Fanzine Scrap Book: Nick Edwards (Part One)

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A glimpse into Nick’s gaming library in this wonderful shelfie

Another entry in the Armchair Adventurer’s archive. GROGSQUAD member Nick Edwards was an active collector, contributor and correspondent to the British ‘Zine Scene back in the eighties. He contacted me about helping to fill gaps in his collection, specifically Runestone, a ‘zine he was involved in. He very kindly agreed to share some of his collection and his experiences to add to add to the expanding Armchair Adventurer Library.

I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons when I was in primary school, aged 9 or 10 in 1980 – by my older brother who played with a couple of friends in the pub over the road (the landlord’s son was the DM).

Playing in a pub was great as we were allowed the amazing treat of a free coke each. It’s also why the smell of stale beer that you get in old pubs always reminds me of childhood. Pretty soon I bought my own gear (the shop in Bristol was Forever People which made up the entirety of my Christmas list for a number of years) and in those first few years we ran D&D (then AD&D), Traveller, Bushido, Gamma World, Golden Heroes, Boot Hill, Aftermath and a few I can’t remember. Pretty soon I was keener on DMing than playing.

For AD&D, we played through Tomb of Horrors, the Giants series, the Slavers series, Queen of the Demonweb Pits and so on. Call of Cthulhu came along and captured my imagination, as did creating my own scenarios and even games. I remember running Order of the Silver Twilight from one of the early campaigns and the lack of combat was eye opening. This was a time when the hobby was reinventing itself regularly as games and gaming became more sophisticated – from the dungeon to the wilderness to the city to story-driven and looser adventures. Through senior school I continued playing with a couple of other friends although it had largely petered out by the time I was 15.

SMALL ADS

At the same time, I had started getting into the fanzine scene. I answered ads in the back of White Dwarf. Dragonlords was the early one that everyone has heard of but I remember Acoloyte, SEWERS, Beholder, News from Bree, among others. The early ones were largely about the mechanics of the games themselves and written by students but Dragonlords seemed to start a move towards more general.

Being at school, living in the countryside and not knowing anyone who had ever been university, I found this completely engrossing. Fanzines were a major thing when they came through the post. It was a glimpse of a different kind of life, more intellectual, more challenging and with better music (I liked heavy metal at the time and my musical taste today remains an odd combination of AC/DC, Black Sabbath, The Smiths, Joy Division and Talking Heads – basically everything I liked between the ages of 13 and 17 but mixed together.

I started writing letters to the zines and meeting some of the people at conventions like Games Day and the weekend one at Warwick. Presumably I was quite annoying – sorry guys. New fanzines came out with a fairly clear split between Dragonlords generation who had since graduated and those edited by schoolboys. The latter had a higher chance of being pretty lame but everyone was fairly understanding.

RUNESTONE

I started by co-editing a fanzine called Runestone by a guy called Bill Lucas – I can’t remember how it came about but a belated thanks to Bill (I was probably too self-absorbed to be grateful at the time).

Following that, I did my own thing called Manic Depressive (why I chose that name is beyond me – I wasn’t) which, I seem to remember, was a collection of mini-zines by other people (there was a term for it which I now forget). Then I did maybe half a dozen issues of Iron Orchid, which was all me and which I have fondest memories of – I was experimenting with design, politics, music and the gaming had largely disappeared (at this point the cool zines were largely devoid of actual gaming which was fine but there was a bit of a whiff of embarrassment about RPGs). And finally I co-edited (or perhaps I was more of a contributor) of some more occasional fanzines by Jez Keen, called Love in the Garden (his other zine was Next Stop Jupiter). He was more talented and older than me – so again I am grateful for the hand-up. The whole thing was a lot of fun but then the scene began to fracture – there were more cliques, more anger and feuds. Looking back some of it was just bullying. There wasn’t a lot of empathy or compromise – people with poor social skills are attracted to roleplaying after all (I count myself in this). People started to publicly drop out, closing zines in protest. I remember being sad about it at the time though I probably took my share of sides.

