February 14th to March 6th, 1997
by Andy Hooper
1. Idea #10, edited Geri Sullivan, Toad Hall, 3444 Blaisdell Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55408-4315: I received more than 25 fanzines in the past three weeks, as well as the 40-zine February FAPA mailing. This is the best of the bunch. Probably the most remarkable thing about this 50-page issue is that Steve Stiles contributed every illustration that appears in it! His account of the abortive effort to return Lil' Abner to the comic pages of America, and the selection of sample strips he prepared are fascinating; his ability to reproduce the elements of Al Capp's style are extremely impressive. Mike Scott's quest for Pez collectibles, Sean Alan Wallace's intro to Ukrainian fandom, and Jeff Schalles' adventures in rock and roll drumming are also very good articles, but the topper is Kathey Routliffe's "My Trip to Jupiter." Kathy describes her experiences with mental illness in both unflinching and remarkably poetic, a piece that expresses the heights to which fan-writing can occasionally climb. And as always, Geri orechestrates a wonderful letter column. Time, I think, to make sure this fanzine makes the Hugo ballot this year . . . .
2. Design for Life #1, written and edited by Tommy Ferguson, 768 Manning Ave., Toronto, Ontario M6G 2W6 Canada: We've known that Tommy Ferguson can write for some time now, but it's still quite pleasing to see what he can do when he allows himself a little more room to work. In this first issue he covers his reasons for moving to Canada, his attitudes about sex and drink, some pretty hip music reviews, and an editorial suggesting what might actually be a revolutionary concept for many of us in fanzine fandom: that it might not be entirely appropriate for us to try and perpetuate fandom for generations yet to come. Empires fall, and civilizations vanish, and why should fandom be any different? A brief consideration of fannish gossip leads in to some level-headed thoughts on the TAFF crisis, and Tommy finishes the issue with a discussion of why he wanted to be Tom instead, and what this has to do with web-surfing. I quite liked this fanzine, and I am really looking forward to getting stuff from Mr. Ferguson at the speed of mere transcontinental mail service, rather than the standard for inter-continental delivery. Welcome to NAFTA-land, Tommy.
3. Plokta Vol. 2, #1, edited by Steve Davies and Alison Scott, 42 Tower Hamlets Rd., Walthamstow, London E17 4RH UK: I sometimes get the feeling that reviewing or criticizing Plokta is really quite pointless. There is no other fanzine currently being published which achieves quite the same mix of delerium, hilarity and, well, techo-dweebiness. What does it really matter what I think or say about it? The Plokta cabal will go on having fun just the same.People seem to have had a little trouble grasping this at first, but the lettercolumn features many responses made in the same spirit as the articles and fanzine they comment on, so we seem to be catching up after all. This issue's highlight is probably Alison's account of the vagaries of having sex during her pregnancy, plus some speculation on the best recipies for serving placenta. Oh, and I was also quite amused by "Dr. Plokta's Justice League of Fandom, which proposes a super-powered alter-ego for various cabal members and hangers-on, illustrated by the fluid pen of Sue Mason. Actually, I liked just about everything in this issue, even "Ask Dr. Plokta." You have no idea how thoroughly this frustrates me . . . .
4. Oblong #5, edited by Bruce Townley, 1732 Washington St. #8, San Francisco, CA 94109-3825: Bruce seems to have shifted into a slightly higher gear here, and this issue of Oblong is the best I've seen so far. The cover illustration of the late Jack Nance as he appeared in Eraserhead is quite appropriately unnerving -- the eyes seem to follow me around the room, like the picture of the front of a bottle of Newman's Own salad dressing . . . . Al Hoff's column "Pittsburgh: Don't Park Where You See a Chair" is a suitably silly lead, while Bruce's collection of rersponses to a bibliophilic questionaire he sent out to friends by e-mail is likely to produce a lot of mail commenting on similar concerns. His slightly-jaundiced take on a ballgame at Candlestick Park (TRY to make me call it 3Com, I invite you) hit just right tone of wonder and disdain. A brief but pithy lettercol, hand-written fanzine reviews on the back cover (a case of parallel invention, I'm sure) and thoughts on movies and the MST3K episode a very entertaining issue. And where does one find Mr. T. rubber stamps, anyway, Bruce?
