Cross the Line (Starsky and Hutch zine)

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Zine
Title: Cross the Line
Publisher: Idiot Triplets Press
Editor(s): Linda McGee
Date(s): 1997
Series?:
Medium: print
Genre:
Fandom: Starsky and Hutch
Language: English
External Links: Publisher's Website: 2008 -- S/H Zines from Idiot Triplets Press, Archived version

SHareCon 2010: Idiot Triplets Press, Archived version

cover by Suzan Lovett. Of the cover, one reviewer said: "The cover...of Hutch with his hand down Starsky's unbuttoned jeans, is actually one of [Lovett]'s least successful works in this fandom. It's one of those that looks great from a few feet away, but really doesn't look all that like them up close." See the full review, and the controversy it sparked, below.
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Cross the Line is a slash Starsky and Hutch 226-page anthology. The color cover by Suzan Lovett won Huggy Award (Best SH Zine): ZebraCon 1999. It has a single piece of interior art by Evelyn Thomas.

interior art by Evelyn Thomas

This entire zine, including the cover, was nominated for a STIFfie in 1997.

Contents

Reactions and Reviews

See reactions and reviews for Canario.
See reactions and reviews for An Even Tighter Closet.
See reactions and reviews for Double Feature.
See reactions and reviews for Bathrooms I Have Known.
See reactions and reviews for The Heart Can't Lie.
See reactions and reviews for If Love is Real: Helen.
See reactions and reviews for Perchance to Dream.

A Review, and Comments About the Review

Michelle Christian's review on Virgule-L, quoted with permission:

[zine]:

Well, here it is, another review--and another disclaimer! As I think I said, I've gotten enough response from people saying that they not only read, but like them. As long as you're entertained...

Reviewer's Disclaimer: I'm not afraid to call a spade a spade and this is a...three of clubs. Ah, well, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong. Salt to taste.

[zine ordering info and editor's address omitted]

Well, this is a bit of a mixed bag. There are some memorable, angsty stories, a few sap-filled ones, and one or two clunkers. The layout, though, is clean and works well. The only complaint I have on that front is probably just a misprint: There are two blank pages right in the middle of the zine, though no pages seem to be missing. The cover, a Suzi Lovett of Hutch with his hand down Starsky's unbuttoned jeans, is actually one of her least successful works in this fandom.It's one of those that looks great from a few feet away, but really doesn't look all that like them up close. But onto the stories.

(And once again, let me say that while I write it, I never read fan poetry, so I didn't review it.)

[See this fan's comments on the individual stories on those pages].

So, all in all, a more than okay zine with a couple of meaty and some unusual takes on old standards. Worth the price. [1]
[Flamingo's review on Venice Place Mailing List, partly a response to Michelle Christian's review on Virgule-L, MUCH about the purpose of reviews and fannish etiquette omitted, due to length]:

[...]

This zine, which debuted at Z-con last year, was reviewed by a list member on Virgule. The review was sent to me by several people, and eventually, by the writer herself. I felt the review left a bad impression of the zine. As a contributor, I wanted to give a "second opinion" on this well-edited, balanced zine.

What credentials does a reviewer need to publicly broadcast her opinions to a mailing list as large as Virgule? Since these reviews are often E-mailed to others, extending their effects far beyond their initial distribution, it's reasonable to ask that the reviewer have *some*. Does she write fanfic or pro? Does she edit zines? Is there anything that indicates she has *some* level of expertise to be so willing to impart her opinion?

[...]

The previous reviewer started her review by commenting about a "misprint" error in the zine -- 2 blank pages. This was not an error, but a deliberate editing decision. The blank pages back up Lynne D.'s poem, "Upon Reflection." This is a "concrete" poem, which has a specific shape that is a critical part of its message -- in this case, the poem is shaped like a crescent moon. (To fans in S&H this has meaning in and of itself.) Because the shape of the poem was so delicate, and so critical to the importance of this work, the editor realized she could not risk compromising it. Printing on the back of the poem and on the previous page would have *shown through* the poetry page and marred the visual effect of the poem, so she opted to leave the pages blank to display this beautiful piece of poetry to its best advantage. To have an editor care that much about a single poem is wonderful, especially since this cost the editor additional money in the printing expenses. The care she took in this one layout decision is evident throughout this quality zine.

