Fanzines in Theory and in Practice

Collected Articles 1976-1982
by D. West

(180pp A4 duplicated. To be published February 1984. Prepublication price £3/$10, rising to £4/$15 on 1 February 1984, £5/$20 on 1 May 1£84, £6/$25 on 1 August 1984. Cash or (sterling only) cheques to D. West, 48 Norman St, Bingley, West Yorks, BD16 4JT.)

Never in the history of human civilization ... um. Not since the death of Queen Victoria ... er, try again. Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking ... reduce prices at a stroke ... the pound in your pocket ... please adjust your dress before leaving ... It's difficult to know just how to start a review of the collected fanzine writing of D. West, especially when the thing hasn't yet been published (ever-impecunious D. is trying to drum up advance support so he can buy paper and print the thing). The man himself has put out a publicity flyer containing such useful quotes as famous author Chris Priest's 'So fucking good I feel like going up to Bingley and killing him' and not-so-famous author and editor Ted White's 'An asshole.' (The West attitude to many Americans, but especially Ted White, may be detected in the price structure above, which has caused some scratching of heads in international banking circles.)

To Matrix readers, D. West is only visible as an artist/cartoonist responsible for deviously manipulative drawings scattered like pearls in the trough of the letter column, and for the awesome (but now defected) Death Star Ship Revengeance serial. What he's best at is writing, though, as evidenced by the fact that his most recent super-colossal extravaganza 'Performance' – which appeared in Malcolm Edwards's Tappen in 1982 – received five times as many votes as the runners-up in in the 1982-1983 Ansible poll, which is of course frighteningly authoritative. 'Performance' is a tour-de-force running to 36 closely typed pages, which in one extraordinary package offers the D. West Theory of fandom, fanzines, conventions, life, the universe and D. West, intertwined with the least expurgated convention report ever. As a final seal of approval, erstwhile Matrix fanzine reviewer Martyn Taylor didn't like it: what greater accolade could you ask? Oh, certainly bits of 'Performance' are slightly substandard, and some of the conclusions are what in the esoteric terminology of literary criticism one might venture to term 'wrong', but if you missed Tappen 5 this collection will be worth it for 'Performance' alone.

Also included are two more triffic convention reports, four miscellaneous pieces on books, writing and the urge to wear funny SF costumes, and six of the blockbuster West fanzine-review articles, at least two of which have also picked up a near-classic status. Don't be misled: these things bear about the same resemblance to the mini-listings in Matrix as does a major article in Foundation or Vector to the fifty-word reviews sometimes found in the Sun. At bottom, writing is writing whether in John Fowles or in Paperback Inferno, and West's opinions on writing are among the most closely-reasoned and entertaining stuff to be found in the SF microcosm, whether inside or outside fanzines. I say this with reluctance, mind you, since one of the people severely treated in some of the review essays is myself. (See how I repay good for evil, West? See how I restrain myself from saying things like 'Occasional long-windedness is one of the flaws in West's writing?')

Despite being practically an international expert on D. West (why, I first insulted him back in 1976), I haven't read all the material in this anthology. All the previously printed stuff, yes: but D's publicity leaflet promises an 8-page introduction and a 5-page postscript – while since the promise is to produce 180 A4 pages and the great man has belatedly realized that some of the articles were printed on paper smaller than A4, he has been issuing vague threats of a really long introduction or postscript summarizing all knowledge of fandom, just to make up the stated page count. Rush the man your three quid now.