Issue 14
Volume 4 Number 2
June 1999

In This Issue

 • Contents
 • Cover Illustration
 • Editorial
 • A Beginner's Guide to Self-Mutilation
 • "...And I Would Like To Spank Stephen Baxter..."
 • Gu*nness is Good For You
 • Shopping Habits of the Camiroi
 • Letters of Comment to Plokta
 • Vijay Pulls it Off
 • Everybody's Free (to send us letters)
 • Mind the Gap

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The Plokta News Network. News and views for SF fandom

The Plokta SF convention, from 26-29 May 2000.

[Plokta Online]

Letters of Comment to Plokta

Illo by Joe Mayhew Roy Ferguson

I am pleased to inform you that you have received sufficient nominations in the Best Fanzine category for the 1999 Hugo Awards (for works published in 1998) to be eligible to be on the final ballot for the 1999 Hugo awards in this category for your work Plokta.

[Gosh. Er.... Ta.]

Jae Leslie Adams

Alison, as I don't recall having seen the Wombles, I am convinced you are making all this up. It is quite farfetched, the piece on "Common People". In fact it is only that what you say is so wildly improbable that persuades me that, perhaps, no, surely, it could only be the truth. I am so suggestible though that now I am going to begin remembering that in fact I have seen if not an episode at least some clip or reference, probably with documentary voiceover concerning some connection to the history of the Muppets. The black and white photo you have thoughtfully provided of the old fellow peering under his glasses gives me a visual cue and voila, a possibly bogus recovered memory, in vivid and colorful detail. No, that was probably Fraggle Rock. Oh well.

Vicki's thoughtful piece about millennial fever is a refreshingly long view, just the sort of thing reading SF is supposed to cultivate more widely than it does. Putting PCs and keyboards into the class of household objects with bookshelves or teakettles, "things that we know how to make well, don't change much, and replace when they break", is perhaps a sort of design desiderata for the shorter term, but a nice stretch -- just as far as our modern thought can reach. She doubts that these tools will still be in use a thousand years hence, but the interesting thing is that we simply don't know and the possibilities are open.

In connection with this I have been embroiled in discussions lately of whether handwriting as we know it will survive the next century. I know some calligraphers who take heart at the recent revival of interest in handwritten messages as a more personal and in some ways more powerful medium for executives than email. In fact there was extensive discussion recently on the calligraphers' online list about an SF work in which clever young executive managers used Spencerian steel-pen writing styles (historically about a hundred years old now) for their meeting notes, with some kind of wall projection equipment and letter-recognition software involved. I don't know, but sharpened steel looks to me as though it will probably be more widely available than goosequills in the world of the future. I know how to make a really interesting dip pen from a soft-drink can -- a beer can would work too I suppose -- you can cut the stuff with scissors -- but they are kinda slow to write with. It is the latest thing in expressive calligraphy, though you can make those thousand-year-old letters with it too.

The Olde Plokta's Almanacke was worth several giggles. What's this dragon's scroll saying, anyhow? [Eigi Eru Enn Allir Jomsvikingar Daudhir -- Ed.]

John Hertz

If brevity's wit,
Is superfluous techno-
logy what won't fit?

Terry Jeeves

The mention of the Bonfire night 'do' reminded me of a party we had at Frank and Patty Milne's home in Maghull some forty years ago!! We fired off rockets and as their house backed on to a canal, we tried firing them into the water. They went under OK, then shot out again thus proving the practicality of the Polaris missiles.

Talking of MI5, is there or has there been MI1, MI2, MI3, & MI4 and if so, what were they? [MI1-4 were other branches of Military Intelligence which no longer exist. MI5 & 6 we know. And there are rumours of an MI7, which is a UK Government secret, military version of SETI@whitehall]

Sad news -- Ron Bennett recently underwent successful heart surgery. The operation went well, but then he had a stroke which paralysed his left side. Last I heard he was showing slight improvement. One by one we old farts are running into planned obsolescence.

Brad Foster

Wow, that's certainly one way to make certain readers notice the change in design for a zine: send the last of the old design and the first of the new one in the same envelope! (And I only jumped a little bit at the sight of Jethro Tull leaping at me from the cover of V4/#1!)

Almost (I repeat, almost!) want to clip those three photos of The Walker and make a lot of copies, then put together a little flip-book of the actions. (Or, keeping with the superfluous technology, maybe you guys could do a little mini-movie of him on the web site?) [Sorry -- Dr P.]

