Discovered In A Letterbox/Issues 06-10

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Issue 6

Discovered In A Letterbox 6 was published in June 1998 and contains 43 pages.


art from issue #6, Roo
cover of issue #6 (copy)
"Women in Pros. It's a vexed question. There are quite a few strong female characters in the episodes - Kate Ross, Marge Harper and Geraldine Mather spring to mind, and they're just the start - but whom amongst them do you find sympathetic? And is that in spite of their presentation on screen or because of it? Let's face it, they don't always get much help from the script. I've a very soft spot for Marge, for instance, but she's definitely presented as a figure of fun (for male viewers, that is). Liz Fraser, happily, was skilled enough to suggest the steel behind the fluttering eyelashes but is that a subversion of what the scriptwriters intended? On the other hand, is there anyone you particularly dislike? Is Ann Holly, for instance, a cold-hearted bitch or a sensible woman who suddenly saw what she'd be taking on? Think about it - would you care to come between Bodie and Doyle? (Calm down, you know what I mean!)"
  • A fan demands action:
"Somebody, somewhere is going to have to do something about Kitty Fisher! No, I'm not going on about the "P word" - it's this other story of hers, 'Harlequin, Harlequin' in No Holds Barred 10. How could she leave it like that? Zax about to be seriously hurt and then dragged off to the Centre and poor old M-6251 stumbling blindly into the street with Zax's screams and the strange name 'Bodie' echoing in his mind. It's wrong to leave them like that. Good grief, think of everything the fandom puts them through. The least we can do is give them a happy ending again. Will someone please have words with the lady?"

About an author's sequel to The Pillory:

"The bad news is that there's not going to be a sequel to The Pillory'. Kitty believes - and I must say I agree with her - that the story as she wrote it is complete; to quote her very roughly, that it would be a betrayal of the story's essence to try and change its direction now. (On the other hand, she has no objections at all if someone else wants to write a sequel!) The good news is that the refusal of the various requests takes the form of a witty little story in the Hatstand section [of this letterzine] wherein Bodie and Doyle give us their opinion on the matter. It's quite the most graceful way of saying, 'Not Likely' I've had the pleasure of encountering. Further pleas, therefore, had better to be addressed to anyone foolhardy enough to suggest a way out of "The Pillory's" ending."
"...I cannot understand the feminisation of characters. Why do writers do that? Is it because they identify most strongly with that character and, being female, see him as feminine also? Or maybe they really fancy the other half of the partnership and feel they are wasted on a 'real' man? Maybe they're ashamed of their liking for slash so they .. er .. hetero-ize it? You ask how the individual is chosen. I think the character to be feminised is the smaller of the two - simple as that. Daft, really."

A fan comments on her favorite part of this l/z:

"My favourite part of DIAL is where you give contact addresses for zine editors. I tend to only stay with a fandom for as long as it takes for the stories to run out. A new source of supply keeps me interested. Would it be possible to produce some sort of Pros zine list so that those of us who are just catching up can see what we've missed? Also, is there anyone who'd be willing to supply copies of early stories that are no longer in print?"
"...out here in the boondocks of Northern Ireland, ...I can't help feeling just a tad isolated at times, despite corresponding with several people on the mainland. Especially when, after years of sterling service, the Post Office creates a Black Hole in the middle of the Irish Sea and drops mail into it, which has happened more than once recently."
"I appreciate all the support and feedback fans have given Manacles Press and our authors over the years. It has been a wonderful, long ride, but unfortunately it's a ride that is over now. Manacles Press zines (Concupiscence, Nudge Nudge, Wink Wink, McPikus Interruptus and our various one-shot zines) are hereby declared out of print with the following exceptions: Never Let Me Down and Chains of Being will be distributed by their author... Zine sales will continue until all in-stock merchandise is sold. This DOES NOT APPLY to HOMOSAPION PRESS zines (Homosapien, Pure Maple Syrup and Espresso) which remain in print and will be distributed in the US; we just don't know by whom yet. All rights now revert to authors for any story printed in any Manacles Press zine. The zine masters have been turned over to the Fanzine Archives and should continue to be available through that non-profit organization on a request basis. Feel free to contact the The Fanzine Archives."

Stories:

  • Discovered on a Tape Spool by An Unknown Hand in which she writes of Bodie and Doyle discussing Kitty's story The Pillory and being, well, horrified: "'The Pillory. Oh my God . . ." Bodie was white as a sheet, his hand on the swiss roll, (chocolate) quite unsteady." - 2 pages
  • The Blyton Horror: Chapter...Er...The Next Bit? by Joan - 3 pages
  • Four in the Morning by Barbara Thomas - 4 pages

Poetry:

  • Bodie's Law by Jude

Art:

Issue 7

Discovered In A Letterbox 7 was published in September 1998 and contains 53 pages.

