The St. Crispin's Day Society

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Zine
Title: The St. Crispin's Day Society
Publisher: Ceiling Press, boojums Press
Editor(s): Paula Smith & Carol Lynn
Date(s): 1990-2004
Series?:
Medium: print
Size:
Genre:
Fandom: Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Language: English
External Links: St. Crispin's Day Society page on File 40 (both of these sites no longer exist, but some/all of the fiction is at Archive of Our Own -- see The St. Crispin's Day Society)
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

The St. Crispin's Day Society is a gen anthology with Man From U.N.C.L.E. fiction by C.W. Walker.

Story summaries can be found here.

A gallery of Lovett's art inside the zines can be found here/WebCite.

General Fan Comments

Someone mentioned that they'd found THE ST. CRISPIN'S DAY AFFAIR dry reading, whereas I think it's about the best UNCLE stuff out there -- it develops ther characters consistently with the show, while not glossing over the hardship of an agent's life, and it gives UNCLE a history it lacked in the show. [1]

Issue 1

cover of issue #1

The St. Crispin's Day Society 1 was published in May 1990. It contains 91 pages. The art is by Paulie.

Reactions and Reviews: Issue 1

I consider anthology zines 'safe,' as they contain works from various writers and artists. By law of averages, I figure something in there is bound to appeal to my taste. (That law of averages is not an absolute law, of course, as all zine readers periodically find out.) When I'm not previously familiar with the writer's work, a novel—like The Practical Cats Affair, by Jody A. Cummings-or a collection of short and interrelated stories by one writer—as in the case of The St. Crispin's Day Society, by C.W. Walker—are more risky to purchase. Sometimes I make such a purchase, 'meet' a writer for the first time, and find a delight, That leads us to The St. Crispin's Day Society. The title comes from the Bard (Henry V, Act IV, Scene III): "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers / For today that sheds his blood with me / Shall be my brother... / ...that fought with us upon St. Crispin's day"—and brings a deeper level of complexity to the ties that bind the UNCLE front-line agents in Ms. Walker's series. Something that lets you hear ages-old echoes of warrior codes and blood-oaths, of honor and loyalty among brothers and sisters in arms, united in cause, however diverse they might be otherwise. Actually, it's a retroactive echo, as the writer brings the concept to the reader's attention with the last story in the zine, although that these field agents are a different breed than even the other agents of UNCLE, let alone the "man on the street," is pointed out in some of the earlier stories.

Which brings me to a word of warning: this isn't fluff. Even in the Might' stories, there's a hard edge and underlying pathos. Although civil, these UNCLE agents aren't sweet or particularly kind, except to the innocents in need, or, more rarely, to people who strike a sympathetic chord in them. And they aren't comedians. If you love the campy, spoofy aspects of MUHCLE, have a soft spot in your heart for the clownish side of 'our' agents, you're not going to find them in Ms. Walker's universe.

The zine starts off with the story, "The Best Man," and a premise that would've been at best silly, at worst distasteful, had it been handled by a lesser writer. Some pompous ass of a fellow agent challenges Napoleon to a marathon of sexual prowess, and the latter accepts, all of which is told from lllya's point of view. I wrinkled my nose, sighed, and read on. By the end of the story, I had my hat tipped to the writer. Just pulling this idea off would've been enough of a feat in itself, but Ms. walker further uses the ridiculous competition to excellent effect to give us a peek into Solo's psyche, and to comment on it through lllya's voice: "'My friend is like a hurricane turned inside out, an intense, furious eye surrounded by a deceptively self-possessed calm;' 'He has so much hunger, so many needs;' 'He didn't just thrive on risk. He seemed to require it...sad, really, when you think about it."' My compliments. As a rule I don't care for first person voices, especially in the case of characters that are aloof" and somewhat mysterious—it simply gives too much away of a character who really should not become an 'open book.' But lllya's voice felt so right, with just the right amount of reserve, that I could only sit back and admire the writer's handling of it. The 'voice' also gave tantalizing hints of lllya's past, which leaves me impatient for clarification. What about Masha and her father? Enquiring minds want to know. There is an ongoing theme in this universe of a friendly, comfortable and periodic intimate relationship between Solo and April Dancer, as can be read in "The Mother Muffin Affair - Part 2," and "Telling Secrets." Out of a purely personal preference (let me be honest and call it prejudice), these stories are not my favorites, but they're well written, in character, and they show aspects of Solo that can't be seen through lllya's eyes (at least not in this universe), but need the point of view of another fellow agent and good friend who also happens to be female. And, of course, we get a closer look at an UNCLE agent other than Solo or Kuryakin. As such, they work very well.

