Black Cover

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Zine
Title: Black Cover
Publisher: Rock Dog
Editor(s):
Date(s): 1990
Series?:
Medium: print
Size:
Genre: adult het
Fandom: Beauty and the Beast (TV)
Language: English
External Links:
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Batb black cover.jpg
the flyer
Blackcover1.jpg
the first page of "A Darkness on the Edge"

Black Cover is a 150-page adult het Beauty and the Beast anthology. The fiction is by M. Louis, and it was published by Rock Dog. There is no title on this black-covered zine and no inside art.

From the flyer: "Is it true some secrets are better left untold? Sometimes when lovers are together they are willing to unfold even the worst part of their life to that person they trust most. There are three tales here, A DARKNESS ON THE EDGE and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (revised) are stories of facing an unforgiving past that can haunt a person. The third tale WEDNESDAY NIGHT MOVES is one of the promise the future can bring. The darkness of the past can sometimes light the way to an even brighter future.

NOTE: IN ADDITION TO ADULT THEMES, ISSUES ARE EXPLORED IN WHICH THE PRIMARY CHARACTERS BECOME INVOLVED IN OUTSIDE RELATIONSHIPS, THE THIRD TALE INCLUDES A DIANA/VINCENT ENCOUNTER, IF THIS TROUBLES YOU, WE SUGGEST YOU DO NOT PURCHASE THIS FANZINE."

White Cover

The negative response to "Black Cover" was so strong that some fans put together a "response" zine called White Cover. Although it was also a het zine, the stories were all rated G to PG-13 and focused on the more traditional romantic interpretation of Vincent and Catherine's relationship.

Contents

  • A Darkness on the Edge (a young Vincent engages in a sadistic menage a trois with two prostitutes)
  • Beauty and the Beast Revised (lawyer Catherine moonlights as a call girl, and one of her clients is Vincent)
  • Wednesday Night Moves (Vincent visits Diana to watch a movie but they ignore the movie and have sex.)

Reactions and Reviews

The zine was not well received by the Beauty and the Beast fandom. It is difficult to know how much of the outrage was organic or if it was a case of dogpiling and/or the nature of the Beauty and the Beast fandom culture of the time, as well as fans' embroilment in The Beauty and the Beast Wars.

For an open letter by one of the fans who created Black Cover, see An Exercise in Futility (Or Lessons in How to Beat a Dead Horse): Black Cover.

Tunnel Talk Comments: 1990

Black Cover was reviewed in Tunneltalk vol. 1, issue #6 (1990) and was described as "shocking" and "obscene." The reviewer complained that even though the zine was labeled adult, the warning was insufficient to cover "the violent slash (lesbian) and sado-masochistic stories." The reviewer strongly objected to the characterizations using phrases like "a sick depiction" and "awful and sad". And last, the zine was criticised for containing "an astonishing number of errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation" - while somehow managing to spell all the obscenities correctly. While the zine had an anonymous author, this reviewer "outed" her:

Warning: This review contains material that will upset most (I believe all B&TB fans.

I had heard stories about a zine—untitled—with a black cover that other fans described as "shocking" and "obscene."

I dislike condemning anyone or anything on second-hand gossip; so I borrowed a copy and read it. In my opinion, it violates every standard of love and decency B&TB ever stood for, and the author is to be sincerely pitied—but NEVER purchased from!

[Since l don't make anonymous criticisms, the first copy of this review, with my name, address, and phone number will go to the author.]

The zine contains the usual warning of adult material but does NOT warn of the violent slash (lesbian) and sado-masochistic stories which comprise this mess. Star Trek slash zines are always clearly labeled as such, and kept out of the hands of minors—shouldn't B&TB fandom be as responsible?

The stories contain an astonishing number of errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation. It seems that the only words consistently spelled correctly are the obscenities—and this book is loaded (Vincent, referring to Jacob as "My f___ing old man").

I refuse to accept a portrayal of Catherine as a bored, rich-bitch who moonlights as a hooker and agrees to take on Vincent as 'freebie" for her pimp—and calls him "Le Bette." I will not believe a sick depiction of an alcoholic, teenaged Vincent being chained down and whipped by two lesbian hookers who refer to him as their "doggie" and boast of the "tricks" they have taught him. I loathe a Vincent who routinely slashes his sexual partners with his claws and commands them to "bark."

The third story, in which Vincent begins a violent sexual relationship with Diana has Vincent describing his relationship with Catherine; "There were times when I felt she was unobtainable... Now I wonder sometimes if I only loved Catherine because for me, she was... When I was with Catherine I always regretted what I am. With you, Diana, I am finally at peace with myself."