There happens to be only one poet in Cross the Line, Lynne D., who won a Huggy for best poet at this year's Z-con. Her 3 new poems in this zine, as usual, are marvels of writing. This woman isn't just a *fan* poet. God knows fandom has a million poets -- writers who fling a few words at a page in a funny shape and call it poetry. S/H fandom is blessed with several powerful, *real* poets, people who can force words to form alliterative, magical, moving messages in just a few lines, and Lynne is possibly the best. This is a woman who understands poetry, who labors over its craft, and the simplest reading of her work shows this. Anyone could learn something about the craft and art of poetry from this excellent poet, never mind be moved by the messages in her work. The moon poem, "Upon Reflection," isn't just a wonderful read, it's a work of *visual* art beautifully presented. And her other 2 poems are terrific, too. Enjoy them.

The first story, "Double Feature" by Sara P., is a lovely, gentle piece by a new writer who has previously only appeared on the Net. This may be her first slash piece, which shows tremendous promise. There was an original line in this story which floored me, a moment between the two partners I wished I had written. After Hutch goes through a bout of pissing and moaning about having to be at a drive-in -- all of which she handled well, the dialog believable and true -- the entire conflict of the story was brought into sharp focus by *one* line of dialog, shifting the entire nature of the story and letting us know in the briefest way possible what The Problem is. This type of concise, on-the-mark writing geared *to* her audience shows a sophistication that some writers never achieve.

The previous reviewer dismissed this story off-handedly as "sap," discouraging anyone from reading it and finding out all the good things in. Is it sweet? Yes. However, many fans *like* that in a fan story. I thoroughly enjoyed it. This is a new writer who will improve with time -- assuming she is *encouraged*.

"An Even Tighter Closet," by Rosemary C., is a good, lengthy read and one of the best stories in this zine. The love scene was dramatic, exciting, and hot, and the involvement of one of the best-loved S&H episodes, "Hutchinson for Murder One," heightens the experience. Starsky is a man in love who gets an unexpected chance to obtain that which he most desires. This story is poignant, dramatic, sexy, sad, memorable, and written with vivid images. Rosemary won this year's Huggy for best S&H writer and reading this story proves that she clearly deserved it.

"The Heart Can't Lie," may be Jesse T.'s first published story. In my book, that cuts her a lot of grace, and it should in yours too, unless you never want to see any new blood come into fandom, especially in older fandoms like S/H. This brief story strived for emotional content and was heavily romantic. The love scene was tender but exciting and physical. The writing was clear and concise. The previous reviewer complained that it had been done before, but, guess what, it's all been done before. When I first started writing S/H, I was afraid of plunging into an older fandom where it had all been done before and done well, too. I was assured by a respected author that whether it had been done wasn't the point -- it had never been done by *me* in *my* voice, and that I would bring in new ideas and new slants on old stand-bys. This is Jesse's first shot at telling this kind of story in her voice. She's got a nice style, and draws a scene clearly, breathing life into even a peripheral walk-on character. I hope she'll try again, and I'm looking forward to her next tale. She shows a lot of promise which can only be developed by *doing*.

Fans who love sweet stories will enjoy this one. The previous reviewer dismissed it as being "heavy on the sap." This is not just a slap at the writer, but to any fan who likes sweet stories. There are plenty of them and they deserve to be able to read stories that please them. Some fan will consider this her favorite story; that's the nature of fandom. It's commendable that this zine is willing to offer something for everyone.

"If Love Is Real: Helen" is my story, the third in a series. The first was "Colby" (Fix 17) and the second "Vanessa" (Indigo Boys 4) however, each story stands independently. You don't need to read the others to enjoy "Helen" -- the editor of the zine had not done so when she accepted it. Like the first 2 stories, this one also takes place before the show begins, detailing the unusual circumstances that surround Starsky's break-up with Helen, a policewoman he was seriously involved with. We never see Helen in the series, except for a photo. She's discussed in the episode "Lady Blue" after she'd been killed. Starsky and Hutch investigate her murder, forcing Starsky to relive all the pain their break-up caused him. This is the episode with the "Paul Muni Special" dinner. This is my take on the circumstances that caused Helen to leave Starsky. This may be the first time that Helen is featured significantly in any S/H story, and it is one of those stories where we get to view our heroes from the outside, from Helen's viewpoint. Her view of them is -- unique.

