Kittywompus Tracks Fanzines - June 2000
20 June 2000
There's been a noticeable dearth of fanzines around here for the last couple of weeks. Then, as they started appearing, I seemed to have a busy spell. At any rate, we have now had a few. Brief mentions of Weber Woman's Wrevenge 55, Fosfax 198, Opuntia 45 & 45.1, and Vanamonde 353-7 below, and WiGGLe on the e-zines page.
WeberWoman's Wrevenge 55, Jean Weber, PO Box 640, Airlie Beach, Qld 4802, Australia 12pp A4, available for "contributions, uncancelled postage stamps, editorial whim or A$4"; Jean exhorts you to read the web version by preference, though I have a paper copy in my hands.
Arrived this morning and not yet read; this issue has diary notes, book reviews, articles from Lyn McConchie and David Evans, and a few locs along with "IAHF numerous other people whose letters I have mislaid". I am glad I am not the only person who does this.
Opuntia 45 & 45.1, Dale Speirs, Box 6830, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2P 2E7 each 16pp A5, available for trade, LoC or $3. Whole numbered Opuntias are sercon, .1 issues are reviewzines, .2 issues are indices, and .5 issues are perzines.
Remarkable as one of the very few fanzines I receive where the editor admits of no contact with the Internet at all. Dale is more linked into what he calls the "Papernet" than most of us, though, receiving a wide range of fanzines from around the world, not just SF, and also mail art. He does a slightly separate mail art zine occasionally, too (though not, I think, for a while). Opuntia has little truck with the gossip, slander and innuendo side of fanac. It has a slightly different take on fan history to other zines, and has run articles on the history of amateur publishing, of famous mail frauds, and so on. This time we have letters in both zines, zine listings, mail art listings, and Hugo musings in 45.1, and the second part a round-up by Garth Spencer of conrunning reference material. This latter would certainly be of interest to someone running their first con, but I found it rather dull; Opuntia's main problem is that it is often over-earnest. I am always pleased to see Dale's brightly decorated envelopes in my morning post, though, which is more than I can say for...
FOSFAX 198 (though the cover says 199), The Committee to Publish FOSFAX, c/o FOSFA, PO Box 37281, Louisville, Kentucky 40233-7281, USA 86pp letter, bimonthly, available for the usual, free with FOSFA membership, or $12 for 6 issues.
I assume that the general practice is to print everything received. FOSFAX is the most incredibly irritating fanzine; enormously long, with very small print, no evidence of editorial control, and endless political posturing (primarily, though not exclusively, right wing). This fanzine always reminds me of those times when rec.arts.sf.fandom decends into a sudden flame war. Tucked in, here and there, amongst acres of argument, are little nuggets of fine fan writing. But life is too short. Half of each issue is the loccol, with loads of editorial comment added to each letter. Too big, too indigestible, not at all what I am looking for in a fanzine. I don't know if the editors have ever answered the question "what sort of fanzine do we want to publish?", but after 198 issues you'd expect them to have a pretty good idea. Has been nominated for the Hugo in the past.
Vanamonde 353-357, John Hertz, 236 S Coronado St., No. 409, Los Angeles, CA 90057, USA 2pp letter. An apazine for Apa-L and Minneapa at least, short but weekly, and I don't know what it's available for but we're certainly trading for Plokta.
The two-page format, normally with plenty of mailing comments, answers to correspondents and so on, is hard to engage with. Though probably not as hard as FOSFAX, on the whole. And it is a weekly. These issues contain obituaries and a conreport of Loscon, along with snippets from letters. This is one fanzine format that feels to me more naturally suited to the online journal way of going about things. But I have never been in a weekly apa, and it is possible that Vanamonde finds a more natural home there.
4 June 2000
Well, I found copies of Bogus 4 and New Kind of Neighbourhood, so they're now properly reviewed below. I've also had e-zines The Fan in My Grave 5 and Paper Snarl 12, along with the WSFA Journal, and you can see reviews on the e-zines page. And Arthur Hlavaty wonders if he can sign up for the IIIBEB list, but I'm afraid the quota has long since been filled.
