NOTE: I don't get into the clubhouse much. So please send zines you'd like me to see directly to Bob Devney, 25 Johnson Street, North Attleboro, Massachusetts, U.S.A. Or for e-zines: firstname.lastname@example.org
Emerald City, #25, September 1997 • Produced by Cheryl Morgan • Available from email@example.com • Also at her Web site, http://www.emcit.com/emcit.html • 29 pages
Observers from Marco Polo to Valentine Michael Smith have shown that nobody gets the goods on a society like an outsider.
As Cheryl Morgan seems doomed to prove. The narrative thread binding her fine thick monthly perzine used to be A Pommie in Ozzieland. She's English, but lived in Melbourne for several years, see, where she blabbed all about Australian SF books, writers, fans, politics, and cooking/drinking/mating habits. (Uninhibited, those Aussies.) However, she lost her job this spring, and is currently continuing her tour of the colonies in northern California.
If we insist on sheltering the wretched refuse of Europe's teeming shore, we'd better accept they're a persnickety lot. At various points in the September issue, we learn that in the U.S. Cheryl fears muggers more than in England. But admits that gun-toting homeowners do seem to keep our burglary rate down. And she notes of an aquarium's message board festooned with arguments from Libertarian and Christian tourists debating fishery management that "America seems to be full of fundamentalist crazies." OK, she's got us there. Full disclosure note: Also slightly critical was her recent review of my more modest monthly The Devniad; she deplored the lack of a narrative thread in my Readercon quote-a-thon but assured her readers I had done better work elsewhere. Here in Zineophile, for instance, hope hope.
Woody Allen once said his parents' values were "God and carpeting." Besides writers and writing, Cheryl's values seem to be beer and costuming. Luckily for us, she thinks the U.S. does well in both categories.
Also, in several issues recently she's been fighting the good fight about e-zines. Can't understand why some fanzine fans get their propellers in a twist criticizing the very idea. Isn't the Text what's sacred, not its earthly garments? I couldn't agree more; have never seen the argument better put. Go, girl.
And in the case of Emerald City, an amazing amount of Text it is, for a regular monthly effort by one person. Good, quality stuff too.
This issue's highlight: fifteen pages of analytical, gossipy Worldcon reportage. She doesn't just tell you what happened down in San Antonio's "humid cauldron," but why and who and how to fix it. Even the odd apt metaphor: "It was a swan of a convention, mostly smooth and unruffled on the surface, but paddling like crazy underneath."
Helping to man the info desk, usher the Hugo awards, and den mother the Masquerade still left her time for a pub crawl with legendary pulp prolificaneer Lionel Fanthorpe. And Bostonians will be pleased by her mention of how the Boston in 2001 bid bash "set a new standard for party quality against which future bids will be judged."
There's also her (serious) expose of a plot by "an elite group of SMOFs," complete with ascription of "sinister motives" to beloved NESFAn SMOF Mark Olson regarding a Business Meeting motion he helped pass. That's pages 12 and 13 in my copy, for all those NESFAns now lunging onto her Web page to get the full sordid story.
Cheryl seldom minces words. In this issue's book reviews, she says she worshipped Dan Simmons' Hyperion, hated its sequel Endymion, but thinks the series' final volume, Rise of Endymion, full worthy: "A simple love story, given sweetness and pathos through the mysteries of time travel ... I cried." Whereas she finds Harry Turtledove's Thessalonica, an alternate Roman Empire history by one of her companion Kevin Standlee's favorite authors, to be "the worst piece of hack work I have seen in ages." For instance: "[A] satyr has the hind parts of a goat, not a horse. The cover artist got it right, but the author and editor are clearly idiots."
I knew I liked this woman. Turns out that, like me, she's a great admirer of Dorothy Dunnett. Reviews the reissue of 1961's The [although Cheryl has it A] Game of Kings - the first in Dunnett's series of accomplished, convoluted historical novels about 16th century Scottish bandit/soldier/galley slave/opium addict/romantic Francis Crawford of Lymond. "As the series progresses, Dunnett develops a talent for emotional cruelty that is hopefully unsurpassable." Well said.
This issue of Emerald City also manages to cram in restaurant ratings, fanzine reviews (of ANZAPA, Bento, AMD, and Factsheet 5), a tribute to "the world's cutest animal, the sea otter," and a visit to a NASA airfield open house.
