The Propagator

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Zine
Title: The Propagator
Publisher: USS Tradition
Editor(s): Lisa Wahl
Type: letterzine
Date(s): see article
Frequency:
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS
External Links:
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Contents

"It's not pretty, but it's cheap."
(from the top of the October 1984 issue)

The Propagator is a gen Star Trek: TOS letterzine. It averaged 4-6 pages. The emphasis was on analyzing the pro novels, and the newsletter featured a number of reviewers.

There were six issues in the original run, and thirty-nine issues in the second run. Burnt out and disillusioned, Wahl stated her intentions to end the newsletter around issue #35; she said she planned to go to issue number forty. According to the header on issue #39, the newsletter was to be passed the newsletter on to Rick Jervis. It is unknown if he continued it or not.

About the title: Wahl explained in the second issue (of the new run) that she got the title from James Blish's adaptation of "Spock's Brain", wherein Blish alleges Spock said that Vulcans propagate themselves through the mail.[1] Wahl stated: "I believe that Trekkers are conceived and born through the mail"."

From Omne Praeceptum Frangit: "The Progagator was originally for the correspondance branch of the club, The Association for the Propagation of Trekkism, and tries to entertain all Trek fans, not just local members. Its four to eight pages are filled with reviews, LoCs, articles, a monthly Con Calendar, cartoons, filksongs, con reviews, puzzles and whatever strikes the editor's fancy. It can be ordered separately from Tradition membership, as many do."

Wahl notes in the first issue of the new run in 1984 that the newsletter was "produced on a computer, my trusty Apple IIe, Saavic."

While the newsletter clearly had an audience of fans who were very well-read, both in Star Trek and other venues, the entire subject of zines is almost completely ignored. There are a few off-hand mentions that they exist, and the review of the article Spock Among the Women in one issue specifically points them out, but other than that, they are a complete non-issue. Likewise, and probably by default of this newsletter's focus, the subject of slash (or any sex, for that matter) is only brought up once, and it is in an essay in issue #22. Not one fan comments or responds to this essay.

Reactions and Reviews

Some thought that unfavorable reviews were too harsh; others found the unfavorable reviews a welcome relief from the uncritical praise many pro novels appeared to receive. Others gave the pro novels mixed reviews, conceding that some novels were good and some novels were bad, but disagreeing on which authors belonged in which category. Beth Buder, for instance, said: 'It disturbs me that so many ST novels are shallow and superficial. The books tend to be all action and no meaning, and the characters are cardboard. The few writers who capture the meaning and message, as well as the significance of the friendships, of ST are Marshak and Culbreath, Sky, Duane, and Lorrah. The rest range from entertaining but trivial to downright dull.' In August, Ann Cecil contributed this opinion: "I just finished Della Van Hise's Killing Time—the latest Pocket 'pro' novel. Please, please, do a campaign to kill sales for this book. [2]
I may not feel honored to have contributed to the old Prop, but I do feel pretty darn lucky. It was a standard format letterzine, printed on a Macintosh and distributed at irregular intervals. What set it apart was the running story of ihe misadventures of the captain and crew of the fictional U.S.S. Tradition, created in a round robin fashion by the people who wrote in to the zine. The general level of insanity and creativity rose exponentially with every round of contributions. The results have to be read to be appreciated. The S&M-obsessed ship's doctor and Frank, the cat tosser, in particular, will always have a warm spot in my heart. I've seen other letterzines try their hand at the same idea, but none can quite compare to the bunch of loonies (an abbreviation for "intelligent and witty people," of course) who wrote for Lisa Wahl. [3]

Issues 1-6 (original run)

The Propagator 1-6 were published starting in late 1975 and ended in December 1976, with issue #3 published in October. It was first published as a correspondence club newsletter.

Issue 1 (new run)

The Propagator 1 (v.2 n.1) was published in September 1984. The editor said it would be "published irregularly (to say the least)." She should have given herself more credit, as it went on to become a zine with a very regular publication schedule.

  • the editor proposes several projects, but admits that "you know I'm fond of coming up with lots of bright ideas that never work out because I can't get anyone interested." -- Wahl wonders if anyone would like to do a letterzine "like Interstat" and also proposes a tapezine -- "a zine on tape. No, not just filk music, but ST stories, audio trivia quizzes."
  • there is a con report for Starlog Con in L.A. in May. The fan was mostly disappointed. "The lines were long, the organization was not terrific, and the con was obviously run, unlike most I've attended, to make money."
  • there is a full-page flyer for Intersect

Issue 2

The Propagator 2 (v.2 n.2) was published in October 1984.

  • the editor explains the title: "First of ll, I'd like to address the rumor that I named this club on the basis of a Spock quote from Blish's 'Spock's Brain.': 'It is a well-known fact that we Vulcans propagate our race by mail.' Nothing could be closer to the truth! I believe that Trekkers are conceived and born through the mail!"
  • the editor addresses money and aesthetics: "...to those of you who think this newsletter could be reproduced better: what do you want? Pretty or cheap? There are lots of pretty newsletters and zines in fandom that most fans can't afford. So, I'm aiming for cheap."
  • there is a review of "Tears of the Singers" which is not particularly favorable; he notes that he hasn't read a pro book yet that is terrific
  • two fans review the pro book "The Wounded Sky" -- one liked it, one hated it -- they both agreed it had a Mary Sue-spider

Issue 3

The Propagator 3 (v.2 n.3) was published in November 1984.

  • there is a review of "Tears of the Singers" -- the reviewer pronounces it "decent Treklit..." [and] "while I don't expect to find a 'classic' among the ST novels, I do expect to find 'Star Trek.'" She is glad the book isn't "trash like 'Mutiny on the Enterprise."
  • some other fans weigh in on "Tears of the SIngers" and pronounce it "decent"
  • two fans review the book "The Final Reflection" -- one likes it, and she likes how the Federation weren't all good guys. The other one didn't like it -- she is an idealist who wants to believe the Federation is good; she also says: "I got so annoyed at having spent good money for a ST book, only to find out it wasn't about ST at all."

Issue 4

The Propagator 4 (v.2 n.4) was published in December 1984.

  • there is a letter from Susan Sackett who says that she put Gene Roddenberry's name in for a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame almost a year ago. "I vowed that I would personally put up the $3000 needed if his star was approved..." She goes on to say the star has been approved, and "If only 3000 fans each send $1.00, we'll have the cost of his star."
  • there is a review of "The Vulcan Academy Murders," a pro novel by Jean Lorrah -- "Many of you reading this are going to be immediately drawn to this book simply because the author gives credit for her ST writing ability to her experience with fanzines." He goes on to pronounce the book "one of the better ones I've read in quite some time."
  • this issue has a Doctor Who filk and a con report for CreationCon

Issue 5

The Propagator 5 (v.2 n.3) was published in January 1985.

  • there is a review of the first Star Trek movie, the uncut version. One remark that shows the new-found power, and disillusionment, offered by the VCR was this:
    The main goof about the extra footage is a major blunder. They put some more footage in about when Kirk dons his spacesuit to go after Spock when they are inside Vejur... they show Kirk launching himself from the airlock to go after Spock, there is a long shot which clearly shows that the whole thing is a set! There appears to be scaffolding and support beams around holding up something that looks like part of the primary hull of the Enterprise! I can't believe anyone could be so stupid as to put this back in! Perhaps they figured since it was such a short scene, nobody would notice - maybe since it was dark they figured we wouldn't be able to tell what it was - but with a VCR you can rewind it and look again - and I did.

Issue 6

The Propagator 6 (v.2 n.6) was published in February 1985.

  • a fan reviews "Corona" and pronounces it: "...not fun exactly. It was merely swallowed up by it's own technicality. Too much talk on any subject (especially astrophysics) soon becomes a lecture... the Cabbage-Head-Dollbaby-meets-the-Great-Cosmic-Muffin plot line reeks. It is a class-A case of Marshak/Culbreathism..."
  • some LoCs state they liked "The Vulcan Academy Murders," one fan wanted to know why the reviewers in this letterzine were so critical of pro novels -- she is sending in her own long novel ("a lengthy romantic Trek trilogy") to a publisher and is afraid she will get the same negative reaction from fans
  • there is a review of "Uhura's Song" -- the fan pronounces it not great but not terrible and notes that it would help if one were a fan of cats

Issue 7

The Propagator 7 (v.2 n.7) was published in March 1985.

