Open Letter by Helena Seabright Regarding "Alien Brothers"

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Open Letter
Title: no official title
From: Helena Seabright
Addressed To:
Date(s): February 1986
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS
Topic: her zine Alien Brothers
External Links:
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The 100th issue of Interstat contained an open letter by Helena Seabright, the editor of the zine Alien Brothers. In it, she explains the difficult time she has had with some fans regarding the production of her zine.

Also see a response letter written by Vel Jaeger, written two months later: Open Letter by Vel Jaeger Regarding "Alien Brothers".

Text of the Letter

In the interests of producing the best possible zine, naturally I have accepted only the best submissions, and those nearest to the focus of my zine, ALIEN BROTHERS. And I have rejected inferior work, and also contributors with whom I felt I could not work to obtain a superior result. This, I thought was the function of an editor, even in fandom. And yet, after rejecting the work of a certain California artist (for both reasons), I found that I was under attack by her friends and acquaintances. One of them tried to convince me to accept this artist's work, and all along there was this implied, unspoken threat that I would suffer the consequences if I did not cooperate. The artist herself was considerably more explicit. And then, I discovered that some of my contributors had been contacted to try to convince them to pull their stories from ALIEN BROTHERS, under some pretext that I am closely associated with another fan from this area, one whose reputation they are apparently trying to destroy. Now, I know nothing of this. I am solely responsible for the editing, production, proofreading, policies, etc.— everything connected with ALIEN BROTHERS. NO ONE works with me; no one influences me. I have accepted help and advice via letters from a number of fans, but there were no strings attached. I would not have accepted it if there were. I tried to contact the people involved, to reason with them, and stop this nonsense, but they only replied in insults. I even offered to accept the inadequate work of the artist I had originally rejected, if they would only leave me alone, but they would not. Rather than help, I received threats of lawsuits. Now, I am shocked and dismayed to discover one of these individuals is also attempting to delve into my private life and the running of my zine, in an attempt to discredit me. My postmaster is In receipt of such a letter, which came from Poway, California (I'll leave the sender to your imagination). I am dismayed, hurt, and distressed by these actions, and see no other choice than to make the situation public. This simply cannot go on. I'd like to publicly plead that these people leave me alone, stop prying into my affairs, and interfering with the production of ALIEN BROTHERS. Caro Hedge (Vivian Gates) contacted me regarding withdrawing her story from ALIEN BROTHERS because of the rumors spread by these misguided fans, and I really would be delighted to oblige Ms. Hedge, but I am afraid that it Is far too late. My final flyers are out, publicity is out, and the zine will possibly be printed by the time you see this letter. I am sorry for the inconvenience this causes anyone. But the story will appear as advertised. Dear fans, I sincerely hope that you will support the efforts of this somewhat bewildered editor who only wanted to do something especially nice for the 20th anniversary of Star Trek. And I am sure that you won't be disappointed with my zine, ALIEN BROTHERS. It will be special! [1]