By the time I went to university (Warwick – chosen largely because some of the best fanzines were produced there a few years earlier). I was largely out of the scene and had certainly stopped being interested in the games. (to be continued)

SCRAPBOOK

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A typically ‘robust’ opening to a Letters page from Thunderstruck explaining to editor Tim Kalvis just how shit he really is. Fair play to him for printing it all

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Opening page from Shadowfire 1, one of the new wave of fanzines. I liked this one a lot though I think Richard Lee only did three issues
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Reviews page from Imazine 13 where Paul Mason makes my heart swell with pride by being kind about Iron Orchid. Bless him. It is the only evidence I own that any fanzine I did actually existed!

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Fanzine Scrap Book: Tasarion

As promised in the last GROGPOD this is the first in a series of blog posts featuring samples from RPG zines from back in the day.

Long, long before he directed a cast of thousands of Lannister extras to their death, Graham Kinniburgh was a very young Tolkien enthusiast. He has provided some sample pages from his ‘zine for the GROGSQUAD to enjoy:

A short note on Tasarion – a Tolkien Fanzine

GROGPOD listeners will had a gateway author (or perhaps a game) that will have introduced them to world of geekdom. For a small group of friends in Greenock in the West of Scotland at the very dawn of the eighties, that author was the undisputed Lord of Fantasy Fiction himself – JRR Tolkien.

And having fallen on love with the world and works of Middle-Earth, it was perhaps only natural that we would seek out other like-minded souls in the wider world. Of course the internet wasn’t around back then, but an organisation calling itself ‘The Tolkien Society’ did advertise its existence in the back pages of some of the (many) Tolkien related paperbacks that we bought. Letters via snail-mail duly exchanged, and parental cheques dispatched and cashed, we were soon ‘officially’ ‘The Hobbiton Smial’ – ‘smials’ being the name for the various local clusters of Tolkien Society members dotted round the country. What’s more, we were soon in receipt of ‘Amon Hen’ – the Society newsletter, and ‘Mallorn’ its intimidatingly erudite ‘scholarly’ publication.

‘Amon Hen’ contained news of society meetings (aka ‘moots’) and events, articles, short fiction, poetry, artwork and other Tolkienish tid-bits and through its pages we learned that some of the other ‘smials’ were producing their own newsletters too. I’m not sure if we used the word ‘fanzine’ at the time, but that’s what they were and it was only natural, despite the fact that we were only 12 (!!) that we would want to have a stab it too.

Thus was born ‘Tasarion’ our humble little offering to go alongside those other more grown-up publications The production details are practically lost to memory but I do recall struggles with such archaic tech as be-ribboned manual typewriters, pritt-stikk, tipp-ex and ancient photocopiers (issue 2, now seemingly lost to history, was cranked out on something called a Gestetner – which I remember being as hideous to use as its name sounds tripping off the tongue). However, our surviving issues are in surprisingly good condition so we must have done something right and am pleased to notice that the quality of the issues did improve so that they did look a lot more like ‘Amon Hen’ etc by the end.

As for the content, well please bear in mind our age. While we may squirm a little (ok a lot) reading them back now, we do so also rather pleased and proud that we made the effort to give vent to our fledgling imaginations and creativity.

Tasarion lasted for a grand total of 6 issues. Like a young band just hitting its stride with some decent material beginning to sell, we ran into ‘creative differences’; as we hit our moody teens we decided to re-imagine ourselves – no longer the Society’s young ‘halflings’, we wanted to be the bad guys of Middle-Earth and, as inevitable as acne, we re-branded ourselves as ‘The Dark Crown’ (it is for you to decide, dear listener, whether the sight of certain young goth ladies dressed as leather- clad ‘Brides of Sauron’ at the Society’s Oxonmoot in ’82 had anything to do with that decision !).

In short, things other than fanzine production occupied our time – sadly I cannot report that it was the sex, drugs and black-magic infused rock & roll that we craved – but probably even MORE of an obscure little game we’d been playing called Dungeons & Dragons

Graham Kinniburgh

Tasarion 5
Chin stroking is compulsory …
Sample 3 (Tasarion 1)
Meet the editors, “good, but a little rowdy”.
Tasarion Sample 6 (Tasarion 1 Quiz)
Test your wits against the quiz. There’s a poll of favourite authors. Hitchcock makes an appearance. He was one of my favourites too, as I assumed he wrote the Three Investigators.
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They cannot win forever …

 

Sample 1 (Tasarion 1)
It’s not ALL about Tolkien – how about this enthusiastic endorsement of The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

Tasarion 6

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Check your answers. The best ‘zine ever, named after a tree.

