Discovered In A Letterbox/Issues 11-15

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Issue 11

Discovered In A Letterbox 11 was published in September 1999 and contains 52 pages.


a flyer for Speculation Press was printed in this issue
cover of issue #11
  • A fan writes about slash—it's place in a story and about "modern fans":
"No. I can't get too much slash fiction. I do read some gen fiction (not in Professionals fandom) because some of the stuff is well-written- But it's frustrating to read, because I miss the sexual aspect of the relationship in such stories. I came into Professionals fandom knowing B&D were a sexual pairing even before I saw any of the episodes and I have never thought of them in any other way. That said I'm not one of these present-day slash fans who think that unless the characters have sexual congress at least once per page, it isn't a slash story. Sex doesn't have to be explicit in a story to make it interesting. In fact it doesn't have to be there at all as long as I know the writer has placed my heroes in a sexual relationship."
  • An article by Neva Chonin about slash entitled "Spock Does Mulder" is reprinted, along with the editor's comments about slash being openly talked about in other places than private fannish spaces:
"I really enjoyed it - I thought it was nicely judged, well and amusingly written, and showed clear signs of having done its research. (And isn't it satisfying to have an outsider see the point, as it were, without fuss or raised eyebrows?). But for all that, I was still shaken by the breezy openness with which slash is brought to the attention of the general public. It wasn't simply the tone of the piece: the article was dotted throughout with links to take a reader directly to any of a dozen slash sites. Not that I object... exactly... It just made me gulp a little."
"Next, something DIAL hasn't really publicised before (though given their popularity, maybe we should) - songvids! The Media Cannibals will be well known to many of you as producers of some of the finest, wittiest, most poignant songvids being made at the moment I picked up a half-flyer from them at Z-Con - reproduced below - but it doesn't contain contact details."
  • A fan compares Net fic and zine fic:
"Re. comparing standards of editing on the Net with those of zines: I'm not computerised but have seen a lot of stories printed off the Net. At the start I would have considered zines to have better editing but now I find little difference, because quite honestly, over the last few years the standard of some zines (and I'm talking various fandoms) has deteriorated, in my opinion."
  • This fan never tires of slash:
"I've been in it for at least fifteen years, I reckon, and I found very soon after I started that I could no longer read genfic I just wasn't interested. My non-fandom reading is the opposite... none of it is slash, because I tried it many years ago and didn't enjoy it, one of the reasons being that I couldn't feel for the characters. However, whether I'm reading one or two ordinary novels per day or not reading at all... there is barely a day goes by that I don't read at least one slash story. Granted, I do sometimes tire of one particular fandom for a while and move on to another for a time. However. I never tire of K/S, or of slash itself."
  • About slash on the Internet:
"I've altered my stance somewhat now. While I personally wouldn't want my name on the Net in connection with slash, I am less uneasy about the outing of K/S, B/D, etc simply because there is so much slash available- A friend took me to several slash sites on her computer, and the amount and variety was staggering. There were a lot of shows (mainly US) I'd never heard of - as I'm not a great TV fan, that wasn't surprising - but even my friend hadn't heard of them all, and that's saying something! Anyway, the point is that if slash is outed, it's not going to be just K/S or B/D but a lot of fandoms, some quite weird I know I used to consider K/S or B/D, for example, as standing alone in the slash reality, but there really are a hell of a lot more of us out there The Net was quite an eye-opener."
  • A fan is worried about how many zines she is missing due to the fact that she has no computer:
"I hope it never gets to the stage where zines are only available on the Net." -- the editor interjects: "You and me both. But I think it unlikely; there are far too many people (thank goodness) devoted to the print medium for paper zines to die out altogether."
  • The editor writes:
"Those of you who are Net-connected might already have come across a wonderfully amusing and informative site called Minotaur's Sex Tips for Slash Writers! Run by a charming gay slash fan, it was set up to provide answers to many of the knottier questions peculiar to (mostly female-and-heterosexual) slash writers. When I stumbled across it, I was delighted by the mix of witty comment and pertinent information it contains, and wrote immediately to its author, asking him if I might reproduce some of it for the readers of DIAL. With great kindness, he responded by saying, 'Of Course' - provided he could get peimission from those who had sent him questions to publish them here - (Thus showing the proper spirit and proving himself a True Fan). This done, the following extracts were made available for the entertainment of we DIAL types. Thank you, Minotaur. You're a love. There's a lot more on his site than just the few questions-and-answers published here; I'd recommend it to anyone as a fascinating read (the URL is below the title). And if you do go and look you might consider dropping the dear boy a line to say thanks." [The letterzine then prints seven questions and Minotaur's answers to them.]

