The Clubhouse; Fanzine Reviews: Born to Feud.

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Fanzines reviewed: CYBERCOZEN (V.27#1), MUMBLINGS FROM MUNCHKINLAND (#34), OPUNTIA (#296), SCIENCE FICTION/SAN FRANCISCO (#160), and MACABRE (#1).

(Please note: Zine reviews are prepared a week or more in advance of publication of this column and may not necessarily include the latest issue available, but the link to multiple issues given at the bottom of each review probably does.)

RG Cameron Clubhouse Jan 30 Illo #1 Cyber Cozen

CYBERCOZEN (V.27#1) – January 2015 – Find it here

Faneds: Aharon Sheer & Lebl Botwinik. Israeli Clubzine.

Published on behalf of the Israeli Society for Science Fiction and Fantasy, about which I know nothing. Being lazy, and under time pressure, I’m not bothering to research the links provided and am just going to review the zine as an entity unto itself. If you object to this, just bear in mind I am not only physically lazy but intellectually lazy. This is actually a survival skill, in that the less energy expended the longer I live. Well, it works for tortoises. But I digress.

A short article, “Sheer Science” (by editor Sheer) is more of a topic announcement, concerning a particular medical myth, with a link to a video wherein someone else explores the subject at length. Somewhat pointless in terms of zine function methinks, at least for most readers.

Then comes a review of the novel “Hunter’s Run,” a book which three authors (including George R. Martin) took 30 years to write. Lebl describes enough of the plot to give away a major plot point, which is disconcerting, then provides the reader with a link to “a much better and more complete review than mine,” which I find odd. Starting to think this zine operates on different journalistic fannish principles than I’m used to.

However, all is redeemed by “Zombies, Zombies, Everywhere,” part of an ongoing series of articles under the title “Undead Reborn – About Zombies.” Previous articles dealt with various zombie films. The current one is an excellent compilation of assorted Zombie-related activities under the theme that the rapid spread of Zombie awareness in popular culture is in itself a form of exponential growth Zombie plague. I rather like this concept.

Everything from a music album “Zombie” released by Nigerian musician Fela Kuti to the Marvel villain “Brother Zombie” is covered in a buffet of Zombie esoterica, some of which I was already aware of, but much of it new to me. At the end of the article the question is asked: “What is the connection between Zombies, Yiddish, and Poetry?” The answer, which I’m not revealing, is rather amusing. The series will conclude next issue with: “Zombies: The Jewish perspective [and maybe afterwards, a ‘post mortem’].”

No letters of comment section, so no Lloyd Penney.

CyberCozen worth reading? – I had short-lived doubts at first, but so much care, effort, and research went into the Zombie article that it makes the zine (only 6 pages long) well worth reading.

( Multiple issues of CyberCozen here )

RG Cameron Clubhouse Jan 30 Illo #2 Mumblings

MUMBLINGS FROM MUNCHKINLAND (#34) – December 2015 – Find it here

Faned: Chris Nelson. Australian Perzine.

Fans are mortal. And since many fans are active in fandom for only a few short years, or a decade or two at most, the deaths of former fans often passes unnoticed by fandom at large. But a minority of fans, who’ve spent their entire lives actively involved with SF&F fandom as their principle hobby, who are known and respected by their peers for decade after decade, are often acknowledged when they pass away with myriad obituaries and articles in their honour, and sometimes by anthologies of their fannish writing or, as in this case, an entire zine devoted to their memory and accomplishments.

Faned Chris Nelson details the life and fannish career of Graham Stone (1926-2013), described as “a leading authority on Australian science fiction… librarian and bibliographer… [who] devoted much of his life to original research in the genre and was also a central, albeit controversial, figure in Australian fandom.”

Controversial? I gather that Graham was an introvert who felt most comfortable when things were organized and his persistent attempts to keep things organized on his terms caused all manner of controversy and confrontation. Born to feud, in other words.

He discovered the Futurian Society of Sydney in late 1940 when he was around 14 years of age. Right from the very first meeting he attended he was immersed in fannish politics: “Meetings were endless wrangles over petty disagreements, and members were at each other’s throats… worse still, we thought we saw a way out… What this amounted to was the passing of endless rules and decisions, a particularly debased form of electioneering and intrigue…”

This is why lifetime retrospectives can be invaluable. Here you learn how NOT to run a club.

