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Paene Aureum
Argentus #1 (October 2001), front cover (by Sue Mason) + pp. 38, $3.00 or the usual (available as a downloadable PDF file on zine's Web site)
Editor:           Steven H Silver, 707 Sapling Lane, Deerfield, Illinois 60015
Web Site:
After two nominations for the Best Fan Writer Hugo and a creditable showing in last year’s DUFF race, Steven Silver decided that it was high time to pub his ish. The upshot is Argentus. When Steven handed me a copy at Ditto/FanHistoricon, I was not the first pedant to scold or commend him for his boldness in producing a gender-transgressive zine. His beard is the claim that argentus is a Medieval Latin form of the Classical adjective argenteus,1 a story that would be more plausible if (i) the “eu” in argenteus were a diphthong rather than two separate syllables and (ii) the purported adjective had a noun to modify. Being a broad-minded sort, I’ll stick to my own theory, which is certainly more exciting and original than identifying Argentus as a genzine that draws on a large number of authors (15 contributors are listed in addition to the editor) and covers a wide variety of stfnal and semi-stfnal subjects.
After toying briefly with the idea of having a first issue theme, the editor soon settled for assembling the best material that came to hand. Topics range from a fledgling writer’s story of her first professional sale (“‘Winter Roses’ Bloom” by Patricia Sayre McCoy) to a very strange scheme for disposing of surplus computer equipment (“Dumpster Diving and Conspiracy Theory” by Michael A. Andaluz) to Mike Resnick’s favorite movies with African settings (an intriguing list and well worth the price of the issue).
The editor offers an introduction, a plug for Midwest Construction (intended as a SMOFCon-like convention for regional conrunners) and a silly editorial on September 11th, which puts forth the unbaked thought that, “given the long string of adversaries the United States has had, perhaps it would be more appropriate to do a root cause analysis to determine if there were something the United States could do to understand their concerns better and, perhaps, work with them so they no longer see the US as the ‘Great Satan’”. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban seem to me to have stated their “concerns” and what the U.S. can do to allay them quite straightforwardly. Their “concerns” are that our country is too imbued with Christianity and modern science and too lenient toward Jews, homosexuals and women. Correspondingly, they will stop thinking of us as the Great Satan the moment that we convert to the correct brand of Islam, relegate people with surnames like “Silver” to ghettos (or worse), shut down international commerce, drive the Israelis into the sea and restore the Ottoman Empire. Once in a while, to understand an enemy is to realize why he must be crushed beyond possibility of resuscitation.
Nothing else in the issue is unsatisfactory, and several pieces are first rate: Resnick’s already mentioned film list, Erik Olson’s rather surreal tour report on Kennedy Space Center (titled “The Five Throated Voice of Ghu”, which gives you the idea) and two mock reviews of movies that have never been made (Bob Blackwood’s of The Stars My Destination and Bob Devney’s of Buggers).
The mock review section (which will apparently be a regular feature; next ish will carry reports on the 1973 Minneapolis Worldcon) is a clever idea that needs more editorial direction. Though there are half a dozen entries, only Blackwood’s and Devney’s caught the right tone: Dr. Blackwood tells us about Paul Verhoeven’s vision, in which “the revenge-seeking Gully Foyle of the novel [is changed] into a vicious bisexual brute who trades in his jaunting teleportation skills for the ability to charm anyone and then kill, maim and sodomize his victims”. Foyle is played by a computer-generated darfstellar of John Wayne. All this, the “reviewer” suggests, “may be going too far”.
Devney is even better, Buggers being Hollywood’s transformation of Ender’s Game into a teen coming-of-age flick. (The hero’s name has been changed to “Higgins”, because “focus groups detected a gay connotation” in “Ender”. Furthermore, “the original script’s ruinously expensive and impracticable scheme” for depicting the schoolroom practice battles is replaced by a faster, lower-tech concept: “The spaced cadets appear almost weightless as they zoom and swoop on their specially modified skateboards.”)
Also appearing are Rich Horton’s contribution to a subgenre that the editor pioneered: a fan’s memoir of his game show appearance (this one on the execrable Who Wants to be a Millionaire?), Dave Truesdale's “Thoughts on the State of Short Science Fiction” (more than I wanted to know about the shrinking circulations of the Big Three magazines; evidence for the author’s thesis that professionally paying markets have never been more abundant waits for next ish) and a short ConJosé update from chairman Tom Whitmore.
Overall, “silver” seems to be about the right medal for this zine. There is gold present (thank Ghu Steven didn’t think to call the mag Electrus) but also some admixture of base metals. We’ll see whether the editor’s alembic will prove capable of improving the purity and consistency of issues to come.
1.  I’m sure that no reader needs to be reminded that the Latin word for “silver” is the second declension neuter argentum.
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