March 27th to April 17th, 1997
by Andy Hooper
1. Ichthyoelectroanalgesia #3, written and edited by Sean MacLachlan, P.O. Box 1933, Columbia, MO 65205-1933: How long has it been, I wonder, since fanzines issued regularly from Columbia, Missouri? A number of significant titles once had Columbia return addresses, back in the sixties and seventies . . . Anyway, this is a much different sort of fanzine, not SF-related in anyway, but more than cool enough to capture my interest. Sean's professional field is archeology, and much of the zine is spent answering archeological questions sent in by his readers. I thought he was quite restrained in his response to the fellow who asserted stridently that they Egyptians could not have built the great pyramid of Giza. And when you start talking about evidence for Viking presence in America, well, you know I'm there. He also describes part of a trip to Turkey, and offers a few quick fanzine reviews. Great stuff. The title refers, of course, to the use of an electric fish as a way to numb chronic pain, as recommended in certain Roman and Parthian medical texts.
2. Attitude #10, edited by Michael Abbot, John Dallman and Pam Wells, from 102 William Smith Close, Cambridge CB1 3QF UK: This issue, timed to coincide with attendance at Attitude: The Convention, seems just a little slimmer than usual, as if the effort of putting on a superb convention might actually have cut into the editor's time a little bit. Paradoxically, this has served to make it one of my favorite issues yet. I reckon that if Attitude were a 10,000 meter race, this would be the part just before the last kick, when everyone is jangling up and down in a kind of loose delerium as if their feet were controlled by unseen forces. Michael Abbot offers a suitably welcoming editorial, but manages to sneak a reasoned rejection of a British Worldcon in 2003 in the process. Steve Jefferey's fanzine reviews have a breezy, conversational quality to them, but underneath seems to be an understanding of the fanzine stream as a unified organism of many parts, in which each individual issue contributes to the success of many others. Joseph Nicholas takes a page and a half to destroy every spiritual belief system he can get his hands on, asking, "why should there be any damn meaning to life in the first place?" I suspect it's a sort of DIY thing, Joseph. Chuck Connor offers some very colorful memoirs of life on Gibraltar, and there's a good overview of Nova con by Pat McMurray. But two pieces stand out for me: Pam Wells' "My Life as Therpay," deeply self-indulgent writing, but also very honest., and Abbott's "Beta Fandom Rules, OK?", which discusses the fannish consequences of Type A vs. Type B personalities. I would still cut the letter column down quite a bit, but beyond that, I really wouldn't change a thing. Wouldn't it be great if we all woke up on Labor Day and found that this fanzine had won a Hugo in San Antonio, Texas? It might even make Joseph Nicholas undergo a religious transformation.
3. Muse 134, dated March, 1997, written and edited by Steve DesJardins, 1711 Massachusetts Ave. NW #134 Washington, DC 20036: I must say, this one is starting to grow on me. Steven starts out by announcing the birth of a niece and that his physical complaints have been much mitigated through the simple mechanism of taking two aspirin a day. The original wonder drug still has surprises for us, apparently. The meat of this issue is a superb list of novels and stories from 1996 which Steven offered as recommendations for this year's Hugo awards. The nominating process is now closed, but I suspect many of his choices will be on the final ballot, and these descriptions could make an excellent shortcuts for people who don't have the time to read all the nominees. The reports on Lunacon and the last Worldcon are cleverly written and good-humored -- all in all, this was a very entertaining little read, and pleasure to find in the mailbox. Sercon, yes, but I like it too.
4. Ansible #117, edited by Dave Langford, 94 London Rd., Reading, Berkshire RG1 5AU UK: Huh -- says Ellison was up here, apparently for Norwescon. Always nice to first read about events which took place in your own town in a fanzine from another country. But then, Dave is always pulling these little scoops. I'm determined to get my own network of spies together and eventually beat him to something . . . perhaps when he's, um, departed, I can . . . ah, but you know, Langford will probably find a way to write his own obit. Half the back page is devoted to a letter from Gregory Frost about how his prank-pulling pal Charles Shramek is listed as being the discoverer of the Hale-Bopp companion object (and folks, look closely: ITS JUST A STAR!), which inspired all those people in Rancho Santa Fe to snuff out their own pilot lights. Don't know if I would really want that on my resumé -- would depend on the job, I suppose.
5. Choice Cuts #1, written and edited by Perry Middlemiss, GPO Box 2708X, Melbourne, Victoria 3001: Whilst Perry feels uncomfortable with the idea of people reviewing this zine of reviews, I have to praise him for the wit and energy which he has brought to the process. It is clear that this is someone who actually likes getting fanzines, and isn't afraid to admit it! His incandescently positive reviews of Apparatchik made me blush, but there is other stuff covered here too, like Ansible, Thyme, and Kim Huett's recent one-shot. One might suggest that he has chosen a number of fanzines that are easy to give positive reviews to, but since the object is to attract new interest in the field, that's a good idea. The only problem here is that my co-editors didn't get a copy, and they're demanding I hand mine over forthwith . . . .
