Fanzines reviewed: BCSFAzine (#500) Anniversary Issue
(Please note: Zine reviews are normally 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.)
BCSFAzine (#500) – January 2015 – Find it here
Faned: Felicity Walker. Canadian Clubzine.
The 500th issue of a newsletter for a club I first joined 44 years ago. Pardon me while I drown in maudlin waves of nostalgia…
For my lost youth that is. Now, about the club. No. About this issue.
The cover features the title “BCSFAzine” in 12 different fonts. Felicity is a huge fan of fonts. Me, I’m font-blind. In my own publications I tend to use Times Roman and nothing but. Oddly enough, I think that’s what Felicity did in this issue. I’m so font-blind I can’t even recognise for certain the font I habitually use. (For this online column I use Calibri.)
(How did I get this fanzine review position at Amazing? Why not someone who knows what he’s talking about instead? Answer: I asked. You’re stuck with me.)
A question YOU might ask is why is this zine, which came out March 13th, dated January? Long story short, for myriad reasons production schedule has slipped while Felicity clings to maintaining the illusion of a monthly publication. She has a master plan to catch up by June.
So then you might ask why 17 pages in the March issue are devoted to info about events in January and February. Felicity is particularly devoted to her perception of BCSFAzine as a “statement of record.” About 60 upcoming events are listed and described that have already taken place. To what end?
The information provided is a comprehensive look at what’s going on in fannish and genre-related circles in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland region. It so happens that another habit of mine is being clueless on an ongoing basis. So when I browse the listings I’m not thinking “Missed that… and that,” I am instead thinking “Holy Ghu! There’s a monthly Steampunk Coffee Klatch? A monthly Hack Space Open House? A monthly Board Game Swap Meetup? One of these months I’ve got to try leaving my apartment!”
In short, most of events described are ongoing possibilities for entertainment and enlightenment, and as a result the BCSFAzine calendar serves as a guide to what’s available for interested local fen even if individual items are out of date. So still very useful to readers.
Besides which, it is indeed very much a statement of record which can be consulted in the future to see what happened in the months involved. Ephemeral history preserved. Isn’t that what traditional fandom is all about?
And of course, by June the “Calendar” WILL be referring to upcoming “upcoming events,” if all goes as planned. Maybe even sooner.
Another item prominent on the cover is a photo of “The BCSFA Archives,” i.e. my walk-in closet. You can see three heavy-duty office filing cabinets that weigh a ton even when empty, stacks of Canadian zines on the left, and other-country zines in the background. You can also see an old telescope poking out, and a piece of luggage on the floor, but the majority of the closet’s contents are indeed archives, not only for BCSFA, but for WCSFA, CSFFA, CFFAS and VCON as well. (Don’t know what these acronyms mean? Don’t worry about it.)
The most wonderful thing about this 500th issue are the 73 thumbnail images of past BCSFAzine covers going as far back as #23 in April 1975 and concluding with the current issue. It is a splendid gallery indeed. I confess my favourite is a collage I put together for #253 depicting “Rare Photo of Mr. Science at work in Secret Laboratory.” It shows Mr. Science (Al Betz) seated in front of a backdrop of slender prisms and bunches of grapes, surrounded by scantily clad female guards plus two adoring female acolytes, one bare breasted, the other entirely naked.
In other words, a typical day at Mr. Science’s laboratory as I envisioned it in my imagination, and as it turned out, as he did in his.
In actual fact I combined images of a set from the 1930s film “Just Imagine,” a nude from a 1913 Italian sandal flapper, and a Crimean war photo of a white-bearded Bashi-Bazouk Turkish mercenary (who greatly resembled Mr. Science) and his female “companion.” Mr. Science was very pleased with the result. (I do realize it looks terrible, but this is before the photoshop era. What you see are Xeroxed photocopy cut-outs glued on top of one another. Not bad, considering.)
For those unfamiliar with Mr. Science, he was a “living treasure” for BCSFA, a dry-witted man whose hilarious “Ask Mr. Science” columns won him an Aurora Award. He was also noted for his highly explosive and intensely radioactive science demonstrations at VCON and various Pacific North West conventions, and was especially beloved for his “How to make Liquid Nitrogen Ice-cream” demonstrations. I once asked him to substitute liquid hydrogen but for some reason or another he declined. Sadly, Mr. Science is no longer with us, but is fondly remembered by all who knew him or came into contact with him, not to mention those whom his experiments placed in mortal peril.
