Dispatches to Apak
[ APH: We've a certain amount of mail about the Hugo awards this time out, so we start with someone intimately acquainted with one, F.M. BUSBY (2852 14th Ave. W., Seattle, WA 98119) : ]
'Thanks, Andy, for the gracious correction re the Cry fan Hugo. It was only the sixth such award, and previously the situation (concom members publishing a zine in the running) hadn't occurred. So we had no precedent. But: the previous year's winning editors -- the incumbents, so to speak -- helping count the votes? *Hoog.* (Even though we officially pulled Cry from contention, it came in second on the nominating ballots.)[ VMG: Now there's a lesson that could be learned by the editor of Nova Express. The difference is, if you hadn't pulled Cry, it probably would have won the award -- justifiably.
'Why do fans write (Victor asks)? Maybe it's a case of monkey see, monkey do. From infancy my parents read stories to me and made up their own stories to tell; by age three or four I wanted to tell them stories right back (with amazing patience, they allowed this). Around my fifth birthday, looking at the page my mother was reading to me, I suddenly realized I could read. Three years later I got around to writing a "Story" myself, and ever after, in the kaleidoscope of interests an emerging human will cycle and recycle, every so often I'd hit a streak of obsession with writing. Loved doing parody verse, for instance. Read my first true SF at age nine but along that line I never wrote anything but false starts until much later.
'Gee, all an active Seattle fan used to need was the ability to cut stencils and/or turn the crank, lack of time for watching TV, an apa membership (optional, though not very), and firm opinions on everything under the sun except who sawed Courtney's boat. You folks' criteria are tougher. But funnier.'
ALISON SCOTT (42 Tower Hamlets Rd., Walthamstow, London E17 4RH UK, e-mail to email@example.com) also has Hugo thoughts, and shares some concerns from Plokta HQ: ]
'I hope that the people who suggested that Nova Express was guilty of crass self-promotion are not suggesting that Apparatchik is above such things. Fond as I am of Apak, I consider it to be the most relentlessly self-promoting fanzine I receive by some considerable margin. Now, clearly, you're a lot more subtle about it than Nova Express. But is careful, clever and subtle self-promotion morally superior in some way to crass self-promotion?
'You are, I suspect, likely to deny that Apparatchik is a self-promoting fanzine. Would you be happier with the phrase "well-marketed"?
'Geek corner, but as the details are discussed in your letter column: Plokta 7 will be photocopied rather than laser-printed; less difficult and less wearing on our printers. Also less beautiful. We considered litho, but we can't really justify the expense. We don't use Adobe Photoshop; our main image manipulation program is Paint Shop Pro. However, the optimization for photocopying rather than printing is done using the NT printer driver for Steve's printer. You'll see the results soon.'
[ VMG: I suggest using a digital photocopier -- it might even be possible to avoid the print-out stage, as some of these machines can read directly from the software file. The question of "self promotion" is rather too easily presented as understood in your note; whatever it is we do to "self promote," your impressions are no doubt influenced by the fact that you get a new issue every three weeks. If we didn't publish so often, we'd be in your face less. But don't worry, you're not the only one who reacts defensively to our schedule. All of this has become moot after this, of course.
Now, lest one think that everyone shares this generous attitude toward Hugos and self-promotion, here's a letter from DAVID LEVINE (1905 SE 43rd Ave., Portland, OR 97215 e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org): ]
'I just received e-mail from Lawrence Person, the editor of the Hugo-nominated fanzine "Nova Express," inviting me to send him my postal address for a free copy of his zine. I was furious.
'Now, you might think this reaction a little odd. Why did I react with anger to a friendly offer of a free fanzine? It's because I was just one of 1,432 people to receive this identical offer. Lawrence Person doesn't know me from Adam; to him, I'm just a name on a mailing list. This message was unsolicited e-mail, also called "junk e-mail," unaffectionately known to the on-line community as "spam."
'Junk e-mail is extremely controversial in the on-line community. Some folks, I'm sure, accept it as a minor annoyance on the order of paper junk mail. A vocal minority defend its use. But almost everyone I've talked to about the issue really hates it.
'Because e-mail costs almost nothing to send, the amounts of junk being sent every day are astronomical (I typically receive three to five pieces of junk e-mail a day). These floods of junk tend to obscure the real information. I recently sent a message to an acquaintance, to which I did not receive a reply; when I next met him in person and asked about it, he told me that he receives so much junk e-mail he simply trashes anything whose sender is not known to him. This is just one example of the ways bad e-mail drives out good.