"Seat Partner" is a story about lllya on a mission by himself, and "The San Cristoval Affair" is mostly about Napoleon, although lllya is physically present. Both follow the 'tradition' of the aired series by catching up and involving innocent bystanders in the "affairs." In the series, however, sometimes how and why those people got involved was silly or contrived, and a lot of the time could be blamed on Solo's glands (i.e. in "The An Apple a Day Affair:" "She can read the map," Solo says. "I can read the map," lllya rightly objects—the little ditzy blonde-of-the-week ends up in the car anyway). The set-ups in these stories are immeasurably more intelligent than that. One of the hardest things in fanfic is to make the newly-introduced characters three dimensional and likable, but not so intrusive as to slide into the Mary-Sue Syndrome. Another tip of the hat to the writer.

"The Eye of the Beholder" is my second favorite story in this line, it is told from the point of view of two administrative agents of UNCLE who have an up close encounter with a few of their own field agents. Their expectations come up squarely against the facts of life, and it becomes clear that some truths are better left unknown, even to other fellow agents who don't have to live with the harsh realities of field work day in and day out. Good point.

Last but not least, my favorite story, the longest in the zine: "The Long St. Crispin's Day." I don't know why this wasn't titled what it seems to cry out for: "Razor's Edge"—if it was in order not to give away one of the major points the story punctuates, my apologies to the writer and the editors for putting my foot in my mouth. It is two stories in one: the story that tells of the establishment of the foundations of uncle, interspersed with the story of a psychiatrist looking for cracks in the foundations of our two UNCLE agents in the aftermath of I harrowing mission. To be frank, on first reading, the way one story kept interrupting the other frustrated me. On consecutive readings, I found myself reading each story by itself (made easier by the differences in typeset). However, if the stories had failed to captivate me thoroughly, I wouldn't have been so irritated at their intruding on each other, and they really should be read as intended by the writer; there's a point to it. In the portion that tells of UNCLE's beginnings, I was impressed with the brief, concise glimpses we got into the "baker's dozen of misfits" that Haverly hoped to form into one effective, functional unit, and was fascinated by how it came to, essentially, an act of faith, and the need to establish a tangible symbol for that faith. In the 'present-day' portion of the story—oh, what a thankless job the hapless psychiatrist has, finding out if these two agents are still sane enough to do their jobs ("Compared to whom?" she wails), when some amount of insanity it a prerequisite for it. A satisfying read, and in the final analysis (pun intended), an excellent point.

Overall, a good narrative style, and I don't know if Ms. Walker travels extensively or if she does good research, but the sense of locations and atmosphere are admirably handled. (Once I read a story in which Solo and Kuryakin landed in Istanbul airport, travelled along an avenue lined with palm trees, and in fifteen minutes were in a villa on the Bosporus. That is not the Istanbul I grew up in. On a miraculously good day for traffic, it'll take you an hour and a half to get anywhere on the Bosporus from the airport, and for a city with palm trees in Turkey, you have to go to Izmir or Antalya.)

