[APAK logo] Issue #74, February 14th, 1997

And Now, Your Letters

[ APH: We start with someone who seems to be having a good time with Apak, KATE SCHAEFER (4012 Interlake Avenue N., Seattle, WA 98103, e-mail to kate@scn.org): ]

'Mein lieber triumvirate:

'It's a little difficult to tell the difference between Apparatchik 72 and a baseball program. There are the players, there the stats, divided by career and current season. I suppose the fact that there are no opposing teams suggests some other sport: speed kayaking, maybe, or cowpat hurling.

'My favorite recent issue, though, was number 71, with Victor's rational dissection of driving as Russian roulette (though my personal driving style more closely approaches Jae Leslie Adams's, described in issue 70, I'd be willing to be a passenger in a car driven by Victor. I wouldn't want to be in a car driven by either Ted White or Dale Speirs, though the situation I think I'd hate the most would be to be in a car driven by Ted White behind a car driven by Dale Speirs. Hmmm. Or would I hate more to be in a car driven by Dale Speirs in front of a car driven by Ted White? Gosh. Time to walk), carl's description of the circumstances surrounding the rave he didn't quite attend, Randy's elevation to past president, ffwa, and Lesley's -- wait a minute. There wasn't any writing by Lesley in issue 71. I guess it can't really have been my favorite recent issue.

'You know, this is an almost content-free loc, brought to you by the desire to get my stats up to please Victor. I think I'll go back to loccing when I am compelled to do so by indignation or amusement; my writing's a lot better then.

'And I just this minute heard "The Packerena" on NPR. Who says there's no culture in Wisconsin now that Carrie and Andy are gone?'

[ VMG: Well, in one sense, there are "opposing teams,'' but it's up to them to keep their own stats. For a while it looked like Wild Heirs, or Arnie's once monthly diary-zine, might be able to meet our numbers. Unfortunately, it seems the Vegas fires have died down.

Having driven with Ted, I can say he is a competent driver. I'm with you on Speirs, though -- that's a scary thought.

Content-rich or not, we appreciate your well-written missives.

Many readers wrote to praise Greg Benford's two-part article on multi-volume series, but only GORDON EKLUND (15815 40th Place South #103, Seattle, WA 98188) could offer personal experience with the subject: ]

'It's been a foul and brute winter like a porcupine in a sleeveless dress and as I read with interest Greg Benford's piece about the writing of a science fictional multi-volume saga it suddenly struck me like a finger in the eye that I'd actually written one of those things too, all by myself.

'Well . . . sort of.

'Except that I never finished mine.

'If Greg's account is like a memoir of DiMaggio playing for the New York Yankees, mine is more like the old Three-Eye league. In the middle seventies I was struggling along, selling a story here, a novel there, and then my agent contacted me with this guy who was trying to start up his own company and wanted to do a Doc Smith series.

'The Doc's dead, I said. True but not relevant, said the agent, who went on to explain how the publisher had cut a deal with the Smith estate for a 10-book series based on an obscure short story Smith had actually written (all by himself) in the 40s. They'll pay you $1,500 a book and with that maybe you can quit your job and write more of your own individual stuff and it'll all work out in the end.

'So I said okay, figuring how could I lose?

'I went off and got some Doc Smith books and started reading. I'd loved the skylark and Lensmen stories when I was 13 but now -- at 30 -- I found them about as involving as a cereal box. I got a quarter of the way through Galactic Patrol and gave it up there. (I had a similar experience a couple years later writing Star Trek novels. I couldn't stay awake through an entire hour-long episode but happily there were a couple good reference books available and I cribbed from those for most of my background details. The books were moderately successful and I've always had a soft spot for them, particularly the first. The second was a rewrite of Conrad's Heart of Darkness and nobody but me ever got the joke.)

'I did read the Smith story upon which my 10-book series would be based. Hey, this is Sword & Sorcery, I reported back to my agent. I can't write this shit. I know, he agreed, but that's not what they want anyway. They want space opera.

'Huh? I said.

'So I had the guy hop into a time machine and travel into the far future. Or something like that. I honestly don't remember now how but I worked it out some way.

'I wrote the books first draft, 10 pages a day, usually seven days a week. Which means that it took me about a month each, total. I figured that was about the right investment of time in return for the money and then I could use the rest of the year to write real stuff for real money.