  • there is a report of Creation Con from a fan who was stationed at the STW table
  • a fan reviews both "The Vulcan Academy Murders" and liked it, and "Uhura's Song," which she also liked but abhorred the Mary Sue character:
    ...a flaw typical of fan Treklit, and several of the published novels... a Mary Sue Extraordinaire. Every time this character appeared, I heard the theme song from Wonder Woman. This woman is a walking cliche: she makes Spock look like a rank amateur as a computer programmer, she makes Scotty look like a rank amateur engineer, she's a better doctor than McCoy, a better diplomat than Kirk, as well as a better tactician [as she] fights off saber-toothed tigers easily despite being smaller than Uhura, and, of course, by the end of the book has both Kirk and SPock totally lovesick as she reveals that she's an imposter who's been saving their lives just for fun. [All in all], neither of these books is great, but the Lorrah one is a pleasant read.
  • [J V] writes a letter in response to a letter in the previous issue that had asked why so many fans were critical of the pro books:
    "Why is there so much criticism of the ST pro novels? Because, compared to the quality of writing in classic ST fanzines, the pro novels are poor. In fact, there is not too much criticism of the pro novels -- on the contrary, there is not nearly enough. I've been subscribing to ST fanzines as long as there have been pro books in existence, and my experience is that, on the whole, the pro novels have drawn overwhelmingly positive reaction. (Author Ann Crispin told me, in person, that mine was only one of the three critical comments she could recall out of hundreds). I attribute this to the fact that the vast majority of ST book readers know little or nothing about ST fanzines. Part of the reason for criticizing the pro novels is to draw attention to the better-quality fanzines: part is to get pro authors to match the quality of writing in the better fanzines. As to whether ST stories (pro or fan) should be criticized. I am aware that there is a feeling among some fans that since ST writing is a 'labor of live' and not 'serious, that critics ought to 'go easy' on ST stories (particularly in fanzines). While I belied that criticism should be polite, it is not doing the author or fandom any service to overlook problems. Critical reviews will not hurt sales -- there are literally thousands of people who will purchase any publication with a ST label. Nor will it hurt the author's fan mail -- again, there are hundreds of fans who will enjoy any ST novel. But to those of us who are selective about what we read, it is essential to get an honest appraisal of the product (and ST stories are a product) before we purchase it. Naturally, authors are disappointed to hear that there are people who do not appreciate their work. but the purpose of a review is to evaluate the quality of a written work, not to inflate the author's ego.
  • Shirley Maiewski also writes in response:
    I agree whole-heartedly... re the sniping, called 'critiquing.' at Trek writers! Some of those doing it are dear, dear friends, but, doggone it folks! Gee! We do this for fun, after all, at least in zines... Somebody likes them or they wouldn't be printed! Many, many fans enjoy all ST stories? Why make them feel dumb by telling them they have no taste or smarts? It's an awful putdown to read that something you have enjoyed a great deal is 'poorly written; no character development; a -- horrors -- Mary Sue!' So what? Frankly, people have asked why I don't write more after the success of Mind Sifter. It's a long story, but there are two main reasons: First, the damage done to my story by editors (without my knowledge or permission), second, the thought that anything else I might write would be torn apart by the 'experts.' Best reasons in the world for a terminal case of Writer's Block.

Issue 8

The Propagator 8 (v.2 n.8) was published in April 1985.

  • a fan reviews the pro book, "Shadow Lord," and dislikes it: he felt it had bad cover art and poor characterizations, and a boring plot
  • a reader writes an LoC that addresses Maieski's letter in the previous issue -- he points out that bad reviews, when done politely, does everyone (readers and writers) a favor as they warn readers about poor fiction and money unwisely spent, and they help writers to improve: "Let us never fear to face the truth."

Issue 9

The Propagator 9 (v.2 n.9) was published in May 1985.

  • there is a review of the pro book "Ishmel" -- the fan really likes this one: "The story was not new, the plot was very similar (with the characters switched around) to the story The Mind Sifter in Star Trek: The New Voyages, which I also liked."
  • there is an Anaheim Starlog con report
  • there is an announcement that Paramount has just released ten Star Trek episodes on video tapes for $14.95 each
  • a fan writes an LoC defending two writers: "If I read one more sneer at the fine team of Marshak and Culbreath, I'll scream, 'T'Vareth!'... Rather than stamping out cardboard Trek figures like so many uninspired authors, these two take us on a non-stop-no-holds-barred adventure through the characters' minds and souls. The brooding depth of their crew leaves you breathless. Marshak and Culbreath write straight from their hearts -- and their hearts are obviously full of love for Star Trek. No other Trek writers have stirred me to quite the same degree."' She admits, though, that she "choked a bit on 'Vulcan Command Mode' [in 'The Prometheus Design.']
  • a fan writes that she disliked the pro book "Shadow Lord" -- "I found the novel very disappointing, especially considering the quality of some of the recent ST novels."

Issue 10

The Propagator 10 (v.2 n.10) was published in June 1985.

  • there is a short, negative con report for ShadowCon, see that page
  • one LoC comments on pro books: "I disturbs me that so many ST novels are shallow and superficial. The books tend to be all action and no meaning, and the characters are cardboard. The few writers who capture the meaning and message, as well as the significance of the friendships of ST, are Marshak and Culbreath, Sky Duane, and Lorrah. The rest range from entertaining but trivial to outright dull."
  • a fan complains that the newsletter has too many typos and asks if the editor uses "a spelling checker." The editor replies that it's hard to use and not terribly useful as a lot of the words are not in its dictionary: "Human proofreaders are so much better, and I, at great personal expense and sacrifice, have therefore gone out and acquired and [sic] English techer [sic] for a roommate. Please address all complaints on typos to [J G]."
  • Ruth Berman writes a letter of response to the topic of "criticism":
    The issue Shirley Maiewski discusses is one that's come up in other fanzines, and, as I've argued the other side in other fanzines, I guess I'll argue it here... Criticism of ST fiction (both fan and pro) serves some useful fucntions -- so useful as to outweigh the drawbacks. The chief drawback is the one Shirley mentions, the author's feeling of pain at any negative criticism. But authors can get rid of a good deal of the pain by murmuring many times over, "Dopes, whadda they know!" (I speak as one who has murmered it many times.) As to advantages, criticism helps fans decide which things to buy (few can afford to buy all). Also, it forces you, the reader, to think about why you liked or disliked something -- and that produces a deeper understanding of what you like, and, in turn, a deeper liking... And once in a while, too, the writer may get useful advice on how to write from criticism, although that doesn't usually happen --the process of putting something together (synthesis) is too different from the process of seeing how it works (analysis); It really isn't a put-down to find that someone else thinks a story you liked is a Mary Sue. The story may have other virtures that make it worthwhile even though it is a Mary Sue. Or. on thinking it over, you may think the critic is entirely wrong. Or, if you come to agree with the critic, you can set the story aside as a "don't bother re-reading" and turn to a better story instead. I realize that these comments aren't much help if you do, all the same, feel put-down by a critic. But getting rid of criticism seems too drastic a solution. Trying to get rid of the put-down feeling is probably a better one, even though it's sometimes difficult.
  • Another fan, [J G], writes:
    As an English teacher, and one who relies on "critisism" for a living. I should like to respond to Ruth Berman's comments on the subject... As a writer, I can empathize with the "Dopes, whadda they know!" feeling. After all, you sweated over this work, you poured your heart into it, you stayed up late correcting typos, lost sleep when the ideas hit you in the middle of the night, and Goddamnit, this is your baby! But as an instructor, I assure you that criticism can be very healthy to your future writing (the major problem, as I see it, is that items often don't get criticized until published. The criticism should be gotten before then so that possible corrections can be made). An objective critic can see things that the writer can't, and a good one -- one ready to give constructive criticism -- can show you how to imporve the story, how to rid it of inconsistencies, cardboard characters, useless descriptions, and infestations of the infamous "Mary Sue." I realize that there are critics out there who are just people with grudges and prejudices... and that there is no pleasing some people. But this doesn't make the concept of criticism (analysis) completely invaluable. Remember, the best writers are usually their own worst critics. The best writers are the ones most eager to know about prior mistakes and eliminate them from future projects -- in other words, to grow and improve. Examine what the critics have to say: you'll know what is the truth and worth considering, and what is merely bitching.
  • there is a full-page flyer for PropCon, see that page

Issue 11

The Propagator 11 (v.2 n.11) was published in July 1985.

  • a fan reviews Killing Time; while he points out its faults, he also says he enjoyed it and recommends it
  • a fan, one who had previously commented in a letter that fans were too hard on pro books, reviews "The Vulcan Academy Murders" and liked some of it, but she found the idea of an Italian restaurant named Angelo's on Vulcan unlikely and found the story "long, tedious at points, and boring before it could come its obvious end." This fan writes that she enjoyed "Tears of the Singers" but despised "Corona' -- "As for my own scathing review of 'Corona' -- it had it coming. I objected in an earlier letter to the harshness of the reviews in 'Props' past because they were mostly aimed at someone I have a great deal of respect for, Vonda McIntyre. She is a gifted writer. I've exchanged words with another reader who happens to think she's a potato head. Let's simply agree to disagree. That way we both come up smelling like a rose."

Issue 12

The Propagator 12 (v.2 n.12) was published in August 1985.

