Following the problems we had with our last set of fanzine reviews, we've been looking around for a new reviewer. Eventually we found one lurking around the litter tray...

George the Cat's Fanzine Reviews

I had better come clean. These fanzine reviews are not by George. However, Plokta seems to have acquired the reputation of being as cuddly, sweet and generally adorable as an old pussycat. "Oh, don't mind him," said Giulia. He's an old cat and a bit set in his ways." George is the first cat I've met that keeps his claws unsheathed when he's asleep. Just in case.

First off the pile this month is AlLoCAte, a "personal fan magazine" from Alex McLintock, 82A Beresford Avenue, London, W7 3AP. The editorial includes the disclaimer "Don't expect articles with proper beginnings, middles and ends. These are self-indulgent writings." No kidding.

We find out about Alex's odd personal habits (washing up after parties), what he does on long train journeys (listens to a walkman, and yes, he tells us what albums), his irrational belief that trains on non-intersecting tracks will nevertheless crash and what he did in Champagne (drank Pimms). All right, so I lied about the last one. He actually drank champagne.

I am, of course, picking out the good bits. More typical is the beginning of a dreadful article about Alex's work in computer networks. (At least as bad, but not quite as long, as the one from Simon Bisson that we didn't print in Plokta.) Just when I was seeking out the eyelid matchsticks, it stops. Phew. Alex then explains that he lacked enthusiasm for finishing it, and therefore thought long and hard about leaving it in. And then made the wrong decision, evidently. But then, this whole fanzine feels like a cutting room floor.

Alex will be helping with Intuition's newsletter. Here's a hint from an old hack; alot is not a word. It's the way he must have added it to his spellchecker's dictionary that bothers me.

All this could probably be forgiven in a neo making their first foray into the grand bright world of fanzines. But Alex has been a fan for several years, and has a wide range of fanac including two previous fanzines. So why this, why now? He's a nice chap, has he no shame? Worse is the suspicion that he may believe that other fanzines are like this, that we all just print out the unedited outpourings of daily diaries written on the Tube.

I'd much rather read the unedited outpourings of a man who makes a habit of destroying female undergarments. Michael Ashley sent me Saliromania 11 because I am allegedly depicted therein. The use of captioned photos is one of the best things about this fanzine. In a strange synchronicity, Saliromania, like AlLoCAte, contains a half-finished article about the editor's work. However, this one is sharply written, perceptive, and you wouldn't know it wasn't finished if the fanzine didn't tell you. More controversial is Ashley's opener, a stylish and scorching attack on Banana Wings. He accurately pegs Banana Wings as a product of the settled middle classes. But his legitimate criticisms are lost in a hugely entertaining tirade of unreasonable abuse. Ultimately, his criticism is like candy floss; fun to read but insubstantial. So Banana Wings isn't what you want from a fanzine, then? So what? Just because you don't find points of contact with the lives of the editors doesn't make their lives, interests and writings less valid.

Certainly, one of Banana Wings' faults is to print too much of most of the letters it receives. This fault is shared by Saliromania, which appears to take printing a facsimile of each letter as a badge of courage. While every letter in this issue contains something interesting, the overall effect is one of flabbiness. Whether flabbiness is a worse sin in a 14-page fanzine than a 60-page one is left as an exercise for the reader.

The final article in Saliromania is a much weaker tale of alcoholic excess and an abusive lifestyle. I was strangely reminded of Kev McVeigh's Adventures in Failure. It's funny the way in which some people think that drinking, staying up late, and aimlessly pondering the purpose of life is an intrinsically better subject for fanwriting than the rigors of Sunday afternoon at IKEA. While it's easy to see why Michael Ashley is a Nova winner, I'd like to see him sustain his quality for an entire fanzine.

A number of editors who do manage to sustain their quality for entire fanzines are the pseudonymous but plural EB Frohvet. Of course, we're not talking about the same quality standard here. I'm slightly surprised to see that Twink is now up to issue 8, but not as surprised as I am that we're up to issue 11. EB nail their colours to the mast in the editorial, inviting contributions on books and other 'fandom-related' subjects. You are therefore unlikely to find articles in Twink about either IKEA or excess. Instead, we regularly have low-level book reviews (think Paperback Inferno) of books I don't plan to read, capsule reviews of fanzines which demonstrate a completely different critical context to my own (though they seem to quite like Plokta), usually two or three articles, and a lively loccol.

This issue, the lead article is an interview by Margaret B Simon, of Bobbi Sinha-Morey, a poet of whom I've never heard, let alone read. The interview is banal and gives no indication of why you would wish to read the poetry. Worse, it includes no examples. I'm left with a dark suspicion that Bobbi Sinha-Morey is the poetry-writing pseudonym of Margaret B Simon, and a certainty that EB should have bounced this piece. Possibly they felt obliged to run it because of all the (generally good) artwork that Margaret has supplied to Twink. A terrible choice for a lead article -- was it the first to arrive?

I'm much more interested in EB's thoughts on who we ought to nominate for the fanzine Hugo and why. They outline some of the major factors that seem to lead to regular nominations, and query their validity. They then proceed to fall into the same trap themselves. Despite the fact that they've never seen an Ansible (look out for a care package from us, EB), they describe it as an "excellent fanzine." Similarly, they note that fanzines which continue to be published for a long time are more likely to be nominated, while supporting FOSFAX for just this reason. Eventually, they conclude that top of their nomination list is The Reluctant Famulus. Strangely, TRF is a fanzine much like Twink only more so. Their other recommendations are FOSFAX, MSFire (which I have not seen) and Attitude (the only fanzine on their list which is also on mine).

EB lament their lack of UK trades, but it's hard to see Twink and Saliromania having many points of commonality. Twink is a sercon fanzine, and sercon simply isn't what I'm looking for in fanzines. It can't be a coincidence that even the most serious British fanzines have at least some personal or frivolous content. I refer, of course, to International Revolutionary Gardener #1, the fanzine formerly known as FTT. Like Twink, International Revolutionary Gardener is clear about its boundaries: "IRG will continue to reflect our interests and concerns, irrespective of whether they intersect with fandom at large and whether the resulting publication can truthfully be described as a 'science fiction fanzine'." Much more my sort of thing.

So, it's business as usual for Joseph Nicholas and Judith Hanna, saving the planet one small garden at a time. This issue contains three carefully crafted articles, two from Joseph and one from Judith. Joseph moves explicitly from re-titling the fanzine to seeking solutions to the world's problems and back again; Judith lets the same principles shine from within her article about what she's been up to lately. IRG is topped off with a letter column filled with both serious politics and tap-dancing turtles. My only real quibbles with all this are the lack of artwork and the sustained effort required to read the fanzine.

Little sustained energy is needed to read Drunken Fuckwit, edited by the eponymous Tobes. He provides an apt demonstration of the title by leaving the editorial address off the fanzine, presumably to encourage trades. Tobes does not see the need to provide a rationale for his fanzine, which is unformatted, printed on one side of the paper, and appears to be unedited rambling. Much like AlLoCAte, in fact, which is where we came in. Nevertheless, careful perusal indicates that either the fanzine has been crafted with considerable care or Tobes has a funnier stream of consciousness than most of us. Drunken Fuckwit is jolly entertaining in places, though it probably helps if you know some of the people he makes fun of. And like the best perzines, it gives an impression of what makes Tobes click; you feel you can really understand the sort of chap who drinks Calvados from a hipflask for breakfast.

-- Alison Scott

George with a laptop PC
George at work on another article for Plokta

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