|Mary Jean Holmes
|multimedia & Star Wars
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From the title page of the second issue: "Shadowstar is a not-for-profit fan publication dedicated to the proliferation of science fiction and fantasy literature and art."
It ran for thirty-four issues from 1980-1992. It was originally a quarterly publication and was pretty consistent in that schedule, remarkably so considering its long run.
The series had several regular features. One of them was the essay series Shady Thoughts.
See these subpages for details about individual issues, including quoted opinions and summaries of fannish views on topics.
Regarding the Title
From the second issue:
A 1983 Statement by the Editor
Holmes wrote a response to the essay Shady Thoughts: "Why Do You Waste Your Time Writing This Stuff?" in issue #10:
What [many people] object to is my choice of subject matter. "Gosh, you write so well -- why do you waste all that time writing Star Wars fiction? Why don't you write something original, so you can get it published professionally? So you can make money?" Maybe it's their personal concern for the state of my finances, but I rather doubt it.
I have been actively involved in fandom for eight years. In that time, I have seen enough of this subculture of ours to determine a number of general characteristics about fans. Their interests are wide-ranging in scope, their minds often open, their intelligence and perception above average. They are natural-born debaters and natural-born crusaders. Many also have an annoying tendency to be presumptuous snobs, of a sort, the kind who believe it their fannish birthright to be a critic -- and I don't mean the term in its intelligent, complementary sense -- of anything and everything that somehow falls within the border of SF land. I have had my works lambasted by progressive-thinking feminist fans who never even read them; I have seen entire groups made pariah by other groups who have decreed their interests "childish"; I have watched the Fannish Family I entered those eight years ago take a turn I do not like and cannot stomach for much longer. When my own friends begin to turn against me, I know something's gone seriously awry.
Okay, I'll admit, I've seen certain groupie-sorts become persistent to the point of obnoxious, but not all of them have been fans of the media. The disease is present on both sides. No area of fandom has remained untouched, and the spread of the virus is sad to see. It's slowly strangling and killing something that was once a noble effort, something was proud to be part of. I'm not proud anymore.
Perhaps that's why I turned to writing fan fiction, and becoming a fan publisher. Somewhere, I nurture a fledgling belief that, here in the pages of Shadowstar, I can preserve for replanting at some future time the open-minded flexibility that I once loved in fandom. Maybe I'm wrong, and the effort is futile, but I refuse to believed it until I finally am forced to surrender the dream to the grave.Until them, I intent to keep writing -- and yes, I intend to continue printing -- fan fiction, be it Star Wars, Star Trek, Pern, or what have you. There are more than enough pro-'zines and publishers to sate the tastes of those who want nothing but original fiction; there are few sources of good fan fiction. Shadowstar -- and hopefully myself -- will strive to be one of them.
General Fan Comments
I wanted to get down in black and white that I thought Shadowstar to be one of the better story-zines around. Too often story-zines start out great and slowly dribble into the merely averages replacing stories with zine reviews, con reports, and book analyses. Nothing against the last three forms, but a zine that purports to be a fiction-writer's testing ground should not dilute its efforts. I've got plenty of review- zines and fan-news-zines to draw from for other info. Shadowstar has been a very pleasant haven of fiction in the seas of egoboo blurb writers. And I'm not saying this because I've written stuff you saw fit to print. Yeah, I write to get egoboo, but I don't write all that much. I'm too busy reading. Thankfully, this zine never pubs only one kind of style or format, so I never get too bogged down by novelette after novelette after novelette-... Nor is all the poetry or short fiction entirely pun-inspired. Nit-picky people like me are happy to note that Shadowstar — even when it does an all SW issue —— doesn't end up as 150 pages of the same stuff. There was a very good blend of humorousness and scary as well as pensive material.
...You certainly must have noticed how your editorial leadership and philosophy are drawing what seems to be an ever-increasing number of super talents to your magazine. And what makes it great is that even though I'm sure you can't but have noticed it yourself, other people are picking up on the Shadowstar phenomenon and letting you know what a fantastic magazine it is, was, and will be for what appears to be quite some time yet to come. You've got the magic, whatever it may be. 
