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Jack Speer, ca. 1938

John Bristol Speer (August 9, 1920[1] – June 28, 2008) was an attorney, practicing law for over 60 years; a judge; and a member of the Washington House of Representatives.

Also a long-time science fiction fan and important early historian of science fiction fandom, Speer wrote Up to Now: A History of Science Fiction Fandom and Fancyclopedia.


Life and careerEdit

Speer was born in Comanche, Oklahoma. He received his bachelor's degree from George Washington University and, after World War II, his law degree from the University of Washington. During WWII, he worked for the Lend Lease Administration as an administrative aide for the American Food Mission to French North Africa. After the war, he began practicing law in North Bend, Washington.[2][3]

Speer married his wife of 57 years, Myrtle Ruth Speer, in 1951. The couple had two children, Margaret Ann (now Abercrombie), and Edward.[4]

From 1959 to 1961, he served a term as a Democratic legislator in the Washington state House of Representatives, representing a district in King County.

In 1962, Speer moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. He continued to practice law and served two terms as the judge of the Bernalillo County Small Claims Court.[3]

The year before, he had developed a Civil War board game, which was notable in that it followed the actual course of the war. A registered Parliamentarian, he judged high school debates throughout the state of New Mexico.[3][5]

On 28 June 2008, Speer, 87, died in his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was interred in Santa Fe National Cemetery.[3][5] He rests near his long-time friend Roy Tackett.

Contributions to science fiction fandomEdit

Speer became infatuated with Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, and others at an early age. Speer related that he became a dedicated fan in 1934. In his early years in fandom, he sometimes went by the name of John Bristol.

Speer wrote and published fandom's first history, Up to Now: A History of Science Fiction Fandom, in 1939. He was first to formulate a system of "Numerical Fandoms," which was expanded on by other fan historians, including Robert Silverberg; it remained in use until the mid-1950s and is still used to describe early fan eras.[6] In 1944, he followed Up to Now with the first edition of Fancyclopedia, an encyclopedia of fan culture and history and the jargon used in fanzines.[7] Both works are still used as references,[3][5] although Fancyclopedia was superseded by an expanded second edition published by Dick Eney in 1959.[8]

Fan historian Harry Warner, Jr. commented that Speer was "the first to stress (fandom's) subcultural aspects. Single-handedly, he made fandom's ayjays something entirely different from the mundane amateur journalism groups" [9] by introducing the "mailing comment," which has its successor in today's blog comment.[10] Warner considered Speer to be "one of the pioneer historians of fandom".[5]

Speer was also an accomplished photographer. "His collection of photos of fannish faces is an excellent window on early fandom."[2]

In 1940, at Chicon 1, the second Worldcon, Speer distributed a set of science fiction songs. Such songs are now known as filk. These earliest of filk songs were reprinted under the pseudonym John Bristol in Xenofilkia no. 18, as Various Songs, and in no. 19, as Twilight Prelude.[11][12]

At Chicon, Speer and Milt Rothman suggested a costume party or masquerade. Their suggestion was readily adopted and is still popular with today's fandom.[2]

In the mid-1940s, after founding editor E.E. Evans stepped down, Speer became the editor of the National Fantasy Fan Federation's official journal, The National Fantasy Fan.[13]

In 1995, Speer was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame. In 2004, Speer was one of two Worldcon Fan Guests of Honor at NoreasCon 4 in Boston, Massachusetts.

For over 70 years, Speer published his own amateur science fiction fanzine, which encouraged lively debates and demanded a high standard of literacy in the field.


  • Up to Now, 1939
  • Fancyclopedia, 1944
  • Fancestral Voices, edited by Fred Lerner, NESFA Press, 2004, ISBN 1-886778-56-6
  • Last and First Fen, a play, 2004


  1. ^ Silver, Steven H. "August". Calendar Index. Retrieved 2007-11-16.
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^ a b c d e Memorial service leaflet
  4. ^ "Obituary". Albuquerque Journal. 2008-07-02. Retrieved 2009-02-13.
  5. ^ a b c d "Science Fiction Loses Eminent Historian, Fan". Obituary. Albuquerque Journal. 2008-07-01. Retrieved 2008-07-03.
  6. ^ "Numerical Fandoms". Fancyclopedia 3. Fancyclopedia 3. Retrieved 2008-02-13. Jack Speer developed the most popular and flexible theory by application of Spenglerian principles of cyclic history. In the first Fancyclopedia (1944) he distinguished three fandoms -- periods of distinct and marked characteristics -- separated by two transitions in which characteristics of preceding and succeeding fandoms were mingled.
  7. ^ "Guests of Honor". Noreascon Four. MCFI. 2001–2006. Retrieved 2007-11-16.
  8. ^ Eney, Dick. "Fancyclopedia 2". Fancyclopedia 2. Retrieved 2009-13-16. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  9. ^ Speer, Jack (2004). Fancestral Voices. Boston: NESFA Press. ISBN 1-886778-56-6.
  10. ^ Glyer, Mike (2008-06-30). "More About Jack Speer". File 770. File 770. Retrieved 2009-02-13. Gary Farber reminds us – 'If you've ever written a blog comment you owe this man.' Well said, Gary. In 1938, Jack invented the practice of making short responses — mailing comments – in his zine to the other zines distributed through the Fantasy Amateur Press Association (FAPA). Other fans reciprocated his comments, and it's gone on ever since.
  11. ^ Gold, Lee (March 1997). "An Egocentric and Convoluted History of Early "Filk" And Filking". ConChord 12 Songbook. Archived from the original on 2009-02-11. Retrieved 2009-02-08.
  12. ^ "Cumulative Xenofilkia Index by Author through Xeno #123". Xeno. Retrieved 2009-02-08.
  13. ^ The History of N3F Archived 2011-09-27 at the Wayback Machine

External linksEdit