January 4th to 23rd, 1997
by Andy Hooper
1. FTT #21, edited by Judith Hanna and Joseph Nicholas, 15 Jansons Rd., South Tottenham, London N15 4JU UK: Here is a late contender for best single fan-article of the year, Joseph's magnificently cheerful "First, Last and Always," inspired by the trip he and Judith took to Kensal Green Cemetery's annual Open Day. Considering first the historical and contemporary context of the cemetery, he moves on to a consideration of death and mass death in general, almost papably rubbing his hands with glee at the prospect of new and newly drug-resistant strains of disease that will help control human populations. Completely fascinating stuff, and a stylistic triumph. Joseph's supportive statements on the pseudonymity of E. B. Frohvet has already borne fruit, as Frohvert offers an account of his visit to Ft. McHenry. The issue is quite full of travel writing, which seems to be an FTT staple: Judith presents some correspondence she had with her sister Roslyn, concerning the habits of hippos and other animals observed during the latter's trip to east Africa, while Andy Sawyer describes some sights from a trip to Tunisia. Judith's own memoir of her life in rural Australia, mostly a consideration of the local flora, is utterly charming, and one wishes for more. The lettercol has a few loud exchanges, especially those regarding Julian Hanna's article on American travel in #20, but all in all, this issue is an unalloyed pleasure. Superb.
2. File 770 #115, edited by Mike Glyer, P.O. Box 1056, Sierra Madre, CA 91025: Well, first off, this is a fanhistorically essential issue of F770, being the official narrative of a Worldcon chairman's experience of said Big Event. There's also a lot of felicitous, blissed-out web-chat from LACon attendees studding Mike's narrative, but at least he admits that he sees the conflict between printing a lot of politically efficacious praise for the event and wanting to be a tough newszine editor ferreting out the march of fannish folly. Mike has a few tangy words for First Fandom, grasping costumers, and the brutal raise in Worldcon membership costs put forth by the AussieCon III committee. But mostly, it's a love-feast. Patty Wells tale from inside the "Audrey III" costume she wore during the Romm/Levine-produced opening ceremonies is certainly not to be found elsewhere. Lots of cool numbers in boxes, winners and losers. And somehow, John Hertz's report on the tiny, eccentric El Paso Westercon (Yes, it has been a while since we've seen an F770) carries over some of the giddy energy of the rest of the issue, reminding me only of the nice parts of that event. Even Roger Sims' obituary for Lynn Hickman seems more celebratory than mourning; this is the happiest issue I've seen from Mike Glyer in a decade.
3. BOB #9, 10 & 11, written and edited by Ian Sorensen, 7 Woodside Walk, Hamilton ML3 7HY, UK: Every fanzine deserves to be reviewed on its own, and as regular readers will attest, I do my best. But when a year and a half worth of fanzines arrive in a single envelope, I simply can't afford to spend the space considering each one in the depth it deserves. BOB is essentially a narrative perzine, Ian's progress through the wide world of fandom, and seeing as he appears to move widely in UK fan circles, a wide variety of Britfan characters make their appearances. His Intersection aftermath (#9) and Leeds safari/Bob Shaw wake (#10) accounts are toothsome little morsels, frosted with frequent D. West cartoons (which, according to Ian in #10, were inspired by West's indignation at winning the Faan award last year as best fan artist, which he felt invalid because he had not sent art to American fanzines in years, to which I reply, he could change that situation any time he likes as far as we're concerned, and point out that the Faan awards are not limited to any geographical area -- fans from Myanmar are elligible to vote and be voted for) and entertainingly composed. The more introspective and personal material in #11 is somewhat harder going -- I fear I felt uncomfortably squirmy at a few points, especially when Ian chimes in with his endorsement of the notion that white male professionals are the most oppressed people in society -- and his Eastercon memories skate on the ragged edge of coherence, as one must assume Ian did himself at the event in question. The issue is quite redeemed by his blistering abuse of Vince Docherty and Intersection through the medium of a "skit" performed at Eastercon -- most cathartic for those assembled, I would asume. The lettercol mutates from issue to issue, sometimes snipped and focused on specific issues under subheads, then featuring virgin letters structured as written, and finally a kind of loc file summary, providing a narrative of the mail received punctuated with specific quotes. The design is utilitarian, with wide margins dictated by single columns of largish text, giving the fanzine a comfortable if slightly padded feeling. The overall impression received may depend on how much the reader personally likes Ian and his sense of humor -- I find them pleasant, but unlikely to inspire much response from me.
