Why We're All Here

 

No Grand Unified Theory of fandom this time around, just a general round up of fanzines that came my way at or around Novacon. Let's look at them one-on-one and see what secrets (if any) they might reveal…

…and stuff

Doug Bell

In Skink (which I'll come to in its turn) Andy Hooper neatly summarises most British fanzines: 'A), 30 pages or less in length; B), written with reference to several damaging hangovers; and C), concerned for some portion of their length with the discussion of IKEA, pro or con'. I'd disagree with him on one detail: IKEA per se doesn't crop up all that often (the idea of IKEA as a British obsession is far more common than any actual writing about it). If he had broadened out C slightly to read: 'concerned with some personal obsession where simply writing about it is meant to substitute for having anything fresh, interesting or entertaining to say on the subject' - I would agree wholeheartedly. …and stuff fits this broader definition perfectly.

It manages 16 pages - which is pretty good going by British standards right now, though they are reduced to A5 - most of which are devoted to a long weekend in Holland, and to the various drinks, drugs, bad behaviour and hangovers that accompanied it. It takes a pretty damned good writer if I am going to find anything even remotely appealing in stories of someone else's excess and headaches, and Doug Bell simply isn't a good enough writer. Telling us, for instance, of one particular incident that it 'provided a good hours worth of entertainment for the sceptical onlookers' doesn't actually make it entertaining for the poor reader, and he provides absolutely no detail or information that might be intended to help us share any of that entertainment. The whole thing comes across as one of those rambling, drunken monologues in which the storyteller finds everything uproariously funny but in the face of the obvious puzzlement and lack of amusement of his audience can only mutter: 'you should have been there'. We weren't there, and this sort of writing doesn't make us feel as if we might have been or should have been.

The obsessive piece is about South Park and the startling revelation that Kenny is actually the Son of God. Excuse me while I yawn. Again, to make this work, Bell needs a far lighter touch than he shows here.

All of which is a pity, because there is one quite good piece in the fanzine, 'Bertolt Brecht Saved My Mind', a far too short item about a festival of Brecht's films from pre-war Germany. Here there is the same obsession as with South Park, but the subject clearly involves and excites Bell, so that involvement and excitement come out in the writing. He is not trying to be knowing, clever or funny, he is simply writing about something that interests him and that oddly touched him. That is why the writing works, why this article works, and why it should have been far longer than the rather skimpy couple of pages it was given here. Alone, it makes up for the rest of a rather poor fanzine.

Arrows of Desire Eight

Nic Farey

I had some involvement with the writing of this fanzine. Nic told me he was trying to write about the death of his wife, Dee Ann, but he was having difficulty getting it down. I suggested a different voice, something that would let him stand back a little from the subject, second person, maybe, alongside the first person. He went a step further, creating a collaborator, S.V. O'Jay, who shares the writing duties with him on the optimistically entitled 'This Time Next Year'. In very short paragraphs, sometimes too short, 'O'Jay' and Farey take turns telling the story of the deterioration in Dee Ann's condition, the hopes of recession, and the final death. Generally, 'O'Jay' sets the scene while Farey describes the feelings, although there are one or two places where this division breaks down. In fact, it's almost welcome when it does. This is very powerful, emotional writing, many times better than anything else Nic Farey has ever done, and too great a control of it would have been almost too much to bear. As it is, when Farey and 'O'Jay' lose the design it is usually in O'Jay's sections, as experience creeps through the slightly distanced scene-setting, which makes it feel both natural and some sort of release. I am not normally a fan of cathartic writing, it can let things out for the writer but generally without giving a great deal to the reader. But the release of this article is palpable and involving, this is sharing grief rather than expressing it, and though it is a very hard article to read it is also very well worth the effort.

And after that overdose of emotion it comes as a shock to discover, as the article reaches its natural end with Dee Ann's death, the line 'to be continued…'. What more could there be that wouldn't be an anti-climax? Though again I notice the optimism of the title: 'This Time Next Year'.

It is, if anything, even more surprising to discover this article followed by another. Something inside, maybe something English and very restrained, expects such an outpouring to stand on its own, to be followed by a moment of silence. Instead it is straight into something else, something whose tone and manner are very different, and whose title alone is suggestive of a very rough change of mood: 'The Day I Figured Out What "Fuck" Meant'. From one end of life to the other, from one of the most 'felt' pieces of writing I have encountered in a fanzine for a long time to one of the liveliest. This is an account of a childhood escapade that nearly turns very nasty indeed (when the author, Tracy Twyman, was eight. In 1987! Sheesh!), and it is written with a brash confidence, full of direct speech and sharp perceptions, that makes it both gripping and (in an odd sort of way) delightful. It sits strangely with the other half of the fanzine, but curiously enough the combination works. Both articles are full of moments that damn the soul, yet the result is positive, forward-looking, life-affirming.