The truly awful and saddest part of this entire zine is her one clear and accurate moment of characterization; when she describes Vincent's aloneness and pitiful feelings of worthlessness. You see, the words tell so much more about herself than they do about Vincent. She has the talent to write so much better that this travesty is much worse than it would be from the pen of an incompetent hack.

The author may use a pen name to try to remain anonymous but the errors in spelling (i.e. lionine, shear), constant use of past, present and future tenses in one sentence, turn of phrase (i.e. blew out), and mailing address all match a zine titled A Future Too Late. I will not purchase from or read anything by this author again. I vote with my dollars! [1]

Fan comments:

[November 1990]:
I read the zine review of Black Cover. I am very angry that such stuff is being written about B&TB.I know that Star Trek has some unusual literature, also, but I never heard of anything like Black Cover. People's sexual preferences are their own business, but perversion and filmy language (by perversion I mean whips and crazy stuff like that) DO NOT belong in B&TB. If I bought such a zine, I'd burn it; I wouldn't even WANT my money back.... Anyway, if anyone plans to write more perverted stuff, maybe CBS will give you a series—maybe Jeff Sagansky can get ratings that way.[2]
[January 1991]:
The zine Black Cover: I read the review in TT: this zine should be withdrawn from the market (It has been; see letters in TT volume 1 #12- editor), and refunds offered to people who want them. I object to using our beloved V & C and the character of Diana, portrayed in this way. Freedom of speech is one thing, but it can be taken too far. I've seen the flyer for this zine; it does not begin to explain the contents. 'Sexually explicit' needs to be replaced by a different phrase, or broken down more. Love scenes between V & C are explicit in many zines; in most they are beautiful. The stuff in Black Cover is sick and weird. What is next? V & C as child molesters or drug dealers? If people must write this disgusting junk, why not make up their own characters? Why involve B&TB? I don't feel pity only anger.[3]
In February 1991, the author of the zine wrote to Tunneltalk:

Editors of "TUNNELTALK":

I just received a distressing piece of news. It was about a "zine review" that was recently printed in TT.

Whether the fanzine Black Cover is trash to some people or not and wish to express their views in print is not an issue that concerns me. That is what freedom of speech Is all about. And free enterprise gives an individual the choice of whether to purchase a certain piece of merchandise or not.

Whether I wrote the fanzine or not should never have been an issue in [Arwen B's] "zine review." To write an accusation based on assumptions bearing as little facts such as address and grammar was ridiculous. Her personal assessment of my character based on those assumptions was unprofessional.

The fact that you printed the "review" with those insubstantial assumptions towards me was not only ludicrous, but slanderous. I am extremely disappointed that TT would print this type of material without thought or further research. Unfortunately, this causes me to question credibility in any areas of the letterzine where the written word appears.

[the editor's reply]: When Arwen sent her review to us, the first thing we did was ask her If she had sent a copy of the review to you, Michele, and told you that it would be published in our zine. She informed us that she had, so we printed it. I'm not sure what else we could have done, except possibly get in touch with you ourselves, which seemed a little redundant. But if you feel that we should have done that, we apologize for that lack of action. To say that her words were "unprofessional" is a little strange, since we are, none of us, professionals in this field. Neither does the term "slanderous" seem to apply.. What Arwen said is that she found Black Cover offensive, didn't want to buy such material, and was disappointed that an author she admired had written it—those are all mereIy opinions. She identified someone as the probable author; since you seem offended and angry that you were so identified, I am puzzled as to why you would write to protest this identification using the same address that one would order Black Cover from. You have made the connection more obvious than Arwen herself did—so just what is the problem? I tend to think that if the review had been a positive one, you would not be protesting. Bad reviews are simply the risk you take for putting your material out there to be read—and judged. —Barbara)
As an addendum to this note, I sent a copy of the above to Michele, since she is not a subscriber, so she would be aware of it. She replied, informing cue that since she had taken the zine out of circulation entirely last September, she hoped that this would be the end of the matter. We had already—before receiving this letter from her -- gotten two other letters concerning Black Cover, representing both sides. Since the zine is no longer in print, perhaps that will be the end of the matter.
[March 1991]:

I would like to make a rather passionate plea to the editors of [Tunneltalk] and all other letterzines and fanzine reviews. There exists a zine that should not be included, and I think even Beth Blighton would not label its exclusion as "censorship." I hope this letter is foredoomed to automatic reject, flowing so closely behind Beth's eloquent speech for freedom of express, and certainly intents no offense against her. This fanzine is Black Cover, appropriately named and undignified by an author's name or address. I freely admit, I've only read a review of it, by another person who managed to force herself through it and immediately issued a warning to other fans. I'm grateful to her, but I think it should be taken one step further.

