The History of Tightbeam

By Donald Franson

In the beginning, N3F did not have a letterzine. The fledgling club could hardly afford to publish one zine, let alone two; and letter, if any, appeared in Bonfire, or The National Fantasy Fan, its successor.

In 1949, Art Rapp, the editor of Spacewarp, a popular fanzine, decided to put out a letterzine for the N3F, calling it Postwarp. This was available on subscription, at 10 cents a copy (the usual price in those days) which paid for itself. It contained letters on all subjects, but mainly discussed the N3F, and not being official, could be free to criticize (as continues to this day, even when edited by the President). When Art left, others took up Postwarp, with varying success, continuing to 1960, when Alan J. Lewis (not to be confused with Albert J. Lewis) has problems and Postwarp did not appear regularly or on time.

By now the zine was financed by the N3F, and the officers, understandably, wanted it to appear before they paid for it. Lewis, on the other hand, could not promise anything and claimed he needed the money in advance. This impasse went on for some time, and caused various new rules to be made, to no avail, so they decided to go around the delinquent editor by doing another letterzine, letting him delay Postwarp as long as he pleased. So, in a sense, Postwarp and Tightbeam (which was not quite the name of the new zine) were not related.

Walter Coslet volunteered to do the first issue, and named it Hyperspace Tightbeam. Another reliable, Art Hayes, did the next and Marion Zimmer Bradley (no less) edited the third issue, and promptly renamed it Tightbeam, a more sensible name which described the activity, that of serving as a medium for inter-member communication. So the first few editors rotated, setting a precedent, though sometimes it was more efficient to have a semi-permanent editor, who could control the contents of the issue to fit the pages allowed.

But, as you know, no job in N3F is permanently occupied, so we have alternated between long-time and one-issue editors. It always works out, somehow, and Tightbeam has gotten to its 200th issue without a break or great changes in content. With that number, I can’t even begin to summarize the editors we’ve had, you will have to wait for the complete checklist of N3F publications I will finish Real Soon Now. Suffice it to say that Tightbeam is always enjoyable, at least from my viewpoint, one whose favorite reading matters is letters, whether in fanzines or prozines.

Now we are about to lose our current editor, and a replacement must be found. (Note the neutrality of that word, “replacement.” A “pinch-hitter” is better, and a “substitute” not as good.) If you think you can do an issue or so, why not volunteer? Just think; you can have your own fanzine without paying for it! Where is there an opportunity like this? Doing a letterzine, with other material to stimulate the letters, can be easy or hard. And it can be fun!


The above history is a reprint from 1996. It was written by Donald Franson on June 24, 1996, for special anniversary Issue #200 of Tightbeam.