Fanzine Reviews - 2002 by Ted White

Introduction

Fanzines are a basic part of science fiction fandom, having been in existence as long as fandom itself - the past 70 years. Fanzines are a reflection of many fans' interest in the printed word and amateur publishing. The publication you are reading this in is a fanzine, but a specialized one. A variety of other fanzines are also available - many of them by request - and this column will cover some of them each issue.

All fanzines are published as a hobby and lose money. Their editors appreciate money to defray their expenses and sometimes list single-copy or subscription prices, but they appreciate even more your written response - a Letter of Comment, or LoC. Feedback - better known in fandom as "egoboo" - is what fanzine publishing is all about.

Check out the fanzines below and broaden your participation in fandom.

 

January 2002

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SCIENCE-FICTION FIVE-YEARLY #11 (Lee Hoffman, "Founder, editor emeritus;" Geri Sullivan, Jeff Schalles & Terry Hughes, "Guest editor-publishers" at 3444 Blaisdell Ave S., Minneapolis MN 55408-4315; e-mail to SFFY@toad-hall.com; available by request - no price listed but send a couple of bucks to cover postage)

Science-Fiction Five-Yearly occupies a unique position among fanzines: it has been published regularly since 1951. Once every lustrum - or half-decade - a new issue appears. For the first twenty-five years Lee Hoffman put them out by herself, but starting in 1976 she began using "guest editors" who did most of the scut-work of publishing. The first was Terry Hughes, who came back on board for this issue, but whose participation was tragically cut short by his sudden death from a brain tumor shortly before the issue was completed. Geri Sullivan and Jeff Schalles have produced the last couple of issues and have done most of the work on this one.

Over the years S-FF-Y has established certain traditions. In #2 (1956) both Robert Silverberg (as "Calvin Aaargh") and Harlan Ellison (as "Nalrah Nosille") started serials which continued in subsequent issues (although occasionally in a perfunctory form). Ellison's "!Nissassa" was revived in 1996 and has established yet another tradition - that of arriving just in the nick of time to be included. (I might add that I've been in every issue since #3.)

#11 - the 50th Anniversary issue - runs 42 pages of impeccable mimeoing from electrostencilled computer-set type, and the mimeography, following a tradition established in the first issue, makes use of colored inks. In this S-FF-Y bears a family resemblance to Geri's own fanzine, Idea. And to some extent so do the contents.

Lee Hoffman offers an opening editorial and her blessings upon the enterprise of those who have carried on the task of producing S-FF-Y. Kip Williams contributes two fannish song pastiches, "The SF Family" and "All in the SF Family." Greg Benford produces "How to Write a Scientific Paper" from years of pent-up frustrations with reading real scientific papers. Denny Lien turns his post to the Stumpers-L e-list into an article titled "A Treatise on Dot.Com(edy) With Purple Prose" - it deals in "academic" fashion with the lyrics of two '50s rock'n'roll novelty records. Steve Stiles, in addition to a cover takeoff on 2001, has drawn a full-page piece, "Great Moments from Star Trek By Arthur C. Clarke," which is a great sendup of both Star Trek and Clarke.

The star piece of the issue, however, is Dave Langford's "The Secret History of Ansible," a written version of a talk he gave at Tropicon/Fanhistoricon in November, 2000. In its ten pages Dave talks about the (then) 21 year history of Ansible by providing a series of anecdotes and quotes which stopped all too soon. Langford wins the Fanwriter Hugo with monotonous regularity every year - but probably is the best fanwriter we have now.

Following Langford's piece is my own "Crime Stalks the Fanworld." I've been writing fanfiction - fiction about fans - for S-FF-Y for years now. My "The Purple Fields of Fanac" first appeared in the 1981 issue and was serialized in the following three issues. This story is Complete In This Issue. Jeff Schalles' "Never Back Up" talks about his days as a cab driver in Pittsburgh twenty-five years ago. There is, for the first time, a letter column, and then - rushing to make the issue and virtually the last item in it - Harlan Ellison's latest installment of "!Nissassa."

It's both a solid issue and a Fannish Event and I recommend S-FF-Y highly.

 

February 2002

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NONSTOP FUN IS HARD ON THE HEART #5 (Dwain Kaiser, P.O.Box 1074, Claremont, CA 91711; e-mail to dgkaiser@hotmail.com; available for "the usual" - trades, contributions or letters of comment - but send the guy a buck for his postage when making an initial query).

