Fern Marder and Carol Walske - Fandom Writers

deemarie · June 27, 2005 6:31 am

Writers in Fandom the Fanzine Scene Interview with Fern Marder Has a movie or possibly a television series, ever made you feel so compelled to write about it? Or further, to continue the story, take the characters to new places, or completely different adventures? Have you ever walked away from a movie with thoughts on what you could have done with the story, or where it could lead next? Have you ever been a true fan of any genre or film? Then welcome to fandom. It is in any given fandom, that you're sure to find works of fan fiction surrounding it. These works, in the form of fanzines, have been widely distributed for a long time, most notably from the early '70s, long before the Internet. It's this form of creative expression that has inspired many people, and even launched many careers. Anything born of such great inspiration is surely a great way to start and learn the joys and possibilities, and grow in the craft of writing. Fern Marder and Carol Walske became widely known with their works of fan fiction. Although Carol was an accomplished artist with a special joy in fractals, as seen in her Renderosity gallery. Fern is quick to point out that Carol considered herself a writer first. Sadly, Carol passed away last year [Carols memorial], yet her work will continue to inspire others, whether in art or writing. That said, I owe a great deal of thanks to Fern Marder for allowing me a deeper look into Carol and her collaborative work in fan fiction, and to be able to share it with you, through this interview. As an introduction, and relevant to the release of Star Wars Episode III, here is a bit of background concerning Fern and Carol's Star Wars based writings, in Fern's own words: All of Carol's and my Star Wars fiction was written during the time of the original series, particularly between the second and third movies. Probably the most well-known (or perhaps I should say infamous) is a novel called Stormbrother, which was published in 1983 as a special issue of Guardian (Issue No. 5). The Guardian was a fanzine published by Mazeltough Press, which had the odd distinction of being a fan novel that was paid-for publication (publishers split the profits with us to get the novel). Particularly relevant at this particular moment, although coming out just before Return of the Jedi, its premise concerns the true identity of the man who became Darth Vader, and why/how he fell to the dark side. This presented a very different scenario for the plot end of the first trilogy. Shorter Star Wars related fiction appeared in several other fanzines at the time, most notably the double-issue of Time Warp (Issue No. 7), which included several of our stories (both in collaboration, and by each of us individually). Both of these and many other Star Wars related fanzines had artwork by Carol Walske (she was especially in demand to provide cover art a Walske cover helped to sell a 'zine), whether or not we had writing in them. She was particularly known for her photo-quality portraits of the characters, which were published in fanzines and also sold at auction at various fan conventions at the time. Carol and I never published a Star Wars fanzine out of our own press, but virtually co-produced the two items mentioned above.
When did you first start writing? What was your earliest inspiration? I started writing poetry in the second grade, and short stories in junior high. I got into non-fiction writing and journalism in college. Im pretty sure that Carol also started to write in elementary school. Carol started developing Nu Ormenel, a science fiction universe, when she was in high school. My earliest inspirations were things having to do with nature and social problems. Carol was always into fantasy/science fiction and history. How did you first get involved with publishing? My work had been published in school literary yearbooks, so I started thinking about getting the word out there pretty early. I was an editor (sports!) of my college newspaper. I discovered fan/small press publication while I was in college. Carol had created artwork for competition, but I dont know if she had any of her early writing published. She also found out about fanzines while in college. We got into the publishing business (running a small press company from our apartment), when a small press publisher we knew was upgrading to a better mimeo press, and we acquired her old one. Three fanzines came out of it (none of these with our writing in them), which we helped to produce but did not actually publish in terms of editing or marketing. At the same time, we both were submitting our writing to fanzines for publication. We were in NYC, it was the early 70s we knew a half-dozen fanzine publishers as friends. We decided to get into publishing zines ourselves when fans of our stories started writing to us, complaining that a lot of the early stuff was out-of-print. We started by publishing collections of reprinted Nu Ormenel stories and branched out from there. What was your publishing venture like, and what did you publish? As indicated previously, we started ghost-publishing for friends who needed assistance. Our own first edited and marketed publications were the Nu Ormenel Collected Volumes, five in all, containing both reprints and new material. Subsequently, we published zines in Star Trek, Buckaroo Banzai, and Robin of Sherwood fandoms. We also ghost-published or prepared photo-ready copy and arranged for the printing for zines in Star Wars and mixed media for several different people. A word on the Buckaroo Banzai zine we published The Cavalier in connection with the official 20th Century Fox fan club for the movie the Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, for whom we kind of ran an east coast office. We were utterly startled to find a mention of this, including our names, in an interview on the Banzai DVD, that came out a few years ago. A while back, on another fractal website, we found a post from a fractal fan trying to find out if the Carol Walske who did fractals, was the Carol Walske who did The Cavalier. The creative world is so wonderfully small. What was the climate like at the time for fan fiction writers? What was the fan-base like for you and Carol? I'm assuming it must have gotten pretty crazy at times. We are talking about the 70s and early 80s. It was a wild time for fan writers. Media fandom was really taking off. Science fiction fanzines/semi-pro zines go back a very long time, but I believe that the first film/TV media-related SF zines were Trek zines (which is probably why there has always been a huge schism between "literary" SF fans and "media" SF fans). When Star Wars arrived, there were suddenly Star Wars zines (and rival Close Encounters zines). Then you got everything else media fanzines for every genre/TV show you could imagine (SF media zine people started doing zines for things like Starsky & Hutch, Remington Steel, and so forth). Some of the larger media SF conventions had special dealers rooms just for fanzines. There were conventions just for fanzine readers/ writers/publishers. As for us, our fan base grew very quickly, which is how/why we published the reprint zines mentioned before. Also, Carol and I were a full-service creative house. We not only wrote fiction, but Carol also had a booming career in fan art (illustrations, zine