Issue 12

cover of issue #12

Discovered In A Letterbox 12 was published in December 1999 and contains 45 pages.

"It's a brand-new year and a brand-new century so let's be awfully British and cast a look back at the past So - how did you get into this lark in the first place? Perhaps it was through a friend who took you by the elbow and said, 'You might like this ...' Did you arrive here (as most people seem to have done) via Star Trek fandom and find yourself strangely comfortable? Or was it something else altogether? And if you have been here a long time, what keeps you around? The Boys? The stories? The people in the fandom? Pull up a chair, let down your back hair and tell us what it was like in the Olden Days, and how (if they are) things are different now."
  • Many fans write in response to the editor's question of whether DIAL should remain Pros-centric or become multimedia; all fans seem to agree the letterzine ought to remain the way it is—one example comment:
art from issue #12
"I think there are several reasons why I would prefer to see DIAL remain a Professionals letterzine. At the moment, at least we're all singing the same song. The subscribers feel they're getting their money's worth, since if they're not interested in Pros then they know not to subscribe. If you start having a section for other fandoms, you may well get more (and longer) letters, but everyone wants to rave about their passion of the moment, or even talk about this or that TV programme or film and how canicular characters would make a splendid slash pairing. Now that's fine for those who happen to share the same passion - e.g. Srargate - but leaves other subscribers either wondering what on earth everyone is talking about or flicking through DIAL to try and find something they might be interested in. I used to find that sometimes people would ramble on for pages about the most obscure fandoms."
  • One fan dislikes the fairly recent practice of editors or writers giving too much of a head's up on what a story is about:
"And Zine Editors who like to give a coded clue such as PWP or First Time etc. on the Contents Page - could I please ask, beg, grovel, suggest that you put these clues on the back page so I don't have to read them at all? I honestly can't help but take in this information if it's there, and sometimes it takes away the surprise. With such talented writers, there are some amazing surprises in the stories, and I feel a 'warning' almost dilutes the power."
  • A fan speculates on the future:
"How long will Pros feature in discussion via a medium of this nature? I'm sure the creators of the series never imagined interest would extend much beyond the airing of episode 57, yet old interest still exists and new interest sometimes occurs. I think it's great to have been asked to take a set of (Granada Plus) copies 'up north' for a new generation to watch. It's especially encouraging since I believe one of the group is a young, on-line writer of Garak/Bashir fiction. She might even be the prime reason the request has been made. Wonder what she will make of our boys' world? Perhaps she will feel the inspiration to write and add another perspective to the B/D universe. Maybe another circle, not our own, will form in time."
  • Two fans discuss exposure and anonymity:
"I particularly appreciated the Neva Chonin article, "Spock Does Mulder". Though the thought of personal exposure is worrying, it would seem increasingly more likely that there is safety in numbers and variety. I still feel the need to guard my own anonymity fiercely, however, with respect to the Internet and slash."
  • The editor interjects:
"Thank you for those kind words. Yes, that article was intriguing, wasn't it? I'm with you, though, on the anonymity thing - which is why DIAL won't be going on the Net as long as it has my name on it."
  • A fan comments on how the fiction, not the aired show, can be the conduit:
"...about getting interested in fandoms vig stories in m/m zines. That's how I got tempted into "Sentinel", through a perfectly brilliant story in Keynote's multi-fandom zine "Entr'acte". And what makes it worse is that I was actively resisting Sentinel at the time - didn't like the set-up, didn't fancy the characters, thought the chap supposed to be the 'cute little one' was actually fairly nauseating - so you can imagine the sinking of my heart when at the end of this marvellously written piece, I found myself liking both of them enormously and muttering that ominous mantra, I've Got To Read More..."
  • A fan writes about the place of sex in a slash story and, addressing another fan's earlier comment that new fans write more sex into a story than old fans did:
"I'm not sure why you equate frequent sex in a story's being necessary with "present-day slash fans"... Surely it's not just new slash readers who think that way?... Surely there have always been readers who preferred a lot of sex in a story? Me, for one. There are some lovely cosy, emotional stories that give a nice warm feeling, and sex doesn't have to be explicit - erotic speech can be just as effective. However, when I entered ST slash fandom (my first ever slash) it seemed there was sex in every story, and explicit sex at that, and I came to equate slash with described-rather-than-implicit-sex - it was what differentiated K/S from K&S for me. Nowadays, in K/S anyway, the trend has seemed for quite a while to be for less sex, or at least less explicit sex. Perhaps some writers feel uncomfortable writing such scenes, and if the emotional content is there, then sex isn't essential. I can enjoy such stories, and so I agree that sex isn't necessary to a story, but I prefer it If someone has them in a loving situation and cuts to crashing waves, I automatically feel cheated. It's just the way my mind has become conditioned over fifteen years of slash."
  • A fan talks of her fear of being searched in an airport and her slash zines:
"I never dare carry zines with me when I'm flying * - I'm always afraid there'll be that 1% chance my bag will be searched. But DIAL is innocuous enough in appearance. So this is a well-travelled letterzine - from England to N. Ireland and over to England and back again."
  • A fan writes of a trend she'd rather not revisit:
"We went through such a depressing amount of slave stuff in K/S that I hoped we had all written it out of our systems. Perhaps it is something we all have to go through. Is it perhaps our revenge on these men who have had it all so much their own way over the centuries."