Speaking of nostalgia, and in keeping with the theme of issue #500, I contribute a short article reminiscing about the monthly printing and collation sessions at Steve Forty’s house back when I was the “God-Editor” of BCSFAzine in the early 1990s. Grand excuse for a club party they were. Once the production was completed, that is.
Here’s the thing. Steve’s printing facilities were unique. An entire room in his house was reserved for printing BCSFAzine, a room containing a high quality electrostencil cutter and no less than SIX Gestetner rotary printing machines, each one loaded with a different colour ink. That way he never had to go through the messy process of swapping ink colours in any given machine. Sheer genius! I don’t know of any other club, or individual faned for that matter, so blessed.
Alas, boat-anchor technology now. Steve Forty eventually sold them (to a collector? Scrap metal dealer? Boat owner?) and then his house (presumably to a different person). He now lives in a condo, and is retired from work and very largely from fanac.
But we were lucky to have him active in the club all those years. He printed amazing multi-colour covers for BCSFAzine, properly registered and sharp and clear. No easy feat with those Gestetner contraptions! Plus he hosted Friday F.R.E.D. (Forget Reality, Everybody Drink) nights at assorted pubs for at least a couple of decades, talking numerous novices into joining the club and talking others out of leaving. He was the glue that held the club together. Heck of an ambassador (a BCSFA board title he officially retains today).
Now you know why Steve Forty is the Fan Guest of Honour for the upcoming VCON 40 convention October 2-4th this year. (Note the clever pun. Don’t blame me.) You can access info about the con at < VCON 40 >
The feature article in this issue is “The Secret Lore of our Tribe” by Garth Spencer “with Additional input” by myself. I’d say the result is 98% Garth and 2% me. Both of us being fannish historians, I couldn’t help but flesh out the details a wee bit here and there (with his permission), but the overall thrust of the themes (or themes of the thrust?) is entirely Garthic in nature.
Proffered is nothing less than an overall summation of the evolution of Canadian fandom from its very beginning in 1936, with an emphasis on West Coast fandom and, in particular, how it impacted the growth of BCSFA and VCON, all the way to the current state of affairs. Everything encapsulated in a mere 15 pages of cogent and comprehensive cogitation. (Sorry. Always wanted to use that phrase.)
Garth, the first Canadian ever to win a “Fan Achievement” Aurora Award (in 1986 for the editing of his newszine “The Maple Leaf Rag” and for his overall promotion of Canadian fandom), pursues two underlying themes: first, that there are lessons to be learned from studying the history of “our tribe” (i.e. fandom), and second, his heartfelt nostalgia for traditional fandom and the dominant role it used to play back when it was virtually the only form of fandom in existence. Both themes are expressed in his concluding words:
“One of the things about contemporary fandom is the sheer variety of the types of fans. There are people who tend to assume that fandom is necessarily about film or television series, who have an enthusiasm mainly for visual media, and who want to hold the kind of conventions promoted by Paramount and other studios—which is all rather unlike pre-1970s fandom and conventions isn’t it? There are people who imprint on something else they’ve seen and read (like me: I happened on a stash of 1970s fanzines from Edmonton, when I entered a small SF club in Victoria)… There are people who want to write up everything, and imagine others will want to read it (again, like me)…”
“Another thing you notice, after a few years in fandom, is that the accepted focus or range of interests changes, again and again. I have had to accept that my cherished fannish, or fanzine fandom is not even a memory now as far as mainstream SF&F genre fandom is concerned. In fact a legend has grown up that fanzine fans are snotty old coffin-bait who worship the past and have no interest in anything since 1965, and show no welcome or respect for anyone open to learning about fanzines. Or as Lloyd Penney, perhaps Canada’s best known traditional fan, put it ‘Fanzine fandom is the least welcoming fandom.’ This depends on the individuals in question. Some are. Some aren’t.”
