The Karenina Continuity Chronicles
|Title:||The Karenina Continuity Chronicles|
|Editor(s):||Susan M. Garrett|
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The Karenina Continuity Chronicles is a five-part (with the additional sixth issue, "The Firezone Companion") fanzine series relating the adventures of Karenina Bosov, a vampire OC who wants to become a human. In the course of her adventures, she interacts with characters from many, many fandoms.
The additional volume, The Fire Zone Companion, has the subtitle "Field Operations Manual." It has illustrations by Ann Larimer.
There was a zine proposed in 1992 called "The Karenina Continuity Chronicles Apocrypha Issue." The ad in The Zine Connection #14 says: "You say you like what we did with The Karenina Continuity Chronicles but you wish a story had ended a little differently? This issue gives you the chance to write for KCC. The story can be consistent with what we've printed or totally divergent, but must have some reference to Karenina or Fire Zone, and must be PG or R. SASE for details and have some fun!" This issue, though, was never published.
About the Series' Beginning
I wrote a story based on "The New Avengers" featuring Karenlna. A friend of mine read it and told me that I really needed to resolve the ending. I said okay, and wrote a second story a few months later, printed them both In "Wynter Tydes" which was a small publication I had put out at the time, and then forgot about it. Well, the second story was very open-ended. Karenina takes a plane from England to the U.S. and during the flight she meets Michael O'Leary, who is Remington Steele, coming over at the same time. I put it in as kind of an in-joke to see if anybody would pick it up. Several people did, and they started writing to ask when I planned to continue it, even though I never seriously gave it any thought. I was sitting In Boston In November of '83 watching an episode of "The Avengers," called "The House That Jack Built" In which Emma Peel is being hounded by a man who was fired by her father. In this episode we learned that Emma's maiden name was Knight, that her father was the head of Knight Industries in England, that he had a brother in the U.S. that was the head of Knight Industries in America, and that after the father died, she had taken over the business for him in England. So, being that this was such a coincidence with "Knight Rider" I thought, as long as I have her coming to America, maybe I can tie this into a story. I mentioned this to Guy Brownlee In Texas during a late night phone call, and he mentioned that there were lots of other coincidences, so we tried to see how many we could come up with. You know, things like, Jamie Sommers and Jim Rockford having the same phone number except for the area code, and, uh, like in "Return of Man From UNCLE" when James Bond shows up...little things Iike that. So I said, why don't I just go ahead and instead of writing a solo or story, come up with an adventure, and we can use these little end and tie-ups to create a tapestry. The first thing to figure out was what material would be used. We decided only media shows or movies that occurred in a basic real-type earth, or current time, should be utilized. From there the plot sort of evolved on its own. 
KCC is composed of a series of short stories that all form a much longer story, which details the adventures of Karenina Bosov, a character I created to interact with various media characters. Every story involves at least one aspect of a media oriented program and attempts to be as true as possible to the style and air of that program. Story contributions aren't accepted simply because the stories are so tightly woven together. However, there have been exceptions... In addition to which, KCC will eventually publish a zine of apocrypha, stories that our readers felt could and should have gone another way, missing scenes, or entirely different versions of the events that took place. After all, most of these people are dealing with the spy business and Fire Zone, both of whom have great difficulty in givinq an accurate reflection of events. Artwork is assigned. If you happen to see that we'll be doing a media story that interests you in an upcoming issue, please feel free to contact us. Artists have free reign on what they wish to interpret from the story. They also have our undying gratitude. Why is KCC different and unique? The stories tie together with several thematic issues, the major ones being—"Is anyone ever who they say they are?" and "when push comes to shove, who can you trust?" It's about love (dying and un-), separation, theft, secrets, murder, more secrets, and a woman's attempt to find an answer she isn't certain she'll want to hear. There are no ruby-red slippers, no easy answers. But there are bats and berettas, lugers and lycanthropes, power-mad corporations and individuals who won't let even incredible superpowers destroy their love for one another. I won't kid you in that this is the ultimate playground for myself and the other contributors to KCC. We're experimenting with styles, types of stories, point of view, dialogue, conceptual illustration...you name it. Sometimes we succeed. Sometimes we don't. For the most part, we hope it's interesting enough to catch and hold your attention, at least for a little while. Oh, and you're welcome to ask questions about what we're planning. Some we can answer, some we can't. But we will thank you most kindly for the input and advice and the ideas. And we'll promise to finish the issues, as promised. There will be an end to this madness. It will be logical, it will be concise. It will be entertaining. And hopefully, it will be one that you won't expect. 