I've only been seeing Ansible electronically for the last few months, due to not getting to the monthly London fannish meetings at the Dead Nurse. But Langford sent me some paper copies this time, so that we could distribute them at the small, cozy, and highly riotous party we held yesterday night in honour of transatlantic visitors Victor Gonzalez and Vicki Rosenzweig. This issue has the normal collection of news, gossip, con listings, obituaries, Thoggeries, and so on, all crammed into two pages and bursting at the seams. We all carp -- perhaps unfairly -- that it's focussed primarily on the SF industry rather than fandom, but it's essential nonetheless. And much nicer on tactile green paper than messy monospaced rasseff.
No Award 7, Marty Cantor, 11825 Gilmore Street, #105, North Hollywood, CA 91606, USA 34pp letter, available for the usual or $5 single copy cost.
Marty retired recently, and has been taking advantage of this to pursue fanac for dozens of hours a week. In particular, he's acquired a modem and has joined the online community with great enthusiasm. This is not entirely to the benefit of the other denizens of mailing lists such as Trufen, who have been heard muttering about whether the list could do with a maxac.
Similarly, No Award demonstrates the same sort of excessive zeal in formatting. Marty's fanzine -- produced on the LASFS heavy-duty Gestetner, it appears -- is not printed particularly clearly. Now this can be completely overcome by thoughtful layout. A good example would be Geri Sullivan's Idea, where really strong design sense almost makes a virtue of Fibertone. But here, Marty seems to be attempting to set a record for most excesses of DTP in a single fanzine, starting with a choice of body font that is totally unsuitable for his printer. The script font for editorial comments is even worse. Of course, if you don't like those fonts, don't worry, because there are thirty or forty others to choose from at various points around this fanzine. And if the fonts don't trouble you, then you could look at all the weird border styles, the WordArt, the illustrations formed out of lines and boxes, or the interesting use of half-toning. No wonder Marty is so determined that his fanzine will not appear on the web until he has a chance to recreate the printed page exactly.
But the main focus of KTF is the content of fanzines, not their design. So, what of the content? Two of these articles are reprinted from previous issues, and in one, we're promised more in a future issue. Here's a useful rule of fan editing; If an article's worth printing, it's worth printing all at once. And like all good rules, you can break it now and then. But what on earth could be gained by collating Thom Digby's article headers into a piece which is then split over two issues? These little snippets are variously entertaining, but four pages is plenty of room to give them. Much better to collate lots of them and then form an article of just the right length from only the very best. The delight of editing this sort of piece is the possibility of placing material in a context that makes it shine. Seeing "more in No Award #8", with its inherent promise that Marty has just formed a list rather than crafting an article, just makes the heart sink.
There are three other weak articles, two of which are continuations. The episode of Len Moffatt's Californian fan history veers wildly from LASFS reminiscences to irrelevant personal history. It's possible that other sections of Ed Green's memoir of the LA riots have been interesting, but this one, entirely office-based, is deadly dull. And Milt Stevens, who Marty describes as "at another peak of his humourous form", provides a tale of imaginary TV shows in poor taste that did not raise a single smile in me. I know humour is a personal thing, so if you were rolling on the floor, please let me know.
By far the best piece in this issue is Ann Green on the business of how we collect stuff. It's a reprint from Ann and Steve's fanzine Thunderbox, so you may have already seen it. Choosing good things to reprint is a valuable editorial skill, so there's hope for Marty yet. And I enjoyed Joseph Major's review of Twink, and the locs. I found the Taral cover incomprehensible, and as it's clear from the colophon that it has been languishing unpublished since the days of Topic A, I suspect I'm better off not knowing.
