|A Science Fiction Fanzine||Summer 2006|
As said before, this Challenger is GHLIII Press Pub #999. So where did it all begin? Why, with
Now, why did I switch to the co-ops from the Berkeley dorms? I don't remember -- but I know that Barrington Hall wasn't my first choice. I wanted to live at the University Students Co-operative Association's Ridge Project, on the north side of the UC campus. It was new, it was modern, it was cheaper than the dorms, and it was co-ed, all of which would have marked a definite step up from high-rise Griffiths Hall, the official, sterile dormitory where I'd spent my first two years at Cal.
Barrington wasn't a step up from anywhere, except maybe the dumpster in its parking lot. It was a block-wide three-story stucco-sided heap, with ragged furniture and rotten carpet, running with crashers and dogs from the street. But still, I preferred it to the dorms. True, Barrington was south of the campus, old, and dilapidated, but it was still cheap, and it was co-ed, and talk about your revolutions in human consciousness...
The reason Barrington and the other co-ops were cheap had to do with the very nature of the facilities. "Co-operatives" required that each inhabitant perform X number of scutwork hours per week in a workshift to cover part of his rent. When I checked in, in September 1969, I was given clean-up duties at the Central Kitchen at Ridge Project -- basically, scrubbing out the enormous pots in which the ghastly meals they fed us were prepared. I did the job, but yearned for one of the soft jobs back at Barrington itself -- what residents called "graft." House President, or Council Member, maybe. Or ...
Barrington's switchboard had a microphone from which the co-op officers could make announcements, and well do I remember the night that the current Prexy, whose name I forget, finished his evening's pronouncements about the next council meeting with "Oh yeah -- we'll be selecting a new Bull editor."
Since I'd been at Barrington, I'd plastered my walls with a Peter Max poster and a hippy tabloid proclaiming Paul McCartney to be dead, endured my roommate's atrocious Mexican weed (the smoke of which gave me headaches) and hashish (the smell of which I liked), met the Napa girl who would soon become the Booful Babe (and the Workshift Manager who would eventually marry her), and seen two issues of The Barrington Bull.
The Bull was the house newsletter, and these issues were truly dreadful stuff. Clumsy revolutionary rhetoric, striving to be strident. Apparently the editor had run out of clichés to spout about the class struggle, so a new Pulitzer had to be tapped.
In New Orleans the previous summer I'd leeched off my parents, survived Hurricane Camille, watched men walk on the Moon, and read about the Tate-LaBianca murders -- little dreaming that I'd someday talk with principals in both events. I'd also hung around with members of the New Orleans Science Fiction Association -- and at one of its parties, typed on a oneshot.
You know about oneshots, don't you? Party-goers taking turns hacking at a stencil with whatever blather they want to write? They set me down -- and created a monster.
For I enjoyed it! I enjoyed lots of things I did for the first time in the summer of 1969.
So I went to that council meeting and presented myself as a candidate for Bull editor. I'd been editor of my high school newspaper, I said, and had vast experience with science fiction fanzines. Backed by such credentials, I won easily. Being the only candidate might have been an advantage.
Goodbye pots and pans. Hello, mimeo stencils.
I don't recall approaching my first Bull with an editorial philosophy in mind. I do know that beliefs I still hold dear came forth -- for instance, acknowledgment that nobody likes text without art. I had been given several additional workshift hours to hire a staff, which meant an illustrator. Which meant Patricia Yeates.
Pat was a tiny blonde remarkable for two things -- no, not those two things: her hair and her art. She stands tied in my memory with a girl from high school for the title of Longest and Most Beautiful Hair I've Ever Seen. Pat was about 5'2", and I swear her hair made up about three feet of that. She kept it smooth, straight, and lustrous, and it was amazing.
A lot of the rest of her was talent. The kid loved to draw. I approached her with an offer: do cover illos for the Bull, and forget about mopping floors or whatever other work they had her doing. She was, of course, amenable.
Now that I had an artist, I needed something to write about. Work schedules and council minutes were all well and good, but now that I had a zine of my own to edit, with stencils and a mimeo and paper provided by the co-op's Central Office, I had freedom and license. I saw those stencils as a tabula rasa from which I could soar. The previous editor had wasted his opportunity howling about the revolution. I would expend my chance ... howling about the revolution.
Gimme a break: this was Berkeley at the height of the '60s. And reading over "Sergeant Santucci and Me", my lead article in that first Bull, I'm actually pretty pleased. Short months before, Berkeley had been the site of the battle for People's Park, the most violent moment in university history. Lou Santucci was a huge, beefy deputy with the Alameda County "Blue Meanies", head of the tactical squad that shotgunned its way through southside Berkeley on May 15th. They shot 35 people and killed one guy who was watching their rampage from a roof. In the years since, of course, my feelings have mellowed: times have changed, police have become more professional. However, my opinion of Santucci has not changed. He was a brutal thug.