  • The editor says that the next discussion topic is "What was the story that got you hooked on Pros! Is there one you always remember with a fond sigh because it was the very first? Or because it was the first to grab you and not let go?"
  • A fan describes her long fall into Pros fandom, and eventually, slash:
cover of issue #7 (copy)
art from issue #7, Roo
"...I ventured to the Internet cafe in Cheltenham and, thanks to an entertaining feature in The Guardian about the return of Bodie and Doyle, tracked down some of the web sites. And of course the search engines also pitched me head-first into slash fiction. Eighteen months later, I'm well and truly hooked and somewhat poorer. My collection of zines is expanding at a frightening rate. Instead of completing a three-quarters finished crime novel which I suited five years ago, I've taken to writing slash - I tell myself it will improve my story structuring. I discovered the American Pros library via the internet and took delivery of one parcel which cost an arm and a leg in postage both ways. I only found out about the British library via an e-mail conversation with an American fan. My postman - a dead ringer for Curly Watts out of Corrie - is starring to wonder about these suspicious parcels I receive on Wednesdays. And the old dears in my local post office are dying to know what's in these mysterious recorded delivery packages I keep sending to Northamptonshire."
  • A fan comments:
"I've also spent far too much time wondering why a left-wing lesbian with a slight distrust of the police should be attracted to the Pros - and also fancy the jeans off MS! After extensive research... the best I can come up with is simply that interplay between B and D and the wonderful camp panache the show displayed at its best (second series, in my opinion). I do have a weakness for cop shows (I know nothing and care less about Star Trek in particular and sci-fi in general but nothing, before or after, has come anywhere near the Pros for energy and sparkle."
  • A fan weighs in on The Pillory debate and says that the author could have written a sequel without harming the original:
"As regards the big debate on The Pillory, I can appreciate the author's point that the story is complete in itself. However, if (and it's a big 'if) the writer is clever enough - !! - it is possible to add a sequel without detracting from the impact of the original. There is a story in Nudge Nudge, Wink Wink 3 called 'The Blue Figurine' which does just that and, to my mind anyway, even manages to deepen the impression left by the main story: The big point is that it leaves one feeling good rather than depressed and I'll read it again and again. I've only read "The Pillory" once to see what everyone was going on about - I won't read it again, which is a shame. However, having read [name redacted] comments on No Holds Barred 10, which I haven't so far read, it looks as though Kitty Fisher is actively pursuing a reputation as a writer of 'shock' stories. Am I going to have to start checking the last page for a happy ending with her stories as I already do with M. Fae Glasgow? Id rather have the occasional death story than one of these 'horrible' ones."
"It never ceases to amaze me how so many people of such diverse and opposing opinions can yet meld together into a cohesive Pros fandom. The Larton Chronicles is a case in point. Many people rave about them and I found them, dare I say it, fairly boring. I'm not saying they were badly written, poorly plotted or anything, far from it. But I cannot understand the enjoyment others get from them - I'm not, never was, into horses, I didn't like the B or D characters, and couldn't stand the lack of sex, I don't mean every story (at least short ones) has to have explicit sex, but a story that goes on and on with nothing at all very soon loses my attention."
  • About the discussion and complaints of the feminization of characters in Pros fiction:
"... by which I mean writers creating 'nice' versions of Bodie and Doyle, The two men talk, think, and behave in ways that women do, perhaps because the writers (invariably women) are putting their own attitudes into their characters. Such writers seem unable to get beyond this to present the characters in a way that is masculine but will still appeal to a feminine readership."
  • In which the aired episodes become somewhat irrelevant:
"I haven't watched/re-watched the episodes on a regular basis for some years now, That's partly because I no longer have much time to watch videos/television but also because over the years I've watched the episodes a lot. That's not to say I don't enjoy watching them now, I still love looking at Bodie and Doyle (though I can do without a lot of the plot, especially car chases, etc) but it's also a very frustrating experience. The moments between them are not as much as I want - and don't last nearly as long as I'd like. So I end up going back to fan fiction, where I don't have to bother about girlfriends, villains, CI5 or anything else, if I don't want to, other than Bodie and Doyle and their ever-so-fascinating (and problematical) relationship."
  • About fan fiction:
    "I still think fan writing is a very weird phenomenon and that the greatest strength of Pros fandom is the vast variety of stories it engenders. Can anyone actually think of a universe that these lads don't fit into?"
  • A fan wonders about certain stories how they settle into one's brain:
"When I first read The Larton Chronicles I didn't like 'em at all. I read it again and saw something in it, then a third time with great enjoyment. Strange how some stories hit right between the eyes ('Angel In The Dark,' 'Hunted By Devils', anything by Kitty Fisher). They leave you reeling but other stories (Larton, Journey West, A Beach to Walk On) grow gradually. Is this the author, the mood of the reader, or the type of story?"
  • Many fans write about the female roles in the show and some agree that the roles themselves weren't that good, and to keep in mind the time the show was written as well as it was geared to appeal to men. One comment:
" Off the top of my head I can think of about ten strong women characters; goodies, baddies, victims, girlfriends, they're all there... The question of sympathy is interesting. Strong female characters do have a habit of seeming unsympathetic, maybe because sometimes they are written as honorary men, not intelligent, ambitious, independent women."
  • Another fan writes:
"I was struck by your comments on the female characters' sense of humour (or lack thereof). Interesting, isn't it, how few of them were allowed to be witty or amusing? They could be sexy or clever, or respectable, or mad (and in the case of June Cook heavily pregnant and thus obviously both) but nothing else. Sudden thought: is the reason we like Marge so much the fact that she's the only woman in the series who can't be slotted into one of these pigeon-holes? Offhand, I can't think of another female character who steps outside those four (admittedly rough) divisions; provided you divide 'sexy' into good sexy' and 'bad sexy."
  • A "new" slash fan is possibly left hanging:
part one of the internet section, an example of early Pros site, includes a thank you to Naomi Novik, click to read
part one of the internet section, an example of early Pros site, click to read
"It's always interesting to listen to/read about those first moments of growing awareness as someone puts newly-formed ideas into words, particularly when they believe they are voicing something for the first time. Recently I loaned a work colleague a few episodes of Starsky and Hutch. She hadn't seen it since it was first broadcast some twenty years ago and as she returned the tapes, she sidled up close and observed that 'their relationship was rather intense at times, don't you think? I was almost embarrassed to be watching!' (The episode included The Fix', 'Gillian' and The Plague'.) For a moment there was the temptation to get involved in a lengthier exchange but caution prevailed - our staffroom is not the place to air a concept like slash. A vague reply along the lines of, 'They were just being seventies American men, in touch with their emotions' had to suffice.'"
  • The editor writes:
"One of our contributors sent the following short article in the interests of starring a dialogue about slash, the internet and what other fans welcome - or fear - about its effects on our little corner of the fictional universe. I hope it will generate a lively response; it seems to me that the existence of the Internet is going to have an enormous effect on how - and even what - we read in the future." The essay is "Slash and Internet: Good or Bad" -- an excerpt: "I'm just starting to discover that there's an awful lot of slash available out there in the wide blue electronic yonder; and while I'm enjoying the stories I've found, it's made me think about the possible consequences. Perhaps it's a mixed blessing - secrecy has always been a large constituent of this genre and I'm not sure that putting it onto the internet is in the best interests of slash fandom in general and the slash fan (namely myself) in particular. My own feelings are, I must admit, somewhat ambivalent It seems too public, too exposed, and yet amid the dross of some truly awful stuff there are a few real gems that might never have seen the light of day in any other forum. My own entry into slash was somewhat bizarre, a little bit like finding and following the yellow brick road and only a great deal of luck brought me to Oz. How many other potential slash fans are there out there? Potential slash fans who never found the yellow brick road or worse, didn't even know that the yellow brick road existed? How many unlucky people would never, could never find their way into our small, comfortable, exclusive world? Perhaps that's what worries me. We are no longer so exclusive, so secret, so special. But I still want to share my sense of wonder, of belonging, of being in the know, and to meet up with people, both those I know and those new to me, who are pervs just like me and are a little, or even a lot, in love with a character on a small screen or in a lovingly produced zine."
  • The editor also includes an reprint of an article from a U.S. newspaper (not named or dated) about slash on the internet, she asks:
"Is this an Awful Warning of the consequences of putting our heads above the ramparts? Or, given its surprisingly level-headed and sympathetic tone - is it a hopeful portent, a sign of acceptance? I must admit, my first reaction was horror at being - um - outed quite so blatantly. But once I'd read the piece a second time, it's unsensational even judicious, approach had gone a long way towards soothing that initial throwing-up of hands. (Imagine, for instance, what a Sun reporter would make of the same material.) There's no putting the genie back in the bottle; for better or worse the Internet is here to stay. Me, I think that's a good thing (with one or two reservations) but how about the rest of you? And if the availability of slash on the Internet results in more articles like this, is that to be feared or welcomed?"[1]

