August 10th, 2012

Box 120: Evidence of my pre-internet existence found

I found some evidence of my teenage activities (which pre-dated a bit my use of the internet) on a wiki site called Fanlore, a neat repository of info that I'd never seen before.

For a couple of years when I was in high school, I published a monthly Star Trek fanzine called The Alternative Warp, (which has entry here at Fanlore.) In some ways, it's a bit of an embarrassment because there wasn't much to recommend it as far as the quality of its content, but for me and my co-editor and our handful of other contributors (all of us being 14 and 15 years old at the time), it was still a pretty solid effort: monthly publication schedule for almost two years, full-size pages, typical issue-length of 32 or more pages, serious effort at making it look decent (in the pre-computer age, yo), cover artwork of no worse quality than the writing inside. It was a mix of fiction, non-fiction, letters, news items, opinion pieces and other random stuff. It fit well with my general interest in writing and my student journalism activities, and it was good fun for those last couple years of teen-hood right before having a driver license and a car opened up a world of other stuff to do at night.

Much of the article about it on the Fanlore site is text copied from a post that I made on the M-Brane SF site on the occasion of Trek's 44th anniversary when I was feeling old and remembering The Alternative Warp #4, our big 20th anniversary extravaganza (kudos to whomever found that post, it being nearly as obscure as its ancient subject matter!). It's kind of exciting in a dorky way to see it referenced anywhere at all. None of its content ever existed in an electronic form, and whatever extant print copies of it may remain on Earth are surely brittle and warped with age, pages probably stuck one to the other by toner decay, so it's kind of cool to know that something I did way back then is noted in the big online record of Stuff That Happened even if the work itself doesn't survive.

But evidently a couple issues are still to be found in "Box 120" of something called the Ming Wathne Fanzine Archives Collection at the University of Iowa. Evidently Ms. Wathne amassed a vast collection of fanzines in numerous media properties and bequeathed the entire collection to the University. According to the catalog, in Box 120 are issues #13 and #14 of my zine and according to the image credit on the Fanlore page, it is from those copies that the images of those covers were grabbed. #13's cover is copied here. Until today, I had not seen it in over 20 years! I can still interpret the headlines: "New Trek cast" refers to the announcement of the actors cast for Star Trek: The Next Generation, which would start its first season a couple months later; "Awards progress" has to do with a (largely fraudulent) poll that we were running to designate best-ofs in fiction etc. from the zine's first year; "Stamp drive" refers to a rather extensive piece that I researched on an effort by some über-fans (but we didn't say über back than) to get the post office to issue a Star Trek commemorative stamp (which effort also scored me the awesome prize of a handwritten note from Isaac Asimov stating that he didn't know anything about the stamp campaign); and "Brazil review" is there because I'd recently seen the Gilliam film, was obsessed with it, was obsessed with making other people see it, and I wrote a little article about it.

This cover art itself was source of mild controversy at the time, but I assume it won't cramp anyone's style all these years later. It was drawn by an artist named C. Kyle (am about 99% sure that C. stands for Christine). We ran this Kirk cover, and also a Spock cover and a McCoy cover, all drawn by Kyle, in three consecutive months (the McCoy image can be seen on the Fanlore page). After we had done so, we received a gently scolding letter from the late Bill Hupe, who was a huge publisher and re-publisher of fanzines. Hupe was a big deal. We called him a "fanzine mogul" and we dreamed that he would for some reason "buy us out." But he was a subscriber to my zine, and even purchased from us random, stupid merch that we sold to raise extra money (homemade tribbles, for example--which got us another cease-and-desist, by the way, from David Gerrold's assistant). Evidently these Kyle covers had previously appeared in some of Hupe's publications and we ran them without proper attribution. Which was really more the artist's fault than ours for not mentioning that they were not previously unpublished. We just published pretty much anything anybody sent us. But I didn't want Hupe angry with me, so I replied with an apology and ran a statement in a subsequent issue properly crediting the items. And here it is again!