  • a fan writes about Killing Time:
    I just finished Delia Van Hise's Killing Time -- the latest Pocket "pro" novel. Please, please do a campaign to kill sales for this book. It's all the worst K/S cliches: Kirk is a love object, an incompetent who would be a hopeless loser without Spock to prop him up; the minute Kirk and Spock's eyes meet "across a crowded room" they know. And, of course, everybody else knows -- even the lowliest Romulan knows "these two" belong together. (Low violins on the word "together.") The plot is standard K/S fare -- an alternate universe where, separated, each has sunk or risen to his rightful level -- Spock is a Captain, Kirk a hopeless misfit, a drug addict, unpopular, mistreated -- given a last chance by being stuck on Spock's ship as a lowly ensign. Spock takes one look at that "golden hair" (never mind that it's brown) and "lovely hazel eyes" and his heart goes "boom-boom-boom." It's done so cornily (standard K/S, I warned you) that it's only fit for reading aloud to mock! There are Romulans about, to provide an enemy, a semblance of a plot, and to keep the censors at bay -- a quickie pon farr on Spock's part, solved by a quickie with the Romulan Commander (of "Enterprise Incident" fame). She's now a big deal in Romulan politics, but women are really discriminated against there (never mind that this directly contradicts the series) and she kidnaps Kirk to blackmail Spock into playing games with her (besides the one.- mentioned above). Kirk and Spock, of course, have an instant telepathic bond (we delicately avoid any suggestion of sex in this context) and Kirk signals Spock with it. So, our resourceful hero rescues his golden-haired darling just in time for a quick flurry of action before we restore everybody to their "proper positions" in the universe as we know it. I could spend another page listing the reasons why Van Hise's background set up makes no sense -- suffice it to say, her logic won't bear any inspection. What keeps Marshak and Culbreth marginally decent is that they have better sense -- they verge on K/S but see it as a partnership of "mythic" proportions -- not an unequal love match. It affronts me that Pocket published this -- I have no objection to K/S as a genre, so long as it stays where it belongs -- as a genre, not as published, authorized Trek! Please encourage your readers, to avoid this book!
  • [J V] comments on the subject of criticism:
    I disagree with the comments in the May 1985 issue about the motivations of the critics of ST writing. First, I doubt if ST novel critics are jealous of the sales figures. ST novels are virutally guaranteed a high sales figure whether they are good, bad or indifferent. Further, I read ST novels shortly after they come out, when total sales figures cannot possibly be known yet. So, even if I were to let jealousy of sales influence my opinion of writing quality -- which I don't -- I have never known the sales figures of any novel at the time I commented on it, so this cannot possibly influence my opinion of the writing. Second, while I accept that there are opera critics who write reviews on the basis of a few arias, I always read an entire work before reviewing it. Otherwise, all I can say is, for instance, that I put down The Final Reflection on page 34 because I could not go on, and that does not constitue a complete review -- only an initial reaction. Third, there seems to be an attitude among some fans that what is popular must automatically be good. Quality and popularity are unrelated. If a quality work is popular, that is merely a happy coincidence. Many quality works get overlooked; many substandard works get lots of attention. I have enjoyed some poorly-written works, and not enjoyed some works I recognized as good writing. Therefore, to answer a critic by saying "but it's popular!" means nothing. Fourth, I get the feelings that some fans think that those of us who have unfavorable reactions to ST writing should keep quiet. When I comment on ST writing, it is not to show off pretended literary knowledge or to irritate the author or the readers. The sole reason I write reviews or comments on ST writing is because of my conviction that I have just as much right to express an unfavorable opinion as those fans who express favorable ones. There is nothing more to it than that.

Issue 13

The Propagator 13 (v.2 n.13) was published in September 1985.

  • a fan reviews "Dwellers in the Crucible" and despite the fact his reviews of the last two novels were pretty favorable, and "lest you thing the old Trader is getting soft," he doesn't like this one. His two main complaints are that this novel doesn't have much to do with the Enterprise and that the two female main characters appear to have the hots for each other. "There have been some complaints that in some books, Kirk's relationship with Spock gets a bit too 'lovey-dovey.' Well, if you don't like that, you won't like it in a female either. I kept waiting for them just to jump in the sack and get it over with."
  • there is a long con report of PropCon -- some of the highlights: the supper at the Sizzler, the long hours watching Star Trek and Doctor Who videos, the filksinging, the enforced art project at 4:30 in the morning, and the host's constant making of ice cubes. Fans lit candles at the base of the Leonard Nimoy altar in the kitchen and chanted "Phone home, phone home." And Lisa made more ice cubes. There was a panel on Women in SF ("Do We Really Need Men? -- the general answer was "no"), "people complained bitterly about the missing orgy, and the fact that they waited in line all day to see Lisa water the lawn," Lisa made ice cubes, there was Lisa's 'Death Dinner and Birthday Party" (on the menu: egg rolls, barbequed chicken, spaghetti with sausage), fans watched some Man from U.N.C.L.E., more Trek, more Doctor Who, fans were "forced to participate in a dramatic reading of the upcoming fanzine Omne Praeceptum Frangit," fans went out side and sang filksongs, and the Dealer's Room was really a linen closet. And Lisa made ice cubes.

Issue 14

The Propagator 14 (v.2 n.14) was published in October 1985.

  • the editor addresses issues about Killing Time and the rumors that it had been recalled by Pocket Books "because of questionable material" -- "I've talked with David Stern, editor of the Trek line for Pocket books... On 'Killing Time,' the wrong manuscript was typeset in the first printing. Pocket has revised the manuscript to Paramount's satisfaction and the second printing contains the correct version of the story."
  • a fan writes in that "Dwellers in the Crucible" is a worse novel than the previous reviewer gave it credit for: "This novel would have ended up at a cat toy... I've always found Bill's reviews informative, witty, and accurate, and I felt sure that he was going to give this novel the tongue-lashing it deserved. He should have torn it to ribbons."

Issue 15

The Propagator 15 (v.2 n.15) was published in November 1985.

  • a fan writes that she would like to know exactly constituted the "questionable material" in the first edition of [Killing Time]], a book she owns. Her "main objection to the story was its wimpy portrayal of Spock's pon farr. Somehow, I doubt that he'd slide peacefully into unconsciousness. Let's hear it from someone who has read both versions and compared them. This is bound to boost sales for Della Van Hise, don't you think?"
  • this issue has a full-page flyer for Omne Praeceptum Frangit

Issue 16

The Propagator 16 (v.2 n.16) was published in December 1985.

  • a fan writes a review of "Pawns and Symbols":
    First of all, I'm going to do something I've never done before - change a rating on a previous book. I was metaphorically beaten about the head and shoulders for giving 'Dwellers in the Crucible' a 5. I'm revising that rating down to a 3 for two main reasons: 1) Some of the comments I got made sense, and more importantly, 2) the book I'm about to review was better, but in no way deserves a 6. I plead temporary space insanity. Now, on to this review. Lisa is going to love the latest ST book, 'Pawns and Symbols' by Majliss Larson. It features another one of those wonderful women of the Federation. The main character, Jean Czerny, is intelligent, resourceful, courageous, strong, yet warm, human and caring. In short, we have another edition of "Hello, Mary Sue, Goodbye Plot." (Sorry, Buddy, wherever you are). The Klingon Empire is facing a famine that threatens to decimate it. Meanwhile, on Sherman's Planet (home of the Tribbles episode) an Earthquake destroys most of the Federation outpost, killing all the inhabitants except two. The Klingons pick up a distress signal, land on the planet, and promptly kill one of the two survivors. The remaining survivor is Jean Czerny. How convenient. (You'll see why I said that if you bother to read the book.) The problem is, she has partial amnesia -- just partial enough to let the story continue. She gets taken, along with a new strain of quadrotriticale, into the Klingon Empire. The story mainly deals with her interactions with various Klingons, most notably Kang (of "Day of the Dove"). Her interactions with him are more than just casual, if you know what I mean (and I think you do). It also concerns a "plot" to get the Klingons and the Federation negotiating for some sort of peace outside the confines of the Organian-imposed treaty. There are a lot of different Klingons in this story, wimpy ones, bullying ones, imperial ones, conniving ones, even a couple of relatively nice ones. But no really terrifying ones and only a couple of reasonably interesting ones. The story takes place over too much time to be particularly gripping (it takes many months for anything to happen worth writing about, apparently). Jean's amnesia was used in a far too convenient and contrived manner, and Spock is given another wonderful ability (he can see magnetic fields). Finally, there was a sequence in the middle of the book about the Enterprise finding a destroyed Romulan ship and one survivor that served absolutely no purpose other than to take up space. Still, there was a little more of Kirk and Co than in some previous books, and their characters weren't too outrageous, so that assuaged my ire a bit. Therefore on the warp factor of 1 to to, 'Pawns and Symbols' gets a 4.
  • this issue contains the essay, "4,800 Seconds with Leonard Nimoy" by Morjana Coffman, an account of a talk by Nimoy on October 12, 1985 at CreationCon
  • this issue has an article called "Return of the Apple Gamesters Within" by Andy Thornton and Anthony Flynn; it is a humorous essay on the predictability of all ST episodes
  • a LoC writer offers to critique fan-written fiction for no cost, except that of a copy of the work and an SASE
  • a LoC takes on a previous letter addressing the quality, and quantity, of Spock's sweat

Issue 17

The Propagator 17 (v.2 n.17) was published in January 1976.