There is much debate about how much plot or details of a zine should appear in a review* —one comment:

"I do think a major part of the enjoyment of a letterzine is sharing opinions about fanzines. It's especially useful with zines from overseas, as they can be expensive. Knowing the gist of a zine can make it easier to decide whether it is worth the risk of buying. I can understand that some fans might be disappointed when a plot is revealed. But knowing the storyline of a zine doesn't give you the whole story. After all, there are only so many stories - it's what the writer does with the one she chooses to use that matters."
  • A fan compliments a Pros fan-audiobook:
"Gryphon Press's audiobook of "One Bright Morning" is great. I really enjoyed your reading of it, [name redacted]. One of my weaknesses is being read to, and when it's a favourite B/D story, I'm in seventh heaven. The tapes are very professionally produced, right through the packaging. I just hope that "One Bright Morning" is the first of many audiobooks."
  • The creator responds:
"Thank you. Glad you enjoyed it. Must say, I was very nervous about doing it - 'Larton' is such a universal favourite, the thought of mucking it up for people used to wake we up in a cold sweat while the recording was in progress. You'll be pleased to hear that Gryphon is planning to bring out the complete 'Larton' on tape, with the possibility of recording Rhiannon's other stories, too."

Stories:

  • Anonymous Tip by Atropos
  • Close Quarters by Atropos
  • Old Friends by HG
  • Swing Low, Sweet Chariot by Hestia

Issue 13

Discovered In A Letterbox 13 was published in March 2000 and contains 36 pages. Tthe editor announces she is stepping down and that [S W] will be taking over.

cover of issue #13

[O Y] writes an essay about the early years of The Professionals’ fandom in the UK:

  • She starts by explaining that she only gradually entered Profs fandom and that gradual entry may have inadvertently contributed to the spread of the fandom. As a slash Star Trek writer, she had avoided the Professionals after hearing it was violent (a similar claim was made against Starsky & Hutch when it aired in the US). However, a Star Trek friend [D D] sent her 5 Professionals stories – one was Consequences and its sequels – and urged her to read them. She did, but didn’t like the stories or the characterizations and passed them on to friends, only to learn later from [D D] they were not supposed to be circulated: “Unfortunately, being used to the Trek ethos of not keeping things miserly to oneself, I had already lent them to other friends who had almost certainly copied them so it was too late for me to stop them spreading.”
  • She was put in contact with [P D], a gen Professionals fan who also mailed out slash stories upon request. When she wrote a sequel to one of the stories and sent it to [P D], [P D] sent “her a enameled frog brooch” which, she later learned fans would wear to conventions to signal their interest in Profs fandom.
  • She and her friend, HG, began watching the episodes together and found the actors attractive and the violence levels less than they had been led to believe.
  • Shortly after she started watching the Professionals, she organized a Star Trek slumber party at her home. Eighteen fans showed up and slept on “mattresses, camp beds, garden loungers.” They discovered that many were writing Professionals stories or were in the planning stages to write Profs stories. This is how the first Professionals “weekend” took place. Other events followed over the next few years as any fan who could house 12 or more people would host weekend parties. Everyone who attended was expected to bring a story – many of these stories would form the backbone of the early circuit library.
  • She created the idea of the “Hatstand Birthday story” after announcing she wanted a “hatstand” story for her birthday. That year, most fans received 8-9 stories on their birthdays. The last fan, whose birthday was late in the year, was worried the offerings would run out by her birthday. Instead the fan received a long meaty novel called Injured Innocents.
  • The early fan fiction distribution method was to type up a story and make copies using carbon typewriter paper. This turned out to be impracticable as more and more fans joined the group, so fans began mailing originals to HG who had access to a photocopier at work for a small fee.
  • Distribution of stories to the US was slow to start. There was tensions between some British and US fans regarding the quality of the fiction, the inclusion of Americanisms in fiction, and the "right" of those not living in the UK to write about a UK show. To ease tensions, HG and [O Y] increased the number of copies they mailed to the US.
  • Eventually her family bought a personal photocopier so she could make more copies. She remembers “hours and hours standing there, and then there was the collating... Actually, it was all great fun.” She continued copying and collating for years even after zines began to be published and only stopped when the machine broke.
  • The inclusion of the Americans changed the fandom: “…we could no longer lay claim to know almost everyone in this fandom as we had originally.”
  • After several writers had some of their gen stories declined by [P D] for publication, they began publishing their own gen zine The Small Print. From there it was a small step for fan Whitehills to publish the first slash zine Unprofessional Conduct.
  • She writes she is looking forward to learn more early fandom history from Profs fans who preceded her such as [F M P].
  • Final thoughts: “One early hatstand includes the line, "Amazing the skills you find in fandom." It's one of the 'Mrs. M' series - and don't believe a word they write about the wretched woman. I deny it all (although if you want to know what those early 'weekends' were like you need look no further). But the sentiment is all true. Skills and kindness and generosity. It's a line I quote quite a lot about all sorts of aspects of this [fandom] phenomenon.”

