Trace Elements

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Zine
Title: Trace Elements
Publisher: Shoestring Press/WHIPS OF HOUSTON
Editor(s): Billie Phillips & Pamela Rose
Date(s): around March 1982
Series?:
Medium: print
Size:
Genre:
Fandom: Starsky and Hutch
Language: English
External Links:
front cover by Marie A.
back cover by Marie A.
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Trace Elements is one of the first Starsky and Hutch slash zines published. From the title page, "This zine is a brief exploration of other possible elements in a relationship." It is edited by Billie Phillips and Pamela Rose. Artwork is by Marie A.

The zine's flyer said twenty copies of the zine were already spoken for, that ten were being held until February 6, 1982 for "the English fen" and that folks should start checking their mailboxes in March 1982.

The zine was then listed in several issues of S and H in the "available soon" section; the last two mentions of this were in April and June 1982. The zine was also advertised for sale in Datazine #18, #19 and #20 (through August 1982). The next issue of S and H came out in September 1982 and Trace Elements had disappeared off the zine listings. This indicates it was published during the spring/summer and had probably sold out right away.

S/H Fanfiction History

Forever Autumn was the first S/H zine published. It was issued in the UK. Next, a single slash story was published in the second issue of Ten-Thirteen. It is commonly understood that the first full S/H zine published in the U.S. was Code 7 in 1981, and then Trace Elements in 1982.

This timeline is contradicted in a review of Trace Elements:
This [Trace Elements] was the first American S/H zine to come out from the catacombs, and for that reason alone the editors, [Billie Phillips] and Pam Rose, deserve a commendation. If there has been a lightening of the atmosphere surrounding the sub-fandom of S/H, it is due in large part to their taking the first public step. [1]

These contradictions regarding which was the first zine "published" may be due to the fact that the editors of Code 7 issued an announcement that the Code 7 had been canceled in S and H #22 (June 1981) while secretly publishing the zine sans identifying information and distributing it to a select group of people.

A fan in early 1982 gives a wink to fellow fen regarding "Code 7": "I haven't seen that much S/H to date -- just one excellent zine (that doesn't exist, of course)." [2]

Because Code 7 #1 was an underground publication (see Code 7 vs. Trace Elements), some fans consider Trace Elements the first "published" US S/H zine.

flyer for Trace Elements from S and H #29

Code 7 vs. Trace Elements

According to some fans, "Code 7" was at the printers when Karen B heard that anti-slasher fen were threatening to send the zine to the stars and to the producers of the show. She pulled the zine at the last minute and removed all the names. When the W.H.I.P.S. in Houston heard that they were going to publish the zine without author's names, they felt the Code 7 staff were allowing themselves to be influenced by the anti-slashers, and they hurried their own zine, Trace Elements, complete with authors' names as a statement. [3]

Slash as Old Hat

One thing to keep in mind: even before fans edited, wrote, and read any of these zines, many had already had exposure to S/H stories in the form of pass around stories. One example of this experience is seen in the reviews of "Trace Elements" in S and H #37. Several reviewers spoke of the stories in this zine as having already too-familiar slash plots or execution:
But she takes it beyond and beneath the usual first-time story with her insights into the characters," and "This story contains no surprises. There is nothing here that hasn’t been done before and more creatively," and "‘What’s a Partner For?’ was a standard post-Sweet Revenge first-timer.

"Trace Elements" and George Lucas

Some fans felt that the hullabaloo over this zine's publication was related to a controversy that had been heating up a few months earlier in the Star Wars fandom, and George Lucas' attempt to control fanworks and adult material. For more on that general topic, see Open Letters to Star Wars Zine Publishers (1981).

Very shortly before "Trace Elements" was printed, a fan wrote:

On a more serious note, the open publication of TRACE ELEMENTS should shortly tell us what, if any, practical consequences are involved In the writing and distribution of S/H. Here's to courage.

I only hope that the anti's are aware by now that legal action stands to damage the gentlemen we all respect and admire so deeply at least as much as it might harm the publishers. Possibly more; the Information I've tried to pass on in these pages comes from a copyright lawyer as well as from experience with Trek, and I've no reason to believe it unsound. I think these self-appointed censors should be aware, too, that it's been some time since they were anonymous. It's a matter of courtesy and an abhorrence of vigilante tactics that's prevented their being publicly named and called to account. They've been given the benefit of a forbearance they've neither earned nor practiced themselves. Let's hope they learn something from it.

