If I had to think up a tagline for the cover of Issue 17: Charm, it would be ‘how charming become a Queen’. As a personality trait, charm goes beyond a magnetic connection. To me, a charming person is eccentric, comfortable with themselves, and (most importantly) comfortable with you. They are the best version of themselves and they want the same for you.
The inspiration for the cover was from the Cuban Characters photo series by Scott Watton. The portraits in the collection are brightly lit, studded with colourfully dressed older men and women. The women in the photos are showstopping. You imagine them turning heads, halting traffic, casting spells. They’re all unapologetically old with deep set wrinkles, wide smiles, and puffing on cigars.
Originally, I wanted a cover with an 80s Miami vibe–pastel pinks and light blues. Even with that intent, the colours quickly transformed into the pops of jewel tones that I gravitate toward. Luckily, Seen (our intrepid designer) used that 80s vibe with the font choices for the cover.
Erika took my ramblings and immediately brought the character to life, several times over. She drafted four distinct sketches with a myriad of delightful old women who seemed like they would brew you a cup of tea and maybe dose it with something stronger (if she liked the look of you). The four images had separate colourful backgrounds. The first was bright yellow with an old woman with three hands, three fans, who was looking right at you. The second was a green background with a woman sideways, mid-puff, and almost dancing with her fan. The third was a blue background with a woman with thick round glasses who seemed almost demurely fluttering her fan. The final image was a coral background, similar to the first image with the positioning of the character but with the added draw of the round glasses.
After discussing with the Editors, we decided on the third, blue-background image. Amy Robinson described it best, the glasses were awesome and “she also just seems to be living her best life and knowing it”. Happily enough, this also turned out to be Erika’s favourite pick of the bunch as well.
Over the final design. Erika weaved her magic and gave life to the character. The long jeweled nails, the bangles, the headwrap, and the bubbled glasses are all products of Erika taking the core concept and running with it. I would have laid money that the glasses would have been the focal point of discussion, but I was surprised that the most commented aspect of the image is that claw-like manicure.
As is tradition, I was so enamoured with seeing the final design, I completely forgot about the speculative element. Sometimes there’s so much magic, charm if you will, in a character that you forget that you sometimes need to spell the actual magic aspect out. Over a quick discussion, Erika added one final detail into the fan: a clear blue horizon. Is it a better world? A reflection on what’s already there? Is it a promise? A threat? Drink your tea and see what the woman tells you.
So often the covers we see feature women in the blush of life, still in fighting form, or dressed to the nines. Maybe they’re smooth-faced robots meant to be thousands of years old but still barely looking over 30. You see more Princess Leia’s than General Skywalker’s on covers. What happens after you lay down the sword, after you bear children or size out of bikini armour? As a fat woman, I was rarely reflected on covers. As someone with slowly growing grey hairs (and a few chin hairs), I see myself even less.
You can’t out-age fandom though. It’s a passion that stumbles along as you move from making fansites on a webring to tattooing your favourite game icons.
Gather round children, as I cast shadow puppets on the wall and take you back to the end of the millennium. Will Smith is top of the charts. Tamagotchis are out. Rich kids have bricks of cellphones only used for playing Snake.
I’ve been in fandom since the age of lemons and limes and we had to pray to FanFic Daddy that Anne Rice wouldn’t sue us. Fandom is meant to be an insular corner of the internet created out of pure love and fostered by goodwill. As all things meant for joy, there is a toxic and blood-drawn quarter that the rest of the group will apologise for and ignore. Often it relates to shipping but there are other areas where lines are drawn. One area I was exposed to early was the divide between old and young fans.
Besides Star Trek: Voyager, my first all-encompassing fandom experience was the little-known, B-series called Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. Yes. Full title necessary. This is when websites were a new thing for television shows. Some of them didn’t even advertise the traditional website address. No. It would be something like Stargate.com/homepage. Because lord knows, you needed that homepage section of the address. If you don’t type http:// don’t even think about the website loading.
Anyways, websites dedicated to promoting a single show were new to me and they all came with their own message board. The website for The Lost World is imprinted on my mind, with its sepia-toned picture of the main cast that rolled over to a full-colour image when you moused over the characters.
As fandoms go, this was one of the kindest communities that I’ve been a part of. There were US Fans that would meticulously tape episodes on VHS, make labels and mail out the Season Three episodes for international fans that no longer had access. Yes, I was one of those fans that had to order episodes, illegally, through the mail, on VHS. A sentence that has never made me sound older.
This was the show where I discovered that, while I definitely shipped Marguerite Krux and John Roxton together, I was also deeply attracted to both characters. This is probably why, to this day, I crave complicated female characters who might trap you in a prehistoric world because of a shiny jewel. But, in their defence, that was a mighty shiny jewel.
Looking back, it’s a show I’m glad I discovered when I was young and less critically-minded. The colonialism aspect that was always present, the sexualization of Veronica (a character originally coded as a teenager but aged up because boobs), the all-white cast. I could go on about the flaws. I know they exist. But, even so, I can forgive a lot about the show precisely because it was my first love.
One more holy shit I’m now that old lady of fandom memory: I was at a county fair and the TV guide listed that my favourite episode was going to be airing while I was out. I had been a good little A-type personality and set up the VCR to record but, as any 80s/90s kid knows, the VCR recorder is a machine of black-magic. It might as well be a magic eight ball. I left the fairground to call my mom on a payphone to make sure the VCR still had that red record button on.
The VHS tapes that I coveted and purchased were created and distributed by older fans. They were the ones who wrote the 100-chapter stories, that led research discussions about the 1920s, that meticulously taped episodes for other fans. They were the caretakers. They launched the contests and fanart that the younger generation took over and they were the first people told they should have aged-out of fandom when adult-oriented critiques and content edged along a fandom. It’s a tale that was replicated on Livejournal, Tumblr, and … I don’t know … maybe TikTok?
Fandom can shift as you get older, but that interest and slight obsession doesn’t leave you. My fandom has wrinkles. It has saggy arm fat that flaps when you gave goodbye, signalling its own morse code. My fandom wants to tell you a story, make you some tea, and maybe give you a little pick-me-up.
Erika Hollice is our Artist-In-Residence for 2022. You can find more Erika’s art at https://www.eriart.net/
Rebecca Bennett Owner/Senior Editor and Cover Art Director
As the sole Canadian, Rebecca spends too much time hiding her ‘eh’s and adding proper vowels to words. Her short stories and poetry have been published in Strange Horizons, Bourbon Penn, Luna Station Quarterly and other literary locales. You can follow her occasional tweets at @_rebeccab