April 18th to May 7th, 1997
by Andy Hooper
1. Trap Door #17, edited by Robert Lichtman, P.O. Box 30, Glen Ellen, CA 95442: Robert notes in his editorial that Trap Door has evolved into a fanzine of record -- that is, readers look to it to provide concrete remembrance of things and people important to fandom, their arrivals and departures, the things they do for fun while they are around. More than in any other fanzine, I have the sense that lost fans of yore are loitering around in the background of Robert's fanac, that they live on in the minor perturbations and turns of phrase that wobble this fanzine's semi-annual orbit. I find it amusing that Robert claims to have come to this task by accident; the quality of TD, coupled with his recent drive to catalogue his ever-burgeoning fanzine collection, would indicate that it is really the work that he was born to do. So here he remembers Seth Goldberg, touches on last year's fanzine count, and reprints a poem by Julia Vinograd about the late dick Ellington, which makes it seem like it is all right to say good-bye to him now, too. But never get the feeling that Trap Door is a fanzine obsessed with death, or with no interest in the present as it becomes the future. In this issue we have delightful European travelogue from Karen Haber Silverberg, Christina Lake's consideration of her family history, and a very funny image of what might happen if preppies ever form their own militia, among other things, from Sidney Coleman. Dave Langford and Calvin Demmon rise to the rather unrealistic standard we set for them -- everyone seems to get out their best stuff for Robert -- while the piece by Richard Brandt, about dealing with fatalities when he was a TV reporter, may be the best thing I've ever read by him. Steve Stiles' article cobbles together several incidents from his youth in Manhattan, all of which struck me a more than capable of carrying a full-length piece by themselves. This issue's returning gafiate is Ron Bennet, who notes that there is just as great an opportunity to meet decidedly odd people in mystery circles as there is in science fiction. And as ever, Carol Carr offers some gentle observations the provide a wonderful counterpoint to all the falling bodies and dubious Austro- Hungarian relatives found in the rest of the issue. Great lettercol, too. But I have to say that my favorite part of Trap Door is the art, custom headings drawn by Dan Steffan, Stiles, and Craig Smith, which give it a quality I can only describe as intentional -- that is, everything is there because that's the way Robert wanted it to be.
2. Wild Heirs #19, edited by the Las Vegrants, 330 S. Decatur, Suite 152, Las Vegas, NV 89107: Surely you know the wild Heirs drill by now: A small cloud of editorials and columns, all of which are charming at worst, and inspire immoderate laughter at best. A long tonne of Rotslers (but now sprinkled more heavily with art by Alan White, Ray Nelson, Ross Chamberlain, etc.) sometimes appearing four to a two-page spread. And fan fiction; you know there will be fan fiction. Which means, I suppose, that if you liked the previous issues of WH, you'll like this one; even so, I think this is an especially satisfying issue. Arnie's fan fiction "That Old Fannish Line" actually verges on being good science fiction, as well as being funny enough to make me spew orange soda all over the table while I was reading it. What a great piece! Tom Springer and Ken Forman have stand-out editorials (PS: Glad you enjoyed the Warhoon 28, Tom!), and the gentle contributions of Marcie Waldie and Joyce Katz let me enjoy their voices echoing in my internal soundtrack. I found Alan White's portfolio of potential Wild Heirs covers impressive, too. And lock up your daughters, Chuch Harris is back! To top it all off, they've started using a slightly smaller font for much of the text, allowing the whole thing to fit into a svelte 44 pages. Gee, now there might even be room if I fulfilled my two-year-old promise to send them something . . . .
3. Railings, dated 4/1/97, written and edited by Steve Green, 33 Scott Rd., Olton, Solihull, B92 7LQ UK: Not so much a one-shot as a broadside: So, this is what Mr. Green has been doing with himself all those cold, lonely nights he spent avoiding writing a column for us. Here, at last, is a published voice willing to publicly state British reservations about hosting Corflu. Where the hell were these concerns five months ago, when I was accused of being the only human being on seven continents opposed to the concept of the British Corflu? And gosh, doesn't the characterization of running Corflu as "injecting this completely alien gene into our biosphere" fill you with a warm glow of good fellowship? One can only hope that the scenario of utter doom and misery which Steve paints here is meant to scare Ian Sorensen, et al, back onto the path of righteousness. Mind you, Steve never goes so far as to make a constructive suggestion as to how Corflu Leeds ought to address any of its many problems, nor does he offer to do any work to create a properly "British" convention (In his defense, Steve had a fannish convention project he intended to work on, MiScon, which has been tabled in favor of Corflu). Once Corflu Leeds has been punctured, time to go after potential future British Worldcons and the continuing existence of the Brum Group. Brum types, report to your local disintegration chamber forthwith. I can only stand in awe of the truly elevated dudgeon which Steve aspires to here.
4. Glamour #4, written and edited by Aileen Forman, 7215 Nordic Lights Dr., Las Vegas, NV 89119: More observations on life in Vegas from Aileen, who continues to impress me. She seems to have decided that her work will be just as grounded in the real world as most Las Vegrant fanac is concerned with fannish ephemera, making her zine an ideal after-dinner mint to the two am prime-rib buffet that is Wild Heirs. Some interesting letters have joined the mix. And why is abbreviation such a long word?
