The Clubhouse; Fanzine Reviews: “a particularly sarcastic and sardonic curmudgeon”

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The-Club-House-logo-8gFanzines reviewed: ASKANCE (33), and BROKEN TOYS (#37).

(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.)

RG Cameron Clubhouse Apr 24 2015 Illo #1 'Askance'

Askance (#33) – 2015 – Find it here

Faned: John Purcell. Genzine.

I can’t resist a cover like the above. It is, of course, a poster for “Attack of the Crab Monsters,” a 1957 gem directed by Roger Corman. One of my favourite films. First saw it as a young boy on television. Scared the heck out of me. I mean, come on, telepathic giant crabs that absorb people’s minds by eating their brains (and the rest of their bodies) who then project their thoughts in the taunting voices of the newly absorbed into the sleepless minds of their next victims? What’s not to like?

This issue a little rushed, only one guest article, so the genzine aspect a little subdued for the sake of publication. All the more time to gather material for the upcoming June issue! This is what is known as a typical faned rationalization.

Sadly the opening pages are devoted both to the funeral of John’s father-in-law, Jim Hilsabeck and an obituary for a popular and beloved fan, Peggy Rae Sapienza, whose first husband, Bob Pavlat, I believe I met at VCON 1 in 1971. John then writes: “To change the subject and to create a more pleasant tone for the rest of this issue…” and moves on to other things. All one can do really. I’ve learned this more and more as I age and witness the passing of those I care about. Life continues on.

The first article, titled “NeO-CLASSICAL ESCHATOLOGICAL BIFURCATION IN DOC SAVAGE: SOME ASPECTS,” is by Gregory Benford. It was originally published in issue #12 of Bill Bower’s fanzine “Outworld” in 1972, or roughly some forty-three years ago! (The BCSFA archive I’m in charge of has four issues of “Outworld,” but dating from a couple of years later.) From the title alone I assumed it was a spoof of the pseudo-academic style of fannish writing that became all the rage in the 1970s (so many fen of that generation were then in universities and colleges), but it is more than that.

I was particularly astounded to read the line “It wasn’t until recently that I noticed a relatively new characteristic of fandom—it has gotten so that it is easier to write for fanzines than it is to read them.”

This gobsmacked me. Many faneds today are complaining their fellow faneds are too busy publishing their own zines to bother reading anybody else’s zines, let alone writing letters of comment to them. This theory concocted to explain the lack of locs in so many zines (like mine for example). The fact they might not be worthy of locs never crosses my mind, of course…

But what on earth is the 1972 contemporary context of Benford’s pointed observation? Turns out he was fed up with the then newly established trend toward extremely pretentious pseudo-intellectual literary reviews, a form of mental diarrhea inundating fannish publications in a torrent of B.S. (more or less) and taking all the fun out of reading fanzines. He’s a scientist and an academic. He knows about these things. Knows one when he sees one. What to do about it?

Well, bless him, he’s fannish through and through so of course he doesn’t try to solve the problem so much as to make it easier to write the nasty things so that the authors, like the readers, can skip through them without really paying attention. Tremendous time-saving advantage you see.

How? He postulates a series of cards, each with an intellectual phrase, which need only be shuffled and then randomly strung together to form interminably long sentences (possibly Benford was working on “string theory” at the time) which sound formidably profound and yet are so convoluted and obtuse god himself couldn’t make sense of them. That they will undoubtedly be ungrammatical matters not in the slightest since no-one will bother reading any given sentence to its conclusion but will instead skip merrily about absorbing the occasional phrase without bothering to think about them. He points out this is what readers of this type of article do anyway, so why not extend the same courtesy of ease to the writers?

This is a brilliant concept. Absolutely brilliant. Wonder if it could be applied to novel writing?

Next we come to John’s article “My Favorite Monsters.” Right off the bat John confesses to never missing Me TV’s Saturday night’s “Svengoolie” with horror host Rich Koz unveiling the most extraordinary bad B movies, along with classic horror films like the original Universal “Frankenstein” series. He loves the show because it takes him back to his youth when he used to watch a double-bill, called “Horror, Incorporated,” on Minneapolis’ TV station WCCO.