'I sent in the first two books.

'I didn't get paid.

'What is this crap? I asked. Well, the publisher is having cash flow problems, I was told. He ought to get them straightened out real soon now.

'I wrote a third book. I sent that in. I didn't get paid for it, either.

'Around this time I said fuck it and went out and found a job. I was going to work in the credit department at I. Magnins store in San Francisco. I was excited by the prospect, probably fantasizing about how I would call up all these beautiful women who couldn't make the payments on their classy clothes and how they would agree to exchange sex, etc.

'Anyway, it sounded like an okay job.

'No, no, no, said my agent. And he went back to the publisher and they cooked up a new deal wherein I'd get paid $500 a month just like a job. Write the books as you can and pretty soon everything'll be caught up, I was told.

'I got a check for $500. And another. I think I wrote a fourth book. I have neither memory nor copy of same but the Science Fiction Encyclopedia insists I did and they even have a title for it, Alien Realms.

'Okay by me.

'I never got another check. I stopped writing books. The publisher went out of business.

'Ace reprinted most if not all of the (alleged) four books in mass paperback editions. I think they used my byline alone. In Britain, they used Smith's only.

'Every now and then somebody asks me about the series. I've even had people come up to me and say they've read and liked them. They're not people I would trust to watch my child.

'At one point I know I had an outline of the whole series of 10 novels all written down on lined paper. But for me the hardest part of even the shortest sf stories is the middle. And a 10 book series is an endless middle, a vast wasteland of middle. It goes on and on and on. It stretches. Like a bad weather.

'I'm sure I'll never write another multi-volume work. I'll leave the sagas and the epics to the Balzacs and the Prousts. They're French. Greg Benford isn't -- but I gather he's done with his too.

'The discussion of driving has been fun. I tend to drive too fast myself, but mostly out of boredom: I like to get where I am going as soon as I can. The places in between are too often gray and dull like overweight whales wafting in the sea.

'The letters, on the other hand, move about as fast as an antelope herd. I wonder about what Cheryl Morgan says about Americans being hung up on the end of the world though. What Americans? Me? My friends? Talk radio? Are fans hung up on the end of the world? Could be, I suppose. I don't see that many fans any more. I need more data here.'

[ APH: Loping right along, PERRY MIDDLEMISS ( GPO Box 2708X Melbourne, Victoria 3001, Australia, e-mail to PMiddlem@vcrpmrkt.telstra.com.au) is also puzzled at Ms. Morgan's comments: ]

'Issue #72 of APAK is to hand. I was most taken by Cheryl Morgan's comments, especially: "Australians are not used to wars -- you can tell by the way they celebrate their 'victories' in Vietnam with such fervour."

'This leaves me at a complete loss. Which celebrations is she talking about? Maybe she's getting it all mixed up with ANZAC Day which, as all good military historians know, "celebrates" the landing of Australian and New Zealand forces at Gallipoli on April 25th, 1915, during the war against Turkey -- see the Peter Weir film Gallipoli for more details. But as to Vietnam celebrations there don't seem to be any. As a country Australia is still trying to come to grips with its involvement in that stupid South East Asian war and each year brings another round of revelations as Cabinet documents are released under the thirty-year rule.

'Maybe Cheryl is thinking of Khe Sanh, a major battle in the Vietnam war where Australians fought with some "distinction" and which is immortalised in the song of the same name by Cold Chisel -- arguably Australia's greatest ever rock song. But maybe not.

'Moving on to a subject that is close to all right-thinking fans' hearts -- sport. I happened to be up a little late last night channel surfing on cable and came across the Fox Sports Channel which was replaying a Major League game from 29th April 1986, featuring the Mariners and the Red Sox. It forms part of the channel's Greatest Baseball Games series and, as I'm sure you will remember, that game was memorable for the pitching performance of Roger Clemens who set a Major League record of 20 strike-outs in a single game. I guess as the Mariners were on the receiving end of this you probably don't remember it as fondly as you would like but I'm sure you would have appreciated the artistry on display in that game. It reminded me of the day in November 1985 when I sat and watched Richard Hadlee (as he was then) destroy Australia in Brisbane by taking 9 for 52 in the first innings. (If memory serves he also took the catch to dismiss the other batsman in that innings.) It was incredibly depressing at the time but, in retrospect, was probably the best piece of bowling I've ever seen. It's odd the connections we make.'