The Karenina Continuity Chronicles 1 - Desperate Tymes was published in 1984 and contains 49 pages.
- Artwork by Guy B. and Lea B.
- Debt Paid, In Blood by Susan M. Garrett (The New Avengers) Why has Karenina turned up in John Steed's living room after twenty-five years? And what has she got to do with a series of mutilation murders? (8 pages)
- Night & Day by Susan M. Garrett (The New Avengers) Can the "New Avengers" save themselves and Karenina from the Prince of Darkness? (13 pages)
- Somewhere Along The Road by Susan M. Garrett (Knight Rider) Michael Knight suspects a beautiful hitchhiker of being a famous jewel thief. Or is she simply something more than human? (13 pages)
- Beggar's Game by Guy B. (Simon and Simon) (2 pages)
- Old Friends, New Enemies by Susan M. Garrett (Remington Steele) Remington Steele finds an old friend on his doorstep and she wants a "favor". Then Laura disappears! What's a self-respecting con man to do? (10 pages)
The Karenina Continuity Chronicles 2 - Dance Into the Fyre was published in 1986 and contains 103 pages.
- Artwork by Guy Brownlee and Lea B.
- Lies And Consequences by Susan M. Garrett (The A-Team) The A-Team agree to rescue a reporter from a group of terrorists. But can they hope to succeed when the woman who hired them plans to betray them? (19 pages)
- Old Spies Never Die by Susan M. Garrett (The Greatest American Hero-I Spy) Bill Maxwell finds that his past is catching up with him in the form of a pretty ex-spy and a KGB Colonel who wants revenge on a man named "Kelly Robinson." (23 pages)
- Sorry, Right Number by Susan M. Garrett (The Rockford Files-The Bionic Woman) James Rockford's been receiving some strange phone calls on his answering machine—all about a mysterious package that was never delivered. Then, someone shows up to collect it... (10 pages)
- Transformations by Susan M. Garrett (The Incredible Hulk) Picked up by a young woman 'headed his way', David Banner begins to think that his luck is about to change, but that's not all that's changing in the small, West Virginia town. (21 pages)
- Jinglebell Rock by Guy B. (WKRP) Christmas—bah, humbug! Or so decides Dr. Johnny Fever of WKRP in Cincinnati, until a phone call from a woman with similar feelings turns him around. (4 pages)
- Fangs And Claws by Susan M. Garrett (Manimal) Professor J.C. Chase is conned into helping a young woman escape from a restaurant and finds that she has guessed his secret, but the tables turn and the 'Manimal' had to learn some new tricks to survive. (18 pages)
The Karenina Continuity Chronicles 3 - The Ecstasy of Flight was published in 1988 and contains 140 pages.
- artwork by Ann Larimer
- Papa Simon's House Of Miracles by Susan M. Garrett (The Clone Master) Dr. Simon Shane, named the "Clone Master" by his students, has resumed his experiments. But what can the result be when he clones a vampire? (36 pages)
- The 'Who Was That Spy I Saw You With' Affair by Susan M. Garrett (The Man From UNCLE) An UNCLE agent with a weakness for the ladies is found dead on a highway to nowhere. Could the lady involved be THRUSH, or something else... (28 pages)
- Freedom Of The Heart by Susan M. Garrett (The Prisoner) The Prisoner is cautious about the Village's most recent arrival, but there's always a chance that 27 is his lucky number. (13 pages)
- As The Raven Flies by Susan M. Garrett (Airwolf) Helping a lady in distress makes a welcome change from Archangel's milkruns, but Stringfellow Hawke learns that not every pretty girl in distress is a "lady". (8 pages)
- Always by Susan M. Garrett (Magnum P.I.) Jonathan Higgins is a born sportsman, but he finds the hunt grows more dangerous as the prey gets larger...and less natural. (37 pages)
The Karenina Continuity Chronicles 4 - A Stranger to the Sun was published in 1989 and contains 160 pages.