Vanamonde #200, 202 & 203, written and edited by John Hertz, 236 S. Coronado St. #409, Los Angeles, CA 90057: Pretty impressive keeping a zine title going for over two hundred issues! Of course, in a weekly apa, if you tried to use a different title every time, I think you'd quickly drive yourself buggy. John's Apa-L zine is a relentlessly literate and classy single-sheet which I am coming to quite enjoy. His description of the 19th annual meeting of the friends of the English Regency made it sound like it must have been a fascinating weekend. I suppose there is an alternate history where I came downstairs during the joint Corflu/Regency weekend in Hawthorn in 1992, and eventually became an expert on Regency shoe construction and left this whole fanzine business behind. John has taken to annotating his comments so that I will know who he is talking about, but honestly, John, I know who Lee Gold is, she published my first apazine in Alarms and Excursions in 1982!
TommyWorld #9 - 11, edited by Tommy Ferguson, 768 Manning Ave., Toronto, Canada M6G 2W6, e-mail to email@example.com: I waxed so enthusiastic about TW last time that some people thought I was touting Tommy as a new fan-discovery of mine. I know Tommy's been around for quite a while now, but this business of getting weeekly doses of his writing is quite a revelation. Most of #9 and #11 are the standard sort of fannish reportage, but #10 is very differant indeed. It features a piece of what Tommy refers to as Faan fiction, recounting an apparently imaginary incident at a Second Saturday party in which a foolish fan fires a gun in a crowded space, and Tommy gives him a stern talking-to which veers off into public abuse (S&M aficiandos would be proud to have devised such an arresting scene). It's so different from the run-of-the-mill in faan fiction that one wonders if it really ought to be classed in the same category, but after further thought, stuff like Gordon Eklund's "I Remember Blodgett," which ran in Blat!, and some of the dramatic faan fiction Arnie Katz was writing 25+ years ago, began to come to mind. Humorous Brandonizations and other forms of pastiche are fun, but faan fiction certainly needn't be limited to those areas, and Tommy has definitely reminded us of that fact with his piece in #10. And, I suspect, it may prove to bear other dividends as well. I know I'm never going to pick a fight with him . . . .
The Wollongong Pig-Breeder's Gazette #6, edited by Perry Middlemiss, GPO Box 2708X, Melbourne, Victoria 3001: What with the sudden burst of fanac from his fingers (including Choice Cuts #1, reviewed above), one might expect that Perry would have gotten on with a chapter or two of his DUFF report, but not so. This issue of the Gazette features a summary of the past year in fandom from his perspective, and promises to get on with the DUFF report RSN, then gives way to a long, but entertaining, report from Irwin Hirsh about ANZAPAcon II, a reunion/convention devoted to the Australia-New Zealand Amateur Press Association. Lots of interesting insights into people who live very, very far away from me. Perry says that publishing someone else's work in WPBG is a departure, but it seems like just yesterday that I was enjoying regular issues of Larrikin with himself and Irwin at the wheel -- perhaps that's why this resonated so nicely for me.
Opuntia #31.1 & 32, edited by Dale Speirs, Box 6830, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2P 2E7: The .1 fractionals of this frequent digest are usually studded with reviews, and 31.1 is no exception. Dale gets a lot of fanzines, including a few I don't, and some of these sound very interesting -- I may write away for some samples. #32 features more of Dale's research into arcane duplication methods (I must admit I had never even heard of the damp-leaf copier before), and Garth Spencer's history of Ottawa Fandom. This latter issue came in the same envelope as Issues #18 & 19 of the Canadian Journal of Detournement, Dale's mail-art collage zine accompanied #32, and covering historical conspiracy theory and the wedding of Luther Blisset and Karen Eliot, publishers of SMILE, house-organ of the Dental Assistants' Liberation Front (Marxist). I can't believe I wasn't invited.