Episode 14 (Part 2) RPG Fanzines (with Ian Marsh)

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Download Episode

INTRO: News about a new PBM ‘zine that we’ve inspired – Bones of the Lost God – if you like Phil’s monsters, he’s put some of his art on Red Bubble.

GAMESMASTER’S SCREEN (with Ian Marsh): Ian Marsh returns to talk about his editorial-ship at White Dwarf and his involvement in Games Workshop. He also talks about Dr Who and his TimeLord game, before bringing us up to date with his latest endeavours. 

DAGON (with @dailydwarf): @dailydwarf gives his usual insightful analysis of literary criticism covered in Dagon ‘zine.

ATTIC ATTACK: Blythy joins me in the attic to talk about ‘zines and comments provided by listeners. I mention Monster Man, a new podcast that is being developed by James Holloway, check out progress at his site.

OUTRO: We’re making a ‘zine – sign up at Patreon – before the end of September 2017 to get a copy.

Thank you to all our Patreons for your continued support; without you, we would not have been going for so long.

If you would like a PDF of the last GROGZINE you can get it at Drive Thru RPG and The Complete Daily Dwarf too. All proceeds will go to YSDC to support the community there.

The Pseudo-Nymph

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When moving house, many things resurface that have been buried away for years; I’ve found stuff that I thought was long gone. These artefacts form an unnecessary archive to a life that has been lived. I’m a curator to my own life for a world that doesn’t really care. I’ve cleared the loft with a ruthless abandon – throwing away cards, files, knick-knacks, magazines and tatty books without a second thought – an instant life-laundry.

During the clear out, I found a batch of 50 of The Pseudo-Nymph, an anthology of Science Fiction stories and poetry that I produced in 1991. It was the practical part of a dissertation I wrote about SF micro-publishing in the UK. The essay had one of those meaningless convoluted titles, that I can’t remember, but it included material gathered in an interview with David Pringle, the then editor of Interzone and the Games Workshop fiction line.

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The late 80s were a boom time for the number of small press titles emerging from different corners of the UK and covering the whole, diverse range within the broad church of the genre. The New SF Alliance (NSFA) was a loose coilition of small publishers who got together to support distribution from a single address. The Pseudo-Nymph is a collection of illustrated material from each of the magazines that formed the NSFA.

DREAM, later NEW MOON SCIENCE FICTION, was a magazine that put SCIENCE back in science fiction with plot driven stories that avoided experiementation, they gave Steven Baxter his first break, among others. THE SCANNER was a more off-the-wall magazine that liked to have humour as well as more serious pieces of both fiction and criticism. WORKS was one of my favourites as it tended towards short, short fiction and mood pieces. AUGERIES was one of the early and most respected of the members of the alliance, while NOVA was newer and more off the wall.

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The most inspirational was Chris Reed’s BACK BRAIN RECLUSE which pushed the boundaries of desktop publishing design and had an eye for the emergent ‘slip-stream’ experimental SF which was just about gaining transaction at the time. He was the enthusiastic patron of the alliance who did all of the publicity and PR on behalf of the the small press. More importantly, he was a great distributor of micro-publishing, bringing rare and interesting fiction to the UK from the backwaters of the USA.

There’s some really good fiction included in the collection. I let each of the editors choose one of their favourites from the their magazines. It resulted in many of the stories having similar themes: altered states and displaced time. It was the artwork in The Pseudo-Nymph that caught the attention of the reviewers. There are a couple of striking pieces, including examples from some artists that will be familiar to gamers: Dreyfus who contributed to Elric! and Call of Cthulhu for Chaosium and Alan Hunter who often illustrated Lew Pulsipher’s contributions to White Dwarf).

The Pseudo-Nymph struggled to find an audience. In the pre-Internet time, it was difficult to get the message out to audiences, despite the valiant effort of the NSFA to find readers, I sunk the printing costs into my big student overdraft and was left with loads of copies. I must have kept a batch of them ‘for old times sake.”

I’ll keep searching, I know there’s a copy of GOLDEN HEROES around here, somewhere.