- Artwork by Ann Larimer
- Come Spy With Me by Susan M. Garrett (Masquerade-Scarecrow & Mrs. King-Mission: Impossible) Amanda King disappeared on a very sudden "vacation" without a word to anyone. Has she been kidnapped? Is it a case of revenge? Or is it a case of the right hand having no idea what the left is planning...? (28 pages)
- A Commodious Exchange by Susan M. Garrett (Adderly) One of the primary functions of an intelligence agency is to provide funding and cover for agents in the field on a consistent basis. When ISI runs into a busy season, the oddest jobs tend to fall into a capable hand at Miscellaneous Affairs. (8 pages)
- Shadows Of The Past by Susan M. Garrett (Dark Shadows-Murder, She Wrote) Writing a Gothic mystery novel should be easy with the proper atmosphere, although Jessica Fletcher finds that the combination of a murder and disappearance in Collinsport, Maine might be a bit too stimulating. (24 pages)
- The Magic Of Modern Medicine by Susan M. Garrett (St. Elsewhere-The Magician-Dr. Strange) At Christmas, St. Elsewhere is one hospital where miracles can happen. (24 pages)
- The House On 42nd Street by Susan M. Garrett (The Equalizer) A "safe-house" is an agent's haven, a place to go where anonymity is assured and safety guaranteed...if you happen to be on the right side. (20 pages)
- Dawn To A Sunless Sea by Susan M. Garrett (The Man From Atlantis) When a Senate subcommittee argues the possibility of publicly disclosing the existence of Mark Harris, the man from Atlantis is forced to resolve the question of his identity. (20 pages)
- The Need To Know by Susan M. Garrett (Stingray) Stingray is on the trail of a man with no name and no legal existence, relying only upon a description given by two men and that fact that his quarry is a murderer, all because he owes a favor...to Karenina Bosov. (17 pages)
- The Official Karenina Bosov Paperdolls ("...a paperdoll with six different outfits for you to cut and color.")
The Karenina Continuity Chronicles 5 - The Power of Gold was published in 1992 and contains 295 pages.
- Artwork by Ann Larimer
- The Beast Is Back by Susan M. Garrett (Salvage I) For Jettison Salvage, salvaging an old house is usually no problem, but this particular house has a spirit, and the spirit isn't willing. (38 pages)
- The Trick Top Hat by Susan M. Garrett (Misfits of Science) (8 pages)
- Borgia On My Mind by Susan M. Garrett (Shadow Chasers) Your average anthropologist usually doesn't have to deal with cursed rings, secret government scientific agencies, and troublesome reporters...but Jonathan MacKensie isn't your average anthropologist. (30 pages)
- The Dead Of Mourning by Susan M. Garrett (Kolchak: The Night Stalker-Nick Knight) Carl Kolchak is now the managing editor of INS and has put his vampire-hunting days behind him, but vampires not only have long lives, but long memories. They're putting him on trial and his only hope is a woman who volunteers to defend him against the undead tribunal. (64 pages)
- Profession Of Diminishing Returns by Susan M. Garrett (The Questor Tapes-The Assassination Bureau) Can any machine, even an android as advanced as Questor, function in a world composed of science and the supernatural? (36 pages)
- Late Lamented by Susan M. Garrett (Outlaws) A ghost doesn't have to be composed of ethereal ectoplasm to haunt you...sometimes, it's only a matter of memories. (38 pages)
- The Written Word by Susan M. Garrett (Werewolf) Some stories disappear with the wind, but others, if put down in black and white, can be found in the strangest places...including an old espionage dead-drop. (10 pages)
- A Promise Sealed In Shadow by Susan M. Garrett (Beauty and the Beast) Words not spoken sometimes appear to be the cruelest words of all, unless you know the reason why secrets are made and kept. (18 pages)
- By The Time I Get To Phoenix by Susan M. Garrett (The Phoenix) It is rumored that a man exists known as the "Phoenix." He may be from the past. He may be from another world. But he is flesh and blood. Karenina has found herself drawn to seek him as a moth seeks a flame. Will he be able to give her the answers she is seeking? (28 pages)
Reactions and Reviews: Issue 5
Y'know, I hate vampire stories. No, that doesn't quite convey the depth of my feelings on the subject.
I HATE VAMPIRE STORIES!!!!
HATE'EM HATE 'EM, HATE 'EM!
Yeah, that's better. No kidding, the sight of anything that gives off the merest whiff of a hint of a possibility that fangs and coffins will be cohabiting (with or without benefit of clergy) sends me screaming for the garlic and silver crosses. I can't explain it. It'sjust one of those things.