4. Twink #4, edited by E.B. Frohvet, 4725 Dorsey Hall Drive, Box #A-700, Ellicott City, MD 21042: Twink continues to be a source of topical interest and design confusion. People have badly misjudged the tenor of my thoughts on Mr. Frohvet's pseudonymity. I submit that it continues to be the most remarkable thing about him and his fanac -- how many fans have placed such a successful barrier between their written and face-to-face fanactivity? Who has wanted to? -- but this does not detract in any way from the value of the work he does in Twink, which continues to improve. E.B. and guest editorialist Kevin Welch hurl themselves into the jaws of Dhalgren, and struggle manfully with the arms of criticism, with E.B. taking on The Dispossessed, Le Guin's socialist reconstruction of Innocents Abroad, in the bargain. Welch's essay offers a glimpse into his personal mythology, and pleases more with those insights than with his juxtaposition of Delany and Phil Dick's A Scanner Darkly. Frohvet has received a fat envelope of Rotsler cartoons, 12 pages of letters, and has lost the tentative quality that marked the first few issues. Frohvet exhibits a wide knowledge of science fiction with his capsule reviews. The Steve Stiles cover just looks weird; a unicorn belabored by wild dogs or coyotes. I'm not sure what it is meant to suggest. But Twink is establishing an identity as a resolutely sercon fanzine, and Frohvet sets a lively but courteous tone in his interplay with his readers. His popularity should ultimately be limited only by the size of his mailing list. But who will show up to accept the Hugo?
5. The Texas Sf Inquirer #55, edited by Brad and Cindy Foster for FACT, Box 9612, Austin, TX 78766-9612: Good God, this was a surprise. Just when I figured the nails had been pounded into the lid of this fanzine, it comes boiling back out of the grave in a huge and impressive blast of comic strips and fannish memoirs. As one might expect from a fanzine with a Hugo-winning fan artist as half of its editorial staff, there is a lot of art here. Strips and cartoons abound, from familiar hands like Foster, Sherlock and Ian Gunn, and new (to me) names like Jeff Haas, Steve Wills and Kyle Kirkpatrick. My favorite part was the collection of postcards and cartoons done at Intersection, which took me back to that vast, echoing shed . . . . Also superb was Stacy Leah Scott's "Household Monsters: A General Guide. " I loved Linda Pickersgills piece "The Day my Cats Talked," but surely this is a reprint I have read elsewehre? A lack of attribution seems a serious oversight. But on the whole, this is a very auspicious rebirth, and I look forward to seeing more from the Fosters and FACT.
6. Wave 1, edited by Alyson L. Abramowitz for the Corflu 14 committee, 999 Perriera Drive, Santa Clara, CA 95051: After waiting so long for this progress report, I'm happy to report that it is well worth reading! In addition to the extremely welcome information on this March's Corflu 14, Alyson has included an original article by Arnie Katz, proposing the foundation of Extreme Fanzine Fandom, a fannish off-shoot of the Extreme Sports movement, and a reprint of an article by Terry Floyd about the organization of Corflu I. Pretty cool reading, as well as containing lost of good news about the convention. If you didn't get one, write Alyson and get back on the Corflu mailing list!
7. Travels with the Wild Child, by Randy Byers, 1013 N. 36th St., Seattle, WA 98103: Our own past-dictator-for-life Randy Byers, has written this fascinating trip report, an account of a voyage to California and back with Tami Vining, Seattle fandom's favorite leather dyke bass player. Tami was going to see her mother for the first time in ten years, and this naturally spun Randy into a series of introspections of his own. The topography covered, both internal and external, is quite breath-taking. A lot of insight into contemporary American gets slipped in with the personal stuff, so I think this would be of considerable interest to people who haven't met Randy or Tami. On the other hand, Randy reports that he has just a few copies of this left, so you're more likely to get one out of him if you already know the people involved.
8. The Unpaved Road #2, Winter 1996/97, writted and edited by Joshua Blevins Peck and Laura Bailey, P.O. Box 4126, Seattle, WA 98104: This is far from being an SF fanzine, but it was so good that I felt I had to mention it. Victor and I ran into Joshua and Laura when they were copying this issue at the same printer we use for Apparatchik. We gave them a copy of our zine and they promised to send us one of theirs. Essentially, The Unpaved Road is a series of essays and observations on the rural backgrounds of the authors. Joshua gets some very interesting interviews out of his Grandfather, while Laura has the stronger voice in her own writing -- her article "Birdmania" was startling, an excellent companion piece for Heather Wright's "Cocaktiel Toes" in Apparatchik #62. They're asking just a buck a throw for this interesting publication, and I recommend taking the chance.
9. Ansible #114, edited by Dave Langford, 94 London Rd. Reading, Berkshire RG1 5AU UK: Another sheet of delight from the Sage Who Is Not To Be Phoned. Feature article this time is an obituary for Dr. Carl Sagan from Steve Baxter, a thoughtful appreciation which notices that his placement of the astronomer in a novel in progress has already become alternative history, which he is pleased to leave in. Sheri Tepper is fairly raked with spherical case shot in a massive edition of Thog's Masterclass, and Dave has the strength of will to list the birth of Jenny & Justin Ackroyd's daughter Lucy Hannah Ackroyd on the 18th of December under the heading "Spawn of the Damned." Better you than me, mate. And yes, it was awfully nice of NASA to announce the discovery of ice on the moon just in time for the upcoming film of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress . . . .
10. Scotland, HO!, written and edited by Ian Hagemann, P.O. Box 85273, Seattle, WA 98145: A pair of trip reports, on Ian's adventures at Wiscon 21 and Alt.Polycon I, with a certain amount of auto-biographical stuff thrown in. Ian has a pleasant, style, compact but descriptive, and this made for entertaining reading. People prejudiced againt polyamory, biracial pride or bibliophilia should be warned; while there is nothing graphic or really objectionable here, Ian is "out" in regard to those and several other degrees of deviance, and proud of it. If everyone who wears their politics on their sleeve did so this entertainingly, more people would vote. Or avoid voting perhaps, I don't know.
11. Canadian Journal of Detournement #16, by Dale Speirs, P.O. Box 6830, Calgary, Alberta, T2P 2E7 Canada: Dale's cartoon philosophy journal turns it attention to the World-Wide Party, a celebration which occurs at the 21st hour (9pm) on the 21st of June, invented by Zineheads Franz Miklis and Benoit Girard in 1994. This year, I'm going to mark my calendar.
12. Opuntia #29.2, 29.5, edited by Dale Speirs, P.O. Box 6830, Calgary, Alberta, T2P 2E7 Canada: 29.2 is a subject index to issues 1 to 29.1, plus a chronological list of all 69 issues to that point. Useful for checking out which issues we've missed. 29.5 is almost all concerned with some more of Dale's family history, plus a funny aside on David Icke, a British footballer whose later careers included Green Party politics and New Age apocalypse prophecy. A few letters round out the issue.
13. Challenger #5, Edited by Guy H. Lillian III, P.O. Box 53092: Best thing here is Binker Glock Hughes' (where do they come up with these people?) article on spelunking, which is quite hair-raising in spots. I also enjoyed E. R. Stewart's piece on genre fiction as well. Guy's report on LACon III is pleasant enough, and full of photographs that reproduced pretty well. But Guy's piece on his interview with Leslie Van Houten, one of the Manson "family" members convicted of the Tate/LaBianca murders, with whom Guy was smitten during an interview with her (and one must give a person credit for visiting a women's prison in order to write a fanzine article) was mostly just creepy. His ongoing crusade to blame all of the ills of society on drug use is simply beneath someone with the intelligence to practice law, or at least one would hope so. I am grateful that the lettercol is a little less like a public stoning this issue, and some of the points raised were pretty interesting. It's hard to say that this material really warrants the death of over 100 pages per copy, but the level of response indicates that Guy is certainly reaching someone.
14. PhiloSFy #4, edited by Alexander Slate, 8603 Shallow Ridge, San Antonio, TX 78239-4022: Another issue discussing both Alex's reading habits and more serious philosophical issues. For people participating in the discussion, this is obviously riveting material; those coming in half way through may find it hard to follow everything. But Alex is certainly succeeding in bringing a somewhat more involved level of discourse to his fanzine.
15. Fanfare (in F) #1, written and edited by Dave Wittmann, 2675 S. Nellis Blvd., Apt. 1055, Las Vegas, NV 89121: Now, the last time I called something a crudzine in this column, it was seen as a brutal insult, so let me be clear: even crudzines have some value, and their authors have something to contribute to the fanzine community. Even so, it does no good to look at halting and tentative fan publishing and pronounce it good. Mr. Wittmann's first issue includes some poetry, a dope-related anecdote that I'd have thought twice before publishing, a lengthy article on terraforming Mars and an extended surreal rhapsody on the Green Bay Packers and other sporting topics. Wittmann's style is somewhat reminiscent of Paul Skelton, but his sense of humor is not as dependable. This is a raw effort, but clearly offered to fandom in a generous spirit. One hopes other writers and artists will offer Dave material for his second issue.
16. Out of James' Attic Vol. 1, #s 1 & 2, edited by James Walton, P.O. Box 59537, Pittsburgh PA 15210: A sercon genzine, with reasonably high production values (ring-bound, stock covers) and pretty terrible material. The editor's poetry, book reviws and editorials occupy large segments of each issue, to little pleasing effect. One must remember that filk song lyrics, capsule book reviews and amateur fiction are not really the material I anticipate most eagerly when opening a fanzine, so the fact that they did not impress me is no surprise. James' fanzine reviews are short, but intelligent. Probably the best single attribute of either issue is Timothy Esaias article "Why I No Longer Read Fantasy," which raised some pretty interesting points, but ended poorly. The material in these two issues could easily have been fit within the page count of one, and neither contains any interior art, so little would be lost in the process. Make things a little easier on your wallet, James!
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