“On the other hand, anyone who reads books and magazines more than watching TV, or expected original story universes or original reasoned speculation, tends to be put off by the fandoms of comics and costuming and gaming and media-inspired fantasy or SF. This is to be expected. The various niche fandoms within fandom often have little in common, and tend, especially with their own conventions, to focus primarily on their particular interest. This makes it all the more amazing that a fan-run general-interest convention like VCON soldiers on, offering a little something for everybody, habitually attracting about 700 attendees year after year.”
“Overall, BCSFA, and fandom as I knew it, have been the setting in which I grew up (belatedly). And so have some of the rest of us, behaving perhaps foolishly but like humans behave. Perhaps some of us have learned and grown—hopefully without gaining an evil reputation, or incurring financial disasters or criminal charges in the process.”
Hmmm. Let’s see. I’ve long lusted after the first, experienced the second, and successfully avoided the third. Plus I haven’t so much grown as mutated.
Garth does put his finger on the problem. Fandom is not an army. There is no discipline, no commander, and precious little in the nature of a training program. Fandom is a lot like life. You enter the fray filled with optimism and enthusiasm and hope for the best as you suffer setback after setback and disaster after disaster while you learn how to cope and manage with repeated failures until you can reach a level of semi-competence and reasonable accomplishment. Speaking personally, mind you. Your life may have been a tad easier than mine.
Point is, unlike Garth, who takes fannish history very seriously as a means of learning lessons from the past in order to avoid repeating obvious mistakes, I’ve given up learning anything and have adopted a gleeful attitude of exploiting and pillaging fandom for as much fun as I can get out of it. I no longer promote fandom. I celebrate it.
Garth speaks of “reasoned speculation.” I’m more a fan of “unreasoned” speculation. There’s room for both. In fact, in fandom, there’s room for everybody.
What else about this issue? (Or “thish” as traditional fans like to say.) Felicity, as she does every issue, provides notes on the club meeting the previous month. Since it was our annual Christmas dinner at a restaurant, she was too busy eating, drinking and partying to take much in the way of notes, so the article is shorter than usual. Nevertheless it is an example of the usual eclectic mix of conversation topics our meetings are noted for, everything from old SCTV comedy sketches spoofing holiday specials (John Candy as “Divine” being a particularly formidable apparition) to Spielberg’s not very good TV series “SeaQuest,” to fondly remembered comics like “Magnus, Robot Fighter” and “Richie Rich.”
Yes, we do tend to babble on but have a great time doing so. Politics is a frequent topic. For instance, at our meeting last weekend I shared my epiphany that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, is a heck of a lot like Oliver Cromwell. Suddenly everything falls into perspective and makes sense. This sparked a debate over “Great Idiots in History.” Exuberant examples of failed technology another ongoing topic. BCSFA (the British Columbia Science Fiction Association) is mostly just a conversational social monthly get-together these days, but it’s a good one.
An interesting aspect of BCSFAzine on Felicity’s watch is that the letter of comment column always comes first, the complete reverse of the standard practice. Nine pages no less, with contributions from Lloyd Penney (of course), Dave Haren, Brent Francis, Michael Bertrand, and Sheryl Birkhead (the latter a well-known American fan artist).
Some faneds wait till the end of a loc to make a reply. Some even edit and collate individual paragraphs by theme so that, for example, you might read first all the contributors comments about the Hugos, then all their opinions about Martians, and so on. This practice I’ve always found annoying. Felicity likes to do what I’ve always done, print locs in full one after the other, and insert editorial comment pertaining to a given paragraph immediately after said paragraph, thus creating the illusion of an ongoing conversation. I much prefer this method. To me it makes the most sense. I know people who hate it. Oh well.
BCSFAzine worth reading? – Absolutely! But then, as the former “God-Editor” of BCSFAzine I would say that wouldn’t I? But ignore my credentials (or lack thereof). Felicity’s era of editorship (starting with Issue #430 in March of 2009 and counting…) stands on its (and her) own merits. Always something interesting to read. Guaranteed.
P.S. The 5th illustration shows me standing beside the art on display in the BCSFA archive room, and the last illustration (below) reveals some of the Elron Awards BCSFA has presented since 1971.
( Multiple issues of BCSFAzine 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 find a quite good selection of Canadian zines at: Canadian SF Fanzine Archive