Trader Bill's summary, click to read
  • this issue has a small essay, a parody of a Doctor Who episode by Andy Thornton and Anthony Flynn titled" "Gestalt Doctor Who"
  • Trader Bill offers up a summary of his ST pro book reviews, see image
  • a fan has compared the two versions of Killing Time and offers this summary up:
    The first difference is on page 26. In the original, Kirk touched Spock's hands and Spock put his hands on Kirk's shoulder. Not so in the new release. The second difference is tnat Kirk's drug addiction was made less severe in the approved version; more like someone who has prescription sleeping pills and cannot live without them. Thirdly, Spock's pon farr was handled more delicately in the new edition. Finally, in the last chapter of the first release, Kirk says, "You may be the only Federation citizen to be sued by the Romulan Praetor for child support" while the words "child support" were deleted from the new version.
  • a fan was offered a copy of the new ST novel, "Mindshadow":
    I flipped it over and saw the words "EVIL ROMULAN PLOT." I handed it back to her between two fingers, dangling as I would handle a dead rat or a manuscript titled "Spock in Pon Farr With Only Little Mary Sue to Comfort Him." This led me to some research in the ol ' Trek library; I counted four books featuring "Evil Romulan Plots," four with "Vicious Klingon Plots," and three "Sinister Klingon-Romulan plots." And, lordy, am I tired of anything with the Romulan Commander in it! Are we looking at the six best manuscripts Pocket Books gets in a year? This stuff is getting old. I'm going to send them a copy of my book, 'Spock Writhes in Pon Farr; but Mary Sue Writhes in Hell'.

Issue 18

The Propagator 18 (v.2 n.18) was published in February 1976.

  • Trader Bill reviews "Mindshadow" and dislikes it: the plot has obvious holes in it, and it features a Mary Sue -- he "wonders why Pocket Books is so insistent on subsidizing the adolescent fantasies of some of these female ST writers (not that the few male writers have been much better). I know there's some good ST fiction out there -- why is it you have to buy six ST novels to find one decent one?"
  • a fan writes an essay asking why, seeing how it's very prevalent and would be quite useful, Kirk and Spock and others haven't bothered to learn Klingonese or the Romulan language
  • there is a long LoC from a fan who dislikes celebrities hawking products in commercials and has been especially angered and horrified by Nimoy's recent "selling out" in an ad for Westerna Airlines despite the fact that he states in his book, "I Am Not Spock," that he wouldn't degrade his character for money because "drama is a kind of spiritual crusade."

Issue 19

The Propagator 19 (v.2 n.19) was published in March 1976.

  • two fans write a short parody of a Space:1999 episode and title it, "Return of the Variant of the Destiny of the Beta-Arcadians (a Space:1999 Gestalt)"
  • a fan is asking for fiction submissions as "I am actively soliciting for a proposed Star Trek anthology along the lines of The New Voyages books of a few years ago. I need first quality short stories ASAP."
  • two fans disagree with a fan's letter in the previous issue, saying Nimoy shouldn't be shamed for doing ads -- perhaps he thought it would be fun?, or he needed the exposure? or he needed the money?
  • the fan who wrote the original letter about Nimoy's "prostitution" has gotten quite a bit of backlash, but defends her stance and says: "The letters I've received thus far have missed the point entirely: In fact, I'm beginning to think Star Trek fans will defend anything the stars do. However, I don't think it's okay to do something dishonest because everyone else is doing it, or because nobody pays any attention: these are essentially the arguements I've received. So, try again, folks."

Issue 20

The Propagator 20 (v.2 n.20) was published in April 1976.

  • Trader Bill reviews "Crisis on Centaurus" -- while he says the news on pro books has been pretty bleak lately, this one is "worth a look... I was very pleasantly surprised by this book... I felt really at home with the characterizations and situations. To give you an idea of what I mean, I think this book could easily be made into a movie (or one of the TV episodes), and ST fans would probably like it. That's more than I can say about most of the other ST novels I've read. You won't find any super-stretching of characters here, but Ferguson has remained loyal to the way they have been portrayed on the screen."
  • this issue has a short con report for Creation Con
  • the newsletter's editor announces a second PropCon:
    Those who survived PropCon I are in shock. Can she really be planning ANOTHER one? It's true. I'm that foolish. If PropCon I was a micro-con. PropCon II will be a desk-top con. On the night of Friday, August 15th, Collingwood will begin to fill up with fans of Star Trek, Doctor Who, Dark Shadows and still more bizarre things. On midnight, Sunday, August the 17th, the smoke will clear and the dead will be removed. In between, our film program will be astounding, our Dealers' Room will be filled, ST and Who fans will once again face each other over a baseball diamond to test each other's metal, an orgy will be scheduled and Lisa will make ice cubes. Can you really miss this? PropCon II memberships are now just $5. They will go up at the door and might even go up before that, I haven't decided. For that pitance, not only are you allowed admittance to all of our wonderful programmed events (some of which might even happen), but you'll also get both a Progress Report and Program Book, whatever food I can afford to serve (this does NOT mean that you shouldn't plan to bring along some of your own!), and overnight accomodations at the Hotel Collinwood for Friday and Saturday. Note that sleeping assignments will be made on the basis of when I get your money. Latecomers will get the rose bushes. Of course, if you don't care to sleep in the bushes, there IS an overflow motel not far from Collingwood. Long distance members: here's your chance to meet us all! Once again, there will be a PropCon t-shirt. Please order in advance. The design will be a Macintosh creation featuring our beloved starship Tradition. Just $12 each. Contributions for the Progress Report and Program Book will be welcome. They should be parodies of anything you might find in another PR and PB. Suggestions for programming are also welcome.
  • there are four letters addressing the subject of Nimoy's appearance in an ad: one that argues she should lighten up, one that somewhat defends the letter but also says that any personal attacks to will be "passed on to my attorneys for possible action," one letter applauds the follow-up to the original letter as it was an "A+" piece of logical writing and well-thought out but that the last line ("Try again, folks" was an unnecessary challenge for conflict), and the last letter is by the original fan -- in it she says she still disagrees but that if fans don't have a problem with actors hawking products, then welcome to it; it only confirms her belief in the lack of taste and intelligence out there

Issue 21

The Propagator 21 (v.2 n.21) was published in May 1976.

  • Trader Bill reviews the pro novel, "Dreadnought!" -- "The books has its ups and downs. It's the first ST novel I've ever read that was written in the first person, and that makes for a refreshing change. The Piper character was a little strange, something of a cross between the normal ST-novel superwoman (Mary Sue) and 'Carol Burnett in space.' Maybe a sort of female Luke Skywalker... The plot was predictable, however, and there wasn't enough of the Enterprise crew for my taste... Trader Bill says he's read better, but he's also read worse."
  • this issue has a long account by Joan Verba of her visit to the set of Star Trek IV
  • a fan writes an account of the New York City Starlog Festival
  • there is a full-page listing the nominations for the 1986 Hugo Awards
  • the fan who complained about Nimoy's ad for Western Airlines writes again and says it is dishonest to appear in ads for which you personally do not endorse:
    The purpose of any commercial is financial gain. Many methods are utilized to achieve this goal. In this specific case, there is an attempt to persuade Star Trek fans to patronize Western Airlines. No rational reasons are given as to why we should do this, only an emotional and irrational one: Do you like Star Trek? Then fly Western. It is misleading to present emotional reasons and eliminate or obscure rational considerations. Commercials such as this one cost a great deal of money to produce and present, and are created by professional advertising departments; the misinformation is, therefore, deliberate. Any deliberate attempt to mislead is dishonest. Since this particular commercial (and nearly all commercials) is characterized by an attempt to mislead by the use of emotion at the expense of reason, it is, indeed, dishonest. To endorse something is to support it. By appearing in a commercial, an actor is supporting that product or organization, whether or not an outright statement of support is made. Supporting something dishonest is a dishonest act. Therefore, since the Western commercial used Mr. Shatner and Mr. Nimoy in an attempt to mislead the public, their appearance was both an endorsement for that corporation and a dishonest activity.
  • a fan writes a letter and suggests that the original letter writer is looking for attention:
    May I make a few suggestions regarding [C M]? First, anyone living near her should go and lavish lots of love and
 attention on her. Others not so near should send her cards and letters letting her know we are not ignoring her. I feel she's probably lonely and needs attention. Secondly, she should be encouraged to write directly to Mr. Nimoy and Mr. Spock, both, and state her feelings to them. Many people in the past have tried to cross wits and logic with them both. I'm sure if they feel her complaint is valid and logical and they feel they owe anyone an explanation, Carol may receive a letter from one or both, thus causing the rest of us to turn green with envy.
  • a fan writes a letter in support of the original letter, and says that:
    Like [C E], I am shocked to see Star Trek fans abandon all logic and reason to leap to the defense of Leonard Nimoy. Neither [M P] nor [I S] even addressed the point of [C's] original letter, which was this: Nimoy's actions seem inconsistent with the noble principles he claims to live by. If anyone can explain how Nimoy can say one thing and do another without being a hypocrite, they should do so -- but no one has. I believe that Spock would be appalled to see such a triumph of emotion over logic among those who profess to understand Vulcan and all it represents. Suggesting that Nimoy did the commercial "to finance some of his future projects" reveals great ignorance of how the movie business works. Directors do not pay for the expense of filming a movie any more than airline pilots have to buy their own 747s. The movie studio (in Nimoy's case, Paramount) does that. When's the last time anyone saw Speilberg hawking frozen dinners to finance his next film? Furthermore, [I's] anecdote about "The Sun Also Rises" undermines her own argument. If Nimoy's professional judgement was that poor before, why not again? [M P's] sarcastic tone ("Surak forbid!", "Now, now" and other condescending phrases) was totally uncalled for. She claims that Nimoy did the ad for fun, and that [C]is taking the whole thing too seriously. Once again, the point is lost: that Nimoy himself claims to take acting that seriously. Should [C] be ridiculed for expecting him to put his integrity where his mouth is? Loyalty is an admirable trait, but blind loyalty is foolish and dangerous. If Star Trek fans ignore facts and react in childish, irrational ways, what happens to Gene Roddenberry's dream of an intelligent, mature audience?
  • a fan remarks on a fan's threat (in the previous issue) that she will forward harassing letters to her lawyers: '
    On the subject of libel: Fellow campers, I want you to know that I respect the rights of the individual and I love Star Trek as much as the next guy with an autographed Dr. McCoy plate, but I think I would feel pretty foolish explaining to a judge in a court of law that I was suing someone because we disagreed about whether or not Mr. Spock should do commercials.

