State Fossil: Trilobite
The Madison Science Fiction Group has always leavened its fannishness with politics, though at first, we didn’t realize that our group was very different than any other SF fan group. In the beginning we didn’t know that Janus was only the second feminist fanzine ever published (the first was Amanda Bankier’s now defunct, The Witch and the Chameleon). We didn’t fully appreciate that ten or twelve program items devoted to feminist topics at the first WisCon in 1978 might seem slightly unusual to the average fan. But then we heard about some fans who were calling WisCon “PervertCon” and we had to accept the fact that some people thought we were a little weird. But all science fiction fans know how to deal with that. My joking proposal to advertise WisCon 2 as “PervertCon” was rejected by two votes and we went on doing the things that interested us.
Fan groups tend to maintain their identity over the years, even as original members drop away and new fans take over. New people would walk into our meetings and if they were offended or bored by us, they never returned. The ones who stayed liked the feminist zine we were publishing and the feminist-oriented conventions we planned. I don’t mean to suggest that we achieved fannish utopia. There were plenty of disagreements and even a couple feuds. Disputes between Janice Bogstad and myself led to the demise of Janus. But the group continued to publish a feminist zine called Aurora, and Jan went on to publish her own New Moon. And to this day, most of us like our fannishness mixed with a large dollop of politics.
So you won’t be surprised to hear that the Madison Corflu Concom is honoring the traditions of our group with the Corflu publication- The subject came up at the first Corflu meeting:
“What should we publish?” we asked one another.
“Something we really care about. Something we’re willing to lavish a lot of time on-” was the general consensus.
We considered several ideas, but the one that inspired the most enthusiasm was to republish the symposium on women and SF in Jeff Smith’s 1975 fanzine, Khatru. This issue of Khatru was a really remarkable zine because its list of contributors included some of the most well-known writers (plus an agent) of 70s feminist SF: Vonda N. McIntyre, Virginia Kidd, Suzy McKee Charnas, Kate Wilhelm, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, (the still mysterious) James Tiptree, Jr., Samuel Delany, Joanna Russ, Raylyn Moore, and Luise White. Although it is nearly 20 years old, the opinions expressed in it are amazingly radical – which is a compliment both to the bold material itself and a sobering reflection on the current political climate. It’s fascinating to read the letters by writers in the very process of developing ideas that were already or would eventually become central in their work.
It seems to me that the part of fannishness that is about readers making connections with science fiction writers – the thing that joins writers and fans within an interactive community – is the thing that this Khatru symposium did best. Few other literary genres can point to a phenomenon like this in which fans organize and join in conversation with some of the most important writers in the field and gets them talking about where the genre is going. When you think about it, this is really an amazing thing. It’s a thing worth celebrating with a Corflu publication, especially considering the fact that this Corflu is going to take place in the home of PervertCon – Madison, Wisconsin.
So this is the plan: We’re going to reprint the original text of the Khatru symposium along with new comments by the original participants who have all approved of our project. We’re also going to ask a few writers and a few fans to contribute their own assessments of the Khatru Symposium. It will be a big zine – probably around 100 pages – and it will be available for the price of a supporting or attending Corflu membership.