"Bathrooms I have Known" by Mary Louise F. is the third in [[the "Golden Boy" series]]. The first story was "Golden Boy" in [[Blue Eyes and Blue Jeans]] 1, and the second "Why I Live At the Best Western," in BE&BJ 2. These stories have been a favorite among fans like me who feel that one a year is not enough. The stories take place NOW, they are current, and this is important. Our boys have been monogamous lovers for 15 years, and while life is settled, it is hardly staid. Starsky is still a cop, possibly a lieutenant, but still a cop, which is what he'll always be. It is one of the points of the series -- Starsky is still Starsky but Hutch has changed significantly. For he is the Golden Boy, who left police work to become a world renowned criminal profiler. His fame causes him to spend too many months on the road giving lectures and too much time at home contemplating his next book project, and, as far as Starsky is concerned, too little time being a mate. We have seen their world solely through Starsky's eyes as he contemplates the changes the years have brought and tells us interesting tidbits of their long past together. The series, which is written damned well, is alternatingly funny, touching, sexy, sad, and very, very real as we watch two people who have been together so long continue to struggle to keep their mismatched lives and loves focused.

While this story was not as strong as either Golden Boy or Best Western, it was a very good story. The previous tale, Best Western, left the couple in conflict, and this story resolves that. Since the title is "Bathrooms I Have Known," the writer maintains that theme by reminiscing about significant moments in S&H's long relationship that have happened in *bathrooms*. It was funny, and it was different.

And in deference to a comment from the previous reviewer, yes, we're in Guy Land here, very realistically, something slash fandom could use a good dose of. Fans complain about the feminization of male characters, about the lack of believability in stories, about "sap," but when someone uses male language and male scenarios, then that's not good either. I'm sure parts of the story will not appeal to some readers, but many will find it funny in a hilariously sexist way, as I did. This is the way men talk and these are the things they talk about. The story's realism and verisimilitude can barely be matched by anyone in fandom except maybe Theresa K. or Monica Rose K.

Also, Starsky's crudeness, which he was criticized for continually by Hutch throughout the series, is a strong point of his character in the canon. It is consistent and realistic. People who would love Jesse T.'s story will probably hate this one, but for those of us who live and work with men every day, it is a surprising and entertaining view inside their private world which women rarely portray correctly, most especially in slash.

Will it be to everyone's taste? No. Does it have to be? No more than Jesse T.'s does.

"Perchance to Dream" by Theresa K. This is an ambitious story that must've taken Theresa months to write. It's an impressive piece of work that took real research, which shows. It is a locked door mystery which are tough for pros to pull off. I was impressed that a fan writer would, particularly one who typically focuses on character-driven pieces that revolve around the quest for love. I thought it especially clever how the writer managed to build up the tension between the characters because of the stresses of the case, yet kept them so supportive of each other, even when they didn't agree. There was plenty of "me and thee" spirit throughout, and I love that, since that is what S&H is all about. The murder victim is a gay man, and the dismissal of the significance of his murder because of his sexual orientation affects the partners in ways they, and the reader, could not anticipate. It's a good, long read and a meaty story, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. For everyone who complains about "insurance salesmen" stories, this is not one of them.

"Canario" by Diana D. This is a terrific story, a happy little gem that leaves you closing the covers of the zine in delight. It is also well-written, gentle, romantic, and sizzlingly hot. This was definitely the best feel-good story I've read in a while, and I loved it! The writer calls this story part of her "Living Well" universe, and I can only hope her boys live well for a long, long time. Superficially a-day-in-the-life tale, it was full of the kind of unique S&H moments only someone thoroughly immersed in the canon can give us. The dialog was perfect, the play-by-play totally believable, the plot twists funny as hell. It was exciting to read a story by a writer new to SH and to find such a good one was even more delightful. I can't wait till her next one.

There are only 2 pieces of art in the zine, the color cover, by well-known fan artist Suzan L. and an interior black&white by Evelyn T. The cover is both romantic and visually striking, but Suzan hardly needs anyone to "talk up" her art. Evelyn's piece is lovely and tender and very much suits the story it is in. There aren't many artists gracing S/H zines these days, and they are missed, so it would do us well to encourage them whenever possible.

Cavalier, dismissive, negative reviews of fan literature can cause enormous harm. New writers testing the water may quickly decide that it is not worth it to lay your heart out in public for people to take potshots at. None of them are getting a check. They get the trib copy. And whatever strokes anyone feels like giving them. Many of them may never hear anything *but* a poor review. Why should new writers make any effort to write any more stories, or any *better* stories after they've been trashed? What a discouraging experience. If I was so cavalierly dismissed, and I happened to be on Virgule, I don't know if I'd ever want to put pen to paper again.

As far as the poor editor of this zine is concerned -- why should she go through the effort of putting out another zine if this is what she can look forward to? Especially since so much of the information in the review was incorrect and uninformed? This is a wonderfully well-balanced zine with something for everyone -- beautiful poetry, drama, steamy sex scenes, comedy, tenderness, romance, a murder mystery and cop procedural, stories worked around established canon -- the works. It can also boast an assembly of award-winning writers -- Rosemary, Theresa, Lynne, myself, and even the editor have all collected recent and past Huggies, Fan Q's and Stiffies. Is it perfect? No. I've never read a perfect zine. But this is a damned good one, and I can't wait till this editor puts out another one. On second thought, I *can* wait, since I hope to have a story for it, and I don't have one ready at the moment!