Graham’s subsequent fan career well into the 1950s appears to have involved all manner of walkouts, splintering of organizations, boycotts, and grudge feuds, the sort of thing I’ve always detested and avoided, if only because I’ve experienced enough of that in the real world. To my mind being a fan is all about enthusiasm and having fun. Graham strikes me as entirely too serious to be a whole and complete fan, at least by my definition.

Graham, however, felt differently. He once wrote “To read science fiction you need average or better intelligence, with good ability to visualize the unfamiliar and grasp new concepts… The reader of science fiction is thus an unusual and special type.” From this I assume his fannish enthusiasm was primarily intellectual in nature.

As for fandom itself, in his opinion “Fandom is not an organization… but a state of mind. It leads a great number of people to… co-operate to serve their varied interests… [each] known according to his distinctive personality and activities… success in fandom should be judged by how many friends you make. The successful fan is one who would be missed.”

He is missed. This issue of MFM is proof of that. The sad thing is I’m left with the impression that Graham never had much fun being a fan and that he didn’t easily interact with other fans, but this may not have mattered. What drove and motivated him was his passionate research into the history of Australian SF literature. I suspect he was happiest when cataloguing and annotating previously unknown material. I have certain tendencies that way myself, so can empathise.

No letters of comment section, so no Lloyd Penney.

Mumblings from Munchkinland worth reading? – Yes. First, because it is a good overview of Australian fan history, or at least Sydney fan history, and second, because it is an honest and comprehensive tribute to a somewhat feisty and divisive fan whose love of SF&F literature was and is inspiring.

( Multiple issues of Mumblings from Munchkinland here )

RG Cameron Clubhouse Jan 30 Illo #3 Opuntia

OPUNTIA (#296) – January 2015 – Find it here

Faned: Dale Speirs. Canadian Perzine.

Dale publishes at least one, sometimes two or three, issues of “Opuntia” every month thanks to a marvellous “conveyor-belt” system he’s devised. He utilizes a basic layout template into which he pours articles as he writes them. As soon as it reaches a certain size off it goes, and on to the next. Indeed, I suspect he works on several issues at any given time. He usually begins with a photo essay of some sort, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he plugs in his next bout of photography into a subsequent issue template while still working on material for the current issue. This flexibility of method achieves a highly productive publication schedule because he’s freed himself of layout concerns and deadline worries, and can thereby concentrate on his writing. I attempt to emulate him, if only to combat my habitual writers block, with limited success so far, but I have high hopes for further improvement. I recommend his streamlined system. Anything that eases the stress and burden of laying out a zine is a time-saving blessing!

This issue begins the usual photo essay, in this case 6 images of his hometown Calgary. I haven’t visited Calgary in more than half a century, so always find what he chooses to depict very interesting. Dale is quite a good photographer.

Next is the type of article Dale does extremely well, a thought-provoking article flying in the face of perceived wisdom. “The trouble with the Beringia Dogma” begins “The standard gospel of archaeologists that humans did not cross into North America until the Bering straits dried up has always been laughable to the aboriginal tribes of Alaska and Nunavat. The Aleut regularly cross the short distance by boat in summer and by walking across the ice in winter.” He then goes on to cite recent research that shows the populating of America was far easier and far more complex than hitherto imagined. Writers of alternate prehistoric history novels take note!

Next part 7 of a review of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. “One thing I like about the Discworld series is that it is not some stagnant fantasy land where kings play games with thrones and nothing evolves. Pratchett introduces major technological changes in a number of novels and explores their ramifications.” I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never read any of these novels. Dale convinces me I should.

Another article, quite brief, reveals that Canadian Federal law has a subsection pertaining to any crime committed by a Canadian Astronaut aboard the International Space Station. In essence, such a crime would be viewed as having taken place in Canada and the astronaut would be treated accordingly once he was back down on the ground. Is the Canadian legal system unique in this? I have no idea.

No letters of comment section, so no Lloyd Penney.

Opuntia worth reading? – Yeppers! Dale has a highly intelligent, logical, and perceptive approach to whatever he is discussing. Rather like one of the better professors you ran into at university. Clear, precise, and often entertaining, with flashes of wry humour. Always a pleasure to read.

( Multiple issues of Opuntia here )

RG Cameron Clubhouse Jan 30 Illo #4 SF Fiction

SCIENCE FICTION/SAN FRANCISCO (#160) – January 2015 – Find it here

Faneds: Jean Martin & Christopher Erickson. American Newszine.

