Sardonac

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Zine
Title: Sardonac
Publisher: Empire Books
Editor(s): Jean Lorrah and Susan Ross Moore
Date(s): 1991
Series?:
Medium: print
Size:
Genre:
Fandom: Alien Nation
Language: English
External Links:
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cover by Suzan Lovett -- "Prints of Suzan Lovett's terrific color cover would likely sell for more than this at a con. I'm sure this will end up as a "coffee table" book for many fans; this cover is too pretty to bury in a bookshelf." [1]

Sardonac is a gen and het Alien Nation anthology. It contains 88 pages. Suzan Lovett is the front cover artist. Marianne Howarth, Roberta Rogow, Tracy Taylor and Jean Kluge are the interior artists.

Contents

From the zine's forward:
It's obvious from most of the work we received that what intrigued the majority of creative fans was the possibility of a relationship between Matt Sikes and Cathy Frankel. Three of our stories touch on that theme. In particular, the two longest stories ("What Dreams May Come" and "F# Above High C) make a wonderful contrast: one is a personal conflict, the other a police procedural; one is by a woman, the other by a man; one is soft with hard edges, the other hard with soft edges. I think you will thoroughly enjoy these contrasting stories, so extremely different from one another in plot, which both end up at the same place.

'Take One Off The Barbie, Dad' reminds us that Matt is a father as well as a godfather. Perhaps he can learn something from his daughter. If you have been in media fandom very long, you have surely encountered Roberta Rogow's clever vignettes, which seem to turn up in virtually every universe... And then there's my story. Those of you looking for romance, read the other stories first. It's not that I don't have my own ideas about Matt and Cathy — it's that I have too many] I couldn't fit any of those into a wieldy length, so I wrote "Marked Men" instead. It was very odd; I had it all figured out, and plotted in my head, before I realized that the only point of view it could be told from was Captain Grazer's! My first reaction was, "I can't do 'pompous ass' for twenty pages." Then I rewatched the episodes, watching Grazer carefully— and realized that Mail's opinion does not jibe with the reality. Grazer is as much "cop first" as Matt or George. It looks as if he was just promoted when the series opened; by half-way through, did you notice that he achieves enough self-confidence to reverse himself on things like wounded pigeons and day-care centers when he realizes his first response was inappropriate?

Those of you who are familiar only with my Star Trek fan fiction will probably think 'Marked Man' is not a 'typical Jean Lorrah' story, while those of you familiar only with my Blake's 7 fanfic will probably think it is!
  • Marked Men by Jean Lorrah (17 pages)
  • What Dreams May Come by Tracy Taylor (33 pages)
  • Music Hath Charms by Roberta Rogow (2 pages)
  • F# Above High C by James M. Keane (31 pages)
  • Take One Off The Barbie, Dad by Susan Ross Moore (4 pages)

Gallery

Samples of interior art

Reactions and Reviews

Alien Nation fandom finally begins to fulfill some of its potential in Sandonac, a five-story anthology, edited by Jean Lorrah and Susan Ross Moore and published by Empire Books. Weighing in at eighty-eight pages, and moderately priced at $11.00 (postage paid), this is a good value. Prints of Suzan Lovett's terrific color cover would likely sell for more than this at a con. I'm sure this will end up as a "coffee table" book for many fans; this cover is too pretty to bury in a bookshelf.

Unfortunately, the reproduction values for the rest of the zine do not live up to the high standard set by the cover. The photocopy reproduction seems to have been made on a machine that lacks the high resolution and ability to reproduce solid blacks available on modern equipment. The illuminated first letters used throughout the zine tie it together visually, but suffer from poor reproduction, and end up just looking smeary. Another attempt at visual continuity involves the use of sidebars throughout the zine. You know, those snippets from the lext of a story that show up in large print inside a box plopped in the middle of the page, that are supposed to entice you to buy the copy of Woman's Day or People, instead of just thumbing through it in the checkout line? I don't like them in regular magazines.andtheydon'tdoanything to improve theotherwise unadorned layout here, either. Fortunately, the double column text was not reduced, and remains clear and readable.

Mariann Howarth's line art is clean and well-executed, but loses detail and impact in the reproduction. Jean KJuge's beautiful illo was, fortunately, screened before printing, but, knowing Jean's work, I can only wonder what the original must be like. This reproduction method (and an obnoxious page number pasted over the top of Ihe illo) does not do her subtle style justice. For the four pieces of art in the zine, running pa per-plate offset copies at the local Jiffy Print would not have broken the bank, or raised the cost per copy significantly. It would, however, have improved immeasurably the visual quality of the zine.

"Sardonac," of course, is the Newcomer aphrodisiac that featured prominently in two episodes of the series ("Fifteen with Wanda," and "Chains of Love"). As the title and cover imply, the stories tend to feature romance, and the relationship between Matt Sikes and his Newcomer neighbor, Cathy Frankel. Let's take the major stories in order of appearance.

"Marked Men," by Jean Lorrah, is an action/adventure tale told from the point of view of Captain Bryon Grazer that doesn't fit well with the general theme of the zine, although the Captain's tale is well enough done that it doesn't seem vastly out of place. Everyone is in character (something true, amazingly enough, throughout the zine), and the humor sprinkled throughout the story is terrific. You'll love the part about George and the butterfly! As the story unfolds, it seems the Overseers have banded together and managed to produce enough of their mind-controlling "holy gas" to make a final, do-or-die attempt to take over Los Angeles. The premise bothered me somewhat--I've never seen the Overseers as militarily capable. They were more often portrayed as cowardly, and more inclined toward conspiracy and coercion than revolt and revolution. Beyond that, once you take over L. A., what are you going to do with it? It's not that you couldn't keep the city; I'm sure the folks in Sacramento and San Francisco would insist you do so, and laugh to themselves while they quietly made plans to redraw the state map and make everything official.

