Plink & Twokta
by Victor M. Gonzalez
It is rare that I open a fanzine envelope and immediately decide my own similar efforts pale.
But that's the reaction I had when I opened Plokta #6: fuck, those photos look good. I realized that my efforts to get pictures into Apak turned out pretty awful in comparison.
But, though the lovely halftone screens and mostly careful layout of Plokta occupied my mind for a few days, upon opening the latest E.B. Frohvet zine, Twink, another thought came to mind: how can both of these fanzines exist in the same universe?
On the one hand we have a design-superconscious zine like Plokta. It relies on photos, uses three columns, and plenty of short material. It reminds more than anything else of a weekly newsmagazine, attempting to inform while not alienating readers with a third-grade education. This issue features a three-photo front cover stinging the extensive coverage (mostly pictures) of the Tasmanian wedding of Steve Davies and Giulia De Cesare.
The writing in Plokta has improved since the zine started up, and I particularly liked Alison Scott's description of unleashing her baby upon the world ("So there'd be a bit of a palaver, while I waddled over from the chair to the bed, trying not to drip too much . . ."), and also a review of a book about coffee and alcohol by Steven Cain.
But much of the rest pales for me a little. There's a nice letter about killings wasps, but the rest of the letter column is rather short and flat. Like many a cabal, the Plokta group isn't interesting to me because I don't know those people. The first half of Steve Davies' Tasmania trip report, for example, tells a story no more unique or disastrous than any average transcontinental trip I can imagine. Other than the absolute need to report on the wedding, there doesn't seem to be much of substance, either serious or comic, in this piece.
But I still enjoy getting and reading Plokta; after looking at it for a while, I even discovered a fairly serious layout flaw on the front page. Whew.
Twink #5, on the other hand, has chosen a very basic layout (two columns typed on a page). Still, it has come a long way from the time the pseudonymed editor used thick black lines to demarcate his columns. I did, however, see vestiges of a strange editorial attitude in the lettercol. Half a column (which apparently would otherwise have been empty) was spent explaining that part of a Joseph Nicholas letter was left out because it was too long, and Joseph wanted that section printed in full or not at all.
"To remove that portion would entail re-editing the letter column from that point on,'' Frohvet explains. While I'm sure this was a real conflict for Frohvet, I wonder if this explanation belongs in the fanzine; it reminds me of a previous issue in which Frohvet publicly castigated two artists for not sending him material. In that case he also used the space that would have been taken up by the illustrations.
So I have some questions about Frohvet's skills as an editor, as well as his layout skills. Here's an idea: look over the letters and make decisions about edits before typing them onto the master.
But enough criticism; Twink isn't bad, but it's got a very different approach to fandom than Plokta. Both have a letter column and book reviews. In fact, Twink's 24 pages contain capsule book, movie and fanzine reviews. Frohvet also contributes two articles, one on how to become a Worldcon organizer, and the other on black characters in science fiction.
The letter column is the majority of the zine, covering art, racism, Dhalgren, other science fiction, and even a brief discussion of the meaning of fandom, in the part of the Nicholas letter that was printed. Some of it was fairly interesting, but I also got the impression that Frohvet isn't editing too much out of the letters (several start with "Thanks for sending Twink . . ." or a close variation).
Overall I think I found Plokta a better fanzine, but I think Frohvet has a better idea of what the purpose of his zine is. I'm just not very interested in it.
But that leads me back to the big question: how can the same audience be interested in both fanzines? The question, because it might be asked of any two zines, is probably unfair. And it also leads to platitudes about how fandom is as diverse a community as the larger community from which it draws.
Ultimately, perhaps even making the comparison makes me look like an idiot; sercon and fannish zines have co-existed for decades. Some fans like sf and some don't. Some have a mixed attitude.
But it's still an interesting comparison, I think. Two fanzines, roughly equivalent in wordcount, with roughly the same schedule (Plokta's seems a little faster), and with many of the same features.
Yet one is produced by a group describing itself as a "cabal," and the other by an unidentified individual. One has a personal, flippant tone and the other a serious, analytical and somewhat authoritarian tone. Plokta appears to have a mostly complete understanding of the history of fandom; Frovet is informed who Arthur Thompson is in the current Twink.
This is the kind of question that deserves a long, D. Westish look at social formation. I don't have the answers, and I'm not sure I'm phrasing the question right.
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