Banana Wings #6, edited by Claire Brialey (26 Northampton Rd., Croydon, Surrey CR0 7HA UK) & Mark Plummer (14 Northway Rd., Croydon, Surrey CR0 6JE UK): The first two articles in this issue nearly put me into a panic; aside from the regular slap on the wrist which we receive from Paul Kincaid in it's fmz review column, I have enjoyed the previous issues, and I was really worried when I could barely slog through Claire's comments on British politics, and the dialogue between Mark and Claire on the relative success of Attitude: The Convention, nearly put me to sleep. But then we have Marks' observations on the momentous impact of Gary Farber's visit to Croydon, and Claire's memoir on the sundry crimes of various convention hotels, which gets the engine humming nicely as we come to Paul Kincaid's reviews. This time, Paul chooses the central thesis that the failure of fanzine fandom to produce writing of sufficient weight to interest and impress him is a sign that it has begun a period of intellectual decline, or as he would put it, we're all becoming awfully dumb. Worse still, fandom, as personified by Lillian Edwards, seems happy to accept this condition. Nothing succeeds in British fandom like insulting your peers, so I expect to see Paul given the Doc Weir award soon. But, ah, as is her chosen mode of operation, in rides Maureen Kincaid Speller to save the day. Her article "Skiffy Stuff" is an entirely accessible and entertaining description of her efforts to expand her knowledge of science fiction to include material written before 1980, and got me interested in pulling out my copy of New Dimensions. Whatever this fanzine is, it isn't dumb.
Plokta V.2, #2, edited by Steve Davies (52 Westbourne Terrace, Reading, Berkshire RG30 2RP UK) and Alison Scott (42 Tower Hamlets Rd., Walthamstow, London E17 4RH UK): Plokta seems to have become every fanzine reviewer's favorite whipping-dog of late, and I must say that I find this somewhat mystifying. None of the circle of writers and artists associated with Plokta has ever indicated any ambition toward any goal beyond having a bit of fun with their fanzine, yet people seem bent on criticizing it at roughly the same level as Attitude and other earnest genzines. This is just stupid. It also avoids the real problem with this issue of Plokta, to wit, it isn't very funny. I got a few chuckles from Steven Cain's assertion that the infant Marianne Cain is in fact a Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat, and it was fun seeing the instant snaps from Steve Davies and Giulia De Cesare wedding in Hobart, but the rest of the issue felt slightly limp. Oddly, the best thing in the issue is a relatively by-the-numbers account of Marianne's birth by Mom Alison Scott; I shall now recycle an old joke that I used on Brian Earl Brown a few years back, in noting that the quality of Plokta's appearance had me convinced several months before Marianne's birth that Alison and Steve were capable of high-quality reproduction, and thus her precocious display in publishing one-shots, hog-tying full-grown moose, etc., have come as no real surprise to me. My only real criticism is to point out that it ill behooves as ample a group as the Plokta cabal to refer to anyone as a cow, even the Duchess of York.
Emerald City #20, written and edited by Cheryl Morgan, available from her at firstname.lastname@example.org: This issue is largely concerned with a trip Cheryl came to the US to look for work, as well as to attend Corflu, etc. In general, she kept a very good attitude toward everything, but a little of the weary traveler's creebiness creeps in around the edges; Amtrak sucks, American are so dim that most of them don't know the dollar coin is legal tender, airlines insist on repairing mechanical defects in their airplanes rather than taking off immediately so Cheryl can make her interview with time to spare, yadda yadda. This very slightly sour tone then carries over to the issue's book reviews; she criticizes Pat Murphy's Nadja on grounds that are better directed at the heroic pioneer-woman romance novel subgenre as a whole, and notes to no one's surprise that Maggie Furey's Dhiammara, the fourth book in an epic fantasy series, reads like the fourth book in an epic fantasy series. She brightens up substantively to praise Kim Newman's Anno Dracula & The Bloody Red Baron, and notes some of the central puzzles in Gwynneth Jones' The White Queen, without giving away any of the answers. Cheryl notes that she'll be covering David Brin's Uplift War series next issue, which frankly fills me with dread, but also allows me to make a general note about book reviews in fanzines, which is that I always wish people would consider a piece of non-genre fiction, or even non- fiction, along with all these SF books. I love SF, but I don't think one is equipped to understand or fully enjoy it without being well-read outside the genre as well, and I wish this was reflected in more fan writers' criticism.