This zine apparently belongs to the "S&M" genre, as its focus on sex and violence, and B&TB is simply being used as an interesting new arena of expansion. I have no idea how popular it is, but I can be pretty confident that it would be of interest to only a tiny fraction of B&TB fandom. Most of us have more respect for the show than to want to see it treated in such a manner. To me, it is jarringly discordant to see BC listed with such sincere, loving efforts as Kaleidoscope, Destiny, and my own Bondstories. Not only does this listing give BC the same free advertising as all the rest, it gives this kind of "literature" the same implicit acceptance. Yes, I know about the disclaimers and the "write for flyers first" cautions: I just don't believe it belongs there in the first place.

"How does a simple "Thank you, but we're not going to carry this ad," constitute censorship? To me, that says we don't think our listing is the appropriate place for this ad—well within an editor's prerogative. How much courage does it take to make a stand for decency and common sense? I'm sure the ACLU won't descend on us, and I bet the BC authors won't make a fuss either—they'd have to reveal themselves. If we don't take a stand now, what happens when this zine spawns sequels? Let me guess: Vincent has "ulterior motives" for bringing lost, helpless children to the tunnels, or—there's more to Father and Vincent's relationship than we would have dreamed. Will that finally do it? Or not even then?

Would the silent majority of fans really object to the exclusion of this ONE ad? Remember—even gallery owners unashamedly segregate some artwork from the main showing, depending on its controversial nature. It's there, but not automatically included in the main tour. Would it be a crime to expect S & M devotees to look for their literature elsewhere? How do other editors feel about being associated with this kind of writing? I apologize ahead of time if this starts some kind of disproportionate debate over censorship: to me the issue is very simple, and could have been avoided completely with a polite letter of rejection. Perhaps I'm more sensitive to the subject since Bl- is so close to Bo- alphabetically, and every time I see my ad, I see this other one. But it is just as valid an issue as any other in fandom. Thanks for your consideration.

[Leslie H], of course we printed your letter. I also happen to agree with you that Black Cover, as it has been described to me, sounds disgusting and has nothing to do with my perception of B&TB. However, that is where we part company. What you are advocating is censorship, whether you want to believe it or not. And that is something l cannot condone. According to Webster's Ninth, to censor means "to examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable," which is what you're suggesting we do to Black Cover— but without the examining.
I also object to your suggestion that editors who do not agree to the censoring of this zine lack courage. I have been called a lot of things in my life, but "coward" is no tone of them, and I resent your attempt to emotionally intimidate people into your point of view. It is not any editor's prerogative—or right—t make decisions for their readers about what they are or are notable to handle in the way of reading material. Again, it's called censorship—not to mention condescension and lack of respect for an audience's intelligence of the most rampant kind. I don't think an apology would be out of order—not just to us, but to all editors.
I realize that you take offense at the idea that Black Coveris listed with the "sincere, loving efforts" of zines that you do find acceptable. But this brings me to the crux of the problem with censorship of any kind. A couple of years ago, when B&TB was still in production (and before the third season), a woman in fandom found out about adult zines; she was so offended by the idea that people would cheapen what she saw as the ideals and values of the show by writing about a physical relationship between Vincent and Catherine that she started a petition, which she intended to deliver to the production office, asking them to suppress all such zines.( When she discovered that the production office did, indeed, know about these zines, and actually had some of them, she called off her campaign, and actually sent out Ietters of apology to all the people she had written to—an action I found very admirable.) Under this woman's guidelines, Leslie, your own zine—Bondstories—would have been unacceptable. Yes, I know there are no truly explicit scenes in it, but Vincent and Catherine do have a physical relationship which is what she objected to. Does this constitute censorship also? Yes, it does. And it illustrates my basic fear—who will make the decisions as to what is objectionable? I know I am not qualified to do so—nor would I want the job; I am one person and can only make moral decisions for myself. I don't believe anyone on this planet has the right to do otherwise.
So what's the solution? To let material we find morally offensive exist without comment? No. That is exactly what we should do —- make comments, talk about our feelings and beliefs—but as an exchange, a true and positive communication, not an imposition of those beliefs on others who may not share them. Anything that exists in the darker areas of moral ambiguity gains power from that darkness, Leslie. Exposing it to the light of scrutiny is the only way to drain that power; if something is truly objectionable, and people are able to see that it is, it will not survive. lf we find any reading material morally objectionable, we should be telling others how we feel about it, not hiding it. Please—reconsider your stance on this subject. Even though Black Cover has been removed from the market, I still feel this is an important issue that deserves our consideration.
[addressing An Exercise in Futility (Or Lessons in How to Beat a Dead Horse): Black Cover by James Pirkola]: James—I don't believe we share the same understanding of B&TB, or the words "adult" or "fantasy ."Which is okay—but l found your letter condescending and offensive, which I don't think is okay. You have the right to throw up on someone who has a different opinion from you? Come on; at the very least, I find that attitude indirect opposition to someone who says they found B&TB "enchanting" and "fun." And I don't agree with your definition of a critic, either. Of course, a critic brings the author/performer of a work and their previous works into play in the course of a review, comparison and judgment of the quality and contents of a work are part of a critic's job, though—I believe—a moral judgment s not Your definitions of the words "adult" and "fantasy" are rudimentary ones, and are in no way an accurate or definitive advisory on the contents of Black Cover. Neither was, in my judgment, your first flier; your second one was much more accurate. l am amazed at your surprise over people's reaction to the zine; to assume that all people understand the words "adult fantasy" to cover the entire range of sexual proclivities—or that those two words carry the same meaning to all people—isaskingalittlemuch. Yes, these activities do exist and go on every day, but they are not as commonly accepted as you seem to think. Your inference that people who cannot accept them are out of touch with reality, and are not, in fact, being"adult" people l found the most insulting and unkind remark in your whole letter. Not to mention untrue and narrow-minded; who's being intolerant and unimaginative now? You ask people to be more accepting and understanding—but where is your own acceptance and understanding of others who do not share your point of view? I believe you wrote your letter in an attempt to defend your friends, but was it necessary to insult/ridicule/belittle every B&TB fan who disagrees with them in the process? I hope that, if you feel moved to write again, you'll find more positive, constructive ways to support your friends and to communicate with fellow fans.[4]
[April 1991]:

The big "to-do" lately has been the reaction to Black Cover, both in this and in other letterzines. I have not read the zine (nor do I intend to), but I've heard enough about it, in detail, that I feel I can speak on this topic. On the one hand, I believe it is the right of the author and publisher of this zine to produce it. No matter how much I may dislike the topics presented (and, I assure you, I do), I have no right to tell this individual what she may or may not write and publish. Provided she is not breaking any laws, my only influence on her decision to publish must be my willingness or unwillingness to buy the product.

This is where there's a lot of confusion rampant in this fandom. Censorship comes from the word "censor," defined as "a person authorized to examine letters, books, films, etc. and remove or ban anything regarded as harmful. To subject to such examination or removal." Have we such an individual in our fandom, who is set up to ban materials? We do not. ) The choice of an individual to purchase or NOT to purchase a product is NOT CENSORSHIP. My refusal to buy a specific item, and my explanation of reasons for this decision, does not mean I have any power to ban the product. It means that I am taking advantage of my freedom in this society to support what l choose to support, to buy what l choose to buy, and let the laws of supply and demand take their course. If I refuse to buy zine "A" and write to theauthors to explain my reasons, I am not committing "censorship." Censorship is some individual or body who HAS THE POWER to actively prevent something from being written, published or distributed. If a zine doesn't sell, don't blame me. Take a look at what you're writing, and wonder why it isn't popular. Then make your own decision about whether or not to proceed. Ultimately, in fandom, it is the choice of the producer alone; no potential audience or consumer can prevent publication. When I read editorials saying "I will not be censored" in response to criticism (admittedly sometimes quite rude), if s really beside the point. In fandom, the censorship is self-censorship only. No one else has that power.

We all have our dividing lines, our point of "no return," beyond which we cannot accept the scope of a story or zine. For some of us, it's anything in which Catherine is dead. For others, if s something like Black Cover, which certainly pushes beyond the limits of what many find acceptable variations on the B&TB theme. But, once again, this remains an individual decision.[5]
[April 1991]:
[Arwen B, the fan who wrote the original review in "Tunneltalk"]: I read Beth Blighton's essay with great interest. I'd be a whole lot more impressed by it if Beth hadn't tried to pressure an editor into censoring my review of Black Cover. Perhaps she should reread that very good warning and vow to practice what she preaches.[6]
[May 1991]:

I agree with Barbara again on [Leslie H's] remarks on zine editors excluding Black Cover from advertisement (a moot point now, but let's pretend it isn't). I think that such zines should be included, with the understanding that some sort of warning of the controversial/adult nature of such a zine is clearly stated, and/or the editor makes clear that every potential buyer send a SASE for further information. It is then the responsibility of the author of said zine to make ABSOLUTELY CLEAR the contents of the zine if it goes beyond what is generally considered "adult fantasy"—i.e. something that includes strong elements of sexuality. I think most people will agree that BlackCover isa zine that goes well beyond what anyone would expect from something that calls itself merely "adult fantasy"—at least as established IN THIS FANDOM.

