Zineophile (From Proper Boskonian 36, December 1995)

by Bob Devney

Real fanzine reviewers have spent years sniffing and snorting mimeo fluid. Worked their digits to the bone churning out ish after ish of their own genzines, clubzines, perzines, and for all I know benzenes and thorazines. Pubbed piece after piece in other fanatic's zines. Racked up serious jail time for character assassination, critical battery, and stealing copy paper from the office.

They've parried and partied with all the players. Crossed quills with Greg Pickersgill. Smoked with the Lynches. Gone two falls out of three with Teresa Neilsen Hayden.

They're stuffed to their pointy ears with fannish lore. Ghu'd from the get-go. LOC'd to the max.

In contrast, there's me.

"Newbie" is putting it mildly. Although a longtime SF reader, I only joined NESFA in 1993, and read my first fanzine sometime in that distant year 1994, when Mark Hertel started sending small batches of APA:NESFAs out to noncontributing members as part of his fiendish plan to heave the copy count up past 60. (Mark did eventually inveigle me and several other new contributors, but an equal number of former APAthetics either snuffed it despite teams of dedicated gerontologists or just didn't like our stuff and quit in a huff. So there are still more people in the world who understand superstring theory than read APA: NESFA.) Then at Arisia in January 1995, Ken Knabbe tempted me with a sheaf of old Proper Boskonians as part of his fiendish plan to -- well, as you see.

Since then, I've written for two PBs and several APAs. Plus in an issue of Mimosa that was lying around the clubhouse, I read an article about working at Taco Bell. (After reading it, my advice would be, don't let Taco Bell toll for thee.) That's the sum total of my qualifications to write a fanzine review article for a major scientifictional opinion organ like Proper Boskonian.

But apparently nobody decent -- with a track record, proven experience, or even a zine reading score faintly approaching the double digits -- would return Kenny the K's calls. So you've got me instead. Ken said I would " add new perspective," then hung up quick and mailed me the following packet of review fodder from the clubhouse collection before I could bail.

A note about the title. As hinted, I haven't exactly read widely in the field. So if "Zineophile" is already taken by somebody else, I apologize unreservedly.

If not, why not?

Ansible 96

December 1994/Editor: Dave Langford, 94 London Road, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 5AU, UK/2 pages/8 ½ x 11

When you see an issue number as high as 96, you know you're dealing with either a fannish institution or the deranged product of a single-minded nutball's obsession-in-chief. (Right. Like there's a difference.) I seem to recall that British critic/author/fan Dave Langford has won at least one fanwriting Hugo for this zine, plus at least 6 more for other stuff. And even I had met Dave (he was fan GOH at the 1992 Boskone) and heard of Ansible. (By the way, to start with, nice name. Referring to the trans-lightspeed communicator in many of Ursula LeGuin's stories, it actually bears a direct connection to SF. Which makes it a rarity in this company.)

Still, it was a surprise. First of all, instead of some great sprawling brontozine, the mighty Ansible is just two sides of a single sheet, with type sized for the bottom of the eyechart and a quiet little two-column layout. What discipline. Or fiscal restraint. Anyway, if fanzines were races, Ansible would be an invigorating sprint, Proper Bostonian a bracing 10K trot, and FOSFAX (we'll get to it later) the Iditarod.

The tone and content were also a little unexpected. This is not the amateur humor of the hermit nerd, proffering punning bulletins gleaned from his own omphalos. More a clearinghouse for SF news and gossip from multiple sources worldwide. Langford comes across as a hardworking guy, plugged-in big time.

He covers a lot of ground. For instance, in this issue he mentions attending a Slovakia SF convention, Cascon, via Internet Relay Chat on July 1 as a "virtual guest." His comment: "vodka does not e-mail well." In another Eurosquib, he announces that Piotr Cholewa won the Polish Translators Association Award in the popular fiction category "for his brain-bursting task of rendering The Colour of Magic into Polish."

There's an item from Aussie Peter Nicholls, coeditor of the monumental and entirely admirable Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. After publication, Nicholls had complained all over down under that he got on the Hugo shortlist with the book but "couldn't even get nominated in Australia." So this year they gave him a special edition of the trophy in question (the William Atheling Jr Award) "just to shut me up."

Brian Stableford reports that British publishers -- or at least the sales department of Random Century, to whom he pitched an outline for a 6-part 1,500-year future history -- believe that "the UK sf market is now too small to be worth bothering with."

Not that Ansible is all news all the time, entirely devoid of the unique Langfordian viewpoint and humor. For instance, he's happy to share that "Yvonne Rousseau [presumably an Australian fan?] reports a visitor's alarm when, after consuming 'Anzac Biscuits flavoured with a hint of the Australian bush,' he turned the packet over to learn what this flavoursome hint might be, and found the prominent words 'EMU BOTTOM.'"

