Swinging Monsters
Abi Frost

What? Six weeks gone by already? You're joking, of course... Bloody February. Several people have remarked to me that 1983 seems to have been whizzing by, and my own experience bears this out. Could it be a cunning plot by Mrs Thatcher to get re-elected without anyone noticing?

What with Bermondsey, I have been gearing myself up for the fun and games of the General Election. Contrary to what some people seem to believe, I've never been a member of any political party; and the only election I've ever participated in the political side of was 1966, when I was 15 and voteless. Then I and my young mates from Fulham YCND all rallied round the Radical Alliance candidate, Pat Arrowsmith. She was a very nice lady, though she's got tarred with the looney brush since then; but the fact was (like the RCP at Bermondsey) she had more campaign workers than voters. I began to realise, deep in my naive little teenage skull, that there wasn't going to be a glorious rising of the people, of Fulham against the sitting member, Foreign Secretary and LBJ-fan Michael Stewart, one day while canvassing. Since I wasn't very good at spieling, my technique was to state who I was working for breathlessly, and then hand the punter a leaflet with the candidate's picture and a long statement of her views on Vietnam.


Then as now, Arrowsmith favoured short hair and, open-necked shirts. I handed the leaflet to the householder, who like many people in Fulham was a Mr O'Something.

'Pat Arrowsmith, eh? Begod, he's a goodlooking young fellow, isn't he?'

That finished my doorstepping career for good, I think. What I love about elections these days is sitting up all night cheering or booing as the results come in. What was so great about Bermondsey was the presence of a really great baddie (the vile John O'Grady) and a classically wet no-hoper of a Tory, pitted against two sort-of goodies (Tatchell and the Liberal), either of whose winning would have pleased me. (Tatchell because of the smear campaign, the Liberal because every Liberal seat won is another stick of gelignite under the Alliance.)

And all the fringe candidates, too, including my beloved Screaming Lord Sutch. Have you noticed how serious politicos have started muttering about the 'problem' of fringe candidates, and raising the deposit you have to pay before standing? Gerald Kaufman on By-election special suggested making them cough up the equivalent of the postage on one letter to every house in the constituency; this seemed quite reasonable, till my trusty calculator told me that in Bermondsey that would make a deposit of £7000! Maybe it's nostalgia for doorstep days in Fulham, but I begin to lose patience.

I can't help thinking that the reason why they're all so worried is that fringe candidates ever-so-subtly demystify politicians, and the process by which they gain their authority. It's not that big a step from laughing at Sutch to asking yourself what the real difference is between him and Bob Mellish.

It will be a sad election in one way, though; the first without Professor McKenzie and his swingometer. (He died a while ago.) I shall just have to make my own ... and three-dimensional, this time round,


I refuse to go on apologising about not doing mailing comments. It isn't me that burbles about criticism, [Deleted], it's you; I don't, as a matter of fact, believe that critics need or should have any influence on fanwriters (or other kinds -- but it's a more complex question) at all, I think that 1) fan-writers should get into the habit of reading real literary critics (along with real literature, of course, but you don't need telling that) in order to sharpen up the shit-detector we all have somewhere in our heads. The best editing, and the best criticism, is that done in the writer's own mind. 2) There is, however, a need for fanzine reviews. Readers need them. How else do these new fans everyone goes on about know which fanzines to ask for? How else do they know which there are? When I was new on the scene I used to read Jackson and Nicholas with bated breath. I didn't always agree with their opinions, when I saw the fanzines, but used their columns as a guide to what was interesting.

Now I enjoy reading reviews to find out what other people are thinking about something, carrying on imaginary conversations with them ('You cretin, Kev! Missed the point again, Phil!'). All good, clean fun.

Welcome to the apa, Anne; we've all heard it all before, and thank god for someone who says so. (And also welcome Maureen, and SORRY again.)

That's it for comments proper, but there is another aspect:


Oh dear oh lord, [Deleted], I didn't mean to hurt you. Not you, certainly. Let me put it on record, here and now, I enjoy your musings; I turn to them early on in the reading, and read them again later. You may not realise it, but you're the only genuinely wise woman I can find in this lot. So shut up and muse some.

The thing is, I was given this fire-breathing image vis-a-vis the apa by people who, at the time, didn't know me and seemed not to know enough about fandom to appreciate my real, jenny-come-lately, status. Because I was writing for Ansible at the time they appeared on the scene, they thought of me as more 'established' than such people as Pat or Chris (A). You and I know different, but ... The voice of the sacred monster is a nice voice to write in, and every group needs one - so I've bagged it. Anyone is welcome to take it over, or enter a conspiracy -- which would be more fun still.

I expect somebody will request a sight of the 'real me', now. Trouble is, there ain't no such animal.

[Deleted], you sacred ratbag, I never said Linda (P)'s thing was 'too good for an apa'. (There also ain't no such animal as 'too good' for any thing.) I said that I, being but a monster and thus mean and grasping, would have done something else with an article like that; but Linda, being a warm and wonderful human being, put it here, to my great delight.

