Discovered In A Letterbox/Issues 16-20

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Issue 16

Discovered In A Letterbox 16 was published in December 2000 and contains 50 pages.


cover of issue #16


art by Skirt, from issue #16


  • the discussion topic is "Why is Pros fandom still picking up fans nearly 20 years after the show ended?"
  • a fan dislikes the use of acronyms:
    ... the use of initials -- IMO, I MHO as examples. I hate this. I've managed over time as I came across this increasingly frequent habit in articles, to understand BTW and IOW (not the Isle of Wight!) though I think it a sign of affectation, laziness and on a par with foto and kwik. But can anyone enlighten me as to YMMV in [Q's] article? And now I'll use another shorthand beloved of some writers - TTFN." Another fan responds: "I can help out here, [B] -YMMV stands for Your Mileage May Vary, which seems to mean "it may be different for you.' It's an interesting point you raise here. I'm so used to these shortcuts that they don't bother me. In fact, I find them a positive advantage In fast-moving email conversations. What I do dislike, though, are the emoticons -:) and :p and the like. I find those twee.
  • a fan is glad to know more about Pros history as it relates to other fandoms and comments on a comment from an earlier issue:
    Thank you for a little more history. I was aware of the division (in the early 80s?) in Starsky and Hutch fandom that lead to the need for anonymity as a writer of S/H but I didn't know that some of the first B/D writers were actually fugitives from S&H. Was this the only great escape in the early days of slash writing?
  • one fan writes about another fan's expectations about the ability to find slash online:
    Fan fiction and the Internet: There are some very strange ideas about the role of the net in fandom. There was someone at Mountain Media getting herself all hot under the collar because she had been searching unsuccessfully for Professionals slash for about six months before she found it. She thought that everyone involved was very much at fault for not making it easy (for her) to find. She seemed to think it was the duty of those in the know to advertise far and wide. She was also most irate when told that some people did not want their connection with slash known and made it obvious that she would not honour their wishes if it made life difficult for her.
  • a number of fans comment on the new show of the time, The Sentinel -- some fans enjoyed the show, and the fiction, one fan pronounced one of its stars unattractive:
    I find Blair decidedly ugly. But then, to be frank, that's the way I felt about Doyle, and still do at times.
  • Another fan writes of the Sentinel fiction:
    Sentinel is an American series that seems to have hooked almost all of the B/D people I know. Visually it looks as if it might deliver the goods but the few stories I have read have failed for me because the levd of writing simply does not compare with the average B/D standard, never mind the best.
  • another fan writes that she does not enjoy the actual show, The X-Files, as it is too gory, but she likes Mulder/Skinner slash very much :
    I knew what David Duchovny looked like from pics in Starlog and Starburst, but I'd only the vaguest idea of what Skinner looked like, and didn't even know his real name. But I borrowed an interview tape from another friend which had Mitch Pileggi on the Donny and Marie show and I was hooked. This friend is a Krycek fan and though Nick Lea is quite fanciable, the Mulder/Krycek I've read doesn't do a thing for me. It has to be Mulder/ Skinner and I've become like a vampire, greedily absorbing anything my computer friends can produce and buying the videos! [A], I liked your use of "stupendous" in regards to Walter - he should have been Hunk of the Year. Hannibal Heyes might be attractive but he's hardly a hunk in the physical sense.
  • the recent spate of mainstream articles mentioning slash makes one fan wonder:
    The major articles made me wonder once again whether slash is becoming more exposed. Are ones like The X-Rated Files and The Enigmatic M. Keegan raising its profile so much that the general public is becoming aware of its existence? Where are they published? Do we find them because we are looking for articles of this nature? Would they be spotted by the man-in-the-street or ignored through lack of interest? We know the words to use in net searches. How easy or likely would it be for someone, without knowledge, to access those sites purely by chance?
  • a fan remembers the heated panel discussion on character development at the first Pros con in 1982 which she calls Weekendcon, and she says some fans hadn't even seen all the episodes yet as they were aired at different times in different countries -- she also writes that:
    in all of this there was no mention of slash. (I now cannot imagine trying to analyse B and D's characters without slash coming into the picture).
  • a fan responds to the discussion topic and writes that the show is still popular because the stars are attractive, the two characters have within them things that women may feel like "taming" despite that fact that that is "naughty," and that she suspects some fans like the lack of graphic violence (by 2000 standards) in the show.
  • a fan asks about purchasing three books she saw on a Wayward Books flyer: "Thanks for the Wayward Books flyer. I've a number of silly questions to ask. So here goes silly question number one - are The Sorcerer's Web, Paper Flowers and Kind Hearts fanzines rewritten by their fanfic authors? Silly question number two - are these novels only available on the internet?" The editor answers that: "... the novels are rewritten zines, but that the names have been changed to protect the innocent -- that is, the heroes are not Bodie and Doyle anymore!"
  • a fan who paid for The Bisto Kids six months ago wonders if the zine has been completed [1]
  • fans comment on the article reprinted from "The Guardian" in the previous issue: the subject is women and erotica and "Black Lace's" "Wicked Words" series