'So: many people, myself included, despise junk e-mail and refuse to do business with anyone who uses it. And now the kicker: Person used the "Fannish E-Mail Directory," compiled by Portland fan John Lorentz and posted to the Web by Yours Truly, as his mailing list. The Directory begins with a large warning that "E-mail addresses on this page and its subpages are provided for the convenience of individuals seeking addresses of other individuals, for one-to-one correspondence. These addresses are not to be used for commercial solicitation." I'm sure that Person figured this didn't apply to him because his spam was non-commercial, but his spam was an outrageous violation of the spirit of the rules by which the Directory is maintained.
'I would encourage all Hugo voters to protest this spam as follows: DO NOT VOTE FOR NOVA EXPRESS. It is important that you leave it off your ballot completely. Do NOT vote it below "No Award"; since "No Award" is usually eliminated in the first round, ranking a nominee below "No Award" just means that your vote goes to that nominee later rather than sooner -- but they still get your vote. The proper way to express disapproval of a nominee is NOT TO VOTE IT ON YOUR BALLOT AT ALL. And I wish to express my disapproval of Nova Express in the strongest possible terms.
'I recognize that this call for action may be controversial. I recognize that junk e-mail is not universally despised. I am doing this anyway, because I think junk e-mail is one of the most appalling things to happen to what we used to call the Net, and I want to do what little I can to discourage its use. And I would really hate for a fanzine I never even heard of before this year to get a Hugo by using junk mail to build name recognition.'
[ VMG: I sympathize with your feelings about Nova Express. It sounds as though they think the Hugo is given for the most solicitation. And their use of spam isn't the only thing that has occurred to some people. A recent list in the New York Review of Science Fiction had Nova among the prozines and semi-prozines -- where some might think it belongs.
According to David Bratman, who has had considerable experience with the Hugos, "I think most administrators accept the categories that most of the voters nominate in, unless they have reason to think the bulk of them are mistaken. . . ." David goes on to say that the distinctions are mostly intuitive, and that, "I can't recall any cases where placements have been challenged."
According to Worldcon rules, a semi-prozine must push two of the following five buttons, Bratman said: average circulation over 1,000; contributors or staff paid in a form other than contributor's copies; the source of more than half of the editor's (or someone else's) income; carry advertising that fills 15 percent of total space; and call itself a semi-prozine. I have no idea what Nova Express actually is, but I'm pretty sure it's not worthy of a Hugo. ]
[ APH: I cringe inwardly when someone writes those words: "not worthy of a Hugo." When I was just making my way in fanzine fandom, someone I consider one of my most important fannish mentors told me that was considered bad form to criticize Hugo winners and nominees, and in general, I have taken that advice to heart. I've always tried to concentrate on the individuals and works that were worthy of the award, and avoid talking about those that were not. But it seems to me that when a person uses mass-mailing techniques to elicit votes for their fanzine, book, etc., offering direct assertions that their work is the most worthy candidate for the award, they have essentially elicited opposing opinions themselves. I'm not voting for Nova Express because there are three better candidates on the ballot, if anyone cares what my opinion is. Leaving a candidate entirely off your ballot is indeed the most effective means of denying them your vote.
I'd like to know how Mr. Lorentz feels about the use of his mailing list for this quasi-commercial activity. Presumably he can't control what people do with it once they've received it from him. And I think I'd appreciate it if the people in charge of the Hugo balloting took a little longer look at the fanzine/semi-prozine borderline in the future, even if no one asks them to.
Picking up on Victor's questions about Why We Write in a big way is ULRIKA O'BRIEN (123 Melody Lane, Apt. C, Costa Mesa, CA 92627): ]
'Well, fuck. Mental note to self: Things not to do when your self-imposed deadline is already blown and you're polishing intros waiting for that last article to arrive so you can pub your first ish: (1) Read the latest Apparatchik and make side by side comparisons. Apparatchik: writing clean, spare, punchy, funny. Mine: crap. High blown, meandering, tedious, fatuous crap. Scrap one introduction. I didn't like it anyway. Start over.
'Good way to never pub one's ish, that. I don't mind Robert Lichtman so much. He takes a year to pull an issue together. So okay, it's going to be polished. You guys do this in three weeks. Bastards.
'And then to top it off, Victor, King of Pith, is up front whinging about only being successful in two areas of writing endeavor. Only. "But break my heart, for I must hold my tongue." He gets to make his living writing, and wants my sympathy? This is a joke, right? Faanish humor? Must be.
