BOX OF JHANA
K9 and Company novel
Doctor Who: Voyager (again)
by David Carroll
First Appeared in Burnt Toast#11, 1992
Way back whenever, in issue 8 to be precise, I commented that Australia doesn't have a horror industry, though I quoted a couple of films worth seeing (Outback Vampires, by the way, isn't really worth seeing, I've amended my opinion on a second viewing). In the fiction department we're doing even worse -- the only thing I've read that qualifies is Kenneth Cook's Bloodhouse -- Tuna -- Pig, which was interesting and no more (Pig being the best of the three novellas). Peter Carey comes close on occasion, I believe, but I aren't really all that well acquainted with his work.
We don't have a horror industry, which is a big shame, and you'd think somebody would do something about it. Well, somebody is -- the fans no less, and the Aussie horror fanzine market is currently in full swing.
I'm not really qualified to give you a history of the phenomena, but fortunately I don't have to because last week I was very kindly sent Daarke Worlde issue 0, a sampler sent out by the editor just to give people an idea of what he's on about. Included therein is a such a history, and a list of some twelve fanzines currently in circulation.
This then can't be considered either a definitive or even objective overview -- for that I can only suggest DW. This is simply a look at what I've personally seen in the last month or two, and if you're interested I can only suggest you give a couple of them a try -- the Australian horror industry needs you.
It all really started with Terror Australis (which is such a good name the Call of Cthulhu RPG also used it for their Down Under supplement), edited by Leigh Blackmore and which I found in Galaxy Bookshop something like two years ago. What really impressed me was the sheer size of the thing -- a hundred or so A5 pages. To a fanzine writer who was thinking about entering the straight horror market because there didn't seem to be any other examples floating round, this was a bit of a blow. I couldn't possibly compete with such a thing as this, even if it was, as I discovered, a very irregular publication (this attitude has more or less stayed with me to the present, and I am more or less satisfied with the Burnt Toast format at the moment. I know people who don't consider it a DW 'zine, and it's a little esoteric for the horror market, but it does alright). Terror Australis #3, a Jack the Ripper special, has just appeared (the one I picked up was issue 2 -- I told you it was irregular) and I haven't as seen a copy, so I can't comment on it. But this seems to be the acknowledged market leader and I hope number 4 isn't too far away.
My review of the next publication has also become a little obsolete, because The Esoteric Order of Dagon #6 has arrived since I wrote the last paragraph. It is certainly a beautiful little fanzine with a cardboard cover and a variety of good artists throughout. The actual contents to fill its bulk include a large amount of fiction, some poems and a couple of book and video reviews. I can't comment on the actual writing, but #5 had some pretty decent stuff in it. An initial impression was that a lot of it seems to go for simply shock value, which gets a little wearisome after a while, but looking back there are one or two examples (Maggie's Place by Steven Proposch in particular) that prove me wrong. EOD is edited by Chris Masters, one of the frightfully creative Melbournians that you keep running into if you read this sort of thing (is Christopher Sequeira from Melbourne?) and he also has started publishing Shoggoth, a Lovecraftian fiction 'zine which should see print this month.
Moving further South we come to Vandemonian, a Stephen King fanzine hailing from Tasmania. Its hundred A4 pages (see what I mean about size) has got a nice balance of fiction and non-fiction, and it lives up to it's premise well. The non-fiction in issue 1 has a list of his complete works (more or less, they missed at least The Golden Years, the TV show he penned) and then looks in more detail at his work before Carrie and the stories you can't find in his own anthologies. Even the fiction seems to use themes much loved by King himself, which lends a nice coherence to it all. The artwork is variable, but quite a bit of it is brilliant, and this has to be my favourite of the 'zines I'm reviewing.
Wrapped in Plastic is one of two Twin Peaks fanzines currently available in Australia, the other being The Great Northern which I don't believe is out as yet. Having seen and loved the entirety of TP, WiP gave me some nice background into the series, offering press clippings, letters of opinion, an episode guide, reviews of applicable material and the like. The piece of fiction in issue 2 was gratuitous and misplaced and I personally think crossword puzzles are a bad idea, but the issue is easily worth the money.
The last of the horror fanzines I'll mention is Daarke Worlde again, which hails from the unlikely suburb of Bacchus Marsh. This is actually a club 'zine for the newly formed Melbourne Horror Society which exists for 'the promotion of horror in all its forms' and, I bet, having some fun on the side. The sampler issue contains a pretty dreadful piece of fiction (what did I say about shock value?), a better piece of fiction by 'the Jathemon Brookster', the afore-mentioned history of the Australian horror fanzine and information about the club.
Well, that's the horror side of affairs, but a couple of other things are worth mentioning.
If you are in any way interested in the writing of fantasy, sf and horror you should check out Amazing Sheet, a newsletter designed for practitioners of the art (though it's name has just changed into something a lot more boring, and which I can't find at this precise moment). If nothing else it should give you some more places to send your work, and that's exactly what it did for me, so it can certainly be said to fulfil its function.
Speaking of Steve's TV show, it has absolutely nothing to do with Golden Years, a publication dedicated to pre-War fiction and the actual collecting of books. It's perhaps not the most readable of 'zines from my own point of view, but it certainly seems to do its job admirably enough, and includes a want-list for people who are looking for particular items, from books to DW merchandise.
The CB Hotline is published by the official American Colin Baker fan club, and if nothing else is one of the best looking newsletter I've ever seen. It's been said (by Dallas, I believe) that America, England and Australia all approach fandom in different ways -- star-based, production-based and story-based respectively, and this seems to confirm the statement. The four issues that arrived after my esteemed flat-mate sent a strongly worded pro-CB message over UseNet contains info about his current projects, newspaper clippings, a letters column answered by the man himself, some less than serious news (Terminator 3: Shopping Day...) and some wonderful photographs. While it has some coverage of his Doctor Who days, including Summoned by Shadows, (the editor also used to run a Tom Baker fan-club), it gives you a lot more than that.
Closer to home we have two straight DW fanzines to finish off with. You are probably familiar with Jason Towers artwork, as it adorns these very pages, but he also writes well, so it's a shame he doesn't have time to put out Pirate Planet more often. Issue 7 contains three good pieces of non-fiction, three stories (one of which, I'll have to admit, I wrote), some interesting snippets and, of course, some very nice art. And lastly, I've just wandered down the hall-way to pick up the latest issue of The Question Mark, Kate's personal 'zine that hasn't the light of a photocopier since late '89. The Question Mark is, for those who hadn't worked it out at the time, the 'zine that I stole my format from so I'm probably biased, but you all go and buy a copy anyway.
Surprisingly, perhaps, the actual reading of fanzines is a bit of an ambivalent subject with me -- I don't read a great deal of them simply because I don't have time to read much of anything (hell, of the five or six professional 'zines I've bought to submit work to, I think I've only read two or three stories and an article from the lot). But their actual production is, of course, a wonderful concept, and I offer my full support to anybody dedicated enough to produce such a publication, any publication. It's hard not to sound overly grandiose in saying so, but fanzines are an important step up to bigger and better things.
So look at this list, and see if anything takes your interest, and give it a go. Someone will thank you for it, and in most cases you'll be doing yourself a favour.
The contact information for these various 'zines has now been removed, since they are long out of date. If you really want to contact somebody, email me and I'll see what can be done.
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