B*rds Eye logo change was interesting. Sometimes I've got to wonder what goes through the minds of corporate hacks who do this kind of stuff. I mean, what, they asked people in stores what they were and weren't buying, and the response was overwhelmingly "I'd love to eat your fine product, but am I truly grossed out by the repulsive old man on the logo"? Sad.

R Graeme Cameron

I did take great delight in printing out the Corflu UK The Debauched Sloth newsletters. Great to put faces to names, or in Naomi's case...err, ahh,... never mind... A Fannish pair by ghod!

Bob Devney

Are you a Horny fan? [No, Aubrey/Maturin is more our sort of thing]

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. He may be busy tomorrow.
Lloyd Penney

If it's Tuesday, it must be another Plokta from Belgium. The cover...mighod, it's Eric Idle in disguise. The bottle might give it he Tobes Valois? Hey, Tobes, yer famous!

Too many of us have unwilling left our happy circus, if you might allow passing away to come in under the definition of fafiated. Ian Gunn, Buck Coulson and Vincent Clarke gave more to fanzine fandom than they knew, and we now know, by their absence. None can replace them, although I hope others will try to pick up where they left off.

Also, Yvonne asks...when shall we see your nifty prizes from the scavenger hunt? Greed is good, and I'm sure so are the pressies awaiting us. [Er. We ate them. We'll have to actually get round to sending you some stuff. Sorry.]

Mae Strelkov

Congratulations to Steven and Alison and may Ghu grant you many happy years. Beautiful Marianne in ivory silk looks lovely and bemused. She'd look even lovelier sitting on that Apiarist's hat turned upside down for something indispensable -- a potty, for instance?

Illo of butterfly's gravestone Auntie Sue has fallen in my estimation -- offering poor little Marianne as a virgin on Guy Fawkes Night. (How's Sue's butterfly, by the way?) [It has shuffled off its mortal coil. It has ceased to be. It has joined the bleeding choir invisible.]

I should come to Hyde Park and upbraid you in Sue's own lilting cadences when she carols. (But my voice might not be up to it.)

Captain B*rds*ye products are not on sale in Latin America to my knowledge. Which saves us from further corruption from you Brits, Still -- cod-pieces are less restricting than chastity belts, undoubtedly.

Your tars should be restricted in their practice of proctoscopy. The victim looks so horrified. (Sizes should be taken into account!)

You insist "One size fits all", and it seems cute Marianne agrees. She makes the very fanzine glow in that photo. (Page 8, Nov issue.) However: SIZES MUST BE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT. Huge Marianne pinching steeples from skyscrapers and cathedrals alike, will need a mate to match. Have you one for her in prospect? No, don't tell me. And please, no more photos of that sort, huh?

Oh, enclosed are two small recent "Paintings" revealing my confusement. "I'm all at sea" and have retreated to my Simon Stylite pillar or peak, from which see me descending on a waterfall. (Try your microscope and tell me what you see.) [Not at their best in black and white, but we'll put them in colour on the website.] [And here they are -- Dr P.]

Mae Strelkov oil painting

Second Mae Strelkov oil painting

Alison in the wig is also irresistible. What a sweet innocent young girl! I've got a new Web address you might look up -- [Richard Brandt's website -- with lots of Mae's art.]

No, I still have no computer. Telephone lines in Jujuy don't extend this far into our jungles. (We do have a cellular phone that receives regular calls from Canada and Patagonia from our farflung clan.)

It seems friends in the States feel that early fandom's triumphs in hectography need to be extolled, attempts going back to the Thirties as attested by all our recent fan-histories. So I'm an object lesson showing "what can be done with patience", but same date only from the Seventies actually. Were you born then? My attempts included all the magical appurtenances -- knuckle-bones, aniline dyes -- all are included in the paraphernalia of good (and evil) witches, wizards, etc. I ran my show from a gelatine-based Knuckle-bone press, and looked like a Celt (Pict?) covered in blues and purples as I struggled. Very properly! (I confessed all in a Stet years ago).

No direct message to my pet Marianne this time. Tell her to go on using her left hand to develop her brain better. Tell her I'm scolding all you virtuous (uh, virtual) lassies and laddies so she can go on looking so charmingly puzzled and bemused.

(You know where I live. Which is quite scary really.)

Thanks for the latest Plokta, much appreciated as it's one of the few fanzines I bother to keep up with these days. Many congratulations on the Hugo nomination. Surely Dave Langford doesn't need two Hugos this year, and I hope you win if only so you can go "Ner ner na ner ner"! at certain folk! [Who could you mean?]

