The Witch and the Chameleon

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Title: The Witch and the Chameleon
Publisher: Amanda Bankier, Hamilton, Ontario
Date(s): 1974-1976
Medium: print
Fandom: science fiction
Language: English
External Links:
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from issue #5/6, an ad for the zine series (address redacted)

The Witch and the Chameleon was a science fiction fanzine published by Amanda Bankier.

It is generally recognized as the first explicitly feminist fanzine and was planned to be four-six issues a year.

There were five issues, the last one a double issue, published between August 1974 and Summer 1976.

While putting together the zine, Bankier placed an advert in the Worldcon Progress Report. One of the first respondents was American SF author Vonda N. McIntyre, who became one of the zine's regular and influential contributors, helping to set the tone for the zine.[1]

Because of her role in publishing this zine, Amanda Bankier was invited to be Fan Guest of Honor at WisCon in 1977. Her speech was here but is now offline and sadly not archived in any way: Amanda Bankier's Guest of Honor speech at WisCon 1, 1977.

Some Contributors

Articles and fiction: Vonda McIntyre, Jennifer Bankier, Marlene Barr, Karen Feinberg, Catherine Madsen, Suzy McKee Charnas, Gayle Netzer, Joanna Russ, Raccoona Sheldon, and Kate Wilhelm.

Poetry: Eleanor Amason, Amanda Bankier, Maria Jaoudi, Beth Jankola, Jennifer Malik, Raccoona Sheldon, and others.

Art work is mostly not traditional illos, but small "doodles," a description used by Amanda Bankier: Amanda Bankier, Margrit Eichler, Jeanne Gomoll, Catherine Madsen, Barry Kent McKay, Elizabeth Mordue, Tom Robe, Raccoona Sheldon, Linda Steele, and Bruce Townley, Michael Bankier, and others.

Letters: Avedon Carol, Cy Chauvin, Don D'Ammassa, Kris Fawcett, Rhoda Katerinsky, Andre Norton, Lee Overstreet, Raccoona Sheldon, Lisa Tuttle, Kate Wilhelm, Joanna Russ, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and others.

Letters by Raccoona Sheldon

Raccoona Sheldon contributed illos, poetry, and letters to this zine. In 1977, a year after this zine series ceased, it was discovered that Sheldon and James Tiptree, Jr. were the same person. Sheldon had been using the name Tiptree since 1967.

Sheldon writes in an issue of "The Witch and the Chameleon" about female writers using male names but does not reveal that they had been doing just that.

The details of Sheldon's later passing, as well as information about Sheldon's ongoing struggles with depression, lend a special poignance to one of Sheldon's letters which describes a one member of a loving couple facing the death. See issue #5/6.

Letterwar Between Joanna Russ and Marion Zimmer Bradley

This zine series is the origin of the "Darkover Landfall-feminism" letterwar between Joanna Russ and Marion Zimmer Bradley and contains some of their correspondence. Other correspondence and rebuttals were created in the form of letters, essays, and a pro fiction book, and they appeared in other venues.

The review that sparked the letterwar and related fan and pro works was the essay Darkover Landfall reviewed by Vonda N. McIntyre.


Issue 1

The Witch and the Chameleon 1 was published in August 1974 and contains 18 pages.

The covers are by Amanda Bankier. The interior illos are not credited, by likely by Bankier.

This issue was "printed at the Toronto Women's Press. The Toronto Women's Place is the owner or harborer of the Gestetner." [2]

front cover of issue #1, Amanda Bankier
back cover of issue #1, Amanda Bankier

From the editorial:

There seem to be a lot of changes in the science fictional air these days, now that women are around. The male club atmosphere of fandom kept me well out of it from the age of eight to eighteen, though I was reading SF avidly. When I finally made some contact, the local convention in Toronto in 1970 (called Fan Fair II) was fun, but did little to change my opinion. The only person in sight who seemed even to have heard of the women's movement, much less approved of it was Isaac Asimov, and however promising his intellectual attitude might be he remained firmly wedded to his pose as a dirty old man.

