confusion & confuSon edited by Shelby Vick
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A Vick-tory of Sorts
A Few Words About Scanning Shelby Vick’s ConfusionTaral Wayne
At first I had no thought, actually, of scanning the five issues (1, 3, 7, 11, 16) of Shelby Vick’s 1950’s fanzine, Confusion. What happened is I mentioned in e-mail to Shelby that I had them. He surprised me by admitting he had no copies himself. It had been no plan of mine to scan them, having a short list of zines with priority that was long enough already.
Chivalrously, I said it would be no bother for me to scan the five issues.
Hoo boy! Was I wrong. To begin, Shelby’s zines are incredibly fragile. He says the twiltone substitute he used was robust enough, but the samples I had were as thin as Soviet era toilet paper, and crackled with age. A couple of my issues had been water damaged as well, but despite Shelby’s assurances, this was still awfully thin paper.
Worse, whatever the source of it, the paper apparently came in mixed colours. I e-mailed to ask why he printed each sheet on orange, lime, sand, or ivory paper, instead of one colour for the whole issue. His answer floored me – the reams came that way. I’m still not sure whether to believe this, or doubt his memory. What this meant to me was that I couldn’t find a single setting to scan all the pages. Every time I scanned a new sheet, I had to adjust the brightness and contrast. Otherwise the scan was apt to be either virtually blank, or nearly solid black.
There were other peculiarities. In issue 1 there is the first of Shelby’s famous “Up Our Sleeve” paste-in features. When you “open” the mandarin’s sleeve it revealed an elaborately folded, and delicately coloured fan. I decided to scan this page alone in colour. Alas, this wasn’t to be… When I finished the job, I had a file that was about the size of the U.S. debt. Reluctantly I reduced the beautiful page to black & white. The resulting file was a much more reasonable 2.62 meg.
Issue 3 had a blank page on the back of the cover sheet. This was no problem. I had a ready-made file of a blank page that I dropped in. Easy-peasy. But then there was page 8. It reads “Is My Face Red” in large letters, printed in red. Apparently the next page had been printed on the next sheet instead. A new stencil had been typed on the spur of the moment to fill the blank page. The problem with this is that a blank page appears later on page 24 anyway. (That’s page 24 of the Adobe document, by the way. It follows page 18 by Shelby’s own page numbering.) There was a faint trace of hand writing on it that referred the reader to page 8 for explanation. I dropped in a second ready-made blank page.
There was another “Up Our Sleeve” in issue 3. I scanned it as I did the first issue, with the sleeve open and closed. Keep this in mind if you plan to print a hard copy. If you don’t remove one or the other page, it will automatically throw the rest of the pages out of order. Ain’t authenticity keen?
Issue 7 introduces odd coloured ink which didn’t always show up well in scanning. There’s also interesting signs of trouble with the repro. Page 14, for instance, has a couple of irregular lines running side to side. From experience I can say that these were caused by too much ink on the screen, which will bleed out the bottom of the stencil and get printed on the rollers, which then print on other parts of the stencil, ultimately printing on the paper. While perhaps not all copies of page 14 were marred this way, one can confidently predict that most copies probably had this problem on some page. Fans publishing on a shoestring didn’t just throw away paper for minor imperfections like this. At the end of issue 7 is the familiar “Up Our Sleeve” feature.
Issue 11. More colour. More evidence of set-off from over-inking, which is odd since most pages are actually under-inked. Then I came to page 20 and my heart sank. It was a double spread, with an ambitious pop-up hand! How was I to scan this? In the end I had to remove the hand. It was just as well, as apparently it had fallen out at some earlier time, and the previous owner then taped in it… wrong! Eventually I figured out how it was supposed to go in, to work properly, and could begin scanning the left and right pages separately. Next, I had to be creative. I merged both pages together in Photoshop, then scanned the loose hand. Using the Place function, I maneuvered the image to where it belonged when the pages were open, and the hand was properly folded out. Perfect. Except a lot of the stylus work wasn’t really legible. Oh well… I was in Photoshop anyway, so I carefully redrew some of the lettering.
Remember though – remove this double spread page before you attempt to print a copy! If you don’t, worse will happen than just pages being out of order. The two page spread will be printed wrong way around and run off the sides of the paper.
And yes, there was an “Up Our Sleeve” in this issue too. Remember to remove the redundant page from that pair too.
Incidentally, this copy is addressed to Gregg Calkins, who was of course the original recipient.
Issue 16. Some epic set-off on some pages, but on page 15 we see a near-disaster. A broad, ragged, U-shaped line graces the upper part of the sheet, and is instantly recognizable to a veteran mimeographer as a tear in the stencil. Fortunately Shelby was able to carefully pull the ripped tongue of waxed paper back into place, and tape it down. Unfortunately, this is never good enough to prevent ink from seeping under the tape, and printing an outline of the tear. In no few cases, rips of this sort are too severe to be repaired at all, and the stencil utterly ruined. Pages 18 and 19 are another double spread, but to my relief there was no pop-up. It was a simple matter of scanning each side, and pasting them together in Photoshop. Once again, remember to remove the redundant page if you print a hard copy. Finally, a last “Up Our Sleeve”.
There was one more issue – not a regular number but a one-shot published after the 10th Worldcon held in Chicago (Tasfic). It consists mainly of doodles by Lee Hoffman and DavEnglish on the subject of the con. It has the supreme merit of being very short.
It was addressed to a Doug Mitchell of Winnipeg, whose name Shelby doesn’t recall. None of the other zines were addressed.
There are two other issues of Confusion you can download from eFanzines. Issues 10 and 12. I didn’t know who scanned them at first, but there are interesting differences in our method. It appears as though whoever scanned those two issues did so in low rez – under 300 dpi – or at a smaller size. The files aren’t large, but seem to be in partial or full colour. While this does preserve something of the original appearance of the zine, I don’t think anyone would go to the trouble of printing in colour. The attempt would overlook one other thing – the twiltone. There are traces of a pale yellow on some pages of issue 10 and 12, and a bluish look to other places that seem to be a residual of high contrast setting.
Later, I discovered that issue 12 has an afterword written by Shelby, tacked on near the end. He credits Robert Lichtman for scanning and printing both issues for him. It’s not clear, but Shelby implies he scanned them again, using some automatic settings to improve the appearance, achieving mixed results. He thought it necessary to paint away bleed-through and set-off, and to reconstruct faded text. “Takes time!” he said. No duh. While I went to no such extremes with the five issues I scanned, I’ve done such things before, and while miracles are possible, “takes time”!
Both these issues were addressed to G.M. Carr. (Yes, that’s her real name – Gertrude Carr.)
You might wonder why so many words spent on just the process of scanning. Have I nothing to say about the contents? I did notice the names of some Big Name Fans – chiefly Walt Willis, Lee Hoffman, Bob Shaw, Bob Silverberg, Gregg Calkins, and Shelby himself. There is an appalling amount of doggerel! The fact is, I was so busy with the work of archiving the zines that I hadn’t time to read them!
Last revised: 16 November, 2008
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