2001: John Bangsund

John Bangsund by Julian Warner

Being an appreciation of, on the occasion of his receiving the A.Bertram Chandler Memorial Award in the year 2001.

John Bangsund is, first and foremost, an editor. If you want to appreciate the full depth of his experience as an editor, you can read his full Curriculum Vitae on his website at: http://users.pipeline.com.au/bangsund

John’s name appears on many books, of general fiction and non-fiction, and would have been familiar to those who read the prestigious Australian magazine Meanjin during the period in which he served as assistant editor. The Victorian Society of Editors has honoured John by making him a life member because of his many contributions to the Society. In editing the newsletter of the Victorian Society of Editors he became the editor’s Editor.

However, the A. Bertram Chandler Memorial Award is an award for contributions to the field of Science Fiction. John’s career in SF fandom began in the early sixties. His first fanzine article was published by Lee Harding in a fanzine named Canto 1 in 1964. In a very short time, John became central to Melbourne fandom and was effectively the midwife to a re-birth of Australian fandom in general. Fandom was in somewhat of a lull in the early to mid sixties but it was revived by the regular monthly publication of the Australian Science Fiction Review. Leigh Harding and John Foyster wrote articles and reviews not always under their own names and John Bangsund edited and commented. ASFR lasted only a few years but it set a new standard for quality of reviewing, for reasoned criticism, for consistency, for intelligence and for humour. Not only that, but ASFR was noticed overseas as well, putting Australia on the map as a place where fans and writers existed; fans and writers who were worth reading and who were worth knowing. The Australian readers of the original ASFR went on to become our established SF writers, our most erudite critics, our Big-Name Fans and our Boring Old Farts. When the established mainstream author George Turner told his publisher that he was interested in Science Fiction, George was introduced to John Bangsund. John introduced George to a new world which George then made his own.

As well as editing ASFR, John was involved in the organising of other fans or at least encouraging them to organise themselves. As such, he was instrumental in the efforts to bring Australia its first-ever World Science Fiction Convention in 1975 Aussiecon 1. The first Adelaide SF convention Advention 1 – is described as having been started in John’s flat [Membership of Advention 1 cost $2.50 and accommodation was 50c per day, b.y.o. sleeping bag]. It seems that an awful lot of what was happening in Australian fandom in the sixties and seventies was done at Bangsund’s place.

Since ASFR, John has edited and published many fanzines and apazines. Principal among these would be the long-running Philosophical Gas which has continued until recent years. He may even be encouraged to publish a new edition. John estimates that he has published some 200 or so zines in his fannish career. He has also contributed to APAs such as ANZAPA, FAPA and FLAP.

As well as being very technically proficient as an editor, John writes in a manner which is gentle, humorous, witty, considered and thoughtful. To enjoy his writing, you would want to catch the ongoing Best of Bangsund which Bruce Gillespie has been publishing slowly in successive editions of his fanzine, The Metaphysical Review. There are some of us who keenly read The Victorian Society of Editors Newsletter just for the Bangsund bits. John has passed on the job of editor’s editor on but he still makes the odd contribution.

Just about every older Australian fan will have a story or two which involves John Bangsund. He was integral to the fabric of Australian fandom for many years and remains strong in the memory of both Australian and overseas fans. When John felt unable to attend Aussiecon 3, the fans came to him instead, taking the journey to his house north of Geelong so that they could catch up with a grand old fan.

If you have heard the voice of writer and critic Phillip Adams on TV or radio, then you have heard a voice which is very similar to John Bangsund’s. John speaks softly but with authority; that authority coming from experience rather than university education. The time which John spent at a theological college undoubtedly contributed to his strong interest in matters philosophical. His passion for reading was strongly fuelled by what he has described as one of his favourite early jobs, being librarian for the Victorian Railways Institute. Being paid to spend the whole day reading was wonderful but gave way to a future of John the bookseller, John the publisher’s rep and John the editor.

John’s friends know of him as a great lover of classical music of the traditional and the 20th-century kind. He has also enthusiastically drunk wine, smoked, loved and lost, gossiped, chatted, chatted, chatted and encouraged. Encouragement is something which he has always been good at.

Recent years have had their ups and downs for John but he is still there and can still occasionally be lured out to a restaurant for a night of declaiming and reminiscing with old friends. If it was possible to give an award for just being charming and friendly, then we could give John that award anyway. However, it is most appropriate to present John Bangsund with the A. Bertram Chandler Memorial Award because of his tremendous enthusiasm for Science Fiction and because of his ability to transmit that enthusiasm to other Australian fans.

Julian Warner for the Australian Science Fiction Foundation, April 2001