The letterzine continues with HG giving her perspective on early UK Pros history. The article was written first for the CI5 mailing list before being republished in DIAL.

  • Her entry into Pros fandom took place in November 1981.
  • Her friend [O Y] was dragged into Pros by [D D] who then later dragged her into the fandom.
  • By November 1981, 40-45 stories had been written: “Sebastian had written "Just a Kiss", ET her sequel to "Endgame" to make it more bearable for herself …and O Yardley had written “The Gift". Tarot had written "Consequences" and "Endgame...." The writer of Remember Angola had left the fandom.
  • The English circuit was run by [P D] who used stencils to make copies. HG and other fans began retyping copies as this was faster than stencil reproducing. To encourage first time slash writers, [P D] would give them a small enameled frog (inspired by a scene in Wild Justice where Doyle gives one to Kate Ross).
  • Some members of the UK fandom community believed that “Pros should only be written by the English.” HG and her friends felt differently (“fandom is international”) and since they were already in contact with two US fans, [L S] and [A C], they were able to speed up the distribution of circuit stories to the US. They were also helped by her having access to a photocopier at work for small fee.
  • [O Y] was able to bring many of her friends and acquaintances together at weekend gatherings – many did not know each other and longtime friendships were formed as result. There was a group of 10 writers who would meet regularly, among them “Sebastian, ET, O Yardley, Rob, LH, HG,POM, and CIA.”
  • She was told by [P D] that Consequences was the first Pros story written and found it notable that Pros, unlike most fandoms, began with slash and then migrated to gen.
  • Gen zines began to be published in the UK by 1984.
  • She collected all the Pros stories she could find, even those that were not popular: “No one wanted the Mary-Sues, few people wanted the death stories, and there were other categories with a narrow distribution.” She would later give these stories to the new circuit librarian [S S] in 1986.
  • Fans found many ways to contribute and participate: some wrote, some typed stories for writer friends, others retyped stories from the US “that had too much white space to be economically copied.”
  • Siren was written between the autumn 1983 and early March 1984.
  • Various copy trees existed – circuit stories would be sent in batches to fans who could copy for others Other fans set up tape trees where they make made copies of sixth generation videotaped episodes for each other. Audio cassette tapes and newspaper articles and clippings were likewise copied and handed on: “Sharing was the keyword.”
  • She recommends that fans get copies of The Hatstand Express, as the early editions can fill in historical gaps. One of the topics debated in the early THE issues was whether zines would replace the circuit and if so, were they “here to stay.”
  • She is grateful to THE because it introduced UK fans to fan writer Meg Lewtan.
  • In 2000, when this article was written, she felt that newer fans had “a different attitude to fandom.” For example, she was surprised when a US zine publisher invited her to submit stories “in any fandom I liked out of a list of approximately twelve fandoms.”
  • The biggest different between Profs fandom in the 1980s and Profs fandom in the early 2000s was the arrival of new technologies: “Computers, scanners, etc. make it a great deal easier to produce polished prose. Old stories might have been rewritten, but it was by hand; the typed copy could only be revised by retyping.”
  • Her favorite stories/writers: “Lainie Stone, Anne Carr, Courtney Grey, Ellis Ward, DVS, Lezlie Conch (the wondrous "Fly on the Wall" and "Wrapped Around Your Finger") and Pam Rose’s Professional Dreamer.”

