Fanzines reviewed: ALEXIAD (V.14#1), SPARTACUS (#7), MIRRORS OF MIND AND FLESH (#1), and SMUT! (#1).
(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.)
Alexiad (V.14#1) – February 2015 – Find it here
Faned: Joseph T. Major. Americon Serconzine.
I was wondering whether to call Alexiad a perzine, or a review zine (it’s both), and decided, since its contributors and loc writers take it very seriously, to call it a sercon (serious constructive zine), which is essentially fan slang for serious-minded speculation and discussion, no matter what the topic.
For instance, in his editorial Joe comments “The Internet, far from being the universalizing medium of nineties hopes, has become a set of pools for like-minded thinkers not wishing to confront those who do not agree.”
Hmm, hasn’t thought of it that way before, but I think he’s right. Excellent point. I visualize myriad alternate universes occupying the same space without taking notice of each other. Probably a good thing actually. I’m not really in favour of universalizing anything. I like separation. Diversity. Don’t mind quarantines. Keeps alive all the unique and distinct voices.
Typically Alexiad is a mix of book, film and convention reviews with a hefty letter of comment column. This issue smaller than usual for mundane reasons, but still packed with good material such as Taral Wayne contributing a “contrast and compare” article on the films “Frankenweenie” and “ParaNorman.” He suggests that “Frankenweenie” is handicapped by its relentless homage to the old universal horror films, but admits, having never seen the original “Frankenstein,” he may not “get” the film. On the other hand, he sees “ParaNorman” as truly timeless and sophisticated, convincing me I should watch it someday.
One of the books noted is “Rog Phillips’ The Club House: Edited and with Annotations by Earl Terry Kemp.” Apparently Rog (Roger Philip Graham) was the first of a long line of Clubhouse columnists. His columns appeared in Amazing from March 1948 to March 1953. Lester Del Rey once said of them “Here a beginning fanzine publisher could be treated as seriously as if he were a major publishing house.” I like to think I carry on the tradition.
There are three convention reports, a fannish tradition which enables non-traveler fans to experience vicariously what they have missed, unless the reporters commit the classic error of presenting a personal itinerary devoid of quotes, anecdotes and pertinent observations. I call these “alibi” reports. Their only purpose, in effect, is to prove that the individual was present, but offering no evidence of what it was like to BE present, no evidence of what the con was like.
For example, the report on Loscon 42 states “The Travel Experience Aboard Zeppelins… was incredibly interesting with excellent slides.” Why was it incredible? Why was it interesting? That’s what I want to know. Just one quote, or one description of a slide, would have “shared” the event with me. Instead it is merely listed. Mere alibi stuff.
Sue Burke, on the other hand, in her account of the 32nd Spanish National SF Con in Madrid throws in fascinating bits like “[Still Tomorrow] editor mentioned that because it had ‘dystopia’ on the cover, at least one bookstore shelved it in the young adult section” and “Christopher Priest said that books are metaphors, and that ‘we like them most when they are the most invented.’” This is the sort of memorable quote I look for when attending conventions and when reading about those I didn’t attend. Always disappointed when presented instead with a generic description devoid of unique detail.
Normally I hate like hell to say anything negative about the contents of a fanzine (my hidden agenda, you may have noticed, is to promote fanzines), but “alibi” con reports are of interest only to friends of the writer and offer nothing to the casual reader. Frankly, I regard con reports that avoid describing the con attended as missed opportunities to promote and celebrate convention going. Makes conventions seem dull. They’re not, you know.
One truly unique aspect of Alexiad is the “Monarchist News” column found in every issue. Forget the latest gossip re the British Royal family. Joe offers info on royals you’ve never heard of. For instance, the Duke of Wellington died. I didn’t even know there WAS a Duke of Wellington! (Other than the guy who beat Napoleon, that is.) Now there’s a new Duke of Wellington, a certain Arthur Charles Valerian Wellesley, who is also Duke of Ciudad Rodrigo by grant of King Juan Carlos. Seems Wellesley-cat is going to get together with his buddies the current Prince Napoleon and Furst von Blucher during the upcoming bicentennial celebration of the Battle of Waterloo. I tells ya, Europe is still crawling with royalty! Amazing.
Of course Lloyd Penney is one of those contributing a loc, along with other well-known fans like Alexis A. Gilliland, John Hertz, Robert S. Kennedy, Eric Mayer, and many more (including Murray Moore—couldn’t resist). Every letter quite lengthy in their exploration of topics as diverse as the gold standard, bed bugs, utopias, and NASA plans for the future. The loc column always one of the major strengths of Alexiad.