By the time Torcon II came along things were beginning to improve. A lot more women were there on their own initiative. Joanna Russ' short story "When It Changed" had just won a Nebula award and was up for a Hugo. (To show that not all is yet well, it came fifth in a field of five.) A few remark in the Ursula Le Guin discussion group led someone, to arrange an unscheduled discussion on women in science fiction. I missed it, unfortunately, but heard it was lively. And so on.

It does seem that the participation of women in SF as writers and as fans has risen to the point of being a major influence. I feel very strongly that science fiction has tremendous potential for treating women fairly and honestly, and should be in the vanguard of literature in this respect rather than at the rear as it was for so long. I hope we will soon see a number of forums for women who care about SF and want to work on it, and where feminism will not be treated as a humorous aberration as it has been in so much fiction and so many fanzines.

In The Witch and the Chameleon, I hope to have all kinds of material except one: that which insults or trivializes women.


  • Editorial (2)
  • Women in the Fiction of Andre Norton, article, author is not credited but likely by Amanda Bankier (3)
  • Dream Walker, fiction by Maria Smee (6)
  • Conventional Thoughts, a short humorous vignette about costuming at the upcoming Discon, author is not credited by likely Amanda Bankier ("Discon is fast approaching, and yet again I've been struck by unspeakable yearnings. Oh, for tentacles and antennae! Ah for strings of eye-balls, and a severed head! Perhaps this year, at last, I too shall go to the costume show, in costume.") (14)
  • Definitive Work, a short vignette, but not titled as such on the vignette itself (14)
  • Reviews (these books are roughly $1.25 (US)!) (15)
    • Walk the End of the World (Suzy McKee Charnas), review by Amanda Bankier ("This novel is depressing and powerful. I recommend it highly.")
    • Star Ride (Doris Piserchia), review by Amanda Bankier ("This is a nice wildy wooly space opera...")
    • The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia (Ursula K. LeGuin), review by Amanda Bankier ("The Dispossessed is not a simple book, being both profound and highly structured, but it fits into the mind with a kind of inevitability. It reads like history and like truth (keeping in mind that both are full of uncertainty and contradiction.")
  • The Last Word (The editor said the next issue will be longer and more varied and apologizes for the request of international money orders.) (18)

Issue 2

The Witch and the Chameleon 2 was published in November 1974 and contains 19 pages. Unlike the first issue, this one is very sparsely illustrated; there is one small piece by Amanda Bankier, and one that is uncredited but likely Elizabeth Mordue.

front cover of issue #2, Elizabeth Mordue
back cover of issue #2, Elizabeth Mordue

This issue was printed at the "Permanent Press" in Hamilton, Ontario (proprietors: Anne Lickers and Lyn Tomlinson). "Thanks to Vonda McIntyre for help and encouragement, and to Jennifer Bankier for a number of things, but especially for TYPING."

The second issue contains a very critical review by Vonda McIntyre of Marion Zimmer Bradley's book "Darkover Landfall." This review generated many letters by readers, including a later rebuttal by Bradley herself. One of the responses to this review was by Joanna Russ who, 1976, wrote a response fic to "Darkover Landfall" called "We Who Are About To..." There are many other responses to this letter by Bradley in some issues of Darkover Newsletter, specifically #7. For much more about this review and the resulting discussion, see Darkover Landfall reviewed by Vonda N. McIntyre.

first clipping printed and discussed in the editorial: letter to the editor of Time Magazine by Arthur C. Clarke, September 23, 1974: "Sympathetic Vibrations: Your review of Carrying the Fire by Mike Collins refers to his vision of a spacecraft with a crew of women with bobbing breasts. I have beaten Astronaut-Author Collins to the NASA SUTRA. The opening of chapter 11 of my Rendezvous with Rama reads "Some women, Commander Norton had decided long ago, should not he allowed aboard ship; weightlessness did things lo their breasts that were too damn distracting. It was bad enough when they were motionless: but when they started to move, and sympathetic vibrations set in. It was more than any warm-blooded male should be asked in take. He was quite sure that at least one serious space accident had been caused by acute crew distraction, after the transit of an unholstered lady officer through the control cabin." - Arthur C Clarke, Colombo, Sri Lanka"
second clipping printed and discussed in the editorial: letter to the editor of Time Magazine by a fan named Sharon Smith, October 7, 1974: "Inevitable Sexism: To my amazement, I found myself agreeing with Mike Collins and Arthur C. Clarke [Sept. 23]. Male astronauts certainly would be distracted by the sight of female astronauts' breasts bobbing weightlessly. The spacemen would not be able to perform their duties. If is not a case of cruel discrimination; it is simply a biological fact. As a woman, I have had to come to a very painful but inevitable decision. After all, the effectiveness of the space program must come first. We must exclude men from the astronaut program. We'll miss them. - Sharon Smith, Hartland, Maine"