The rest of the letterzine includes letters from other writers covering a wide number of topics:

  • A fan writes of feeling left behind as fandom moves online: “Oh, how I echo your expressions of feeling left out of things by not having access to the Net Discussion of the one fandom I’m interested … and since I don't even own a PC (and not likely to have one in the near future) I do feel very excluded. And it's not really very satisfactory having to rely on the kindness of friends to copy stories off the Net for me as and when they have the time. Worse still, if they do it when they're not particularly interested in the fandom I’m raving about. It seems to me that fandom will become more and more Net-based, if for no other reason than that a lot of fandom is US orientated, and it seems that every man and his dog over there has access twenty-four hours a day to the Internet. The Net is also a far more immediate way of reaching an audience for one's writing efforts. There's no editor to point out the weak links in your plot, and no proofreader to tell you that you can't spell (and we all know that spell-checkers are not the answer) and that you don't know the first thing about punctuation.”
  • The editor repeats a warning about delayed/missing zine orders from The Presses and offers a recommendation for Agent With Style as being reliable but pricey.
  • A reader talks about what attracts her to The Professionals: canonical characterizations. Or rather, canonical Bodie characterizations (as she does not “always like [Doyle] anyway, but a bad characterisation of Bodie can spoil a story for me.”) Certain plotlines can also a factor in her enjoyment of a story, which is why she favors warnings on stories: “I won't touch certain plots in any fandom: abuse as a child, rape, S/M, death, where one of them likes to wear women's clothes, or crossovers. The writing may be wonderful, with great detailing or plot-twists, but if the subject matter is not to my taste, I won't enjoy the story at all. I’m not one for reading a story out of curiosity or a sense of adventure. I’ve come across all the above-mentioned dislikes more than once, because there was no warning as to what the story was about and so I started to read it.”
  • A fan reports she was first a K/Ser but was pulled into Pros after talking with [S S] at a Zircon convention: “… a friend and I got chatting to her about Pros and she told us about the library, and also offered to make me numerous copies of episodes.”
  • A fan writes that she usually doesn’t like reading about her pairings as older men, but doesn’t mind reading an older Bodie or Doyle. “Perhaps it's because both Lewis and Martin have aged so well and I can picture them as they are now in the stories, and so feel good about it. So, as they are ageing nicely, so is my appreciation of Pros.”
  • A German fan writes that her gateway to Pros came through a Star Trek/Rebecca crossover zine written by UK fans. From there she started collecting zines and videotapes, found Pros and then found slash. She too thanks UK fan [S S] for being so helpful with the circuit library as she does not have access to the Internet
  • A fan writes she entered Pros fandom 12 years ago via Doctor Who (her first fandom) and then through Blake’s 7 (her second fandom). “It was while looking through Horizon's fanzine adverts that I came across the Australian fanzine, Blake's 7 – The Other Side. I was off and running. It was a short jump to its sister zine, Down Under Express, and my fate was sealed. Ever since then the Pros universe has been my home…” The writing in the fandom is what attracted her and has kept her interest in Pros strong.
  • A British fan wants “to say a few words on the very American practice of, er, The Back Rub', which 'buddies' seem to routinely offer each other. Kirk and Spock did it in public and Starsky and Hutch, too, for all I know, but our men just don't, do they? We may have New Men but it's still a bit too - well, you know... even in private... I am not saying that Doyle wouldn't offer to massage Bodie's back, or Bodie, Doyle's, if necessary; but as far as I know The Back Rub' per se, between mates, is simply Not British - is it, chaps? Doyle seems content to rub his own injured parts (see "Slush Fund") while Bodie usually ensures that his injuries are serious enough to require hospital treatment.”
  • Another fan credits Blake’s 7 fandom for bringing her to Pros’ doorstep. Once she found other Bake’s 7 fans, she found there was a larger fandom although she remained unaware of slash for years. She “was finally introduced to slash fiction at Aucon in 1980 (I think) when a friend thrust a copy of "Consequences" into my hands saying, "Read this, you’ll enjoy it" And after the first shock, I did. That's basically it really.”
  • A fan writes she came to Profs fandom via Star Trek: “In many ways, this [path] provided a sense of security because as everyone knew everyone else, or knew someone who knew someone, there was very little risk of material falling into 'outside' hands.”
  • The fan goes on to write: “….the last thing I needed was another fandom – but thanks to a certain woman who selfishly persisted in lending me zines, I finally gave in….I also owe a debt to [O Y] who passed on the circuit stories in the pre- zine days.”
  • There is this announcement:
    Some of you may have heard that the British Takeaway series of zines are now being sold via Agent With Style. If you like your zines brand-new, all well and good - the BT series certainly contained some excellent stories and gorgeous artwork, and though they're mostly gen, they're still well worth reading. But if you're on a tight budget, you might also like to know that at Zebracon, Kate N. (their publisher) gave carte blanche for anyone to copy her zines. So if you've been holding back from copying a friend's, er, copy, by concerns about not infringing on the publisher's rights, go ahead and do it. And a hearty thank-you to Kate for her generosity!
  • On the topic of whether to allow DIAL letter writers and reviewers to “spoil” the contents of the zines they are discussing, a fan writes:
    “On the subject of spoilers, I have to admit I’m in favour. Some people prefer not to know anything about content [of a zine] but the problem comes with flyers [that don’t offer enough information]. Personally, I dislike death stories, or those involving someone else in the relationship. As I’m on a budget (aren't we all?) I try to be very careful about what I buy. Recently I ordered a zine from the States which sounded good, and it was indeed an excellent story, well-written - BUT - it was a triad. As a result I felt a little cheated, as I would never have bought it had I known. Given the price of American zines, it's not a mistake I can afford to make too often. I can't see an answer, unless I write to enquire about every single every single zine - which adds to the cost, and the time.”