I was tempted to call this a clubzine, but it isn’t. It simply describes ALL the SF&F activities in the bay area regardless of who is organizing them. Sort of like a booster zine sponsored by a Chamber of Commerce, but far more fun and interesting.

And yet, and yet… it includes the minutes of several meetings of the Bay Area Science Fiction association, so it IS a clubzine… yet so much more.

Faned Christopher begins with a rambling California vacation travelogue that includes a host of SF&F stuff, like filming a Dr. Who tribute music video, reviews of several genre films, books, plus watching a Sherlock Holmes Time Travel stage production.

Other articles by divers hands are devoted to events such as a Victorian era High Tea (great for costumers), a Soiled Dove Dinner Theatre (great for fans of 19th century pole dancing, and also fans of the Emperor Norton whose modern incarnation was present in a splendiferous uniform and plumed hat), a Victorian era ball (costumers again), a Cosplay gathering (yet more costumers), Wizard World Comic Con in Reno (even more Cosplayers), and Shamrokon in Dublin (“The convention committee and staff were highly visible in their lurid green shirts”).

The article on Shamrorokon by Tom Becker features several interesting observations, including “Shamrocken had its own bar, right behind registration and next to the dealers room and main program rooms.” That’s handy! Clever planning. And “Saturday night all the bid parties were in… the largest program room, with round tables in the middle and bid tables around the sides… It was a very lively scene.” I’ll bet! More brilliant planning. As was the fannish tower constructed of beer mats. The whole con sounds like a blast.

Oh, and there’s a letter from Lloyd Penney… Finally!

Science Fiction/San Francisco worth reading? – For sure! It’s a great way to vicariously enjoy the activities of a whole bunch of enthusiastic fans.

( Multiple issues of Science Fiction/San Francisco here )

AND FROM THE VAULTS:

RG Cameron Clubhouse Jan 30 Illo #5 Macabre

MACABRE (#1) – March 1948 – Find it here

Faneds: Jack Doherty & Don Hutchinson. Canadian Genzine.

This short-lived (only two issues) Toronto fanzine was inspired by the enthusiasm generated by the upcoming 1948 Torcon 1 (the first Worldcon held outside the USA) and expired with the Toronto-wide fannish burn-out after the con. The zine doesn’t hold to a high standard compared to modern zines but is nevertheless evocative of its era because of the lively sense of fun it conveys.

Issue one starts with “How to Go Broke Happily,” an article by Joe Kennedy on the perils of genre book collecting. “Tho the beginning collector may dream of gathering together an imposing bookshelf of Stapledon… Taine… Merritt… Lovecraft… Dunsany…” first editions, if they can be found, are beyond the financial reach of most fans. Joe recommends haunting drugstores for cheap paperback reissues like “Best Supernatural Tales of Lovecraft” for 49 cents. He also points out rooming houses frequently sell “old bookcases with the books still in them.” Really? Never heard of such a thing. Anyway, be cheap and be selective be his motto.

America’s No. One fan (frequently voted as such) Forrest J Ackerman reviews, in an article titled “Atoms at Eve” (typical Ackerman pun), a short story “To This End,” by Y. Edith Friede, which appeared in a “widely uncirculated” prozine called “Best Stories”. All of the Western Hemisphere has been destroyed in a nuclear war. The one surviving American community is offered sanctuary by England but they prefer to rough it out in their nuclear wasteland. The last line in the story is, believe it or not, “It’s an ill wind that blows no good.” Ackerman concludes “I expect all readers of Macabre to be grateful to me for having spared them the chore of reading the story.”

Leslie A. Croutch, Canada’s No. One Fan (at the time), contributes “Hodge Podge,” a column normally printed in his fanzine “Light” (which fannish historian Harry Warner Jr. once called “the best of all possible crudzines”). It contains one of Croutch’s famed ghastly poems:

“This is the saga of Johnny McGurk,

Who at the convention chased after a skirt,

One of those dames who think fantasy is funny,

And Shaver is just some little man’s sonny.”

I agree. It is to ARRRGH! Civilization has come a long way since 1948, what? I’d tell you who Shaver was but it wouldn’t save the poem.