One hundred lines, teacher: Learning to read comes before learning to write.

Same for you, [Deleted], unless you'd like to join the conspiracy? ([Deleted] is welcome too, come to that.) Now when you say 'I can't teach ((that)) lot to write' you may mean 'I would like to coach that lot to write exactly as I do, but the stupid buggers keep on resisting', but what I mean is 'I can't teach ((that)) lot to write'. There are a number of unspoken references in the phrase (who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel? A monster scorned, that's who); one you could be excused for not picking up on is the idea around that the apa is a place for 'new writers' to 'learn their trade' and that mailing comments and 'criticism' are primarily there as part of a teaching process. But how could you have missed the reference to the old joke:


'My little Jimmy's doing ever so well at school. The teachers all say they can't teach him anything ...'?

This isn't just monstrous egomaniac paranoia, I think. I can't see your objection to Linda (P)'s 'monday thru friday' either. If the Belle of New Orleans can't use the odd Americanism who the hell can? I can't let you get away with that 'know your place and don't risk copying the great stylists' line, Now, put yourself in my place. Every time I say 'any of us can be a stylist, if she gets off her arse and uses her head' somebody tells me to quit putting people down. Now here you are really putting people down. We are not lesser mortals; but we are all mortals, and if we waste time worrying about our position in the hierarchy, we end up dead with nothing done. A woman's reach should exceed her grasp, and all that.

Anyway, Don Marquis and e e cummings are funny old choices for the 'great stylists' list. Who's next? Allan Ginsburg? rich brown?

[Deleted], you get what you're given. What you see is what I is, at the time of writing. Any ideas I get tend to come up as a result of something I've seen, done, or read; so do yours, I imagine. I (literally) can't afford the time or the paper to develop them fully, so I just put them down with a bit of diary to give the context. It's all down to taste, really, isn't it? I like reading what people in the apa have been up to in the last six weeks.

Jasus, what a waste of paper. Time for a commercial break....

Right now the papers are full of the new compact disc record player. Ever so small and played by a laser; you know the sort of thing. Will it catch on, I ask myself?

There are two selling points. First, a disc you can't scratch or damage (though I notice they don't commit themselves in the case of vomiting cats). Second, absolutely perfect sound -- or so they say. The first has some appeal to me -- you can tell my favourite records, they're the ones with terrible scratches sustained when being played at full volume late at night after excellent parties. The second, on the other hand, is wasted on the likes of me. In some circles I am notorious for having cloth ears. I didn't even get my own record player until the age of 23 -- and then it was a basic Boots stereo, cost £35.00 and due for replacement as soon as I start earning properly again. Even if I had proper ears, however, I live in a thinwalled concrete council block above a main road. I don't see the point of exquisite moments of pure silence between the notes If all they do is let me hear the Billingsgate fish lorries better.

On the other hand, there are such things as fanatical record buyers. Take my friend Roz, who has the best part of a wall, given up to shelves of classical records, and acres of floor covered with boxes of rock and jazz. Cheapo-cheapo Records sent her a Christmas card this year. She owns several different performances of favourite classical pieces, and seems to know the difference between them all (though sometimes I wonder if it isn't an act put on to make me feel small).

It seems to me that if, as the two companies making them predict, compact disc players take over within ten years, then neither Roz nor I will be catered for. Even if the discs come down in price from their present £10.00, Roz couldn't afford to replace all her records; even if she won the pools, many of them wouldn't ever get recorded on to compact. I, on the other hand, really don't need the promised sound quality, and would resent paying for the technology to produce it. I buy records for obscure and sentimental reasons, and I'm not really interested in the hi-fi aspect; I suspect that the majority of record-buyers are like me.


Besides, if the old-fashioned vinyl record, player goes out the window, what happens to the small independent record companies, which have been so important in the last few years? Presumably they will have to send their masters or whatever to Phillips or Sony. Would their pressing-runs be sufficient to interest these companies? It seems to me a step back to the days of monopoly domination.

One thing about print is that it got itself together before the days of monopoly capitalism.

Short of picking up a millionaire in the college bar on the last day of term (if I pick him up any earlier I shall treat Mike and Jackie to a weekend at the Gritti), I shan't be at Albacon. If I do pick up a millionaire I shall buy the convention and move it somewhere civilised. So have a good time there, and when it comes to the voting, do exactly what Chris Atkinson tells you. Vote 1984con; vote early, and vote often.

Swinging monsters comes from the holy basilica of St Elsa Lanchester, priestess-in-charge Abigail Frost, 69 Robin Hood Gardens, Cotton Street, E14 on the other side of the river from Bermondsey.

Let's hear it for LINDA PICKERSGILL, who did the copying, the deadline having crept up too fast for me to use Mr Hansen's services. Bloody February....

The Women's Periodical 5 (February or March 1983)