cnvarbiter (cnvarbiter) wrote,
cnvarbiter
cnvarbiter

Introducing: ContactZine.com

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I bought this domain name back in 2008. It just auto-renewed for the fourth time, and, until this week, it only pointed to an out-of-date, static HTML version of the Farpoint website. The purpose for buying it? To build a website to memorialize a Star Trek fanzine which ceased publication 25 years ago this Christmas. The reason I bought the domain name when I did? One of its two editors had just died, having survived her sister and co-editor by five years. Both died before they hit retirement age, even the young retirement age of 65, which my generation will probably not have a chance to invoke.

To be honest, Contact, though celebrated by Star Trek fans of the 1970s, was not my cup of tea. Its tales inspired by Star Trek were not my Star Trek. They were focused solely on the platonic love and brotherhood shared by Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock (and McCoy was sometimes allowed in the clubhouse.) They often contained about as much science as an episode of The Big Valley. (Translation for my younger readers: they had fewer aliens, spaceships and blinking lights than Jeff Bridges’s remake of True Grit.) They almost always featured one of the main characters being injured or falling ill, with his life on the line and terrible pain wracking his body, while the other had to make great sacrifices and suffer terrible humiliations in order to save him. And sometimes one, both or all of them actually died. There was great emotional power in the resulting funeral, revenge killing or reunion in the afterlife.

No. Not my cup of tea. Admittedly, my stories of the Arbiters can get a bit bromantic at times, and my friends do believe I hold the patent on a story device called The Angst Stick, but you’ll never catch me hanging anyone on a hook by the flesh of his back, or  making my characters literally get on their knees and beg. (Okay… I might do that to Sestus Blaurich… but not to anybody I like.)

Okay, so why, with all I’ve got to do, would I take time out to build a memorial to an amateur publication in which the editors would have been hard pressed to include something I myself had written?

It all ties into, well, the story of my life. It begins with this zine, in many ways. Sounds a bit Neil Diamond, I know.

It was 1985. No, wait, it was 1984. Let’s start at the beginning. I was a freshman in college. I wasn’t adjusting well. I just sorta felt numb. My life lacked purpose. And focus. I remembered a golden summer in high school when I was writing a novel. It was a piece of Star Trek fan fic, inspired by Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. I had finished it, bounced it off a few zine editors, who ignored it, and then left it in a drawer. (Historian's Note: In 1982, when I wrote that short novel, there was no World Wide Web on which to post it. No fanfiction.net, no LJ, no Facebook. Your only hope of publishing fiction about characters you didn't own was an amateur-published fanzine, or "zine" for short.) I think, for reasons unknown, I'd also adapted it into a one-hour television script. I think I just wanted to learn how to write teleplays.

A friend of mine suggested that maybe I should publish my novel as my own zine. So I did. I had not clue how to sell a zine, so I carried a box of them to a Creation convention where I believe Jimmy Doohan was appearing. Being a teen with no knowledge of social niceties, it didn't occur to me to ask how much the con charged people to come sell stuff in their dealers room. I just stormed in like an invading Visigoth... okay, like a shy college math major who didn't know any better. I walked up to anyone who didn't look threatening and asked them if they'd like to buy a fanzine I'd just published. I think I sold seven. One, little did I suspect, was to a Big Name Fan named Carol Frisbie, who was closely affiliated with a zine called Contact. Carol wrote to me a few weeks later, offering praise and encouragement. This motivated me, months later, to attend  a true fan-run Star Trek Convention for which I'd found a flier. It was called ClipperCon, and it was run, little did I suspect, by a group originally called "Contact Associates." (I don't think any of the ClipperCon or Contact crowds even remember that, but I still have a hotel BEO to prove it!)

I discovered that fan-run cons were the place to be if you wanted to write and sell fanzines. I met many people who practically embraced me, who loved my story, and who wanted me to write more. So I showed up at the next fan-run con in my area, called Shore Leave, a few months later. This time I was more savvy. I had figured out that people paid for dealer's tables, but I had no money. So I found an empty one and sat down. Probably just for a couple of hours. I sold more zines. I met more wonderful people. They convinced me to write a sequel to my novel. By the next ClipperCon, I'd sold enough zines to buy a dealers' table for the weekend, I'd published my second Trek fanzine, my brother and I had started a humorous SF-themed newsletter, and I'd learned where you wrote to get your zines listed in national directories so people from all over the world could buy them.

All of this led, in the Spring of 1985, to a letter about my zines from one Jan Davies. (I knew now that this was an "LOC" for "Letter of Comment.") She lived near me and she invited me to call her so we could chat. When I called, I learned that Jan was also an aspiring fan-fiction writer, and she was desperate to get published in a zine called...

Wait for it...

Contact. (You guessed, didn't you?)

Little did I suspect...

Have I said that before?

Jan had an ulterior motive. She was really desperate to get published in Contact. Desperate enough to offer, in the form of a bribe, a prospective husband for the youngest daughter of the House of Contact.

You think I'm kidding.

Naive little things. You don't suspect the depths of cunning and deception that really exist in this world, do you? Want to buy a bridge? I'm selling one, cheap.

Jan will deny, I'm sure, that it was in her mind that marrying off young Renee Volker would burn her name in magic flame in the sacred Table of Contents of an issue of Contact. (And she'd be right to deny it. When she did get her fan fiction published, it was because she worked damned hard to make it the best it could be!) She will not deny, however, that, when she met me, she decided that I was a good match for Renee, and she should introduce us. So I was hauled up to meet the parents first, at a collating party for a zine called... (Is this getting old?) Contact.