  • Editorial by Amanda Bankier (Discusses casual sexism, includes a clipping of two letters published in Time Magazine from September 23 and October 7, 1974. The first is a letter to the editor by Arthur C. Clarke. The other is a reply by a woman named Sharon Smith in Hartland, Maine.) (2)
  • Letters by Andre Norton, Kris Fawcett (4)
  • "A Farewell," fiction from "The Clouds Return" by Vonda N. McIntyre (6)
  • Women in SF: Image and Reality" - A Criticism, essay by Jennifer Bankier (criticism of a panel discussion called "Women in SF: Image and Reality" at the 1974 Worldcon (One of that disputed panelists was Katherine Kurtz who "dominated the panel" with her view that the writers of science fiction weren't expressing their discrimination against women in their works, but were rather simply poor writers. Kate Wilhelm wrote a response to this article in issue #3.) (10)
  • Further Conventional Thoughts, essay by Amanda Bankier (14)
  • "The Fork in the Road," fiction by Elizabeth Mordue (15)
  • Reviews of Pro Books
    • "The Jargoon Pard by Andre Norton, reviewed by Jennifer Bankier ("'The Jargoon Pard' is not on par with the best of Ms. Norton's recent books, such as "The Crystal Grypon" [sic]. IT is still, however, a pleasure to read, and a welcome relief from the desert of badly written, boring or sexist science fition and fantasy stories with which we have lately been afflicted.") (16)
    • House of Zeor by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, review by Amanda Bankier (Mentions Lichtenberg's "apparent aversion to homosexuality," the use of too many exclamation points, the irritating use of "girl" to describe grown women, but overall, "although parts of the novel are awkward, there is plenty of interest and considerable promise. I look forward to seeing more of Lichtenberg's work.") (17)
    • Darkover Landfall reviewed by Vonda N. McIntyre, book was by Marion Zimmer Bradley ("If 'Darkover Landfall' were not such a nearly brilliant book it would not need reviewing. If it were potboiler, a churned-out piece of trash, as so much sf is, it could be ignored and forgotten. But it is a book written with emotion and conviction, and it is a book with passages of stunning beauty and effect which testify to teh ability of the author. Yet the same author destroyed her own book. She has not written the novel that could have been, but a polemic. In an attempt to prove, justify, and strengthen a particular point of vice, she perpetuates some of the cruelest and most crippling myths our society holds in shaky sacredness today.") (19)

From "Further Conventional Thoughts by Amanda Bankier:

After the panel discussed above, about 12 people from the audience who were unhappy about the one-sidedness of the panel held an impromptu meeting in one of the lounges. This was much more interesting* and both stereotypes in sf and general feminist topics were discussed.

I was impressed by the hard work put in by the convention committee, and also by guests and members of the various panels to make an enjoyable convention despite the endless problems caused by a rather unsuitable hotel, and the sheer unwieldy quantity of people. I enjoyed walking around In a detached role observing the tides of people and the breakdowns as well as the successes of the programme. (This role strikes me as the best way to approach such an over-sized gathering. It also enables you to have interesting conversations with all the interesting people who, not being famous or in the company of twenty-odd friends, have time to meet new people.)

A depressing thing was the usual overload of sex-object-type costumes on women in the costume show, There were at least two "rich" spoiled heiresses as captives in Gor, very little clad and in chains, which I didn't find entirely offset by the rather funny skit called "Buckets of Gore". In addition there was an extremely vicious and sadistic presentation by two people in "Planet of the Apes-type ape costumes.