The place in London I always thought was made up was Norbiton. I knew there was a Surbiton, but I thought that Reginald Iolanthe Perrin catching the train at a station marked 'Norbiton' was a kind of parody. Until I saw it on a rail map. Mind you, I know several southerners who don't believe in Grimethorpe.

I still tend to think there's something horribly, oh, well, decadent or something about reading in the bathroom. I mean, I'd never heard of anyone reading in their bathroom until fairly recently. I don't have books in there, and I wouldn't dream of reading in there either. It just strikes me as odd. Maybe it's a north-south divide sort of thing.

Ben Yalow

Mostly, I like the new layout, but sometimes the typeface clash between the bollocks and the main sections gets troubling. However, anything that gives you more space to play with seems good to me -- I don't need to keep coming up with high-quality material to fill it. Of course, you can always re-use the Space 1999 illo again in a few years, as a 2001: A Space Odyssey illo.

Karen Pender-Gunn

Mike Abbott is as shaggy as ever I see. If your readers would like to see the pictures of our wedding, they are on the web site, Stand by for a major overhaul of the website and a listing of what is available from the Ian Gunn Memorial Fund. T-shirts could be on their way soon.

Friends had a Furby on the table next to their phone -- frightened the shit out of me (Australian expression there). Kill them, kill them all. I have been taken over by the Beanie Baby bug. Sad, I know, but I was sent about 40 when Ian had just passed away and now I am hooked. Strange, when you consider that they don't actually sell them in shops in Australia! I have been depending on the kindness of people overseas to help with my addiction.

"Let me hold your milk while you climb over the pig."

I have a gay friend who has some of the type of comics like Hake. I find them strangely fascinating. Maybe its a glimpse into a world I have no entry to. I'm sure most people don't have tonks as big as some of the gentlemen depicted in these publications. It's not natural...

Richard Brandt

I was taken by the barman's remark of the Lake District, "if the weather was always sunny they'd have to re-name it Big-Holes-in-the-Ground" district. The reverse is true of El Paso; as a transplanted Californian once remarked to me, "If you guys had an ocean instead of Juarez, you'd have something."

Last time we were in New York, Michelle and I were in Washington Park waiting to meet some of the local fans for a dinner outing, and we observed a Japanese performance artist who assumed the positions of figures in famous paintings and sculptures and froze himself thus for several minutes at a time. For his piece de resistance, he took on Guernica, which required the assistance of a few volunteers from the crowd. This is how I wound up with my palms on the pavement and one leg raised in the air while a flower protruded from my butt. (Photographs on demand.)

Latest revelations are that the Fanbys, contrary to popular belief, do not become more sophisticated and urbane as their years in fandom increase, but come with a repertoire of stock phrases and anecdotes, which they utter sparingly at first but with increasing and eventually annoying frequency the better one gets to know them.

Somehow I should not be surprised to see brimstone and Marianne in the same sentence.

Illo by Teddy Harvia

Kim Huett

After all due consideration I have decided that if Jean Paul Sartre had built Grigori Rasputin from scratch the end result would be very like Michael Abbott. Down to I might add the fact he is clutching a bottle of what looks to be red wine rather than vodka. Still, I imagine Mike Siddall would prefer it if Michael was into another French beverage since absinthe makes the heart grown fonder as they say. And on that note I shall end this note in order to Basque in the glory of that previous pun.

[We did get a lot of complaints about Michael Abbott's face. Lilian Edwards saw it three times, which she alleges is due to our inadequate stock control rather than her surfeit of tequila slammers.]

Sandra Bond

As I believe I may possibly have conveyed to you a few hundred times I remain unconvinced about the amount of technology in Plokta, but the editorial tampering with the B*rds Eye logo and the Tom of Finland picture was nearly enough to make me change my stance. Nicely done, and it's pleasant to see someone find a good use for both Tom of Finland art (stereotyped and dull) and fish fingers (as the song went, "Oh I've sailed the seven seas my lads/All on the roaring main/But I'm not very keen on fish fin-gers/Cos I know what they're made of").

Alison's piece on Wombles contained two flaws for me. Firstly, it implies that Alderney Womble is a new innovation and a nod to girl power. Sorry, but she and her equally female buddy Shansi Womble were in some if not all of the original books in the 1970s; Elizabeth Beresford may not have worried about realism in small furry animal breeding (not as much as Richard Adams in Watership Down, anyway) but there was a slightly more equal gender mix in the books than on the telly.