There are two possible reasons why No Award is such a patchy genzine. Either Marty genuinely believes that the material he's publishing is of better quality than it is, or he knows it's weak but has not yet worked out that the editor's job is to edit. Either way, No Award is flabby, and has insufficient regard for the value of its readers' time.2 June 2000
We have some actual controversy on KTF, as Andy Hooper is concerned that I may have misinterpreted Arnie Katz's editorial in Baloney. He writes, under the subject line "It was a joke, you fatheads":
Should we actually exclude all the insensitive, ignorant and big-mouthed
people from fandom and/or our segment of it, the sound of crickets will grow
loud in the lonely darkness around us. But I really feel that the whole
section in question was meant to be exaggerated for humorous effect, and
should not have been taken as an indictment by anyone. British fanzines are
crammed with this kind of whinging -- what is it about Arnie Katz that makes
you feel bound to misinterpret the same attitudes and discourse in his
fanzine as hostility? When Arnie sprays oceans of American Frontier Hokum
masquerading as fan fiction at you, your fandom hates that, and rises as one
to call him a boob. Now he assumes a pose of jaded insolence that recalls the
young Tobes Valois at his most bilious, and you tut-tut and wag your chin.
I feel that Arnie at least capers and twirls fetchingly as he witters his
self-conscious way through his editorials, and that choosing to focus on
those lines as if they were sincere, floating as they do in a broth of other
humorous lies and fabulations, is indicative of a need to find fault
somewhere in his work. But even if you won't seek to correct the impression
you've helped create, please avoid allowing the self-selectedly ignorant to
line up and count coup on Arnie as you did in your latest issue.
Should we actually exclude all the insensitive, ignorant and big-mouthed people from fandom and/or our segment of it, the sound of crickets will grow loud in the lonely darkness around us. But I really feel that the whole section in question was meant to be exaggerated for humorous effect, and should not have been taken as an indictment by anyone. British fanzines are crammed with this kind of whinging -- what is it about Arnie Katz that makes you feel bound to misinterpret the same attitudes and discourse in his fanzine as hostility? When Arnie sprays oceans of American Frontier Hokum masquerading as fan fiction at you, your fandom hates that, and rises as one to call him a boob. Now he assumes a pose of jaded insolence that recalls the young Tobes Valois at his most bilious, and you tut-tut and wag your chin.
I feel that Arnie at least capers and twirls fetchingly as he witters his self-conscious way through his editorials, and that choosing to focus on those lines as if they were sincere, floating as they do in a broth of other humorous lies and fabulations, is indicative of a need to find fault somewhere in his work. But even if you won't seek to correct the impression you've helped create, please avoid allowing the self-selectedly ignorant to line up and count coup on Arnie as you did in your latest issue.
I don't think I accused Arnie of hostility, exactly, and I'm pretty sure I pointed out how very entertaining his editorial was. Plus, surely the fact that we now have hordes of Britfen lining up to be counted amongst the five is proof that we don't take it too seriously?
1 June 2000
Well, I've recovered now from <plokta.con>, and have a big pile of fanzines in front of me, along with a couple of letters. Joseph Major reflected on my pegging myself as one of Arnie's "insensitive, ill-bred, ignorant, benighted, egotistical and big-mouthed" people, and writes:
I also had a letter from Martin Morse Wooster, asking for a copy of No Moose Today, Thanks and wondering about surface mail:
Back at the fanzines, I'll start with one of the odder things we've had in trade for Plokta.
Napartheid, 127 PK, Trintxerpe-Pasaia, Gipuzkoa 20110, The Basque Country 48pp A4, entirely in Basque, but it has an English language website with information about hundreds of other fanzines, the only one of which I recognised was Attitude. Available in trade for your fanzine, or for cash.
Well, I can't understand this one, but it's quite useful for party games where you invite people to guess the language. Most of the art is rather crude, but that's true of lots of underground comics (and this is largely an underground comic). I suspect this is rather more political than the majority of SF fanzines.
I must declare an interest, because I have a piece of art in this issue. Nevertheless, I was delighted by Gloss, and can point to it as a model of what I like fanzines to be like. In particular, this fanzine will make no sense to anyone who is not already thoroughly rooted in the culture. Lilian and Victor, currently modelling transatlantic co-editorship (I looked in vain for the no-shagging disclaimer), pack six articles into the ten pages, every one of which refers to -- puts a gloss on, perhaps -- some other aspect of fandom.