Issue 22

The Propagator 22 (v.2 n.22) was published in June 1986.

  • a fan writes about a Doctor Who episode called "The 27 Doctors"
  • this issue has a long essay called "'Slash' -- Sex in the Twenty-Third Century?" -- in it, the fan writes:
    What will sexual mores be like three hundred years from now? No one knows for sure; we can only speculate. Star Trek itself is not much of a guide, since Mr. Roddenberry was prevented from showing any obvious sexually related activity due to television censorship. None of this has stopped speculations of the fans in fanzines. One of the most active groups are people writing and publishing the K/S genre -- sometimes referred to as "slash." In fact, one publisher recently told me that K/S sells better than straight zines. (For those of you unfamiliar with this subject, "slash" stories describe -- often in graphic detail -- a homosexual relationship between Kirk and Spock.) These zines have divided fans somewhat. Some people are active supporters, others are vehement in their opposition... Is it possible that Kirk and Spock are sexually involved? Certainly, it's possible; sexual morality will no doubt undergo drastic changes in the next three hundred years, and we have no way of knowing in what direction that change will take place. However, let's examine a few possibilities. If we deal with the reality of Star Trek, we must be aware of the fact that it is a 20-year-old television program. The characters acted like present day people. Since homosexuality is not presently socially acceptable, and was even less so when ST first aired, it would seem that homosexuality of the major characters is unthinkable. But it's not as much fun to deal with hard realities, so let's consider ST as an actuality. One thing that was firmly established in the series and movies was the friendship between Kirk and Spock. "Whom Gods Destroy" contained the statement that they were "brothers." Kirk risks his career to save Spock's life in "Amok Time" and Spock shows his willingness to give up his own life for Kirk's in "The Apple." There are numerous examples in both the series and the movies that they are more than Captain and First Officer. But what are the implications of that friendship? Ultimately, your concept of friendship will be one of the two factors determining whether you can accept K/S as a possibility. So, in that larger context, how do you view friendship? Does it mean that you accept the other person as they are, or do you try to change them if you decide they will be happier with that change? If the friendship between Kirk and Spock is based on mutual acceptance of their differences, then "slash" is not possible, since it is based on change, rather than acceptance. This is directly related to the concept of IDIC, and the acceptance of differences. Should Kirk accept Spock as he is, or do you want him to change Spock; for Spock to behave in a more human and emotional manner? But what of the second factor? Spock's highest value is logic and rationality. Love is emotional and irrational. The few times Spock has displayed emotion, he regretted it later. The only exception to this was in STTMP, but after this, he still suppresses emotional expression. But of primary importance is your feelings toward Spock's goals of emotional suppression and logical thought. Do you think he'd be "happier" if he abandoned those ideals and became more human? Then you might enjoy "slash" stories. Or do you believe that Spock's self-satisfaction depends on his continued striving toward completely rational behavior? Since K/S requires Spock to behave irrationally -- yes, I'm referring to love -- your impression of what Spock should be is an important factor. It should be clear to you that I believe "slash" stories to be based on an illogical premise. They do not, therefore, represent a part of my ST universe. However, since logic and rationality have never been common, I will not be surprised if the genre enjoys continued popularity. And as long as the distributors continue to exercise discretion in their advertising so that purchasers know what they are buyinq, there should be room in fandom for ail points of view.
  • a reader, in response to a complaint that Trader Bill's book reviews are overwhelming negative, asks fans what they want to see in a Star Trek novel
  • there are several more letters addressing Nimoy's, and other actors' commercial endorsements, and one fan scolds: "This is not Interstat! No more BACKBITING!"

Issue 23

The Propagator 23 (v.2 n.23) was published in July 1986.

  • the editor has a new computer, a Mac named "Jamie"
  • one fan, [T S], wrote she wanted a Star Trek pro novelist to "1) Watch the episodes, some more than once, 2) Avoid fan clichés, 3) Be a responsible science fiction writer, 4) Avoid all resemblance to Devil World and The Enterprise's Visit to Horatius [actually, the title was Mission to Horatius], 5) Be creative, and 6) Don't bore me.' Another writer added, 'I think a Trek editor needs to like ST as much as we fans do, and be as familiar with it as we are'."
  • Trader Bill reviews the pro novel, "Demons" -- "In a nutshell, this one is a little better in plot, still has a Mary Sue, and is not particularly original."
  • Trader Bill responds to a fan's complaint that he is too harsh with his reviews:
    I am not a professional writer, and have no aspirations to be one (those who can't do, criticize - is that it?). I am not even a professional critic, l am simply, like so many other people out there, a consumer. I spend my hard-earned cash on these books in the hopes of being mildly entertained for a few hours. I give my comments to Lisa in the hopes that some people will be spared having to spend $3.50 or more for a disappointing novel. I don't expect people to accept my word or even to agree with me, but once someone has gauged the way I review a book, then perhaps he or she can make a more intelligent decision about buying a Star Trek novel. When I originally took on the task of these reviews, I expected them to go to consumers like myself, and not necessarily to writers of ST novels. It seems that with a larger audience than I expected, people should be more aware of my perspective, and I hope this clears things up a bit. ... The most important thing here is that my reviews are meant to be a guideline, not a law. I found your comment that "I haven't read a TREK novel in quite some time" to be very interesting - why do you think that is? To paraphrase your comment, "It's easy to knock a critic — much tougher to try to read all these books and give them a fair shake. And why don't you try to review them yourself?" (Please take that in the lighthearted spirit it was intended).
  • [J V] writes in defense of the critical book reviews:
    I have been meaning, for a while, to write in and publicly thank "Trader Bill" for his continuing reviews of the ST pro novels. His comments are a refreshing contrast to those who write in praise of every ST novel published as if each were a masterpiece of literature. It is nice to know that there is someone out there who has high expectations of plot, characterization, style, and believability... There seems to be a myth about those who regularly criticize ST pro novels. Some seem to think such critics are nothing but a bunch of grouches who don't like anything, and get their thrills out of tearing down a work of fiction. This is not the case. In truth, the reason that some of us aren't enthusiastic about the pro fiction is because the best of the ST pro novels are disappointing when compared to the best of general SF literature, or even the best of ST fan literature. I enjoy at least one-third of the ST fan fiction I read; in contrast, of the thirty Pocket Book novels thus far, I would only recommend 'The Vulcan Academy Murders'. What I would like to see in the pro novels, at minimum, is a good story, a cohesive plot, and accurate characterization. My major complaint about the more recent pro novels is that they are dull. I would like to see something more interesting, if not more exciting. I would like to see pro authors avoid soap opera or melodramatic cliches. I would like to see pro authors avoid characterizing Kirk and Spock as super-mortals. I would like to see authors avoid pseudo-philosophical nonsense and quasi-scientific fluff. In particular, I would appreciate it if the author would refrain from putting forth his or her own pet theories of how society should be so that the ST universe takes second place. I don't think that's asking for much.
  • another fan weighs on critical reviews of pro books:
    What I want to see in a ST novel are, by and large, the same things I expect in any sort of novel; plot, characterization, humor, drama, surprises: things I've been missing in the St novels of the last two and a half years. Writing a good ST novel isn't easy to carry off -- as no less an authority on written ST than James Blish proved when he wrote Spock Must Die! I could write a book on how not to write good ST, but then, what do I know? I do know what I don't like: juvenile sex fantasies, beaten to death plots, and generally bad writing. Obviously, the reason that the good Mr. Weinstein thinks the good Trader Bill is so harsh is because he hasn't read the repetitive, childish crap that Pocket Books thinks (correctly, as it happens) it can sell us. I suspect they did a little market research, found out how a lot of fan girls got their jollies, and the rest is history. I don't buy it, though. I've been reading SF of all sorts for as long as I could read, and I judge ST by the same standards as anything else. Even so, it has become nearly impossible to write ST without tripping over a few cliches. To this, I can only add what I once read in a list of magazines that take poetry submissions; one publisher, after listing specifications added, "If it rhymes, it better be good.