One complaint — I don't like to see Shadowstar heavily over-balanced with Star Wars. I like SW, really I like it. And now and then, I really enjoy a well-written original SW piece with a fresh idea, such as "A Chance to Live," "Remembrance," or "A Night on the Town," and I don't really mind when you devote an entire issue to SW fiction as you did with #6, but too much of a good thing is just too much! Two, even three (if you count the serialized novels) pieces in a single issue is not bad, and should surely satisfy your SW-starved readers. And you did start out that way, as witness issues #1 and #2. Somewhere along the way, though, I guess rumor started that Shadowstar is an SW fanzine with some extra stuff thrown in. I'd much rather see it as a variety fiction-zine with some SW thrown in.
- [The editor]: My basic opinion is and always has been that I can print only that which I am submitted... For the record, "Shadowstar's" present official position is that the 'zine will remain a blend -- perhaps a 50/50 mix -- of original fiction and derivate. We are a periodical of stories concerning others' worlds, be they new universes or old. So long as. I keep reviewing well-written SW stories, I will print them; I refuse to exercise censorship of this nature, as I personally abhor such arbitrary condemnation in other fans. I've always maintained that there's room enough for a wide range of interests in fandom; there will always be room for it in "Shadowstar." Besides, guys, I guess I'm a Wooker, anyhoo.... 
I admit this letter is long overdue, and I apologize, and promise to mend my ways. I've been reading SHADOWSTAR regularly since its first year, and have never been disappointed by an issue. In fact, I find it hard to wait the three months between issues — that's what's so great about being a proofreader.
I enjoy SHADOWSTAR for a variety of reasons; these are listed in no particular order:
1. I love the obligatory sick cartoons.
2. The STAR WARS fiction you publish is always excellent, staying well within the SW universe and yet reading like original work, with unique situations, vivid characters, and no lapses into the more grotesque and sadistic Mari Su-isms....
3. The cross-universe stories are good and well-conceived, with both universes handled carefully and with a believable link between the worlds. "Crossed Wires" is beautiful: I love the Deryni universe almost as much as SW. The story skillfully blended them together.
4. You consistently print good-quality original fiction, often as good as or better than the stuff in the plethora of professional anthologies published during the last few years....
5. You aren't afraid to print unusual material, like the Shadow stories and "Mammoth Alpha." It seems that very few 'zines have the courage to print comic-strip type material.
6. I love all the songs, with special mention for "The Mari Su Fan Fiction Blues" and "Luke's Reply..."
7. The artwork is always so good. I especially like your own illos, and those by Wanda Lybarger and Mary Wood. (I loved Mary's illo for "Graylands" — thank you, Mary!)
8. SHADOWSTAR is consistently well put-together: no missing pages, and far fewer grammatical tongue-twisters and typos than most other 'zines.
Actually, the consistently high quality of SHADOWSTAR doesn't surprise me as much as it did at first, now that I know how hard you work at it. The steady commitment to quality shows in every issue and special publication, and believe me, Mary Jean, your efforts are appreciated. As a writer, I would also like to take some space here to thank you for the treatment I have received. I never have any fears of my work being butchered to suit someone else's viewpoint. I know I have flaws as a writer, and I can always trust you to edit my work skillfully. Most of the time, I find it hard to point out the exact changes. I am reasonably well-pleased with every story I've done for SHADOWSTAR (with one notable exception, which you're well aware of), and I'm very proud that you saw fit to print them.
Let me propose a deal, here — a little lopsided, I admit: I promise to read every issue and to try to write a LoC for each one, just so long as you keep on printing them!May the Force always be with you. 
I've been a part of SHADOWSTAR's staff since the beginning, and I'm always amazed at the quality of writing that comes under my proofreading eye. I suppose I've never commented on it before because I figured I'd get accused of bias. Well, I don't care about accusations anymore. There's good stuff in this 'zine, some of which has gone without the recognition it deserves, and I'm going to say so.
First, a few general comments. SHADOWSTAR is always a visual "positive" with me. It's laid out with care; illustration and text are well-balanced, and the photo-reproduction consistently excellent. I happen to know that Mary Jean takes a very professional attitude and approach toward SHADOWSTAR, but even if I didn't, I think it would be obvious.