After the costume show they attempted to show the film of Harlan Ellison's "A Boy and His Dog" for the second time, I understand that they succeeded, but I didn't stay to find out since I could not stand to watch women being raped and killed (not to mention the miscellaneous violence that the male rovers committed on each other) in the company of so many people who did not seem to find it in the least horrifying. I suppose one could claim that all the people had read the story and were more interested in seeing how well it had been translated into a film, but I think there was more to it.

I can't help recalling the night before when the first attempt to show it was being ruined by two malfunctioning projectors. During the attempts to repair them, Ellison was talking to the crowd about the background of the film, and he said that he had gone to some trouble and expense to have a number of gratuitously anti-woman remarks made by "the good guy" (the dog, needless to say) removed. This information was met with a general reaction of incomprehension, as if most of the audience couldn't see why he cared. If this is the reaction of an sf audience, I wonder what will happen with general critics? Will they see the story as another celebration of violence, a la Peokinpah? Or is there somebody left who can see the anger at human stupidity?

Issue 3

The Witch and the Chameleon 3 was published in April 1975 and contains 42 pages. It is the largest issue.

This issue was printed at the Toronto Women's Press. "Thanks to the Dundas Public Library for the use of their mimeograph. No thanks to Gestetner Company for selling the Dundas Public Library a defective machine."

front cover of issue #3, Amanda Bankier

Interior illos are by Lisa Vaugeois, Judy Gaffney, and Amanda Bankier.

back cover of issue #3, Michael Bankier


  • "Socialism and The Dispossessed, or A Study in Selective Perception," article by Jennifer Bankier (4)
  • Jacqua, fiction by Sally Gearhart (9)
  • About 2,675,250 Words," essay by Vonda N. McIntyre (A analysis of a year's worth of short fiction as an example of how long it was taking for most male writers of science fiction magazines to change their attitudes regarding gender issues, specifically women.) (13)
  • "Women Writers," a 4-page letter by Kate Wilhelm (She backed up Jennifer Bankier's statements in the article in the previous issue regarding the Worldcon panel discussion. Wilhelm wrote about about the obstacles women faced in the science fiction field. Wilhelm's letter was the first she'd ever written a letter of comment/essay to a fanzine.) (21)
  • other letters by Damon Knight, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (see some of her comments at "Women in SF: Image and Reality": A Criticism), Raccoona Sheldon, Joanna Russ, Avedon Carol, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Marion Zimmer Bradley (see some of her comments at Darkover Landfall reviewed by Vonda N. McIntyre, as well as at The Witch and the Chameleon "Darkover Landfall" Letter by Marion Zimmer Bradley (April 1975)), and Hal Davis (25)
  • "Haven't We All Seen This Before?," examples of SF cliche tropes about women by Joanna Russ ("The Weird-Ways-of-Getting-Pregnant Story," "The Talking-About-It Story," "The Nobel Lecture Story," "The Turnabout Story, or I always knew what they wanted to do to me because I've been doing it to them for years, especially in the movies" (This was apparently reprinted as "The Cliches from Outer Space" in "Women's Studies International Forum, 7:2, 1984) (32)
  • Reviews of some pro books
    • "The Liberated Future" (Robert Hoskins) reviewed by Jennifer Bankier (37)
    • "The Female Man" (Joanna Russ) reviewed by Amanda Bankier (38)
  • Related? Topics (small bits of satire and info)
  • Hard Core Photography, article (40)

Excerpts from the letters:

[from Raccoona Sheldon:

Jennifer's account of why the panel at DISCON II wasn't too good [at explaining] some reactions I've gathered. That I've made it why can't you syndrome is a meanie, isn't it? Seems to me if the history of women teaches us one single thing it is that we MUST stick together. Regardless of minor differences in doctrine and philosophy, we are in the same boat and any woman who doesn't understand that is, well, blind. There were empresses who had it made, personally, even in the Ottoman empire. But the woman who makes it personally and alone is impoverished by the plight of her sisters, and has in effect accepted an insane reality.

'Scuse me while I cool off.