We could be twins. I, too, never miss Svengoolie. The completest in me loves watching films I’ve been dreaming of seeing for years but never caught up to till Koz showed them. Recently, for example, all three of Universal’s “Wild Woman” movies, which were never popular because they were so poorly scripted and rather boring. Still, I’m delighted to have finally seen them. As for the classic Universal horrors, as a little kid I watched them on “Shock Theatre” in the late fifties, the very first time movies like “The Wolfman” and “The Invisible Man” were ever shown on television. So I utterly identify with what John is writing about.

Having established his reminiscing credentials, John then explores some of his favourite films “in a hodge-podge of thoughts on the subject.” The fact he briefly discusses films as diverse as “Varan the Unbelievable” and “The Monolith Monsters” demonstrates he is a connoisseur after my own heart. However, his choice of his “favourite monster of all time” surprised me a little:

“Godzilla. He’s the bomb.”

Indeed. Bit of a pun that.

John then reviews four fanzines I have recently reviewed in Clubhouse. Sheesh. I hang my head. He writes intelligent and perceptive comments. For instance: “What I like about Eric [Mayer]’s writing is how easily his narratives flow: by that I mean the transitions between ideas, sentences, and even articles – or sections of Vexed, for that matter – sound natural and unforced.”

Well, shoot. I’m more likely to write “Oh yeah, Eric writes good. Half the time I can even figure out what he’s saying. Darn near wakes me up, he does.” Oh well. John and I each possess individual critique styles appropriate to our intellect I suppose. I does the best I can.

Askance #33 concludes with a solid letter column. Much food for thought, as in this comment by Milt Stevens “To my tastes core fandom is composed of those people who engage in some level of fanac pretty much every week of the year. Those are the permanent residents of fandom. The people who just show up at a couple of conventions a year are just tourists.”

Hmm, debateable. At any rate I fit into his definition of core fandom so that leaves me feeling good (and maybe a little smug).

And, of course, John writes “Well, a fanzine letter column just isn’t a fanzine letter column without a loc from our friend north of the border, Lloyd Penney. Let’s see what he has to say, now that his fingers are thawing out after a long, cold, snowy winter…”

Askance worth reading? – Hell yah! Loads of fun.

( Multiple issues of Askance here )

RG Cameron Clubhouse Apr 24 2015 Illo #2 'Broken Toys'

Broken Toys (#37) – March 2015 – Find it here

Faned: Taral Wayne. Canadian Perzine.

In 2012 I nearly died when my lungs filled with fluid due to the onset of a fatal allergy to bird dander. I wrote about my experience in an article titled “Nearly Dead and Back Again or the Void Breather’s Tale” in issue #20 of my “Space Cadet” perzine which you can find here.

In this issue of “Broken Toys” Taral writes about a similar, potentially fatal experience of his own. An unusual subject for a fanzine? Not at all. This is the sort of event a faned lives for, something relatively unique and noteworthy, an excuse to write an essay filled with fascinating detail and wry observation, often enlivened with considerable humour. Taral does not disappoint.

For openers, an article titled “This Too Shall Pass” on the subject of a recent bout with a kidney stone. Apparently Taral had several in the past which required surgery to remove. Vowing never to go through that experience again he became positively religious in drinking lots of water, and—surprising to me at least—huge amounts of coffee. For a long time he was free of kidney stones. Coffee prevents kidney stones? Never heard of such a thing. Then a stone announced its presence with considerable pain. Taral figured that, finding water boring, he had foolishly cut back on his water consumption. Hmm, I could be in trouble. I drink lots of coffee with milk, but hardly ever any water.