[...] [2]

Comments by the zine's editor, posted to Virgule-L on February 28, 1998:

I've been very hesitant to dip my toe in the murky waters of all the zine- reviewing discussion for a couple of reasons:

1) The initial review that started this whole thread was of my S/H zine, Cross the Line (and boy, am I tired of seeing *that* title in the Subject Line! :-/ ). It seemed to me that anything I might say might be taken as "sour grapes." 2) Outside of the fictional realm, I *really* dislike conflict, and this discussion has been galloping with it.

Nevertheless, everyone else seems to have an opinion, and I feel compelled to have my say, too, as the topic appears to draw to a close. I think interesting, valid points have been made on all sides of this issue, and I'm not here to argue, even over those I don't agree with. I'm not here to argue at all! I'm only going to address issues that touch on the specific review of Cross the Line.

It's my understanding that [Michelle Christian] would prefer to be referred to by name rather than as "the reviewer," so that's what I'll do here. I'm doing it to respect her preferences, not to call attention to her or attack her.

First of all, I'M NOT SAYING ANYTHING ABOUT [MICHELLE CHRISTIAN'S REVIEWING IN THIS POST THAT I HAVEN'T SAID TO HER PRIVATELY, so I'm not talking behind her back (or to her front without her already knowing how I feel). The private parts of that post will remain private; the things I mention here are, IMO, valid food for thought for anyone reading or writing reviews.

While the same zine can elicit widely differing responses from different people, it's *really* difficult to judge the fairness of a review when one hasn't read the zine. I've read the zine. Yes, it's my zine, so you have to keep that in mind, but I've *read* it, which gives me insights others wouldn't have. Please keep in mind also that [Michelle Christian] herself feels that her review was positive and ends by labeling the zine, "Worth the price."

I'd like to talk first about "balance" in a review.

[Michelle Christian] dissed two of the stories in CTL, "Double Feature" and "The Heart Can't Lie," pretty severely. She was especially tough on THCL. Both these stories were by new writers who were clearly identified as such in the zine's editorial. Some people feel that novices should be given more leeway than experienced writers; some don't. I'm not going to dispute the point; I have no hope of changing anyone's mind on this issue. It would also be pointless to argue her assessment of the writing, since in a review it's the reviewer's opinion you care about, not the editor's.

Here's where the balance comes in, though. These stories -- even if they were drek (which I of course don't think they were) -- constitute only *twenty* pages of a 226 page zine. DF is eleven pages long; it earned five lines of commentary in the review. THCL is nine pages long; [Michelle Christian] spent seven lines telling us how sappy and poorly-written it is. (All line counts given are how they printed out in hard copy.) These are essentially the only two stories in the zine she clearly didn't like. What about the other 206 pages?

On the other hand, the zine's final story, Canario, is twenty-five pages long. It rates three lines in her review, two and-a-half of which establish the premise, and ends with the *two-word* evaluation, "Good story." *What made it a good story?* Isn't it as important to tell us this as to go into detail about how a new writer's much-shorter story Has Been Done Before? Shouldn't some further information about Canario rate more space than the amount [Michelle Christian] devotes to two blank pages in the zine? Which of these two factors will be more important to the reader's enjoyment of the zine?

"Perchance to Dream," which earns six lines of review space, is *eighty-nine pages long.* The longest story in the zine, and it receives less consideration than the shortest. She liked it, but if you don't know that it's a novella, this positive assessment might very well be overshadowed by the longer negative commentary given on the very short earlier story.

Where's the balance in this report?

Other stories [Michelle Christian] claimed to like, "An Even Tighter Closet" and "If Love is Real: Helen," constitute another seventy-one pages.

So when I say "balance," I mean that I think it would be a good, positive move for *any* reviewer to give her readers a clue as to each story's relative "weight" in the zine. The simplest way would be to just give the page length. Then the reader would be able to say, "Well, she didn't like this story, but it's really short, and she loved the novella," and make decisions accordingly. Does this make sense?

Another issue: This is a slash zine, described by one experienced reader/writer/publisher (not Flamingo!) as "one of the best S/H zines to come out in years," and "one hot zine." While *I* really love the guys "for their minds" (uh-huh), as a slash reader, I'd like to *know* if a zine I'm considering purchasing has hot love scenes. *Nothing* was said about this component. Did [Michelle Christian] not consider them hot, or did it not occur to her to mention them?