Cheryl's invariable closing squib "Love 'n'
hugs," if not the world's cutest signoff, certainly aspires to be. She's
obviously got aspirations for this fanzine too ... and is already living
up to many of them.
Probe, #102, March 1997 • Editor Cedric Abrahams • P.O. Box 781401, Sandton, 2146, South Africa • E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org • 68 pages including covers • 5 3/4 x 8 1/8
This clubzine for Science Fiction South Africa has been on my get-to list since Lloyd Penney reviewed it for PB a few years back. As he indicated, it's a nice, clean effort. Interesting especially for its slight exoticism: this is a small club (191 members total) in a place far from the SF mainstream. Although they're reading many of the same things we are, from yards of extruded Star Wars goop to John Clute's SF Encyclopedia.
News in this issue is they're trying to cut down on that distance. The club will field at least 11 members at Bucconeer in Baltimore next summer, "the first time South Africa will be officially represented at a worldcon."
And some things never change, as proven by Donald Mullany's wry report on a year's worth of gaming/genre cons. Of the Tolkien Society's Annual Medieval Feaste: "Most of the younger generation have not heard of or thought about JRR Tolkein. Some have occasionally played the computer game, but have no idea of the printed word." We feel your pain, Donald.
Zine reviewer Deirdre Byrne has managed anyway to cultivate excellent literary taste: "Proper Boskonian is rapidly becoming one of my favorite zines." She likes my stuff, and declares Evelyn Leeper's L.A. Con III con summary "the best report on last year's Worldcon in all the zines I read." Byrne also praises lesser lights such as Ansible and Mimosa, and defends Fosfax despite not being certain that "an extensive discussion of contemporary American politics is as enthralling to a South African reader as it clearly is to the writer."
Jaroslav Olsa brings things closer to home - well, his home, anyway - with a Locus-worthy survey of SF in Zimbabwe and Malawi. It seems "there is no African country (except South Africa) where science fiction as a specific genre has been established. All SF-related African works are unique and isolated." Such as Malawian Eric Mavengere's intriguingly titled Akanyangira yaona, which you non-Shona-speakers might translate as He Stalked the Animal After It Had Already Seen Him. Ghosts and supernatural beings are the most popular spec fic subjects for writers in these unsophisticated parts. (You know, like Stephen King or Clive Barker?)
Good artwork here throughout, including great spots and occasionals by Australia's invaluable Ian Gunn and a strikingly demonic wrap cover by Roberto Schima, who apparently hails from Brazil. These southern hemisphere types stick together.
Probe's overall design scores high. As a minor suggestion, the page number/zine name slug probably shouldn't be the most eye-catching element on every page ...
I'm a sucker for comic relief, so Neville Beard obliges with a selection of SF limericks. Note to Neville: it does help if you count syllables strictly. Alice Bentley adds black humor by recalling a grisly little filksong about "the cannible (sic) maid and her Hottentot blade."
The zine regularly folds fiction into the mix, including a neat little cyberWonderland fable by Yvonne Eve Walus on "Alice in Virtual Reality." L. Strydom contributes a pungent short on bodylegging in a grimly stratified urban future. An artifact that turns out not to be so alien is the focus of an elegiac far-future tale by C. Wissing. And Lionel Latigan (how come all these names sound like pseudonyms?) has a story demonstrating how to make a profit selling time machines.
A 13-page Hard Copy section covers 23 books with midlength reviews by Gail Brunette, Ian Jamieson, Neville Beard. Plus others of such godlike renown in the South African SF community they sign their reviews simply Al, David, Deirdre, Yvonne, or Philip.
Many reviews here cover the media spinoffs (Star Wars, Star Trek, Red Dwarf, etc.) infesting SF bookshelves worldwide, but Philip is cogent on novels by Steele, Vinge, and Varley. While Deirdre (the Deirdre Byrne above?) does a nice job on an unusual choice: Dersu Uzala, by the Russian writer Vladimir Arsenyev. Which she finds "rigidly set in a Russian version of Victorian-cum-fantastic voyage realism." Dersu is a circa-1900 Siberian tribal frontiersman akin to James Fenimore Cooper's Natty Bumppo. By the way, Deirdre, catch the striking 1974 movie of this book by the great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa if there's a copy in the country.
Otherwise, most emphases here are on plot
summary and whether or not the reviewer liked the book. Which is where
way too many fanzine reviews start - and end ...