For language fans, there are several choice Britglish words and expressions. In the third person, Dave Langford reports that Dave Langford "whinges" about something -- which my beautiful brand-new copy of British English, A to Zed by Norman W. Schur says is a corruption of both "wince" and "whine," and means to gripe, to complain, to bewail one's fate. Elsewhere, he alludes to a fan as the "notoriously stroppy John Grant," meaning Grant is bad-tempered, aggressive, quarrelsome. (I'd try introducing the term this side of the Fanatlantic, but afraid it would wither for lack of suitable fans to apply it to.) Finally, there's the publishing line Langford delicately terms a "shit-hot new imprint," which wins my vote as most unnecessarily evocative phrase of the year.

Ansible 97½

Worldcon 1995 (August 95)

This one's a special issue excerpting TAFF (Transatlantic Fan Fund) reports through the years. So the Americans report on their TAFF-subsidized trips to European cons, and various Euroblokes return the favor in re their U.S. con visits.

Lots of names here I never heard of. Plus a few I've heard recently, leaving a dim impression of controversy: from 1983, Avedon Carol. From 1986, Greg Pickersgill. Oh, Terry Carr and the Nielsen Haydens and Charles Platt -- firmer ground there.

To sum up, my general impression of what transpires during these visits is that the Brits drink and the Yanks blink (bemusedly).

If you've broken bread, heads, or beer nuts with any TAFF visitors, you might very well find this issue interesting.

Ansible 98

September 1995

Finally realized with this issue that the graphic by Dave's banner changes every time. What called it to my attention was this little line drawing of Dave -- holding a long, tapering implement resembling a carrot -- saying "Still no batteries?" (which may rule out the carrot theory).

First line: "The Scottish Convention ... It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Thus neatly working in both Shakespearean and Dickensian references in a single go. What phrasemeisters these British be.

He has brief but well-chosen words on the death of John Brunner, including "John would have been hugely tickled by the idea of making his exit at a major convention ... but not just yet." Plus lovely comments by Lisanne Norman and an extended elegy by Christopher Priest.

Langford packs in a good number of verbal convention snapshots. Quite enjoyable. Plus other little tidbits, such as:

On meeting GOH Samuel R. Delaney: "He has read my fanzine writings! I swoon!"

Why the con committee staged most panels in a curtain-divided hall with abysmal acoustics: "To do it properly, the committee explains firmly, would have cost money."

When Teresa Neilsen Hayden bets Langford money that Greg Pickersgill will ignore her all weekend and they turn the corner to come face-to-face with Pickersgill who immediately proffers Teresa a warm "Hello," Langford prints her response. But since Ken Knabbe wants this zine to pass scrutiny by any 12-year-old fan's mother and he's probably still on edge about that carrot thing, I'd better not.

And then there's the "typo of the convention: Wizards of the Coast, purveyors of expensively addictive card games, billing themselves in one of their own ads as 'Wizards of the Cost.'" Fair warning, but sadly too late for NESFAn gaming goners like Tony Lewis and Tom Endrey.

Attitude 5

Completed 25 June 1995/Editors: Michael Abbott, John Dallman, Pam Wells/102 William Smith Close, Cambridge, CB1 3QF, UK/62 pages including covers/8¼ x 11¾


That's the impression you get from the look and feel of this terrific fanzine, another British effort. A two-column format with highly readable type (Times Roman or thereabouts) in a legible size on a fine, substantial light-green stock. Authoritative, bold heads. A sparing and effective use of often professional-quality art, mostly cartoons.

Some purist in this issue refers to the zine as being "overproduced." In my view, let's talk about that when we see seven-color art with embossing, gatefolds, moving slide rules, tissues, mirror-finish goldkote coverweight stock with UV overcoating, holograms, voice chips, and smell-o-sheet inserts. Until then, something like Attitude strikes me as simply crisp, effective, and just right.

The only thing excessive here might be the letter column -- and it's a glorious excess. I count an incredible 26 pages of letters. Not just one giant memo from Evelyn Leeper about her trip to the stationery store, either. There are 34 separate LOC contributors. Maybe we should look into more British distribution for Proper Bostonian.

Actual articles include an editorial mention by Pam Wells on being an Internet newbie, her interesting take on the comparative interpersonal dynamics of fanzine activity vs. Internetdom, so on. She explains that her proximate reason for getting an Internet account was to acquire a unique fashion accessory. Learning that there was an Internet service provider called Demon, she swooped in to snap up what I can only describe as a really bitchin node address: PCWells@bitch.demon.co.uk.

I like this woman.

Ann Green includes a good, meaty review column on ten fanzines. Especially fine is her overall analysis of fanzine culture, which she finds "like a darn good party....sending letters of comment is like turning up at the party with a dance tape, a bottle of cherry vodka and a tin of Pam Wells' special fruit cake: it gets you in."

What is this about British SF people's fondness for parties as central to life's experience? Remember the neverending party in Adams's Hitchhiker "trilogy," where drunken astroengineers fix up the flat with antigrav and send the party careening through the skies, holding "whole cities to ransom for fresh supplies of cheese, crackers, guacamole, spareribs and wine and spirits that ... get piped aboard from floating tankers"? Seems that they're nothing but crazed party animals over there, wholly lacking our famous American reserve.