5. Raw Goof #1, written and edited by Bill Bodden, 2717 Stevens St., Madison, WI 53705: A friendly yellow perzine from a long-time Madison Apa-hacker. Bill has been planning to issue a perzine for a long time, but as this issue attests, various things have gotten in the way. In the past year, he's been recovering from the effects of surgey to remove a large lipoma, so it is especially nice to see this issue from him, as perhaps it is a sign that his life has returned to normal, whatever that may be for Bill. Attractive illos by Stu Shiffman, John Kovalic and Chloe decorate the issue, produced with the mimeo expertise of Jae Leslie Adams. Bill's softball stories had a familiar ring to me, and filled me with anticipation of meeting him once again on the field of Corflu. Maybe the next issue will explain just how far he managed to hit my pitches . . . .
Wallbanger #16, edited by Eve Harvey, #8 the Orchard, Tonwell, Hertfordshire, SG12 0HR UK: This is advertised as the "Almost All Oz" issue of this venerable fanzine, with an article by Rhodri James about going skiing with some interesting Australians, Australian Irwin Hirsh considers his ways of acquiring friends, and Eve offers some memories of her trip to . . . America. Plus, she notes in her initial editorial that she's against having Corflu in Britain, because it can't possibly be the same. All duly noted, Eve, but it seems too late to stop the experiment now. The standard of writing here is quite high, and my only real criticism of the zine is that the combination of type-face and copy-quality seems less than perfect, which I 'll try to address in the American edition, which I'll be devising next week. So, American fans should contact me if they are interested in getting this issue.
Stairway to Cleveland #4, written and edited by Marc Ortlieb, Box 215 Forest Hill, Victoria 3131 Australia: As I noted in my review of his last offering, I am quite taken with Marc's style of writing. This time he reports on the New Year's party at Perry Middlemiss' place, his current reading list, reprints a Nova Mob talk on minor works of Lewis Caroll, and an appreciation of the science fiction of Colin Kapp, a contemporary of Aldiss and White at New Worlds, complete with bibiliography. All very well-done and entertaining, and well worth exposing to a wider audience than just Anzapa.
G–tterd”mmerung #9, edited by Mark McCann, Tommy Ferguson and allegedly James McKee, c/o McCann at 40 Deramore Ave., Belfast BT7 3ER Northern Ireland: Good God, has this suddenly become a frequent fanzine, now that the editors are on different continents? This issue starts with McCann's appreciation of the late Carl Sagan, then features seven solid pages on drinking and tavern culture by Tommy and new writer Brendan Landers. Then Tommy offers us a brief but impassioned defense of his overall hatred for Trekkies. Everyone seems to be in a terrible mood here. But the highlight of the issue for me was Hugh McHenry's account of a trip to visit Havana. Cuba is either one of the worst indictments of socialism or one of the best examples of its viability, depending on who you ask. The Gott Group definitely falls on the latter end of the equation, so it's interesting to read of Hugh's utter misery (he was sick through most to the trip) alternating with his endorsements of the revolution. Even the revolutionary rum is better than the over-the-counter product purveyed by Bacardi. Interesting that Hugh should observe this, as alcohol seems to be the most dependable leveller of class differences I've ever found.
Ansible # 115, edited by Dave Langford, 94 London Rd., Reading, Berkshire RG1 5AU UK: All you need to keep your finger on the faltering pulse of the SF world. Langford claims herein that through arcane numerological analysis, it is Apparatchik's turn to win the Hugo award instead of Ansible. By the time final voting gets underway, I suspect Dave will be threatening to shoot anyone who votes for Ansible . . . . Most interesting news in this one has to do with Lionel Fanthorpe becoming host of a Fortean TV program on Channel Four, and the death of Brian Burgess of heart failure on Janurary 28th, following a forty-five year fannish career. Also, big for-profit convention organizers Stargazer International have gone belly-up, prompting one to hope that the mercenary trends in con-running may ultimately prove impractical.
Lettersub #13, written and edited by Terry Broome, 66 Johns Ave. Lofthouse, Wakefield WF3 3LU UK: As ever, this tiny-run fanzine is full of very good writing, on subjects you may not especially want to know anything about. Terry continues to have some trouble with people at work, his brother drives him crazy, and the weather hasn't been very nice, either. The highlight of this issue, as with most of them, is the eight-page chunk of semi-fictional writing at the end, "From the Ashes." I'm not sure if this is a piece of a larger whole, or a story all its own, but Terry writes very well, and makes these rather sad and painful interactions too fascinating to put down. A dark pleasure, as ever.