Nic Farey is British, thank heavens; otherwise one would have to ask why British fanzines seem incapable of displaying this spirit. But then, I don't suppose American fanzines do so that often, either.

 

Balloons over Bristol 13

Christina Lake

I have to keep reminding myself that Balloons over Bristol is not Christina's fanzine, but the fanzine of the Bristol SF Group, which is why it seems so bitty, so variable. In one respect, the clubzine angle is a good thing, by the grace of which we have the only other genzine (besides Banana Wings and the increasingly irregular Plokta) to come out in Britain. I don't know why the perzine has become the only mode of expression generally countenanced in this country at the moment. I suppose it is a fag to approach contributors, set deadlines, edit material, and publish something that comes in at more than two or three sheets of paper per issue; but the perzine can only encourage a turning inward, away from fannish community and in towards personal obsession. And that way lies the archetypal British fanzine as described by Andy Hooper.

The downside, however, in the case of Balloons over Bristol is that the fanzine only really comes alive in those passages written by Christina herself. In this instance in a trio of brief opening rants, the best of which is about the Novas and the sad state of British fanzines, and which by mentioning fanzines at all puts itself outside the pale of the common-or-garden British fanzine. Then there is her article on Amsterdam (though it is actually so discursive that every few paragraphs she has to remind herself: 'But back to Amsterdam') which is the centrepoint putting to shame the rest of a trio of articles about Holland prompted by the birthday party that was also the root cause of Doug Bell's Dutch courage in …and stuff. Doug Bell is here again, revisiting exactly the same subject but at shorter length and in rather more controlled a manner, which makes for a better article … but not much. Not that Pete and Sue Binfield do any better in 'A Savage Journey to the Heart of Amsterdam' - and it was his birthday. The other big piece in this issue is 'Event One', a report on a Doctor Who convention by Nick Walters. Walters, it would appear, has written a Doctor Who book (or to be more accurate he has co-authored one of the New Adventures series, the Doctor-Who-books-without-the-Doctor, for Virgin). My god, how can anyone con any publisher into buying one of their books and still write so badly!

 

Banana Wings Twelve

Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer

Okay, standard disclaimer, just in case there's anyone out there who hasn't noticed: I write for Banana Wings. I have done so for several years and more issues than I care to remember. That means I am somewhat prejudiced in its favour. And anyway, one doesn't shit in one's own nest, does one? Still, for several years the only fanzine I've not been able to criticise is Banana Wings, and I felt like a change (and like living dangerously…).

The first thing to be said about Banana Wings is that it has won the Nova Award for best fanzine three years on the trot (Maya back in 1975/6 is the only other fanzine to have won the award more than once). It is not difficult to see why. For a start, Banana Wings is consistently more than twice the size of any other fanzine produced in this country (and has been since the demise of Attitude). It is one of the very few genzines produced in this country (see my comments on Balloons over Bristol above), and the contributions show every sign of having been edited, which means that though you may not think every contribution is great (which fanzine could you say that about?) you will very rarely find one that is out-and-out bad. And even at this length, at least three issues a year appear regularly. I don't know whether Banana Wings deserved to win three Novas in a row, but quite frankly no-one else is even trying to take the award away from them.

Of course, that sort of situation can breed complacency. And when you can produce writing of the standard that both Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer seem to be able to turn on at the drop of a hat, it must be very tempting to coast from time to time. (The other danger to be aware of: when a high standard is achieved consistently, it can, through familiarity, come to look like coasting even when it isn't.) Which may go some way towards explaining why Banana Wings Twelve didn't seem to set me on fire as much as earlier issues. The first two articles - Mark's '"I know this is a long shot," said my mother, "but do you by any chance remember where your father put the smurfs?"' (a title so long it almost deserves to be set as an indented quote), and Claire's 'The Girlie Show' - show off what the two do so well, but they didn't go any further. Fortunately, both did better later in the issue, particularly Claire with an especially good piece about Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 (and isn't it nice that there is still one fanzine in this country where people can actually discuss science fiction?), but that sense of familiarity right at the top of the issue was unfortunate to say the least.