Art: in addition to the editor's very fine work, I think SHADOWSTAR boasts some of the best artists in media fandom. My own favorite is Wanda Lybarger, whose sheer craft is astonishing. Not to mention the drama frozen in her pieces. She's one of few 'zine artists I've seen who can do people and technological detail with equal skill. Martynn is also very good, and Misty Lackey*s style is uniquely simple — I like that. Jean Danielsen, John Sies, Mark Wallace, and others I don't recall the names of are no slouches, either.
Now to the real meat of the 'zine: the stories. One of the things I've always loved about SHADOWSTAR is its balance of media-related and original fiction. One of the finest authors I've seen in a long time is Mike Winkle. His Lykoniad is incredible. I sometimes feel a moment of pity for the people who don't read the original fiction in SHADOWSTAR; they're missing a treasure in Mike. It's not just the story itself that I like; it's his choice of words, his ability to set mood as well as background, the way he handles the animalistic point of view, and his characterizations. I expect we'll see him in professional circles sooner or later; he's that good.
Misty Lackey is another one. I understand she's recently broken into professional publishing. It doesn't surprise me. Whether it's funny or depressing, her writing is always good.As for Mary Jean... I've been her premiere fan for many more years than SHADOWSTAR's existed.
No complaints about the 'zine, its editorial policy, its subject matter, or, for that matter, its editor (that's a joke, Mary Jean). I do agree about the lack of LoCs.
That's one of the reasons (besides illness and job pressure) that I haven't submitted any new stories. I confess that I'm a bit discouraged. Although I've been writing fiction/poetry for years, I'm new at fan fiction. Two years ago, I eagerly set out to entertain fandom with my own tales of adventure in the SW universe. My friends, including you, were very supportive and encouraging. You liked my stuff. However, insecurity being what it is, I needed and longed to hear from "strangers" — fans who read my stories and liked/disliked them and would tell me so. With the exception of a few (Linda Ruth Pfonner and Marlene Karkoska, bless them), fandom has been strangely silent. My only thought was that the fans hated my stories and didn't want to tell me. Okay, if that's true, then the best thing for me to do would be to stop doing what people hate. My friends, after all, were just being kind. However, criticism (as long as it's constructive and doesn't get personal) can be extremely helpful. And everyone loves the encouragement that comes from a pat on the back. What's bothersome — and a real downer! — is no feedback at all!!! Hard to write when you don't know whether or not people are even reading your stuff. 'Nuff said on that point.
To those who like what I write (particularly to you, Marlene; I've read your letter at least a million times): thank you from the depths of my heart. To those who don't like/read my stories because they're filled with non-SV characters: so are many others that you do read. Perhaps the difference is that Han Solo is not a major character in my stories. Search your feelings; I'll bet it's close to the truth. I like him, but the whole world of female fandom has written about him. 1 don't feel 1 can offer anything new or fresh to add to the character. Thus, 1 don't write much about him.
To those who believe I'm a closet Imperial or that I write from the Imperial point of view: you couldn't be more wrong. 1 never glorify evil. In fact, 1 detest stories that make poor Vader into a disgusting, horrible, perverted bully who passionately embraces evil, or those who worship the evil part of him. They're as bad as those who think that he's merely an efficient machine, incapable of human emotion. Underneath that armor was a man, a human being who had done much wrong, but who, in the end, was redeemed by love That's what I see.Lastly, I want to take this opportunity to say thanks to Mary Jean for her help, her encouragement (even if we disagree on a lot of things. She wants me to kill off Darius, and I won't), and for her mental stimulation. Mary Jean was my introduction to fandom, and we spend many nights discussing our points of view — animatedly. 
- from a letter of comment in "Shadowstar" #8 (1982)
- from a letter of comment in "Shadowstar" #8 (1982)
- from a letter of comment in "Shadowstar" #10 (1983)
- from a letter of comment in "Shadowstar" #18 (1985)
- from a letter of comment by Mary Wood in "Shadowstar" #18 (1985)
- from a letter of comment in "Shadowstar" #18 (1985)