Stories:

Art:

  • drawing by Roo of Doyle as a Roman centurion

Issue 8

Discovered In A Letterbox 8 was published in December 1998 and contains 53 pages.

"It seems that the hot topic of the moment is the Net and what its effects might be on our little corner of the universe. So here's a thought to ponder: will the Net kill zines? Or is the explosion in publishing a good breeding-ground for writers to develop their skills and confidence? (I know of at least two zines that have been published to showcase the best of what's on offer on the Net, for instance) Perhaps you think people will be reluctant to pay for stories when they can read them for free? But then there's the attraction of quality editing and production which zines can offer... it's a knotty question."
  • A fan writes:
"Hope I haven't really given the impression that Kitty Fisher is a 'shock' writer because that simply isn't true. What she does is stretch the vision of her readers by providing a stimulating environment within which the lads have to develop in 'beyond the screen' ways in order to survive . . . and sometimes they can't survive. This character and setting development is, surely, the reason for the success of fanwriting generally. A major attraction in Pros fandom is, at least for me, the enormous diversity of universes in which the lads find themselves. Writers like Kitty Fisher and HG have the ability to exploit these scenarios whilst retaining the integrity of Bodie's and Doyle's characters. That's what makes their work so good."
  • Kitty Fisher comments on comments made about her in a previous issue:
cover of issue #8
art from issue #8, Evelyn
"I had no objection to anyone else writing a sequel to it in fact I was quite happy for anyone to have a go who wanted to. But I, myself, couldn't. Not because I believed the story sacrosanct or because having written it I believed it. For me Doyle is dead. What happened was right for the way the characters....curiously enough I don't set out to write 'shock' stories, and I found the accusation extremely disturbing. Admittedly my writing is at the darker end of the market and will remain there (apart from the odd aberration!) but I never write just to annoy or shock or to raise 'issues'. I write what interests me, and what I want to read: angst and emotion and suffering alleviated by love. Most of all I write what is dictated by the story. If I try and do something that the characters don't want, I end up nowhere, or re-writing great chunks in order to get to a place from where the story can go forward. ... There is room in fandom for all sorts of stories. I personally wouldn't like a saccharine-sweet cosy epic where nothing happens except the washing-up (and they never break a plate). I don't like elves much, either, unless they're written by Tolkien (or O. Yardley). But, hey, these stories exist and are dearly loved. What the hell, the more stories the merrier. In every way I am opposed to censorship and I think most fans are as well. The old debate about flagging death and dark stories has a great deal of value (Kathy did mention in her editorial that the zine which published The Pillory contained an uncompromising death story) but apart from that I'm not quite sure how I would feel if stories were censored in any way, or were ghettoised into themed zines."
"Perhaps the reason that happy ever-after stories are so popular in Pros fandom isn't because all the readers are sentimental old biddies who enjoy a good romance (are we?) but because we have an instinctive understanding that B and D are survivors, who would manage to continue existing together in pretty well any circumstances. When presented with a scenario that defeats them we are shocked and horrified . . . but only if the writer has stayed true to character. If she hasn't, the story isn't shocking; it's ignorable, because they're not 'our' B and D anyway."
  • About the "whys" of fan fic and the "whys" of Pros:
"I was talking about it to a friend - male, straight, published writer - who is equally intrigued, both by the phenomenon and by the vast range of its spread. (He was utterly bemused - and enchanted - at the idea of thousands of women lavishing so much time, effort and loving attention on writing that is not intended for what the outside world thinks of as publication). Anyway. He asked, why B and D? Not why that particular couple but why B for D and vice versa? Why slash, really (He wasn 't being scornful just genuinely curious). And I said - it came out without thought - 'Because there's no one else for either of them but the other.' Meaning, who they are - what they are -precludes anything else. And he thought for a bit then said, 'Ah, I see. You want to make it right. And d'you know, the more I think about it, the more I think he's hit the nail on the head, at least for me. I want to Make Things Right for them. And the only way to do that ... is to put them together. I don't think that's sentimental - I think it goes deeper than that, to a sense of order and justice about how things should be. It goes to the heart of what Story is, and why storytelling is so important to us as human beings.'"
  • Regarding the slash and the internet and the article in the newspaper that was discussed in the previous issue:
"Moving on to the article about slash on the Internet, it reads like a very fair article, almost certainly tongue in cheek in places, and it's heartening that someone can view the existence of slash realistically as posing no threat to those who choose not to participate. Sadly, I don't think the situation is as simple as that and I really do wish this particular genie had not been allowed to escape from its bottle. The more that misguided, naive fans continue to thrust various aspects of slash in the faces of actors, writers, producers and the public in general via the Internet, the more likely there is to be a severe backlash from the homophobic, moralistic contingent amongst them."
  • Another comment regarding the Internet and slash:
"Copyright infringement is far less threatening than accusations of being involved in the creation and distribution of pornography. What these energetic, vociferous fans seem unable to accept is that other fans are employed in sensitive positions, teaching being a prime example - though there must be others - where knowledge of their involvement in slash fandom could very easily cause them to lose their jobs. It's not right, it's not fair, but it is a fact and the insistence of the first group on pursuing the 'tell all' bandwagon could actually curtail the other group's freedom to participate. I hope I'm just being neurotic and it doesn't happen, that tolerance will prevail, but at the moment all the indications from my standpoint are quite the reverse. Besides, it was quite nice to think of oneself as belonging to an exclusive little club."
  • A fan comments:
    "I get the cold grues at the thought of DIAL ever being net-accessible. I suspect the only thing to do is carry on as before but hang on to our pen-names with even grimmer determination."
  • A fan has this comment:
    "The newspaper article about slash nearly shocked me out of a year's growth... Admittedly, the article was sensible and almost benevolent, but I guess it's only a matter of time before rags - the likes of National Inquirer or The Sun - will get their mitts on the subject. Let's keep our fingers crossed that a number of more benevolent papers will have something to say on slash before them."
  • And more on the Internet and slash's new visibility:
"I read with interest the piece regarding slash on the Internet. I am a complete novice on the Internet and have only just, with the help of your Net Connections article, found the slash sites. I am also rather uncertain about my feelings on this. I like the 'secret society' aspect of slash. It's nice to share in this interest with other fans at Nattercon and Write On, etc. knowing the security of being with like-minded, devoted people. The thought of "Disgusted Old Tunbridge Wells" finding and reading our beloved stories, and pouring scorn and loathing upon us, fills me with horror! I know that I would hate my parents and brother, for example, knowing about my hobby, as they are out and out homophobes and would only see the porn aspect and not the love underlying our fiction. The other side of the coin is, of course, the 'yellow brick road' aspect so well described. It took me ages to find slash, and there must be many others out there who don't know it exists but who would love to read it and add their own unique ideas to the wealth of fiction. In that way, the Net is a godsend. Let's hope the powers that be don't interfere and try to censor us, but leave us to share our stories via the Net."
  • And another comment:
"I'd been wondering why I felt so uneasy at the thought of slash being 'known' by the outside world, given that we all write under pseudonyms and can't easily be traced by outsiders. Your letter made me say, 'Yes, that's it.' The idea of what we write and read with so much affection being exposed to unthinking contempt makes me unhappy. It's not 'exposure' per se that I object to. I just don't want brickbats thrown at something I love."
  • A fan talks of the story that made her a fan:
"The story that got me hooked on The Professionals was "Masquerade" and I still think it's one of the best stories around. It's probably difficult for a lot of people now to imagine a time when there were virtually no B/D stories around -they just didn't exist. No Sebastian, no HG, no O. Yardley, no Rhiannon, no Americans or Australians. Just "Consequences" and two fairly bleak sequels. I had been lent them to read and my reaction was that I didn't know who the characters were, and that it was all so nasty I didn't want to know. Fortunately for me, friends were lent "Masquerade" and insisted I read it, and it was like opening a door on a different world. I eventually watched the programme on television, watched the following week, and the rest, as they say, is history. I still think I was lucky in reading that story almost at the beginning, because not only is it a lovely story but it's very well written. If I had read something that wasn't that good, I don't think I would have bothered to continue with Hatstands, and would either have avoided Professionals fandom altogether or got into it at a much later date, having missed all sorts of fun. And just to continue the story - the next story I read, some months later (yes, there were these horrendous gaps) was "Cause For Concern", which confirmed that here was a fandom worth investigating, because by that time I was fascinated by Bodie and Doyle."
  • Another fan's short history:
"The first B/D zine I ever read was O. Yardley's "Bear Necessity. I had become very jaded with the ever-increasing amount of S&M and slave stories etc. in K/S and was beginning to think of parting company with 'slash' but just in time, someone lent me "Bear Necessity". I found it refreshingly unsophisticated and I loved the Boys' gentle relationship, and tough-guy Bodie's amused, indulgent affection for his partner utterly melted me. I was hooked."
  • A fan has this to say:
"I suppose also that having started in the fandom with slash fiction, I never thought of B and D in any other terms. Unlike Star Trek, where I'd read nothing but the Blish books for years before discovering some gen fiction, and then being introduced to K/S. (The first Star Trek zine I bought was Thrust - talk about jumping in at the deep end!) And it's interesting that most of Professionals fan fiction has been slash and has.always been biased that way."
  • More about the newspaper article and the Internet, both topics dealing with the increased visibility of slash:
"Thought the newspaper article on slash fiction was interesting, if typically American. Reclaiming pornography indeed! I don't consider what I read to be pornography, though I'm well aware that many people would. And I don't read it for the explicit sex. I've been reading slash fiction for twenty years and, apart from some of the more extreme practices, I suspect I've read just about every variation; and after a while, it's pretty boring if there's no story and, perhaps more importantly for me, no love to go with it. I can live without 'happy ever after' but I do want 'happiness of a sort ever after. I can't say I'm comfortable with slash being under everyone's nose, so to speak, but it's out there on the Internet, so that's it; but I certainly wouldn't dream of drawing it to people's attention. Attitudes in this country trail way behind laws."
  • More on visibility and actors "knowing" of slash:
"The quoted article seemed quite sensible about slash, and Paul Gross's remarks were fine. But - and it's a big but, as [name redacted] said - just imagine a sensationalist newspaper's response; and indeed all actors are not as understanding or uncaring as Paul Gross - Paul Darrow (Avon in Blake's 7) took the idea of slash very badly, and split B7 fandom somewhat by it; he also apparently insisted that any fans he consorted with be non-slash, and he also stopped putting his arm round Michael Keating's shoulder and (so I've heard) tried to get MK (Vila) and Gareth Thomas (Blake) to denounce slash too. So - his reaction and its results were his problem, but I think it would have been better if he'd never found out about it. However, I don't think, now it's started, that there's anything we can do to limit whatever effect the Internet will have on slash fandom. I know [name redacted] doesn't want any part of DIAL on the Net but that doesn't stop people discussing the existence of DIAL."
  • A comment on other fandoms, zines, and the Internet:
"I don't know about other fandoms but the Internet has been a very prominent topic of discussion for some time now in K/S fandom. However, the main concern there seemed to be whether the Net would make zines redundant. Perhaps K/S-ers feel they're already outed to some extent, with discussions on K/S having taken place in media and mainstream books. I know of a friend who only reads Pros stories on-screen because she won't print them and have anything slash in the house, but I couldn't do that. How much more relaxing it is to have paper in your hand to read at your leisure, and re-read. I don't think the Net will make zines redundant, and I'm benefiting from extra K/S stories that would never see print, but I preferred feeling the fandom was enclosed and secure. As we say here - it's six of one and half a dozen of the other; what you lose on the swings, you gain on the roundabouts."
  • More on the Internet:
"I'm finding it difficult to make up my mind if slash on the Net is a good or bad thing, but I suppose if pushed I'd be inclined to say it has been Our Little Secret for so long now, perhaps it is time we stopped being so paranoid about it and welcomed others to the enjoyment of it. As [name redacted] says, the genie is out of the bottle now, for good or ill, and there's not a lot we can do about it, is there?"