'Aw, all right. I guess I really do get it, sorta, and I'll strain myself to dredge up some sympathy if you give me a mo'. The whack-a-mole of discontent seems to be endemic to many of the sort of I admire most. Cyril Connolly complex, or something. Always wanting to do more/bigger/better/different, grass always greener (see first paragraph), and so forth. It may well be a good thing, in limited doses, because it keeps us moving and trying new stuff out. But flopping around on the deck about Is It Art? and Is It Valuable? and so forth seems a little self indulgent, to me.
'Or maybe it's just that, to me, it's bloody obvious that of course writing well, cleanly, and clearly is valuable in itself. I'm a bit of a fiery-eyed proselyte about it, in fact. But rather than get up on the stump and bend your ears for an hour, I'll recommend Neil Postman's Teaching as a Conserving Activity and Amusing Ourselves to Death and The Disappearance of Childhood, and anything you can lay your hands on by Richard Mitchell (sadly, he's out of print -- but a lot of his stuff is collected at http://members.aol.com/hu4wahz/ug/index.html), though especially Less Than Words Can Say, oh, and while we're at it, probably William Zinsser's Writing to Learn, for a bunch of good reasons why good writing is valuable. I'm hoping we can take it as read that Victor's writing is, in fact, good.
'But, to answer the question, why do I write? To make contact with people. To force my ideas into a linear arrangement and check their logic. To stress test my arguments and ideas on an audience to see where they fail, where they need rethinking, where they need clarification. To be social. To play with the language. To record my impressions of life and experience in a medium perhaps more reliable and certainly more transmittable than my memory. To think. To maintain the limberness of certain parts of my brain. To show off (yes, it works just often enough that I keep doing it for that reason, too). To fit in with my tribe. I'm sure there are other reasons, but these are the ones I'm most conscious of. Writing is just a normal aspect of living, like brushing your teeth or something.'
[ VMG: That's for the kind statements. I wasn't really trying for sympathy; just trying to get a discussion going (albeit, unfortunately, rather truncated). I largely agree with you, but I wonder about writing in different genres, and whether there is a qualitative level of value we can assign to them. In other words, science fiction is better than mainstream fiction, or vice versa. Though you say I shouldn't complain because I make my living as a writer, some in Seattle have made it clear they think the "writing" I do is demeaning. Too restrictive to allow any real talent to emerge, that is. Personally, I've found that any genre I learn about (in this case daily journalism) adds to my writing skills in general. Still, I wish I was doing something important, something my fannish acquaintances could respect, alas.
Now I'm whingeing.
I have some problems with Postman; just happened to do a paper on Amusing Ourselves in college, and found he had misrepresented a couple of sources. In an important part of the argument. But I'm familiar with his ideas.
Now, here's GEORGE FLYNN (P.O. Box 1069, Kendall Square Station, Cambridge, MA 02142) with his ideas on why we write: ]
'Victor wants to know why people become writers. Good question. When I was a student, I hated writing assignments. In high school I was named "literary editor" of the school paper, and I was supposed to write an essay every month; but I produced nothing worthwhile and quit after a couple of months. I like to think this was all because of the total lack of interest in things that I (thought I) was expected to write about, but perhaps I've just changed a lot since then. (It was over 40 years ago.) I got into fandom when I was over 30, and had still done almost no non-technical writing (though I co-authored three textbooks at just about the same time). Before I knew it I was a fairly active letterhack, and was producing 20-page apazines. What had changed? I dunno.
'Assuming that vampires don't exist, holding irrational beliefs about them is fairly harmless. The problem is with people who hold irrational beliefs about groups that do exist, and act on those beliefs.
' "E.B. Frohvet" also anagrammatizes to "H before TV," which is at least a truth about the alphabet.'
[ APH: Oh yes -- E.B. Frohvet. I almost forgot about him -- but ROBERT LICHTMAN (P.O. Box 30, Glen Ellen, CA 95442) has not: ]
'In the lettercol, I'm surprised to find that I was the only one to comment on your revelation concerning E. B. Frohvet. Can it be that fanzine fandom these days is so blasÈ that when a major hoax goes down and is finally revealed, everyone is too high-minded to even notice? By the way, Frohvet has a folder for his zines not because he's a hoax but because he's published enough to go over the threshold of number of issues needed for one's own folder (which is four or five, depending on thickness). Andy's comment "I'll admit there is a hoax being perpetrated here, but I won't say upon whom," is certainly designed to keep up the uncertainty about whether Frohvet really is you guys, or what.