Think I'm exaggerating? Here's Green on one leading American contender, Mimosa. "In all honesty ... not my favorite fanzine, partly because it's printed on what appears to be industrial strength bog [Britglish for "toilet"] paper and causes tactile revulsion second only to polystyrene [sure we're not talking about FOXFAX?], but mostly because there's been one hell of a party going on and I didn't get an invite..." More with the party obsession. Will these Dionysian British id monsters never get serious? No wonders the Puritans split....Green finally does concede that she can't get into Mimosa because she's not famous enough.

Other engaging and well-written articles include one by Mark Plummer on attending MiSconstrued, an invitation-only affair in Burnham (in SW England near Bristol, if that clears anything up for you) that he spends a great deal of time denying is an elitist convention strictly for fanzine fans. Paul Barnett notes in a piece on attending Microcon at Exeter (in SW England less near Bristol, if that helps even more) that they played a game titled Call My Clute -- "a variation of 'Call My Bluff,' but, for obvious reasons, using less commonplace words" -- in presumed tribute to hyperintellectual London critic and raging polyverbalist John Clute.

Rising SF writer Colin Greenland does a great piece on writing outlines. He talks admiringly about -- and outlines -- two existing 1967 outlines that Philip K. Dick wrote but never carried further. "In ten minutes flat they give you the complete illusion of having read not one but two Philip K. Dick novels that do not actually exist. If that's not an authentically Dickian experience, what is?"

Editor Michael Abbott has a fine article on DC Comics's adult line, Vertigo, discussing Neil Gaiman's classic Sandman, Garth Ennis's and Steve Dillon's Preacher (which he savagely defrocks, terming it "a standard of badness for years to come,") and Grant Morrison's The Invisibles, a worthy newer offering. And Editor John Dallman has 3½ gracefully written, obviously heartfelt pages on cricket that would make a fine source document for some budding British Ken Burns. Finally, Mae Strelkov wraps things up with a warm yet mystical account of her life as a pig farmer in Jujay Province, Argentina: "Faraway planets, described by authors writing in city flats, are scarcely tougher than what we have here day by day. And then there are the legendary haunts, and the invisibly lurking local yeti, called an ucumarie, that likes to cohabit with humans of the opposite sex...."

Man, I like this zine.

FOSFAX No. 177

October 1995/Published bimonthly on behalf of the Falls of the Ohio Science Fiction and Fantasy Association (FOSFA) by Timothy Lane with help from Grant C. Mc Cormick and Joseph T. Major and edited by Timothy Lane and Elizabeth Garrott/FOSFAX c/o FOSFA, Post Office Box 37281, Louisville, Kentucky 40233-7281/60 pages including covers/8½ x 11

Obviously one of the giants of the field from its size, staggering version number, article range, and huge number of lavish letters (29 pages' worth) from prestigious pros and fans, FOSFAX just about defeated me. I admit committing a reviewer's cardinal sin: not reading every word on every page.

Why? Because this zine fades tiny type with minus leading onto crummy paper stock, packed between minuscule margins in a two-column format that in any sane font size might just be readable without a scanning electron microscope. Because its politics are in my face and way to my right. Because I've read a whole lot of fanzines very quickly, and this is just TOO MUCH.

Let's talk about the good stuff. Don't get me wrong; there's mountains of it here. Alps. Himalayas....

Editor Timothy Lane offers opinions on everything from Susan Smith to Bosnia, then rips into what he terms "the NASFIC disaster." Although noting that he had a good time at this Atlanta con, he calls his sorry experience being scheduled into program items typical. He was put on four events. Two were scheduled before the time he'd told the committee he would arrive.

The other two were scheduled opposite one another.

Let's jump to another highlight: Frida Westford offers an entire page (which must be about 6,000 words in this format -- all right, I'll quit griping) of cogent genre poetry reviews. Remember that incident in Delaney's Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand wherein the narrator sucks up an entire complex literary tradition via a brain-dump device, only to find that no one now living has ever heard of any of the great writers and works he's absorbed? These poetry reviews were like that. William Kopecky, David Kopaska-Merkel, Steve Sneyd, even the "widely published" Rhysling nominee Dave Calder -- I'm drawing blanks here. My fault, obviously, not theirs. Poetry was my favorite part of getting an English degree, so I'm drawn to this material. Just didn't realize that SF poetry was such a flourishing little corner of the garden.

Johnny Carruthers contributes, among views on other subjects, a personal slant on Shannon Faulkner's brief inglorious sojourn as first woman accepted to the Citadel military academy. Focusing on her physique rather than issues such as, say, whether government should fund an institution closed to half its citizens 'cause they're girls, he works in a reference to her bodyweight qualifications for a role in Free Willy 3. Then, in case you didn't get it, three paragraphs later he repeats himself. Have you ever looked around at an SF convention, Johnny? I'd bet half your readers -- myself alas included -- would be well-advised to avoid attracting the attention of myopic harpooners.