Then comes “How to Drown in Bed.” I know that feeling. In my case both lungs filled with fluid to the point where breathing pure oxygen didn’t provide enough oxygen to my blood. The doctors told me later I came within twelve hours of dying. This because they hadn’t known how to treat me for several days, given that they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. At one point they put me in quarantine because they suspected I was the first person in North America to come down with a new and deadly form of bird flu. Close. A bird allergy. Once they learned that they fed me steroids which cleared up the problem in a couple of days.

So when I learned that fluid-filled lungs were Taral’s problem I wondered how closely his case compared with mine. Not much. Apparently ONLY his right lung retained fluid, so at least he could still breathe reasonably well. On the other hand, the envelope around his heart filled with fluid, squeezing the muscle and placing enormous strain on it. Not good. But in the end they figured out how to get rid of the fluid and his life is much better now.

Not particularly funny. True. But the above is the bare bones basics. The humour comes in Taral’s account of his interaction with the hospital staff, his reluctant interaction with hospital food, and his bemused thoughts on the significance of it all. As I discovered, when you are in hospital being treated for a life-threatening problem, there’s really nothing to do but lean back, relax, and watch what’s going on around you. You can tell we’re faneds. We both took notes; I on paper, he with a laptop. No point in suffering if you can’t write about it.

He speaks of a certain detachment, a disconnect from the threat and the treatment. I experienced the same. Not quite an out of body experience, but certainly a case of the mind holding itself aloof from the body and its problems. A sign of intellectual powers unique to faneds? Nah, of course not. Just an automatic self-defence mechanism common to most, if not all, hospital patients I should think. And a very useful mechanism it is too.

This issue of Broken Toys is not wholly concerned with Taral’s hospital stay. He tackles other subjects, one of particular interest to me, namely writing fiction. Though I am not named, I fear he puts me in my place when he comments:

“While the skill to string words together isn’t uncommon, the larger issues of construction, plot, logic, imagery, characterization, style and theme occupy higher dimensions that few amateur writers are even aware of, much less able to navigate.”

Oh, dang it. You mean I’ve got to think about stuff like that when I write? I’d rather not think at all, thank you very much. It shows, doesn’t it? Fortunately my sub-conscious is much better at communicating than my self-aware situational awareness. While I’m consciously thinking along the lines of “what the heck is happening?” my sub-conscious plugs away with stream-of-consciousness interpretation and expression. Couldn’t get by without it.

Taral, on the other hand, is a craftsman, a word smith. I’m not envious at all. Too much hard work if you ask me. I’d rather be comfortably lazy. I’m very good at that. World-class. Something I’m quite proud of.

Another good thing about this issue, and common to all issues of Broken Toys, is an excellent loc column. Taral has a theory. Posting online doesn’t generate locs, but emailing to a select list of readers does. I do both. Yet my locs are few. But then, by Taral’s standards, I’m an unconscious writer, who possibly renders my readers unconscious. Not fair really. My monotone voice also puts people to sleep. Multi-talented I guess. My personal super-power. Apparently my fandom specialty is boredom. Well, somebody’s got to do it.

Taral is in the habit of treating his loccers the same way I do, namely replying to their comments immediately after each paragraph according to topic. This creates the impression of an ongoing conversation, and a very lively conversation at that. I think that’s a good thing. I recommend the method to all faneds.

The issue ends with two short essays. The first on the perils of operating a scooter chair in snow (something to bear in mind in case I ever need one; I rely on my cane for now), and the second a wonderfully nostalgic piece about an old friend he recently had to part with, namely a Gestetner model 66 rotary printer he first acquired in 1974 and utilized to print DNQ and other zines he was noted for. But at least it’s not been thrown out. Another old-time faned from the 70s, Colin Hinz, has taken it to add to his collection. I imagine Taral will be allowed to visit it if he ever feels the need.

Interestingly enough, his Gestetner buddy was known by the moniker ‘the fifty cent monster” … “(as it had been dubbed by Janet Wilson because of my penchant for publishing mischief with it).” Well, that accounts for the “monster” portion of the nickname, but where does the “fifty cent” come in? I’ll have to ask him.