Stories:


Issue 17

Discovered In A Letterbox 17 was published in the Spring of 2001 and contains 43 pages.

cover of issue #17
  • a fan comments on RPS:
    I was flicking through some old zines recendy and found something that made me cringe - actor slash. And I was interested to see the reaction it gained in subsequent issues. Almost without exception, people were vehemendy against it. Their view - and mine - is that the actors and the characters should be kept entirely separate. But I was surfing on the internet one night and was amazed to find the number of sites that have real people fanfic on - not just TV actors, but sportsmen and rock stars. I moved swiftly on.
  • a fan writes:
    I have to disagree with you about the quality of writing in Sentinel. The best of it ranks up there with the very best of B/D. (And the worst is as bad as the worst circuit stories, but we won't dwell on that). I wish we could tempt some of the Sentinel writers across to the B/D side ... Anyone got any ideas how we can do this?
  • an American fan recounts meeting a Pros fan idol at a con -- she remembers saying:
    You KNOW O Yardley?? OHMYGOD. Yeah, I was giving a very good imitation of the highly excitable, noisy, Ugly American. You have to realise though, that as far as I was concerned, some of these people were My Idols. Of course, when I did meet O Yardley, my tongue prompdy tied itself into one huge knot, and I barely said a word. At least it kept me from gushing. Heaven help us all when I meet HG! I'll likely bite my tongue completely off.
  • more on long hair:
    I have an extreme dislike of long hair. Curly or straight, it doesn't matter, and I'm an equal opportunity disliker - I don't care for long hair at all, on women or men... I'm seriously prejudiced against anyone on TV with long hair. However, talking Sentinel, I like Blair... which I reckon says a lot for the actor's ability, that he could make me like a long-haired character's looks? It depends. Some angles, I agree he's not particularly good-looking, other angles he is. Leonard Nimoy was the same - most of the time I didn't find Spock particularly attractive, but some angles, some facial expressions, just occasionally he was literally beautiful. Same with Doyle.
  • the cyclical argument of grammar/spelling and the ability to tell a good story has been a subject and a fan writes:
    Grammar and poor spelling - I can't agree that all writers whose grammar and/or spelling do not come up to scratch are necessarily lazy or conceited. It s not always easy to see your own mistakes or to correct your own work. When I write I can see what the characters are doing. To take it to a ridiculous extreme, if I write 'he touched him' I know who 'he' is and where and how 'he' is touching 'him'. The same theory applies if my punctuation is not always in the correct place. That doesn't make me lazy or conceited. Again, some of us may not be as well-educated as others or were educated so long before we started writing that the rules of punctuation have faded from our memory. That too doesn't make us lazy or conceited. It also doesn't stop us getting good ideas for stories or wanting to write them.
  • more on the complaint of "fans today" expecting having no patience:
    I remember the panel at Mountain Media Con where someone lamented that they had waited a whole six months before the magic internet door to slash was opened. Remember reflecting at the time how in the early 80s I had searched for K/S fandom for nearly three years. For the first couple of years I wasn't even sure it really existed - thought I might have invented it by putting 2 and 2 together and making 5 out of the Lichtenberg, Marshak and Culbreath paperback "Star Trek Lives". And I know this will sound like nonsense to you all - but I hadn't figured out that the slash writers were in fact the same people as the slash readers. Goodness knows who I thought the writers were, sitting on Mount Olympus dispensing photocopied slash stories to the mortals.

Stories:

Issue 18

Discovered In A Letterbox 18 was published in the Summer of 2001 and contains 40 pages.