Once I had my sense of disbelief forcibly suspended (that old pair of gravity boots in the garage came in handy, here), I really began to enjoy the story. Grazer's character is well-handled, and we get to see him grow a little, die a little, and all without ever saying, "Naaahh!" Unfortunately, just when we get ready for an exciting rescue scene (Matt and Dobbs are captured, victims of the overseer's gas), we cut to the end of the story. The opportunities for hurt/comfort, or a righteously angry George Francisco (talk about action), are not explored. What might otherwise have offered enough material to be a novel becomes, essentially, a character study of Captain Grazer. Although we see precious little of Matt, George, or any of the other regular characters, we don't need to. In the last analysis, the thing works as a short story, and that's all that needs to be said.

"What Dreams May Come," by Tracy Taylor, is easily the standout in this crowd. It starts several months after Matt and Cathy have broken off their relationship (recall Cathy in a babushka serving Matt lasagna, only to get sick trying to eat some). Matt, true to his "if you don't know how I feel, I'm sure not going to tell you" philosophy, has been ignoring Cathy. But, having alienated all his friends, he's left with a sense of guilt by a personal tragedy, and no one to lean on, and his self-destructive streak quickly takes over. This time, it is Cathy who goes to Matt's door in the middle of the night, when he screams in the throes of a nightmare.

What follows is ultimately predictable, but is so well done, you won't give a damn. The author manages to convey genuine love between Matt and Cathy, as well as the hesitancy that come of both parties having been burned in this relationship once before. Many writers can handle passion and lust just fine, but the majority fall down at handling real love, especially at the start of a relationship. It's hard toget that sweetly myopic point of view to come off without sounding sappy or gothic. Ms. Taylor avoids the Harlequin Books syndrome with a power and grace that makes her story easily the best in this collection, and will make me watch eagerly for more of her work in the future.

"F# Above High C," by James M. Keane, is the real
 odd man out in this collection, matching the others neither in
 style nor in temperament. The story starts out promisingly 
enough as a murder mystery, where Matt and George are called
 on to investigate the death of a female Newcomer, who leaped-
-or was pushed-from her sixth floor apartment window. Un
fortunately, this quickly degerates into a misogynistic, preadolescent male fantasy involving a "hominess box." Yep, the
 Ronco hominess box broadcasts a tone that works on Tenctonese 
women like the Emergency Broadcast Signal, only more so. On
 hearing the tone, they get so horny, they just can't resist their 
attacker. And if they don't have sex right away, they go into a
syndrome that sounds like a cross between PMS and electro-
shock therapy. Oh, and by the way, it has to be sex with a man.
 Sex with another woman, the wrong end of a hairbrush, Mr.
Digit, or a parboiled cucumber just won't do the job (appar
ently, the Tenctonesc never developed vibrator technology,
either). To paraphrase Marilyn Monroe, "It don't meana thing,
 f you can't have a thing, Do-ah, do-ah,do-ah!" You get the 
idea. How does this nasty villain get the women alone, his 
dastardly deed to perform, you say? He cleverly lies in wait at the
 local grocery store, awaiting the arrival of an unaccompanied 
Newcomer female, burdened with more than one bag of grocer
ies. Newcomer women like petite Cathy Frankel, who carried
 Uncle Jack's sea chest single-handed, and flung poor Matt 
around like a rag doll when he was teaching her to dance, are 
supposed to be incapacitated by an extra bag of groceries. Sure. Oh, yeah, almost forgot the best part. The bad guy tries
 to take Cathy as his last victim, but gets run off before he can
 consummate, leaving poor Cathy with a bad case of Ronco
interruptus. Matt gets to be the hero, once again, and save
 Cathy from a fate worse than PMS. Okay, all together now, with 
feeling: "Men!" "Sigh!" 'Nuff said.

"Take One Off the Barbie, Dad," by Susan Ross Moore, finishes off the collection on a soft and introspective note. The story begins when Matt's daughter calls to inform him she wants to drop by for the weekend, and bring her new boyfriend to meet good ol'Dad. Guess who's corning to dinner? The new guy, Tom Sawyer, is a Newcomer. What follows is a lot of soul searching, as Matt drafts Cathy into helping with the arrangements. The choice of names is very interesting, for Matt mirrors Twain's Huck Finn more than a little. Like Huck, Matt was raised by a drunken, violent, absentee father, and others who, although well-meaning, are not exactly nonjudgmental. In the end, like Huck, Mate's heart leads him inexorably in the right directions, struggle against it as he might. It's all tastefully handled in a most believable way. Matt doesn't come off as a mush, and, just as important, he doesn't "just decide" to change his attitudes. The only problem is that the story is much too short. I wanted more time to enjoy Matt squirming and struggling with himself. The tale is well done, though, and Matt ends up liking himself a little better at the end. We do, too.

In the final analysis, crack the checkbook and send off an order. I know, I know, it's a recession. But if this goes out of print before you can get your hands on one, you're gonna be more frustrated than Matt Sikes with a stale doughnut. The cover alone is worth the purchase price. The Kluge illo and the funny vignette, "Music Hath Charms," by Roberta Rogow, just add to the value. I got my copy-wild whores couldn't keep me away.

Oh, yeah, the tree thing. Three trees. [2]There were four here a minute ago, but some guy with a Ronco chainsaw just chopped the last one up into firewood and made off with it. [3]

References

  1. from Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine? #3
  2. The reviewers in "Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine?" rated zines on a 1-5 tree/star scale. See that page for more.
  3. from Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine? #3. The reviewer gives it "3 trees." The reviewers in "Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine?" rated zines on a 1-5 tree/star scale.