Alexiad worth reading? – This is one of those zines you set time aside to settle down for a good read. If you are a history buff, a fan of weird technology, or have a perverse desire to find out just how eccentric and incompetent politicians actually are, Alexiad is a solid, fascinating, and hearty feast of a zine. You’ll learn something new every issue. Sometimes every page. Quite a treat for those with eclectic interests.
( Multiple issues of Alexiad here )
Spartacus (#7) – March 2015 – Find it here
Faned: Guy H. Lilian III, American Perzine.
The cover (by?) is so poignant I came close to tearing up. Captures our loss perfectly.
Guy notes: “Star Trek—and Spock, particularly—brought girls into science fiction. Of course the ladies were here before—but not in such quantity, and not with the same enthusiasm, a zest bordering on delirium.”
Sound exaggerated? In my earlier Amazing column “Spock the Wonder Dog” (which you can find here ), I quote several examples of contemporary critics’ astonished and uncomprehending reaction to the wave of femmefan enthusiasm generated by Spock’s “dreamy” character. A veritable green-skinned bobby-soxer avalanche. You didn’t know Spock and Sinatra had so much in common, did you? (And you don’t know what I’m talking about either. No matter. We old pharts know.)
Of course, there was far more to Nimoy’s Spock than mere sex appeal, or as Guy puts it: “What was unique about Spock – at least until Roddenberry packed it into half the characters he subsequently created – was his dimorphism – half-human, half-Vulcan. It brought depth to Spock and a lot of social and dramatic potential to the show.”
Agreed. Especially in light of his interaction with Kirk and Bones, a tempestuous triangle which was surely the heart and delight of Trek, and never, in my opinion, duplicated in the subsequent variant series.
Elsewhere in his Nimoy/Spock tribute Guy states: “It was in the animated series and especially the middle movies that [Star Trek] hit its height.” Great Scott! I’ve never watched the animated series. Guy seems to be implying its episodes were routinely equal to the best episodes of the original. Gotta check this out for myself.
Switching track, Guy then comments at length on the current version of the original fan fund, or TAFF, the Trans-Atlantic fan fund which was created in the 1950s to bring a European fan to America, and in alternate years, an American fan to Europe. Usually, the European fans are British. This year is unusual, in that the two candidates are both continental Europeans. Nina Horvath is Austrian, and Wolf von Witting is “German-Swedish-Scottish, born in Finland, married in Moscow, and living in Italy.” How pan-European is that?
Guy quotes TAFF North American Administrator Curt Phillips as saying: “TAFF exists to stir the pot of fandom… whoever wins the 2015 race the fans who attend Sasquan (Worldcon) are guaranteed to meet a fascinating active fan from a far part of the world who’ll have unique viewpoints and unusual things to share with us. I think this race has the potential to be one of the most rewarding TAFF races in history – but potential goes for nothing if we don’t make the most of it by *voting* in the TAFF election!”
Fanzine fans SHOULD vote, if only to maintain one of the most venerable fannish traditions. The 2015 ballot contains all the info you need to know about HOW to vote, as well as brief self-descriptions from the two candidates. Either would be superb.
So check out the TAFF ballot here.
Spartacus #7 concludes with a good letter column including one from Lloyd Penney (naturally). I note he was also one of the nominators for Wolf von Witting’s TAFF candidacy.
Spartacus worth reading? – Yes. Guy, who also publishes the superb genzine “Challenger” and the very useful “Zine Dump” review zine, reserves “Spartacus” for his more personal musings. Sometimes it contains enough politics to offend everybody (not least extensive coverage of fannish politics) but it is always insightful, thought-provoking, and highly amusing all at the same time.
( Multiple issues of Spartacus here )
AND FROM THE VAULTS:
Mirrors of Mind and Flesh ( #1 ) – 1979 – Not available online as far as I know.
Faned: (I choose not to reveal.) American Slash Fictionzine.
Yes, “dreamy” Spock and shirt-ripping Kirk soon inspired sexual fantasy fiction by and for almost exclusively women. “Slash fiction” they call it, as in “Kirk/Spock.” This example donated to the BCSFA archive years ago is the most polished slash fictionzine I’ve ever seen (I was going to write “most polished slash fictionzine I’ve ever come across” and then rather urgently changed my mind. Ahem. Want no misunderstandings here).
Is this not somehow disrespectful of Nimoy’s memory? I don’t believe so. Rather the opposite. Both Nimoy and Shatner read samples of “Kirk/Spock” fiction and found the stories hilarious, not to mention flattering. After all, proof positive of the emotional impact of their characters on multitudes of young women, so they approved.
To put things in perspective, I remain unaware of any sexual fantasies about me being written by my fans. Mind you, the fact that I don’t have any fans might have something to do with it. Probably just as well.
