November 22nd to December 12th, 1996
by Andy Hooper
1. Oblong #4, edited by Bruce Townley, 1732 Washington St. #8, San Francisco, CA 94109-3625: Meatball fanac, steaming and ebullient, from the hands of an experienced xerox and ditto jockey. The highlight is the goddess Candi Strecker's vision of what Martha Stewart's month would be like if she were a right-wing Survivalist, which sets the absurdist tone maintained throughout. Bruce discusses weird books and movies, including Robert Polito's biography of Jim Thompson. Also of interest, especially to fans who continually start new fanzines and drop them after three issues, is Bruce's list of 105 alternate zine titles. I liked "Shoo" and "Yap" in particular. But I wonder if Bruce knows that some of his titles have been used, and if so, by whom? And who is putting those funny little trinkets in his desk when he's not looking? Fortean mysteries that I ardently hope future issues will address.
2. Plokta #4, edited by Steve Davies (52 Westbourne, Terrace, Reading, Berkshire RG30 2RP) & Alison Scott (42 Tower Hamlets Rd., Walthamstow, London E17 4RH): Whilst Davies and Scott (A.) are credited as editors of this fanzine, it is clear that several other fans are often involved, including Mike Scott, Giulia De Cesare, Sue Mason, Steven Cain, George the Cat, and The Pod. Oh, and Dave Mooring, who draws pictures of D. West that are almost as funny as a picture by D. West. A guide to the members of the Plokta cabal in #4 bears all this out. Plokta's affection for superfluous technology has caused some grumbling in less affluent corners of fandom, but they hasten to point out that they accept and encourage locs and fanzine trades in any format. As if to underline this remarkable gesture of largesse, my copy -- and remember, every copy is printed on a desktop laser printer -- has a great streak of pale toner running down the right hand side of page 5, proving that a fanzine produced with thousands of dollars worth of expensive equipment can look just as bad as something done on a 14-year-old photocopier in the back of a bus station. Fortunately, it's what's actually in a fanzine that interests me most, and this issue of Plokta has some good stuff to recommend it. Tim Olsen's account of his miseries in trying to get rid of a nest of wasps is painfully amusing. Perusal of a copy of the program to the 1959 British convention leads Alison to observe that not much has changed since then; we're still worried about where new fans are coming from. Good letter column, too. But I'm most compelled by the fact that Mike and Alison Scott's marriage "happily dissipated midway through October." Is this an unfamiliar feature of British law, or an indication that marriage is innately more soluble in the UK? Funny, as I recall from school, divorce in England used to be accomplished with a headman's ax or at the expense of national excommunication. Perhaps I missed a memo.
3. Mimosa #19, edited by Nicki & Richard Lynch, P.O. Box 1350 Germantown, MD 20875: I was slightly shocked at some of the changes in this issue of Mimosa; a fanzine which once featured lovingly-executed mimeography is now quite professionally printed on paper that can only be described as "slick." An impressive half-tone wrap-around cover by Debbie Hughes announces the change. It's accomplished art, but I admit it leaves me cold compared to the Stiles, Shiffman and Steffan covers that graced recent issues. Still, this is much the same fanzine that came within an eyelash of winning a third Hugo award this past September, with the same emphasis on fan-historical discursion. John Berry's memories of Bob Shaw are a highlight, as is the transcript of a speech that Shaw gave 20 years ago. Dave Kyle, Forry Ackerman, Shelby Vick and Harry Warner Jr. offer fan-historical observation, and Sharon Farber is back, this time with a consideration of reproduction in the Star Trek universe. The piece which had the most energy to my eye was Ahrvid Engholm's "A Smorgasbord of Fan-Slang," which features good advice from Gothenburg fandom: Fandom är något mycket större än oss själva, or "Fandom is something bigger than ourselves." Big lettercol, too, studded with Rotsler/Gilliland cartoons. Those who liked Mimosa before will probably like it even more now.