And there are the other contributors, notably this time a good piece by Tanya Brown, and (openly stealing a trick from Bruce Gillespie's The Metaphysical Review) long letters extracted as short articles by Yvonne Rousseau, Robert Lichtman and Andy Sawyer. I think if one has to be critical, however, it is here, not in the contributions (they are uniformly excellent) but in the choice of contributors. Some years ago, when all the sf awards were being won by graduates of the Clarion workshops, there was a common complaint that these workshops were turning out very similar writers in terms of mood, tone, approach. Despite its size, there can be a similar 'small world' feel to Banana Wings. In this issue, with the exception of Lichtman, every contributor is or was a member of the Croydon collective or a member of Acnestis; and the same has been true for several issues past. Acnestis is an excellent place to find good writers, there's no doubt about that, but because we exchange opinions so frequently, because our ideas and tastes are so well known to each other, you are not going to get that outside perspective, that radically different view, that can enliven a fanzine. The editors may well be aware of this (extracting letters as articles seems like one attempt to deal with the problem), but until it regularly draws its contributors from a broader constituency it could always lack a necessary whiff of danger.

 

Barmaid 3

Yvonne Rowse

Barmaid is a dead good little fanzine. But …

Let me put it another way. Here's a brief passage apropos of nothing much at all:

I remember going to the beach … and looking up into the sky. There was a power-cut in Liverpool at the time, over the sea was dark, and only a subdued glow from Southport marred the perfect conditions. I've never seen, before or since, such a glory of stars.

Now, I ask you, don't you wish that someone who could write as well as that in a fanzine could find something worthwhile to write about? This fanzine is only 12 pages long. Giving over four pages of that to yet another familiar British Rail grumble seems like some sort of crime.

The best things in this fanzine are the short pieces, the fillers, the asides, the little human moments of ordinary domesticity that Yvonne seems to write about with such freshness.

So she has the talent, she has the subject - she just needs to marry them up somehow, so that when she writes more than a page she retains the pizzazz she has when writing just one paragraph. When that happens this will stop being a dead good little fanzine, and just be dead good. And there'll be no but after it.

 

The Full Bobby

Ian Sorensen

The trouble with Ian Sorensen is that he has a reputation for being funny. A reputation, mind you, that he cultivates assiduously - though his jokes are too often overly familiar, over extended, and over worked-upon. But he is often better when he isn't trying to make people laugh, as here in what is, for him, a very straightforward report on the Leeds Corflu. It seems to be becoming something of a habit these days for convention organisers to produce convention reports on their own convention - maybe because they can no longer rely on other people doing it, since conreps seem so out of fashion as fan writing. Nevertheless, a behind-the-scenes expose, written with the right frisson of bile (a la John Richards) can be satisfying in its own right and valuable as a contribution to what should be the on-going debate about the nature of conventions. Ian is too much the showman, has too inescapable a need to please in his writing, to really get the knives out, but behind the bonhomie there is an edge that is unusual for him and very suggestive of tensions and explosions that never quite come to the surface. (The aside: 'Not a professional way to run a hotel', by its very restraint, speaks volumes; though committee tensions could have done with rather less restraint.) Unfortunately, Ian is just a little too eager to consider the convention a success (within moments of the first fans arriving he 'began to feel that the convention was already shaping up to be a success') to view things as dispassionately as they deserve.

 

Did I Say That Out Loud? Number 3

Debbi Kerr

I tend not to say a great deal about the production of a fanzine. These days, it tends not to be necessary since computers and decent printers make for a basic level of competence unless the editor really screws up. Unfortunately, between print-out, duplication and collation, screw-ups do happen - and they could usually be avoided by the simple expedient of using page numbers. At least, whatever gremlin got into the works of Did I Say That Out Loud? could have been avoided by numbering the pages, as it is it took some time for me to work out that the reason the pages didn't seem to read consecutively was because I had to start at the next to the last page, read the fanzine backwards from that point, then leap to the inside back page and read in the normal direction from there.

This was particularly unhelpful because it meant that I initially started reading in the middle of a rather flaccid letter column, then went on from there to a short contribution from Linda Krawecke that looked like it was written by rote as a space filler rather than something that really demanded to be written - or read. I hadn't been overly impressed with the first issue of Debbi's fanzine, and on the evidence so far it didn't seem to have improved much.