Nonstop Fun is a good journeyman fanzine. Once upon a time fandom was full of good journeyman fanzines - one or more could be counted upon to arrive in the mail weekly, if not more often. These days such fanzines are rare and to be prized.

They're also a good place for newcomers to fanzines to get their toes wet. They won't overwhelm you or intimidate you with their brilliance; they're more likely to make you feel like this is something you can do and want to do too. They are easy to participate in.

The fifth Nonstop Fun runs a solid 52 pages of readably large computer-set type mimeographed impeccably by the LASFS superGestetner on a light turquoise paper. There are a few color-printed pieces (art and photos) and most of fandom's best artists are well-represented in these pages but the late William (Bill) Rotsler gets the place of honor: in addition to a generous helping of his art throughout the zine, Rotsler is remembered appreciatively by Earl Kemp in the centerpiece article, "Just My Bill, An Ordinary Guy." Several of Rotsler's short written pieces are also reprinted.

The issue opens with a photo tribute to the late Jack Harness. In his editorial Kaiser talks about a "mini-vacation" in nearby Nevada - and illustrates it with a color photo of himself on a jet ski. Following the "Rotsler section" there are a couple of pages of filk lyrics - "This Old Fan" and "Talking LASFS Blues." Then there's Jim Schumacher's "The Good Ol' Daze," about Los Angeles fandom in the late '60s - in which Rotsler also figures prominently, "Las Vegas Adventures 2001" by Lyn Pederson, "The ValSFA Chronicles," a story by John Welsh, and 17 pages of letters by fans whose names will be increasingly familiar to you as you read the fanzines I've reviewed here in the past year.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of fans out there in Greater Fandom now. But the number of fans who are active in fanzines is much smaller - between 500 and 1,000 worldwide. And of those fans perhaps 200 are regularly active in English-language fanzines. Thus the same 20 or 30 names will crop up over and over in the letter columns of various fanzines, and fairly quickly they become easily identifiable individual voices, people you begin to think you know (at least a little) and with whom you want to discuss various topics. And that's what fanzines are really about: unambitious venues for discussions, essays, arguments and conversations. Sound interesting? Get a copy of Nonstop Fun.

 

March 2002

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SF COMMENTARY #77 (Bruce Gillespie, 59 Keele St., Collingwood VIC 3066, Australia; also available as .PDF files from his e-mail address: gandc@mira.net or from the e-fanzines site at http://efanzines.com/SFC/index.html; available for "the usual" - "letters or substantial emails of comment, artistic contributions, articles, reviews, traded publications or review copies [of books]" - or subscription: "$US30 for 5, or equivalent, airmail; please send folding money, not cheques")

SF Commentary sits at the high end of the "sercon," or serious discussion of SF, group of fanzines, a position it has occupied for many years now. In this SFC is following a proud Australian tradition first established by John Bangsund in the mid-'60s with his Australian SF Review. Both fanzines engaged SF's literati from throughout the world, and both have offered important venues to some of the major voices in SF criticism, who in turn have written seminal pieces on some of the most important authors to emerge in the field in the second half of the 20th century, starting with Phil Dick and Ursula LeGuin.

What's most impressive about the way Gillespie (now) and Bangsund (then) have accomplished this is that neither gave in to the academic stuffed-shirt navel-gazing which has grown up over the past forty years around SF and all but smothered SF criticism. SFC maintains a civilized and literate tone throughout, but draws more upon the British tradition of letters and the ties of fannish community to accomplish its purposes. It is not by accident that Gillespie has long called his editorial in SFC "I Must Be Talking To My Friends."

Only a couple of years ago SFC celebrated its 30th anniversary with issue #76. That was a monster issue which had been more than half a decade in the making, but #77 is no slouch either, running 84 pages of small (but readably set) type, with color covers on glossy stock.

The issue opens (on page 3) with "Four Reasons for Reading Thomas M. Disch" by the late John Sladek. It is reprinted from a relatively obscure Australian book of essays about SF authors, The Stellar Gauge, which was published in 1980. The piece is typical Sladek and deserves the position of honor here.