One more thing, and I apologize to Leslie for drawing on our private correspondence here, but I think this is important. Fish was given some misinformation at Z-Con, and told that the way to protect S/H writers and publishers was to "take on LucasFilm and beard (Lucas' censor) in her den." Which Is a load of damp catcrap. It looks to me very much as If person or persons who do have cause to be worried about Lucas' rumored crack-down are trying to use S&H, S&F fandom and the S/H debate to take the pressure off themselves. To take, too, the brunt of any unpleasant consequences. I object to this, quite strenuously. Our own internal differences are potentially destructive enough; let's not get drafted into somebody else's war. [4]

Table of Contents

Gallery

Reactions and Reviews

See reactions and reviews for Alternate.
See reactions and reviews for A Virgin in These Woods.
See reactions and reviews for Silver Lady.
See reactions and reviews for What's a Partner For?.

1982

[zine, before it was published]:

I add my toast to the publishers of TRACE ELEMENTS. I hope sanity and tolerance win out over the witch-hunters. (Look out, Jean.) [5]
[zine]: This was the first American S/H zine to come out from the catacombs, and for that reason alone the editors deserve a commendation. If there has been a lightening of the atmosphere surrounding the sub-fandom of S/H, it is due in large part to their taking the first public step. The best work in the zine is that done by Pam Rose. ‘Alternate’ has been printed elsewhere [6], but it is worth rereading. Contrasting Hutch’s attempt to cope with his unrequited love for Starsky with the hustler’s necessity to trick in order to keep himself and his lover alive delineates the deep and understated sorrow of both men for a can-never-be alternative. It is a Ghood Story, the finest in the zine. ‘Silver Lady’ is also strong and strikingly well-written, with a clean power that tears your heart, but frustratingly, it barely introduces its complication – Hutch is shooting up heroin and doesn’t want to quit – before it stops. ‘Newly Gay Game’ by Sister P is one of the funniest, fannish pieces yet, covering S/H, K/S, H/J and ‘Anita Burnout’/Phillis Shifty.’ Have someone standing by with oxygen in case you asphyxiate with laughter. ‘What’s a Partner For’ is not terrible, but it is not as finished, nor as well-characterized or complex, as its sequel, ‘A Virgin in These Woods.’ The tandem postulates a post-SR beginning of the love affair, quickly complicated in the second story by the fact that Starsky was not the first man Hutch ever had, although his former affair, with Jack Mitchell, was so transitory and so extremely long ago, one things Starsky ought not be that concerned about it. Still, the paired stories are reasonably believable and intermittently strike a note of brilliance. ‘Come Dance with Me’ is a grand turn-on, as S&H step out for a night of ‘Terpsichare’ (sic). If not for the pingponging point of view, which disintegrates the reader’s concentration and obfuscates as to which ‘he’ is meant, this would have been a first-rate shortie. The descriptions of Hutch in tight white pants and an angelic white shirt, Starsky in sky-blue and gold jewelry are, to put it mildly, agreeable. Not so hot are ‘Let There Be No Strife’ and ‘Trapped in Ice.’ [The latter] is an grossing screamer, but too melodramatic to be credible. Upset by Gillian’s recent death, Hutch intends to blow his brains out, but Starsky turns up just in the quarter-second before he does, and moves in to monitor his buddy, except Hutch starts having these gory nightmares, which keep both of them awake, till they realize they’re in love, and then do something about it, the end. However, Hutch is drawn so awfully crazed that we are left with no hope for his long term survival. ‘Strife’ is terribly jerky in its execution, alternating between paragraphs of love and fury like a light switch flicking on and off so that no consistent characterization of either Starsky or Hutch comes across… It is also not a snap to figure out the point of the story, as our boys fall into and out of situations without any evident planning or knowledge gained. There is no buildup of plot, no climax, and only a desultory, talky denouement. Unfortunate. The typos, mispuncutaion, misspelling in TE are probably no more rife than in any other first zine. But the typesetting, simply because it is so gorgeous and professional-looking, emphasizes them disproportionately. Nonetheless, TE offers some good reading, and decent illos by Maria A. [7]
[zine]: Trace Elements is a zine that shows promise and contains talent. Unfortunately, what it amounts to in the end is little more than a collection of first drafts. The look of it is good – it’s typeset and there’s not a lot of that nasty white space that drives so many fans to distraction. The borders and flourishes are restricted and the design doesn’t confuse the eye. However, closer inspection shows that the look isn’t maintained. There are entirely too many typos in the zine, and the two pages in my copy were unreadable because of double-printing or smearing. The artwork doesn’t compliment the stories, in fact, while technically adequate and in some cases rather attractive, it is nothing more than a collection of portraits, unrelated to anything in the stories. As for the stories themselves, despite that fact that two editors were listed on the title page, I suspect that these stories were never given a thorough story edit and consequently suffer… The first story in the zine is ‘Let There Be No Strife.’ The plot and treatment thereof is straight forward – Hutch loves Starsky, but cannot bring himself to ‘fess up. Starsky feels the same way which makes their coupling inevitable, but not before we learn of Starsky’s secret trauma – he was molested as a child and freaks out whenever Hutch tries to make love to him. Love does conquer all in the end – nice, but a little too pat. This story contains no surprises. There is nothing here that hasn’t been done before and more creatively… there’s no reason this story couldn’t have been made into something more memorable. It is also a good example of what happens when technical problems as p.o.v. switching and lack of transition, particularly between substantial time lapses, are allowed to stand…. I’m not one to object to a well-written vignette that makes some sort of point. To a degree ‘Come Dance With Me’ fills the bill. The writing is capable and the point of the exercise seems to be that even as an old married couple… S&H are still susceptible to jealousy. A little more work might have clarified the point that the author was trying to make. On the other hand, ‘Silver Lady’ was a thoroughly unpleasant exercise in emotional manipulation. The characterization is so unbelievable that I was left wondering who these men were. A good general rule is that any behavior that contradicts what we saw of the characters in the aired series must be adequately explained by the author of the story in question. There is no explanation in SL… ‘Alternate’ is easily the best story in the zine. Technically, head and shoulders above the rest of the stories in this collection, it is a poignant and too-believable story about Hutch and a hustler. One suspects that [the author] possesses a powerful, if erratic and untrained, talent. I would like to see more of her work, preferable edited by a good, competent editor... ‘Trapped in Ice’ is another of those stories that displays promise, but falls far short of the quality one would expect. A little restraint in the style, some work on characterization, and attention to pacing would have wonders with this raw material. As it stands, the story is unsatisfying both because one has the sense that something important is missing, and because one feels that [the author] is capable of more than she delivers… ‘What’s a Partner For?’ and ‘A Virgin in These Woods’ appear to be parts of the same universe. One the debit side [with the former] the technical problems run rampant. The p.o.v. switching drove me wild, the transitions are poor to non-existent and some of the sexual details are unbelievable (Starsky rims Hutch the first time they make love – hepatitis city. It’s a nice gesture, but to it the first time he sleeps with a man strikes me as highly improbable). One the credit side, the story has a lovely warm feel to it. There is a nice quality of tenderness here. A.V.I.T.W. is cooler, though more technically proficient. There is an interesting plotline concerning Hutch’s past sexual relationship with Jack Mitchell, but this needs to be more carefully explored if these stories are indeed part of the same universe. The thread should have been woven into the first tory for best effect. Again, we have two stories that are crippled by lack of work. ‘The NewlyGay Game’ is a sometimes very funny parody of The NewlyWed Game’. … This piece went on a little too long for my taste. What I keep coming back to is the idea that the editors did not do their jobs. The amount of technical problems alone would support this theory. In combination with the other difficulties… we have a zine that is just not wroth the price. The blame, however, cannot be laid entirely at the feet of the editors. Each writer had a responsibility to her story; to make that story as good as it could be, given her capabilities and limits on her time. Each of them should have asked for an edit, and if one wasn’t given, then each author should have sought outside help. If these stories hadn’t shown so much promise, then the lack of competent editing wouldn’t have been such a damn disservice to both writers and writers. As it is, I cannot recommend this zine. [8]
[zine]: 'Trace Elements' lived up to its expectations. All five of the writers have excellent reputations and the stories represented are a prime example. 'What's a Partner For' was followed by the sequel, 'A Virgin in These Woods.' It was nice to have the sequel rather than waiting for the next issue (hint, hint) or leaving it to the reader's imagination. I would be hard pressed to find a Best of Zine story although I tend to lean toward "Come Dance with Me.' My least favorite was 'Silver Lady' only because it was such a downer. [9]
