HALF A CENTURY
Tuesday morning April 6, 2004, some time
between 10 and 11 A.M., fate and the uncertainties of heart disease
combined to rob Jerry Burge and me the pleasure of celebrating
fifty years of friendship. In 1954, I learned about the old Atlanta
Science Fiction Organization, the city's first major fan group,
founded in 1950 by Jerry, Ian MacCauley, Hank Reinhardt, Carson
jacks and Walt Guthrie. I got in touch with Ian and was invited
to a meeting. It was on December 10, 1954 that I first met all
of those gentlemen, excluding only Hank Reinhardt who was not
present for two good reasons: (a) he had discovered girls and
found he preferred their company to that of fans (most of whom
in the 1950s were male); and (b) Uncle Sam had discovered him
and drafted him into the Army. For the record, Jerry Burge introduced
Hank and me some time in 1959.
Jerry Burge was an amazing man whose achievements
in fandom are of some importance yet all but unknown. In 1954
he and Carson Jones created the first science fiction small press
publishing operation in the Southeast, calling it ASFO Press
and issuing in hard cover Sam Moscowitz's history of science
fiction fandom, The Immortal Storm. The Immortal Storm
had run as a serialized feature in A. Langley Searles' fanzine
Fantasy Commentator, and been issued by fellow ASFO
member Henry Burwell in a mimeographed edition, but Jerry and
Carson issued a revised edition of the book with an index and
photos and a dust wrapper drawn by legendary SF illustrator Frank
R. Paul. They planned a second book, a complete edition of the
round-robin science fiction novel of the thirties, Cosmos,
but it never saw print.
Jerry also took over and published a few
issues of the general fanzine Asfo, during the waning
years of the SF club. In 1959 he and I published a genzine called
Si-Fan. Later on we collaborated on the science fiction
collector's fanzine Lore (the title was Jerry's idea),
and more recently were doing a fan journal for pulp collectors,
Flashback. It was Jerry also who instigated the idea
of a Southern fan group, after a suggestion by Georgia fan J.T.
Oliver (who immediately announced he was dropping out of fandom
when Jerry replied to his suggestion.) Jerry started a round
robin letter among several of the best-known Southern fans to
discuss details of the project. It was prematurely announced
by another fan who took credit for the idea, robbing Jerry Burge
and J.T. Oliver of their place in Southern fan history, though
I don't think either was especially bothered by the fact because
they never got any of the blame, either. Jerry and I drafted
a constitution for the group and we also helped set up the Southern
Fandom Press Alliance.
In 1967 Jerry and I came into contact with
William L. Crawford, who had had a number of small press operations
since the thirties. Among Bill's accomplishments was the publishing
of H.P. Lovecraft's The Shadow Over Innsmouth, the only
one of Lovecraft's books published during his lifetime; the book
publishing operation Fantasy Publishing Co., Inc. (FPCI); and
the magazine Fantasy Book which published the first
fiction in the field by Cordwainer Smith and Andre Norton (though
it was published as by Andrew North). In 1934, Bill issued the
first hardback book ever published by a science fiction and fantasy
specialty publisher, Eugene Keys' Mars Mountain. In
1967, Crawford has just revived his other SF magazine, Spaceway,
which wasn't working out, and had learned he could assume at
little or no cost the publication of the horror fiction magazine
Coven 13, which would give him a distribution contract.
He talked Jerry Burge and me into becoming partners with FPCI
in the project and we published a few issues with Burge as art
editor and me as editor. We retitled it Witchcraft and Sorcery
and referred to it among ourselves as Sorcery.
The magazine did not last very many issues.
But it did achieve some successes, especially in the art field.
Among them were the first professional publication in a fantasy
magazine of artwork by Stephen Fabian, the first regular appearance
in a fantasy magazine of artwork by Tim Kirk (he had appeared
previously in an issue of If, I think, but only in one
issue), and the first professional appearance of illustrator
Bob Maurus. Jeff Jones was also a regular contributor and in
one of the last issues, when he was pressed for time to do the
illustrations for my story "Thirst", penciled the drawings
and called in his pal Berni Wrightson to ink them.
actually sold well, somewhere at or above 20,000 copies an issue,
I gathered from Bill, which meant we never lost any money but
somehow we never managed to make any, either. Jerry and I never
got our investments back. It was this feeling that we weren't
really going anywhere that killed the magazine since we could
have published more issues if there had been anything coming
in for us. But Jerry got married and had to concentrate on supporting
a wife and daughter, and I was writing more and more, and also
working as an editor for TV Guide magazine. In 1975
I began editing anthologies, first Nameless Places for
Arkham House, and then The Year's Best Horror Stories
for DAW. Bill Crawford began running an annual Witchcraft &
Sorcery convention in Los Angeles.
For years Jerry Burge worked at Georgia
Tech as a technical illustrator on the Saturn Project. During
that time he did very little illustration not related to his
In recent years he began both to draw and
write again. His writing was always very good and a lot of what
I learned about the craft I learned from him, either through
direct advice or by reading authors he recommended. His taste
in reading, as in art, was superb.
But as he grew older, health problems began
to hound him, first an eye problem that forced him to give up
drawing for several more years, and then the heart problems that
eventually killed him. The eye problems were corrected but by
then it had been so long since he had drawn that he found himself
having to relearn a lot of what had once been virtually instinctive
to him. Then the heart problems began to grow and he found himself
without the energy to do a lot of what he wanted to do.
But he did finish a story, an article,
and a couple of pieces of art for Flashback, and he
and I were at work on a collaborative short story that I still
hope to finish - though it will be much harder to write, now.
Jerry Burge left
hundreds of small drawings. He filled sketchbooks and small stenographer's
pads with them. He drew on miscellaneous pieces of paper. I found
drawings on the backs of waste sheets from his fifties fanzine
Asfo. I found drawings on the backs of extra copies
of the dust wrapper from The Immortal Storm. Some were
practice pieces, some were copies
from some book or magazine photograph, some were apparently done
to find out the potential of a new pen-nib or brush. Many were
studies for illustrations or paintings he did or planned. Some
were damaged in the fire at his home in 1991, and show water
stains or scorches around the edges. They show a surprising range
of styles and techniques despite the fact that Jerry probably
did not regard many of them as actually finished.
Yet I have found over 300 pieces that to
one degree or another are publishable. They show Jerry's ability
to create graceful poses and compositions, his mastery of anatomy,
especially of the female form, his sense of humor, and his love
for old science fiction illustrators and Golden Age comic book
artists. I intend to make a good many of them available for fanzine.
December 10, 2004 will be on a Friday.
At some level or another I've known how I would acknowledge the
date for some time. Jerry and I, over the years, kept in touch
with a good many marathon phone conversations, many of them late
at night, that were apt to cover any subject we felt like, but
which thoroughly covered the subjects of science fiction, fantasy,
pulp magazines, old movies, politics, science, the older comic
books and comic strips, baseball, SF fandom and any truly oddball
subject we felt like raising. It was my intention to call Jerry
up and try to reminisce. I say "try to" because there
is, of course, no telling what will be going on in the world
at that time to give us much more to talk about.
Now, sadly, there will be no conversation.
But I'll still mark the occasion, of course. And I'll certainly
Gerald W. Page / Atlanta GA /