Jennifer mentions that she's not aware of sex discrimination in SF. I don't know too much about it, but I have a faint suspicion borne out by a smidgin of proof that mss. with a female name on them are read differently. Sometimes discriminated against — sometimes, disconcertingly, for. Depending on editor's views of what women are like and what they should or shouldn't say, or what is titillating. A woman writer fits easily into the pathos of it all slot -- like Zenna Henderson's good but overly tearful tales of The People. Or a woman "talking dirty" will be favored by some editors...These are hunches, wish I knew more.

There's another subtler form of discrimination —— even established women writers like Le Guin will be criticised for not writing the story as someone would have her write it... on a subtlety different basis than a male writer would be. Men monitor women in a curious way. Women may do that to other women, too. I dunno. But somewhere in there is a faint feeling that a roaring adventure story by a women isn't quite as, well, interesting as if it was by a man. There's a felt absence of some wildness, some threat. (What does she know?) The worst of it is that I have caught myself feeling this!

"It's all made up, there's nothing behind it... We have a long way to go.

[from Joanna Russ ]:

The assumptions of [Andre Norton's] audience seem to be (and her knowledge of library sales and—I'd assume—teenage readership Is absolutely a professional's) that it's bad enough having strong, self-assertive, active, independent heroines in a book: but if such a woman had friends — and they are women — she must be a Lesbian.

This taboo doesn't really operate against homosexuality. It's really directed against friendship between women. The result of obeying this kind of taboo In literature is that any woman who steps outside the confines of conventional femininity is immediately absolutely isolated. She is the only woman in a world of men (this is certainly often literally true in work situations) and she does not even have the sexual scarcity value she'd have if she were literally the only woman in the world; there are other woman — but what is "the other woman"? Only a rival, never a friend. To escape the emotionally weighted charge Andre Norton speaks of, a woman must have only male friends, must converse only with men, and so on.


In fact, the taboo makes sure not that homosexuality will be absent from fiction, but that solidarity will never be shown. The message readers receive is that there is no solidarity or friendship between women, that all of women's affection, loyalty, interest, concern, compassion, etc. is given to — Who? To men, of course.

Somebody is afraid we will get together and — perhaps? — start actually talking to each other.


The taboo Ms. Morton speaks of has the answer. Since women's' lives are sexual only, women who seek each other out must be doing so for sexual reasons. This is a beautiful explanation; it simultaneously stigmatizes female solidarity, trivializes it, and dismisses it.

[from Jacqueline Lichtenberg ]:

How marvelous to get your review of Zeor. I thank you very much. I will try next time to develop some of the areas you mention.

By the way, I flatly disagree with Vonda's review of Darkover Landfall. I know something of what went into that book, and polemics was not one of the ingredients. For every anti-femlnist statement there is a pro-feminist statement elsewhere to balance it and the emphasis is on the TEARING IRONY of technological Woman thrown back to the status of breed cow. In the series later, keepers's pose another kind of problem. The series must he taken as a whole and viewed as asking questions not stating an opinion.

[from Chelsea Quinn Yarbro]:

I write In response to Jennifer Bankier's evaluation of the 'Women in SF" panel at the last Worldcon. Now, while I share her lively desire to throttle Katherine Kurtz, as a (you should pardon the expression) fellow panelist of hers, I'd like to bring up a few things. One: Sue Wood, the moderator, talked over the whole question with those of us on the panel, and we agreed with Sue that if possible we should avoid turning the thing into a shouting match. So those of us with rather more feminist views agreed to tone it down. Unfortunately, Katherine chose to be vocal on the other side. And the majority of the audience tended to support her. Which I think is sad.

After the panel, one of my friends cemented that It was one of the few times he had heard me speak In a restrained manner on the subject, and I know that Sue felt she had held back a great deal, too. Now, it was not the con committee who told us to avoid a shouting match, and it was not pressure from other groups. Sue felt, and Leigh, Betty and I agreed (apparently Katharine did, too, but her views, as you know, weren't quite the same as ours), that if we wanted to get some points across, we'd have to keep the tone restrained, and for the most part, this worked. I think we reached more people than we would have if we were presenting a more radical front.