[ APH: No denying that, Perry. Actually, back in 1986, I was living in Wisconsin, and not yet much of a Mariners fan. My birth team, the Detroit Tigers were only two years removed from the World Series, and I recall having a warm spot in my heart for Clemens and the Sox, who were struggling -- ultimately unsuccessfully -- to win their first World Series in 75 years.

While we're on the subject of baseball, up to plate comes GEORGE "RAJAH" FLYNN (P.O. Box 1069, Kendall Square Station, Cambridge, MA 02142), with another sharp single: ]

'Thanks for Apak 73. This issue's theme seems to be aging. Like Victor, I have problems emanating from the cervical vertebrae, though in my case it's not outright pain, but numbness of the arms and legs, accompanied by general low-grade muscle soreness. And the onset didn't come till I was 53 (it was a couple of weeks after Noreascon 3; I have resisted the temptation to draw conclusions from this juxtaposition). And like Ted, I went to my 40th high school reunion a couple of years ago. It was interesting, but my memories of my teens seem to be even vaguer than Ted's are.

' "Slugger Flynn," er, um.

'Well, we all seem to agree with Ted on "gender" vs. "sex." Last I heard, though, Damon Knight was still inveighing for the traditional meanings.

'Eric's account of being attacked by a bookcase is the first such incident I recall since the time Don D'Amassa's bookcases fell over on top of him. I believe it took him a couple of hours to extricate himself.

'(As you can see, my computer is back up. I think this is my first full-scale loc since New Year's Eve.)'

[ VMG: I haven't had much trouble with numbness (except when I've had ice on my shoulder for a few minutes, but I frequently experience a tingling in my right arm. I might also mention (to tie together two recent themes) that driving often aggravates my back.

It's good to know your computer is working. Wouldn't want to force you to write longhand.

JOSEPH NICHOLAS (15 Jansons Rd., South Tottenham, London N15 4JU) returns to our pages, with thoughts on the creative process: ]

'Thank you for Apparatchik 71 and 72. I was very interested in Gregory Benford's two articles on the writing of his "Galactic Series", not because of the books themselves -- Nigel Walmsley never struck me as a particularly convincing Briton, I found Across the Sea of Suns bitty and unfinished, and although I once had a copy of Great Sky River it was never read -- but because of what he says about the role of the subconscious in the process of creation. One hesitates to construct any parallels between writing novels and fanzine articles, but I would say that my subconscious seems to work in very similar ways -- when the connections between subjects are proving too hard to find, or the right angle of approach to the issue refuses to show itself, I tend to cease worrying overtly at the problem and allow it to recede into the deeper reaches of the brain in the knowledge that some sort of solution will emerge sooner or later. Occasionally, of course, one never does, and fragments of possible articles have to be discarded as unusable; equally occasionally, the solutions which do emerge are unsuitable for one reason or another, and have to be dumped or transferred to something else; but most of the time the subconscious will eventually come up with something that the conscious recognizes (sometimes with a eureka-like glow of satisfaction) as just about right. It's nice to know that other people have the same sorts of experience.

'(Although this process can take some time. For example, I discovered in early 1987 that I wanted to write something about the English countryside and the heritage industry, but wasn't sure what. After two years of doing little more than accumulate bits of clippings which I thought might be useful and make weekend visits to bits of southern England which I thought held the key to the problem, I sat down to make my first attempt at the proposed article in the summer of 1989 and found that it rolled effortlessly from mind to disk in slightly less than a week. It was, and remains, my favorite of the two large articles I wrote that year (and indeed remains a favorite article, full stop), although Andy picked the other for inclusion in the 1989 fanthology he edited, doubtless because its subject, US war memorials, was of more immediate and obvious interest to a primarily US audience -- and certainly less bafflingly opaque.)'