cover of issue #18


inside art from issue #18, by Joey Rodrigues
inside art from issue #18, by Skirt


  • the discussion topic for this issue is in response to a fan's disgust with RPS: "What makes you go 'ugh' in fanfic?"
  • the editor proposes a DIALzine, one that would reprint fiction that had been published in earlier issues of the newsletter
  • many fans weigh in on the discussion topic -- some sample "ughs" are death stories, Cowley slashed with either Bodie or Doyle, too-weepy Doyle, either man being described as "boyish," fics where half of CI5 happens to be gay, stories written by Jane of Australia, bestiality, "golden showers" ("It seems so unhygienic."), child abuse, rps, rpf, "stories that aren't about anything," Mary Sues, photo manipulations of the actors (especially explicit ones), rape, men dressing in women's clothing, domestic discipline, men crying, excessive torture, and smarm
  • a fan asks "Are we ever going to get Injured Innocents in a nice clean zine with all the lines intact?"
  • one fan, echoing many others, writes that she dislikes RPF of any sort:
    I won't even look at real people slash, and I'm not keen on real people fiction at all even when it's totally innocuous. I've heard of it mostly applied to boy bands and wrestling personnel.
  • a fan doesn't like excessive torture in fiction:
    Top of my list is deliberate torture. This dates back a long time, to some of the early h/c stories so beloved of relationship writers in early Trek zines (that is, pre-slash). Nowadays some at least of those h/c stories would be called 'smarm' by some fans, 'pre-slash' by others. Back then, when zine stories were usually gen (and 'adult' was usually het) to get an excuse for physical contact between the characters, one of them was subjected to 'hurt' and the other was the 'comforter.' However, over a period of time, the 'hurt' element increased and increased... until in some stories by the time Kirk (it was usually Kirk who was hurt) was rescued, he was suffering considerable damage - to the point where I was often left reeling that all that could subsequently happen was that he would be invalided out of Starfleet.
  • no long-term het romance:
    I don't like stories that give the fellas permanent female love interest. Even in gen stones I don't like it. Now seriously, that isn't because I object to the women (unless they're total wimps or obviously genus Mary Sue). It's more linked to my perception of men and romance. My experience of men is that many of them give more loyalty and genuine affection to their male friends than they do to the women in their lives; in a het story my instinct is to scream to the woman: Don't trust him!' But I can believe that men will be faithful to each other. Yes, I know that's a weird reason to dislike het stories...
  • a fan dislikes deathfic:
    The only reason this doesn't come top of the list is that some of them work, though I'd be pushed to say why they do. I hate the ones that wallow in the grief and guilt of the survivor. But I've never seen much point in killing off characters that you like well enough to want to write about them. I suppose in a way this is linked to the hurt/hurt theme, to show the strength of the survivor - or except that so often it doesn't, it's all wallow.
  • Another fan writes:
    Given adequate warning, there are a few death stories which work very well, but generally speaking I avoid them, especially where one of the pair is left behind. The best example I can think of as an acceptable death story is Rediscovered in a Graveyard, where Bodie and Doyle die more or less together after a long and happy life together.
  • a fan doesn't like threesomes:
    ...multi-partners, in particular threesomes. I know there are people who don't see one-on-one fidelity as any big deal, who say that because you love one person it doesn't mean you can't love someone else, and I can appreciate that. I know there are people who in real life live in a threesome that works perfectly well. But in a sexual relationship I can't personally get past two partners. Not necessarily the One True Pairing syndrome, but certainly serial monogamy. I'd rather have a story with a foursome who swap partners on a regular basis than a trois.
  • a fan draws the line at crossovers:
    I don't say they never work, but for me they rarely work well. A lot of the time it seems to me that crossovers exist only so that a writer can throw together the characters in two series that she likes. I know, too, that there are people who have been drawn into a fandom through reading a crossover between a show they like and one they don't know. However, for me, the two shows have to be pretty well contemporary in time and space, and unless the characters from the show I don't know are presented as if they're original characters I usually have a problem with them. But then I can't read stories about a show I've never seen. We have the problem of fanon v canon, and I need to know the basic canon of a show - even when something is so widely-accepted fanon that people forget it isn't canon.
  • mpreg:
    Male pregnancy stories are the absolute nadir in this field, but I cannot react well to stories in which the characters adopt some stray infant to complete their relationship. Can't see it - when would they have time?
  • a fan says she can only write about shows that have ended:
    As far as writing stories is concerned, I find it impossible to write stories when a show is still in production, and it's because of this canon problem; a fan writer writes something that fits what's been established up till then, then three months later the show produces something that totally contradicts what's in the ran story. OK, it can be explained as an AU, but...
  • this fan dislikes the new form of fanart that is becoming more prevalent:
    The 'ugh' factor brings me to my soapbox topic, something I've been thinking about for a while. I refer to computer-manipulated photographs. Most of the ones I've come across have been in Sentinel fandom, and many are beautiful images, but I have also seen some really explicit shots where the very recognisable actors' heads have been superimposed on bodies in very, very explicit poses. This really is beginning to worry me, as it seems an extension of actor slash. Somehow artwork never seems so bad, as it is obviously a work of imagination and creation; there used to be a comment in the early K/S days that a picture was a very good Kirk, but not much like Shatner. The dividing line seemed so much clearer. What do others think, especially given that the photo manipulations could be picked up by outsiders? Is it fair to the actors?
  • a fan gives her opinion about domestic discipline stories:
    Another ugh for me is discipline stones, I have read BDSM stories, and while I feel an uneasiness, yet if it's well done (consensual and erotic) it is OK (there's one XF writer whose writing is very involving) - but there's something about discipline stories that sets me on edge. I've tried to analyse why I can read BDSM - I think it's because there's no sex in pure discipline stories, whereas the consensual sex in BDSM at least affords pleasure to both parties. Often in discipline stories there is a definite need by one character, at least for this to happen. But even if it could be called consensual, yet it's just spanking or beating and I can't see any pleasure in it; if there's going to be pain, there should be pleasure to balance it for me. Even if the character 'needs' it, it is still done as punishment and seems to me more perverted than BDSM. Of course it is also to do with my liking my favourite characters to be in control and not in a position I personally would find totally humiliating. In discipline the doer seems to decide when the 'victim' has had enough, whereas in BDSM the sub actually has control through the agreed rules and safeword. Eroticism helps me read BDSM but there's nothing erotic about punishment.
  • a fan writes:
    ... men in fandom. Some of the most devoted fans I've met have been straight men - but not, of course, slash fans. I have to admit that I rather Iike cons as male-free spaces. I noticed there were men at last year's Mountain Media Con, and for some reason it just didn't feel right to have them in workshops.

