Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Lloyd Penney: A Letterhack's Life

So how did Lloyd Penney became a prodigious letterhack generating up to 30 LOCs (letters of comment) a month, his name becoming a fanzine omnipresence?

In 1997 Lloyd was living in Victoria, British Columbia when he discovered a local Star Trek Club. His membership gave him a taste for science fiction fandom's social conditions.

Lloyd: "I wanted to be a part of things, and I wanted to learn about this hobby/way of life. I was very much a loner as a kid, and I wanted to change that."

He was a loner because he skipped a year in early in his schooling, finding himself among peers not his age.  He was physically smaller than the other kids, another reason why he didn't fit it.  No one wanted to associate with him.  With nothing in common with his he peers had to create his own entertainment.

His interest in science fiction lead to reaching out to others through writing to SF fanzines.  Friends told him letter columns were the heart of fandom.

Lloyd: "Responding to as many fanzines as I can gives me as many contacts as I can get. I also wanted to be in the heart of things. I can look back and say that I have won my share of letterwriting awards, but I do have my doubts about being in the heart of things in the lettercolumn."

He moved to Toronto, enrolling in an university to pursue a journalism degree.  He wanted to express himself while making a living in journalism.  Despite earning a BAA degree a journalistic career didn't work out for him so he continued with his interest in SF fandom, meeting more people in fan publishing.  He became involved in publishing the local APA (amateur press association) zine.

Lloyd: "While I was enjoying getting an apazine published, I guess I thought a larger audience would be better for me, so I left APAs to join fanzine fandom."

He started slowly, learning how to write a good LOC along the way.

Lloyd: "I found different ways of responding, of using the language, and I think my writing style is more conversational, maybe more flowery. I try to vary my style, but I often find that my writing will resemble the style of the faned I am responding to. I have always tried to insert some personal journalism into my letters. In some ways, I don’t need a blog; if you want to learn what’s going on in my life, ready my LOCs."

He has won the FAAn Award five times for Best Letterhack.

Lloyd: "The reaction to my winning was jubilation here, but I found the reaction from others in fanzine fandom to be mixed. Some were congratulatory,others did not react at all, and some outright objected. Perhaps I wasn’t part of their group, perhaps they thought I should not have won, and I did get a few outright hostile e-mails."

In some cases Lloyd was still the loner.  But he pressed on.

Lloyd: "I look back at it all, and hope that I won because of the quality of my writing, but some thought it was quantity of LOCs."

After decades of letterhacking Lloyd is considering reducing his output.

Lloyd: "I have enjoyed writing for fanzines, having been in the letter column for about 35 years now. However, I am perhaps getting a little tired of it all, and of getting little if any appreciation for doing so. I have promised myself that I will slowly reduce the number of fanzines I respond to. I would like to be around when all the zines come crashing down, leaving only memories, and I think that time is not far away. Until it arrives, I will continue to talk to my friends via the locol."

(Originally published in Ray X X-Rayer #126)

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