Stories:

Art:

  • drawing by Evelyn of (slightly) older Bodie and Doyle

Reactions and Reviews: Issue 8

See reactions and reviews for Deck the Halls.

Issue 9

Discovered In A Letterbox 9 was published in March 1999 and contains 46 pages.

art from issue #9, Ann
cover of issue #9
"...people who set out to shock for the sake of it? I don't like that, nor do I like people setting out to write something they don't believe in but that they think will draw readers. I have in mind a Star Trek gen writer/editor who hated slash but eventually wrote a slash story, basically admitting it was simply to sell her zine - and it was not a good story, either. How could it be, really? It was a hypocritical exercise."
  • Another dislike:
"Another dislike of mine is plagiarism - I've come across this in one flagrant episode in ST some years ago. A US writer (whose stories I heartily disliked anyway for their darkness and weirdness) actually lifted the entire plot of a US crime novel I'd read and fitted in Kirk and Spock. Perhaps she reckoned slash[ [ST]] fans didn't read other fiction, and maybe she was right, because no-one else seemed to pick up on it; however, I'm sure she got a nasty shock when I complained to the zine editor, who took it up with her but never got a response. I heard she'd later left K/S. She should have admitted her story was based on the novel. Anyway, though it had been a good enough novel, it was a poor K/S story because K and S were out of character - she made them fit the plot rather than the other way round."
  • A gen Bodie and Doyle? -- this fan doesn't see it:
"I never saw B/D any other way than slash because that was all that seemed to be available. Like you, in ST I'd read gen first, hundreds of them. I still can't remember my first slash one. I do know that by the time I acquired a copy of Thrust (one of the zines people sort of consider a classic) I found it quite tame because I'd read so much other slash."
  • The actors and slash:
"Re. actors' bad reactions to slash: I think it's not that they confuse themselves with the characters but that they are aware that it's their physical looks/bodies which are being played with, and that's what upsets them. They fail to see that it's the characters people are into... I think they fear the fans see something effeminate in them personally. Not that 'gay' should be equated with 'effeminacy', though that's a prevalent attitude. I prefer to think of it as more macho, a meeting of warriors, be it Vulcan/human or 20th-century fighters for justice."
  • About the Internet and zines?:
"[Will] the Net will kill zines: as I said last time? It has been a burning issue in K/S for probably a couple of years. Their idea was for a compromise that would work, in theory anyway. It appears that a lot of Net fans don't know of the existence of 'paper' fiction, and though the zine editors wouldn't advertise as such, if Net individuals got friendly with or asked questions of 'paper' slash writers who use the Net, then the latter would point the former to zines. Also, they were happy to have stories available in both 'media' but felt stories should not be given to zines as well as being posted to the Net because that could be harmful to zine sales. Paper stories and Net ones should be kept separate unless (as has happened). Net stories are published in a zine, but they must not have been published before and must be advertised as Net stories. The majority conclusion seemed to be that readers would stick with zines. Paper (as I said last time) is more satisfactory reading than a screen, and though Net stories can be printed out, yet they won't have been edited properly. Also, with zines, hopefully the editors would have rejected any poor stories; while there are some gems on the Net, there is also a lot of dross among the stuff my friend [who has a computer] printed out for me, and there's even stuff she decided wasn't worth printing. The Net is fine for people to try out writing and get a nearly instant response (indeed, any response, as LOCs for paper zines can be few and far between). However, from what I've seen in K/S, the usual writers of zines are not writing for the Net. As long as they continue to write for zines and as long as people as prepared to buy them (and let's not forget that despite appearances to the contrary, not everyone has access to the Net) zines will survive."
  • The editor has this comment on print and netfic:
"In all fairness, I have to say that the standard of what you might call 'editing' on the Net is no worse than what I've seen in poorly done zines. As with anything published in our particular world, quality depends on the sensibilities of any given publisher; and as we know, some publishers (and/or editors) don't seem to give a damn about typos, grammar or (in a few cases) sense. As far as Net stories go, the 'publisher' is also the author and so it's up to her to see that her story is sent forth in its best dress, as it were. She may or may not be bothered about that; the best writers are, and go to great lengths not only to check for obvious mistakes themselves but to have stories 'beta-read' by one or more fellow-writers. The problem is, there's so much stuff on the Net that Sturgeon's Law - ie. that '95% of everything is crap' - means the good stuff can be difficult to hunt down. Hence the impression one can get that it's all a bit iffy. On the other hand, while I've spent a lot of time wading through rubbish to find the gems, I haven't had the lowering experience of paying twenty quid for a zine which turned out to be disappointing. You pays your money and you takes your choice [chance?]."
  • A comment on the angst payoff:
"I agree, angst should be followed by happy-ever-after; what annoys me is when the angst is resolved and the happy-ever-after occurs in a few paragraphs. After all the angst, as a reward for wading through it I need lots and lots of lovely, loving sex, not one paragraph."
  • A fan comments on the Internet and zines:
"Will the Net kill zines? I hope not - there's no pleasure in the world like holding one of those fat envelopes in your hands. You know, the ones that the postman brings to your door and then takes away again, so that you have to slog down to the post office on a Saturday morning; and then completely junk all your weekend plans because the zine has to be read then and there. Call me a traditionalist (even though I work in IT) but a computer screen is no substitute for the printed word - it doesn't (for me, at least) convey all that tender loving care that goes into the writing and the editing and the publishing and the reading of zines. (And you can't take a screen into the bath ... well not more than once). On the whole, as well, I've found I prefer the quality of the writing in zines. Perhaps because, to be published in a zine, the writer has to convince at least one other person of the merit of her work before I see it, while that isn't so on the Net. That said, there are some zines I've seen that consist of the awful and the instandy forgettable, so the Net by no means has a monopoly on mediocrity. And there are circuit stories I've read that rank with the worst the Net can offer... But, given a choice, I'lll take the printed word over the Net each and every time."
  • A fan admits it was the Internet what got her into fandom:
"Which is not to say the Net isn't vital to me. After all, it sucked me into Pros (thirteen months, and still besotted). I knew ... in an intellectual sort of way... that slash was 'out there'; an academically-minded friend had alerted me to the fact ("Did you know there are people who .. ?"). But it wasn't until one quiet Christmas, browsing idly on BTs cheap rate, that I remembered the Web address she'd kindly provided and decided to go look see. Trek in all its variants did nothing for me. And I couldn't envisage The Sentinel chaps. But Pros made my toes curl and my hair straighten. Smitten, out of the blue."
  • A fan wants to know:
"Is there a difference between the way we read slash and the way we read other fiction? For me, as a writer, the constraints are different: I'm dealing with characters that the audience already know and love (in most cases, a great deal better and longer than me) so I can build on that shared knowledge, skip some of the scene-setting and cut straight to the chase."

Stories:

  • Unilateral Decision by O Yardley - 4 pages
  • The Blyton Horror: Part...Whatever by Joan - 4 pages
  • Summer Heat by Barbara Thomas - 3 pages

Art:

  • drawing by Ann of Bodie and Doyle

Issue 10

Discovered In A Letterbox 10 was published in June 1999 and contains 46 pages.