William D. Grant, later one of the editors of the respected zine “Canadian Fandom,” has a column titled “The Future Reel” with “Advance news about forthcoming SF&F films.” This includes the never-filmed “The End of the World’ – Paramount has plans underway to film M.P. Shiel’s ‘Purple Cloud,’ the story of a gas that envelops the earth, killing all but two, a man and a woman. So far only Ray Milland has been cast…” and the equally never-filmed “The Secret of Dr. Parazoides’ – Monogram has that old master, J. Carrol Naish in this one. A scientist invents a formula… an ape gets an overdose… attains the height of a five-story building… runs wild through some unknown city and is destroyed in the last reel.” And you thought modern films were unoriginal!

Throw in a couple of short stories easily better than Croutch’s poem and some early art by famed American fan artist William Rotsler and that be the first issue of “Macabre.”

Macabre worth reading? – Of course! A fascinating revelation of the primitive sort of “average” fanzine back in the 1940s. A shining example of amateur enthusiasm.

( Second issue of Macabre here )

BY THE WAY:

You can find a fantastic collection of zines at: Efanzines

You can find yet more zines at: Fanac Fan History Project

You can also find a quite good selection of Canadian zines at: Canadian SF Fanzine Archive

4 COMMENTS

  1. LEYBL BOTWINIK (of CYBERCOZEN) emailed (posted with permission):

    No problem, Graeme,

    I was thrilled to see that we were worthy of a review 🙂

    Some comments – which you may freely publish:

    1) We are independent of the Israel SF organization – We post some of their notices, as a sort of public service in their support, and for the benefit of our readers, many of who would otherwise not be aware of their activities.

    2) We try limiting the size of the fanzine to 5-6 pages (even though it’s electronic/PDF), and at the same time try to maximize content. The ‘Science’ part is more of a bonus than actual content, since our fanzine caters to the SF genre. The ‘pure’ science is nice for discussion and does generate speculation. Thus, it usually appears as a lead to some idea/topic that is expanded on further in someone else’s article. We just give an intro and offer a link for further reading.

    3) I didn’t have time to write a better review on “Hunter’s Run”, and it’s true that I did give up a major ‘spoiler’ – but it was just so genial an idea I had to share it. I wouldn’t give up a spoiler in a movie, since most people do have access to film/VOD, etc. Revealing a major plot point in literature doesn’t take away from the fact that the book is a great read. And the other review really was better/more complete than mine, so offering that to our readership was (in my opinion) a positive move.

    4) Thanks for the review of the Zombie article. I hope you get to enjoy the ones in previous issues, and the upcoming one too.

    All the best, Leybl Botwinik, assistant editor

    p.s. Next issue will be released – hopefully – by this Friday.

    THE GRAEME — I tend to be an old fuddy duddy in that I review on the basis of what I’m used to. Thanks for explaining some of the rationale behind your editorial approach.

    I encourage all fen to check out past and future issues as per the links in my review.

  2. CHRIS NELSON emailed (posted with permission):

    Hello Graeme,

    Thank you for your review of Mumblings 34. I appreciate you drawing attention to it and the mixed career of Graham Stone. He was a man of strong convictions and these led him into a number of feuds in his time, but also drove his dedicated research into the genre ‘down under’. Thank you for noting both aspects in your review.

    Some previous issues of Mumblings have looked at other early figures and events in Australian fandom and most have featured letters from readers – including, I am pleased to say, Lloyd Penney. I welcome comments from others.

    With best wishes, Chris Nelson

    THE GRAEME — And of course the readers can view some of those previous issues if they click on the link provided at the end of the review above.

  3. Bruce R. Gillespie posted on Facebook (reposted with permission):

    “Column downloaded. Thanks very much for your review of Chris Nelson’s ‘Mumblings from Munchkinland’ — a great Australian fanzine, especially his coverage of the life of Graham Stone.”

  4. Arrgh! It is an unfortunate fact that I do my own proof reading. Another, equally distressing fact, is that I’m a one-finger typist whose finger has a mind of its own. Plus my own mind has a tendency to shut down at unexpected moments. It often runs on idle.

    Consequently it is not surprising a few howlers make it into every column. But I always assume that everyone reads with as much inattention as I do which suggests most errors go unnoticed. Not this one. I left out a letter in a faned’s name. Deepest apologies to Leybl Botwinik of CyberCozen.

    Some people may view this mistake as proof that I am an idiot. It matters not. Most people already know I’m an idiot. This is quite relaxing. I don’t have to worry about living up to people’s expectations…

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