'Victor asks, "Is a writer and original thinker or just a communicator?" -- my response would be both, neither, or perhaps just one, depending on the writer and the writer's intention with any given piece of work. I'm a little confused by his second goal, "to elicit descriptions from others -- from you -- in any terms they're comfortable with." Was something left out of here during an edit? Descriptions of what? Like Victor, I remember writing as far back as I could manage it, and while I don't remember specifics of just what I was asked to write in grammar school, I know that every fall was the what-I-did-over-the-summer essay teachers loved to inflict. By the time I was in my early teens and reading science fiction, I began writing short-short stories and even sent a few of them off to hapless prozine editors. For many years I kept a polite and helpful rejection note from Tony Boucher, received years before I ever met him. I gave all that up when I began writing for and publishing fanzines, but not before one story crept into print (in Psi-Phi No. 1). Why do I "spend so much time" doing fanwriting? Compulsion; habit; the desire to stay in touch; with any luck to entertain; for the fun of it. Victor's mention of writing a story that included his experiences as a part of Seattle's Rocky Horror crowd made me wish he'd write a fan article about same. And finally, who's Sheila?
'In Roger Ebert's list of "legendary BNF's," I'm straining to remember who Ed Gorman was. I looked him up in the 1957 through 1960 editions of Ron Bennett's Fandom Directory. Ebert appears in all but the first, but Gorman isn't in any of them: a strange absence for someone who's such a legendary BNF Roger compares him to Tucker and Warner. Hmmmmm.'
[ APH: Mysteries within mysteries. Perhaps CHRIS BZDAWKA (e-mail to BzdChris@aol.com) can offer some explanations in her reactions to # 79: ]
'Thanks to Mr. Bratman for his encouraging description of fanzine fandom and the Corflu milieu. Makes me want to pub my ish. Could I be quick-witted and urbane enough for Corflu? Or has my exposure to Broken Spur trailer trash rendered me a hopeless hick, only good enough for novels? We'll see.
'As the former owner of two Volares (love that Mopar engine, but those heavy, clunky doors -- ugh), I could imagine the "Louis and Dave" play Mr. Levine described. Yes, the seating would be limited. I'd love to see the production go on tour - the play sounds great, very immediate, a stroke of genius.
'One of the things I'll miss about APAK is reading Mr. White's column. His writing is so good, so personal. His comments about his friend Lou's girlfriend Shelly put me to thinking about the death of lovers. What would I say or do if my lover died? What would my lover say about me? Do my former lovers remember me with love? How much fire damage have my bridges sustained? Hmmm.
'My heart goes out to Martin & Helena Tudor -- the illness of a baby is terrifying. They're so helpless and small. At one year old, my son Matt became seriously ill with a kinked bowel, had emergency surgery, and was in the hospital for about a week. I remember vividly just barely sleeping in a hospital chair, watching him incessantly, the agony of leaving him for a few hours to go to work, holding his little pincushioned body in my arms and watching the 1982 World Series, cooing "Go, Mollie" and "Coop, Coop" to him, the nurses who became friends. Best wishes to Heloise, Mother and Father.
'Finally, all this talk about the Apparatchiki posing as E.B. Frohvet is ridiculous -- the endless speculation, the finger-pointing -- I can remain silent no longer -- I admit it -- I AM THE REAL E.B. FROHVET. What was I thinking? This elaborate charade is too much, TOO MUCH I say! Ahhhhh! I feel so free now that the yoke of pretense has been lifted.'
[ APH: Before this begins to degenerate into the climax of a Dalton Trumbo screenplay, let us turn to the Chairman of Aussiecon Three, the 1999 Worldcon, PERRY MIDDLEMISS (GPO Box 2708X Melbourne, Victoria 3001 Australia, e-mail to PMiddlem@vcrpmrkt.telstra.com.au) who has some sad news to share: ]
'It is with much regret that I have to inform you of the death of George Turner, doyen of Australian Science Fiction, and Guest of Honor for the 1999 Worldcon.
'George suffered a massive stroke on Thursday 5th June at his home in Ballarat, Victoria. He did not regain consciousness and passed away on Sunday 8th June. He will be sadly missed.
'At the time the Aussiecon committee (or the A in 99 committee as it was then) asked George if he would be our guest of honor he suggested that we should choose someone younger. We disagreed and told him that our aim was to honor him, and his work. Again at his 80th birthday party last year (after a previous stroke had left him rather frail and easily tired) he again pointed out that he may not be able to make the convention. I told him that if that was to occur it wouldn't change our minds and that we intended to honor him anyway. I tried to make light of it, but you could tell he was worried that he wouldn't be with us. It strikes me as a measure of the man that he should feel compelled to suggest such a course of action.
'Although I haven't spoken directly to all members of the Executive as yet I feel safe in stating that although George will not be with us in 1999 in a physical sense, he will be there in spirit and that we intend to honor him as best we can. Our Guests of Honor for 1999 will be the same then as they are now -- namely, Greg Benford, Bruce Gillespie and George Turner.