Stories:

  • 10p Plus VAT by Barbie - 3 pages
  • Subterranean Homesick Blues by Alice - 3 pages

Art:

  • frontispiece by Castalia of Bodie and Doyle
  • drawing by Skirt of Doyle
  • drawing by Joey Rodrigues of Bodie


Issue 19

Discovered In A Letterbox 19 was published in the Autumn of 2001 and contains 56 pages.


cover of issue #19


inside art from issue #19, Castalia
inside art from issue #19, Joey Rodrigues


  • the discussion topic is "Is the golden age of Pros fanfic long gone?"
  • some fans comment on Call it What You Like
  • there is much heated response to a comment in an earlier issue about whether there are more Pros stories being written "where nothing happens"
  • a fan has been thinking about older trends:
    I was around when slash fandom began and 99 per cent of stories began as hurt/comfort stories which led on to sex.
  • a fan explains that she stays in a fandom until there's nothing new left to read:
    I move through fandoms and stayas long as the stories last.
  • a fan writes:
    You remember the real person slash (RPS) debate? I was amused to see its raging on a number of lists. Apparently boy bands, wrestlers and politicians are the stars of these particular stories, It doesn't help that I associate wrestling with Mick McManus and Giant Haystacks from the 1970s when my grandmother was a Saturday afternoon addict. All together now... ugh!
  • a fan writes about the fannish topic, the same old story:
    Is the fiction coming out of Pros now just formulaic PWPs? I don't think so, if you define PWPs as an opening paragraph, a couple pages of sex, and a closing paragraph with them sighing happily. There's a lot more in the stories and novels still being written today than simple sex scenes. That said, I don't think any of the stuff being printed today is really "new." There are only so many plots, and they've all been done at least a hundred times already. Well, perhaps "Journey West" hadn't ever been done before ...!
  • a fan takes a different stance than long-time fans who complain that older fic was "better" than the fic being written today:
    I do find, with some exceptions, that it's the 'old stuff' I hold on to and continually re-read. So many newer stories (I'm defining 'new' as within the past year or two), while they may be perfectly crafted, seem to lack the emotion that the older stories have. Almost as though the writer paid so much attention to the technical perfection of the creation, that the emotion was leached right out. Of course, what other opinion would you expect from someone who re-reads all 30 zillion pages of The Hunting every year?
  • about The Good Old Days:
    Is the golden age of Pros writing over? As with most things this has got to be a relative question. Looking back on my 5 or 6 years in fandom I'd have to agree that the best I read was early on. If I say that though I need to take into account that I was in the obsessive part of my career in Pros fandom, where almost everything was new and wonderful and even bad first time stories appealed to me. With the passage of time I discovered that lo and behold there were good and bad stories, even some of the ones I really liked at the beginning were only middling. Strangely enough that's stayed true for me, there are still good and bad stories being written.
  • fan who admits she still enjoys fanfic but is sick of fandom writes:
    Having edited three zines, each of which I thought had some really good stories in them, it seems to me that a lot of people want to write, but not many want to work on their writing. My bet is, as demonstrated by the circuit library, that isn't a big change.
  • a fan writes of disappointing fiction:
    Are there more of this type of disappointing story now than in some previous, harkened-back-unto Golden Era of Pros slash? I doubt it. The circuit has many such empty shells that aren't really stories, but mere sketches of what might have been worked up into interesting and rewarding tales (and, not to pick on the circuit, there are entire older zines that are full of them, too).
  • a fan passes on a long-time fan's opinions about "where have all the long-time Pros writers gone?":
    She suggested that when fandom started and fan fic writing began, it served as a training ground for writers. Back when women started into Trek TOS fandom, it was hugely a group of women who wanted to be professional writers. However, at that time, science fiction writing was basically a closed community for women. Fandom served the purpose of creating a comfortable, safe writing environment wherein women could hone their skills, get feedback, improve their style and flourish as writers. This was done through the reading of work at cons, via letters and so on. There was incredible nurturing, mentoring and sharing. Writing and writers were literally developed through this underground education process and it carried on through what many might call the 'golden age' of Pros writing. Yet today, that forum, that training ground, is no longer needed - women are no longer excluded from the SF writing community- in fact, in fantasy, women pretty much dominate it. Today those women who would have produced the top tier fanfic go right into or towards professional writing instead because that venue is now open to them. As a result, this role that fandom once filled has shifted to entertainment instead of education/mentoring. Those of us finding the Pros fandom in the past five to seven years experienced the end/ebbing of that golden era. Obviously the net weighs into this heavily at that point - at first allowing for immediate connection between all these fen writers who had previously only made contact at cons or through letters. It was exciting and electric and are days I remember with great fondness and passion - hours spent at the computer simply communicating and sharing ideas that had been botded up for decades. After a couple of years, (especially after AOL USA changed to a flat rate making it affordable for just about everyone, and with the advent of so many more shows to be fans of because of cable TV), the web simply became a conduit, a place where fans could reach out to 1000 different fandoms and tangle in them all - a place to play.