Issue 24

The Propagator 24 (v.2 n.24) was published in August 1986.

guidelines from Pocket Books
  • a fan and writer of a pro book, [A C], writes:
    Teegar Shaver asked what the "inside story" to publishing a ST novel is. The answer is that submitting a Trek story is no different than submitting anything else — except that you have a far greater chance of being rejected, because of simple numbers. After all, Pocket only publishs six Trek novels a year, and only Pocket can publish them, (And they get well over a thousand submissions a year. And several of those 6 slots are taken up by the three or four people who get asked to write a book.) So, you lessen your chances of getting your work accepted by a huge factor if you write a Trek novel, because, if Pocket doesn't like it, it can't go to any other professional market, I've heard the same kind of questions Ms. Shaver poses many times at writer's panels. So many people seem to think that there's some hidden "secret" to getting published. There's not. If your work is non-Trek and publishable, you have a reasonable chance of selling it. So, it pays to think: do you want to be a writer or do you want to be a Star Trek writer? Trek is not the easy road to publication. If your work is Star Trek and publishable, it's only got to be better than the other 999 submissions Pocket has gotten that year. And, trust me, even professional writers' manuscripts get rejected sometimes. Writer's Market teiis you the correct format for ms. submission, and it's no different for Trek than for anything else. The current editor's name is David Stern. Pocket's address is on the inside cover of any Trek book. So, go for it. I'm aware that most readers of ST novels think they can do, or have don'e, better. Hell, why do you think I sat down to write Yesterday's Son? Al! ! can say is that if you folks can write better Trek novels, by all means, please do so, I'd love to read 'em. At the moment, I'm busy trying to write the best one I can, and I know for a fact that some fans won't like it,, just as some didn't like YS, (Probably Trader Bill, for one.) It's only too true that you can't please them all. So, to paraphrase the late Rick Nelson, you do better just pleasing yourself, and not losing sleep over what the critics will say, I do think that if you don't have the ability to write a good non-Trek story, that you probably won't be able to write a decent ST story, So, one good way to sell a ST story is to write several non-Trek books, until you've made a name for yourself, then call your agent and have him/her call Pocket and tell them you're interested in writing a Trek novel. Pocket will be overjoyed, and you (that is, your ms.) won't have to spend three months to a year sitting in the slush pile waiting to be read.
  • a fan adds:
    have stumbled onto a letterzine about ST novels where most of the readers regard those novels, the whole of them, as inferior, I detect the smell of elitist kaka here. I have read 26 of the 30 Pocket Book ST novels, and about 5 of the Bantam. I've read some bad ones. I've read even more of them that were mediocre. But, unlike most of you, I have managed to enjoy most of them. [J V] can only recommend one. ST novel? They're better than that, surely I [J S] reacts to the news that ST will return to TV with defeatist gloom and [T S] can't think of ST beyond 79 episodes. I can tell what's going on here; concept crystallization. We've all seen each episode 18 times and counting and we each have our own set ideas of what ST is and how it should be made, and woe unto anyone who doesn't see things our way! I haven't been around long enough to know much about Trader Bill" but I don't have a high regard for someone who hides behind a fake name while making loud, acerbic assertions. I fail to understand why you think you need to protect yourself. And don't say it's because you don't want to be "besieged by strange mail." That's a cop-out if there ever was one; if you fail to take responsibility for your own words, then don't expect me to respect them.

Issue 25

The Propagator 25 (v.2 n.25) was published in September 1986.

  • Trader Bill sign's off as the newsletter's "official reviewer" with this issue:
    Yes, folks... this is my last review. Trader Bill is moving on to deeper space. Before we move on to this review, a few final comments; To [Mr. W] - Thank you for a most articulate and stimulating conversation. I'm glad to see someone listens to fans and takes their comments seriously, even if he doesn't always agree with them. Good luck with your future efforts. (As to Mary Sues - the qualifications as far as I'm concerned are not only that one of the main characters has to be swooning over the MS, but she also las to be something of a superbeing.) To [Ms. C] - I'm sorry you and some others seem to ave the impression I hate everything. Since I started writing this "column", I have given favorable reviews to several books, including 'My Enemy, My Ally'. 'The Vulcan Academy Murder's', 'Ishmael', 'Killing Time' and 'Crisis on Centaurus'. If you read on, you will also see I very much enjoy Vonda Mclntyre's books. To [Mr. B] - Since some of the authors apparently HAVE seen my reviews, I don't have to prove I have "more guts" than you. More intelligence is quite sufficient.
  • Trader Bill's last review is of "Enterprise: The First Adventure" --
    On the whole, I really enjoyed this book, and can recommend it to anyone interested in ST fiction. My only (minor) criticisms of the book are that it might be a little too long (takes a long time to get going, but with relationships, I guess that's the way), and the alien contact reminded me of earlier books... On the warp factor scale of 1-10... a warp 9. Thought I'd leave you on a high note. Trader Bill says so long. Live long and prosper, and keep the faith.
  • the editor reviews two pro novels; she liked "Crisis on Centaurus," but "Enterprise: The First Voyage," not so much
  • this issue has a short essay by Tess Kolney called "Women of Star Trek IV, or The Gossip Paramount WON'T be Leaking" -- "I look at all I know and have seen and heard of STIV and wonder why Paramount felt the ST mythos couldn't even support one female character operating as a real, whole human being with her own motivations. I look at it and wonder what relationship this film bears to Roddenberry's original vision -- or my own dreams for the future of Star Trek."
  • This issue has an ad for Trekcruise '87
  • a fan clarifies some vocabulary: "...please, let us distinguish between talking about a work's quality and the degree of enjoyment gets from a work. Example: 'Albatross' and 'Pirates of Orion' are tied for my favorites (enjoyment) among the animated episodes, but the best (quality), in my opinion, is 'Yesteryear.' The fact that some ST pro novels get on the New York Times Gook Review mass-market paperback best seller list may or may not indicate quality. It may simply indicate that readers enjoyed the books."
  • a fan is unhappy with the newsletter for printing the plot summary of the newest movie, despite the fact it clearly had a spoiler warning: "Was it really necessary to print the entire story of STIV in Propagator? And don't tell me, "But it was labeled DON'T READ THIS IS YOU WANT TO BE SURPRISED..." Dangling an entire page of plot before most Trek fans with a tiny warning at the top is like passing Swiss chocolate under the nose of a chocoholic who's trying to watch his or her weight. Not fair!... I really wish you'd seen fit to keep most of that knowledge to yourself."
  • this issue has an essay about the necessity/non-necessity of war and the universe of Star Trek -- it is called "Give Peace a Chance?"

Issue 26

The Propagator 26 (v.2 n.26) was published in October 1986.

  • the newsletter reports that Paramount is going to do a new ST TV series called Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • the newsletter prints some tidbits from Bjo Trimble's Space/Time Continuum #1, one of which is an announcement that the Star Trek Concordance is being corrected and updated to include all four movies
  • another fan is unhappy with the movie synopsis printed in the last issue: "I just tossed the whole thing in the trash to avoid reading anything more."; another fan did not find the synopsis bothersome: "What's he so upset about?... Fans are people and they are capable of exhibiting self-control in not reading past the warning, when they truly wish to be surprised."; another fan writes that she believes fans want all the information they can get as soon as possible
  • a fan scolds another one for her article about war in the last issue: "Go stick your head in a bucket of anti-matter, you ninny. I do not say this because I disagree, which I do. I do not say this because I find your reasoning silly, which I do. No, I say this in order to express disgust and disdain that you would bring up politics in a Strekzine. Please don't do it again"

Issue 27

The Propagator 27 (v.2 n.27) was published in November 1986.

  • about a third of this issue is a reprinted article from The New York Times (11.2.1986)
  • a fan writes in an scolds the fan who scolded Trader Bill for his reviews: "... personal attacks on T-Bill when he is so widely known for his charitable critiques of bad ST fiction are unthinkable." He adds his two cents about the movie spoiler that was printed in issue #24: "Yes, ST news is good, but I, too, succumbed to the bait and ruined the surprise for myself. Not that I don't want you to print that sort of stuff, I just wish I hadn't read it."
  • a fan writes and asks why shouldn't fans accept things in the pro novels as canon? "The books are well-done, imaginative but convincing expansions of the movies."
  • many fans write in and complain about Trader Bill's admiration and positive review for the book "Enterprise: The First Adventure" -- they all express their dislike for the book
  • a fan writes that while he doesn't want to get into any political fights in the newsletter, he "100%" agrees with the essay about war

Issue 28

The Propagator 28 (v.2 n.28) was published in December 1986.