FOXFAX editorial committeeman Joseph T. Major, whom I've encountered through his good solid LOCs in Proper Boskonian, weighs in frequently throughout the corpus. He finds Terry Goodkind's Wizard's First Rule to be "particularly nasty." And notes about David Weber's latest Honor Harrington broadside, Flag in Exile, that he (JTM) had predicted Dame Honor would someday command the Grayson fleet. Plus he has a number of other reviews and items on display throughout the zine's echoing expanse.

For me, JTM's major delight is his exegesis of Heinlein's Tunnel in the Sky. Four solid pages. Why, in this format, that's about 600,000 -- oh. Sorry again. Anyway, this is not my favorite Heinlein juvenile, so I've only read it 5 or 6 times. But Major still adds plenty of new food for thought.

He summarizes the plot -- high school kids are sent through a teleportation Gate to some distant point or planet for a futuristic survivalist weekend, they get stranded, will the result be Swiss Family Robinson or Lord of the Flies? -- at some length. Maintains that Heinlein's story makes use of repetition to embody more structure than other critics have thought. And points out themes such as the wisdom of packing light, the foolishness of formal systems of logic, and the desirability of good government. Major points out in this last context that Heinlein's anarchist admirers must shut their eyes to quite a few of the master's out-and-out civics lessons. I would have said that applied to his libertarian friends, too -- and further adduced Heinlein's own history of working within the system. He ran for office once, didn't he? (Nobody's perfect.)

Most stunning insight: Major's casual penetration of a little Heinlein wordplay that has gone right over my head for 30 years. Brief printed instructions had told the class to watch out for "stobor." It eventuates that this was the teacher's little joke, a warning to look out for any or all menaces, not any particular creature. Before summarizing that revelation, though, Major hands me a major "duh" moment with this sentence: "For all the intellectual power sent through the Gate, no one seems to have tried spelling 'stobor' backwards to get 'robots.'"

Well, for all the intellectual power sent into my mighty brain...me neither.

Believe me, there was lots more to FOSFAX 177, as I mentioned. Lots and lots and lots. For instance, in a report on the InConJunction SF/fantasy/horror convention, James S. Dorr reveals that Lois McMaster Bujold's Shards of Honor began life as a Star Trek novel. In a report on Senate hearings he says were set up "to put the militias in a bad light," Robert Kennedy (no relation, is my guess) criticizes Michigan Militia leader Norman Olson for numerous verbal faux pas and for wearing military ribbons with camouflage dress, but terms his opening statement "excellent." And on a serious note, Darrell Schweitzer contributes a brief abstract on Byzantine Stooging, with drawings showing MOE, LARRIVS, and CVRLIVS as long-faced religious ikons demonstrating hieratic hand positions such as the "Manichean Eye-Poke" -- a two-fingered, two-Stooge-on-one digital assault that he conjectures was "influenced by Persian dualism."

Check back with me for more after I get stronger trifocals.

It Goes On The Shelf No. 14

July 1995/Editor: Ned Brooks, 713 Paul Street, Newport News, Virginia 23605/26 pages including covers/8½ x 11

Initially this perzine went to the bottom of the pile because a glance-through made it seem rather strange and unreadable. Inside, it looks like an old book. Not surprisingly, since turns out its illustrations are from an old book, its typeface and layout evoke old books, and much (though by no means all) of the contents concern Ned Brooks's acquisitions of -- you guessed it.

Reading It Goes On The Shelf, you splash down a stream of book reviews flowing past little islands of gossip, letters, politics, and reminiscences. There are no separate articles or section breaks, no obvious organization principle at all. Just a hospitable gentleman showing you through his library and commenting on books, friends, and the world. Then you realize: that is the organizing principle.

Intriguing cover art from Linda Michaels, perhaps my favorite from this entire zinestack: two mermaids browsing through their library. You glimpse spines of everything from Moby Dick and Mysterious Island to The Poseidon Adventure and what (though partially obscured) may be McHale's Navy. Is there anyone reading this particular fanzine who won't twist and squint trying to make out every title? There's a lot about art here. Brooks is a fan of everyone from Mervyn Peake (one of whose illos for Treasure Island graces the back cover) to Bok to Emsh to Crumb. All the drawings strewn throughout the zine are "snitched" from a 1926 travel tome.

Brooks plays the curmudgeon card well. In a squib about a Steve Sneyd book of verse, he calls it "very much in the modern style of poetry -- it do not mean but be." And labels a 1940s book by George Allan England "a rare achievement for its time -- not one word of it makes the least bit of sense -- as common as such books have become of late." Happening upon David Pringle's The Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction, he demurs: "But it's a 2nd edition, so I guess the first one wasn't all that ultimate."