Welcome to the Year of the Cow, one-shot, written and edited by Judith Hanna, 15 Jansons Rd., South Tottenham London N15 4JU UK: A series of short fanzine reviews put together for Attitude the Convention, with an amusing sidebar on life with Joesph Nicholas, here referred to as "Attila the Tidy." We certainly appreciated the nice things that Judith had to say about Apparatchik. The device of trying to compare each fanzine to a type of food was an interesting one, and I think the simile for Christina Lake's fanzine Never Quite Arriving sounds the best -- pombazo chili bread.
Emerald City #18, Cheryl Morgan, email@example.com and http://www.emcit.com: Cheryl produced this issue in the middle of a rather long trip to the US, and even managed to bring this paper edition to Potlatch. Lots of discussion of fans and places visited on her trip. As one might expect, Cheryl was given a small amount of stick at FanHistoricon for producing a fanzine primarily known through an electronic edition, and didn't care for it much. I agree with her that it is stupid to reject something as a fanzine simply because it arrives via e-mail, but I think even she would admit that it is a very differant category of artifact than the paper fanzine. I take e-zines and create my own layout, then print out copies I can read at my leisure. This also means that when I go to write these reviews I have some sort of physical reminder that I should consider Cheryl's zine too. Somebody well-connected needs to start an electronic zine subscription service for people without computers, so that people like Cheryl are not cut off from part of fandom by the very technology that allows her to reach so many others.
Pinkette #15f, edited by Karen Pender-Gunn, P.O. Box 567 Blackburn, Victoria 3130 Australia: This issue of Pinkette seems even more like a short swim in Karen's stream of conciousness than usual. This issue is rather dominated by letters on the last two, but as always, Karen offers a short excerpt from notes on her and Ian's GUFF trip, plus a comparison of professional and SF conventions. Just a little ping to let us know she's still alive; one wonders if Karen will continue to feel the need to do these, now that she and Ian have taken over the Melbourne SFC clubzine.
The Space Cadet Gazette #7, edited by R. Graeme Cameron, 1855 West 2nd. Ave., Apt #110, Vancouver, BC Canada V6J 1J1 Canada: First of all, what a great cover by Teddy Harvia. It fits the spirit of this fanzine perfectly. Graeme is into really bad movies, as evidenced by his intricate review of "The Giant Claw." Some very funny stuff in his "Ask Mr. Science" column too, and the excerpt from Graeme's grandfather's World War I memoirs is entertaining as ever. The letter column struck me as a trifle long, but he has a great dialogue going with his readers, and one can hardly blame him for getting everything he can out of it.
Canadian Journal of Detournement #17, created by Dale Speirs, P.O. Box 6830, Calgary, Alberta T2P 2E7 Canada: Another set of clip-art collages with cryptic captions, this one claiming to show the history of the alleged sponsoring organization, the Society for Economic Epistemology. As usual, the humor is so deadpan that one is not sure whether to laugh or shudder, kind of like listening to Christopher Walken tell a joke. Delightfully disturbing.
Opuntia # 30 & 31, edited by Dale Speirs, P.O. Box 6830, Calgary, Alberta T2P 2E7 Canada: Two new issues of the tiny fanzine from Calgary. #30 has a nice letter column -- well, actually, "nice" isn't really the word, since Dale's curmudgeonly pronouncements tend to attract the attention of writers of a smiliar temperment -- some scientific articles by Dale, and his assessment of the Toronto in 2003 bid, and half the zine is occupied by Garth Spencer's history of Ottawa fandom, which continues into #31. I was naturally riveted by Dale's account of the 1893 murder trial of the pioneering Canadian philatelist J. R. Hooper, but it would have been interesting even if my surname was not involved. Speirs' range of interests is such that he is always coming up with odd little pieces like this, and there is always something surprising in each issue of Opuntia.
