article by Anna Hepworth
In one of our magic mystery archive boxes, we have four issues of Skribe, being a Western Australian SF newsletter edited by Paul Branch and Celine Zhu. The earliest of these issues, being September ’93, is a single double sided A3 page folded to be A4 – the other three (October ’93, December ’93, May-June ’94) are two A3 pages folded similarly, to give 8 page saddle-stapled booklets.
Formats vary slightly across the three issues, although there is a consistent back page = details of local clubs and societies, plus a section on upcoming events somewhere in the early sections of the issue. Other content sometimes includes short stories (including one by the illustrious local Stephen Dedman), reviews, and commentaries. In whole, not necessarily the most riveting from this far away given, say, the inaccessibility of the computer games reviewed, but there are snippets and details to delight.
Key news at this point were the resolution of difficulties that Swancon 19 had managed to get themselves into (by absorbing it in to the media convention ConFusion) and the relocation of Valhalla Games and Hobbies to the now long gone Wellington Street store. Reviews of the Super Nintendo game Mechwarrior (author: Damian Kneale) and the IBM PC game Warlords II (author: Pale Frog) take up almost the entirety of page two, although the editors appear to have subscribed to the design ethic that was common in Perth fandom of the time, that no white space should go untarnished, with a small advert for Valhalla and a teaser for next months issue sandwiched into the bottoms of the columns. Page three is headed ‘Mayhem on Murray St’ with an article by Doug Burbidge on “The Zone Three Experience” and one by ‘Vortex’ on “Virtual Buzzwords”. Yes, that Doug Burbidge who is so busy here at ASFDAP, who recently wrote an article on the local history of laser tag.
Front page news in this edition was dominated by ‘results’ from the inter-university-sf-club laser tag tournament, which in this case was less a tournament, and more of a mockery, with two teams from one club, two players from the second, and no reps at all from the third. With the added page count, we find such additions as a contents listing, an editorial, and an interview with writer Paul Kidd. Articles are still typically half a page – two gaming articles by Guy Dyson; two laser tags articles, being a review of Quasar by Doug Burbidge* and one of Timezones ‘Laser Cars’ (bumper cars with laser tag accoutrements) by Edward Torres; computer games reviews, one Amiga (Dune II; Damian Kneale) and one IBM PC (World of Xeen; Peter and Jenny Kelly) – plus a slightly longer book review on the inside back cover (Virtual light by William Gibson; reviewer Lynn Francis).
In theme with our twenty year lag between laser tag stories, this edition grabs at the nostalgia gland, talking about the Doctor Who 30th Anniversary – mentions of the ABC screening ‘some choice episodes’, and The West Lodge (South Perth based Doctor Who club) holding a masquerade party (cost: $1 members, $2.50 non-members). Other news items range from the international, with commentary on four possible comics film adaptations (Spiderman Returns, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Black Panther), to the very local, with the results of the MARS** elections.
The editorial in this issue seems shorter, giving way to allow for a forum of readers letters. There is a fascinating article on the internet by ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’, which is certainly worth a laugh or three, and an equally fascinating article on Multimedia (what does it mean to you?) by Chris Johnson. Regulars Damian Kneale and Guy Dyson show up again, with reviews on “The Fires of Heaven” (Robert Jordan) and “It came from the late late late show”, respectively.
By this issue, the format has changed – the front cover is now entirely news, with a full half page devoted to “Samsung gets Amiga”, focusing on the flow on effects of the break up of Commodore on the home Amiga users. Other news du jour included a name change of the current Gerry Anderson project, the signing of Sigourney Weaver to revive Ripley for Alien 4, the signing of Pierce Brosnan to play James Bond, and the conclusion of a court case of Steve Jackson games vs the US Secret Service.
The longer editorial has returned by this point, with no readers forum. Doug Burbidge provides a report on Melbourne convention Constantinople; the aforementioned one page story by Stephen Dedman is found on page 4; Chris Johnson provided commentary on both Comics and Anime & Manga; Guy Dyson reviewed Highlander:The Series; and James GWinnett provided The Frontier Survival Guide (Part 2) in a section labeled ‘Amiga’. And the final item, SMOF QUIZ – The Quotes halted work here for minutes while the others showed their far superior knowledge of movies pre-1994 (16/20 – they missed the Gimme Star Wars quote, as well as Frankenstein and American Werewolf in London. The last missed one is still a mystery – a google search shows nothing, although context suggests either Alien or Predator).
* yes, another one. At present we are planning to reproduce these two, to see whether twenty years of perspective have changed what Doug remembers.
** Murdoch University Alternative Reality Society. According to the write-up “The committee consists of Karen Stannard, President: Simon Stainsby, Vice-President; Steve Fellows, Secretary; Kevin Burbidge, Treasurer; Haydn Black, Librarian/Archivist; Lorna Walker and John Parker, Ordinary Executive. Yes, we know that two of those surnames match ASFDAP regulars, but interestingly, the Burbidge is not related, while the Walker is. Much merriment resulted from discussion of this around the table as we work on this fortnight’s offerings.