The Princess Tapes
|Title:||The Princess Tapes|
|Editor(s):||Judith A. Low & Joyce Yasner|
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The Princess Tapes is the unfolding story of a certain Royal Princess of the house Organa. Her friends and family, her enemies and antagonists, all have parts to play in the SW saga, and in making Leia the way we see her in SW and beyond... The Princess Tapes are based on the original Princess Tapes, as soon they were called, discovered by a certain Galactic Citizen known as Kivarine. No one knew where they originally came from, not even Kivarine, nor a lowly (excuse pun) earthling SW fan. But they did bear a striking resemblance to an extraordinary media phenomenon known as Star Wars.
An Example of Its Cover Preceding Its ContentIn 1991, a fan writes of the cover art and how one shouldn't judge a zine by its cover:
There was a zine some years back that sold a lot of copies on the basis of its cover. (This is what the editor told me -- she was not happy about it.) The cover, one of Faddis' acrylic paintings, was beautifully produced, protected by a plastic topsheet, first-class treatment all the way ... but the zine itself was a series of Mary Sue stories featuring Princess Leia. Not a bad zine, but it didn't live up to its cover. This is an example of form over content. The problem with form over content -- and we do have some of it in WOW, too --is that people will buy a zine that looks good and maybe pass on a more expensive zine, like Flotsam, that doesn't have the same surface flash. 
The first issue was titled The Princess Tapes: the Prologue. It was published in May 1981 and contains 46 pages. Art by Martynn, Wanda Lybarger, Dani , Snyder, Jenni, Cheree Cargill. Checks were to be sent to L.A. Carr at Jumeau Press.
Reactions and Reviews: Issue 1
This zine is a sampler of what is to come in 'The Princess Tapes.' I found the showcasing of this new work intriguing. It is done on the premise that the SW saga may be fact as the Princess Tapes are translated. There are two stories in this prologue. The first takes place just after the Death Star is destroyed and delves into into Luke and Leia's relationship. It is well-written but isn't any surprise for a SW story. The second story is more imaginative. It deals with the intrigue that the House of Organa is involved in before Star Wars with a very sheltered and young Princess Leia. Even with its cliffhanger ending, I found it really caught my interest. Included is the Organa family tree as well as some poetry. The artwork is good and all in all, I enjoyed the whole effort. This is meant to be a sampler and as such costs little. This doesn't mean that any of this will be repeated in the 'Princess Tapes,' so if you are going to get started, start with the Prologue. 
The editors of this zine have a laudable purpose: creating a detailed background for Princess Leia. It seems that, with this ‘prologue,’ a good start has been made; it remains to be seen whether future stories will continue credibly toward that goal. After the editorial, there is a rather unusual piece by ‘Kivarine,’ who claims to be an off-worlder who does research work for the Rigon High First Councilor. In her forays to the Nexus Information Service Library, Kivarine has stumble across tapes which carry the story of a certain planet’s royal family. The history recorded on these tapes bear an amazing resemblance to a certain popular SF/fantasy movie on a backwater planet called Earth… Okay. Next comes ‘Fragments,’ short poems by J.A. Slayton and art by Judith Low. The poems didn’t do much for me but then, what do I know about poetry? However, the art is excellent. This same compliment can be applied to the portraits of Leia’s family, which appear farther along in this zine. Ms. Low should illo more for other zines, because of what I’ve seen of her work so far is very competent indeed. ‘Trust Your Feelings’ by Low is a vignette that doesn’t see to have a purpose other than to introduce the projected Leia series. Luke talks with Leis, following the Death Star battle, and she tells him more about herself and her family. ‘Faces,’ again by Low, is an outstanding poem on Leia’s feelings about the important of the Alliance to her and the sacrifices to her Cause of those individuals she holds dear. The rhymes are unforced, it scans smoothly… in general, I would say that Judith seems much more at home as a poet than as a fiction writer. ‘The Hunt part one’ by J.A. Stayton is a pre-SW story which serves to launch the Leia series. Leia and her uncle, Senator Kyril Organa, run into political intrigue and physical danger at the Imperial capital. The situation is not resolved in this story, as I assume it will be continued in a future issue of ‘The Princess Tapes.’ On the whole, it’s a bit early yet to tell if this Leia-universe will rank with other well-known SW fan universe. I’m cautiously optimistic, though. My major recommendation to the editor is that they get an objective outsider to edit their stories for grammar glitches, minor characterization inconsistencies, and plotting flaws. These are not major problems in this zine, but they could be in longer, more complex stories. It should be interesting to see how future editions of ‘The Princess Tapes’ develop. 
