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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Vale Centero!

Centero is no more, alas!

I remember getting my first copy of what was then a print newsletter centred around Blake’s Seven, which was the reason for the name of the zine; in the British TV science fiction show, Centero was the location of the federation’s communications centre.

Nikki White, the editor, has been a passionate media fan for many years, though she has also been writing for periodicals relating to Dracula, a favourite historical figure, as well as having an interest all the literature about him, and, in recent years, has become a member of the rabbit-breeding community, writing for this “fandom” as well. Her activism and energy in many areas has been amazing and I, for one, am really going to miss Centero, though I do understand her reasons for finally dropping it.

Centero started as a duplicated zine. I remember going to the newsagency to pick up stencils on which I carefully typed my contributions, getting really upset every time I made a typo. I rolled them up and sent them to Nikki, who duplicated them on her machine and, at her own expense, sent the fanzine out to the contributors. Eventually, she had to charge something towards the postage expenses. Also, with the end of Blake’s Seven, quite a few fans found other interests. At this point, Nikki considered cancelling, but expanded into media science fiction and fantasy in general and there was a re-birth of the zine, as people wrote articles and letters about whatever their favourite shows and films were at the time. Nikki wrote reviews of quite a few media-related books and brought us up to date with whatever was happening to actors from Blake’s Seven and other shows.

Stencils gave way to photocopies, as the years went on and technology changed. It meant we no longer had to worry about what happened when we made typos, especially after we all got computers. This went on for some years – and, to be honest, it became my last contact with media fandom in between cons, because I dropped out of one Star Trek club and another closed down, and the Blake’s Seven club to which I had belonged went on-line.

Media cons, for that matter, thinned out; older fans retired from active fandom and new ones seem to think a con means you get an outrageously expensive actor and charge hundreds of dollars for people to sit in an auditorium and be entertained, as the actor who played second Romulan from the left in some obscure Trek episode talks about how great it is to be here in “Mel-born.” Well, it’s a con all right, but not in the way they think. Media fanzines, in Australia at least, have gone the way of the dodo, for the most part, as people discover the joys of the Internet. Viacom closed down Trek fanzines in Australia, one of the few countries where there isn’t a technicality in the law that allows them to continue, but they would probably have died anyway, as people decided that it was more fun to go on-line and choose stories by theme and character and, for that matter, write and publish their own stuff without having to go through the filter of an editor.

Eventually, fed up with the incompetence of her local post office, which had been messing up deliveries, Nikki declared that that was it – no more Centero! It was not as if a whole lot of people were writing any more anyway. Around then, I suggested she have a go at doing it as an e-mail newsletter. It continued in this form for some time; Nikki even kept print copies going for a few people who didn’t have the Internet, and goodness knows, she has to be considered a saint for patiently reproducing contributions from some folk who didn’t even have a computer.

It was a joy to read the reviews and the news and the articles about films and media-related books and new TV shows, and stay in contact with other fans. I looked forward to it every quarter, and made myself sit down and write something every time (I did miss the odd issue for one reason or another, but I think I’ve been in all but three or four issues since the start).

However, I was one of the few who did have that self-discipline, so Nikki finally decided enough was enough. With Issue #103, the party is over.

I’m considering re-publishing some of my own contributions on a new blog and will be inviting anyone else who is interested in writing media-related stuff, to submit. Stand by.

Meanwhile, thanks for everything, Nikki. You deserved a Ditmar Award for this zine, but you at least have the Sue Bursztynski Award for giving me a lot of enjoyment over the years.

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