  • there is a report on the George Takei Star Ceremony at the Hollywood Walk of Fame
  • this issue has a long, long article called "Spock Among Who?" -- in it, the fan (a male), writes about The New York Times article called Spock Among the Women:
    Camille Bacon-Smith, an Archivist at the University of Pennsylvania's Archive of Folklore and Folklife, starts this article with an experience she had several years ago while taking a course in writing fiction. She stated that a professor made a statement that was meant to 'console' the women in the class, who were over 30 and had not yet sold a work of fiction. The professor pointed out, that 'women commonly break into print in their 30's, rather than in their 20's as men often do, Men write in the linear style recognized as fictional narrative at a much earlier age than women, who must learn linear narrative slowly and with much greater difficulty.'... Ms. Bacon-Smith herself wrote, 'As a social scientist, I found the idea that women learn linear narrative slowly and with greater difficulty intriguing, If women weren't, writing "correctly," was there a consistent pattern to their "error"?'. I was beginning to wonder about it also. Do women actually write in an errorous pattern? And if they did, could other women recognize those patterns as pleasing? The answers to these questions, Ms. Bacon-Smith wrote, could not be found in published serious fiction if women publish later than men, after they have 'learned how to do it properly.' She concludes that the answers, '... if not the answers', to the question about the ability of women writing in the narrative form did exist, But in the most unlikely place. STAR TREK. Star Trek, invokes the images of a masculine world. Admiral (Capt.) James T. Kirk and his First Officer, Captain Spock promenading all over the galaxy up holding truth, justice, and the monetary way. It is not the world of TV or movies that, can answer the questions to the writing style of women, but a world that we are more familiar with. A world that permeates our very existence. A world that 'close to 10,000 fans, most of them women, have created over 30,000 pieces of fiction, poetry, song, criticism, commentary and graphic art based on the television show and movies.' These works will often appear in amateur publications called fanzines. Because they use the copyrighted products of others as a basis for their art., story line and creations, they are obliged not to make a large profit. Male fans of Star Trek will normally balk at such restrictions and will try to tame another animal: Costumes and/or crafts. This being that, the pay is much better. Women, who can spend a large portion of their time, write and create for an entirely different reason. And this is the important part; 'They want to talk to other women, to express themselves in the science fiction form.' I thought this was fascinating. Women were passionately devoting what little time they had in other but commercial works. It wasn't that they had difficulty in learning to write in the 'Linear Narrative' fiction. They didn't want to write in that form. Then it hit me. Most of the books that are out, are only one track and one minded. They take the hero and pit him/her through existence, fight, flight, conquest, happy/sad ending. That was it, Have you ever asked yourself, what happens after the villain dies? Who gets the guy/gal? What next? Women want to see characters change and evolve, have families and experiences, rise to the challenge of internal and external crises in a 'NONLINEAR . . .tense, tapestry of experience.' Men see their lives as one dimensional. Birth, live, love one plot at a time. Women perceive their lives in a 'NONLINEAR, tense, tapestry of experience,' and they like to see that structure reproduced in their literature. To end this article, I would like to quote Ms. Bacon-Smith. I hope you agree with what she says. I do. 'Fan writers, as a group, are highly educated and verbally skilled (the average educational level attained is that of a master's degree). These women are not satisfied to accept passively the creations of others but exercise their esthetic preferences in their own stories, art, poetry and commentary, The writing experience then becomes one of participation in the lives of the characters. It is living day to day that matters, not the single events that make up individual plots (Linear Narrative), anf esthetic preference these artists share with the wider community of women readers. Experiences shared with a like-minded community take priority over the status of the solitary individual laboring alone on her art. It is to communicate, within the code of Star Trek, that the community expends so much creative energy'.
  • the letterzine has a new reviewer to replace Trader Bill; this new reviewer's name is The Average Fan. He or she reviews "Battlestations," and gives it a "B" -- the plot was pretty good, and it has some fine action scenes; if you liked "Dreadnought," you like this one and the opposite will be true; "Kirk is a little too perfect, crafty, and unapproachable, but on the whole isn't bad. Spock spends most of his time looking wise, while being completely useless. McCoy just stands around being incredulous a lot. The others are non-existent."
  • there is a review of the filk tape, Divine Intervention, see that page
  • a fan reviews the novelization of the movie "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" and finds it passable but lacking, mainly due to continuity and careless errors
  • the editor encourages fans to vote in the Surak Awards, which is one of the few times zines are even mentioned in the newsletter
  • a fan writes a long letter proposing nuclear disarmament and uses the Star Trek universe as an example of the need, citing the Genesis torpedo
  • there is an ad for SocioTrek
  • a fan writes that he thinks that, while Starfleet is a military organization, it is probably more like the Coast Guard than the Navy or the Air Force

Issue 29

The Propagator 29 (v.2 n.29) was published in January 1987.

  • everyone is abuzz about the new TV series: much of this issue is of a report of David Gerrold's talk at LosCon by Shoshanna and at Universe '87 by Alan Hale
  • a fan writes that for it to be considered canon, something must appear on the movie or television screen, or be out of Gene Roddenberry's official notes or books
  • a fan has seen the new movie and pronounces it "stupid, but enjoyable"
  • the editor, Wahl, points out that she is now the editor of the STW Directory

Issue 30

The Propagator 30 (v.2 n.30) was published in March 1987.

  • there is more information about the new TV series and it published the casting request, see the Star Trek: The Next Generation page
  • The Average Fan reviews "Chain of Attack" -- he likes it okay, and he gives it an A-
  • a trio of fans carry on with some more letters saying they find the other's letters insulting and immature
  • a fan writes in an scolds other fans about their opinions about novelizations and tells them "It is clear that both of you do not understand, or care, about the special difficulties in writing novelizations."
  • a fan writes in and explains what he'd like to see in the next movies:
    Take the Enterprise on a mission outside our solar system where we'd see them exploring strange NEW alien culture, we'd see meddling Romulans as well as Klingons, the old friendships among the crewmembers would be back and humor would be a natural part of the dialogue... ; we'd get a chance to see the 23rd century through the civilian families and loves of the crew; we'd see young adult Vulcans (and Vulcan culture) in these films; and, in order to pull all of this together, they'd find TALENTED screenwriters to write scripts that are neither grim nor silly, just well-written and exciting.
  • a fan writes of the advantages to knowing as much about a movie before seeing it, and "wishes to state for the record that knowing the plot of ST IV in advance did not 'ruin' the movie for me."

Issue 31

The Propagator 31 (v.2 n.31) was published in May 1987.

  • The Average Fan reviews "Deep Domain" -- he or she writes that the plot is complicated and perhaps too ambitious, the new characters were interesting, and in the end, The Average Fan was ambivalent about the whole book; the grade is a "B"
  • there are some more rumors about ST:TNG
  • in this issue is a long article by Carol Mathews called "Star Trek: The Series -- Military or Exploratory?"
  • one of the pro writers, Howard Weinstein, has a LoC and discusses some of the background details to writing an ST novel
  • one of the fans who is in some sort of feud with two others writes in and says: "Once you ring out the sarcasm and venom from your reply to me, all that is left is your hypocrisy."

Issue 32

The Propagator 32 (v.2 n.32) was published in July 1987.

  • a fan writes in and reports on his visit to The Next Generation Sets
  • The Average Fan reviews "Dreams of the Raven" -- he or she doesn't like it and gives it a C-
  • the author of the pro book that was recently reviewed writes in and, classily, defends his novel

Issue 33

The Propagator 33 (v.2 n.33) was published in September 1987.

  • a fan writes a long report on The Next Generation
  • The Average Fan reviews the book "The Romulan Way" -- he or she doesn't like it and gives it a C-
  • the editor reviews a filk tape called "Don't Ask" and gives it a B+
  • a fan comments on the novel, "Deep Domain" --
    My main complaint about Deep Domain was it's treatment of science as a religion. I see this trend all around me, In SF in general and ST in specific from the portrayal of science as rational, to its portrayal as a religion. In the series, we knew that, no matter what odd things had happened, Kirk and Spock would at least try to come up with an explanation in the end, But, I believe I even read a Nimoy quote somewhere about one of the points of STIV was protest against the arrogance of mankind for thinking he can understand everything. Whether attributing that philosophy to Nimoy is accurate or not, I do see it in STIV and I find it appalling. To turn your back on something saying, "I can't expect to understand it," is an intellectual suicide. That such an attitude is being seen in the real world and the popular press does not surprise me, but to find it in 5F and ST, the genres that taught me about rationality, is terribly depressing. The prime representative of Science in Deep Domain is LLissa. She's supposed to be the leading scientist of this planet. Yet, she uses such words as "faith" "intuition" "the worship of knowledge" a lot, but never "rationality" "scientific method," and, in fact, has to be taught about "logic" from Dr. McCoy! Her ceremonial robes remind Kirk or royalty rather than science, but I think a better analogy would be to call her "The Pope of Science," I like the cover of Deep Domain. It's pretty and well done, but you shouldn't think about it too much. Because, if you do, you have to ask yourself "Gee, what USB is this triple fluked tail?" When you think about how the tail would move, and how the forces of water resistance would act on it, the third fluke would be quite counterproductive, and highly unlikely to evolve naturally. Yet. I'm sure it's only a coincidence that the cover is representative of the book's lack of science. More's the pity.
  • the author responds:
    ...this is one of the strangest things I've ever been accused of—I'm neither religious nor a scientist. I do confess to finding both of them fascinating, though—and for very different reasons. But I just don't see what Lisa sees on this subject in Star Trek IV or Deep Domain. I guess the best way to do this is to deal with Lisa's specific points. As to that quote attributed to Leonard Nimoy, I partly agree—and I think Lisa is reading all sorts of negative connotations into that quote that just aren't there. There is a touch of arrogance in humans thinking we really can understand everything. Not that we shouldn't try—but for everything we figure out, we discover a bunch more things that are complete mysteries. And so we move onto trying to solve those. And even mysteries we do solve— such as finding a cure for a disease—often carry along with them several unanswered peripheral questions, no less intriguing just because they didn't happen to be the main object of inquiry. I think it would be a very boring world/universe if we actually knew all the answers. But I don't really think that'll ever happen. [4]

Issue 34

The Propagator 34 (v.2 n.34) was published in November 1987.