Lilian considers Ted White's article about Ardis Waters in Squib, and compares it to The Virgin Suicides. Randy Byers and Christina Lake provide quirky conreports of Corflu and 2Kon respectively. Alison Freebairn muses on turning blonde, and casts Gormenghast from the Leeds group. Victor supplies a fannish allegory for the modern age, and Andy Hooper reviews 8 British fanzines in a page. Of these, only Victor's article seems heavy-handed; too much moralising and far too few jokes. He snipes accurately at a couple of targets, but it's not a lot to show for three pages.
And the print size is tiny, tiny, with huge white margins. These were forced on the fanzine by the need for separate US and UK printing, and the 1oz. US letterpost limit, but it still made it hard for me to read, and I don't normally notice small print. It would be a shame if, now that it's so easy to produce a legible fanzine, the urge to get as many words as possible into as small a space as possible made fanzines just as difficult to read. Otherwise, this is a great fanzine. I even liked the interlins.
Head! 1, Christina Lake & Doug Bell, 12 Hatherley Road, Bishopston, Bristol, BS7 8QA, UK. 22pp A4, available for the usual.
Another first issue, this one gleefully titled so that Christina and Doug could spend the whole weekend going around giving Head! Unlike Gloss, this one does have an editorial explaining what the purpose of the fanzine is. Regular readers will know I'm not fond of these -- but at least this one is short and unpretentious. Christina describes fandom's gaping need for a focal point fanzine before concluding that Head! is definitely not that fanzine.
An uncredited conreport of 2Kon and Corflu is clearly by Doug, and finishes with a plea to future Eastercon committees to include some material about SF and fandom in the Eastercon programme. You would have thought this was a no-brainer, wouldn't you? Several people independently came up to cabal members at <plokta.con> and told us how much better our programme was than 2Kon's. But our programme was largely put together on a shoestring the month before the con; surely 2Kon could have managed something rather more ambitious? A separate conrep from Christina focuses on the proliferation of spoof bids (memo to Steve Davies; include in your dossier of how to run Eastercons the once standard unwritten rule that there should only be one of these per year) and the misery of being in the Eastercon overflow hotel.
Other articles here are Christina's dissection of the panel at 2Kon which tried to second-guess the Arthur C Clarke award judges, Frank Lunney's visit to a Washington DC anti-captitalist demo, Simon Lake's undemanding travelogue from his trip to New Zealand, and Lilian Edwards on why she likes Buffy so much.
Nick Walters reviews a TV show called jam, which we haven't seen, but may now watch out for. He describes the show as outrageous, saying "You can't believe what you've just seen, the bloody insensitivity and cruelty of it... It's clearly not even meant to be "funny" in the usual sense, and no-one's laughing". Well, call us pervs or something, but the two specific examples he gave had both Steven and me, separately, rolling on the floor. But then we laughed like drains at the scene in The League of Gentlemen when the kestrel was released, so perhaps we're not particularly good judges of good taste.
And there are fanzine reviews, with actual stars! Well, little two-head logos. One two-head logo apparently means "Pass me a Vanamonde", which reminded me that I haven't had any Vanamondes in the post recently, but haven't particularly missed them. I'm sure they'll be along soon. Christina always seems to peg fanzines particularly accurately; here reflecting that ABV suffers from the editors never being in the same place, and that Ulrika would write very well if only she didn't lay it on with a trowel.
Finally, there's a run-down of the merits of lager vs real ale so tediously unfunny that I would rather read a list of why cucumbers are better than men.
Overall, Head!, with its stable of local contributors (not counting Frank and Lilian), feels like a natural successor to Balloons Over Bristol, the groupzine which was largely driven by Christina. The quality standard is higher here, though the fanzine still feels a little unfocused in places. No contributors' addresses (and none in Gloss); is this a trend?
Bogus 4, Sandra Bond, 46 Stirling Road, London N22 5BP, UK. 4pp A4, available by editorial whim.
This perzine was deliberately targetted as a handout for <plokta.con>. Two longer segments cover a funny thing that happened to Sandra at a TV Smith gig, and consider the part of her personality who is willing to take centre stage. This latter was quite reminiscent of Siberia the Tortoise, to be honest. In between these, Sandra covers goth bees, wonders if she's one of Arnie & Tom's fuggheads, reviews this weblog, and digs up a great E Nesbit quote. A very entertaining four pages.The Squiggledy Guide to <plokta.con>, Bridget Bradshaw, 19 Hillcourt Road, Cheltenham, Glos GL52 3JJ, UK. 4pp A5, probably available for the usual.