Stories:

  • Rhythm Method by Tish

Issue 14

cover of issue #14

Discovered In A Letterbox 14 was published in June 2000 and contains 65 pages.

  • this is Jill R's last issue as editor and she signs off: "Which leaves only one thing I've been putting off, mainly because I don't quite know how to say it. Perhaps I'd better keep it simple: Goodby, and thank you. It's been great."
  • the discussion topic for this issue is "What makes for a perfect Pros story?"
  • a fan congratulates Jill R and POM for winning two STIFfies: "I might not approve of awards in fandom but if we have to have 'em, it's great when they're awarded to those who talents deserve them."
  • a fan writes of her Pros BNF mother and tells of her own introduction to slash and that she now writes it herself
  • a fan writes that a perfect Pros story has a number of elements, including "no cuddly toys"
  • A fan comments on the frog brooch and how it:
"gave others the signal and allowed them to broach the alternative topic with you. The 'secret club' idea continues to appeal (to me) so much more than the modern let's-tell-the-whole-world openness of today. Even in the five... no six... no, has to be seven years since I found my way 'in', there has been a noticeable change in attitude, but I'll always be of the opinion that restricting the knowledge adds an extra layer of intrigue and excitement."
  • One long-time fan corrects another long-time fan's estimate of how many Pros stories there were in existence in late 1981. She says it wasn't 40-45 stories but sixteen. She gets this list from
  • The editor of DIAL comments:
"Wow. Double wow. To be able to jot down the entire Pros 'library' on the back of a napkin... God's teeth, you'd have been able to carry the whole lot around in a tote bag!"
  • A fan comments that:
"Elendu'il was the first elf story -- no-one before that had thought of Doyle in connection with elves, and at the time it made quite an impact. In fact, one fan wrote and asked Marilyn if she would allow her to use the character of Elendu'il in a straight (adult) story she wanted to write. Marilyn said no, because she wanted to continue writing about the character herself (and did)."
  • A fan remembers watching the episode "Man Without a Past" for the first time:
"... it's still one of my favourite episodes. The argument between B and D; Doyle's winsome smile in the doorway; Doyle writhing his way across the carpet, complete with sound effects (someone included them on a slash audio tape to great effect - to the point where I just can't think of Doyle in agony)."
  • Many fans write in about what makes a story "perfect" and this is a typical response:
"For me the most important elements, in no particular order, are: B&D are the central characters. I'm not interested in them sharing anything but a fleeting sexual relationship with a third party, and when they do I don't want details, unless they pertain to B/D. The story will be relationship-driven, with at least the pretence of a 'plot' (character-driven is fine by me); lots of sharp, sparky dialogue (I expect to be able to see and hear them while I'm reading); a dash of humour, a smidgeon of angst (which must, of course, be resolved); love, tenderness, passion, laughter, sexy sex scenes (which can be anything from a shared look to the most explicit scene); an interesting use of words, some felicitous phrases; and that toe-curling pleasure which comes from reading something that satisfies the soul. The writing needn't be technically perfect (though it would be a bonus) but it must have a zest and passion, the story mustn't have been rewritten and polished to the point where the guts have been squeezed out of it, and there will be something in the writing to sweep me along even when my passion for the characters is jaded. The story must, of course, stand the test of time and be capable of offering something new when reread."
  • Another comment:
"[an] aspect of what makes the ideal story: research. I'm happy to read about B and D in CI5, B and D as middle-aged men in the 1990's, B and D in Arthurian Britain, or whizzing round the galaxy in a spaceship. Just as long as the writer makes the effort to get her facts right. I've read some stories with perfectly good plots where the inaccuracy of even basic facts left me open-mouthed. Funnily enough, plot is not a requirement for an ideal story. It's a bonus, but I'll take relationship over plot any day, and I'd rather read about them shredding each other emotionally (unintentionally or no) than any amount of car-chasing and gun-toting. If they can do both at the same time I take my hat off to the author, though I would then wonder how they didn't end up dead as they couldn't possibly have their minds on the job."