Issue 4

The Witch and the Chameleon 4 was published in September 1975 and it contains 32 pages.

front cover of issue #4, Liz Mordue
inside front cover of issue #4, Liz Mordue
back cover of issue #4, Michael Blankeir

There are six doodles, one by Barry Kent McKay, the rest by Amanda Bankier. The editor writes: "If there is any out there doodling, will they please send in their doodles? I need more artwork badly!"

The place of printing for issue #4 is not mentioned, but the scientific Factsheet that is reprinted in this issue is stamped "DUNDAS PUBLIC LIBRARY," so it is likely the editor (and hopefully helper/s) were at the Dundas Public Library using that previously-mentioned crummy Gestetner there!


Issue 5/6

The Witch and the Chameleon 5/6 was published in Summer 1976 and contains 32 pages.

front cover of issue #5/6, Jeane Gomoll
back cover of issue #5/6, photo of cat behind a chain link fence by Amanda Bankier
  • Hey, Lilith!, short story by Gayle Netzer (1)
  • Poem (untitled), poem by Eleanor Arnason(2)
  • Becoming, short story by Karen Feinberg (3)
  • Dreams, poem by Maria Jaoudi (8)
  • Conditions of Terror, poem by Jennifer Malik (8)
  • A Letter to Marion Zimmer Bradley, essay by Joanna Russ (9)
  • artwork by Linda Moorcock (as Linda Steele) (10)
  • Coda to Joanna, poem by Amanda Bankier (13)
  • A Very Bad Good Idea, essay by James Tiptree, Jr. (as Raccoona Sheldon) (14)
  • Chameleon,poem by Beth Jankola(14)
  •  Letter, essay by Avedon Carol (15)
  •  Letter, essay by Cy Chauvin (15)
  • Commodore Bork and the Compost (A Homily), short story by Catherine Madsen (16)
  • artwork by Catherine Madsen (19)
  • Idols and Manipulators: Some Women Characters in SF, essay by Marleen S. Barr (as Marleen Barr) (20)
  •  Letter, essay by Lee Overstreet (23)
  •  Letter, essay by Lisa Tuttle (23)
  •  Letter, essay by Don D'Ammassa (24)
  •  Letter,essay by Rhoda Katerinsky (25)
  •   Review: The Exile Waiting by Vonda N. McIntyre, review by Amanda Bankier (26)
  • Gothic Or Not, essay by Suzy McKee Charnas (27)
  •   Review: Change by Ann Maxwell, review by Suzy McKee Charnas (27)
  •   Review: The Shattered Chain by Marion Zimmer Bradley, review by Jennifer Bankier (29)
  • artwork by Elizabeth Mordue [as by Liz Mordue] (30)
  •  Letter, essay by James Tiptree, Jr. (as Raccoona Sheldon) (30)
  • artwork by Tom Robe (31)

From the letter by Raccoona Sheldon:

It interested me greatly to see the genuine generation gap denonstrated between Bradley and the others. I've known some of those strong, inner-directed women who grew up on farms or in small towns and simply decided the world, not themselves was crazy when they hit the social barriers. One of my older friends was a blacksmith and a lumber-jack in winter, did the roughest work to save her family farm while her brothers lounged around holding up the scenery. If she'd been in a city she would have been spat on as a bull dyke. As it was, when she got ready, she married another lumber-jack and had three kids. Still working logs, the two of them worked as a team at everything. She had a sneaky love for making cakes.

I think of her because she just died early, of stroke. Her big strong husband sat by her, saying "Grip my hand, Johnny. Show me your grip." When she weakened, he felt it and cried; and she went.

Such women aren't to be mistaken for "Queen Bees". They don't have the if-I-can-make-it-you-can thing. They aren't competitive with other women. They're just themselves, luck let them grow up unsquashed. I think Bradley is more like that. Whatever taboos she has unconsciously catered to in her writing are superficial, not a basic part of her.

At least, that is the feeling I get, knowing nothing. Of course my instinct is to stick together as much as we can. We know who profits from us excluding each other.


  1. ^ The Witch and the Chameleon, ZineWiki. Accessed May 9, 2018.
  2. ^ It is unknown if "Press" and "Place" are two different things, or if one is a typo.
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