The second issue was published in 1982 (another edition in 1984), printed by offset, stapled, and contains 134 pages. Art by J. A. Low, Rebecca Walker, Pat O'Neill, Wanda Lybarger, Cathye Faraci, Karen River, Teanna Byerts, Amy Falkowitz, Leah Rosenthal, Carrie Rowles, Signe Landon, Angela-Marie Varesano, Connie Faddis, and Gordon Carleton.Summary:
It contains 5 stories including 3 pre-SW tales from Leia's background, 3 articles, two poems, two art portfolios, our infamous 'unclassifieds', and much more. ....also features a color cover by Connie Faddis." The cover has been described as: ....Leia as 'The Other' ... Absolutely glorious composition and color. Leia wears a gown of white feathers and holds a yin/yang in one hand, a lightsaber in the other. At the foot of the drawing are a snarling panther writhing in the coils of a snake with a skull's head. A wise Yoda and the crescent of the Alliance are in the moodily verdant green background. 
- "In Search of a Princess" by R. M. Meluch 4 pages
- "The Outing" by J. A. Low 13 pages
- "Soliloquy" by Juleia 1 page
- "Family Album" by J. A. Low
- "The Hunt, Part Two" by J. A. Stayton and J. A. Low 7 pages
- "The Phoenix, the Tiger and the Dragon" by Mao An-lo
- "Triptych: Part One - The Audience" by J. A. Low 7 pages
- "A Tainted Memory" by Janice R. Stuart 7 pages
- "The Song of the Light Saber" by Juleia
- "Strong in the Broken Places" by J. A. Low 13 pages
- "Appendix to the Alliance Manual on Ground Force Operations" by Mark Walton
Reactions and Reviews: Issue 2
TPT differs from the average zine in this: Not only does it center around one particular character, that of Leis Organa, but also all the fiction is set in a single universe: one created by J.A. Low and first in TPT: The Prologue. It's a universe with an elaborate Alderaani background and a number of created characters. Most of them, naturally enough, boast the last name of Organa. This structure has its disadvantages. While Stuart and Low allow others to play inside their universe, few have taken them up on the invitation. Most fan writers, with the obvious exception ot those playing in long-established well-known fan universes, prefer to create their own universes within the saga. This limitation gives the zine a very insular feel, and unfortunately, impacts on its quality. Low's and Stuart's fiction, though it shows some promise, simply isn't good enough to carry a whole fanzine on its merits. Here my prejudice against an editor printing a great deal of her own work shows: Most writers just cannot give themselves the good, hard editing a story needs before it sees print. Unless a writer is willing to have several objective outside editors go over her work, I really don't believe she should print her own stories. I don't see any signs of such editing in Low's and Stuart's work. An example is Stuart's "The Tainted Memory", a Han/Leia story showing some of their early relationship. The story shows a lot of promise, and it has an interesting premise, but the plotting is awkward, as is the general flow of the piece. Much of the characterization strikes a false note... to me anyway. I suppose there are some very extreme circumstances under which Leia Organa might hold a blaster on Han Solo. But the whole story gives little hint why the, on the whole, understanding woman in the first movie starts pointing blasters and making threats. The art, by Wanda Lybarger, is the high point of this story. But then, the art is the big saving grace for the whole zine. Low's work is stronger with its motivation, but falls seriously short in pacing. The exposition in, for example, "Strong in Broken Places" is so heavy that it almost weighs it to the sinking point. Which is a shame, because the idea of exploring the effects of Leia's burdens- heavy indeed for such a young woman, is a good one. Indeed, almost all of Stuart's and Low's ideas are good, but the writing often prevents them from getting across to the reader. Almost all the stories are rich in telling rather than "showing", the sign of a beginning writer. And the whole zine is top heavy with back grounding and information about the characters. Unlike some, I have no prejudIce against created characters-they're sometimes just as interesting as the main SWars characters, but the writer has to get me interested first, then give me their backgrounds. If Low and Stuart put their information in the context of a fast-moving, interesting then most of my problems with TPT would be erased. As I said before, art is the saving grace of this zine and I would buy TPT again, if only to have my very own copy of the stunning Connie Faddis color cover at Leia as "the other". Only those who've actually seen this can understand how truly beautiful this piece of symbolic art work is... Also outstanding in the art department is the portfolio of various artists' ideas of who "the other" is, from varied brushes and pens of Wanda Lybarger, Cathye Faraci, Gordon Carleton, Leah Rosenthal, Karen River, and others. Plus, scattered through the zine, the art work of editor Low herself, which rates as far more than promising. She's an artist of considerable talent, and most all her pieces are charming, especially those of the Organa children. As is obvious, I do have reservations about the zine story-wise, but overall I think it is well worth having, if only for the outstanding artwork that Stuart and Low have collected. 