SFRevu September 1997, Vol. 1.3 • Editor/Publisher Ernest Lilley • E-mail SFRevu@aol.com with, in subject line, "Email Subscription" to get text via e-mail, or "Notify Me" to get notice of Web page changes • Web site: http://members.aol.com/sfrevu • 19 pages
Fanzine incest note: I made friends with SFRevu's Ernest Lilley several Boskones back. Introduced him to his girlfriend. Even wrote an article for his August issue. So maybe everything positive I tell you about SFRevu is all made up. You'll never know without downloading a copy, will you? OK Ern, I'll take that payola now.
As the masthead irreducibly proclaims, "SFRevu brings Science Fiction reviews and interviews to the web each month." So it avoids the usual perzine coverage of the editor's love life, day job miseries, and menus from vacation. (Except last month's chili recipe, which Ernest tied into coverage of the San Antonio worldcon.) Just short-to-medium-length pieces, mostly reviews and interviews, in a style approximating commercial revuspeak.
So why not just read, say, the last half of Locus? Well, this is shorter. Cheaper; in fact, free. (Computer, monitor, and Web connection not included.) And more amateurish - in a good way. Ernest and his guest reviewers are usually enthusiastic about their subjects, and want to share the joy. It's the sort of consumer-oriented zine that might go well with a four-star rating system. How about it, Ern?
Selection here is fairly mainstream. Covered are a Star Wars book and novels by Tricia Sullivan, C. J. Cherryh, David Duncan, Allen Steele, David Sherman & Dann Cragg, William Gibson, and Michael Swanwick.
Ernest adores Jack Faust, Swanwick's SF retelling of the Faustian legend of Marlowe, Goethe, etc.: "a delight for anyone who has given thought to life, the universe, and everything - and a spur to anyone who hasn't ... absolutely fabulous."
Unlike his illustrious precursors, Swanwick spent time on what Faust got for his devilish bargain: in his story, enough scientific knowledge to compress the Industrial Revolution into a few decades. "I wanted to write the true story of Doctor Faust, of how he bargained for knowledge and was by knowledge destroyed."
Cyberpunk is getting less wired, according to the review of William Gibson's look at "virtual celebrity" in a near-future neo-Tokyo. In Idoru, "fantasy bows to reality. Gone are the wire plugs connecting us directly to the Net, replaced by sensor gloves and goggles ..." But Ernest thinks predecessor Virtual Light shone brighter.
The issue's other review-and-interview slot is enjoyably filled by physicist Catharine Asaro, whose Catch the Lightning continues her escapist Saga of the Skolian Empire. Ernest terms it a "blend of Heroic Fantasy and Hard SF." Says Asaro, "When I was a little girl, [my] tales were all about heroines and their cats saving the universe from nebulous evil plots ... Gradually the cats lost their place to handsome young fellows who wanted rides with the heroines in their ultracool spaceships." And ultimately to her current heroine Tina, who escapes gang wars in LA for romance and adventure with "a cybernetically enhanced fighter pilot from an alternate future." I see Jennifer Lopez and Keanu Reeves in the movie ...
Chief delight in this issue may well be the RetroReview (shouldn't that be RETRORevu?) by Thomas R. Ippolito. Subject: Tom Swift Jr.
A long-time Swiftian, Ippolito hosts a Web site, The Ultimate Tom Swift Collector's Guide, at http://pw2.netcom.com/~raven43/Pers1.htm. He reminds us of many facts about the boy inventor we may have forgotten: The Tom Jr. series debuted in 1954 and ran for 17 superscientific years. Price per book: $1.07. Plots: a tad formulaic. "Inevitably, science, ingenuity and courage conquered [all] within 180 pages." And a rare copy of the late entry Tom Swift and the Galaxy Ghosts would fetch $175 today; $800 for the entire series.
Bet yo Momma threw all yours out, said Tom trashily.
Elsewhere here, guest reviewer E.J. McClure
calls C.J. Cherryh's Finity's End "her most accessible book to date,"
and "a satisfying conclusion" to the Merchanter tale begun with Downbelow
Station. You mean, that's it? No more? Hope I'm reading you wrong,
E.J. ... Tony Tellado of the NYC radio show Sci-FI Talk calls Contact
"the most engaging SF film of the decade," and also makes Laurent Bouzerau's
Star Wars: The Annotated Scripts sound good enough that I went out
and bought it last night. Now that's an effective review ... And
Steve Sawicki says he doesn't generally do "gushy reviews," but you couldn't
prove it by how he feels after his fifth reading of Present Tense
by Dave Duncan.