4. TASH #14, edited by Tom Ferguson, 768 Manning Ave. Toronto, Ontario M6G 2W6 Canada: Mr. Ferguson signals that he has turned over a new leaf by both implying that he'd prefer to be called Tom instead of Tommy from here on, and by bringing down the curtain on the 14-issue run of TASH. The title was a fannish contraction of The Amazing Sentient House, which dwelling Tom has left behind on the other side of the Atlantic, and so it only stands to reason that he'd find a new angle of insertion for his fanac. This lead piece in this last issue tells the rather nasty story of how Ferguson had to undergo three separate surgeries to correct chronic nosebleeds and hay fever, the former of which complaints used to manifest itself at inopportune moments. Some leftover letters and a gentle essay about a parental visit when he first bought TASH fill out the zine. Pleasant reading. And I derived a lot of personal satisfaction from noting that the cover is a blown-up panel from the origin story of The Incredible Hulk.
5. Lettersub #11, edited by Terry Hornsby, 66 John Ave. Lofthouse, Wakefield WF3 3LU UK: Another collection of alternatively pedestrian and oddly compelling writing from Terry. The best thing here is a rewrite of a section of Terry's "Burning Down the House" from Harry Bond's 1989 fanzine The Cooperative Cauliflower, solid writing that indicates Mr. Hornsby might be more than capable of pursuing a professional writing career. His opinions on Tim Powers' fiction diverge from my own, but we do share an affection for the work of Iain Banks, and he mentions that Banks' novels Complicity and The Crow Road are being made into TV movies. Like most of us, Terry seems to have had a mixed year. Life never seems to oppress him as thoroughly as it does some other English fanzine writers, and I always look forward to reading his stuff.
6. Thyme #112, edited by Alan Stewart, P.O. Box 222 World Trade Centre, Melbourne, Victoria 3005 Australia: Oh, how I envy Alan all this space to spread out in! Thyme #112 features the unexpurgated version of both Martin Tudor's press release on the missing TAFF funds and Gary Farber's account of his contact with Abi Frost, lodged in the middle of ten A4 pages of "news." And there is still space to let Terry Frost and Ian Gunn continue their mysterious and intensifying feud, which is beginning to suck in other parties from the lettercol. This is a hidden drawback of publishing a large genzine; if you receive material that good sense would dictate that you reject or heavily edit, you must do so as an exercise of editorial privilege, without offering the excuse of limited room (which we at Apak always keep dusted off in case it becomes useful). But hey, isn't there a room for a table of contents somewhere in a 48-page fanzine? And if you're going to go to the expense and effort of producing such an elaborate and handsome fanzine as this, why not invest in some A-4 capable envelopes, so that the thing doesn't arrive looking like I've been carrying it around folded up in the bottom of my shoe all day?
7. Ethel the Aardvark #69, edited by Paul Ewins for the Melbourne Science Fiction Club, P.O. Box 212 World Trade Centre Melbourne, Victoria 3005 Australia: Boy, this is a hell of a clubzine. There's only a little of that dead-boring club business that afflicts most clubzines, and even that is kind of fascinating . . . how are members of the MSFC assigned their member numbers? Is there competition for cool numbers like six and nine and 42 when they come open due to the failure of a member to pay their dues? I'm especially impressed with generous sprinkling of contributors photographs, and the rather racy cover by Steve Scholz is very eye-catching as well. Big features include a number of peoples' memories of Aussiecon II, a nice listing of fannish web-sites by Karen Pender-Gunn, and probably the most vehement anti-Star Trek diatribe I've seen outside of a Scott Patri fanzine in the past five years. Editor Paul Ewins says this is his last issue; I hope someone will take up the reins for him, as I'd hate to stop getting this zine right after finally joining the mailing list.
8. "Duped again!" The Ditto One-shot, from the web-site of Richard Brandt (http://rgfn.epcc.edu/users/af541/virtual.htm): It's probably not a record, but I haven't heard of many conventions with fewer than 13 attendees. But small conventions are actually more likely to produce one-shots than big conventions are; at small cons, one often has to make one's own entertainment. Richard Brandt, Harry Andruschak, Dick Smith, Karen Cooper, George Flynn, Leah Smith, Neil Kaden and David Bratman contribute to the simple narrative attesting to the fun all assembled had at the El Paso Ditto, bracketed by color (on-line, anyway; to make a color copy, you'd need a color printer) miniatures of the hectograph covers. While I have some reservations about making primary distribution of fanzines on the net or web, this is an excellent way of making a fanzine which had a no-doubt tiny print run available to more people. Go directly to it at http://rgfn.epcc.edu/users/af541/oneshot.htm.