Gillespie's editorial occupies the next 8 pages and covers a variety of topics. "Criticanto" offers 10 pages of thoughtful book reviews by Marc Ortlieb, Roslyn K. Gross, Ian Mond, Steve Jeffery and the editor. A 16-page letter column catches up with responses to SFC #s 73, 74, 75 and 76 - the oldest letters going back to 1993.

The remaining nearly-half of the issue is taken up with "Scanning in the Nineties: Part 1," all but the introductory first two pages by Colin Steele, who wrote these reviews between 1993 and 1999. Subsequent issues will offer similar "columns" by Gillespie, Alan Stewart, Paul Ewins, Doug Barbour "and a few more." Steele's reviews are grouped by category: Reference & Non-Fiction, Australian SF, Australian Fantasy, Australian Horror, British SF, British Alternative Reality Fiction, British Fantasy, British Horror, American SF, and American Horror. The issue closes with a five-page index (in four columns of small type) - a feature which is truly useful in a fanzine of this sort.

If fanzines which talk about science fiction are your meat, SFC belongs at the top of your list.

 

April 2002

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TRAP DOOR #21, March 2002 (Robert Lichtman, P.O. Box 30, Glen Ellen, CA 95442; available for “the usual” – “letters, contributions both written and artistic, and accepted trades” – or $5.00 per copy; e-mail to locs2trapdoor@yahoo.com)

Trap Door has been coming out on a quasi-annual schedule since the ’80s and has over the years become the premier “fannish” fanzine. Editor Lichtman says his fanzine is “like a class reunion,” because fans who had apparently been long vanished from fandom (“gafiated” – as in Getting Away From It All) turn up in its pages. Lichtman has, like me, spent his entire adult life as a fan, having published his first fanzine back in 1959. And by now he has honed his approach to fanzine-editing and can consistently produce one of the best fanzines coming out – if infrequently.

Lichtman had been using a simple word-processor and doing manual paste-ups for years, but with #21 Trap Door has fully entered the DTP/computer-publishing age. And this issue presents some impressive material.

The lead article is by Chris Priest. “The Lost Years” describes what happened to his writing career when he entered into a partnership with Dave Langford to run a small software company which more or less grew like Topsy. The title says it all but the 9-page piece fills in the details entertainingly and insightfully.

That piece would stand out in most fanzines, but here it is eclipsed by Joel Nydahl’s “Revisiting Nydahl’s Disease.” Nydahl is famous in fandom for having put out the best fanzine of 1953 (Vega) and then totally gafiating – at the age of 15! His abrupt disappearance from fandom after publishing the superb 100-page Vega #13 – its first “annish” or anniversary issue – led to the term “Nydahl’s Disease” to describe fans who burn themselves out in a blaze of glory. Last year both Lichtman and I contacted Nydahl (over the internet), leading to his decision to drop in at the Philadelphia Worldcon, where I finally met him for the first time (we’d been correspondents in 1953 and I’d drawn the cover for Vega #5). In his piece for Trap Door Joel describes what happened to him in 1953 (his family had moved from a farm to an in-town home and his social life had picked up) and what happened at Philadelphia last Labor Day weekend.

But that’s not all! Gordon Eklund contributes “The Katz Kontroversy: A Document,” a work of fanfiction (fiction about fans); Ron Bennett writes about “The Real Mrs. Brown,” under whom he taught at the Warwick School in Singapore for three years; Lucy Huntzinger tells “Twice-Told Tales;” Calvin Demmon writes about “An Old Boy and His Dog;” Steve Stiles describes his (brief) job illustrating the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers in “Drawing Board Blues;” I tell about “My Brief Career As An Artist;” and rich brown (who does not capitalize his name) talks about his childhood as a miscreant in “Smokes.” And there are 20 pages of letters.

Trap Door is published half-size (5 by 8 inches), photo-copied, and uses the best artists in fandom (principally Dan Steffan and Steve Stiles, but also ATom, Harry Bell, Grant Canfield, Craig Smith, Bill Rotsler and D. West) to present a fanzine which looks as good as it reads – which is very good indeed. Highly recommended.

