TTBA: Review by Penny Dreadful

What with Tavia having gone and said such nice things about my stories in FS3 (small unmarked remuneration will be left in a duffel bag behind the usual dumpster at the usual time), I now feel obliged to at least try my hand at reviewing ttba. I've never reviewed a Zine before and have only ever actually seen three examples of the species including this one, so I hope this comes out all right.

I like the plastic front and back. Makes a nice noise when I tap my fingernails on it. Repels coffee, baba ganouji, and much much more.

I also like the binding, no idea what it's called--the kind that allows one to fold the book backwards so the front and back meet. Handy because--no offense intended, seriously!--if one is reading it in a public place it allows one to maintain the pretense that one is reading something Important and possibly even Educational. Note I am not advocating outright deceit--the one time I was confronted I freely admitted to what I was reading:

Ruthless Interrogator: So whatcha readin'?
Me [mutters]: fnzn.
R.I.: Come again?
Me: i sd FNZN!
R.I.: I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch--
Me: I'm reading a fanzine, all right? An unauthorized non-profit amateur anthology of fiction based on a long-defunct television show AND IT'S GOT DIRTY BITS TOO! ARE YOU HAPPY NOW? Hey, where ya goin'? Come back here, you coward! [hurls ttba at the retreating figure, but it stays nice and clean thanks to the lovely plastic front and back]

But I digress.

2. ART
Well, there's mine, upon which I won't comment except to say the excellent quality of the reproduction captures my obsessive-compulsive cross-hatchings in admirable detail. And there's Firerose's, which are those neat kind of tracings or there a name for that technique? Lots of pretty pictures! I like that in my grown-up literature...

Front cover probably best left to be commented on by someone with a proper appreciation for Val Westall's work, which I know is immensely popular and acclaimed, lack of taste on my part rather than lack of talent on hers.

I can't speak for anyone else but I know my story improved greatly through being actively "edited" by Tavia (as by Judith in her Zines). Other than that I can't comment on my own literary contribution--tastes like truffles or tripe depending on my mood. I've had some positive feedback, though.

So, aside from that...

I read every story, which says more about the quality of them than you might think, as I am not a "voracious" (or as I prefer to put it, "indiscriminate" ;-p) reader of fiction. So if I don't mention it by name that doesn't mean I think it sucks. If an author wonders e can ask me and I will comment, although I can't promise anything more insightful than the following:

I think the editor made a very good choice in strategically distributing Belatrix Carter's brilliant "Seven Deadly Virtues" throughout the Zine.

"Awake and Find No" by Ika is really good, awesomely well-written in my opinion.

I find much of Executrix's fiction intimidating--her prose is perfect and prolific and leaves me feeling utterly illiterate culturally and otherwise--in light of which she might not consider it much of a compliment when I say that I greatly enjoyed her "Not Our Kind, Darling". But even Shakespeare throws a bone to the proles on occasion, n'est-ce pas? To mix a metaphor...

"Privilege" by Susan Cutter, which appeared on the Space City list I think, is still excellent and still makes me think of Bukowski. But only in the most positive possible way. If you know what I mean.

"Ash Wednesday" by Firerose highlights for me one of the advantages of paper over electronic media in certain circumstances. At 32 pages it's not really that long in the universal scheme of things, and kept me reading with interest all the way through, whereas in its original electronic incarnation I found its length unwieldy and I think I skimmed a lot, which naturally left me feeling confused. Very good long-short story.

"Inga" by Judith Proctor and "The Sleep of the Dead" by Hades are both very original and insightful I think.

I think ttba is extremely good value for the price it's being offered at, and I would love to see it sell well and thus encourage more of its kind. I like the fact that the "Descriptive Contents" page gives violence as well as sex warnings. If it were up to me I think I would distinguish between explicit and nonconsensual sex...but then I probably would not distinguish between heterosexual and homosexual...but of course it's NOT up to me so I'll shut up now.

Thank you, Tavia, for your effort in producing ttba. I really think it was worthwhile, and hope the experiment succeeds!

1 April 2001

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