Sidebar #1, written and edited by Ken Forman and Arnie Katz, P.O. Box 95941, Las Vegas, NV 89193-5941: Hmmm. I'm contractually-obligated to observe that if the editors spent as much time and space developing topical material as they do trying to marginalize my critical opinion before I even write it, they might really have something here. Of course, I have to admit I'm starting to get something of a complex about Arnie's fanzines, in that it seems like every time I write a really positive review about one of them, I never see another issue. But before this gets to be a treatise on criticising criticism of my criticism, let me say that I think I really liked the look of the fanzine, and I think the editors are very wise to put the warning at the beginning about how a sense of humor is essential equipment for reading it. This is such a useful device that I find it hard to believe it hasn't already become a fannish standard. Just think, if only Laney had put "This is all a joke" at the beginning of Ah, Sweet Idiocy, or if Bill Patterson had prefaced The Little Fandom That Could with a proclamation of his whimsical intentions, so many bad feelings could have been avoided. Arnie responds to the negative review of Wild Heirs that Allison Freebairn wrote in Attitude with a burlesque routine in which he and Joyce make fun of her name. At this point, Arnie seems to have set most of his bridges to contemporary UK fandom alight, and has now started work on dredging the river a little deeper. Ken's editorial, describing his daydreams about creating the fanzine and the world it might spawn was alternately humorous and terrifying. But my favorite part of the zine was Arnie's closing editorial in which he described the process of coming to co-edit with Ken, and the various names they considered before hitting on Sidebar. Everyone whose gone through it knows that the process of naming a fanzine is much more interesting than actually writing it, so I think Arnie will get a lot of nods of assent in response. There's also some interesting art by Alan White, whose lamented Delineator was always one of the most graphically-intense fanzines of its era. Good to see him doing cartoons and illos again.
Thyme #114, edited by Alan Stewart, P.O. Box 222, World Trade Centre, Melbourne Victoria 3005 Australia: First, a quick blow to the head for Alan: Apparatchik ceased to be a perzine about two years ago. Boilerplate is a wonderful thing, but you do need to look at what you're publishing once in a while, Alan . . . . Highlights this time are Terry Frost's column, suggested a fan fund to give fans decent haircuts and announcing his attention to stand for DUFF next year, and Ian Gunn's ongoing "Space-Time Buccaneers" comic-strip. The article by Christopher Ballis questioning the need to rerelease Star Wars may be the most generic piece of fan-writing I've ever seen. And my enjoyment of the book review section was severely hampered by the incredible proportion of crap books the reviewers were saddled with. Sometimes the reliance on media minutiae for filling out space rather wears on me when reading Thyme, and I have to admit that this issue was one such experience. And of all the people in the world that one could interview for a fanzine, Alan manages to land a scintillating conversaion with Ben Bova . . . well, the cover is pretty.
Twink #5, edited by E. B. Frohvet, 4725 Dorsey Hall Drive, Box # A-700 Ellicott City, MD 21042: E.B. reveals a little more of his (I don't know if E.B. is really a guy or not, but I'll be damned if I'm going to refer to him as "they") fannish pedigree here with his description of how to go about getting involved in a winning Worldcon bid. I'm glad to see this, because as those who know me will attest, I 've always said that if there's one thing fandom needs, it's more analogs to mundane political patronage. I'm fascinated by his choice of subject matter for the second article, black characters in science fiction. He begins with a consideration of Neb, the black servant in Verne's The Mysterious Island, and I found myself wishing he'd given himself more space by the time I got to the end. His short reviews of both fanzines and sf are punchy and offer a definite opinion. One wonders what sort of mail he'll get on his savage treatment of the generally well-liked Melinda Snodgrass for her enormous misstep in involving herself in the German-made SF pilot Star Command. What opinion, if any, he may hold of her work as Executive Story Doctor during a season and a half of Star Trek: TNG? But perhaps E.B. is somewhat Trek-impaired; he castigates a generic fantasy novel, The Starlight Crystal, and opines that its author, Christopher Pike might be a pseudonym, but neglects to note the dead giveaway that this was the name of the first captain of the Enterprise. But Frohvet acknowledges elsewhere, in a response to a letter explaining who ATom was, that he knows he has a lot to learn about fandom outside of his experience in '80s con circles, and this willingness to be wrong conveys a certain measure of charm to his endeavors. On the other hand, there is a certain podginess to his interactions with people, such as the elaborate apology-cum-complaint regarding an excised exchange with Joseph Nicholas that can only puzzle or annoy the reader. Sometimes material has to be cut, and an editor should not stand around pointing to the place they were once the deed is done. Anyway, I've seldom heard of an editor being so conscientious as to consult with a letterhack before cutting their letter to fit the fanzine -- E.B. must put in a lot of time on Twink, and I think it is gradually beginning to show. People with sercon or stfnal material they'd like to see published in the near future, and in a venue where they won't drown among dozens of articles, should put Twink at the top of their submission list.
De Profundis #298 & 299, edited by Tim Merrigan for the LASFS, 11513 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood CA 9160: The usual collection of LASFS news and meeting minutes. They seem to be having a lot of fun, as usual. The most interesting stuff here were the reports Jerry Pounelle made after his trip to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The buzz there was largely about the possibility of life in the oceans of Europa, and Jerry offered the observation that the best way to develop technology to investigate it might be to develop a craft that could drop from orbit into the Mid-Atlantic, then burrow four kilometers into the bottom. His thesis was that if we can't do it on Earth, we probably can't do it in orbit around a gas giant either. This reasoning has obvious limits, but one wonders what serious technical blunders might have been avoided by it's application.
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