I met Bev and Russ Volker, Bev's sister Nancy, and Martha Bonds (now Martha Sayre), all of whom worked on this apparently very popular zine which Bev and Nancy had begun ten years earlier. They also worked on the ClipperCon committee, and they drafted me into both. Well, they drafted me as an artist and laborer for Contact. As soon as I read one novel from its pages, I knew I'd never be one of their writers. I believe I mentioned hooks in the flesh of the back? Yeah.

I was invited back the next week. I accepted, thinking, yeah, those people were fun. It was that week they lowered the boom. She was just seventeen, and I'm quite confident you know what I mean. Okay, actually, she was almost eighteen. I was nineteen. We were both painfully shy. It took us months to work up the courage to speak to each other. We finally did. 27 years later, she's watching television in the next room, listening to the dog attack a rawhide bone while our oldest son plays the guitar.

I guess Jan had something there. Of course, there was no "little did I suspect" for Renee. She knew the whole plan. She knew her parents were going to meet "The Boy" and she knew the next week when "The Boy" was being brought for her inspection. She was prepared, too. She stood near the back door and she brought a friend for backup. The Boy didn't have a clue.

Like I said, story of my life.

I'll spare you the ensuing 27 years. For now... Suffice it to say that this Contact project, a zine published from 1975 - 1987, consisting of eight regular issues, two Christmas specials, one spin-off novel and at least four volumes of collected reprints, was instrumental in the development of my family as it exists today. One is tempted to wonder about divine manipulation when one contemplates how the decision of two sisters in 1975 to enter the world of fanzine publishing was echoed by two brothers in 1984, causing two families to meet and future generations to come into being.

Most of the Contact body of work had already been published by the time I met Bev and Nancy. They were collecting material for their ninth regular issue at the time, and they continued to talk about publishing it for another couple of years. It never happened. What did happen was a second Christmas special, the only issue of Contact that Jan or I ever contributed to. And then Bev moved on to other projects like grandmothering and running conventions, and Nancy began writing fan fiction about Lou Diamond Phillips and Keiffer Sutherland, among others.

I must be very honest. While I was always impressed by the sheer scope of what my mother-in-law and my aunt accomplished, I couldn't take their fiction seriously. As I've already said, it just wasn't my Star Trek. It was too narrow a take on a vast universe of possibilities.

For me.

As a 19-year-old, I was intolerant of what I considered misappropriation of other people's characters. It was fine to write stories about Star Trek, but it seemed wrong to me to drag the characters into situations that went beyond the scope of the original source material, to depict them doing things their creators may never have intended them to do, to transform a speculative fiction adventure into little more than a male-male romance. You didn't even want to get me started on K/S slash fiction, where Kirk and Spock weren't just friends who preferred each other to dating, but were actually lovers. I was completely intolerant of it. I was not subtle or shy about expressing these opinions. If you think that didn't cause some friction between the two fandom generations in this story, get out your checkbook, because I want you to make a deposit on a second bridge. We'll put it right next to the first, only slightly higher, for a two-level effect, with a path down the middle...

I am now two-and-a-half times the age I was when I met Bev and Nancy. In fact, I am the age Bev was when I met Bev and Nancy. I now realize that we each see the world differently, we each imagine differently, we each respond to a story or an event differently. Like those five blind men who found an elephant, we each latch onto a different part of the beast, and we draw out mental pictures accordingly. I still got nothing on why you'd want to see Kirk and Spock in a passionate clench, but, if it makes you happy, I can't say there's anything wrong with you thinking about such things, reading about them, writing them or drawing them. In the end, the fact that I didn't write the same kind of stories Bev and Nancy did means little. What matters is that we both loved a lot of the same things, and a lot of the same people. I thought they were talented writers, and they seemed to feel the same way about me.

We were a family. More, we were a family who worked together with passion and creativity, and, if I do say so myself, we accomplished some amazing things. Separately, with their friends, they created Contact and ClipperCon, and I created my Trek fiction, my Arbiter Chronicles, and Prometheus Radio Theatre. Together, with our friends, we created OktoberTrek, Farpoint, and two young men named Ethan and Christian.

Bev died in 2003. Nancy in 2008. I miss them. All. The. Time. There's so much I wish I could tell them about, show them, share with them. So many things that have happened as a direct result of the legacy they left behind. And because that legacy is so important to me, I want its history to be remembered too. Contact is a monument to that history, and to the creative energy of these two amazing women, and all the writers and artists they inspired.

So I've finally brought ContactZine.com to life this week. Right now it's just a few blog entries and a couple of scans of the first issue of their zine. It's a work in progress. As the weeks go by, I want to add more scans, to get the stories formatted so they can be read in HTML and put into true eBook formats, and to add the memories of all of those who still remember Bev, Nancy, Contact, and those times gone by.

Check it out, if you're interested, and, if you feel moved to help, let me know! I could sure use someone to help me edit. None of these zines were produced using computers. The stories exist now only as xerox copies or typewritten drafts. They must be scanned and OCR'd, and that means the electronic versions are pretty error-ridden and need to be proofed and corrected prior to re-publication.

Above all, if you were part of Contact, as a writer, artist, friend or reader, I hope you'll post some memories at ContactZine.com.

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