 

May 2002

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SFFF #3, Winter 2001 (Mike McInerney, 83 Shakespeare St., Daly City, CA 94014-1053; available "by all the usual methods" - "but especially welcome are trades [of other fanzines] and L[etters]O[f]C[omment]" - no price listed, but send a buck or two for postage; e-mail to elandem@worldnet.att.net)

If you ever wondered what fanzines were like 30 or 40 years ago, here's an excellent example, somehow time-machined into the present. Mike McInerney wandered into my Greenwich Village mimeo shop one day in 1961 and asked me to help him put out the first issue of his first fanzine. We've been friends ever since. And in that time Mike has published a number of fanzines, but often with long gaps between the issues. The last issue of SFFF, for example, came out in 1997.

Little has changed in the way Mike puts out fanzines except for their mode of duplication. Once he cut mimeograph stencils with a typewriter; now he uses a Macintosh Performa 631CD and a copying machine. But the layouts remain simple and functional, and most of the art is either old or timeless. SFFF is good example of what I call the "journeyman fanzine." It's not spectacular, but it's solid. Mike isn't a much of a stylist and keeps his own writing to a minimum, but he's put together an interesting fanzine.

The lead article is a gently caustic review of the movie Dances With Wolves by Lee Hoffman. (I'm guessing the movie was a lot more current when she wrote the piece.) Lee is one of the Biggest Name Fans in fandom, but she's also the author of a number of award-winning western novels (as well as several SF novels), including The Valdez Horses, which was made into a movie. In "Dances With Wolves In Sheep's Clothing" she concludes that "switching around the Good-Guy and Bad-Guy labels hardly seems like such a wonderful development in social progress."

The letter column, running six pages, comes next and supplies the fanzine's centerpiece.

It is followed by Steve Stiles' report on the 1962 Chicago Worldcon, reprinted (complete with Steve's contemporary illustrations) from Mike's HKLPLOD #4 (summer, 1963). Here, most of all, the sense of Fanzines Past is palpable because this is a xeroxed copy of the original 1963 fanzine piece and in it Stiles captures very well the feeling of fandom and the Worldcons of that era. Both the piece and the art are youthful Stiles; in the ensuing 40 years Steve has developed a unique style and has been published in Heavy Metal, Stardate and a number of comics and is one of the best artists in fandom.

The piece gave McInerney a good excuse to run a page of photos from the 1962 Worldcon as the fanzine's back cover. Stiles can be seen in three of the six photos.

SFFF runs only 22 pages - two articles, letters and some editorial nattering - and is pleasantly unpretentious. Check it out.

 

June 2002

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QUASIQUOTE #4, May, 2002 (Sandra Bond, 7 Granville Road, London N13 4RR, UK; available "for a broadly defined fannish usual, for whim, or for £2 or $5 (reviewers take note that a 19p SAE does not cut it)"; e-mail to sandra@ho-street.demon.co.uk)

Quasiquote is a solid, 50-page fanzine which blends a modern (and British) sensibility with curiously old-fashioned-looking production.

In earlier eras of fandom when computers were rare or unheard of and photo-copying was expensive and rarely used, fanzines tended to be banged out on mimeograph stencils (with old-fashioned typewriters) with only a rudimentary attention paid to layout and with hit-or-miss art which might be rather poorly transferred to stencils by the often artistically-inept editor (the art had to be traced with some skill).

These days many fanzine editors have access to publishing programs, routinely turn out double-columned text and scan in their art, creating a digital fanzine (before it is printed out) which could as easily be made into a PDF file. So it is curiously refreshing to encounter a well-written fanzine which has been created with only rudimentary attention paid to layout (no double columns here) and hit-or-miss art (the crudely amateur cover is particularly off-putting, while the back cover is of professional quality). At the midway point (well, page 28) the type size, never very large, shrinks by another point or so, and this, combined with printing that seems to get worse as the issue progresses (Sandra's printer broke down), makes reading Quasiquote not so different from the experience of reading a poorly mimeographed fanzine forty years ago.

But only until you actually read the issue. Sandra's editorial leads off. It presents both short bits of topical interest (she's editing the 1995 Fanthology and is looking for pointers) and longer bits which could stand on their own as short articles. Bond is a solid fannish writer, capable of both serious topics and lighter moments. She came into fandom as a teenager in the mid-'80s, but has become knowledgable about the fandom which preceded her.

Gail Courtney's "How To Purge" is about getting rid of books when one has too many; long-time UK fan Ron Bennett describes the dodges he used to get past French customs when he was selling comic books at Paris shows in "To The Custom House Borne;" Harry Warner (another long-time fan and former newspaper reporter) tells about becoming a radio news announcer at one point in his career in "Bems In The Thames;" Arnie Katz remembers some undeservedly forgotten fanzines with "Say, Don't You Remember?" and I have "Over The Top at Corflu," a 2001 Corflu report (Sandra was delayed in producing this issue).