"Crossovers. There's been a fair amount of discussion of these, if generally in the form of 'Omigod, can you imagine what Bodie would do in Discworld/Due South/Narnia?' or whatever. It's probably related to the ease with which The Lads lend themselves to A/Us. (Mmm, flexibility, one of the things I like in a sex-object... I mean. Hero.) So - do you like them? Hate them? Prefer them only between certain shows or pairings? Only if they're funny? Only if 'the other lot' die horribly? Can't stand the idea of anyone daring to fancy Doyle? (Apart from Bodie, naturally). Rather like the notion of bunging Bodie into bed with - well, practically anyone, really, but I favour Illya myself. If they didn't kill each other first Those two heads would look so pretty on the pillow..."
  • A fan comments on what she looks for in fiction:
cover of issue #10
"Sometimes in a story I wish the writer had taken the story on a bit longer as I'd like to see what happened next... My definition of that is wrapping things up definitely and positively. I don't want an ending that raises more questions than it answers, that is ambiguous in any way. I like my i's dotted and t's crossed; and also a happy, or going-to-be-happy ending. I certainly wouldn't criticise any writer or her writing for not wrapping things up neatly, but I don't like or enjoy such a story myself... It doesn't have to be a wonderfully written story or even one that stays in your mind In fact, I've found in ST and ordinary fiction that quite often, it's the stories you wish you'd never read that stick in your mind. And that can be annoying, to say the least When I was working (and even now) reading slash was my relaxation, my way to unwind, and I didn't want something that was going to make me 'think'. I just wanted a release from the stress and pressure, something to sweeten a bad day, to make me feel good emotionally."
"Not just Highlander but I've included this as an example of how the Internet and zines can coexist. [Its] site gives information about Ashton Press zines and how to order them (very easy these days); has some stories posted that were in zines now out of print; and also has story reviews..."
  • A fan comments on how she reads slash:
art by Evelyn from issue #10, "Chauvelin of The Scarlet Pimpernel and Bodie"
"... do we need introduction or foreknowledge? I've just realised that I write for those who know B&D, and the episodes, very well. If you'd never seen Pros you wouldn't be able to tell from my stories who the characters were or what they did. (Of course, in flow of consciousness stories, to inject details of their lives would be very awkward and obviously deliberate.) In reading slash, I don't want extraneous detail, I want to get straight to it in an ordinary novel, background is essential for a reader to care about the characters. But as I read slash about pairings I know very well, I don't appreciate time spent detailing, for example, how Kirk was born in Iowa and ended up being a starship captain. So yes, I read slash differently."
  • A fan writes of her ambivalence regarding Internet attention:
"...I've never expected any feedback generally. Recently, a friend said one of my stories was mentioned and praised on the Net. I'd mixed feelings about that. At least no-one knows who really wrote it."
"... one such purchase [a slash zine] led to a bit of excitement the other day. The postwoman knocked on my door with a second-hand zine I'd ordered from the States. "Continental B/D" had left the USA discreetly concealed in one of those UPS Priority Mail envelopes, but when the postwoman handed it to me, it was in a Post Office transparent wrapper. "It came open in the Post," she said. "I'm sorry. But it doesn't look damaged." And she gave me a very nice smile, so I can only assume she liked the Suzanne Lovett cover..."
  • A fan comments on a recent crossover story she read, and of her opinion of the genre in general:
"The last one I read... was a Pros/Star Wars one which was weird. Han and Chewbacca had a relationship and brought in Luke! Obi-Wan Kenobi was also involved and there was weird stuff about Wookiee mating rituals. Bodie got involved somehow and Ray was a female and, I think, an alien - I'm a bit vague because I gave up on it early. I don't understand why anyone would want to do a crossover except for the creative challenge. Because if you write or read B/D (or whatever) because you believe in it and feel this pairing is the best for either, then there's no attraction in writing or reading otherwise - not for me, anyway."
  • Another fan weighs in on crossovers:
"Crossovers? Not my thing at all, and that's for a variety of reasons. Most often, I don't recognise the other characters involved (mine's been a very sheltered life .. .) Even if I do recognise them, I find I can't care about them; and I don't want to see The Lads sharing their beds with people I don't like. I don't even want to see them sharing a story. I feel somehow short-changed. They ought to be the focus, but in many crossovers, the other characters) get equal or (gasp!) more attention. The Lads are relegated to bit parts - walk-ons in somebody else's universe, when they have a perfectly good universe of their own (or several, considering A/Us). Be interesting to know if fans of the 'other' characters feel similarly dissatisfied - do we have here the ultimate in missed targets, stories that just the author enjoys?"
  • A fan comments on an earlier statement:
"I was interested in the point you made about the intensity of the relationship, and the degree of inter-dependence, being a key element in making slash rewarding to read. Love in a pressure cooker, preferably with the lid about to blow? It helps explain why, for me, Bodie/Cowley stories don't work: there isn't the necessary reliance on each other for basic survival."
  • A fan comments, tongue-in-cheek, about a downfall to the Internet and slash:
"I think one pitfall of slash on the Net that no-one has pointed out yet is the ease with which you can be separated from your money - so much slash, so little time ... And it isn't only the fault of the dealers who take plastic; there are the fans as well who advertise second-hand zines via e-maiL I've bought a couple that way, absolutely delighted by how helpful and honest fans that I've never met can be."
  • A fan writes and expresses concern that an author has not credited a source:
"Sorry if this sounds a sour note in fandom but having just seen Strange Days Indeed by HG, published by Dog-House Press, I have got to say something. I've hunted through the zine and while there's all the usual stuff about copyright etc, nowhere is there an acknowledgement that this story started out as "Remember Angola" by AL. Those who have read "Remember Angola" and the library version of "Strange Days Indeed" may have wondered if the former was an early version of the latter. But there are probably not many people who know why there is such a similarity between the two, since there is nothing on the zine/library copy to indicate the reason. This is not to accuse HG of plagiarism, because that was not the case at all. "Strange Days Indeed" was written because of a frustration with AL's story, which had tremendous potential unfulfilled in the telling. Furthermore, HG's story was not intended to be widely circulated but rather distributed, as it was written, to a small group of friends, who all knew it was "Remember Angola" retold and expanded. But fandom has changed and grown, and "Strange Days Indeed" has been read by many fans. I would have thought its 'publication' now would have been the moment to explain how the story came about, because even in its rewritten form, it contains the plot, original characters and portions of the text of AL's story. AL is dead, and her friends are no longer in Professionals fandom so it's up to me to speak out, Perhaps HG/Dog-House Press could put a note in with each zine sold, explaining its origins. This is a lot more than a story 'based on -' or 'from an idea by' - I'm sure the revised version will be good (and I look forward to reading it) but it never will be all HG's own work, and due acknowledgement should be made of that fact."
  • The author, who was given this letter beforehand, responds:
"My thanks to [name redacted]. To my horror, I'd completely forgotten to enclose an acknowledgement of SDI's origins in the revised copy of the story, due to the rush to get the zine ready for Nattercon. After SDI was widely circulated in 1983/1984 (contrary to my original intention) everyone who read it was made aware of its origins. In the years since, it never occurred to me how many different versions would appear, that the explanation might vanish - or how much fandom would change in the intervening years. This timely reminder will ensure that the Author's Note I'm preparing for inclusion in future copies of SDI sets the record straight."
  • And there is a footnote from the publisher:
"Anyone who purchased a copy of 'Strange Days Indeed' at Nattercon and who would like a copy of the Author's Note to include in their copy of the zine, please send an A4-sized envelope with a 1st or 2nd class stamp; when the note is ready it will be forwarded to you."
  • The editor of DIAL interjects:
"After that, all I can say is: thank you, ladies, for clarifying a potentially delicate matter with such grace. What a civilised fandom Pros is!"
  • A fan has returned from Nattercon and writes:
"I was able to buy a copy of Journey West, which would definitely be one of my Desert Island Zines if I ever needed to make the choice. (My ultimate Desert Island Zine is Heat Trace.)"
"I was also very interested when you contemplated whether some writers 'mix and match' the pairings (for example Spock and McCoy. Bodie and Cowley) to 'stretch boundaries'. I was wondering if I should take the view that to stretch boundaries is an acceptable goal, as Slash Fiction per se stretches boundaries? I'd give this some thought, but then I don't think I've read any Bodie/Cowley - I'd love to, and I'd also love to read some Doyle/Cowley. I understand there's a little B/C but no D/C - any takers?" [The editor interjects that she knows of a handful of such stories.]
  • Slash fandom and the Internet:
"I'm so glad to hear that your experience of the Internet has been as positive as mine. I haven't been nearly so active as to form my own mailing list but I have made new friends all over the world I find it's easier and quicker to send feedback to an author via e-mail and some of the replies. I've got back have really educated me about the importance of feedback to a fan author- It's a nice feeling to find that a writer finds your response to their story valuable. I'm now much more conscientious about sending feedback and I think harder about which aspects of a story work for me (and sometimes which don't). On the vexed question of Zines versus the Internet, I really feel that there's room for both. I have two excellent Highlander slash zines which I wouldn't have known about at all if it hadn't been for the Net. They both contain stories by authors whose work I knew I'd enjoy as I'd already seen examples that had been posted on the Net. I had no hesitation in sending off my money, was told by e-mail that it had arrived and then that the zine had been posted to me. I was a happy bunny when it thudded through my letterbox."
  • A fan is more bothered by meta and/or academic discussion of slash in books than in slash itself on the Internet:
"I do understand why people are worried by slash on the Net and was a bit surprised myself at how easy it was to find it. I'm afraid my first thought was 'Oh, wonderful' as I threw caution to the winds and started reading (I wouldn't dream of doing it at work though). I was actually more shocked when I picked up a copy of "Shut It!' in Smiths and discovered that it had a section for "Slash fiction moments" in the analysis of the episodes. Having slash mentioned in a book seemed to make it more public than having it posted on the Internet, for some reason. I don't know why I feel like this but I do."
  • A fan comments on quality and fic in two different mediums:
"I agree with you about the standard of editing on the Net. While I have spotted mistakes, I certainly haven't seen anything it worse than can be found in zines. Many Net authors go to enormous trouble to have their stories checked. I'm on two Highlander mailing lists where grammar and punctuation are a frequent topic of discussion and I've discovered I'm embarrassingly ignorant of both."
  • A fan writes of how internet fiction isn't necessarily a money-saver:
"I don't particularly like reading on screen either, so if I know I've enjoyed the author's previous work, I print the story out. I used to think this was cheaper than buying a zine until I discovered the cost of replacement ink cartridges for my printer. A fan and her money are soon parted..."
  • In the Internet section, there is this comment about Highlander sites:
"I haven't included pages for individual authors as they're all easily accessible through links pages. Authors whose work I've particularly enjoyed who have their own webpages are: Sylvia Volk, MacGeorge, Killashandra, Meredith Lynne, Ladonna King, and lots of others too numerous to mention."