Also, no mention is made of the wicked parody of the Wombles in Michael de Larrabeiti's superb book The Borribles, in which the Rumbles, nasty furry creatures with fleas and sharp noses from Wimbledon with pointy sticks (litter collectors?) are the sworn enemies of the anti-heroic Lost Boys manqués, the Borribles. You say you haven't read it, Alison? Shame on you. Rectify the oversight.

I share a house with a wine journalist and when absinthe was relaunched he came home with two free bottles of it. <silence> Oh, sorry, this isn't an anecdote with a punchline or anything. I was just being smug.

The letter writers appear to be a good crop, though the editorial comment wasn't up to much. Whatever happened to the traditional editor's desire to have the last word at any cost? [Needs a last word, Vern -- at any cost]

Jo Walton

I'm sure most people, on discovering that they're Millennial and Robert Jordan is Antediluvian, would be nothing but thrilled. It fills me with an urge to hide under the table -- hardly anyone's read the thing yet, and certainly you haven't! The reading of chapter 12 in Kitchener went over pretty well though. Thanks for the thought, which is appreciated.

"I thought I liked everything B*rds Eye make until I tried their chillies"

The other thing is Alderney Womble, who was not added to be politically correct. She's there in the original Beresford novel, and I never could understand why she was left out of the old TV show. I suppose it was a bit like the fifth Beatle or something. I'm glad to see she's finally getting the stardom she deserves. But Tbilisi, (there's a word that looks like a spelling mistake) the female Womble in black leather, was made up by Andrew Morris.

Alan Sullivan

Further thoughts on Captain B*rdseye, every house wife's ideal nautical beefcake (fishcake)... How about the cross over; Captain B*rdseye and Tom of Finland in a daring commando raid on certain WWII German naval quarters -- The Buns of Navarone...

The Australian Captain B*rds*ye [Meanwhile, Karen Pender-Gunn wrote asking if we would be like a picture of Aussie fishcake Captain B*rds Eye. Betcha won't catch him rogering the cabin-boy.]

I'm sure I heard a trans-atlantic snicker, just then... As for finding animals in unexpected places (sic) I'm told Claire has been demonstrating the trick with the wombat and the cleavage. Well, did you evah...

Very striking Mike Abbott cover. Dare I suggest a hint of resemblance between himself and a very young and manic Greg Pickersgill? No, not a chance. I like my anatomy the way it is...

As for the Reconvene Weapons Policy -- all I can say is, those guns aren't as big as the SuperSoaker 5000s, favoured by UWAC:TNG, particularly The Lovely (© M J Simpson) -- not to mention talented -- Anne Stokes. I can't help thinking there could be potential for some sort of "Special Interest" fanzine here... Fhannish Babes Who Dig Massive Guns... ("SuperSoaker 5000 -- when you've absolutely got to drench every m****rfucker in the room, accept no substitute..."). Well, it's an idea...

I can't help wondering if a few more relics of our generation's childhood TV-watching will be resurrected. Clangers: TNG anyone...?

Harry Cameron Andruschak

Illo of Harry and the pandas I enclose a couple of pages that I wrote to Fosfax about my China trip, since I understand a lot of British fanzine publishers do not get Fosfax. [And to save you the trouble of trawling through 192 pages of Fosfax, we've extracted the following from Harry's letter.]

On my first day in China, 18 April, I walked to the Beijing Zoo with a friend, and we had a chance to see the pandas. Two adult pandas and two baby pandas. I remember the excitement of the Chinese when the keeper rolled out the two babies. Now, I don't speak or understand a single word of Chinese, yet I bet I can accurately translate the comments of the crowd: "ooooo, aren't they CUTE?", "how sweet", "how adorable" etc. etc. etc. because on a cuteness scale of 1 to 10, baby pandas are a solid 10. In response, the baby pandas tried to roll up and go back to sleep. The adult pandas slept all the time we were there. Not exactly an active animal.

Rodney Leighton

Sometime during the morning, I was reading Judith Hanna, in International Revolutionary Gardener 2, attempting to persuade Britfans that they are boozing way too much and not only making a bad impression on overseas folks but harming themselves to boot. Mail brought issues 12½ and 13 of Plokta, which proves her point quite decisively. You lot must make one hell of a pile of money, to be able to afford all this technology and drink as much as you apparently do.

Rather strange that I have become almost a campaigner for teetotalism and have found that tales of boozing in other venues have upset me. But it doesn't seem to bother me adversely in Plokta. Maybe that means I don't care if you all drink yourselves to death?

