Kick out the jams and put the cats on toast, this is the one fanzine of the year that you can call an abject apology without the editor bursting into tears. le nouveau revue bleu is an apology to all loccers, traders, and other people who seem to have some sort of divine right to New River Blues for its continued non-appearance. If you are one of these and haven't received this (?), write in for your copy now -- it's been a full year and I've probably lost your address. If you aren't, you can't have it unless I hand it to you in person so there. This is Abigail Frost, 69 Robin Hood Gardens, Cotton Street, London E14, doing a solo number for once.
I seem to remember that I was once a fanzine reviewer. (Come to that, I seem to remember being a fanzine editor, too ... Funny, that.) Then one day I sat down with a huge pile of fanzines to review. Picked up the first, Vin¢ Clarke's Not Science Fantasy News. 'Hmm ... Pretty good stuff. Has the relaxed quality that only comes from real skill. Unsound on the reviewing question, though. Give him a good review and a terrible shock, I think.' The next was -- oh god, Phil Palmer's Flay, Swelter and Groan. 'Can't possibly review that. It's a sercon zine. Full of articles about books I never have and never will read.' Sorry, Phil. Then there was Tappen 4. 'Obvious thing to do with this is to concentrate on Chris's LWTL2; why is it a disappointment after the first half, when it's obviously pretty good considered as a piece in its own right? Are there any lessons we can draw from this? Better re-read the first half, though -- now where is Tappen 2?' Where indeed? I decided to look for it after I'd been through the pile. So I reached out for the next fanzine. What next fanzine? Bloody hell, Frost, is that what you call a huge pile?
Where are all the fanzines? Where's Tappen 2? Where have all the good times gone? Why is there no fun in life any more? What's on Channel 4 today, then?
Well, a few fanzines dribbled in over the next few months. I remember a 2ndhand Wave: content, horribly depressed, paper, so horribly white and reflective I nearly went blind reading it on the bus. I remember a few Epsilons, full of letters which were only blasts on dreary American fan-feuds, which prompted thoughts of articles on the Decline of Once-Great Fanzines. I remember lots of US fanzines, where somehow the same feuds seemed more entertaining (perhaps because they were full of Ted White, while the Epsilons wore full of his enemies); but I had a policy of sticking to British zines in my reviews. I remember a slice of lemon, and a bitten macaroon ...
Where in the name of Jesus Christ, who suffered under Pontius Pilate and shall arise at the last day to judge the quick and the dead and the BSFA is Tappen 2?
Up till the arrival of Tappen 5, complete with the latest Westerama, British fanzine fandom was DULL, DULL, DULL. But wasn't the Westerama terrific? Best single article in a long, long time. But like everything else these days, it was hardly put down before the reactions started to come in; many of which suggested a total misunderstanding. Now, I may be misunderstanding too, but dig this:
Somewhere in the Westerama there is a bit about the art of manipulating people. (All human life is there, chaps and chapesses.) Some commentators seem to have taken this as D's view of the function of fandom or something; at any rate, they write of him as some sort of devious manipulator, (What, our Dave? Pure as the driven lamb, old Dick West. Innocent as new-born snow, is Dan.) But in context, the manipulation material relates to a much loved Scotch fan, a man, who in Darleen's view wants above all to manipulate people but isn't very good at it.
Di's also had some flak for his statement that success in British fandom is increasingly related to social skills, rather than skill at writing or producing fanzines. Well, I agree with Darrol. I would, wouldn't I, having said much the same thing in NeRB 6? Not that you'd know it from -- but the letters start over the page.
Quite incidentally to its functions as Denunciation of Everybody, valuable exegesis of the state of Dillinger West over a certain period of time, boredom-banisher, focal point of British fandom, and New Oracle for the 80s, the Westerama is also pretty close to my idea of the perfect convention report. As well as being a stylistic exercise, an evoker of atmosphere, and all the other things people have suggested, to me, a convention report should ideally be a record of a moment of the collective experience that (violins) is called fandom. Somewhere, some obscure little incident where the public and private sides of the convention converged should be preserved, ready to tickle the memory buds at some later stage.
For me, Diego's account of Mexifandom is one such moment. I wasn't at Unicon, but I was a part of the group that thought it all up at some point in the bar-less doldrums of Channelcon one afternoon. And now, there it is, the spirit of Mexicon perfectly captured. Arriba, hombre!
When's someone going to do the same for Novacon's Chinese fandom, eh?
Three weeks later, of course, Britfandom was DULL, DULL, DULL again.
Le Nouveau Revue Bleu (1983)