This brings me to the second point I'd like to address.

Much discussion has gone into what "qualifications" a reviewer should have, if any. I can respect anyone's opinion about a given zine, though it would be nice to have some information up front. "I'm a professional writer, zine editor, whatever," or "I'm not a writer, but I've been reading in fandom for ten years and think I have a feel for what most fans are looking for," or "This is the very first zine I've ever read." It gives the reader some kind of yardstick by which to identify (or not) with the reviewer, in the same way as the delineation of one's personal kinks and anti-kinks would.

I don't say that someone needs special "qualifications" in order to review. What I *would* like is to feel that the reviewer has given the expression of her opinions due consideration, taking time to really think about what she's read and what she's going to say about it, so that she can give me her best possible assessment of the subject matter. [Michelle Christian’s] approach to reviews, *in her own words,* is:

"I put only slightly more effort into them than into any post I would send here."

Now, to me, *that's* worrisome! And that kind of casual approach leads to mistakes. For example, on the title page of Cross the Line, right under the name of the person from whom to order the zine, is my plea *not to post information on my zines on any computer network.* Yet [Michelle Christian] either missed it or deliberately ignored it when she chose to post my distributor's name and address. I know Virgule-L is a list on which respect for privacy is of paramount importance; my distributor would like to have been granted that same courtesy. (If [Michelle Christian] had asked me, I would have said, "Fine, review the zine, but ask anyone interested in ordering it to email you privately for the information.")

I'd prefer to believe that this incident was carelessness, rather than blatant disregard for my clearly expressed wishes. It also seems like carelessness that [Michelle Christian] reported erroneously or entirely missed important facts in two of the stories she reviewed. If you're going to review a story, shouldn't you know what it's about? How valid is the opinion of someone who doesn't take the time to get her facts right?

She "gave away" the ending of another story, which did not please the author. In my understanding, this has always been a reviewing no-no.

These are facts -- not opinions, not flames, not sour grapes because a story or a zine was panned. A couple of very short stories in CTL were criticized; the zine as a whole was recommended.

I *hope* that no one will consider this a "personal attack" on [Michelle Christian], though I suspect some will. It isn't, and I believe she knows it. My goals were to address the "balance" issue -- which would apply to *any* review or reviewer, the fact that [Michelle Christian] acknowledges that she devotes little thought to these reviews which apparently cause so many hurt feelings, to give concrete examples in the specific review where carelessness was evident, and to offer a sincere hope she'll consider these points in the future. [Michelle Christian] and I have been friendly acquaintances for years. I hope to continue our relationship in this way. As I said before, I don't like conflict and I *really* don't like public conflict! Yet I thought that there were important issues *specifically about her review for CTL* that could only be addressed by someone familiar with the zine. If she loves to review and plans to continue to do so, I wish that she'd devote more to it than to "put only slightly more effort into them than into any post I would send here," and think more carefully about what she says. Not so that every review is a "Wonderful World of Wonderfulness" candy box, but so that we can have confidence that she's giving us a well-thought out, balanced assessment of what she's read.

I would imagine that this post will receive the same mix of reactions that all the others have (unless the entire reviewing issue has just put everyone to sleep by now). Some will agree, some will think I'm an idiot. I can't control any of that. I'm just stating the facts as I perceive them and trying to be a reasonable person. Honestly. [3]

References

  1. ^ In 1997 Michelle Christian posted this review to the Virgule-L mailing list. As with most of her Virgule-L reviews, Michelle gave permission for fans to forward the review to any fan or mailing list that might be interested. The review was sent to the Starsky & Hutch mailing list, Venice Place where both the editor and her friends expressed deep dissatisfaction with both the content and quality of Michelle's review ("cavalier, dismissive, negative"). While the topic of reviews and feedback was not new to either mailing list (in fact many of the list members on both lists had been subscribers to Starsky & Hutch and Star Trek letterzines of the 70s and 80; letterzines which had thoroughly debated the topic), Michelle's review sparked multiple discussions over whether reviews should focus on the positive while deemphasizing the negative, whether average readers had the right credentials to offer up reviews and whether the wildly divergent expectations fans had of reviews - and each other - would ever find a meeting ground. For more see the Fanlore section on Reviews.
  2. ^ comments by Flamingo, posted to VenicePlace, reposted to Virgule-L on February 13, 1998, quoted with permission
  3. ^ comments by the zine's editor, posted to Virgule-L on February 13, 1998