  • A fan corrects another about comments in issue #13:
"I feel I must also correct HG's assertion that distribution of stories was slow because of waiting for stencils to be cut. If she thinks back, she will remember that the stories appeared in all sorts of states: different typefaces, mistakes simply crossed out, handwritten corrections and additions. This is because the story was simply photocopied, not transferred onto stencil. All the early stuff was photocopied (and paid for) at PD's place of work, quite legitimately, but obviously all the copying had to be done outside of work time. As the number of stories rose (and the number of people wanting copies) this became an impossible task."
  • A fan writes about the touchy and delicate subject of story-sharing:
"[O Y] mentioned that [D D] got herself into hot water by lending out the early Professionals stories. I can remember being cross-questioned in a letter as to how I had got hold of Masquerade; I replied that friends had lent it to me. Since this was perfectly truthful (if purposely vague) I didn't hear any more about the matter."
  • A fan writes of the underground nature of early Pros fandom:
"It's difficult now for people to understand the secrecy, if not paranoia, Professionals slash fandom seems to have started in, but there was a reason for it. To a certain (but not very great) extent, it was because it was a British series with (at that time) a British-based fandom. It was one thing to write about Kirk and Spock swearing undying love and devotion and enjoying a sexual relationship; Gene Roddenberry and Paramount were on the other side of the Atlantic. But Brian Clemens was on the doorstep and could easily come knocking at the door if he found out about such material and its source. Of far greater concern to the fledgling Professionals fandom were the people in Starsky and Hutch fandom. Apparently there were some extreme attitudes around and since the early writers were refugees from S and H fandom, they did not want their Professionals activities known about. That was part of the reason why people didn't put their names on their stories. Some people weren't bothered and put their pseudonym on their efforts, but some preferred not to, and in the end it was almost a convention that stories went out nameless. It was interesting, last year at Nattercon, to have to explain to an American fan involved in transferring circuit stories to the Net, that the lack of a name/pseudonym on a story did not mean that the author wasn't bothered about claiming ownership. They cared very much, and PD as the early distributor knew exactly who had written what."
"We used to write serial stories between us. You would receive your five copies of the preceding episode from the writer ahead of you in the chain and you had a fortnight to add a minimum of three pages to it, after which time you sent the whole lot on to the next one in line along with five carbons. This ensured that all six of us got something new to read every fortnight, which has its merit, although sometimes, wrenching the thing back into the way you personally wanted it to go took some doing! Three zines in all were put out by [D D] in this format. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it very much did not."
  • On computers:
"I am a non-Net person too. I don't have the space for a PC and anyway, I think it would be too easy to become addicted. I know that when I go to my friend's house to surf the Net, three or four hours can go by in a flash. There is just so much available - I don't look for Pros at all but for stories or fandoms which don't really appear in zines now. I talked last time of discovering programmes I never watched in their original airing, such as UFO or Battlestar Galactica. I really am regressing (or having a second childhood) because I've now added three more: Miami Vice, Quantum Leap and Voyage To The Bottom of the Sea. If space and fantasy seem to be predominant, I'm obviously returning to my roots as exemplified by Star Trek and Blake's 7."
  • A fan thanks three longtime fans for photocopying "for distribution" all those old stories many years ago: "Professionals fandom would not have got very far without their efforts."
  • About Consequences: "I do know that one half of the writing team had no time for The Professionals."
  • A fan falls off the monofannish wagon: "Sentinel." I've really fallen in love with it I've never got hooked on anything since Pros till Sentinel."
  • a fan comments that even though Bodie is "definitely a toucher," Doyle and Bodie are "British and products of their time. They're not going to be all over each other the way Starsky and Hutch are..."