[ APH: Looking back, I think I agree with your assessment of the relative worth of those two articles, Joseph, and if I had it to do over again I think I would have picked the piece on the heritage industry. You're right about the criteria I used at the time,

As long as we're discussing Mr. Nicholas and his publishing activities, here is a note from E.B. FROHVET (4725 Dorsey Dr, Suite A, Box 700 Ellicot City, MD 21042): ]

'Thank you for the reviews of Twink #4 and FTT #21. I must admit I was pleasantly surprised on both counts. However, concerning my "Fort McHenry" article and Joseph Nicholas' defense of my pseudonymity in FTT #21, the chronology was the other way around from what you apparently took it to be. I received FTT #20 unsolicited, in June '96. There was a remark by Joseph therein to the effect that readers who actively contributed were preferable to those who merely paid for the zine. I had the article about "Ft. McHenry" already, having originally intended it for Lan's Lantern, or some such place; since LL was in limbo at the time I sent the article off to Joseph. He decided to use it, and then came out in support of my right to use a pen name.

'Not to worry, dude; if Twink ever wins a Hugo (an event of vanishingly small probability), I'll show up to collect it -- or nominate someone to accept it on my behalf.

'P.S. Any inference you may have drawn about my gender is your inference . . . .'

[ VMG: Hey Frohvet: we've certainly slowed our quest to find out who you are, in part because there is no issue driving such a search. But if I had anything to say about you, you're a man. Prove me wrong.

By the way, you are much less annoying when you speak in the first person.

KIM HUETT (P.O. Box 679, Woden, ACT 2606 Australia) returns, with some excerpts from the five letters we received from him since our last issue: ]

'Well there you go. I knew my system had merits! Disbelieve me not for out of the unlocced fanzine pile comes Apparatchik #62 and what do we have here but young Dan's account of visiting Haverford West. Well how utterly convenient given I'm due to make this very pilgrimage in the near future. Now I have to hand all the tips I need for a successful visit.

It should come as no surprise to you that what I really want to do with the rest of my life is work in one of those backroom places devising ways to make elves disappear. Laugh all you want briteboys but I was inspired by Victor's description of editorial positions in Apparatchik #65. You know, it strikes me that perhaps you should adopt ceremonial robes and headgear for special occasions such as attending Corflu. If you like I can lend you some of mine until you can find something you like.

I note in Apparatchik #67 Steve Jeffery claims a preference for Gaston J. Feeblebunny over Santiago Nudelman, to the extent he claims piscine qualities of me. I defend myself on the basis that I consider Santiago Nudelman to be a more euphonious moniker, that Feeblebunny sounds overly contrived, and that the J. He finds so disingenuous is almost certainly something dull and pretentious such as Jerome. While we're on the topic I would like to mention for the benefit of Bill Donaho that Oxford University once had a vice-chancellor named Hrothgar J. Habakkuk.'

[ VMG: As has been said before, the Apparatchiki are not a club. We're a gang. Nice to see you're catching up with our schedule. Shooting for a better loccing average?

Now, ROBERT LICHTMAN (P.O. Box 30, Glen Ellen, CA 95442) has some comments on our last issue: ]

'About #73 -- my personal favorite this time being Christina Lake's fascinating look into the Kava culture in Fiji. It's good to read that the ritual of drinking Kava is as such The Thing as the effect of the drink itself. (I was also quite taken with Irwin Hirsh's plan to nominate her for the Ditmar. Since as a British fan I suppose she's also eligible for the Nova, she could theoretically win both. Very theoretically.)

'Like Irwin Hirsh, my knowledge of Dr. Seuss books leaves off at the point my children stopped being interested in my reading to them. I knew of The Lorax for the same reason Irwin did, but I never heard of The Butter Battle Book before now. I also didn't know of There's a Wocket in my Pocket, so my knowledge of the word "vug" was strictly from Phil Dick's novel.

'Having to watch my back myself (ahahaha), I can sympathize with what Victor's going through. Before about 1975 I had a really together back, but my habit of hefting and carrying cardboard barrels with 65 pounds of nutritional yeast inside caught up to me that year (during the time I was living on The Farm in Tennessee) and I spent several weeks flat on my back. Since then I've reinjured myself a number of times, but none of those were as painful or as debilitating as the first. I'm better at watching out these days, and I do exercise my upper body in various ways: moving around boxes of fanzines, making love, occasional yardwork, doing dishes and food preparation, loading paper into the copier at work and from boxes to a storage unit in the copy room there. Victor's therapist is right: "management" is the key.