Broken Toys worth reading? – Yes, absolutely. Taral has a very distinct persona when writing for this zine, at times achieving the status of a particularly sarcastic and sardonic curmudgeon. Which is to say, he is frequently highly entertaining.

( Multiple issues of Broken Toys 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

4 COMMENTS

  1. My main publishing effort currently, Auroran Lights, is actually an amateur industry trade zine of sorts, promoting fandom, yes, but mostly professional activity of interest to both writers and readers. I get quite a few emails for it, the majority strictly info and announcements from writers and publishers to be included in the upcoming issue, so not actually locs as such. AL is a fanzine, but one aimed primarily at fans of the genre, not fans of fandom.

    My most fannish publication is my perzine Space Cadet, but I haven’t published an issue in months. Part of the problem is I have nothing to say, since the three APAE I belong to tend to siphon off all my fannish thoughts and whimsical musings. It was the trend toward APAE that nearly killed off Canadian fanzine production back… when… was it the 1980s? Or late 70s? At any rate I seem to be duplicating that catastrophe. I’ve given thought to quitting the APAE, but they’re so much fun…

    I think I should restrict myself just to responses to comment hooks in the APAE and reserve any mini-essays or musings for Space Cadet. That might get me back on track.

    As for responding to locs. Taral, you mean to say that your responses to locs in Broken Toys were sent earlier in reply? Doesn’t that trigger a further response from your correspondents? Produce a parallel conversation as it were? I always tend to treat locs as if they were print letters as in the distant past, responded to when the zine goes to print, so to speak. Responding both in the zine and by immediate email before the zine comes out strikes me as an opportunity for confusion. And Ghu knows my brain seeks to be confused whenever it can…

  2. Didn’t I explain why the Fifty Cent Monster was fifty cents? (Why is there no emoticon for a face palm?)

    The story was that Bob Wilson and Phil Paine had bought it for fifty cents at an auction. More than that, I never knew. I saw it at Phil’s place I guess, and it was co-owned by the two of them for a while. It moved around from place to place, and was at Jim Allan’s for at least long enough for one issue of Phil’s OSFiC newsletter to be published there. Then somehow it was at my place, where it stayed for more than a year and a half while I was the club newsletter editor … then stayed … and stayed … and stayed …

    There are probably other reasons why my zines generate letters and your letter columns seem a little sparse to you. A great deal of your publishing seems to consist of presenting bald facts. There’s not a whole lot to be said about the address of a Canadian small press publisher in Iqaluit (except WTF), or the date for the next CanCon. Give a fan a chance to talk about himself, or argue with you, and you’ll get a loc! To reach the readers I use a combination of writing about things they can identify with, or that they disagree with vehemently. Another tactic in my barrel of dirty tricks is that I answer most locs as soon as I get them, so that nobody feels their effort has disappeared into a void until next issue. Sure, it’s kind of like work, but you don’t get to be an also-ran in the Hugos and FAAns by resting on your laurels.

  3. What can you do to get a negative review?

    Simple, devote an entire issue of Askance to my life and works, praising my insightful wit, quality of style, saint-like nature, etc.

    My profound humility and modesty would be so offended I would be forced to dismiss your zine issue as “painfully accurate” and “abysmally correct.”

    So now you know.

  4. Again, thank you for the kind words about my zine, Graeme. Once I get into the next issues of Askew (late May) and Askance (late June) I shall have to make mention of what you are doing here on the Amazing Stories website. It really is good to see “The Clubhouse” back in production again. In fact, there is a definite need for in-depth fanzine reviews, something that many fanzine fans have noted in recent years. Guy H. Lillian III does a sporadic zine called THE ZINE DUMP in which he lists and gives capsule reviews of fanzines he either gets in the mail or sees online at efanzines.com. I may have to expand my fanzine notices, too.

    But again, thank you so much for the kind review. What do I have to do to get a negative out of you? Insult the Vancouver Canucks? Compare Moosehead Beer to bunny piss? Never write you another letter of comment? Hmm. Must think about this.

    – John

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