The Reluctant Famulus #47, eidted by Tom Sadler, 422 W. Maple Ave., Adrian, MI 49221-1627: Tom fires back! People have been criticizing him for not putting more personal material in his zine, and Tom replies with a reasoned defense of his editorial technique. But at the same time, his "Science Fiction and Literature: A Personal Reassessment," while a logical and sophisticated argument, owes a great deal to tom's personal taste, and seems to be a big step in the right direction. As usual, an excerpt from Terry Jeeve's wartime memoirs is the most compelling material in the issue, although it was also a nice surprise to see a few more of Steve Stiles' "Art School Stories" showing up in an unexpected place. I do like some of the things Tom has been doing with his layout, and the lettercol is lively and well-populated.
Gradient #15, edited by Robert Sabella, 24 Cedar Manor Ct., Budd Lake, NJ 07828-1023: Among fanzines focused very tightly on science fiction and its ideas, Gradient has the considerable virtue of a matter-of-fact delivery and a general lack of pretension. Sabella just assembles some ideas about science fiction and literature and lays them on us. This issue features some interesting ideas about helping to teach kids the sense of wonder, and some thoughts on the problem of accurate translations. Not especially exciting, but thoughtful, material.
Visions of Paradise #71, written and edited by Bob Sabella, 24 Cedar Manor Ct., Budd Lake, NJ 07828-1023: As Sabella notes, this is an apazine that has previously been sent to members of MIShAP for the past ten years. The insight which this offers into Bob's life is certainly laudable, but he doesn;t seem to have had an especially exciting month this time out. Perfectly pleasant writing, but not memorable.
Centerrifical Tales #3, written and edited by Kevin Welch, P.O. Box 2195, Madison, WI 53701-2195: Mr. Welch seems to exhibit annoyance, or at least an unfamiliarity, with the many traditions and in-jokes of fanzine fandom, but he has a strong handle on the sort of writing which fandom often favors most, personal essays and criticism which offer some insight to the writer's world. Obviously, some of Kevin's readers are responding to his style, as this issue contains an energetic lettercol. I rather liked his discursion on the late Jackie Gleason, and laughed out loud at the excerpt from van Vogt's Far Centaurus, which Welch has headed "A Brief History of Science Fiction." I will be interested to see where he eventually goes with this title.
Brum Group News # 301 - 305, edited by Martin Tudor for the BSFG, 24 Ravensbourne Grove, Off Clarke's Lane, Willenhall, West Midlands, WV13 1HX: A big catch-up pile of these clubzines, assembled every month by the heroically prolific Martin Tudor. The Brum Group seems to have remarkably good luck with getting big-name professional writers to come speak at their ever-more poorly-attended meetings -- if you ever get tired of banging your head on the wall, Martin, come on back over -- there are plenty of US clubs that could use a guy like you.
Situation Normal?? Vol. 8, #2, edited by Aileen Forman for Snaffu, P.O. Box 95941, Las Vegas NV 89193-5941: Aileen continues to try and inject a little more than just club news and schedules into this zine; one gets the sense that she is just about there, but could use some more material, whether from members of the Vegas club, or from readers elsewhere. In any event, it sounds like the SNAFFU folks continue to have fun, and should be happy with the vigorous job Aileen is doing with their clubzine.
Vanamonde #197 & 198, written and edited by John Hertz, 236 S. Coronado St., #409, Los Angeles, CA 90057: More single-sheet Apa-L fanzines. John has taken to annotating these so that I may understand the conversations in process more completely. I still prefer the material that leads off #198, which describes events from the year 1568, which conforms to the number of the Apa-L mailing it is meant for. A line like ". . . on the Delaware, the Dutch annex Swedish possessions to the New Netherlands, ending Swedish power in North America," is enough to get a whole novel out of some writers . . . .
Duff Talk-About # 3, edited by Pat and Roger Sims, 34 Creekwood Square, Cincinnati, OH 45426-3811: Perefectly utilitarian newsletter from the current Down-Under Fan Fund administrator, noting the current race (Me vs. Janice Murray vs. Joel Zakem) and the fast-approaching deadline (postmark by April 1st, received by April 15th) for the 1997 race. Rogers notes that the late Lynn Hickman left his collection -- one of the more notable in fandom -- to be auctioned for the benefit of DUFF. So some pretty cool stuff ought to be up for bid at Corflu . . . .
De Profundis #297, edited by Tim Merrigan for the LASFS, 11513 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601: LASFS meeting minutes, calendars of conventions and other events. Interesting insights into the sociology of LASFS, but generally hard to get through.
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