This fan also recommends these Highlander internet sites: The Highlander Quill Club, The Fanfic Outpost, Voices: A Highlander Anthology, The Seventh Dimension Highlander Fanfic Archive, The HLX Site, The Methos Bulletin Boards, The Net Cafe, and Sabotini's House of Fanfic

  • this issue has an announcement and description of The Fanfic Symposium, see that page
  • this issue has some fans' comments on the play, "Always and Everyone" which featured Martin Shaw, as well as some reprints of articles about what Martin Shaw was up to, dare we say, professionally
  • there is a review of the for-profit book, "Shut It!" A Fan's Guide to 70s Cop Shows on The Box - by Martin Day and Keith Topping
  • A fan did not like an H/J story: "... there's the Harry and Johnny story where, by mistake in the dark, Johnny ends up in bed with Doyle (or is it Starsky?) and I confess to being very unhappy about it."
  • the editor comments about the Highlander fandom: "Highlander is another fandom that exists largely online. There are some good zines out there but the bulk of the fanfiction has been posted on the Internet."

Stories:

  • A Weekend by the Lake by An Anonymous Observer - 4 pages (This story was written immediately following Nattercon 1999, a Pros slash con that took place in May in Milton Keynes, England. It is online here.
  • Chain Reaction by Mo - 2 pages
  • The Blyton Horror: Not the Last Bit by Joan - 3 pages

Art:

  • drawing by Evelyn of Chauvelin of The Scarlet Pimpernel and Bodie

Reactions and Reviews: Issue 10

See reactions and reviews for A Weekend by the Lake.

References

  1. A clue to what this article was may be found in this excerpt:
    "Some TV producers claim they never read fan fiction, lest a writer should later accuse them of stealing an idea or plot. But Paul Gross, who plays Fraser on Due South and also series as executive producer and writer, admits that he has read some slash stories involving his character. After he recovered from a boyish fit of giggles, Gross said, 'It seems like a very strange pursuit, but it certainly doesn't bother me.' As polite as the Mountie he plays, he added that it was quite well written, and that as a writer he can see it would be a fun exercise. He should know. Gross co-wrote a Due South episode in which Fraser saves his drowning partner by buddy-breathing underwater - a scene that was shot to look remarkably like a passionate kiss. Was he tipping his hat to slash fans? "No, not at all,' he said. 'It's too marginal an audience to worry about' Anyway, said Gross,"... no one's clever enough in television to be putting anything like that in." And while some TV and film producers have threatened legal action against slash authors. Gross pointed out that a fan's fantasies are not an area into which his copyright extends. 'I suppose the character is public ground,' he said. "If you're willing to bring it into people's houses every week, the fans are entitled to certain liberties, wherever their imagination is carried by those characters.'"