“And then the mighty, manly Graeme, his thoughts dripping with lust, put on his comfy slippers and pulled on his comfy sweater before placing his lascivious buttocks into his favourite comfy chair and began stirring his unsweetened coffee in a most libidinous manner…”
Nope, doesn’t work. Flat out doesn’t work. I just don’t have the right persona.
You’ll note I didn’t name the faned (who is also the artist) because I’m not sure I should. Since Mirror’s editor didn’t name the “various authors” of what appears to be a multi-participant group story to be continued in future issues (if any), I think I’ll leave said editor anonymous.
The interior art, ten full-page illustrations, is of a very high calibre reminiscent of the drawings of Victorian artist Aubrey Beardsley methinks. It is also extremely explicit, leaving nothing to the imagination.
As for the prose, here is a typical example:
“Reluctantly, Kirk turned, hands fumbling with the sash at his waist. He crushed it into a ball and threw it, infuriated by his nervous clumsiness. He shucked off his pants, kicking them over his boots. Glancing surreptitiously over his shoulder, he watched as Spock stripped, his skin gleaming like polished metal, back muscles rippling. More than ever like some devil god come to life. Kirk wondered what the rest of him looked like. Just how alien that Vulcan cock would be.”
Let’s just say that the correct answer, as the art well demonstrates, is “very.”
There’s really not much more I CAN quote, nor dare I reproduce any of the interior art.
Mirrors of Mind and Flesh worth reading? – In terms of quality it is a superb example of the labour of love (in more ways than one) many female fans undertook to express their personal fantasies about their favourite Trek characters. Harmless and liberating I should think. This one quite well done and perhaps the best representative sample of this erotic sub-genre. Good luck trying to find a copy. Strictly private collection material I suspect.
Smut! ( #1 ) – 1983 – Not available online as far as I know.
Faned: Paula Johanson. Canadian Parodyzine.
(I feel I can reveal the identity of the faned and authors listed in “Smut!” because, while it is a non-professional fannish publication, it is nevertheless a straightforward parody/spoofzine in the tradition of “Mad” or “Cracked.”)
The back cover is even more risqué as it depicts a naked Spock decorated as a Christmas tree.
This oneshot was published by the United Federation of Canadian Star Trekkers operating out of Victoria, B.C. It is a direct parody of the above “Mirrors of Mind and Flesh” as indicated by the statement “Dedicated to the [Faned of “Mirrors”] Appreciation Society.”
To my astonishment, well-known Canadian fan Garth Spencer (writing as Miss Emily Litella) contributes a letter which begins “Dear Decadent, Degenerate, Lust-Ridden Perverted SF Fans” (You know who you are), a letter which strikes me as a spoof of a Saturday Night Live sketch that always ended “Never mind.”.
Paula reveals the lyrics of a filksong, “The Sandworm Riders,” sung to the tune of “The North Atlantic Squadron,” a legendary and quite ribald drinking song sung by the Canadian Navy in WWII. Here are sample lyrics from both.
North Atlantic Squadron:
“The bo’sun was of use to us,
He painted his cock with phosphorus,
And by its light one stormy night,
He steered us through the Bosporus.”
The Sandworm Riders:
“Galatian girls will do it for pearls
And the Arrakeen for water
But if you want dames like consuming flames
Try a Caladanin Daughter.”
Obviously this is spoofing “Dune.” And there’s a story by Paula and E.B. Klassen which parodies “Star Wars,” but the most humorous item is a “Star Trek” slash fic by D. Colin Wyatt which begins:
“Admiral James T. Kirk stood before a full length mirror… The last vestige of his clothing slipped slowly from his muscular, bronzed tanned body. How beautiful, he thought… He was indeed his idea of a Greek God.”
Eventually Kirk realises that he is not alone, that Spock is reclining on a nearby bed. It suddenly occurs to Kirk to project his narcissism onto someone else, but his overtures are rejected and Spock leaves the room.
The last paragraph has Kirk shouting “You pointed eared half-breed Vulcan! Don’t expect any help from me the next time you’re in Pon Farr!”
Smut! worth reading? – A bit sophomoric (everyone was a student at UVIC at the time or had recently graduated) but full marks for creating a sub-subgenre spoofing a subgenre. Basically light-hearted fun in affectionate praise of well-wrought characters the UFCST were very fond of and found inspiring. It would be wrong to take this the wrong way. I sincerely believe both “Smut!” and “Mirrors” are in truth complimentary tributes to Nimoy’s interpretation of his Spock character. Startling examples of the creativity he inspired among his devoted fans no less.
Then again, remember my Grandfather’s immortal words when discussing me with my mother, namely “What’s wrong with this boy?” So feel free to disagree. But I think I’m right.
BY THE WAY:
Check out my Amazing Stories review of “Spockanalia,” fandom’s first fanzine devoted to Star Trek, at Spockanalia
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