Thursday, February 16, 2012

Behind CITYSPEAK Revisited

CITYSPEAK Revisited: The story behind the story of the first Blade Runner fanzine.

This article had been put on hold for quite some time. I initially began research for it in 2007. But, getting information on the fanzine, titled CITYSPEAK, and on its editor, Sara Campbell, had proved to be a challenge.

First released in December of 1982–while the movie was still in theatres–the fanzine would only produce three issues until CITYSPEAK editor Sara Campbell’s untimely death. The last issue–the Special Edition–was published posthumously.

Andrew Pokon, a Blade Runner fan propmaker and collector, sent me a copy of the first CITYSPEAK issue in 2007. And it blew my mind. I then embarked on an investigative journey to learn all that I could about the fanzine and the people behind it.

I was able to contact a number of folks that were involved with the first issue. I contacted Kathy Vergano, who wrote a letter in the first edition. However, she said she’d pass on an interview. She’s not much of a fan anymore, she said. And I also contacted Phil Kaveny and Samuel Tomaino. They attended a discussion on Blade Runner that took place at the 40th World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon), held September 2–6, 1982, at the Hyatt Regency Chicago in Chicago, Illinois. The discussion was made into an article, titled A Chitown Talkathon. The depth of their discussions was incredibly impressive; especially considering that the only source materials they had–besides seeing Blade Runner in the theatre–was reading what materials were released in magazines at the time. There was no internet. And the VHS video wasn't released until the following year. There were things mentioned that I had not thought of. And I used to moderate a Blade Runner fan forum, so I've seen it all–at least, I thought I had. The article was divided between the first two issues of CITYSPEAK. The first half of the article covered such topics as their first impressions of the film, comparing and contrasting the film and the novel, what the film critics overlooked in the movie, the little details–hidden gems–found throughout the scenes, and their assessments of some of the characters–among other things. However, they too declined to be interviewed. Or, maybe it was that they simply couldn't remember much from the discussion since it was so long ago.

My search for Pat Nussman, who wrote the short fan-fiction titled, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, I am saddened to report, found that she had died in 2003.
I reached Anne Elizabeth Zeek. She assembled the last CITYSPEAK issue–the Special Edition. She shared some details about Sara Campbell, and was very, very glad to find that her name is still remembered. They were roommates in NYC from September of 1982 until her death.

I also reached Rosemary Edghill, who finished the prep of CITYSPEAK for the press after Sara's death. In 1988, she dedicated her book, Two of a Kind: An English Trifle, "To Anne Elizabeth Zeek and Sara Campbell: Jacks or better."

And I had an enlightening, lengthy conversation with Eric Larson. Eric has been in fandom since 1980, attending 3 to 4 conventions a year. But what he is most known for are his panels and talks on film and sci-fi media topics. His knowledge and interest in film marketing and design were always brought on with fun quips and odd little stories that amuse and delight fans. And that has certainly helped with our interview here.

And, there was one more person that I wanted to interview most of all. That was Rose Arnold. Eric Larson knew how to get in touch with her and said he’d contact Rose on my behalf. However, her health was in decline at that time. Then, in April of 2009, she died.

Some folks claimed to have the other CITYSPEAK issues in storage and said they'd get them for me. That's what was really holding up this article from being released. I recorded the interview I had with Eric over the telephone and typed out all the discussions we had. However, after a few more emails to the parties claiming to have the issues, I still had no response. So, rather than sit on what I had, (the interview, Anne Elizabeth's note, and an article by Sara), I decided to present what I had now.

CITYSPEAK, to me, represents more than just a fanzine. Besides it being an integral part of Blade Runner fandom history–spearheading the fandom long before it achieved its cult status–it also represents the history of fanfiction itself. It was an early generation of fanfiction writers before the advent of the World Wide Web. They'd meet in person, talk over the telephone, and send letters via the post. It was an underground fannish activity that produced usually no more than a hundred copies of each issue, and was spread primarily by word of mouth or through a friend of a friend. It was a world I knew nothing about before the internet.

It is tempting to speculate how far Sara Campbell could have gone with her writing career. At present, she is known best for her articles, stories, and poetry on Blade Runner. And I believe that she would have wanted the CITYSPEAK issues to be freely available over the internet.

As she duly noted in the first issue, "CITYSPEAK is an amateur, non-profit publication." It would be of disservice to the Blade Runner fandom–let alone to the writers–if the stories, poems, and articles in this fanzine were to remain in the storage bins of the privileged few. So, I'd like KippleZone to be the CITYSPEAK athenaeum–a bookshelf containing the fanzine issues, the work of its contributors, and a resource free to all to read.

The article features an interview with Eric Larson, and some words from Anne Elizabeth Zeek and Rosemary Edghill.

This CITYSPEAK revisit is far from being complete. I’ve only the first issue to share and discuss at this time. So, consider this a work in progress–CITYSPEAK Revisited 1.0.

This article has raised more questions than answers. But, hopefully, this will spur those in the know to come forth and share the remaining issues of CITYSPEAK–an integral part of Blade Runner fandom history–with the rest of us.

The link to the article -> CITYSPEAK Revisited


~ Craig

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