Among the interspersed letters, Walt Willis indicates his favorite novels of all time are The Coral Island, Jane Eyre, and The Night Land. This last is an allegorical, "utterly humorless" 1912 British fantasy by William Hope Hodgson, and is discussed at some length; Jane Eyre is universally known and loved by everyone except the family of the first Mrs. Rochester; but Brooks has never heard of The Coral Island. Nor I. Anyone? What else....Brooks notes that he's still working on his "long-delayed booklet about the song Green Hills of Earth...Reviews Up To Now, A history of science fiction fandom in the 1930s by Jack Speer -- originally distributed in 1939. "Harry Warner is referred to as a 'newcomer.'"[That would be the same young guy in his 70s who recently released his own well-regarded book on early fandom.]...Brooks finds in a 1935 memoir a verse of The Pirates's Song ("Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum," yo know) from Stevenson's 1883 Treasure Island -- a verse not present in any recent editions of the novel. Maybe the clue that reveals the secret of Long John Silver's lost treasure? Quick, page Geraldo...The zine has the phrase "fancy neepneepery" describing someone's putting his own color photo on his letterhead. C'mon, Brooks, who's being fancy now? I wouldn't be so bitter if I knew what it meant....In a political moment, Brooks notes that "in states with the death penalty the crime rate is now lower than in those without, but 43 of the convicts sentenced to death since 1973 were later found to be innocent -- most of them had not yet been executed, thanks to the appeals process that the Newtoids are trying to eliminate."

A nice, spicy gallimaufry. But ultimately, this entire issue is justified for me by its mention of An Anthropomorphic Bibliography, edited by Fred Patten. This is a listing of stories in which animals act like people -- stuffing fur the Furry Fandom subsubgenre, in other words. He likes the accompanying art, with one exception: "I don't think Mark Merlino was quite up to the task of depicting an erminoid alien doing the Dance of the Seven Veils upside down in a tree -- perhaps no one is."

Terrific as that is, however, this last quote is surpassed for me by Brooks's revelation that Patten is also the editor of a journal whose subtitle is The Journal of Applied Anthropomorphics.

Its title: Yarf!

Mimosa 17

October 1995/Editors: Nicki and Richard Lynch, P.O. Box 1350, Germantown, Maryland 20875, U.S.A./48 pages including covers/8½ x 11

Mimosa is back and going like a house afire.

You know a fanzine has street cred when the editors talk about the conflagration that set back their publication schedule and mention salvaging "the three Hugos (soiled and [in] need of cleaning, but otherwise looking OK)."

No joking matter, of course. The Lynches devote most front and back matter to the agonizing details of recovery from the January blaze that destroyed the abutting townhouse and left theirs with charring plus extensive smoke and water destruction. You're talking months of living in rented space, dealing with cleaners, contractors, and insurance people (luckily, the Lynches are well-covered). Plus varying amounts of damage to books, computer equipment, and Nicki's quilting creations, not to mention furnishings, walls, floors, and ceilings. The one bright spot: back issues were hot sale items (I just can't help myself) at the Glasgow Worldcon in August, because "the smoke markings added a degree of uniqueness..."

Layout is exceptionally lucid and clear, with large two-column type, excellent text paper, and substantial cover stock. Just to shake up my usual policy of mentioning illustrators last or neglecting them entirely through excessive logocentrism or plain pig-ignorance, let it be known there's vivid art by ubiquitous old and new masters including Joe Mayhew, Teddy Harvia, Sheryl Birkhead, Diana Stein, Brad Foster, and Steve Stiles. A class act all around.

Pride of place among the articles inside perforce goes to the tale of a local boy makes great. Recently joined NESFA member Michael A. Burstein provides a no-sex-please-I'm-writing memoir of his 1994 stint at the famous Clarion SF writer's boot camp. It's nicely written, informative, entertaining, and disappointing only in the no-sex part. For ghod's sake, man, it was a speculative fiction workshop: make something up! Anyway, Michael spent 6 weeks at Michigan State University in scenic East Lansing along with 17 other scribbler monks and nuns. Their relays of teachers included John Kessel, Jim Kelly (I assume that's James Patrick Kelly to us civilians), Boston's own self-described style slut Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, Tor Books editor Claire Eddy, early Egyptian Christian sect expert and 1960s sitcom maven Howard Waldrop, and luminaries Damon Knight and Kate Wilhelm in their last Clarion after 27 years of toughlove teaching. Extracurricular activities (the transparent consequence of repressed psychosexual urges) included watergun fights, protobulimic Thai food ingestion, and ritualistic nocturnal manuscript sacrifices with bonfires and frenzied chanting. Among the creative writing tips Michael swotted up: "Why not just turn everybody into giant cabbages?" "Either you're gonna die or it's gonna sell." "Of B Background, S Situation, and C Character, if you don't include C, you're left with BS." All we ask, Michael, is a mention in your first Hugo speech.

Although thousands might have preferred a Burstein theme throughout, the Lynches took the safe road and opted for two elegiac -- and I admit, lovely -- pieces on recently deceased horror master Robert Bloch.

Dean A. Grennel recalls spelling his sheet-metal-sales trips with stopovers at Bloch's house in Weyauwega, Wisconsin. Since he was a handy woodworker "and Bloch most assuredly was not," Grennel made major repairs to eliminate a distracting wobble on his friend's writing surface. "Which means, if I can claim no other distinction, I built the desk on which the manuscript for Psycho was written."