But the piece which dominates the issue is Australian Laura Seabrook's story of her more than twenty-year career in fandom, "From ShadowFan to GothicGallae," in which she describes her discovery that she was transsexual and what she did about it. It is not a triumphant story (the article is subheaded "A bitter-sweet recollection of fandom") - Laura apparently did not feel she fit into (Australian) fandom as either a male or a female, and her choice of friends (as she describes them) may have been part of her problem. But the piece is uncompromisingly written (and extensively footnoted) and is the sort of intensely personal journalism one occasionally finds in the better fanzines.

 

July 2002

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SLEIGHT OF HAND #1, Spring/Summer 2002 (John Teehan, 499 Douglas Ave., Providence, RI 02908; "Copies available for $2 ($3 outside the US) or The Usual;" e-mail to tumble@ids.net)

John Teehan read SF most of his life, but only recently discovered fandom and fanzines. Last year's Worldcon in Philadelphia was his first convention, which he attended with some hesitation, and "In the weeks that followed MilPhil, I discovered Bill Burns' wonderful efanzines.com website and the Memoryhole, Timebinders and Trufen e-lists." With his discovery of fanzines came his discovery of fandom's history: "I'm mostly just sitting and soaking in the stories. Fandom has such a rich history that's very hard to describe."

And, inevitably, John wanted to do a fanzine of his own. Sleight of Hand #1 is the result. Frankly, I wish my first fanzine had been half as good. The fanzine runs 28 letter-sized pages, but is printed on sheets twice as large, folded and saddle-stapled. Like virtually all modern fanzines (except Twink) it's produced on a computer. Large, readable Adobe Garamond type is set in a double-columned format. Art is sprinkled nicely through the text.

But the key to any fanzine is its written contents, and here once again Sleight of Hand triumphs. John has gotten his main article from Dave Langford, whose groaning bookshelf full of Fan Writer Hugos was well and honestly won. Langford's "Microcon Metamorphoses" is the speech he gave at Microcon in March, 1999. It hasn't dated at all and is a delight to read.

rich brown's "Why I Only 'Used To' Know That Diana Rigg Was A Natural Red-Head" is a rewrite of an e-list post of rich's in which he explains how he came to see Diana Rigg nude, from a distance of perhaps 20 feet - with several digressions thrown in for good measure.

Mike Resnick's "Tales of the Prozines" is a good demonstration of Resnick's ability as a story-teller, and his willingness to hold actual facts at bay when they get in the way of his stories. Since these purport to be true stories, let the reader beware - several are embroidered into fantasy and many incidental facts and details are wrong. But they make an enjoyable read.

The last Big Name in the issue is Janis Ian - the creator, more than 40 years ago, of "Society's Child," an improbable pop hit a year after its release. She too read SF for many years, but only just discovered fandom. Her "Worldcon Diary: How I Spent My Summer Vacation," which first appeared on her website, describes the buildup to and her attendance at the same Philadelphia Worldcon at which John got his toes wet. It's a bit of a gosh-wow piece, but that's not bad, considering its source.

In addition to a couple of minor items, and a page of "Ten-Second Reviews" by the editor, there's a letter column - in Sleight of Hand's first issue. It's made up of a running conversation which first occurred on one of the fannish e-lists after John announced his intention to do a fanzine and asked for advice. Next issue will have actual letters of comment.

All in all, this fanzine is superior to most first issues, especially by those with no prior experience. I feel no hesitation in recommending it, and I'm looking forward to #2.

 

August 2002

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A MIMOSA FANTHOLOGY (MIMOSA 28), June, 2002 (Nicki & Rich Lynch, P.O. Box 3120, Gaithersburg, MD 20885; copies available for $5 ($8 outside North America) or "a printed fanzine in trade;" e-mail to fiawol@cpcug.org or visit the website at http://www.jophan.org/mimosa/)

Until now I've refrained from reviewing subsequent issues of fanzines already reviewed in this column - in order to cover as many different fanzines as I can - but rules (even self-imposed rules) are made to be broken. And A Mimosa Fanthology offers a special case in any event.

