Vince Clarke

Photo of Vince Clarke in 1995 by Andrew I. Porter.

Vince Clarke in 1995
Photo by and copyright © Andrew I. Porter

Vince ("Vin¢") Clarke, the long-time British sf fan whose obituaries from Ansible 137 and Science Fiction Chronicle 200 are reproduced below, left a good deal of correspondence and the text of many fanzines on computer disks. For fan historians, researchers and Vince's friends, all the material that could be recovered is downloadable from this page in two zip files.

An ebook of Vince Clarke's fannish writings was published by Ansible Editions in October 2015, with the blessing of his daughter Nicki Hunt. This is available at the TAFF site's free ebooks page. See below for the contents list.

Michael Moorcock writes: "Glad the Vince Clarke book's out. I mention Vince quite a lot in The Woods of Arcady. Sequel to W[hispering] Swarm ... As I say in the book, Vince was something of a mentor to me and really helped me. Great bloke."

Ansible Obituary

VINCENT CLARKE (1922-1998) died in the early hours of 29 November, from pneumonia following a long and frustrating illness against which he'd struggled hard – 'Fight, fight, fight!' he wrote to me – with some small victories, like eventually regaining the ability to swallow, but too many defeats. Vince was one of Britain's best-loved fannish elders. He edited the legendary Science Fantasy News from 1948; famously shared the ultrafannish 'Epicentre' flat at the heart of London fandom with Ken Bulmer (with whom he collaborated on a couple of 1952 sf novels); and, though unable to make the US trip, was the first winner of TAFF in 1954. As he himself wrote, 'I was active fanning between 1947 and 1960, and during that time I did almost everything in the semi-pro and fan field that it was possible to do.' In 1960 he left fandom, returning in 1982 to record his bemused impressions of the changed fanzine and Eastercon scenes in Not Science Fantasy News. My copy of #3 came with a handwritten note on the back: 'I think I've managed to insult everyone in this ish. What do I do next? – Vin¢.' For 'insult', read 'gently disagree with'. The 1950s Vince had a reputation for being hot-headed and willing to feud; on his return he was still mischievous but always enormously kind, and did sterling work in introducing newcomers to fandom and the joys of fanzines from his own monumental collection. He slaved away at fannish bibliographies, co-edited the popular fanzine Pulp, and worked with Rob Hansen to nail down the facts of British fandom's tangled history. Intersection, the 1995 Glasgow Worldcon, rightly chose him as Fan Guest of Honour. Vince was a wise old fan and a good friend to many of us. He is very much missed.

– David Langford
Ansible 137 (December 1998)

Science Fiction Chronicle Obituary

Vincent Clarke

British fan A(ubrey) Vincent Clarke, 76, died on November 29th at Queen Mary Hospital, Sidcup, Kent, England. He was cremated at Eltham Crematorium on December 7th. He is survived by his daughter, Nicola, son-in-law Alan, and by their two daughters.

Donations in his name may be made to The Arthritis Research Foundation, Copeman House, St. Mary's Court, St. Mary's Gate, Chesterfield S41 7TD, UK. His fanzine collection was left to Rob Hansen; his much smaller SF collection will be dispersed to various dealers.

Active in fandom since 1948 – though he made a glancing first contact in 1938 – when he was among the founders of the Science Fantasy Society, the first post-World War II SF club, Vince Clarke was one of the giants of 1950s fandom. In 1949, he coined the term "LonCon" for a gathering of London fans; the name by which the 1957 World SF Convention, the first to be held in the British Isles, was known. Clarke served on the committee.

The winner, in 1954, of the very first Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund (TAFF) race, he was unable to make the trip and, alas, never got to visit the US and meet his many friends and admirers there. Also in 1954, he co-founded the Off-trail Magazine Publishers' Association (OMPA), the first UK APA, with Ken Bulmer and Chuck Harris, and in December 1957 he provided inspiration for the 1958 formation of the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA), the UK national SF fan organisation, which continues to this day.

He is credited with the invention of quote-cards, a transient 1950s phenomenon of a quote of some sort on a small card, with numerous signatures of fans. Although quote-cards themselves have died out, the practice of numerous fans autographing a postcard at a convention, then sending it off to someone who can't attend, continues.

In 1950, Clarke and Ken Bulmer were the residents of the famous EpiCentre, a fannish residence whose ceilings were likely to fall down, and about which Walt Willis wrote, "Every level surface was covered to the point of instability by fanzines, prozines, letters, stencils, busts of Napoleon, and model ships, their outlines blurred by a deep film of coal-dust which sifted continuously through the windows." Clarke's famous 1953 A Christmas Carol parody, "Scrooge on Ice", was termed "a crucial turning point in England's fandom" by fan historian Harry Warner, Jr. "It was the first long piece of fiction with fans as characters published in the nation since World War Two, proof that its fandom was thoroughly aware of itself again ..."

Vincent, with Joy Clarke and their fan lodger Sandy Sanderson, inhabited another famous fannish address, Inchmery, in the mid-late 1950s. From this abode, visited by hundreds of UK and US fans, issued much of the best fanwriting of the decade. Chief among this output was the fanzine Aporrheta. Alas, non-fannish emotions entered the picture, with Joy Clarke and Sanderson falling in love and emigrating to America. The split was a devastating one for Clarke: it meant the end of his marriage and the end of his involvement with SF fandom.

Following the break-up of his marriage, Vince was absent from fandom from 1960 to 1981. His return coincided with that of a number of other old-time fans and he quickly threw himself back into things, publishing a small number of fanzines and once again becoming a regular at the first-Thursday meetings of London fans he had first attended back in the 1940s.

Though he had a deep interest in and knowledge of fandom's history (and, indeed, was there for much of it) Vince was nevertheless always fully engaged in modern fandom, venturing onto the Internet along with the rest of us, and retaining a lively interest in SF and in science which never wavered.

He was Fan Guest of Honour at Intersection, the 1995 Glasgow Worldcon, an honour that everyone thought was richly deserved and long overdue. Yet for all his many and very real accomplishments in fandom, those of us who knew him will remember him best for his many kindnesses. He was a genuinely lovely man to whom nothing seemed to be too much trouble if it meant helping a fellow fan. Deeply self-effacing, he would probably have been embarrassed by the praise in this obituary and in the many tributes posted on Usenet from friends across the world when they learned of his passing. He deserved all of them, and more.

– Rob Hansen and Andrew I. Porter
Science Fiction Chronicle #200 (December 1998/January 1999)
Copyright © Science Fiction Chronicle, 1999; slightly amended for this page.

A Vince Clarke Treasury

This ebook selection of Vince Clarke's writing runs to more than 152,000 words. A few articles were not traced; a few seemed too arcane or ephemeral for reissue. The major known omission, which our fan focus group felt too painful even now, is his heartbreaking 1960 farewell to fandom: Ex-Inchmery Fan Diary. Here is the current contents list as shown on the "Original Appearances" page:

All individual items Copyright © The Estate of A. Vincent Clarke with the given dates, unless otherwise stated. Compilation Copyright © The Estate of A. Vincent Clarke, October 2015.