[zine]: PoV difficulties aside, this is a fairly nice zine. It’s kind of a sandwich: the beginning story, ‘Let There Be No Strife’ and the end piece of sheer insanity ‘The NewlyGay Game,’ are both very good, and I enjoyed each tremendously. But in between those two gems can be found such pretty bordering of pages, several pretty pictures, and not a whole lot of substance. But to discuss the good stuff first – The borders really are lush. There’s a trend both towards exquisite production in zines like this and Strange Justice, and away from it in the ‘generic’ fashion of a few recent publications. Personally, I like both. The print in this zine is wondrous clear, it having been done on a typesetting machine (yes?) or something of the kind. Marie A is a new talent (well, new to me and to this fandom, I’ll wager) who’s just starting to try her wings; her interior pieces are competent and interesting, but it’s in the front and back covers that she does some really nifty work. I look forward to seeing more as she develops her style an approach. A lot of thought and good taste has gone into the design of this zine. It is appreciated. The first story, mentioned above, is really very good, except for the PoV problems (which are rampant throughout the zine). [The author’s] idea is this: separate S&H so that they realize the depths of their feelings and then get them together. But she takes it beyond and beneath the usual first-time story with her insights into the characters. Although I found the device of separation a little trite and not handled with the kid of assurance it would need to come off as believable, when she gets down to the guts of the story, she does very well indeed. Her S&H have problems, pettiness, strengths and generosities just like real people should. I’m especially impressed with her Starsky. He’s a delightful study and she has brought out many of his traits and foibles which are usually ignored or glossed over. His special understanding of Hutch – not just the obvious Hutchinson psychology of guilt trip or arrogance or whatever, but the depths of Hutch’s heart and soul – comes through beautifully; in addition, she won my vote by writing about Starsky’s street façade in opposition to his sensitive, artistic side. No junk-food junkie, he; no dummy, either, and no weakling. He’s really quite marvelous. Aside from the rough places in the plotting and the uncertainty of her writing at times, she’s done a nice job on what is her first outing in S&Hdom. And then there’s the absolutely hilarious final work in the zine… What colossal gall Pam Rose has!... Perfect! The other pieces in the zine are less successful. “Come Dance with Me’ is silly without being amusing. ‘Silver Lady’ was a confusion; I think I know what she was trying to do, but it never came off. The idea of Hutch whining that he doesn’t want to try anymore and thus reverting back to heroin addition as an escape – nuh-uh. I don’t buy it. ‘Trapped in Ice’ was another view of a whiny, insecure Hutch who bored me so much with his weeping and moaning that I wondered how Starsky put up with him, let alone loved him. ‘Alternate’ was an interesting turnabout story, with the character of the hustler well-drawn. But the concept of the prickly, ‘don’t touch me,’ fastidious Hutch looking for that kind of release didn’t ring quite true to me. ‘What’s a Partner For?’ was a standard post-Sweet Revenge first-timer, but with the intriguing twist that all during the … um… festivities, neither Starsky nor Hutch says a word. Rather a relief after all the talking they seem to do in other first-time stories. This story, too, suffers from a ping-pong approach to PoV, which is occasionally confusing as hell. This is followed by a postscript, long than the work which sparked it off, called ‘A Virgin in These Woods.’… I have serious trouble believing a junk-food devouring Starsky in the post-SR days; that particular shtick has been overdone and does not work as characterization. There’s another similarity between the stories in that there’s a nifty idea handled without the deftness it requires. In this one, Starsky has trouble with the term ‘gay’ as applied to himself and Starsky, with results that are interesting if somewhat predictable. Nothing really special about these pieces except Hutch’s final line in the latter: ‘We still have a long way to go.’ The authors have the right idea, and present it with reasonable competence –they just aren’t quite able to make it unique, or at least uniquely handled. In sum, Trace Elements is a nice zine, worth the money if you are into S/H… If there is a next issue, it should improve with the writers’ and editors’ experience. [10]
In sum, TRACE ELEMENTS is a nice one, worth the money If you're into S\H. The Newly Gay Game thing is a howl, and [Billie Phillps'] story, despite its flaws in execution, was an impressive beginning. If there is a next issue, it should improve with the writers and editors' experience. [11]

1983

[zine]: If you're into 'firsts' and can handle leaping POV, YOU'll probably enjoy it. [12]

1986

[zine]: I [do] feel that an excessive proclivity to tears was rather out of character. I have a much greater problem with stories, such as some of those in Trace Elements which portray one of the guys, usually Hutch, as very seriously neurotic. That just isn't the man I knew from the series. [13]

References

  1. from S and H #37
  2. from Hanky Panky #1 (January or February 1982)
  3. source: posts to Virgule-L, dated 1994, accessed May 1, 2011
  4. Penny Warren from S and H #30 (February 1982)
  5. from S and H #31 (March 1982)
  6. it was in The Phone Booth, an underground zine
  7. from S and H #37
  8. from S and H #37
  9. from Hanky Panky #5
  10. from S and H #37 (December 1982)
  11. from S and H #37 (December 1982)
  12. from S and H #38 (January 1983)
  13. from The Who Do We Trust Times #4