Esther Cole reprints excerpts from an early 60s Blochian interview, including these tips for aspiring writers (pay attention, Burstein): "1. Read voraciously. It's food for your imagination. 2. Live vicariously. You can't do and write simultaneously. 3. Keep a disciplined writing schedule." Also a great answer to that old interviewer's chestnut, what kind of animal would you rather be? "A Galapagos tortoise. They live slothful, long lives, have no natural enemies, and can mate for up to sixty-four hours at a time."

Sharon Farber offers a terrific read in what looks to be an ongoing series she should entitle Mein MedSchool, or My Four Years of Struggle Against Lies, Stupidity, Cowardice, and Chauvinism Among Interns, Residents, Attendings, and Chairmen of Internal Medicine. You can't believe she put up with this stuff long enough to actually become a doctor.

Also, John Berry tells how he ran wild as a dirty old man filling in as a consultant at a bride's convention in County Down, Ireland.

Finally, Dave Kyle, Ben Zuhl, Ahrvid Engholm, Walt Willis, and Forrest J. Ackerman provide the beating heart of the issue with warm and funny stories of fan days past in (respectively) multiple Worldcon banquet sites, Illinois, Sweden, Ireland again, and assorted U.S convention venues. With these, ghod is definitely in the details, so you'll have to read them for yourselves. (Meaning we're desperately out of room here.) I'll only say that I never exactly pictured Robert A. Heinlein as a costume contest fanboy, but Ackerman puts him at the 1941 Denvention, lurching across the floor in a crowd-pleasing portrayal of -- well, read it and really exercise your sense of wonder.


Issued sometime in 1994/Editor-in-Chief: Edmund R. Meskys, Niekas Publications, RR#2, Box 63, Center Harbor, NH 03226-9708/92 pages including covers/8 3/8 x 11

With fine layout, paper stock, typesetting, and art, and overall an inviting, eminently readable appearance, Niekas is to all intents indistinguishable from a professional pub. A past Hugo winner, it's less purely personal than any other zine in this pile; its bent is for the literary and historical. Niekas knows how to party. It just doesn't feel like it right now.

Unless you count the parlor game Eric Leif Davin plays in his thoughtful study (7 pages, 37 footnotes) of the literary remnants left by the ancient people of the Hyborian Age. Alas, "we know little of the songs, dances, march-hymns, devotional prayers, dirges, entertaining narratives and epic sagas, or mimetic representations of the Hyborians." Of course, many of the folks we're talking about here were way, way preliterate: "While a few other barbaric people, such as the Picts and possibly the Vanir, had no written language, Cimmerians seem to have been unique among Hyborian Age barbarians in viewing writing as a mystic skill to be held in dread and revulsion...." So on and solemnly, entertainingly on. You're five paragraphs in before there's even a mention of a personage appearing in quite a few of these sagas, one "Conan, King of Aquilonia." Sound familiar to any of you younger fans? Right, the founder of the O'Brien dynasty.

This kind of thing is the exception. The core of the issue lies in the 14-page focus on the importance of Kipling for science fiction.

The invaluable Fred Lerner, Niekas feature editor, begins by declaring that "No writer, living or dead, has had as great an impact on science fiction as Rudyard Kipling." Lerner knows the more obvious candidates, but how many of us actually read Verne, Wells, Shelley, or Poe, let along Gilgamesh? Whereas many readers and most writers still read Kipling with pleasure. Because he was one of us: conscientious about worldbuilding in describing the details of life in India or the army or ancient Britain. And giving central place in his stories and verse to day-to-day work, and the people and machines performing it. In other short pieces, Lerner reviews Kipling poems set to music on tape -- try these next party when your buds dis that Hole retrospective -- and invites us to join the Kipling Society if we're not all kippled out after this ish.

Associate Editor Anne Braude has a long piece on two 1989 Baen anthologies, A Separate Star and Heads to the Storm, both edited by David Drake and Sandra Miesel, both collecting SF stories "similar to and/or inspired by" Kipling. Plus a few by Ruddy the K himself. She thoughtfully surveys a number of Kipling short works, then covers A Separate Star's arsenal of warfare-and-soldiering stories. More to her taste are the fantasy-oriented selections in Heads to the Storm. Braude's nomination for "the most Kiplingesque novel since Kipling": Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword. In a separate article, Margaret Ball's Flameweaver (1991) and sequel Changeweaver (1993) also come in for her high praise -- alternate histories with a strong female protagonist, set in a Kipling-flavored East where the old magics have full power. Lastly, Braude indulges in a few (Kipling-) lover's quarrels with John Brunner over his 1992 Tor selections of Kipling's Science Fiction and Kipling's Fantasy Stories, but finally approves both volumes "for those benighted souls who don't already own a complete edition...."

Russell J. Handelman also adds a short, deeply serious piece comparing similar geo(if that's the prefix)politics in Deep Space Nine and Kim.