I mention this to illuminate what a tough row to how Susan Garrett's Karenina Continuity Chronicles 5 had in attempting to tempt me as a reader. If I may mangle a metaphor, here, it was already two and a half strikes down before it even stepped up to the plate. Add to that the fact that most of the fannish universes included in KCC5 are ones I'm unfamiliar with and completely uninterested in, and you can see that it didn't have a...er...ghost of a chance.
Given all that, you can imagine my surprise at finding myself eagerly tearing through it, impatient to see what would happen next...
The Karenina Continuity Chronicles is one of those projects that sound Really Neat as hypothetical ventures, but which no one in their right mind would ever actually attempt (this may be our first clue). It's a single storyline that loosely ties together literally dozens of fannish universes. The real killer is, it works, especially in KCC5. It also presents an unusual twist on the traditional epic tale in which the hero seeks eternal life or eternal youth. Susan's protagonist seeks mortality.
Karenina Bosov is a vampire. Through the use of a special chemical, she has begun the process of becoming mortal again. However, the change is not permanent, and she now searches for the being known as the Phoenix, whom she sees as her last chance to complete the change. Her desperate race against time (and across the continent) is hampered by pursuers who, for various reasons, don't want her to succeed: those of the shadowy world of vampires, out for vengeance; her identical" twin," a true vampire, the product of a bizarre cloning experiment gone awry, Fire Zone, a top-secret agency ostensibly studying the paranormal, but whose leader is more interested in eradicating those who are "different"—including Karenina, whom he sees as a threat to national security.
This Fugitive style premise allows Susan's invented protagonist to interact with characters from a veritable host of television series. Granted, the excuses for Karenina's involvement with some of these folks are a bit tenuous, and not all of the stories actually advance the plot much (in fact, some, like "TheTrickTopHat," don't have much to do with Karenina at all). But they are enjoyable, nonetheless.
I haven't read all of the preceding volumes of the Chronicles, although I did read KCC 3 as a warm-up for KCC 5 (well, it contained the UNCLE stories; you know how it is). KCC 3 is...nice. Very nice (particularly the Airwolf story, which is atmospheric to the point of giving me chills). It's good fan writing; better than most, but definitely fan writing. Some years and KCC4 (among other projects) later, Susan's style has evolved into something truly compelling. Her plotting, always competent, just keeps getting better, as does her ability to set her scenes and bring them to life. Characters speak with their own, distinct voices in both, but where, in the earlier zine, their motivations are sometimes obscure, in KCC 5, choices and actions flow from who they are, rather than what the author wishes them to do or say for the sake of plot advancement.
In "The Beast is Back," a Salvage I story, Karenina arranges to sell some uncut diamonds to Harry Broderick to raise needed cash. When Karenina arrives at the appointed place, she gets tangled up in a situation involving a haunted mansion and Michelle Slozar's possession by the ghost of a willful child. Susan's descriptions of people and places are vivid, and there's a nice subplot involving Michelle's clash with her adoptive mother, Mel, over a change in career plans.
"The Trick Top Hat" is a delightfully silly Misfits of Science story, involving a trail of carrots, a large top hat, and the Even Bigger Bunny. With an attitude. I'm not even gonna try to explain it Just read it.
In "Borgia On My Mind," the Shadow Chasers entry, Karenina seeks out Dr. Jonathan MacKensie to see if he has information that will help her find the Phoenix. Tabloid reporter Edgar Benedek throws a monkey wrench into their plan to meet the next day, but Fire Zone throws in an even bigger one, abducting Jonathan and hustling him off to their headquarters. Jonathan's situation seems more inconvenient than dangerous until Karenina and Benedek realize that a supposedly fake Borgia ring Jonathan's wearing is the real thing, and he's likely to die of poisoning before Fire Zone releases him. Benedek and Karenina decide on a desperate plan to rescue Jonathan from his captors, even though both, especially Karenina, will be walking into real peril.
Karenina's meeting up with Jonathan is fortuitous, stretching my willing suspension of disbelief almost to the breaking point, but the plotting is tight, the suspense taut, and the characters beautifully drawn. This was easily the most affecting story in the zine. There is a strong sense ofcaring, and of difficult, even dangerous, choices made for friendship and honor.