Then, belatedly, I came upon Debbi's account of a trip she and Linda made to Ireland. Now this is not a perfect article by any means: there are places, particularly early on where she hasn't really got going, that it could have done with being tightened up; there are places, particularly later in the piece, where she could have done with expanding, slowing down, filling in the detail a little more. That said, it's still a cracker. Odd enough to keep us reading, convivial enough to keep us involved; a promise of better things to come that will keep us coming back for more.

 

Fandom Guardian

Dave Hicks

This is the sort of thing that Plokta has tried in a couple of recent (well, recentish) issues: the pastiche of another publication. But Dave Hicks has carried it through all eight pages of his fanzine. The joke does not pall because he keeps changing the pace, not just reproducing the look of The Guardian (in great detail) but constructing the whole of the fanzine on the lines of the model complete with news stories, photographs, cartoons, ads, film reviews, even a crossword puzzle. (Oh, and the typos as well). It's not something that could be done on a regular basis, I suspect the joke would soon tire, but as a one-off it is both inventive and funny.

 

Kerles 2

Tommy Ferguson

I admire the enterprise. A fanzine whose main raison d'etre is reviewing other fanzines has got to be a good thing, and Tommy Ferguson has the knowledge, the experience, the attitude to carry it off. And sometimes he does: his reaction to rich brown's defence of Harlan Ellison and Seventh Fandom in Outworlds 70 is good, a precise pointing out of convolutions, mixed metaphors, missed points, and above all the falsifying narrowness of rich's analysis. I also enjoyed the (rather self-conscious) cleverness of Tommy's opening to the same review, the debate with himself about all the minor but distracting irritations of Outworlds. But this is a fanzine to which his overall response is 'Fucking Amazing', yet all the good things there must be about the fanzine slip by in the review without sticking to my mind at all.

And I felt something similar about his review of Squib 4. This was a fanzine largely devoted to the Leeds Corflu (why do we have to look to an American fanzine to give this much attention to a convention?) but in the review I frequently got lost between what the fanzine said about this particular convention and what Tommy (who wasn't there) felt should be expected of British conventions in general. In particular, what he says about Jae Leslie Adams's coverage of the sex and fandom panel tells us less about what Jae says than it does about the adolescent character of British con attendees, the benefits of TAFF, the need for another UK Corflu (odd that Tommy is also proposing a Belfast Corflu!?), and the idiocy of even attempting such a panel in Britain. The other significant item in Squib was Julian Headlong's 'A Counterblast to TAFF' which Tommy tells us: 'misses the point. Entirely.' I happen to agree. But Tommy then treats us to a paragraph of counter-argument to Julian without giving any clue as to what Julian actually said. Unless we know that Tommy's mailing list exactly matches Victor's (which I somehow doubt) there are liable to be a number of people reading this review without having come across the original article. By not giving even a taster of Julian's ideas, therefore, I don't think Tommy is really playing fair with his readers on this. It's not as if Tommy isn't making good points, hasn't got opinions that deserve to be shared, but somehow they've got confused into a review and the subject of that review has got lost.

The only review here that really works is the one of Banana Wings 11. We have to disagree on some things (though probably on less than Tommy imagines), but at least he engages with the fanzine from start to finish. He doesn't like it, fair enough, he is far better at criticising than at praising; but he seems to feel more strongly about Banana Wings than he does about either of the other fanzines he reviews, and that results in a better review. If he could harness this engagement throughout, then Kerles would be the fanzine he clearly intends it to be.

Incidentally the title, with its reference to The Enchanted Duplicator and its implication of 'damn the typoes, full steam ahead' is clever enough. But I do wish he wasn't quite so careless with his writing, there are places where a total absence of proof reading really confuses what he's trying to say.

 

MIRA 2

Michael Abbott

Sometimes a fanzine isn't really a fanzine. It's a letter, the sort of thing you would write to a friend to tell them about something that had happened to you; you just happen to send the same letter to a lot of people at once. There is a difference between a fanzine and a letter, it may not be tangible, but it is there. MIRA 2 is a letter.

Michael was mugged. He had to tell someone about it (an understandable, nay a human, response). He has done so. He writes about it sensitively, with due modesty and a sensible regard for the precise chronology, the details, the sensations. He has made us all appreciate what he went through, and he has probably made us all feel a little less safe. In a postscript to the main body of his story he says: 'Oh well, at least there's a fanzine article to be written about this'. There is indeed, but this isn't it. Possibly because of that sensible regard for chronology, detail, sensation, it doesn't have the artful structure, the laying of stress here, the quickening of pace there, that turns a straightforward record of events (such as you might put in a letter to a friend) into an article. And, possibly due to that modesty, we don't really get the fire of anger, the stink of fear, the immediacy that would, if anything, result in a better fanzine article. Michael has written with far more vigour and vitality before, but this piece, unfortunately, feels like a dry run, an outline, for an article still to come.