In April, I will be sending $5.00 Patreons a copy of THE PSEUDO-NYMPH and pulling the remainder out of the hat to send to $3.50 supporters, as a ‘thank you’ for their support.

Putting the FAN back into Fantasy RPG

Following an emergency meeting at Dirk Towers, the time has come … to create a The GROGNARD files fanzine.

Last week, I ran on of those infernal twitter polls in a fit of beer fuelled excitement in a bid to understand if there was interest out there. 41 people voted to say that they would read a fanzine … so we’ve agreed to do one as a PDF and as a hard copy (if we can generate enough funds to support it).

To help to create something interesting and collectable we have launched a Patreon campaign. If you want to throw some pennies in the hat to support our endeavour, then we’ll be very grateful.

We are offering various goals, that you’ll see on the link, the first is a PDF ‘zine, but what we’d really want to do is to produce a real ‘zine with ink, paper and staples. It will have a flavour of the old school ‘zines, even their distinctive smell.

IMAZINE

Imazine Fanzine

If you have been following my twitter feed on @theGROGNARDfile over the past few days you will have seen that I have taken delivery of a bundle of IMAGINE magazines.

TSR UK published IMAGINE magazine from 1983 – 1985 with Don Turnbull at the helm and Paul Cockburn as the assistant editor.

I used to subscribe to it back in the day, despite it’s coverage of AD&D, a game that I didn’t Games Master and only played occasionally. It was an interesting companion piece to White Dwarf as it struck a very different tone to the Games Workshop magazine. Dare I say it, but on reflection, the resources it provided were of a superior quality. PELINORE, its collectable game world, was notable for it’s richness and wonderful maps that could spark a hundred scenarios without really trying.

Journal of the Senseless Carnage Society

It lacked the general consistency of White Dwarf, for every Pelinore supplement there was a weak and confusing scenario or waffely article about the minutiae of nothing in particular. In the podcast I have described White Dwarf as a kind of analogue social media – connecting our experience of role-playing with the wider community. White Dwarf did this tacitly through its small ads and letters page, Imagine on the other hand, was more explicit in its support of the fan culture. In the back pages there was a regular ‘zine section and in later issues a series of articles entitled FANSCENE which was an attempt to reach out and encourage gamers to become more active participants in the hobby.

In the mid-80s, there was something of a boom in the world of RPG ‘zines. Many of the second generation RPGers had gone to college, so applied all of their new found freedom to knocking out these little magazines.

Out of the Mist 'Zine

I lost all of my fanzine collection in The Great Clear-out of ’92 when it contributed to landfill. They’re building on it now. Under the foundation of those closely-packed semi-detached houses, there will be the remnants of DRAGONLORDS, LANKHMAR STAR DAILY, DAGON, and IMAZINE. Unlike other artefacts from RPG’s past, it’s extremely difficult to recover those lost ‘zines as they rarely appear for sale on the internet. Not surprising, given the extremely low print runs.

Red Fox 'zine

All that remains is the distant memory of their content, which was irreverent, packed with ‘in’ jokes and references, quirky scenarios and pitch-battles between readers who were arguing over the latest controversial issue affecting the world of gaming. I enjoyed that sense of a conversation going on, even if I didn’t get all the references.

‘ZINEATOPIA

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I have ‘zine’s in my blood. At the time, I was active on the PBM scene and had a ‘zine newsletter of my own ‘THE NATIONAL KOBOLD’ (my life in PBMs will be covered in future Podcasts). I was also contributing to ‘zine’s too, notably DRUNE KROLL where I began a BROOKSIDE RPG PBM (no takers, pity because my Damon Grant whodunnit scenario was brilliant).

In the early ’90s I created an anthology of Science Fiction stories in a collection titled THE PSEUDO-NYMPH, notable for it’s wonderful illustrations. In the mid-to-late 90’s Blythy and I edited PROP, a small press, literary magazine for 10 issues (really!).

The National Kobold

We are both excited at the prospect of producing a ‘zine because it will allow us to explore avenues that are impossible in the podcast. We plan to include some of the usual features, but with additional ideas, that we’ll preview here over the coming months.

You can have your very own cut out and keep ridiculous shrine to Caroline Munro. Chuck a few coins in the beret and make it real.