As I believe Kipling said somewhere, if you can keep your head while others all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, what are you doing writing for fanzines? So let me panic right now and admit there's tons more Niekas to talk about and precious little space (or reader patience, I suspect) left. In situations like this, I ask: what would fellow Kipling freak Robert A. Heinlein do? Answer: abandon all previous structure and pacing and tie everything up in a breakneck ending. Like this:

And now to clean up Niekas! I am finishing this report in Space Station NESFA, from which I will transship to H.N.S. Knabbe. I will not have time to revise; this will have to go as is, for the fen to have fun with. Last night at Earth Station Somerville, I spoke to the Old Man.

But dammit I didn't have time to mention Editor Ed Meskys's fascinating stuff on coping with his blindness, how he's completely disorganized now -- as he says, just like every other fan. No time to cover Fred Lerner's review of the Old Man's travel book Tramp Royale (perhaps that's fortunate, since he termed it "the story of a dull American couple who bring their dullness with them around the world.") No time to cheer him up by saying how much, though, Patricia Shaw Mathews admired his Revolt in 2100, and thinks Margaret Atwood's feminist literary triumph The Handmaid's Tale is virtually a prequel with about 2100 close parallels. No time for John Boardman's sage overview of the main nexuses where science fiction and science diverge, complete with equations yet. No time for Diana Paxson's explanation of how she rang in changes to the Ring mythos for her Siegfried trilogy. No time for Don d'Ammassa on horror and some horrifying new censors, Tamar Lindsay on Darkman, Sam Moskowitz on Everett F. Blier's bibliographic masterpiece Science Fiction the Early Years -- plus on The Index to Adventure Magazine published by Richard Blier, son of Everett. No time to explain how much David M. Shea admires Zenna Henderson, and not just because he's a person who likes the People. No time for Publisher Michael Bastraw's explanation that it had been 3 ½ years since the last issue of Niekas because he had...no time.

The Space Cadet Gazette #1

(or: The Aging Old Fart Nostalgic Time Waster Gazette)

December 1994/Editor: R. Graeme Cameron, 1855 West 2nd Ave., Apt#110, Vancouver, B.C., Canada, V6J 1J1/24 pages including covers/5½ x 8½

This is the premiere issue of a perzine by the planning-to-abdicate-any-day-now "God-Editor" of BCSFAzine, monthly organ of the British Columbia SF Association.

First of all, I like his subscription terms: "$1 per issue, or $4 for four issues, or $1,000 for a thousand issues, or $1,000,000 for a lifetime subscription (necessarily my lifetime, not yours)." And the half-size format and decent layout make for a fairly easy read.

Also admire Cameron's whatthehell inclusionary spirit, befitting a personal fanzine. Besides stuff of SFnal interest, he forks in some journal entries recounting a flight to Mexico he took in 1981 for an archeological tour. Plus excerpts from his grandfather's unpublished memoir of fighting World War I as a Canadian soldier suffering from rugby knee, unquenchable patriotism, kilts, and a bluff prose style.

The SF material starts with an entertaining and evocative saga with which many of us can identify, often to the tiniest detail: the year-by-year account of how young Graeme grew to become an SF addict. There's the toddler frightened by dreams of a skeleton in the closet. The 5-year-old proudly presenting numberless drawings of "ingenious mazes filled with the tortures of hell and inhabited by thousands of stick figures racing madly about trying to escape" to his concerned grandfather. And the boy reveling in the myriad delights of the SF/fantasy/horror explosion of the 50s and 60s. Cameron recalls viewmasters, comics, TV shows, and movies both famous and obscure, including Tom Corbett, Disney's Tomorrowland, Shock Theater, The Twilight Zone, Turok Son of Stone, del Rey and Clarke and Heinlein juveniles (though it's Red Planet, Graeme, not Red Planet Mars), The Three Stooges Meet Hercules, Famous Monsters of Filmland, Burroughs's Mars and Venus books, The Outer Limits (to this day his favorite series), Lost in Space, and "At last, a witty, sophisticated, adult TV series": Star Trek. (He does admit the sets were hokey and "every second alien woman appears to be wearing a beehive hairdo.") It's hard to imagine a fan over 40 who wouldn't enjoy this one, and younger fans can hoover up some easy-reading genre history here.

It seems Cameron today has a rep as an expert on old genre movies. Which he richly deserves on the evidence of the fanzine's last piece: an exhaustively researched, closely reasoned six-page analysis -- with (appropriately crummy) photographs -- of an eternal Hollyweird mystery. In his immortal masterpiece of what I shall term "cinèma mèrditè," Plan 9 from Outer Space, what exactly did Ed Wood use as props for the flying saucer scenes? Plastic models? Hubcaps? Flaming paper plates? Cameron covers all the possibilities. An intriguing investigation of vital importance to nutballs, triviata aficionados, and Edheads worldwide.

The Space Cadet Gazette #2

March 1995/32 pages including covers

Several articles continue from the first issue.

Grandfather fights on in his World War I trenches. Spends several nights snoozing in the former piggery of the Belgian Royal Family. And is excited to hear that two men in the regiment's front lines are scheduled to be shot as spies, until it's discovered that the mysterious foreign tongue they were caught speaking was Welsh.