You get the feeling that Michael himself is aware that this isn't enough to make a fanzine, because he has included other stuff here. But though this adds up to more pages than the mugging story, it has a feel of the make-weight about it. And his response to Arnie Katz about the nature of a fanzine fan (far more passionately expressed than the mugging story and hence the best thing here) touches on areas so close to my argument with rich brown (which should appear elsewhere in this issue) that I don't think I should take it further right now.

 

Proper Boskonian #44

Lisa Hertel

Okay, there are poor British fanzines, but at least we don't inflict anything like this upon each other. It describes itself as the 'genzine of the New England Science Fiction Association' and no matter how bad they are the poor souls don't deserve this. It is twaddle, dire, mind-numbing twaddle.

And I wouldn't say another word about it except for the fact that it contains a contribution by Evelyn C. Leeper. Now, Evelyn Leeper has become something of a fixture on the fan writer Hugo ballot over recent years, but I have never previously come across anything she has written. I am told that this is fairly typical. In which case, all those demented souls who nominate for the fan writer Hugo need their collective heads examining. This might count as good writing in a business report, but in a culture that is supposed to owe something to creativity…? It is described as a convention report (on Boskone 35), though anyone who has ever imagined that a convention might, along the way, involve such things as meeting friends, having a drink, having fun, is unlikely to recognise the breed. Other than a very brief 'Overview' (which actually tells us nothing), the report consists entirely and at tedious length of a record of every single programme item. This reduces fan writing to the level of a secretary taking minutes. There is no atmosphere, no spontaneity, no incident. If I had been at Boskone and my convention had consisted only of what this report details, I'd probably have ended up slitting my wrist.

 

Skink

Andy Hooper & Victor Gonzalez

You want to know what good fan writing is? Then think on this:

Victor looks up from the computerized landscape of Los Angeles which he is cheerfully setting ablaze. 'You've really got to get over this obsession with British fandom, Andy.'

The writer is Andy Hooper. He is describing a conversation with Victor Gonzalez, or, to be more accurate, a monologue, a ramble in which he likens fanzine reviewing to American football, a violent catharsis: 'Fifteen-yard penalty for knocking all your teeth out with crowbar, then slapping you around for mumbling.' He rounds it off with these two short sentences, and they tell us all we need to know. The fact that Victor is playing computer games rather than paying attention tells us how familiar this rant is. That one word - 'cheerfully' - is sufficient to provide a precise pen portrait of Victor. Victor's reply identifies the real subject of the rant.

This provides us with the meat and drink we expect of a good fanzine: the economy with words that reveals a fellow fan to us. I have never met Andy Hooper but I know him well, not so much from what he writes about, but from the way he writes it. That this is also good writing, period, should go without saying. There is, there should be, absolutely nothing that distinguishes good fan writing from good writing of any other sort, except the subject. The subject here is fans. It might seem that it is more precisely about fanzines (both Victor's and Andy's contributions discuss, from one angle or another, the nature of fanzines) but that is just the topic, as the topic chosen by other writers might be Amsterdam or Corflu or death or IKEA; the subject is always fans, who they are, what makes them tick. Too often, however, the topic becomes greater than the subject and even when the subject is the writer (and I would estimate that 90% of today's British fan writers write almost exclusively about themselves), you loose sight of the fan behind the smokescreen of verbiage, obsession and poor writing. In many ways, this fanzine fits precisely Andy's apostrophizing of British fanzines: it is short, just six pages; it contains a mention of IKEA; and there is a sense of excess (if only where Victor concludes his article: 'I'd rather eat a full meal, even if it's something I'll regret in the morning'). But it feels richer, more rewarding, than such a description might suggest if only because both Victor and Andy write interestingly and well (a tautology, I know; or it should be) about something that involves us all: being a fan.