Mimosa has been published since 1982, and is celebrating its 20th anniversary with the publication of two "fanthologies" and after that will cease publication with a final issue - #30. (There is an old tradition in fandom that few fanzines make it past their 30th issue and the Lynches are adhering to this tradition.) So #28 is the first "fanthology" issue.

Most "fanthologies" are year's-best collections, drawn from a wide variety of fanzines (and in recent years have been published in cooperation with and the sponsorship of the annual fanzine fans' convention, Corflu) - but A Mimosa Fanthology is drawn solely from the first 16 issues of Mimosa. (The second Mimosa Fanthology, Mimosa #29, will be taken from issues 17-27.) So this volume (which contains 106 pages plus a wraparound cover) is the "best," or at least the editors' choice, from issues published between 1982 and 1994. There are 29 pieces, plus the Lynches' opening editorial and a connective narration which introduces each piece and places it in context. The material is presented chronologically, starting with a minor anecdote (less than a page long) from #1. Many, but not all, of the covers of these issues are also reproduced as thumbnails.

Mimosa evolved into a fanzine about fanhistory - publishing the anecdotes and memoirs of a number of older fans, going back to Forry Ackerman (the self-proclaimed first fan). But this is less obvious in the material from early issues, which is oriented more towards localized fandoms and personal reminiscences. But by Mimosa #5 and Dal Coger's "The Degler Legend" (about fandom's first Major Crackpot, back in the '40s), the die is cast.

Mimosa has won several Hugo Awards for Best Fanzine, and the reasons for those awards can be found, in part, in this volume. And no doubt more will be found in #29, which the Lynches hope to publish "by the end of 2002." Frankly, I'm more interested in the final issue - #30 - just to see how they wrap everything up, since I've already read the material which will appear in #29, but these two Mimosa Fanthologies offer those of you who are new to fanzines an unparalleled opportunity to skim the cream from a Hugo-winning fanzine.

 

September 2002

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CHUNGA #1, Summer, 2002 (Andy Hooper, publisher; Randy Byers, editor; Carl Juarez, designer; no price listed, but send a buck for postage; mail to Byers at 1013 North 36th St., Seattle WA 98103; e-mail to fanmailaph@aol.com or rbyers@u.washington.edu or cjuarez@myrealbox.com.)

Chunga - the name comes from the Frank Zappa album of 1970 - is a solidly edited fanzine in the tradition of "genzines" (general fanzines, unspecialized in nature) which does not feel like a typical first issue. This is undoubtedly because the three fans involved in putting it out have, between them, decades of experience with fanzines. Andy Hooper's Apparatchik was a major fanzine of the mid-'90s. At times he drew upon the assistance of Carl Juarez. And Randy Byers has been making his name as an important fanwriter since he wrote and published Travels With The Wild Child nearly a decade ago. Byers has also had his hand in several collaborative fanzines, but this is his first stint as editor of an ongoing genzine - the next issue of which is predicted to appear "sometime after the 31st of October, 2002."

Within 26 pages Hooper, Byers and Juarez have done pretty much everything right - down to the little delights tucked away in the fanzine's nicks and crannies. In addition to a page of editorials, there are eight articles and three facetious "Fanzine Reviews from Planet X."

In her "Helicon Fanzine Blues," a brilliant, multi-dimensional piece, Claire Brialey remarks on fellow British fan Lilian Edwards' "theory … that good fanwriting has to be by people you know; or, rather, that you appreciate an article far more when you know the writer, or you know where they fit in to your map of fandom, or when it enables you to get to know more about them. Sometimes, in fact, it makes you want to get to know them better in person. I think the main contention here is that good fanwriting is not only intrinsically part of the fannish community but that it also fosters a sense of community in its audience." Claire subsequently offers "two qualms about accepting this," but she has summed up an important aspect of fanwriting.

Chunga is full of good fanwriting - which, although doubtless enhanced by an acquaintance or familiarity with its authors, is good enough to stand on its own and covers a broad range. Lesley Reece rings the changes on an old Dr. Pepper commercial with "Wouldn't You Like To Be A Latte, Too?" Randy Byers talks about fear of two different kinds in "Cliff Hangers." Max (voted Best New Fan in this year's FAAN Awards) contributes "Tobes for TAFF - What Have We Done?" Luke McGuff gives us two editions of "Skiffy Corner," in each of which he idiosyncratically reviews a SF book (by James White and by Samuel Delany). Hal O'Brien and Andy Hooper collaborate on "A Brief Interview" (political humor, which I cared for least). I've already mentioned "Helicon Fanzine Blues." And Andy Hooper closes the issue out with "Never Forgets," a reflection on zoo elephants.