9. Gegenschein #75, written and edited by Eric Lindsay, 7 Nicoll Ave., Ryde, New South Wales 2112 Australia: Here's a very late Corflu report -- from Corflu Vegas, 1995, to be more precise. Eric has been busy working on Aussiecon Three, but he seems to have plenty of time to read; his impressions of 18 different SF novels make up the bulk of the issue, along with two dozen letters. Eric notes that Gegenschein is joining the ranks of fanzines with expanded texts available through e-mail or a web-site. In this case, http://www.maths.uts.edu.au/staff/eric/sf.html is where to find the complete text of almost all letters that Eric receives, as well as expanded versions of certain articles and reviews. Although Apparatchik of the Web is prone to the same expanded configuration, I suspect this is a dangerous process which should be watched carefully to avoid making postal readers into second-class fans.
10. WeberWoman's Wrevenge Vol. 8, #5 (Whole Number 50), written and edited by Jean Weber, P.O. Box 744 Ryde, New South Wales 2112 Australia: Fifty issues is an impressive run, perhaps even more so when over as protracted a time scale as WWW has occupied. Out of all the fanzines sent in trade for the Madison group's Aurora, when I was first reading fanzines, WeberWoman's Wrevenge is one of the very few still being published today. This issue covers travels in the US from earlier this year, plus notes on a Canadian folk-music festival by Paula Johanson and a report on the New Zealand national convention by Lyn McConchie. Nice lettercol, too. A comfortable fanzine, one which comes on like an old friend you've been talking to for years, which is only appropriate.
11. The Knarley Knews #60, edited by Henry & Letha Welch, 1525 16th Ave., Grafton, WI 53024-2017: Ten years of bi-monthly publication is an impressive feat, and thus TKK #60 must be accorded all honor for passing that milestone. TKK has come some distance in its decade, material from many more contributors, some of it quite polished. The problem for me has always been that it seldom considers issues or events or idea that I find very compelling, and so I've always rated it well-down on my personal list. That pains me to some degree, because Henry and Letha strike me as very kind, earnest people, and one can always depend on TKK to be a good-natured publication, featuring nothing particularly controversial or potentially offensive. You might like it a lot more than me.
12. Nova Express Vol. 4, #2, edited by Dwight Brown and Lawrence Person, P.O. Box 27231, Austin, TX 78755-2231: Nova Express attacks the eye with a front page plea for the reader's vote for the 1997 Best Fanzine Hugo balloting. Should you accept their entreaties? Fanzines that jump themselves up toward semi-pro appearance and cover price are never at the top of my list, but NE strikes me as a particularly hollow exercise in genre journalism. Dwight and Lawrence have their Mutt-and-Jeff-interview-a-Southwestern-regional-sf-creator routine down to a science; this time it's Walter Jon Williams in the barrel, and he plays along with laudable and lengthy erudition, rewarded with a bibliography. But while Nova Express has always attempted to follow in the critical path of more successful gadfly semi-pros like SF Eye and Interzone, the editorial voice can't lose a faint tone of Spin and Marty Have Lunch with Big Name Pros, and an affection for boyish cultural phenomena -- this issue is more than half-concerned with Hong Kong cinema, for example. The strongest pieces are the short reviews by the eds., Howard Waldrop, Glen Engel-Cox, Caroline Spector and Bill Humphries. Don Webb's piece on Lovecraft is interesting as well. Nova Express is a fanzine which occasionally publishes truly exemplary material, but more commonly descends into everyday log-rolling and self-indulgence. Quite possibly worth the cover price, especially if you like W.J. Williams, but there's little chance that any well-read Hugo voter would place it among the top five fanzines of the year.
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