 

THUNDERBOX

Ann & Steve Green

At last, another British fanzine that does not conform to Andy Hooper's dire prognostications. Okay, it mentions beer and flat-pack bookcases, and it is less than 30 pages, but it does all this without looking or sounding like an archetypal Britzine of the moment. If anything, it looks like an archetypal Britzine of the mid-1980s (a reprint from Start Breaking Up of 1981 does nothing to hinder the impression), though that is not necessarily a bad thing. Above all, it is not a perzine but another honest-to-god genzine.

Of course, whether it lives up to early promise is a moot point, since this was first foreshadowed in 1997, it took a full year for the first real issue to appear (even though one of the three main articles was a reprint from that preview issue), and the introduction by Steve Green is all about the way Real Life conspires to get in the way of fanac. So issue 2 may not necessarily be hot on the heels of issue 1. Which would be a shame, since although this is not a great fanzine it is quite pleasing in its way and the aim of attracting as many different writers as possible from right around the world is one that must be both applauded and encouraged.

The best thing in the issue, unfortunately, is Chris Evans's 'A Day of Lies' from 1981, a genuinely witty half-pager. Of the meatier articles, Ann Green's 'To Know Oneself' follows an all-too-familiar fannish trope: categorizing fans. In this case it is by their packrat tendencies, but other than in the detail we've seen it all before. To work properly an article like this has to be cruel, and bits of this (the best bits) are cruel indeed; but it's not sustained enough to give fresh life to a tired format.

Chris Murphy contributes a solid article which links UFOs and Men in Black with fairies. This is a decent, workmanlike piece, but it contained no surprises. Modern day aliens and sixteenth century supernatural visitations have been linked in the literature for some years now, and Chris does a reasonable journalistic job of putting it all together for the non-specialist, but I can't help thinking that a fanzine article should be a little more than that. It should have that hint of the personal, that glimpse of the self, that journalism (good or bad) tends not to display. The facts are here, and well presented; but Chris isn't.

Like Ann Green, Joel Lane does something that seems to keep recurring in fanzines, the bit on 'my favourite music'. Music in one form or another tends to be pretty important to us all, writing about music really is a way of writing about yourself because it is a very naked display of tastes, interests, ideas. But writing about music is also notoriously hard to do. How do you convey the essential nature of music without resorting to either musical notation, highly technical jargon, or purple prose? Lane solves the problem (mostly, there are odd spots of indigo) by writing primarily about the songwriting, the lyrics, which can of course be safely quoted. Of course, as is ever the way with such articles, your response is going to be at least partly dictated by whether or not you share the author's taste. If you don't happen to like, in this case, Pulp, you are liable to dismiss the whole thing as pretentious twaddle. If you do like Pulp, then you are more likely to give Lane the benefit of the doubt. You should do, I think this is a very fine example of the fan article about music.

 

TORTOISE ISSUE 2

Sue Jones

By now I suppose you might have got the impression that I adore genzines and hate perzines. Not so. I prefer the range and variety available in a genzine, I decry the narrowness of focus and self-indulgence all too often attendant upon the perzine. But there are narrow and uninteresting genzines, just as there are fresh and enjoyable perzines. Tortoise is one of the latter. I have known Sue for some time now, I have known her produce long and convivial LoCs for other fanzines, but it was still a shock to receive a fanzine from her. It seemed quite out of character. But then, as she describes it, 'perhaps it's because I have now wandered into the fanzine-producing community'. There is no one reason why people produce a fanzine. Having something to say, ego, paying dues - these might or might not come into it, but the simplest and best reason might well be the one Sue gives: 'It sounds like fun'. And the reason it sounds like fun, I would suggest, is that sense of community she mentions. Time and again in these columns I have emphasised that fanzines tend to be at their best when they are giving voice to or engaging with a community. Andy does it, Tommy does it, Mark and Claire do, so does Christina (more, I suspect, than the rest of the fanzine around her, which is what makes her pieces stand out so); and Sue does it. What makes this work as a perzine is that it turns outward into the community rather than inward into the self.

Which is not to say that this is perfect, or in some way the ideal perzine. Sue's writing is warm and involving, though there are times when you cry out for more detail (as in a too brief account of a trip to Penzance which seemed to leave far too much unstated) or a little fire (the same piece - maybe these are two ways of saying the same thing). But there is, underlying it, a delightful whiff of the bizarre, such as the passing reference: 'No Real Martians on Real Mars: what does this mean for Imaginary Martians?', or, even better, the wonderfully idiosyncratic article 'Encs' about a superior Victorian ink that drove mice crazy. This is about as imaginative a piece as you will find in any of these fanzines. And isn't imagination why we're all here?