Reactions and Reviews

I have been absent from the pages of INTERSTAT for a while, but I feel I must respond to the letter from
 Helena Seabright in I#100. Ms. Seabright claims outrage at her treatment by some fan writers and artists regarding her zine 'Alien Brothers.' I do not know the artist of which she speaks personally, only by virtue of her work in various zines. I will not comment on Ms. Seabright's rejection of her work as art is in the eye of the beholder, and an editor has the right to accept or reject any work submitted to her. However, I must voice my personal objections to her treatment of Vivian Gates in her letter. Evidently Ms. Seabright is unaware that the submission and acceptance of a story, poem, or piece of art for inclusion minute the zine is placed in the hands of the printer, title to the piece remains in the hands of the contributor, and its title reverts to the contributor after the zine is in print. Only if a piece of work is commissioned (paid for either in cash or trade), usually done for art, is the title to said piece transferred to the editor. Since Ms. Gates withdrew her story last October, long before the zine was to be printed, Ms. Seabright has no right to use it. The artists and writers who contribute to our zines, do so for love of ST since a contrib copy of a zine is very little recompense for all the effort put into the story, poem, or piece of art. Artists are luckier than the writers since they have the opportunity to later sell their work. But writers are doing us a big favor by contributing. As both a writer and editor, I can speak from both sides of the fence. Long hours are spent laboring over a piece of fiction or art, sometimes months, with only gratitude as return. Without the generosity of the writers and artists, we editors would end up writing the whole thing ourselves, a thought which brings shudders even to contemplate! Ms. Gates had the right to withdraw her story and Ms. Seabright has no bitch coming. Now, as to Ms. Seabright's divulgence of Ms. Gates' true name, Ms. Seabright has broken one of the cardinal rules of zine editing and publishing. Fan writers use pen names for a variety of reasons, both personal and professional. Nor is the use of a pen name limited to those who write K/S. Many gen writers do so also. Because editors must deal with the person with regard to editing, corrections, and various letters and phone conversations, means that we must know the person's true name. We are trusted, therefore obligated by that trust, to keep the name a secret unless given permission to reveal it. The unauthorized revelation of a pen name is one of the lowest things an editor can do, regardless of her/his personal dealings with the writer. By the revelation in this letterzine of Ms. Gates' true name, Ms. Seabright has proven herself to be completely untrustworthy. A pen name is never revealed, no matter what the reason! I hope Ms. Seabright does well with 'Alien Brothers' as it is quite likely to be a 'one-shot' zine. I doubt very much whether many writers and artists will trust her enough to send future submissions, knowing that, if there is a disagreement, their pen name or other information may be publicly paraded. The airing of one's dirty linen in public is never pretty and in this case is most distasteful. I regret that I will not be ordering 'Alien Brothers,' but I do not feel that I wish to encourage Ms. Seabright in her actions. It is a sad thing for me as I was looking forward to reading "Ring of Soshern," but I will have to forego that pleasure. I am neither encouraging nor discouraging others from doing the same. This is a personal decision. One last thing, while some of us know who Ms. Seabright referred to in her statement about the letter to the postmaster, there are at least three zine editors living in Poway. Is she trying to indict all three? Really now, shooting from the hip is never accurate, only messy. And, please, Ms. Seabright, don't bother to name the individual. Further mud-slinging only worsens your already shaky position. As to the letter itself, any postmaster will tell you that when business is being done through a post office box and money is being received, people have the right to check out to whom the box is rented. In this case, it was not to stir up trouble, but to ascertain that the box was not rented to an unnamed person who has become notorious in fandom for writing bad checks and not meeting obligations. This was reasonable, as no one wants to do business with someone who is likely to pull a disappearing act with their money. Zine editing and publishing is both time-consuming and costly. Most of us struggle to meet the cost of getting the zine into print and delivering it to those who order from us. Delays happen, of course, and zines are lost in the mail (I've lost 5 of them and had to replace them). Checking up on, and weeding out, those who have proved they cannot be dealt with honestly is not vindictive, but sensible. And to forestall Ms. Seabright from her usual answer to criticism, I am not a member of a 'clique'! There are no cliques in Texas as far as I know. And most of the people I have defended I know only through correspondence. I think I've said quite enough on the subject, and will not comment further to her or about her publicly or privately. It is regretful that one who professes to be new to fandom and wanting to do something 'special' for the 20th anniversary should so badly use the fans and sully the specialness which she professed to be seeking. [2]
By the time I calmed down enough to write a civil response to your letter in INTERSTAT #100, the deadline for 1#01 was past. "No matter," I thought to myself. "Someone else will surely point out that parts of her missive were inexcusably tacky." No one did. Whether this is due to a galloping attack of "Let George do it" among Trekfen, or whether the majority of INTERSTAT readers thought the proper response was non-acknowledgement, I do not know. But I do know that you committed a grave breach of etiquette by linking the pseudonym of a Trek writer with her "real" name. That, far more than any question of who you are or what your intent is or was, tells me and should tell others that they enter into an association with you at their own risk. As long as there have been writers, there have been pseudonyms. And there are as many reasons for creating a pseudonym as there are writers who use one. The reason is not important. Respecting the writer's right to confidentiality is. Unless an individual is penning libelous statements, or attempting to obtain money, goods, services, or information fraudulently, no one but the pseudonym's holder has the right to release information about his or her "real" identity. [3]
This is in response to the letter by Helena Seabright which appeared in INTERSTAT #100 — I am the "California artist" referred to so obliquely... and I cannot in any conscience allow INTERSTAT readers to be so inundated by Ms. Seabright's tidal wave of what is, in my opinion, incredible paranoia. It has been my experience during the ten years that I have been an active Trek fan that no one is out to "get" anyone, there is plenty of room for new editors, and that most of Ms. Seabright's troubles are — again, in my opinion — entirely of her own making. I must ask the indulgence of the readership in allowing me to describe my communications with Ms. Seabright, and let them judge for themselves where the fault, if there is indeed any, lies. [for the entire text of this letter, see Open Letter by Vel Jaeger Regarding "Alien Brothers"] [4]

References

  1. from Interstat #100
  2. from Ann C in Interstat #102
  3. from Lynda C in Interstat #102
  4. from Vel Jaeger in Interstat #102