  • more on the golden age of Pros fic:
    ... after a certain point, when there are thousands of stories out there for a specific show, a lot of the known writers in that fandom do tend to write less or move on to a new show because it is giving them new inspiration. I stopped writing Trek quite some time ago, after being very prolific for some years, because I'd begun to feel I was repeating myself. I've never written much Pros because the kind of story I'm best at doesn't really fit CI5-type stories. But if the show is still being repeated, new fans are finding it, and if they reuse a plot that's been around for years - it's still new to them, and their take on it could be quite refreshingly new. My new lease of writing life has come from Sentinel (yes, I know, but the Sentinel characters in a way fit the kind of story I write better than Bodie and Doyle ever did). Having been involved in or knowing about prescriptive fandoms where you are constrained to a house style when it comes to portraying your character choice of point of view, concepts and so on, I find that what I have seen in Pros thus far to be so refreshing and welcoming and open. If this is the case, and I'm not just being lulled into a false sense of security, then I cannot see how the golden age of Professionals fanfic can be at an end- Whilst newbies feel comfortable in writing their interpretation of the characters and feel that they are encouraged to do this, then the fanfic side of the fandom cannot, and will not, be dead. If writers/readers acknowledge the fact that like every other genre of writing there is ultimately nothing new - only a new writer, giving their interpretation/portrayal of the same idea - in fanfic, and accept this, then fanfic is not dead nor dying; nor will it be so. Maybe it is simply the case that for every golden age that passes a new one arrives.
  • a fan recounts something she learned about domestic discipline:
    DD stories -I can understand the 'hows' of those since someone into that lifestyle came out on one of the Sentinel lists and answered questions about it. Apparently there's nothing arbitrary about the punishment; it is totally consensual, certain rules of behaviour are decided upon, in discussion, right at the start - where the 'victim' himself has decided what behaviour of his needs to be modified - and the punishment could be writing out lines or being grounded rather than - say - a spanking, which would be reserved for serious offences against the decided-upon rules. If the 'disciplinee' felt that the punishment was excessive he could say so, and why he thought so, in discussion with his partner about his 'crime'. This guy felt that his disciplining partner had to love him very much to undertake the responsibility of disciplining him, of keeping him from making mistakes in his life.
  • a fan writes about manips:
    I have only seen these in K/S and XF. I am not a fan of ones where the head is stuck on someone else's body, not because I ever considered the unfairness to the actor, but simply because you can tell at once that the body is not Kirk or Mulder or whoever. As [name redacted] said, a lot of very muscular porn-type bodies are used, and thats not the character's. If it's the character or even the actor you like, why would you want to change the bodies that attracted you? Its like those people who say they love a character and then proceed to rape and generally put him through hell. As [name reacted] said, maybe it's to show their strength but I don't like it. But back to the pix, I only like ones that manipulate scenes from the series and look more natural. Two of my favourites are XF. One is a pic where Mitch Pileggi (Skinner) was hamming it up for the cameras at some do by kissing Robert Patrick (Doggett) on the cheek - this was manipulated by changing RP for David D. Another one is of an off-duty Pileggi with his arm around DD who is holding up his hand to show his wedding ring. These two bodies were taken from separate photos but blended seamlessly. Giving these examples I've just realised I prefer manipulated pix that show affection and love rather than explicit scenes.
  • regarding the discussion topic:
    Is the golden age of Pros fanfic long gone, I really can't give an answer to this as I rarely read Pros fic now. I think the decrease of a golden age in any fandom is shown by a decrease in the amount of fiction being written as well as a decrease in the standard of stories. I think this is perhaps beginning to show in XF with the departure of a couple of main writers through burn-out and disillusionment with the way the series went. However there are still a lot of stories out there and some eighth series being written. And for both departing writers their disillusionment was also caused by the reaction of fans on lists, but that's another tale and one I think every fandom is prone to at some time.
  • another fan writes of her disgust regarding RPS:
    Another 'ugh' is the thought of real people slash. I think this is most disturbing. Are people really doing that? It's not something I'd ever want to read. Isn't it libellous?
  • on crying men:
    I hate characters that cry - especially if it's one of the lads. The weepy one is usually Doyle, and I can just about live with tears of rage, but nothing else, please!
  • when a fan was told that some fanartists used photos of gay porn to use as a model for traditional, hand-drawn fanart, she wrote:
    I felt a touch short-changed... when I discovered the source of some of the fandom artwork. We'd all complain soon enough if the stories wore lifted from porn books with only the names changed. So why is it OK in illos? Any artists out there like to weigh in?
  • a fan writes of a long-awaited zine:
    Shock, horror, The Bisto Boys has been sighted! Apparently one or two lucky people got their hands on copies at Rocky Mountain Media in July, although rumour has it they were contributors. As to whether those who parted with their money in July 2000 now have their copies, I couldn't say.

