Friday, October 26, 2012

Gene from the Pre-KISS Fanzine Days

Issue #22 of Gore Creatures, featuring a letter from Gene.

Thought some of you may be interested in the content of Gene ‘s letter to the fanzine Gore Creatures that ran in Issue #22 back in August 1973.  I mentioned this briefly in the updated edition of Black Diamond, but didn’t go into details.  To give it a bit of a backstory, the editor/publisher of the fanzine, Gary Svehla, was commenting on a situation he ran into with another fanzine publisher, of which you can get the inkling as to what occurred from Gene's response below.
The concept of trading fanzines between publishers is a long story in itself in any fandom.  It varies from instances where people think themselves high enough up the “fandom pole” that they deserve to get fanzines from other fans for free; to fans who promise to deliver on some type of payback that doesn’t appear to be forthcoming; to people who put a lot of time, money and effort in a fanzine and are expected to trade their offerings for someone who photocopies old magazine articles into a two-pager.   It easily can become a hairy situation and usually can result in disputes.
Such is the case here.  Gene, still involved in horror/SF fandom at the time, wrote in disagreement with the editor/publisher’s stance on the topic in an earlier issue.  It’s both interesting to read for Gene’s early “we should all live together in a free community and share” attitude (that, admittedly, even he seems a bit shaky in believing) and the editor’s responses that reference Gene’s involvement with a band called Wicked Lester and how Gene being to idealistic in his thinking if he wants to be taken seriously.  At times, it seems like the letter/editorial responses could be the angel and devil on Gene’s shoulders at this point in his life, right before KISS got their shot with Bill Aucoin (and note too that Gary refers to Gene's band as Wicked Lester and that the band would have an album out soon, which suggest either Gene never bothered to tell Gary what was going on with the band after 1972, or Gene was still playing up the idea that his band would have an album out, even if they weren't quite Wicked Lester anymore).
BTW, Gary is still in fandom, producing the newsstand-available magazine Midnight Marquee, as well as several self-published books on a variety of horror/SF movie aspects.  So he’s certainly doing just fine there. As for any friction seen in the letter published – Gary and Gene did meet up again later in the 1970s at one of the KISS shows, so any heat given off in this letter is within that of a disagreement and not like the start of a big feud.  As to his comments about teaching - some fans may wonder if that was Gary's way of needling Gene over his short-lived career as a teacher, but as Gary was a teacher at the time, it appears to be simply Gary's way of discussing the issue. (I want to mention these things in order to avoid anyone going with the old chestnut knee-jerk response of “Har-har and where is this Gary now?”  He’s doing quite nicely, actually, and still publishing on a national level.  So don’t even go that route.)
The responses in Italic are those of the editor, writing within the framework of Gene’s letter.  All of it is SIC as per the original fanzine publication:
Dear Gary,
                The Derek G. Bossert letter interested me. I was wondering if anyone else would tackle the sticky subject of cash for fanzines. Well, I can be idealistic and say a fanzine should be free for a show of interest (I think I went into this in my last letter …) but it’s not all that easy for the fan editor who has to shell out the cash, I don’t really know. I mean, I certainly don’t want to pay for the fanzines I get. So, fine and good, I don’t. But I do take some offense at your contention that “People who are respected and trusted mostly react in a similar way.” i.e. send in money. I mean, I don’t send in money. I hope I’m still trusted and respected. Then again, it doesn’t matter if I/anyone else is. The simple point is I don’t wanna pay. I guess Derek wants to make the same point on his behalf.  Oh well …
What I meant by my statement about honesty concerns intention. If a person receives GC on credit and gives me the intention he will pay the money later, I expect him to. If I send you an ish of GC, your intentions are clear and I don’t expect cash. Gene Klein, who is in rock group Wicked Lester and is now recording an album, can also be expected to give free copies of his record away to those rock fans who show interest … right??? I doubt it. Where’s your idealism now? -- Editor
                Your following remark “Perhaps we can discuss it further in 8 or 9 years when your fanzine Odyssey has been around … et. al.” is really uncalled for. Simply because if his fanzine does/doesn’t stick around probably will not have the slightest to do with “understanding fandom.” Pretty simply put, it means different things to different people and the person who claims to have a monopoly on the meaning is fooling himself.
                Hell it does! Survival is the name of the game. I have not seen a copy of Odyssey in over a year and Derek comes on with the “you’re not running the GC publishing empire properly” bit. So many new neo-fans today think they will take fandom by storm and everyone will rally in their corner. Just like teaching, one cannot enter the profession/hobby with the attitude that the world has been waiting for you to come along. You learn by doing, and only after you pay your dues and learn the ropes, only then can you start to talk with authority and know-how and not merely mouth-off. Those who listens and learn survive. Those who don’t fade away. And I’ve been in fandom 10 years. Where’s Derek today? -- Editor
                Fandom has worked for you. You can go on pubbing and hopefully have fun doing it. The people that pay you for GC apparently think it’s worth cash. You think it’s worth cash, otherwise you wouldn’t charge for it (or, put another way: you don’t want to lose cash … and who can blame you?) The people that receive GC and don’t pay cash, you deem worthy of receiving your publication. These same people (if they want to keep receive GC) respond, so they think it’s worth responding, otherwise they wouldn’t. I hope you get what I’m hinting at.
Gene Klein
Flushing, N.Y.
                And remember, I too want a free copy of your album when it’s released, being a bona fide rock music fanantic.  --Editor

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