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Last updated 8 March 2023 17:52
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The Harp That Once or Twice
“The Harp That Once or Twice” was Walt Willis’s famous column that ran from 1951 to 1991 in five different fanzines: Quandry, Oopsla!, Warhoon, Quark, Warhoon again and – after a long gap – Science-Fiction Five-Yearly. There were 46 instalments, all collected here with the exception of two entire columns and a number of shorter segments within columns that formed part of the serialization of his 1952 US trip report, separately collected as the TAFF ebook The Harp Stateside.
First published as an Ansible Editions ebook for the TAFF site on 5 March 2023. Cover artwork by Atom (Arthur Thomson) for Cry of the Nameless 164 (November 1962). Over 100,000 words.
From the Introduction
The harp that once through Tara’s halls
The soul of music shed,
Now hangs as mute on Tara’s walls
As if that soul were fled.
– Thomas Moore, Irish Melodies
Only the harp. Lovely. Gold glowering light. Girl touched it. Poop of a lovely. Gravy’s rather good fit for a. Golden ship. Erin. The harp that once or twice.
– James Joyce, Ulysses
This ebook collects almost every instalment of Walt Willis’s legendary fanzine column “The Harp that Once or Twice”. These columns were widely appreciated for their insight into science fiction and science fiction fandom; for genially engaging humour in strong contrast with the rare intervals of deadly seriousness (such as the polemic on Heinlein and Starship Troopers in the twenty-eighth instalment); for cunningly crafted puns that sometimes didn’t detonate until a second or third reading; and for broad erudition modestly and entertainingly presented. (The learned Instalment 43, “The Rats that Ate the Railroad”, was incorporated almost unchanged into Walt’s professionally published 1969 book about his country, The Improbable Irish as by Walter Bryan.) There has been nothing quite like them in fanzines, before or since. They remain eminently readable today.