However—and I've said it before—even I would have to draw a line at certain things. If a zine ever appeared (God forbid) that included child pornography—well, I would definitely be for excluding that from advertisement. But, as I've also said before, that's MY line. For some that line is Vincent and Catherine in a sexual relation, for others Black Cover, for others (sadly) if s beyond mine entirely. We can only pray that such a situation never arises.

As for James Pirkola's letter—Barbara said it all. Mr. Pirkola, I know what fantasy is. (I've been reading SF and fantasy of all kinds since age 14.)That's why I choose what fantasy I want to embrace—and what I choose to reject. It's my decision. You publish what you want, and that's fine by me. I never had the least desire to buy Black Cover, and therefore was never in a position to review or protest it.[7]
[May 1991]:
The title for false advertising still remains with Black Cover as far as I'm concerned—a "retelling of Beauty and the Beast, as one story was described, hardly prepares a reader for Catherine portrayed as a prostitute with Vincent as her trick. To be honest, I'm reluctant to order zines lately and wish that all editors would CLEARLY state EXACTLY what their zines contain. I NEVER again want to receive a zine that contains a story—unmentioned in the flyer—which has Vincent and Diana "involved" (I can't say the words ...) and THEN has Catherine return. Ick. Ick. Ick. I can't imagine what the purpose IS in writing something like this, but the author is entitled to do so and I am entitled to know BEFORE I spend my money.[8]
[May 1991]
Gloria is probably suffering through great grief and please God didn't realize the severity of her statement... wishing BANKRUPTCY on fellow fans simply because they are writing and printing stories she herself does not care to read! Gloria, one man's baloney is another man's smoked ham, and as long as no one is holding you at gunpoint and forcing you to read those zines, it seems rather uncharitable and unkind of you to wish such a terrible thing on fellow fans who are putting a lot of work into their [third-season] stories and doing no one any harm! (I wouldn't even wish bankruptcy on the author of Black Cover, if that stuff floats her boat, great, so long as I don't have to read it!) PLEASE reconsider your words! Did you REALLY mean that? [9]

Later Reviews

2000

Some fanzines have been controversial, Nan Dibble's "Acquainted with the Night" series for example and the notorious "Black Cover" zine; but, the infighting has for the most part not been about fanfic. It has been about the desire of some fans to impose their view of BATB on others.[10]

2012

CatalenaMara: What a boring zine that was! What a disappointment! I got that zine thinking this was going to be something really interesting. Bad writing! Really, full of typos. Uninteresting story! There was nothing about it that was worth talking about, much less wanking about. (laughter)

Franzeska Dickson: That's terrible, because Fanlore made me want to read it! (laughter)

CatalenaMara: Don't bother! (laughter) If you ever see a copy, and you need to go to sleep, start reading. You'll be dozing off within five pages. (more chuckles) [11]

2014

Review 2014: I disagree with the reviews above. These stories are diamonds in the rough. Although there are no few technical and spelling errors, the stories are beautifully and sensitively imagined - and, most importantly, Vincent's character rings true. Beauty and the Beast, a pre-series story, is both unique and very erotic - the best I have read in a long time. A Darkness on the Edge is Vincent telling Catherine of a shameful period of his youth, after Lisa left. It's a tale of self-disgust and redemption. Wednesday Night Moves is a post-Season 3 story about Vincent and Diana's growing friendship as they watch videos in her loft. Those who condemn this series as "shocking obscenity" clearly did not read it with an open mind. I have edited them all and converted them to pdf, so they are available to fans. I hope they receive some much-deserved, appreciative exposure. Early indications are positive. - Angie [12]

References

  1. the review in the August 1990 issue of Tunneltalk
  2. from November 1990 "Tunneltalk"
  3. from the January 1991 issue of Tunneltalk
  4. comments by Leslie H and a response from the editor in Tunneltalk v. 2 n.1
  5. from Sue K in Tunneltalk v.2 n.2
  6. in Tunneltalk v.2 n.2
  7. in Tunneltalk v.2 n.3
  8. in Tunneltalk v.2 n.3
  9. in Tunneltalk v.2 n.3
  10. comment at Catherine, Diana, and Bad Endings, August 22, 2000
  11. Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with CatalenaMara (2012)
  12. Review posted on Fanlore in response to the older reviews on Tunnel Talk. Posted directly to Fanlore by Angie on March 24, 2014.