It'd be wrong to say The St. Crispin's Day Society establishes a universe, but it builds a refreshing, intriguing framework around the already established MUNCLE universe. And I for one am eager to read more of Ms. Walker's work. (Speaking of which, there's an excellent story by her and Nan Mack, "The City of Lies," in 11&2, issue five.)... which brings me to a word of warning: this isn't fluff. Even in the 'light' stories, there's a hard edge and underlying pathos. Although civil, these UNCLE agents aren't sweet or particularly kind, except to the innocents in need, or, more rarely, to people who strike a sympathetic chord in them. And they aren't comedians. If you love the campy, spoofy aspects of UNCLE, have a soft spot in your heart for the clownish side of 'our' agents, you're not going to find them in Ms. Walker's universe. mall quibbles, if I may, purely on the production side of the issue. Repros of photos are all right, and graphics are fine, but I'd have dearly loved to have some illos besides the cover. Also, I wonder if some effort could be made to print with the larger margin on the right side of the left-hand pages. As it is, you almost have to pull the zine apart to be able to read to the end of the lines on the even-numbered pages. There's also a 'hiccup' on a page in my copy, but for new buyers, I've been assured it has been corrected in the second printing. [2]

Issue 2

cover of issue #2, KOZ

The St. Crispin's Day Society 2 contains 119 pages. It was published in May 1991. The interior art by Marty Siegrist, Suzan Lovett, Connie Faddis, and KOZ.

Reactions and Reviews: Issue 2

[The Devil's Attic Affair]: This is a fast-paced, well-plotted gen story set in the early days of U.N.C.L.E. Napoleon and Illya form part of a crack team whose mission is to infiltrate a seemingly impregnable THRUSH stronghold and retrieve an agent who has been in deep cover for several years. But things are not quite as they appear... The story takes place in the French Pyrenees - in a France which has not forgotten the memories and scars of the Second World War - and the action never wavers. One of the strengths of C.W. Walker's writing is the way she evokes a sense of place - you'll feel as if you are really there while you are reading. There is also superb dialogue, a host of well-drawn original characters and a great Napoleon and Illya. [3]

Issue 3

The St. Crispin's Day Society 3 was published in May 1994 and contains 112 pages. It is a single novel called "The Sleeping Beauty Affair." The cover is by Suzan Lovett who won a 1995 FanQ as did the author, C.W. Walker, and the editor, Paula Smith.

flyer
cover of issue #3, Suzan Lovett
A summary from a flyer:
It is February, 1987. Thrush is making another comeback. One of their scientists has developed an ingenious narcotic which binds with the molecules of caffeine to subdue unsuspecting populations and take over the world at last. Solo and Kuryakin are called back into service. Kuryakin has been living with an artist in Brussels and working as a freelance spy. Solo, long retired from espionage, is a self-employed businessman with a college-age daughter named Allyson. The girl, who knows nothing of her father's previous life, is caught up in the desperate search for the drug, a pursuit which runs through London, Atlanta and the hallowed halls of the Ivy league. The affair ends in the coffee-growing regions of Central America, where Allyson learns about the "family business," Illya gets some unexpected exercise, and Napoleon is forced to confront his past.
From Del Floria's Interview with St. Crispin (2011):
[In the mid-1980s], I’d started another MFU novel and was talking to an actual New York agent who encouraged me to write it. I was unhappy with the Return movie and was inspired to come up with a different scenario. My father had just had a heart attack and although he recovered, I began to think generationally about MFU. Surely, there’d been other people, other relationships, in Solo and Kuryakin’s lives [and honestly, the slash scenario never occurred to me.] What happened to the agents after they left U.N.C.L.E.? The literary agent tried to shop the novel but there was no interest, and looking back, I’m not surprised. It was my first adult-written work and though I’d been a professional journalist for some 15 years, I had no idea how to write fiction. That novel, which was revised three times and eventually became The Sleeping Beauty Affair, was a learning experience. It also eventually became the foundation for the entire St. Crispin’s Day Society series and won a Fan Q in 1995. But that was in the future. At that point, I only shared it with Nan and she told me about zines.

Reactions and Reviews: Issue 3

[This zine] began as Walker's attempt to sell a Man From U.N.C.L.E. "reunion" script, intended for the original stars. Even after she began publishing fanzine stories, Walker held this story back. Finally, after a decade of, as she put it, "chasing a dream," (author's note) she turned it into a fanzine novel more than five years ago....The fanzine novel was revised several times. Set in 1987, the story has Napoleon Solo — again — being recruited to help out U.N.C.L.E. and once again needing Illya Kuryakin's assistance. Except this time, Solo has a daughter in tow, a kind of stand-in for women U.N.C.L.E. fens who, when children, wanted to be agents, not innocents.