Stories:

Issue 15

Discovered In A Letterbox 15 was published in September 2000 and contains 37 pages. It is the first issue under the new editor, [S W].

cover of issue #15
  • the discussion topic is "How do stories get started? Is it an episode, a scene, a remark by the characters which provides the seed? Or perhaps a conversation with a friend that makes you think, What If...? And whether or not you write it yourself, have you ever been present at the 'birth' of a story? Were you in the room when a Pros classic first reared its head?"
  • the new editor jokes:
    Hello and welcome to the new DIAL regime. There'll be alap of the field before breakfast, followed by compulsory cold showers and - Oops, sorry, don't know what happened there. Terrible mistake! What I meant to say was there'll be more ofwhat you've already been used to . . . Relaxed conversation, news about zines and cons, fiction, artwork, trivia and whatever else takes our fancy. You will see from this issue that there's a fair bit of the latter. Please write in and share whatever takes your fancy.
  • a fan comments on editorial polish:
    Someone said to me that Net stories were 'rougher' than zine-published ones, but I haven't found that: nearly all the faults I find are in zine stories, though to be fair I've read many more of them than Net ones... I know that some 'errors' are due to language differences between the States and UK - I've been told 'loosing' is OK there for 'losing.' However, such things and poor punctuation knock me ... out of reading-mode and can mar a good story and make a poor one virtually unreadable - it is very off-putting to be using your Tippex and pen every few lines.
  • a fan has something to say about the discussion topic for his issue:
    I was present when HG found the motivation that would make Hunted By Devils work. We were trying to think of reasons why the characters would behave in such a way as to make the story happen in the first place. In passing, I suggested that it could be a case of doing unto others what had been done to you, and it was like seeing a lightbulb being switched on. HG latched on to that and found her hook on which to hang the story.
  • another comment on seminal Pros fiction:
    [J] asked how some of the early stories came about, so I'm grabbing the opportunity to say something about Masquerade by [Tarot] and Painting the Clouds by PD. I remember when the latter was published, some fans thought it was simply a pale imitation of Masquerade, which had already been in circulation for some two years. In fact, the original idea came from PD. Having seen Martin in "Cream in My Coffee", she listened to a lot of 1930s and 1940s dance band songs by the likes of Al Bowlly, Ambrose and his Orchestra, Roy Fox, Lew Scone and so on, and had she idea of Doyle going undercover in a dance band, singing their songs. [Tarot] also wanted to write a story along the same lines and so, with agreement on both sides, they went ahead. The problem lay in the fact that PD takes a long time to finish stories. By the time 'Painting the Clouds' came out, fandom had grown and many people had no idea that the two stories had started out from the same plot, at the same time, and with both authors' knowledge and consent.
  • a fan comments on a zine distributor:
    Regarding Agent With Style, I had some correspondence with an editor who had used her, and who discovered that even 'in person' at a convention, there was a considerable mark-up on the price of said editor's zines compared with what she herself was selling them for. The reason given was 'costs.' So - caveat emptor.
  • a fan comments on some of the recent online articles on slash fiction:
    Fascinating articles on fan fiction and slash. I was a bit puzzled by the comment from one slash writer that before we had the Internet, slash was only in zines and that zines were only sold at conventions and conventions were only for sci-fi. Nobody could get slash. Where had she been living for the past 20-something years? Isn't it funny how so many people think that fan fiction/slash fiction barely existed before the Net came along. And continues to exist outside the Net. Look at DIAL, after all. So far I've found it much more lively and interesting (and thought-provoking) than any discussion/chat group. (Yes, I caved in and got a PC.) In DIAL, letter writers do discuss topics, often at some length. In all the groups I've so far had access to, there's very little discussion. People seem constrained by the nature of the medium and keep their comments restricted to a couple of lines. Even then, it's sometimes little more than 'ooh, isn't he sexy' or words to that effect, and while I have nothing against such sentiments, I feel I'm getting a lot more from DIAL than I can find elsewhere ... [The editor of DIAL interjects: "I'd agree... that the standard of debate on some on-line discussion lists is disappointing. But what I find a touch depressing is the way attempts to start more in-depth debates can be slapped down."
  • a fan writes that she was inspired to write a story after reading another similar one, but felt it would be a story that had already been told—another fan said:
    why don't you? and I said, but I can't, it's been done, so she said, don't be silly, yours hasn't, and I saw at once the wisdom of her words.... Incidentally, that's something I really like about Pros fandom: there doesn't seem to be the same obsession with being Completely Original - as if there were any such thing - as there is in other fandoms I've read about. Which isn't to say that plagiarism is the order of the day; more that it's seen as natural to want to do your own version of an oft-used subject. Is this just me or have other people noticed the difference too?
  • this issue reprints an article called She's gotta have it, about women writing and reading erotica and slash, the publishing company "Black Lace's" "Wicked Words" series from "The Observer/The Guardian" (10 September 2000) which, among other things, quotes and profiles Kitty Fisher
  • this issue contains a review of Roses and Lavender #1, No Holds Barred #10, see those pages
  • there is a con report for Mountain Media Con
  • there is a full-page flyer for a new fan club called CI5 Past/Present

Fiction:

  • Untitled (Toronto) by Joan

References