  • a fan, Rich Kolker, includes an interview with Gene Roddenberry that he did in March 1987, called "Interview with Gene Roddenberry at "Not the August Party" -- in it, he talks about ST: TNG
  • The Average Fan reviews "Strangers from the Sky" and he or she gives it a "B-"
  • a fan, Morjana Lee Coffman, writes an article called "Star Trek IV: Making Sequels Better"
  • fans start to weigh in on the new series...

Issue 35

The Propagator 35 (v.2 n.35) was published in January 1988.

  • The Average Fan reviews "Bloodthirst" and he/she loves it -- final grade is an "A"
  • fans discuss and argue about whether Star Trek: The Next Generation is any good: some hate it ("a decaying zombie"), some like it with reservations, almost all of them say they will try to give it a chance; fans scold each other about a variety of slurs and prejudices regarding their expectations of the show
  • one fan comments about the differences between pro novels and zines:
    Most, novels—and fanzines—are written by women. Societal sexism has resulted in behavioral differences between the sexes and this is reflected in the pro novels. Those written by men stress action/adventure at the expense of interpersonal development. Characters are often poorly defined and interact with each other peripherally. 'Deep Domain', (one of the better novels) separates Spock and Chekov from the Enterprise for much of the book, yet, I didn't get the impression that this was particularly troublesome to Kirk. Generally, dialogue is awkward when feelings are discussed. Novels written by women tend to the opposite extreme; much time is spent in emotional discussion—entire fanzine stories have been nothing but a conversation between two or three major characters. Interna! doubts are expressed, sometimes to the point of making the characters appear weak and indecisive. While there is some action in 'Strangers from the Sky', the story rakes place inside Kirk's and Spock's minds; their sanity is questioned as well. The major fault of the pro-novels is that they take place at one of these extremes. A union of the emotional and action/adventure is necessary before any story can conform to what we understand as Star Trek. Remember that the original series scripts were not just the work of one person; all went through considerable rewrites by many people before filming. Also, while many writers were male, the story editor, DC Fontana may have contributed much to balance the scripts. Writing a good book takes a great deal or practice, as well as genuine talent. Most writers do an adequate job, but none of the pro-novels are good literature, nor have any approached the quality of the best TV episodes Perhaps a collaboration would be in order for a really excel lent Star Trek novel.
  • there is a long, long letter by a fan who addresses the subject of religion and science as it was discussed by the editor and the author of the book, "Deep Domain" -- she ends up siding with the pro author's opinions, rather than the editor's; she also takes the newsletter's editor a bit to task about her previous dismissal of ST:TNG, asking her to give it more of a chance

Issue 36

The Propagator 36 (v.2 n.36) was published in March 1988.

  • the editor wants out:
    Wanted: New Editor: Those of you have been observing closely, especially reading my Newsletters of Excuse, have noticed that I've been phasing out a lot of my Trek Famish activities. And the time has come for me to bid Prop adieu. It's been fun folks (well, most of the time) but it's also been a lot of work, and I want to move on to other things. No, this has nothing to do with any of the viscious attacks on me in recent issues. But I hope you'll all feel bad about the things you said anyway. Nyah! But, seriously, folks. The question is, is there anyone out there interested in taking it over? If so, please write to me, at the address above, as soon as possible. In any case, I'm planning to continue putting out Prop until issue #40. At that time, if no new editor has come forward, I'll refund any outstanding subscription money to Prop only subscribers. If your subscription runs out before 40, and you'd like to see Prop through to the end (*sniff*) send $1 per issue to renew up to #40.
  • The Average Fan reviews Jean Lorrah's book, "The IDIC Epidemic" -- she/he pronounces it "pretty good" and gives it a B+/A-
  • there is a long, long letter from a fan who defends two "nay-sayers" of both pro books and the new TV series, saying they have been maligned, and unfairly so, that their opinions are valid
  • a fan writes a long letter saying that the old show had many flaws, that it was its spirit that should be carried on into the future in new incarnations, there are other thoughtful letters as well, that try to figure out just what "Star Trek" REALLY is... a dream, a wish, hero worship, a religion, reality, positive, negative...
  • The Average Fan signs out and says she/he will do more reviews

Issue 37

The Propagator (v.2 n.37 was published in ? 1988.)

  • note: it is possible this issue never existed and the numbering is off

Issue 38

The Propagator 38 (v.2 n.38) was published in September 1988.

  • a fan reviews the first TNG pro book, "Ghost Ship," and he finds it lacking -- "I'd give this one a D+ on a demanding letter grade scale."
  • a fan reviews the first season of TNG: it is critical but fair, and he wraps it up by writing "There is good potential for interesting episodes in the second season, and I hope the break helps them to think about how to do it better. It's not perfect, nor will it ever be, but I'm enjoying it very much, and it IS Star Trek."
  • a fan writes: "I agree that some of the fun has gone out. Do not despair. I have noticed that the mud slinging has created some feelings of realness behind the words used as names. We've experienced a naming ceremony. As a psychological anthropologist, that was one of the first things I learned -- all rites of passage... carry some discomfort as the new relationships are established. I hope this means that this culture will soon revitalize despite the changes."
  • a fan writes:
    I'm going to miss the Propagator, Lisa Wahl produced a consistently entertaining newsletter, Yet with the regret is understanding. Many fans, myself included, alternate periods of devotion with abandonment. Being a fan by definition means having an interest in someone else's creative activity, and while fans sometimes extend the Star Trek universe, they remain, essentially, followers. Fandom takes up a great deal of time, time that could be spent on other activities. I'm sure it took a lot of effort to produce the Propagator. And what do fans get in return? Certainly, it's fun to get mail, and to meet interesting people, but many of those people become abusive and insulting when their pet beliefs are threatened, Sadly, some of these beliefs aren't very important, certainly not important enough to cause unhappiness to the degree we sometimes see in the Propagator. And, in concrete terms, relative to the outside world, the gain is minimal. If Lisa had spent the time with Propagator on some other activity, she'd have her PhD by now.
  • a fan writes:
    When I returned to fandom a few years ago, I wanted to know what other fans had done with their lives. I was hoping that Star Trek fans had gone on to meaningful and important activities, but I was disappointed. Most fans are like everyone else: stuck in dead-end jobs, married, with children. The dreams of Star Trek hadn't been approached in our own lives. And when ST:TNG and the movies appeared, the credits were disappointing; while most of Star Trek fandom is female, the majority of people working on the show is still male. Why didn't more fans who were interested in the television industry get involved and find jobs working on the new show? The few women who appear are still playing supportive roles, with little credit while men rise to positions of importance. Star Trek is an escape mechanism. Fans devote much time and money to a vivid world that appears real, but it's so much better than reality that the temptation is increasingly to escape, The gap is so large it seems it can't be crossed. We can work hard to promote the space program, but it seems clear now that most of us will sever go into space. And the inability to change things for the better is probably why so many Star Trek clubs fail: most seem to a collection of people with no purpose, no way to make that Star Trek universe part of our own. Following this pattern, I alternately participate in and ignore fandom. However pleasant it is to be a fan, the most productive times in my life have been when the television is off (or not present) and I'm working on other things: a career, physical fitness, learning something new. Star Trek helps, if only as a staring point, initiating interests in aerospace, Shakespeare, and iogic. There isn't much new material being generated by Star Trek, but extrapolating from it yields endless possibilities.

Issue 39

The Propagator 39 (v.2 n.39) was published in November 1988. The header says Wahl will be the editor until issue #40, and after that, mail should go to Rick Jervis. There, however, doesn't seem to be issue #40.

  • there is a small amount of ST:TNG rumor and information
  • this issue has a full-page flyer for RevelCon
  • there is no indication that this is the last issue, nor does the editor have any comments; there are no book reviews
  • this issue is just four pages long, and just like that, "The Propagator" is no more

Gallery

References

  1. Blish worked directly from the scripts, often earlier versions than what was finally aired, and remarks like this may have been in the original Gene Coon script.
  2. from Boldly Writing
  3. In 1993, a zine ed asked her readers to list their "Five Favorite Fanzines." This was one fan's comment. For more, see Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine?/Top Five Fanzines Questionnaire.
  4. This is just an excerpt; the letter was much, much longer.
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