It seemed, in the early days of SW fandom, that anybody who admitted he or she was a Leia fan was regarded as a little weird. That scrawny little loud-mouth!!! But others, like me, watched her carefully and wondered about her. Judith Low was one of these people. She decided to do a zine on the Princess from Alderaan. The first thing you notice is the cover by Connie Faddis—a full color portrait of Leia as "The Other". (I've had the pleasure of seeing the original at MediaWest 3, and the displeasure of seeing that the #%<£& Post Awful damaged it in transit!) The portrait seems to be chock-full of symbolism, but I'm not expert on such things, so I prefer to take note of the fact that Connie correctly titled her masterpiece. The zine is also protected with a plastic binder—an added expense, perhaps, but well worth it. "In Search of a Princess" by Rebecca M. Meluch challenges the assumption that Leia is a sterotype. "Shifting through Western myth and legends, trying to match Leia to one of the archetypal heroines, one finds that Leia does not fit the molds." Portions of her character may be recognizable, but there has been no single heroine in literature or myth that can be labeled a solid prototype for our plucky princess. (Ms. Meluch, by the way, is a published author, a fan turned pro. Her three books, Soverign, Wind Dancers and Wind Child all come highly recommended by the editors.) "The Outing" by J. A. Low is rather long and drawn out. If this had been condensed by 30% or so it would have read much better. The plot is sound enough, however. A seven year-old Leia and her older uncle, Kyril, take a break from royal duties and go on an outing in the Alderaan wilderness. Their flitter, however, is struck by lightening, and they have to crash-land. Leia is unhurt, but Kyril is wounded and pinned in the wreckage. It is some time before they are rescued, and a very young Leia must contend with bad weather, wild animals and her uncle's worsening condition.
Next is a "Family Album" of the Organas by J. A. Low in her usual excellent form. "The Hunt: Part Two", by J. A. Low and J. A. Stayton, involves a kidnapping attempt on a young Leia. The events are rather involved, and you can't tell the players without a scorecard. ("Part One" appeared in The Princess Tapes: The Prologue. Judith should still have a few copies of it available.) "Triptych, Part One: The Audience" by J. A. Low, concerns an interview by the Emperor with the then Senator Tarkin. The Emperor and Tarkin make plans to do away with Senator Kyril. Why do I have the very bad feeling that they'll succeed? Consumers will be interested in the instructions on how to whip up Leia's dress from SW:ANH. Since I have no sewing skills and don't wear dresses, this article holds little interest for me, but the instructions seem clear and complete and I doubt that anybody who really wants to make the outfit won't be able to use them. But the best part of the zine is the portfolio of art that attempted to answer that burning question of years past—"Who is the Other???". Karen River, Wanda Lybarger, Teanna Byerts, Cathye Faraci, Amy Falkowitz, Leah Rosenthal, Carrie Rowles, Signe Landon, Rebecca Walker, Angela-Marie Varesano and Gordon Carleton all out-do themselves with their own answers to the question. If Judith ever gets a chance to do PT2, another portfolio is a requisite! "The Tainted Memory" by Janice R. Stuart stumbles at the starting gate. It's very hard for me to believe that Leia would pull a blaster on Han, at least in the circumstances given; and Han uttering such oaths as "Damn the Empire!" is also hard to swallow. With tighter writing and editing, this story might have worked. The single best story in PT is "Strong in the Broken Places" by J.A. Low. Have any of you wondered why Leia looked a bit gaunt in TESB? Perhaps the author wondered about this also. It seems that prior to TESB, Leia has been holing up in her room most of the time, eating very little and has been generally declining in health. Rieekan notices this and asks Luke, who has also noticed this, to check up on her and try to find out if anything is wrong. The story that results is an excellent probing of what makes Our Princess tick, as well as the Luke/Leia relationship (Han/Leia fans have nothing to object to here, I think).Story-wise, TPT is about average. The primary reason for this seems to be that most of the zine is the work of the editors. It's a bit hard to give one's own work the proper critical gaze. The art of TPT is another matter. The design, layout and art itself are all but flawless! Judith is an artist—a good one—and it is reflected in the quality and attention of the artwork. Everything else withstanding, this is the reason to buy The Princess Tapes. TPT debuted at MediaWest* two years ago. It did fairly well at the Con and I expected that it would sell out once Word of Mouth got out. But that never happened. Judith still has quite a few copies to sell before she's in the red. Why? Some characters, actors and themes are strong enough to attract the attention of the zine-buying public; a Ford fan will snap at a Ford-themed fanzine; a fan with Imperial loyalties would certainly buy an Imperial-type fanzine. There are so few Leia fans out there that they alone could not support a Leia-themed zine. Fortunately, the subject matter isn't the only reason to read the zine, even if that is your first impression. Also, you have to see the zine to appreciate how well it looks, and the appearance of a zine isn't something you can tell in an ad at the back of a letterzine. Final analysis: try it—youll like it!