The road of fannish history is strewn with discarded copies of fanzines that have ceased to be. I know many who still mourn the passing of Nine Innings and Outworld. I myself hold a copy of Niekas near and dear to my heart. While it is touching to think of those that we have loved and lost, I am more heartbroken over the still-birth of a fanzine by a man whose real name I probably never knew. He was the original Johnny Regular. The rag would have been called One-0-Two.
I met Johnny at a party in my sophomore year at Emerson College right smack in the middle of the zine revolution before Wired and the Internet changed publishing forever. I had yet to turn twenty-one and the Frats had already banned me from their parties. I ventured out with a friend into the mean streets of Allston, Massachusetts, to a shindig recommended by a couple of girls from her writing class. We set out early in the evening for a few miles' walk, and when we arrived, I knew that the place had been built for parties.
The main room was cavernous and every footstep echoed. A half-dozen futons lined the walls and the only horizontal surface was a round table that easily could have hosted a World Class Scrabble tournament with room for drinks. There were already a few dozen folks around and it took me only a few minutes to get drunk. I spent a few minutes asleep on a couch, and when I woke up and began wandering around in search of the bathroom, I came across a bedroom. In it was a bearded gentleman who looked incredibly like the photo of Kilgore Trout on the back of Venus on the Half-Shell, only thirty years younger. He sat at an ancient desk typing so quickly that my drunken eyes couldn't keep up. The typewriter was an old IBM Selectric with Boston University property tags, and he was pounding out words with incredible passion and fire in every stroke.
"It's down the hall," the guy said without pause.
"Thanks." And I journeyed on, but returned to the room afterwards. Anyone so furiously engrossed in anything had to be further investigated.
"What're you typin'?" I asked, though I can't remember how much I slurred.
"Here." He handed me a page and I read it, quickly glancing over the type produced by a ribbon that needed changing. The tale was of a trip to San Francisco for the WorldCon, popularly known as ConFiasco, and how he had spent the entire time shadowing Jack Haldeman and Mike Resnick. I had been there, but the way he described things kept me reading. He called the con 'enproblemed,' exposing me to a word that would quickly creep into my vocabulary and annoy editors for years. I read the article, rolling the style and timbre over as I moved my lips to keep my drink-fuddled self in step with the writing.
"Good stuff," I said. "What you writin' it for?"
"One-0-Two," he said, pulling the paper from the roller and setting it face down on the lefthand pile.
"I'm taking one-oh-two right now, but I'm at Emerson."
Johnny fitted a new sheet into the Selectric.
"I graduated in eighty-nine. One-0-Two is my zine."
"Oh," I muttered, as I looked around the room. Every inch of wall was covered with nailed-up shelving. Each shelf held a long line of magazines. Not magazines, fannish magazines. I had been mostly out of fandom for the better part of five years at that point and even I recognized the long runs of Ansible, Checkpoint, Mimosa and Granfalloon. I walked around and picked up a couple of issues of Anvil and took a seat on a ratty chair that had obviously been picked up on the curb as the College kids moved out of their apartments.
"You been writing One-0-Two long?" I asked, as I started reading the near-decade-old mag.
"This is the first issue. I've been working on it for two and a half years."
Large piles of paper littered the room. I could see that some were marked reject and others had labels ranging from brilliant to madness. I'd never seen so many manuscripts in one place. I put down Anvil and picked up a stack. It was titled "We Could Be Heroes" and it could have been the most prescient thing I'd ever read. It talked about a future where music was made by computers and released at pods, points on the galactic network where the record companies would try to attract visitors paying millions. The heroes were live musicians in their eighties trying to make recordings on antiquated compact discs. It was a CyberPunk Rock tale that now seems years ahead of its time. I read a half-dozen stories and a few articles, all of which seemed to have been written by the type of writers you'd only find hanging around SF conventions and poetry slams.
"This is great stuff. Who are these people?"
"Friends, and friends of friends," he said. "By the way, I'm Johnny. Johnny Regular."
To a man of my blood-alcohol level at that moment, it was a perfectly normal name.
"You lookin' for anything else?"
"You a writer?"
"Good. You talk, I'll type."
And so, I dictated what would have been my first article to Johnny on that October night where the temp was in the hundreds with maximum humidity. I rambled on about how late 1970s science fiction was being ignored in favor of crappy knock-offs of Neuromancer. Johnny cackled with delight as I knocked down another standing genius in the SF world in favor of guys like Gordon Ekland and Stephen Goldin. When I finished, Johnny stood up from the Selectric and clapped me on the shoulder.
"Good stuff, kid. Which would you prefer for payment: donuts or cheap hooch?"
To this day, I believe all magazines should pay in donuts.
I visited a few more times, actually started dating one of his roommates (I don't know why I hadn't noticed the four other bedrooms in the house), and read more and more of what should have been One-0-Two, Issue One. There were at least a dozen stories and another twenty or so articles and reviews. It never occurred to me that this was well beyond the size of the thousands of zines that sagged the shelves around his room. When he handed me what he called a proof, sometime in the early summer of 1997, I wasn't the least bit concerned that it ran nearly a hundred and fifty pages. Actually looking through what he proposed with that proof is what makes me wish I had seen its release.
The cover was a piece of yellow notebook paper that had been shellacked stiff and had a punched card stapled to the front. The card read "One-0-Two Magazine, Johnny Regular, Editor." The paper was obviously stolen from BU. It was letterhead, and every story and article had been typed to fit in the space where memos would normally ride. The one-sided masterpiece was the last chance any human I know of had to look at that piece of work. I asked him how much he expected it to cost to make enough copies. His response was "it's been years since I started this, another couple saving to get it printed won't matter much." Apparently it did.
I moved back to California with only Johnny's email as contact. He had always been spotty about returning messages and the mail started bouncing in the early winter of 1998. When I returned to fandom triumphant in the spring of 1999, I asked around, but no one had any clue who I was talking about. He had told me stories of wife-swapping and fist fights from Philadelphia, New York, and Boston fan circles, but no one I've ever asked could help me out. Of course, it didn't help that all I had to give them was a vague description and an obvious pseudonym.
I keep hoping that I'll walk into a Fanzine Lounge one afternoon between panels and see it there sitting on a shelf, waiting for me, though I'm fairly certain I'll get to read The Last Dangerous Visions before One-0-Two.