily box scores in a pile of yellowed newspapers.
I learned a few things from TITLE. I believe that the highest achievement to which a fanzine can aspire isn't to take Fandom by the scruff of the neck and shake it, but to please its own readers.
I think that anyone who decides to participate in Fandom, no matter how fuggheaded they might at first appear, should be presumed to have something to offer and should be treated better than they'd be treated outside our hobby.
Most importantly, I think that the fan who has put his neohood behind has lost what is most important in Fandom. Fandom is a childish affair, a place where we can let down the masks of maturity we're forced to wear as we go about our mundane affairs. Fandom is where we can be at our best rather than our worst.
I don't know what Donn might think of this analysis. It has been more than twenty years now since he gafiated for the second time, and, unlike most fans, he's managed, this time, to stay gafiated. Not surprising. 30 hours of fanediting a week for 6 years is pretty much a lifetime's worth of fanediting.
He would probably wonder how I came to invent this Brazier character and his remarkable fanzine. Donn's own explanation for TITLE's success was simple. Egoboo. Fans love to see their names and print. And nobody printed more names, more often.
Still, TITLE remains my Golden Age. And though the magic may have fled the aging pages in the basement, it has not left my life entirely. After all, I first met my wife, Mary, through the bits of her letters Donn selected for TITLE.
©2000 Eric Mayer