covers, convention art show pieces). I wrote poetry and also wrote and performed music at fan gatherings/conventions and provided music transcription services for other fan composers. So we had a lot of fans on a lot of fronts. When and how did you and Carol meet? What was your first collaboration? Carol and I met (of course!) at a small Trek/media convention in NYC in 1973 when I spotted her name tag and went over to compliment her on what was one of the first published Nu Ormenel stories A Klingon Heritage. About two years later, she contacted me when some zine people we knew were planning a two-zine set, one fiction and one non-fiction, with articles on how the universes for those worlds had been built. I had been recommended to her as a good person to help write a section on language, since her Nu Ormenel universe had multiple languages, complete with grammar, alphabets, etc. While we were working on the technical article, Carol was telling me about a plot problem she was having with the story to go in the fiction volume. I suggested a fix for the problem and we were suddenly collaborating on the story, Broken Sword, the first story to get our shared byline. We each subsequently also wrote on our own, but the majority of our fiction writing was co-authored after that. It should be noted here that Carol and I never stopped writing, even though we stopped doing zines. In fact, Carol continued to write throughout her illness. We completed a new novel manuscript in August of 2004 SF, non-media-related (having nothing to do with Trek!), based on the original concepts of the Nu Ormenel universe. In the hospital in December, Carol told me that I could go ahead and try to get it published if I wanted to, but what really mattered to her was that she had managed to see it finished to her satisfaction. What do you consider to be the best, or most satisfying work you and Carol have written? Obviously, I am very excited about A Distant Shore, the novel that we finished the draft of last summer. We actually have written a number of novel-length manuscripts, but this one really feels right. I'm afraid that a lot of our best work was only ever shared with close friends and family. In the universe we called Luminous Times, the first novel, A Sort of Homecoming, will always be one of my favorite works. Do you still keep in touch with a lot of the people who read your collective works? As with the Cavalier story, we never knew when an old fan of ours would pop up. I keep in touch with many more fellow publishers than those who were just readers/fans of our writing but, all of these publishers were fans of the writing, so I guess that counts. While we lived in NY, we were much more in touch with other fans of the writing, because we still occasionally went to fan gatherings or conventions. However, it was a real kick to walk through the main dealers room at the World Science Fiction Convention, in San Jose in 2003 (a great distraction during Carols first chemo), and have someone scream out our names! There was a table being run by a couple of Nu Ormenel fans whom we hadnt seen in probably 25 years. Also, with the release of the new Star Wars movie, I am still discovering new and old fans of our writing. You and Carol sure kept yourselves quite busy for some time. When did you stop doing zines? We mostly stopped doing zines because "mundane" life got in the way. We had both worked our ways up in our careers and you can't (or at least we chose not to) try to do both zining is extremely time-consuming when you are both creating the material and running the publishing/mail order company. We stopped submitting our work to other zines, and stopped publishing zines for sale in the '80s. When we did The Cavalier (the Buckaroo Banzai zine), it wasn't because we were interested in going back into publishing, but more that the fan club really wanted a good fanzine to come out, and we were uniquely in a position to help them. Likewise, we threw together our Robin of Sherwood zine, Another Time Another Place, when I was going to sing at a ROS convention. It would have felt very strange to arrive at a convention without a zine to sell (we also sold prints of some great portraits of ROS characters that Carol had done). We also took an excursion into another fannish activity - we got seriously into rock music. Oh dear, here comes another set of adventures. Besides just listening to music and going to concerts, we got deeply into collecting music memorabilia to the point that when Rolling Stone magazine did a feature on megafans (September 1989), Carol and I were the ones chosen to represent U2 fandom. We also did a lot of traveling in the US and Europe in connection with music activities, and briefly got involved with the public relations offices of one of our favorite Australian bands, Midnight Oil. However, never stopping writing, the Luminous Times universe (as a knowledgeable U2 fan will recognize by the name) is deeply based in the music world of the '80s. Looking back, was there anything you would have done differently? That is to say, do you have any regrets? Also, do you have any words of wisdom for writers looking to get published? Especially now, knowing that all the things that Carol and I put off doing assuming that we could pursue them later, are not going to happen because she isn't going to have a later. I very much regret that we didn't take the time to get some of our writing professionally published, and that Carol didn't get her art work similarly recognized. I can't give advice on getting published because we walked away from that route. If anything, I would ask your readers for advice on how I can go about getting this novel of ours (and any subsequent ones that I may complete myself) published. I will say this - old style fanzine writing taught us a lot. We had to write to a page limit, a deadline, and answer to editor/publishers. The big problem with a lot of Internet fan fiction is that the writers publish it personally, without the help/oversight of an editor. Take your writing to writers you respect and get some serious comments, criticism and advice. And keep writing. Always. Have you ever considered compiling earlier works for publishing? Absolutely not! Carol and I always considered it a great gift that we were allowed to dabble in the creative universes of Star Trek, Star Wars, etc. However, what made writing exciting and our work unique was that we always wrote the alternatives to the norm - we didn't follow the script as written. We took a little piece of what existed and took off from there into a totally original direction. We never intended to go professional with anything that included the slightest reference to someone else's universe and characters, since what mattered most to us was creating our own universes and characters.
Message2315809.jpg Nicks Notes is a regular featured column with Renderosity Staff Writer Nick Sorbin [vclaszlo].
June 27, 2005

Article Comments

SndCastie ( posted at 12:00AM Mon, 27 June 2005

Thank you Fern and Carol for sharing your story with us. And thank you Nick for bringing their story to share with us. SndCastie

DreamWarrior ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 30 June 2005

Thank you for yet another great interview! :)

anniemation ( posted at 12:00AM Sat, 02 July 2005

Interesting interview! :)

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