A classic at-con one-shot, with reviews of all the same fanzines I'm covering here, reflections on the convention in progress, a treasurer's report on the UFF auction and a rumination on the delights of bitching. For me the funniest thing in this was the description of the cover of Plokta: "The Sue Mason cover is, as usual, excellent." I can't tell whether this was Bridget deliberately echoing fannish history, or whether she has separately come up with the form of words that D West used to bemoan the standard of fan art criticism. At any rate, it was an odd choice of phrase, given that this is the first time Plokta has ever had a Sue Mason cover.
This is the first English-language fanzine from half of the <plokta.con> Lunatic Scandinavian Fringe, though they give the impression of having done several previous fanzines in Swedish. I was astonished to discover that Ylva went to her first con in 1975 -- was she three at the time? The editorial is on 'why I am pubbing my ish', and Lennart suggests that it's because fanzines get us high, but we don't like to talk about it. I certainly know what he means about the buzz from holding the printed product in my hands. It remains to be seen whether doing a website is as invigorating.
Otherwise, we have what I certainly hope is a spoof bid to hold the Eastercon in Stockholm, a dangerously generic conreport, a guest article by Johan Anglemark about Upsalan fandom, and a rather surreal article by Ylva. This last -- easily the most ambitious of the articles -- is the only place in the fanzine where comprehension is threatened by the translation from Swedish. A detached critical sense casts its eye over ever increasing circles, not entirely liking what it finds.
This is, of course, a far better fanzine than my first Swedish-language fanzine is likely to be. But it also stands up quite well in its own right. The articles are interesting, and slightly quirky. And it has a strong visual sense, with excellent woodcut-style illustrations by Ylva, and weird clipart of tin toys. Are we finally putting to rest the ghosts of awful 80s Swedish fan feuds?Lofgeornorst 59, Fred Lerner, 81 Worcester Avenue, White River Junction, Vermont 05001, USA.8pp letter, in type just enough bigger than Gloss that I can read it. Apazine for FAPA, plus limited distribution outside FAPA.
Articles here on the merits of preparing thoroughly for a vacation and possible alternative voting systems, along with a letter column and some mailing comments on FAPA. Apazines, even ones as carefully constructed as Lofgeornorst, always make me feel I'm only seeing part of the picture.
Connection 1, Simon Ounsley, 47 Birkdale Drive, Leeds, LS17 7RU, UK. 14pp A4, available for the usual.
So there we were at the con, discussing Simon Ounsley and wondering whether he had gafiated completely this time. "I don't suppose we'll be seeing any more fanzines from him," we whinged. "What a shame."
Imagine my surprise when I got home to find a new fanzine from Simon, much less miserable than the last one for all sorts of good reasons. One page brings you up to date with what he's been doing since Corflu, and then five pages detail the story of what happened when he decided to write a letter to a friend on the ME support group, telling her of his feelings for her. This is a great article, combining elation, despair and that excruciating introspection that is so often what we mean when we speak of the peculiar qualities of fanwriting. And the ending was unexpected, to me at least. Perhaps I haven't been paying attention.
Otherwise, we have an article which links the BBC's Gormenghast -- clearly a mainstay of the current fannish Zeitgeist -- to Simon's recent medical investigations, a rumination on "why I am publishing this fanzine" which gets closer than most to my reasons when it says "to give me the pleasure of having written it", and a few snippets from locs on Simon's Corflu UK one-shot, Standing in the Shadows.
I shall almost resist the temptation to say "The D West covers are, as usual, excellent"; in fact, neither of these quite hit the spot for me. Don had apparently also sent Yvonne Rowse a cover for the issue of Barmaid that she didn't quite get together for the con; if it makes me laugh as much as the one about Joseph Nicholas's skirt lengths then he'll be back on track.
Although Connection is available for the usual, Simon warns that his continuing sight problems mean that he may not be able to read your fanzine.
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