File 770 #116, edited by Mike Glyer, P.O. Box 1056, Sierra Madre, CA 91025: This issue of File 770, with its coverage of TAFF problems dating back to December of last year, underlines a fundamental challenge which newszine producers face today. Even if one publishes a new issue every month, or even more frequently, information about breaking stories is available on-line even faster, and it is very, very hard to present people with stories they have not already read. Working at a quarterly pace makes it all that much more difficult. But the advantage that an editor working on paper has is that the additional lead time gives them the opportunity to provide analysis and interpretation that instantaneous forums (most of which lack moderation or editorial filters) are less likely to feature. For the record, I encourage Mike to do whatever he can to give us as much background and conclusion he can; those of us whirling away at a tri-weekly pace are counting on guys like Mr. Glyer to do the in-depth stuff we can't possibly do. Mike does what he can to keep a foot on both sides of the stream here; he puts the TAFF issue into come perspective, and features commentary on the mild controversy over the first fandom awards by Marji Ellers, while punching recent events, like the death of Sam Moskowitz, which people on his mailing list might not have heard yet. It's a delicate dance, and I'm not sure if he's all that satisfied with the results, but my suspicion is that F770 is the only news-based fanzine many of its readers receive, and thus they aren't likely to press Mike to change his approach. The fanzine is still the best voice speaking the language of smoffy, serconnish, con-running, "generalist" fandom, so I'm sure it will always have an appreciative audience.
Super Hooper, Maureen's Duper, dated 3/24/97, edited by Mark Plummer (14 Northway Rd., Croydon, Surrey CR0 6JE UK), with help from Claire Brialey: This is the account of all the miseries involved in putting out Banana Wings #6, including Maureen Kincaid-Speller's acquisition of a newly-reconditioned mimeograph, which was substituted for the usual machine, which seized at inconvenient times. The new duper they named after myself, while the old one is named after Greg Pickersgill -- and they wondered why both of these ill-tempered devices ultimately refused to function? The last page of BW had to be done on a photo-copier, and various friends with mallets are now working on the repair of Greg and my namesakes. A funny little effort which brought back many unpleasant memories of wondering where those little black streaks were coming from, or why the stencils kept wrinkling. And of course, I was certainly honored. One usually has to wait until after death to have a great machine or vehicle named after one.
Science Fiction Chronicle #191, edited by Andrew Porter, P.O. Box 022730, Brooklyn, NY 11202-3308: Nice to see Andrew is still in the game; this is unfortunately the first issue we've seen from him since last October. As one might imagine, there is an awful lot of stuff to cram in here, and a lot of it has passed its sell-by date. On the other hand, this is the first time I've seen the actual results for Betty Hull's congressional bid last fall; she got 74,068 votes to the incumbent's 127,763, despite being outspent 10-1. Seems like there's good reason for her to run again. And no one provides obituaries of character actors and set designers who worked on Donovan's Brain like Mr. Porter does . . . . Vanamonde #206, 207, written and edited by John Hertz, 236 S. Coronado St. #409, Los Angeles, CA 90057: More of John's weekly Apa-L/Minneapa zines, considering an amazing variety of subjects in a single page. Now and then he brings up a subject, or makes an observation that really provokes thought, such as his invocation of a fannish neo- provincialism in a comment to Len and June Moffatt. Maybe you ought to boil the best of these into a quarterly journal, John; I'm sure it would make superb reading.
Lettersub #14, written and edited by Terry Hornsby, 66 Johns Ave., Lofthouse, Wakefield WF3 3LU UK: Let me first apologize for referring to Terry by his former name of Broome in my review of his last issue; force of habit, Terry, It won't happen again. This issue leads with an account of an unpleasant interaction at a supermarket, followed by family news, a short travelogue, some letters, some book reviews, and leads into more of Terry's strong fiction, always the highlight of each issue. All in all, a good cross-section of what Terry's been thinking about, which, I believe, is what he set out to create here.
Southern Fandom Confederation Bulletin V.6, #8, edited by Tom Feller, Box 13626 Jackson, MS 39236: Lots of news, con announcements, and club-listings, all of comparatively high utility to fans living in the South. Most interesting to me was Tom's review of John Tulloch and Henry Jenkins' book Science Fiction Audiences, which seems to be a concerted effort to rehabilitate the public impression of sf fans, and media fans in particular. Tom offers enough excerpts from the book to indicate that the authors' approach is uniquely colored by their dual status as both fans and academics interested in popular culture, and made me quite curious to at least skim the book. Tom's really quite an accomplished fan writer, and his status as at least a regional bnf is well deserved. But hey, doesn't anyone but Southern clubzine publishers trade with this zine?
De Profundis #300, edited by Tim Merrigan for the LASFS, 11513 N. Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601: The extra-huge 300th issue of this clubzine features all the usual meeting minutes and announcements, plus a selection of reader letters and book reviews, and a big portion of changes-of-address.
Situation Normal?? V.8, #3, edited by Dave Wittmann for SNAFFU, P.O. Box 95941, Las Vegas, NV 89119-5941: Oh, I have another error to apologize for here; in my review of the last issue of this Vegas clubzine, I failed to notice that Dave Wittman had taken the reins from former editor Aileen Forman. Sorry about that Dave, but you've now put enough of your style on the zine that I doubt I could make the same mistake again. We have a few pages of club news and announcements, segueing directly to discussions of potential life on Mars and the state of cloning technology, and to reviews which feature lines like "For all its charms and foibles, though . . . the whole Star Wars is sadly out of date with modern society."
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