Blakesindex, edited by Bill Hupe

Reviewed by Sarah Thompson

I'm sorry to say this zine is a disappointment. I jumped for joy when I saw it at MediaWest. It's enticingly fat (and correspondingly expensive; I can't remember what I paid for it, but it was at least $20) and has a lovely Leah Rosenthal cover of Blake looking heroic and Avon in the background looking ambiguous. And the idea of a full index of B7 zines, with stories listed by author, title, and subject, and poetry and art indexed as well, was very appealing indeed.

Unfortunately the zine is not nearly so useful as it should have been. The main problem is the extremely eccentric selection of zines indexed. An editorial explains that this is partly because parts of the project were chewed by puppies; but I suspect that the selection was odd to begin with, even before the loss of most of the zines from Ashton Press, Pony Press, and Wendy Rathbone (major publishers of both gen and smut zines). The massive Peacock Press genzine Gambit, for example, is represented only by issues 1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, and 12.

On the smut front, the zines indexed (listed on pp. 3-4) include: Aftermath 1-2; Avon Calling 2; Beyond Antares R-Rated 5 (marked M for multimedia); The Big B7 Zine; Careless Whispers; E-Man-Uelle 2, 4-7; E-Man-Uelle-- Comfort; E-Man-Uelle-- Short Stories; Fire and Ice 2; Forbidden Zone 1-2; Frisky the 13th (M); Homosapien 2 (M); Laughing Mutoid 1-5 (M); More Naughty Bits (M); Oblaque 4-5; On the Edge (M); The Other Side 7-8; Playfellows 3-5 (M); Quicksilver Rising 1, 3-4; Resistance 1; Satyrnalia (M); Thieves in Time; and Touched 5, 9. All of the above are marked "A" for adult. Also included, but not marked "A"-- which could mean an unpleasant surprise for a hapless gen fan-- are: Avon's Gadget Works; The Big Boy's Book of 1001 Things to Do with a Federation Blaster; Laidback 1; Southern Comfort 6.5; and The Unique Touch. You see what I mean about the eccentricity of the selection.

One editorial policy that I really disagree with is the inclusion of several issues of two apas: Terra Nostra Underground 1-4 (a slash apa, marked "A"), and Dandruff Droppings 2-8, 3-1/2 (the apa of the Flakey Blakey Society; not marked "A," but also contains a great deal of adult and slash material). An apa, for any of you who aren't familiar with the term, is essentially a private letter-writing club. The members send their letters to the editor, who collates them and sends everyone a copy in the form of a little zine. Only those who participate regularly (there's usually a specific rule about how often you have to contribute) get a copy. A letterzine, by contrast, is available to everyone and not just the contributors (current examples include Altazine and the Horizon letterzine; an old one was The Neutral Arbiter, which is also partially indexed in the Blakesindex).

(A historical digression: apa stands for Amateur Press Association. Apas are older than fandom; they originated as part of a hobby called Amateur Journalism which was popular in the U.S. [and perhaps elsewhere, I don't know] in the 1920s. Horror writer H. P. Lovecraft was an enthusiastic amateur journalist. Apas were subsequently adopted by literary science fiction fandom [probably in the 1940s, I'd guess] and finally by media fandom [probably in the 1970s, although that's also just a guess].)

Anyway, even though apas look like zines, and old ones sometimes appear for sale in used zine boxes, I think it's an invasion of privacy to index them in this kind of publication, especially in the case of slash apas. I don't have a problem with indexing letterzines like The Neutral Arbiter; but I think the usefulness of that is very limited, and the effort would have been better spent indexing more fiction zines.

I also question the usefulness of indexing multimedia nonfiction zines like Generic Ad Zine, Media Monitor, or Zine Scene. The main function of zines like these is to inform fans of what's currently available. Occasionally one might like to check back issues for information on out-of-print zines; but that wouldn't be necessary if only this index itself were complete!

A big problem with the indexing of the multimedia zines in general is that the entire contents were indexed, with no indication whatsoever of what is and isn't B7-related. For example, a fan looking for more B7 stories by Barbara Tennison (an excellent writer who I recommend to your attention, if you aren't already familiar with her work) will be misled by the listing of "Do Blonds Really Have More Fun?" from Homosapien Too. It's an Eroica/U.N.C.L.E. crossover story-- fun, but nothing to do with B7. It was included only because there was B7 material by other people in the same zine.

The subject listings are what gives the zine its great bulk. An index in which one could look up stories with favorite characters or favorite themes is exactly what many fans would like to have, but this one is only partially successful. Part of the problem is that so many zines have been left out altogether. There are also some problems with the standards for indexing. For example, under "Blake Dies at Gauda Prime" only one story is listed: "Love and Necessary Discipline" by Susan Matthews! Now, this is a well-known A-T story (gen, but very intense and violent) whose only connection with Blake's death is that it takes place PGP and he is indeed dead. But that is true of many other PGP stories, so why list only this one?

Still, I think it is unlikely that anyone else is going to attempt this kind of subject listing in the foreseeable future, so we should be grateful to have it at all. It will probably be the only source of such information for a long time to come.

I personally would have preferred to see a less ambitious project, more carefully carried out. For instance, a complete index of just the Ashton Press zines (to name one prolific publisher) would have been very helpful. I would also have liked, ideally, to see the contents of each zine listed together, as well as in the separate author-title-subject listings, so that fans could decide whether they want to buy a given zine, based on its contents, or remind themselves what's in the zines they already have. Frustration over that particular problem-- while I was skimming through my own zines looking for stories of various kinds-- was precisely what got me started on my mad fit of typing.

Should you buy the Blakesindex? IMO, only if you're a completist or keen on bibliography (both of which are in fact true of me, so I don't regret having it despite its shortcomings). As far as it goes, it is indeed a good source for information on favorite authors or favorite themes. Another possible approach is for several fans to buy a copy collectively and share the information. In fact, if anyone wants to know about a favorite author or some such thing, let me know and I'll check my copy and report-- but only for short things, OK? After a week of crazed typing, the urge has pretty much worn off.

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