Chunga is off to an impressive start and I look forward with some eagerness to its second issue.

Note: Chunga Issue 1 is on line at eFanzines.com

 

October 2002

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LITTLEBROOK #1, August 2002 (Jerry Kaufman and Suzanne Tompkins, editors & publishers; available for "the usual" (letters of comment, contributions, or fanzines in trade) or $2 a copy; 3522 N.E. 123rd St., Seattle WA 98125; e-mail to jakaufman@aol.com or suzlet@aol.com)

Jerry Kaufman and Suzanne Tompkins are well-known in fandom for their long-running genzine, Mainstream, the final issue of which appeared a few years ago. Mainstream, like entirely too many good genzines, had a publishing schedule which had deteriorated to one issue every several years or so - and it would not have surprised me if yet another issue was first rumored and then eventually appeared in another year or two.

Instead, Jerry and Suzle have launched a new smaller fanzine: "here's the plan for Littlebrook: smaller issues, a little more frequently published…." The first issue runs 12 pages, double-columned, and consists of three pieces. "Bewitched, Bothered and Bemildred" is Jerry's editorial column and includes, in additional to the usual editorial natter about the issue, four complete smaller articles/essays which remind me of what a good fanwriter Jerry has become over the years. Andy Hooper contributes "Sausage Time," subtitled "a column about contemporary fanzines." Hooper explains that since he stopped putting out a small frequent fanzine five years ago he's gradually lost contact with the current fanzine scene - and then provides insightful commentary on four current fanzines anyway. The issue finishes with a slightly augmented version of Moshe Feder's Guest of Honor speech at this year's Corflu (where the GoH's name is drawn from a hat and the Lucky Winner has a day to come up with his or her speech or presentation). Moshe proved himself equal to the challenge, as has always been the case with Corflu GoHs.

A surprisingly solid issue, despite consisting of only a dozen pages.

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FLOSS! #2, May 2002 (Lilian Edwards, 39 Viewforth, Edinburgh EH10 4JE, Scotland; L.Edwards@ed.ac.uk, available by editorial whim, so ask)

Lilian Edwards has been putting out fanzines for around 20 years by now and has it down to a fine art. Floss! is the successor to Gloss, a fanzine which had managed three somewhat contentious issues. This issue focuses on British conventions, covering Damn Fine Con (a Memento-ish chronologically-reversed report by the eponymous Max), Helicon II (by Juliette Woods and, separately, by Tanya Brown), Novacon (by Tony Keen) and Corflu (by Randy Byers). In addition, Lilian contributes "Indefinite Articles" (a disguised editorial about the joys of the internet's Live Journal) and "I Went To IKEA" (where she did not find bliss), Jae Leslie Adams gives us "Barbie the Feminist," and there are four pages of letters. Floss! has 33 pages of single-columned text, illuminated by photos from the various conventions and cartoons by Dave Hicks, and a great (color) cover depicting a fannish version of the game Clue.

Floss! exemplifies the better, less formal, British fanzines of the day. It's full of in-jokes that depend on knowing who the people referred to are, but not to the point of obscurity - you can pick it up as you go along, and the spirited writing will ease that task.

 

November 2002

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THEY MADE US DO IT #2, Autumn 2002 (Max, editor & publisher; probably available for "the usual" (letters of comment, contributions, or fanzines in trade) or send $1 for a sample copy; 20 Bakers Lane, Woodston, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire PE2 9QW, England)

Max (who uses that name alone) is one of the brightest new lights in UK fandom, and won this year's FAAN Award as Best New Fan. They Made Us Do It (subtitled "A genzine by Max") is the successor to Max's "perzine" (personal zine, written entirely by the editor), They Made Me Do It. "Some work really is crying out to be committed to paper, no matter how happy it is sitting there on the internet. This zine grew legs, but it's definitely still the same fanzine. I think there will be more. I might even relent on the artwork and LoC [letters of comment] Column stance. They're not here this time but next time, who knows?"