Murray Moore

Dust-jacket photo of Buck Coulson I began reading Gene DeWeese's and Buck Coulson's 1975 novel, Now You See It/Him/Them..., or, A Murder Mystery with a Worldcon Setting Not Written by Sharyn McCrumb. In his photo on the back of the dust jacket, Buck is wearing a black cowboy hat, white T-shirt, and jeans. A pistol is stuck into his pants on his left hip. The photo is cropped on the right but Buck's right hand appears to be grasping the end of a shotgun. His left arm is parallel to his left shoulder. He is drinking from a clay jug supported by his arm and his shoulder.

The text explains, "Robert 'Buck' Coulson was bitten by the science fiction bug at the age of twenty and shortly afterward discovered 'fandom.' He met his future wife, writer Juanita Coulson, at a fan club meeting; together they continued to attend science fiction conventions and went on to edit and publish Yandro, the Hugo Award-winning 'fanzine'. A former secretary of the Science Fiction Writers of America, Mr. Coulson resigned the position to devote more time to writing. He lives with his wife and son (and some uninvited livestock) near Hartford City, Indiana."

Joseph Major

Congratulations on your nomination. Plokta 12½ and 13 arrived today, with the announcement that Plokta would not be on the Hugo ballot. And according to File 770, it isn't. You would think the people who do this Plotka would at least have the courtesy to trade with you.

The US Geological Service has been assiduously renaming certain geographic features that were named by explorers who, well, had not had any in some time and therefore named geographic features of a certain shape after what was on their minds. And so impressionable youth are shielded from trying to climb Whore's Tit Mountain.

And now that the inquiring reader, thanks to the kind advice of "Dear Annie", and the useful shelves of Cover Girl Shoes, has obtained a six-strap suspender belt, where does she (was it "she"?) get the size 40 hose to go with them? Please let me know. By mail, not in person.

Chris Bell

Plokta this time seriously weebled Charles, to whom I showed but yesterday the article by Mike Abbott about loving England, that which I chose for the Harveys' Reconvene/50th Eastercon fanthology. He had just decided that maybe some fans were his kind of people, and then this genially bearded weirdo with a bottle in hand first-foots it onto the doormat. So Charles bravely opens Plokta as far as the second page (using the wooden tongs provided for taking washing out of a twin-tub) and finds someone he knows depicted inside carrying an unreasonably large hunk of ordnance under an ominous header, and he doesn't know what LoC means apart from vaguely associating it with Amway and therefore with Crowley. Good grief! Now he's never going to come back out of the cupboard under the stairs. He's guarding the wine-rack with a stone axe against potential incursions of crazed fannish hippies from religious cults brandishing superfluously technological corkscrews of unreasonable size.

It's not very easy for those of us whose spouses are disenfanchised, you know.

And I certainly don't remember inventing any new games recently. Cleave the Nun wasn't mine, it was invented by Patrick Gilbert, and jolly good fun it was too back in the sixties when nuns were still recognisable by their habits as they poled about town in pairs and eschewed nylon stockings; but fishslice-cleaving is a whole 'nother thing, obviously. Please tell me what it all means?

Yours, Baffled of Bristol

We Also Heard From:

Martin Morse Wooster (enclosing two sticky dollars for Plokta, which is unfortunately not available for mere money, but show of interest is fine), Kim Huett (again, with a sad tale of somebody being attacked by an elk), Jerry Kaufman (astonishingly sending us a Nepalese Good Luck Tantra Totem spam. Please don't do this. "Send this to 15 people and your life will improve drastically and everything you ever dreamed of will begin to take shape".), Margaret Austin (Is "Martin the Megalomaniac Mouse" Martin Easterbrook or someone else? [Yes] And you might be amused by the CIA's kids page at:, Susan Francis (I never actually watched the Wombles, but I suspect there's a paragraph in the middle of the article that's not strictly true.), Sheryl Birkhead, Sarah Prince (sending a wide variety of assorted mooseware), George Bohmfalk (trying to determine what zaftig means), Eric Lindsay, Teddy Harvia (with 2 more lovely postcards), Tom Ferguson, Joe Mayhew (Sometime I will write and tell you about what I found in the secret compartment of my Bucconeer Hugo), Sue Jones, Bill Burns (Enjoyed reading and seeing Velma's exploits -- I think I went to bed early that night. [These were on the web -- see next article for more details] and Pamela Boal. And thanks to everyone who sent us congratulations on the Hugo nomination.

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