The Golden Age of Science Fiction: The 1973 Ditmar Award for Best Fanzine: SF Commentary

The Golden Age of Science Fiction: The 1973 Ditmar Award for Best Fanzine: SF Commentary

SF Commentary 26-small SF Commentary 31-small

The Ditmar Awards, for achievement in Australian Science Fiction (including Fandom), have been presented annually since 1969. In most years some variety of a Best Fanzine Award has been given.

SF Commentary, edited by Bruce Gillespie, won the 1973 Ditmar Award for Best Australian Fanzine. Overall, Gillespie has won 16 Ditmars, for Best Australian Fanzine, Best Fanzine Editor, and Best Fan Writer. He has also won 3 Atheling Award for Best Criticism. (The Atheling Awards are part of the Ditmars, I believe, so in reality Gillespie has won 19 Ditmars.) SF Commentary first won the Ditmar Award in 1972, and most recently just last year, in 2018.

SF Commentary began publication in 1969. 99 issues have appeared to date, with the latest having just been posted at It appeared very regularly through 1981, was revived from 1989 through 1993, again between 2000 and 2004, and one or two issues per year have appeared since 2011, these latest primarily in electronic form. In the early years John Foyster and Barry Gillam occasionally shared editorial duties with Gillespie, but since 1975 Bruce has been sole proprietor.

I have been reading issues of SF Commentary in this latest (post 2011) series regularly, and I have corresponded regularly with Bruce Gillespie in various fora since for the past 15 years. Bruce is intensely interested in SF and in its literary ambitions, and his magazine has long reflected that. SF Commentary issues are huge, and stuffed with long critical articles and reviews.

For this article I took a look at scans of the 1972 issues, most of which are available at, thanks to the efforts of Mark Olson. Issues 26 through 31 appeared that year, and four of those can be found at Fanac.

Issue 26 is huge (110 pages), and quite significant, particularly for Darko Suvin’s essay “Cognition and Estrangement: An Approach to the Poetics of the Science Fiction Genre,” and for Gillespie’s opening salvo in a survey of the novels of Brian W. Aldiss. Issue 28 comprises four long essays, each quite personal in tone, about 1971, by Leigh Edmonds, Bill Wright, Harry Warner, Jr., and Gillespie.

Gillespie’s essay includes a list of his 20 favorite stories from 1971, heavily weighted towards stories from Samuel R. Delany and Marilyn Hacker’s excellent original anthology Quark, the four numbers of which all appeared in 1971; and towards Damon Knight’s Orbit. Here’s Bruce’s top 5:

“The View From This Window,” by Joanna Russ (Quark/1)
“Bodies,” by Thomas M. Disch (Quark/4)
“The Encounter,” by Kate Wilhelm (Orbit 8)
“The God House,” by Kenneth Roberts (New Worlds Quarterly 1)
“The Pressure of Time,” by Thomas M. Disch (Orbit 7)

By sheer coincidence I just read (as part of 334) Disch’s blackly (viciously so) funny “Bodies.”

Issue 30 is mostly devoted to discussing Eastercon 1972. And Issue 31 includes a fascinating letter from Philip K. Dick, as well as a transcript of his speech to the 1972 Vancouver SF convention.

I will say that in my mind there is little doubt that Gillespie and SF Commentary deserved their Ditmars, and I only wonder that neither SF Commentary nor Gillespie has won a Hugo. SF Commentary was nominated three times, in 1972, 1973, and 1975.

Covers for #26 (by John Bangsund) and #31 are shown above.

Rich Horton’s last article for us was a look at the 1973 Hugo Award winner for Best Fan Artist: “Tim Kirk.” His website is Strange at Ecbatan. See all of Rich’s articles here.

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