Like James Bond, the wife of Walker's Solo was killed by an enemy. But, unlike Bond (where the subject comes up sporadically), Solo is still brooding about this years after the fact. Solo still enjoys female companionship (he and Maude Waverly have a more-than-casual relationship) but he's still quite scarred emotionally from the death of his wife. Those events continue to haunt Solo no matter how he tries to move on. Eventually, Solo and Kuryakin are again drawn to foil another Thrush plot. But there's a strong emotional underpinning to the story supplied by Allyson, Solo's daughter. The reader has a dual feeling of dread and anticipation concerning whether she will find out about her father's past. This leads to a big payoff at the end o f the story where Allyson informs Solo about what she's learned....

[Comparisons between this zine and "Zero Minus Ten" by Raymond Benson (pro novel, 1997)]:

SIMILARITIES: Both stories use contests to propel the plot. Sleeping Beauty sends Kuryakin to play chess with an elderly Thrush official in a bid to secure vital information. Ifthe Russian wins, the information is his. If not, Kuryakin likely won't draw anything from his U.N.C.L.E. pension. In ZMT, Bond plays Thackeray in a high-stakes game of Mahjong as a way of sizing up his adversary. Thackerary cheats, of course, a trait that Bond is quite disdainful. I tend to prefer the Sleep Beauty sequence better. The game builds tension gradually andeffectively. I found ZMT's Mahjong game a bit hard to follow. The book even comes with illustrations to help the readerbut I still had to re-read passages to keep things straight. Also, both stories utilize torture sequences at critical junctures. Solo is exposed to a Thrush chemical that affects the mind. Bond gets caned in a passage intended to remind long-time 007 readers of the torture sequence in Fleming's debutnovel, Casino Royale.

DIFFERENCES: Sleeping Beauty has a more sophisticated useof sexthan ZMT. For the latter, one can't really call them "love scenes" but sex scenes. "They continued to make love for what seemed like hours" is about as subtle as Benson gets. By contrast, Solo and Maude Waverly seem to have quite an adult relationship without awkward passages.

Overall, these two stories are more alike than not, the main differences coming down to the skill of the writer and the working conditions. Sleeping Beauty is generally smoother but, then again, ZMT had specific publishing deadlines (the book came outinthe spring of 1997 in advance of the Hong Kong handover) and Sleeping Beauty was years in the making. Also, because Sleeping Beauty is a fen story, its author had more freedom to make alterations. Both novels have their admirers. Nevertheless, looking at both suggests that authorized pro publishing does not have a monopoly on a well-told tale. [4]

Issue 4

cover of issue #4

The St. Crispin's Day Society 4 was published in May 1997 and contains 112 pages. It contains stories reprinted from out-of-print gen anthology U.N.C.L.E. zines. It is a 1998 Fan Quality Award winner. The interior art is by Suzan Lovett.

Issue 5

cover of issue #5

The St. Crispin's Day Society 5 was published in May 2004 and contains 154 pages. It has the subtitle "Intercourse." The interior art is by Suzan Lovett.

Reactions and Reviews: Issue 5

See reactions and reviews for Two Spies Sittin' on a Boat, Talkin' About Sex.
[Unfaithful]: Napoleon has a reputation for being a red-hot lover, a total flirt, and a sexual dynamo, who deeply appreciates women and romances his many dates without simply using them. How could this have come about? How does a man receive a sexual higher education? How does he govern himself in body, and in the soul he has given to U.N.C.L.E.? And what happens when the two combine? Napoleon and his history are very much in character, and it's a deep, rich character indeed, with conflicts resonating in it, pulling him two ways. Although April is an active participant in the story, the focus is on Napoleon and beautifully satisfies curiosity about how Napoleon became the person he is. [5]

References

  1. comments on Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (October 28, 1992)
  2. from Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine? #1. The reviewer gives it "4 trees." The reviewers in "Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine?" rated zines on a 1-5 tree/star scale.
  3. a 2005 comment at Crack Van
  4. from Z.I.N.E.S. v.2 n.1 (January 2000)
  5. a 2004 comment at Crack Van