'I have been informed that the funeral will take place in Melbourne, on Wednesday 11th June.'
[ APH: We send our condolences to George's family and friends everywhere. I think it's a pretty classy gesture to keep him on the list of honored guests.
Now, we've caught up to TOM PERRY (2268 N.W. 37th Place, Gainesville, FL 32605-2357, e-mail to email@example.com) after one of his frequent moves, and he has the following thoughts on Ted White's obit on Sam Moskowitz: ]
'Applause to Ted White for remembering the whole Sam Moskowitz, not just the genial, affable aspect of the fellow that everyone seems to agree appeared at conventions. I thought Ted caught the atmosphere of the magazine Science Fiction Plus (SF+), too. It was billed at the time as Hugo Gernsback returning to SF publishing to show how it should be done (this in the early fifties, at a time I believe when ASF, Galaxy and F&SF were all at their prime); the musty odor Ted remembers is perfectly right, and constituted some sort of accomplishment when rejects from the big three could have filled a magazine quite satisfactorily. I suspect authors avoided Gernsback, whose reputation for low pay or no pay for stories probably endured the hiatus from the cessation of his SF previous publications. Hyphen ran an interlineation/baquote in those days that read, "I wouldn't write for Gernsback if he paid me."
'I recall reading a reminiscence of Moskowitz's not long ago covering that lawsuit he filed against Ted. As I recall, he explained it by saying he had a lawyer friend who would work for free, so he saw no reason not to file suit and cause Ted trouble in return for his quip in FAPA. The comity of fandom, the idea that a clever remark is answered by another (or acknowledged to be a good shot, or whatever), rather than by the filing of nuisance litigation, seemed to mean nothing to him.
'Because I never met Moskowitz, the interesting insight that Ted makes never occurred to me -- that fact that he must have been hurt when he learned that his friend and patron, Hugo Gernsback, had sold him a bill of goods in telling him a phoney version of the Amazing bankruptcy and letting him publish it as fact. Sooner or later someone was bound to explode it. It took me less than an hour in a public library to establish that it was false. Of course Sam could have saved himself any potential embarrassment by looking up the facts himself before publishing his account. The Gernsback story consists of falsehoods and crude distortions of published statements, many of them easily checked in the widely available and well indexed microfilm archives of The New York Times. Hugo Gernsback must have had great confidence in his judgement of Moskowitz in relying on him never to make those easy checks of the facts.'
[ APH: Interesting observations, Tom. I suppose the isolated tales of litigiousness in fandom ought to make us grateful that most people have a better idea of the proper response to such things. And I don't think it is speaking ill of the dead to sometimes note that their dreams were larger than their personal character.
Now, JAE LESLIE ADAMS (621 Spruce St., Madison, WI 53715-2151) closes this column down with the quizzical observation that: ]
'SIR, I AM VEX'D; or, DOCTOR, MY BRAIN HURTS.
'Back in a January Apparatchik, Victor says Fannish Arts & Letters are not to be taken seriously. I submit now that there is no other way to take them. On a better day I would defend anyone's right to take them as seriously as she pleases. What good is the joke unless you keep a straight face. Don't spoil it with a nod-nod, wink-wink. Say no more.
'Fandom as well as the various pursuits of arts & letters are best carried out as highly serious play, the kind of play that absorbs toddlers with an intensity to which adults with difficulty aspire.
'That kind of seriousness is very uneasy with fashionable cynicism. Cynicism is a sound philosophical position in the Modern world, but I find rather too much of it around. My nine-year-old sounds more jaded than most grad students of English could manage thirty years ago.
'Sure it's absurd to work on anything you're not paid to do; reading, writing, drawing, on no one's payroll: what a bunch of saps we are here. You lift a finger in the service of a higher ideal and next thing you know you might look ridiculous. Yes, yes, to hell in a handbasket. So it goes -- the drawn-out losing battle, against illiteracy and what-have-you-got and our inevitable oblivion. I live in a world in which the performance of any art, lit, music without being paid for it is, after all, Just A Goddamn Hobby.
'But hey, she's got some costumes, and his uncle has a barn--let's put on a show! With my duplicator and your mailing permit . . . Looka my roller skates, you got a key? These personal remarks are unloaded for our mutual amusement. If this be amateurism, make the most of it.'
[ WAHF: Pamela Boal, Steven DesJardins, Murray Moore, Bob Smith, Ian Sorensen & Martin Tudor. Thanks again, fen, you made it worth going on, as well as worth stopping. ]
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