Stories:

Art:


Issue 20

Discovered In A Letterbox 20 was published in the Winter of 2001 and contains 53 pages.

cover of issue #20, Amanda
  • the discussion topic is "Which stories stick in your mind and why?"
  • a fan writes about art and a fan's comment in the last issue regarding artists who use other's photos and illos as a guide for their own art:
    I was very interested when the subject of fan art and computer manipulations came up on different lists and DIAL as well. As a trained illustrator, I feel I should somehow in part defend the category and the tools of the craft. In professional illustration, it is normal to use already existing images. One of the first things you learn at school is to start cutting pictures from magazines, to collect old photographs, to build up your own archive of images for future reference. There is no time to practise live drawing at leisure, like artists used to do in the past, in the illustration business - unless you manage to convince Mr Shaw to pose for us!
  • an artist also comments on the hot new topic, manips:
    And that brings me to computer manipulation, which I am very suspicious of. The fact is that graphic computer programs can make an amazing amount of incredible effects, simply with a click. Take a Bodie grab, cover the background or cut it out (it takes just a handful of minutes), then click on oil painting effect - et voila, you have a brand new image, so to speak. And if it is not to your liking, another click of the mouse and you can go back and start all over again. It's just as easy to cut and paste a body and a head together. The computer certainly helps in manipulating images, but... what's the point of sticking them together, if then we recognise those bodies as not pertaining to the relative character's heads? Just to be clear, I have nothing against computer manipulation. It's great for making montages and collages, for example. But it's too easy for some people to call it 'art' and charge accordingly, in my not so humble opinion.
  • a fan artist writes that of course fan artist use other photos and pictures as guides for their art, asking fans:
    Well, what do you guys expect? That we get Martin Shaw and Lewis Collins to pose naked and embraced in our front rooms while we sketch away to our hearts' content?
  • a fan writes that as long "as long as I'm informed up front that the piece is based on or taken from another source, I'll play happily. The culture is ours as fans to do with as we desire." But she has a problem not knowing in advance:
    Fannish creativity and originality is an issue that's bothered me from the beginning of my participation in fandom. I'm curious to know how many others are similarly concerned with 'idea' theft and how many feel it's a natural part of fannish creative activity. While recognizing that fannish writing and an is, of course, by the very reason for its existence, derivative, what I question is the practice of taking stories and pictures from original sources and plugging in the Favored Fan Pair. It makes me feel cheated when I've discovered it's been done to a piece of an I've bought or to a story in a zine I've purchased. While I do understand the need to use models for art and that ideas as such cannot be copyrighted, it seems craven to pass off as one's own work a plot taken from a book, film or play or a drawing in which the only work the fan artist did was smooth over the joining of neck and shoulder where the Favored Pair Heads were placed... In a small sampling of Prosfen on this topic I discovered that none of them agreed with me. I stood alone in finding disappointment in discovering the sources for what I'd taken as original creative work. So it seems that as long as the emotional payoff is there, fannish consumers don't care where the ideas come from. I do. It's the joy of engaging the mind behind the work that lures me into reading any form of writing or observing any form of an and if I can't trust that mind, then I don't trust the work. And therefore I don't like it.
  • another fan writes:
    Considering we're all poachers [2], does it matter who we poach from and how we do it?
  • a fans explores the balance between technically perfect fiction and that which has more errors and writes that sometimes the fiction that engages the heart and mind isn't always the most perfectly edited:
    Yes, we have all read the story that goes up on the web that has clearly not even been read over once by its author, and this is not good for fandom, or for writing in general. Yes, we have all seen zines that have been put together in haste (and maybe repented at leisure) in which there are a high, maybe unacceptably high, number of errors. Yes, we are paying out good money, some times a lot of money, for these zines and so we might well start to object if the errors are overwhelming. However, most of us are not professional writers, (some are, I know) most of us write for one overwhelming reason: the love of the characters, no matter what fandom(s) we are in. I have read stories that are absolutely technically perfect. Believe me you will not find a single technical error in them. But I am not that sure that I will read those stories again... Fine, great, wonderful - but boy, are some of these stories (not all, I hasten to add) dull. They seem to lack quality, emotion, and content. The writers do seem to have more focused on the rules than on the story.