What is here this time is content, in an austere but attractively simple package: Ten pages of single-columned type with wide margins, without art or gimmicks. I'm reminded of the simple, straight-forward, all-typing mimeographed fanzines of several decades ago. Hardly anyone uses a mimeograph any more and Max is no exception. The pages are computer-typeset and printed/copied on canary paper. But there is a warmth which belies the simplicity of presentation.

There are four pieces in addition to the short inside-cover editorial from which I've quoted. Simon Bradshaw's "Watching Falling Stars" describes watching the Perseid meteor showers with contrasting sections (in italics) which provide an objective description of the history of one dust particle in that shower. Ang Rosin provides in "Gathering Rain" what was once called a "mood piece" in one page, its perfect length. Max's own "July 4th, Kenwood Beach" is the longest piece, a detailed narrative about swimming in the Chesapeake Bay at midnight (and, not surprisingly, getting stung by what we always called "sea nettles" - jellyfish), while visiting Nic and Bobbi Farey. And the final piece, "Life Without Anne" is by Douglas Spencer, whose wife died one year earlier. It's heartfelt but free of sentimentality.

None of these pieces discusses science fiction, or, for that matter, fandom. Yet each is permeated with fandom in its own way: each is a personal communication from fans to fandom, a product of the community of fandom.

This is the innermost circle of fannish fanzines: writing about one's personal experiences and concerns for one's friends. It can be done well or poorly, depending on who is doing it. In this case it is done well. Max listed no price, but I'd suggest sending at least a dollar to help pay the postage.

 

December 2002

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BANANA WINGS #18 (Clair Brialey, 26 Northampton Road, Croydon, Surrey CR0 7HA, UK, and Mark Plummer, 14 Northway Road, Croydon, Surrey CR0 6JE, UK, editors; e-mail to banana@fishlifter.demon.co.uk; apparently available by editorial whim since no requirements or price is listed - but send at least a couple of dollars to cover the postage)

It's been a while - more than a year - since the last issue of Banana Wings appeared, but this issue is well worth the wait. Indeed, BW #18 is one of the best fanzines to appear this year.

Physically, BW is handsomely produced, using double-columned computer typesetting - as most fanzines do now - printed by photo-offset or a similar means of copying, on sheets of paper measuring a bit over 11 inches by 16 inches, folded and stapled, resulting in 48 pages of material. The covers are on green paper, the interior pages on white.

There is relatively little art and most of that is decorative Egyptian-styled work apparently copped from a Dover book, but it is attractively placed in stylish but functional layouts. The sole exception is Steve Stiles' two-page comic strip, "Steve Stiles, Martyr," which engagingly tells an embarrassing story from his elementary school days. Stiles is unquestionably the best artist contributing to fanzines these days and his strip is a coup for BW.

But the star of the issue is Michael Abbott's "Fifty-Seven Fanzines and Nothing On," a "review of fanzines given out at Plokta Con v2.0, with digressions." Using the conceit of a "Fandom Channel," Abbott spends the better part of seven pages discussing eleven fanzines in knowledgeable detail. This is the kind of in-depth fanzine-reviewing which I love to read and have occasionally written, but which is far beyond my purview here.

Banana Wings is doing with this piece and several others this issue what is called "fanzines talking to/about other fanzines" - the kind of cross-commentary which links fanzines into an overall community. Another word for this is "feedback" - intelligent, thoughtful commentary which rewards both the casual reader and those whose works are being discussed. As Max points out in "Greying Fandom," "SF isn't special any more. It's everywhere. Not everyone gets it. Some people want a nice romance movie or a charming nature documentary. But those who do? They're not fandom. To be part of fandom you have to choose to be in it." And in "The Enchanted Duplicator and Other Fables of Fandom" Andy Sawyer remarks on the "distinction between being a fan of science fiction and a science fiction fan."

There are seven main pieces in this issue of BW; besides those mentioned are pieces by Cardinal Cox, Ron Bennett and Tanya Brown, as well as a thoughtful exchange between Gregory Pickersgill and John-Henri Holmberg which first appeared on a private e-list. In addition there are editorials and editorial bits (short bits scattered through the issue) by Claire and Mark and six pages of letters.

I recommend Banana Wings highly and hope to see it regaining a more frequent schedule.

All fanzine reviews on this website are copyright 2002 Ted White

 

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