An Interview with Ned Brooks
One thing I look forward to every winter is the arrival of Ned Brooks’ annual zine It Goes On The Shelf. IGOTS is a simple affair: 11 sheets of A4 paper with a staple in the upper left-hand corner. Ned reviews and comments on various books and fanzines – many of which are related to science fiction – that he has accumulated over the years. He also includes strange, otherworldly illustrations from these publications throughout the zine. He has quite a massive collection. After receiving the winter 2013 issue I decided to check out Ned’s online fanzine index at
It kind of blew my mind. You can also read all 35 back issues of IGOTS here. And if you have any questions about old typewriters, Ned is the man to go to – he has a collection of roughly 300 typewriters. (Salivating yet?) All of this piqued my interest enough to ask Ned a few questions about his involvement in the world of fanzines.
When and how did you first get involved in reading and publishing fanzines?
In 1949 in Chile I bought the first issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction off a newsstand. Then, in the 1950s an aunt gave me a subscription to ASTOUNDING/ANALOG. By 1961 I was out of college and working for NASA in Hampton VA, and in one of the digest-size prozines – there was also GALAXY, AMAZING, IF, etc – I noticed a small classified ad. It read:
“Discover Fandom! – send $2.”
This was placed in such magazines by a man named Seth Johnson. Fanzine publishers sent him their zines – people who sent $2 got a stack of recent fanzines. One zine in my stack was a zine for FAPA (Fantasy Amateur Press Association) by Phil Harrell, who lived across Chesapeake Bay in Norfolk. So we got together. Science fiction fans had been publishing fanzines since the early 1930s, and Harrell had been at it for a few years. He was an active letterhack, but had never been to a convention and had no car. So we went to the 1962 Philcon. In 1963 we went to the Worldcon in Washington – the DisCon.
In due course I acquired a spirit duplicator and then a mimeo and began to publish. I first published for the NFFF (National Fantasy Fan Federation) Collector’s Bureau, then a pretty bad genzine (general topic zine). I joined two amateur press associations: SFPA (Southern Fandom Press Alliance) and Slanapa (Slanderous Amateur Press Association), both of which are still going. In the 1970s I published 28 issues of IT COMES IN THE MAIL which commented on everything fannish that came in the mail. It died of success – I couldn’t keep up. But that is the reason I have so many fanzines – they came in trade.
How many fanzines do you have? Is it even possible to make a rough estimate?
Yes, because although the inventory includes many zines I DON’T have, the ones I do have are marked with a @ – this allows a small TurboBasic program to count them. It’s now about 12,000. Other fans have given me fanzines, so I have a lot of older ones as well. The 12,000 does not include the 22 boxes that hold a complete run of SFPA zines – those are indexed in the SFPATOC file. As far as books go, I have about 9,000. That’s not including the paperbacks in the basement, the autobiographies, the art books, the math books and the typewriter books. All in all, the number is closer to about 15,000.
Where is your collection stored? Could you tell us a little about how you store and organize your fanzines?
My fanzines are in two rooms and a closet, and some bound volumes are at the bottom of the basement stairs. I use mostly plastic bins meant as laundry baskets which are about the right size to hold page-size zines standing on the bottom edge. The baskets in turn are on shelves. The zines are filed alphabetically by title. The page-size (8.5 x 11, 8 x 10, etc.) zines are in the laundry baskets to the right in that photo. To the left is a shelving unit full of small plastic bins that hold digest-size fanzines. On the other side of the room are some bins for an intermediate range – 6 x 9, 7 x 10.
What will happen to your collection in the future, when you and I have shuffled off this mortal coil?
What indeed… Fellow fan Frank Dietz gave me 15 boxes of fanzines shortly before he died. I suppose mine might go to one of the academic archives. The largest is at the University of California in Riverside and it’s completely inventoried. Utah has some fanzines; so does Temple University in Philadelphia and Texas A&M University. I have even given some duplicates to my own alma mater, Georgia Tech.
Thanks again, Ned! For the latest issue of It Goes On The Shelf send “the usual” (a zine, a donation, a letter) to: Ned Brooks, 4817 Dean Lane, Lilburn, GA 30047-4720, USA. (email@example.com). You will not regret it…
Ned and his fanzines