MT VOID 10/24/97, Vol. 16, No. 17 MT Chair/Librarian Mark Leeper, Factotum Evelyn Leeper • E-mail email@example.com • Back issues at http://www.geocities.com/Athens/4824 • 7 pages
Ostensibly this is the club fanzine of the Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society, which I take from internal evidence to be kinda somewhere in southern northern New Jersey. Although since I can't find Mt. Holz in either of my two road atlases, perhaps the club exists more as a state of mind. Fact-checking fanzine reviews can be a bitch.
What this incredibly productive little production actually seems to be, however, is the weekly perzine of Mark R. Leeper, with occasional chime-ins from his wife Evelyn Chimelis Leeper.
That's right, I said weekly.
The astounding prolificity involved in one or two people's getting a fanzine, even an electronic one, out every 7 days should be no surprise to anyone who knows the Leepers. Evelyn's incomprehensively comprehensive con reports run regularly here in Proper Bostonian: marvels of eidetic reportage that allow readers to construct a virtual con in their heads and really not miss much for not being there. At Boskone and other conventions, you'll see Evelyn and Mark seemingly on or at every panel discussion with their laptops clicking at lightspeed. They also jet off to Japan or somewhere for a few weeks every so often and come back with another bronto-sized brief on the experience.
And in their spare femtosecond, they do this.
Evelyn begins with a useful feature every issue: the URL of the week. From a poetry site to various con Web pages to this week's http://www.erols.com/vansick/scifi.htm containing stuff like The Evil Henchman's Guide, her picks are consistently worth finding.
As indicated earlier, there's little club news here. Which is actually a relief to those of us lucky enough not to live downwind of Perth Amboy. But on Nov 8, if you care, members are trooping off to see Starship Troopers at the Hazlett multiplex, with diner dinner afterwards. I'd say bring Pepto-Bismol. If not for the gravy fries, for the flick.
This week's lead article is a political editorial on conspiracy theories. Specifically, the theory that Bill Clinton is an evil mastermind. Mark's view is that, with all the scandals tried out on him, "Clinton has either got to be relatively innocent or the greatest criminal and legal mind this country has ever seen." I do like that "relatively." But you might as well hold your breath, Mark. Billophobes (are you there, Ray? Joseph?) will simply scan that sentence and pounce. "AHA! So you admit it!"
Mark's a convicted film buff. Two movies examined this ish: The Devil's Advocate and Shall We Dance?
The first has a young lawyer (Keanu Reeves) hired by a NYC firm at which he soon discovers a maelstrom of malignance swirling around the head partner (Al Pacino). Mark scrupulously avoids telling you Pacino's evil secret identity, but as an attorney himself Mark's just being coy: we can all guess it early on. Hell, the guy's a lawyer. We expect it.
Let's pause to address the biggest problem with MT Void's killing schedule: writing quality. Frankly, it more than occasionally feels rushed, choppy, incomplete, sometimes unproofread. Not surprising, really. However, the same's true of zines with much saner schedules. (OK, OK, mea culpa.)
You'll see, though, that Mark's best writing goes into his film reviews. Of Pacino's character: "He is in bed figuratively with the rich and powerful. He is in bed literally with [the] sleek and sexy ... [Pacino] gives a high-energy performance that would steal a scene from a puppy." This movie he likes: "it stands among the best horror films we have seen on the screen in the last few years."
Shall We Dance - a film about a Japanese salaryman who finds happiness in the tawdry world of ballroom dancing - he finds less satisfactory for American viewers. Mark's keen on Japanese culture and is afraid we'll miss nuances here. For instance, "One of the characters takes a strip of dried squid and dances it on the top of a restaurant table." Which was "lost on most of our audience who probably did not recognize what it was that was dancing." It was food, Mark. We knew that much. Relax, will you? Trust us.
Finally, Evelyn Leeper contributes a short review of a great event: a new SF book by mainstream literary icon John Updike. Unfortunately, "one doesn't get much of a coherent view of the [novel's] post-apocalyptic future except to learn that some middle-aged men prefer positions other than the missionary one. Whoopee."