Cameron proceeds deeper into diary entries from his archaeological tour of Mexico. Is swept up in what he takes for a dangerous Communist riot until finding out it's a government-sponsored May Day parade. Gets a look at the Aztec twin temple of Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc, the Blue Hummingbird War God and Rain God respectively -- though only by pressing his sweating face up against construction mesh at an excavation site off a Mexico City alley.

Since Cameron managed somehow to include several LOCs in his first issue before there was really anything to comment about, he's of course raised a healthy crop in this issue. Including between them letters from such Proper Boskonian stalwarts as Ken Knabbe, Teddy Harvia, Sheryl Birkhead, Joseph T. Major, and Lloyd Penney; plus lesser lights like David Langford, Harry Warner Jr., Buck Coulson, and Walter Willis.

Let's say Cameron also lays mighty sacrifice at the altars of Xhaxha and Tschlocko, the Red Faced Falling Down Laughter God and Dreadful Stinker God respectively, in twin absolutely hilarious reviews of an old bad SF book and an old even worse SF movie. The Red Planet by Russ Winterbotham (published 1962) was the first SF book Cameron ever bought. And as he says now, "Quite idiotic, but at least the concept of handholding killer Martians is rather novel, and that's what SF is all about, isn't it? Novelty?" Though apparently even it pales in awfulness next to his cinematic subject, Wizard of Mars (1964). A typical scene recalled by Cameron: "Steve finally decides to do something. 'We've got to pull up,' he says. 'Activate all operable rockets!' 'I can't,' shrieks Charlie. 'They're inoperable! We're going down!' The surface of Mars looms. Now normally you'd think the crew would want to strap themselves in to brace for the crash, but not this crew. 'Into our pressure suits quick!' shouts Steve. 'The hull may rupture on impact!' Well Steve, that's not all that might rupture."

Unbelievably for a zine this compact, there's more! The issue also includes an erotic dream Cameron claims to have had featuring himself incarnated as a caterer partying with 500 beautiful farm girls in the middle of Forrest J. Ackerman's famous SF/horror media collection; his memory of disrupting a Frederik Pohl reading while attempting to elude an attack bee; and an expose of animal exploitation in secret Singapore ice rink exhibitions pitting Japanese snow monkeys against the recently discovered Ice-Rats of Antarctica for bloodsport wagering.

In other words, something for everyfan.

The Space Cadet Gazette #3

June 1995/32 pages including covers

Great moments from SCG $3:

Cameron cowers in the Nacional de Antropologia Museum in Mexico City before "perhaps the most frightening sculpture ever conceived, a monumental depiction of the ever nurturing Mother Earth Goddess, Coatlique ["Serpent Skirt"]. She is a nightmare, terrifying....To the uninitiated she appears to have a wide frog-like head with nasty teeth. In fact she is headless, for she has been decapitated in the process of giving birth to the Sun God..." Wait, it gets better. How about the were-jaguar baby? But perhaps you'd better read the issue yourself. If you dare.

Cameron's grandfather holds forth on the subject of dress codes at the front circa 1915: "The trenches were getting sloppier and sloppier as winter wore on. Rubber hip boots and kilts. How nice! Steel helmets also came to life but nobody would wear them until it became a court martial offense to be wounded on the head without one." And you're bothered about hall costumes at conventions.

Cameron at age 15 in his own journal jots story notes about an SF masterpiece he's hatching: "I must give the lizards a sense of fiendish delight. I must make it as amusing as possible. Man, this may shape up to be a good novel." Or not.

Guest contributor David Buss speaks of his own SF writing career: "As you know, I have not written over twenty novels, some of which are still in print and immensely popular both with the critics and with the hoi polloi." By the way, David, in Greek "hoi" means "the" and "polloi" means "people," which is why I'm surprised they didn't teach you at Clarion never to say "the hoi polloi."

In another wonderful Z-movie review, Cameron describes a typically moronic scene from 1962's Slime People, with his comments in parens: "Announcer: 'How do they make fog?' Doctor Brow: 'I don't know, but it is an attempt to permanently lower our temperature so they can live permanently above ground.' Announcer: 'What do these creatures look like?' Doctor: 'They are large, huge, prehistoric, covered with scales and slime.' (Thank you for that scientifically precise description.) The next scene shows the Announcer broadcasting from a live remote in the fog. 'Men are working to clear the fog.' (You can hear the sound of men with shovels. How can you clear fog with shovels?)" The scraping was from the scriptwriter down at the bottom of that barrel.

Finally, there are fanzine reviews. They're all lots shorter than this one. Which might have given me valuable guidance if only I had read them before I'd just about finished this column. Oh, and there's a little squib reprinted from 1985 about a party at V-Con (a Vancouver convention?) thrown by what Cameron consistently refers to as a "Boscon 89" bid. Seems killer robots were plotting to -- well, kill -- all the human elite gathered at this "Boscon" shindig. Now, I don't recall this actually coming off during the programming at what became Noreascon 3, but there was a lot going on....