And my writing was not that bad -- ridiculously pugnacious, of course (gimme another break: I was 20), but defiant in the face of the Establishment savagery Santucci embodied. At 57, I may be more tolerant of cops, but I'm still proud of that.
That took care of the first three pages. I followed with an editorial page asking for contributions, for which I promised workshift hours, and a request for loan of an italic typewriter to break up the font monotony. (The days of Selectric typewriters were yet to come.) I printed a poem by the Booful Babe (rather depressing, as is the way of 17-year-old ladies), and one by myself (inexpressibly pompous), dedicated the issue to a lady back in New Orleans (I always dedicate my zines), and added two pages on Cesar Chavez' grape boycott, brought to me by a staggeringly beautiful blonde. I finished the issue with a page of gross jokes, one of which still strikes me as hilarious, if lamentably juvenile and counter-revolutionary.
Such was my first Barrington Bull -- my first fanzine -- GHLIII Press Publication #1.
When I printed the thing, one thing became clear: none of it was clear. My printing was dim and uneven. Pat's drawing of Sgt. Santucci was barely perceptible. Only the strike stuff was nice and legible. The reason was obvious: those pages had been typed on an electric typewriter. For my next Bulls, I borrowed an electric typewriter, racking its copy setting up to 12. Of course, I wrecked the thing and had to pay for its repair, and pissed off the guy who leant it to me, but ... the text was legible!
So what was my text? My second Bull was a pretty good zine. It opened with a letter from a Vietnam-bound former resident to a current one, reflecting not on that issue, but another torment to the national conscience: race. I don't know his last name; no way to discover how he came through. An unknown contributor provided "Fragments of Unauthored Writing" ("...seminal fluids disengage, a shudder, a pause, o apolyptic invasion, o benign opulence, devour me unto thy hilt, immolate me in exuberant exultation ...") and another a comic questionairre/application for Barringtonians seeking sex.
My own contributions included a prose poem about a traffic death I witnessed in the Mojave Desert, bad but sincere writing, and two more pages of Gross jokes. These got me into mild trouble. Pat Yeates had provided an illo, but was so disgusted with the jokes she vowed she'd thenceforth restrict her art to the Bull cover. At least one other girl sought me out to ream my butt over a Tarzan story -- fortunately, that wasn't my last impression on her. Now that I mention it, thank heaven those days preceded the orgy of political correctness which later turned Berkeley, and many another college campus, into quasi-fascist concentration camps. I'd never have been allowed to graduate.
I did yet another Bull. Responding to my request for bull puns, Pat ... well, take a look:
Within, I reported, with deliberate vagueness, on a house meeting where marijuana was banned from public areas, and described in flowery prose a wedding held on the Barrington rooftop. (The bride said she was 28. She was 38. The poor guy, 22, was somewhat upset when he found out, and I don't know what happened.) NOLa's Carolyn Dilworth sent a poem. Pat Yeates said it made her cry.
I remember standing against hospital-glass
Watching you tell your infant troubles to the air.
Clutching raisin-fisted unfamiliar air,
Lungs expanded the size of small, green apples.
(The doctor held you in a single hand.)
With a premonition of sweet milk,
As a shrouded figure wrapped you in a blanket
The color of tears.
(I already knew I'd lost you.)
The zine worked. Even my Gross joke was a success -- I told a girl named Claudia the story of "The Wrestling World's Championship" en route to print the issue, and she cracked up. Let me kiss her, too, although that was as far as it went.
That was it for my first quarter as editor. One guy ran against me for the post, but I made an interminable speech re-nominating myself for the job and won re-election.
When we returned for the January quarter, I asked Pat to expand her cover work to a full page. In her portfolio (202KB) find most of her work for the Bull. Note how each is based on a stupid bull pun. Inside, I wrote about redheads, cops, stag movies (they showed one to the assembled membership, inspiring this Yeates illo and the timeless quote "That's as big as my forearm!"), the Oscars, a resident's arrest ... and published others' poetry and letters and articles (one bozo's "How I Ripped Off the Establishment for $1200" dealt with his skimming from his job at a McDonald's). Since the house secretary was hotter than a match, I made sure to publish her council minutes in full.
Reading these issues over, I am actually fairly impressed. The writing is pretentious and juvenile, of course, but there's verve to these zines, energy -- I was obviously enjoying myself. A couple of my pieces don't read too badly -- even now.