The Kolchak, Nightstalker, and Nick Knight story, 'The Dead of Mourning,' did not succeed quite as well for me, but then, involving as it did a convocation of vampires in Chicagoland, and many references to Dracula as Lord of the Vampires, it didn't have much of a chance. That sort of thing always gives me the giggles; I just can't help it However, although the vampiric political machinations are a bit convoluted and arcane for my taste, the descriptions and dialogue are superb. Susan manages the difficult task of weaving all the characters and subplots in this story into a single, richly textured tapestry,and the climax is suitably thunderous.
Other stories involve characters from Questor, Outlaws, Werewolf, and Phoenix. With the exception of Beauty and the Beast and The Questor Tapes, I had never "met" any of these characters before-all are from shows I've never watched. Susan takes time to include little scenes and foibles that make her characters sympathetic, accessible. Human. (In 'Dead of Mourning,' for instance, Alex Collins tries to answer the phone ringing in the night, and winds up on the floor in a tangle of blankets.) As a result, they possess an authenticity many pro writers should envy.
Then there's the artwork. Ann Larimer, more than any other fan artist I know, is a true illustrator. She doesn't settle for mere portraits, isn't content to limit herself to one or two fandoms, she uses a variety of techniques and design strategies, and she's not afraid to experiment ordosomething out of the ordinary. Hers is the quintessence of the true artist mentality. (Twinges of professional jealousy have had me toying with the idea of pushing her under a bus next time she's in Lansing, but CATA's schedule is too erratic to be sure of getting the timing right.)
Ann's color cover for KCC5 is beautiful, delicately pencilled yet vibrant, with titles and design elements woven together intoa seamless whole. Her interior illustrations demonstrate hermastery of design, andof theunforgivingmediumof pen and ink. Control is evident in her careful compositions and the accuracy of her likenesses, yet there's a sense of freedom and energy in her execution. Although she sometimes underworks a given piece, she never overworks them, demonstrating an excellent grasp of the truth in that old adage that less is more (nowhere more so than in pen and ink drawing). Her illustrations have a variety of pleasing shapes, and the placement of elements in each has a certain rightness, as if no other combination could possibly work.
My personal favorite among the interior illustrations is her Phoenix on page 268. Here, she uses light as a design element, striking a near-perfect balance-between-light-and darkness. Although the medium is ink, the light in this drawing is so bright, it's almost blinding. Another favorite is the Outlaws story illustration on page 192. A strongly drawn Karenina is posed against background elements ("wanted" posters) that seem randomly placed, yet which combine with the figure to form a unified design.
I could go on, but frankly, it'll just have me reaching for those bus schedules again. Suffice it to say that those who yearn to illustrate could do far worse than to take a closer look at Ann Larimer's work in KCC5, to see how illustration looks when it's done well.
The presentation is excellent: color cover (four color separation, not cheesy color xerox) on heavy stock, comb-bound, double-column format, the typefaces (Times Roman and Avant Garde Adobe Postscript—Susan says so) are neat and easy to read. There are some typos, although not many, given the sheer size of this volume. There is a section giving brief overviews of What Has Gone Before, and there are letters of comment. Karenina Continuity Chronicles 5 is a tour de force. I have no other choice but to give this puppy five trees. It demands them.
The Fire Zone Companion
The Karenina Continuity Chronicles - The Fire Zone Companion is subtitled, "Field Operations Manual" and is 108 pages. Contents are by Susan and Shawn Garrett; art is by Ann Larimer. It includes information on the Fire Zone base, history, and personnel; data on vampirism in the KCC universe; chronology of the stories in the KCC zines, including a foldout map; brief descriptions of the fandoms included in the KCC zines; and the story "Breaking Ground" by Shawn Garrett, about the creation of Fire Zone.Susan Garrett says that her brother created "Fire Zone":
I went to him and said: "I need an organization, It's called Fire Zone, and It's a bunch of scientists working for the government—go to it." He came back 3 months later with pages and pages of character sketches and blue prints and an incredible operation. I'm using all this for research, and whenever I write Fire Zone characters I go to him and ask is this how it should be done. Fire Zone will be getting its own zine soon, because the response has been so great. 
- from an interview with Susan Garrett in Pop Stand Express #13 (1986)
- from Susan Garrett in Pop Stand Express #17
- from Marty Siegrist in Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine? #4. The reviewers in "Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine?" rated zines on a 1-5 tree/star scale.
- from an interview with Susan in Pop Stand Express #13 (1986)