  • many fans comment on the golden age of fandoms, Pros specifically:
    I think that the whole concept of a past golden age and a present decay is bogus, a conceptual errot deriving from the failure to account for the observer's personal perspective. Let me explain by asking first: what is a golden age? I think it is nothing but our fictional, reconstructed memory of a happy past that never was. It's not an objective measure, it's a nostalgic wish-turned-memory of a rime we can safely embellish in recollection, since it's gone forever. It is a powerful concept, and it has a very strong appeal, that makes it easy to believe it... But a myth it is. The golden age fallacy is just a fond wish for a better age, and it is based on the idea that history goes in one direction only: always and only towards the good, or always and only towards the bad. Such an absolute sense of purpose and direction is not realistic: history dances a much more complicated dance, often retracing its step, confusing people, mixing good and bad moments in a jerky, meaningless moment... In fannish terms, I think the truth is that we have, and we always had, a mixed bag of good, mediocre and bad stories. The percentage varies depending on the vagaries of chance: one day, an excellent writer discovers Pros, writes great stories, then she may burn out and leave. Or she can stay, and be more or less prolific. Helen Raven stops writing, but Georgina Kirrin, PFL or Castalia come along. The same happens for less skilled writers. This can randomly happen many times in a year, or never for a couple of years; the result will be that sometimes great stories are thicker on the ground and sometimes they aren't - but there is no finality, no steadily marching towards better or worse times. It's just random, like throwing dice. It is only our wishful thinking that makes random chance into a linear and meaningful progression.
  • a fan writes:
    ...we yearly receive a mixed bag of stories, but we tend to forget the bad ones and remember the good ones. As time goes on, we end up with a selective memory of a time where there were only good stories. Besides, good stories are more prominent because we talk about them, we send them to friends and we preserve them in archives. The bad stories are forgotten, and deleted off shelves or hard disks. (In the same way, we forget the fights and the flames and only remember the good moments of fannish life. Hence the bemoaning of a lost niceness in fandom. We have always been a prickly, nasty, Doyle-tempered bunch, only we forgot about it!
  • a fan comments:
    ... terribly bad stories are a universal constant: they crop up regularly (Sturgeon's law, 90 per cent of everything sucks). Except we forget about them, helped by our enthusiasm, by the fact that most space in our mind is taken by the good stuff, and by the cultural habit to remember the past as a golden age. This way, the only bad stories that remain visible are the very recent, current bad stuff: this just reinforces the golden age fallacy. Our memory of the past is a Sebastian-studded paradise, while poor, nasty present has a lot of howlers. (This also explains why the newbies to fandom see a wonderful present where old-timers see the Twilight of the Gods. The newbies cannot mythologise the fannish past since they don't have one yet. All they have is a present full of a Pros CD of stories, and miles of zine-filled shelves.).
  • more on the golden age:
    ... every generation tends to bemoan a lost golden age. Yes, the likes of Sebastian and HG have moved away from Pros. But there are some cracking writers taking their places.
  • another fan writes:
    A lot of people seemed to focus on comparisons between what was written a few years ago, the so-called golden age, and what is being produced now. I'd be the first to admit that there were an awful lot of excellent writers, producing wonderful stuff back then. Having only been in the fandom for almost three years and now witnessing many people moving on to other fandoms, including some of the best writers, it's hard not to feel like you've somehow missed the boat. Thank goodness we still have their stories to enjoy and to entice new people into the fandom. That said, I also think [name redacted] was correct when she said that those of us writing now are the next generation. It's easy to be inrimidated by this huge tradition of superb Pros fic that's gone before but we have to try not to be. Only time will tell if we've succeeded. Come back in ten years time and see which of the current writers and stories are still being talked about! I personally hope that [name redacted] is correct when she says that every writer brings a new slant to whatever he or she is writing, be it an old idea or not. Otherwise we might as well all pack up and go home!
