Tuesday, May 03, 2022

LOC for Opuntia #522

The following is a letter of comment sent to Dale Speirs, editor of Opuntia, commenting on #522.

Dear Mr. Speirs:

It’s been a while since I’ve last read—or written to—you, and I recall Opuntia and your approach to topics of mutual interest fondly. I think I first encountered your writing via FAPA more than a decade ago, but we might have also traded fanzines through the mail. I hope that you and yours are doing well, and I was pleased to see many of the themes and topics that first drew me to Opuntia continue in full force—and then some—in the recent issue (#522, and there’s already a #523!) that I downloaded from eFanzines.

In fact, you recently came up in another letter of comment. In Fadeaway #67, Robert Jennings mused about the fate and future of the humble postcard. Writing in response to that issue, I said:

Your commentary on the fate and future of postcards gave me food for thought. I still enjoy sending and receiving postcards, sometimes finding them too short for proper correspondence but useful for sharing places I’ve gone to with friends and family. (I also pilfer hotel stationery for use when it’s available.) When I receive a postcard, we usually post it to the refrigerator, and when we clear space for more, we set them aside. We have quite a sizable stock of postcards—used and unused—that we’ve accumulated over the years, and I’ve occasionally picked up sets related to The Onion, DC Comics, and the like. In fact, I’ve been tempted recently by a set issued late last year by Clarkson Potter: Dungeons & Dragons—Archival Art from Every Edition, an intriguing 100-card set. Per Diem Printing offers a fun set of 25 vintage comic book covers, as well as one featuring covers from Weekly World News. Must. Not. Acquire!

But I think the reason for the decline of postcards is clear: Texting, email, and social media. Usage of postcards has probably declined in step with general correspondence and letter writing as people have adopted new ways of communicating and sharing their experiences. I’d wager that below a certain age, perhaps indeterminate, people are more likely to post to Instagram or TikTok a highlight from their experiences than to send a postcard. Of course, such general sharing is more passive and less personal than sending someone specific a postcard intended just for them. So it goes. Personally, I prefer letters like this—even writing letters of comment as though I might mail them even if I email them as an attachment. I write differently in letter form than I do in an email. I’d be curious what Dale Speirs of Opuntia has to say—or has said—on the matter.

I’m suspicious that you’ve explored the history of the postcard and related correspondence in back issues of Opuntia. If you could point out some past numbers to explore, if indeed you have done so, I’d appreciate it. The topic seemed to be in your wheelhouse, and you can find the issue of Fadeaway online at https://tinyurl.com/Fadeaway67. In any event, I thought of you while reading another fanzine. Not bad!

I’m glad you were able to involve the progeny of Dr. Edward George Mason in the recent Calgary Philatelic Society meeting. How neat for them to be able to see his avocational work continue! I was even more interested in the intersection between philately and fandom-adjacent topics as represented in your pieces “Philatelic Fiction” as transition to “Bwah Ha! Ha!” and its focus on mad scientists, “Train of Events” considering appearances of trains in pop and pulp culture, and “Twisted Fiction.” I didn’t remember you being as fond of old movies and old-time radio as these pieces suggest, and I welcome the ongoing series offering viewing, reading, and listening recommendations.

But I am curious. How do you find such stories to read? Movies and OTR are relatively available online, but how do you locate the full text of the pulp stories you include in such pieces? I’ve been exploring digitized copies of various sf and related little magazines but have been focusing on specific magazines. Your approach seems more pointed, and I think I could learn from your method, if any.

Your review of Carol Pinchefsky’s Turn Your Fandom into Cash was interesting, and I added the title to my Want List online but did not immediately purchase the book to read. Might be a good choice for the library. Pinchefsky seems to be a relatively recent arrival to fandom, having written previous articles on quality assurance testing. Given recent conversations in other forums, I was particularly drawn to your commentary on her thoughts about con running. In the end, the book struck me as focusing on online writing, social media, and perhaps Etsy-style crafting, which could perhaps be applied to any interest. Regardless, of interest. And sure to capitalize on more recent approaches to fandom such as cosplay.

Finally, your “Current Events” and “Seen in the Literature” roundups also offer ample fodder for further exploration and learning, lending additional insight into what makes your synapses fire. All in all, appreciated.

But the pick of the issue, I must say, was your review of Carlene O’Neil’s Ripe for Murder. I ordered it and One Foot in the Grape for my mother as a Mother’s Day present, mailed to her home in the Midwest. She loves mystery novels, and my father loves trains—he’s a train spotter and model railroad enthusiast of the HO variety, active in a local modeling group and once very active (and award winning!) in related organizations and publications—so I think they’ll both get a kick out of the books. “The mysteries will be a good break from the serious material of the Senior Center book group!” my mother wrote. “It’s been such fun to find a package outside our door! … Reading the first book you sent.” We’ll see what she thinks!

I hope that you and yours are well, and I look forward to future issues of Opuntia. It’s grand to have you back on my reading pile.

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