'Some of Ted White's concluding observations in his account of going to his 40th high school reunion hit home with me, reminding me why I've never gone to any of my class reunions. Ted writes, "A major effect (of attending) was to remind me of who I'd been 40 years ago," and "I did not enjoy the restimulation of my adolescent feelings and doubts." Through rereading the stuff I did in fanzines when I was still in high school, I can more safely take a look at who I was 40 years ago -- some of my pronouncements make me cringe, though much of what I wrote back then is interesting to me as ongoing autobiography. High school wasn't my favorite time of life, and afterwards I managed to disappear from the alumni association's mailing list until 1990 when Calvin Demmon turned me in. I had a brief period of correspondence with one of them which resulted in my being sent a good photocopy of the senior class pictures from the 1960 yearbook. But in the final analysis, I couldn't go to the 30th reunion nor did I go to the 35th or to the Special Reunion in 1992 when most everyone turned 50. Because of what Ted said, as above.

'What does Victor mean in his comment to Howard Waldrop that Apak "has become more consistent over the course of the run"? Consistent how? With or in relation to what?'

[ VMG: I've found that, naturally, I've become much more aware of what's going on with my back muscles. I've become especially sensitive to the effect stress has on it; it's not so much how hard I'm working as it is how worried I am about getting finished. Therefore, work hurts and fun doesn't.

I meant "consistent" in terms of both frequency and pagecount; this issue's Stat Box covers the former.

We finish with CHRISTINE BZDAWKA (909 Walnut St. Verona, WI 53593, e-mail to BzdChris@aol.com), who has strong feelings about last issue: ]

'I am in awe of Christina Lake, notsomuch for her writing (which is fine, indeed) but for her ability to take off and have these wonderful adventures. How does one achieve that? I suppose by not settling down to have kids and get a job and pay the bills and the like. Since I have but three years before I theoretically will be free from the shackles of parenthood and its attendant responsibilities, I am reading her stories with an eye toward hints.

'I am puzzled and repulsed by Victor's need to publish an account of his physical ailments in APAK, but I suppose that's further proof of my neo- and fringe fan status, if not a psychological disorder. Instead of writing about aging fans and their effect on fan culture, or perhaps how chronically ill fans without generous health insurance benefits manage to function, or even the current technology in pain relief, we get, yes, the whiny explication of a fairly common health problem experienced by, TA-DA!, a fan. (Read "a fan" like Jon Lovitz would say "acting!") I thought bellyachin' was generally reserved for APA-hacking or the lettercol. I've had a chronic, painful spine condition for years and I especially like it when people forget that and focus on the strong, able part of me. (There's that psychological disorder.) APAK deserves better than a confession that codeine blocks one up.

'Mr. Hirsh's "VUG" was wonderful. It's true -- watching your kids grow up takes you back to so many things from your own childhood. You really feel that sensawonda. However, I find it is these damnable teen years that resonate strongest. When I look at my boys, ages 15 and 16 and filled with all the confusion, anger, desire, irresponsibility, embarrassment, alienation, etc. of my own adolescence, my feelings are often poignant and not entirely comfortable. You begin to realize what an ass you were back then.

[ VMG: My, my, Chris, that certainly is a strong reaction. I could point you to dozens of fan articles (most better done than mine, I admit) that deal with one's physical problems. Because fandom can be considered a venue for communication between friends, such complaining might seem acceptable to some. But I won't argue with you; perhaps, because this problem is fairly new, I simply haven't gotten over the adjustment yet, and I felt compelled to write about it. Sorry. ]

[ APH: If we are expected to write only of our positive experiences in this fanzine, I want to get paid more. ]

[ WAHF: Harry Andruschak, Pamela Boal, Lindsay Crawford, Tommy Ferguson, Bridget Hardcastle, Teddy Harvia, Kev McVeigh, Murray Moore, Dale Speirs, Bruce Townley, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner Jr. and Kevin Welch. We'll hear from Howard Waldrop next time -- wish we had more room! ]

This pastime so delighted Jim that he caught all the bait the rest of us needed for fishing.

[APAK logo] Issue #74, February 14th, 1997

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