  • another fan feels the hot breath of the quality-control police:
    But shouldn't there should be a place for all in this fandom? From the writer who wants to produce beautiful, well crafted, memorable stories to the ones who just want to whip out a quick story? It does seem to me that a few people feel that only brilliant stories should see the light of day. I may have got hold of the wrong end of the stick here, but that is definitely the impression that's coming over. Which is odd, because real life is not like that. Book-shops are full to bursting with all manner of books, from complete dross to works of genius. Variety is the spice of life and it has to be remembered that we all enjoy different things. Fandom should reflect that and embrace it - what happened to tolerance? It's a bit strange to find such a lack of it in a slash fandom, of all things...
  • a fan comments on what she perceives to be a different fannish culture online:
    I suppose all fandoms have their blow-ups. What never falls to amaze me, though, is how obnoxious some people are on-line. I can't imagine people being so rude to each other face to face at a con. One of the disadvantages of the Internet, I suppose - the person you're speaking to could be anyone!
  • a fan writes of RPS and visibility:
    Another thing I discovered online is that slash about boy bands is very big. I suppose the reason behind that could be that if you can't have your pin-up, you can write it so that no other female gets him. But I have to wonder sometimes if its not just a case of some writers wanting to slash any show or anything in sight. These RPS and underage or aged-up stories make me rather annoyed with the perpetrators because I think they're more likely to attract legal action, and then that draws attention to slash in other fandoms, and that in my view is a bad thing. I know knowledge of slash is more widespread now in the general community without any terribly adverse reaction so far. But the very nature of RPS or HP slash is likely to give any slash a bad name and lead to less tolerance. As a final note I read online that with the second episode of Star Wars due sometime, George Lucas has sent out cease and desist letters to all the fiction sites, whether gen, het or slash.
  • a fan comments on the quality, and quantity, of online fic:
    And lets not get onto my hobbyhorse of the grammatical and spelling disasters that proliferate nowadays. That's not to say there weren't mistakes years ago but there seem to be more now in zines and particularly on the net where every Tom, Dick and Harry (or should that be Thomasina, Jill and Harriet?) feels free to post, often with the proud (?) claim that this wasn't beta'd - as if we'd never guess that fact within the first two sentences. With the net being an immediate fix for writers and readers, I think the wish for instant gratification on both parts has led to a lowering of standards. There are no editors to weed out the error-ridden stories. When authors were sending off stories to zines that wouldn't appear for months, they took time and pains to polish them so that they stood the best chance of being approved. Net authors don't have to do that. A large part of me considers that a loss, but I have to admit it is good to have so many stories easily available to wade through.
  • a fan named [C] has an essay called "Resistance is Futile: You Will Be Assimilated ... " which was a basis for a panel/talk she gave at WriteTime -- the opening paragraph:
    Guilt. It might have happened to you, too. Even the most experienced, articulated and proud slashers sometimes have this uncomfortable feeling ofbeing literary louts, second class citizens, guilty of not producing original fiction, of "copying" someone else's universe and characters. Well, I think this is an unmotivated anxiety: far from being louts, we come from a very noble tradition of creative borrowing and collective world-making. This is why, with this talk, I would like to show how slash has many links with more "orthodox," "canonical" and "respectable" literature.
  • a fan writes a side-by-side analysis of two "On Heat" stories written by two authors -- it starts with:
    I'm fond of both of the On Heat stories, though I also much prefer Sebastian's. To me, Sebastian has the ability to evoke a depth of emotion that creates a rich Persian carpet of layers and colours and texture, with a pile that can be sunk into and luxuriated in. MFae is often flatter to my senses, skating more on the surface, a pileless rug, contained and intricate, but significantly different in nuance. Her characters aren't superficial, but they don't give me quite the same sense of full-bodiedness...

Stories:

Art:

  • colour portrait of Bodie by Castalia

References

  1. She'd have to wait another six months to get her copy, as that zine was published in July 2001.
  2. Probably a nod ot Textual Poachers.