Letters to the Editor

My responses are in the traditional fannish ((double parentheses)). The addresses of my correspondents have been deleted from this page; if you need to get in touch with someone quoted here, please write to me. And if you're a loccer who would prefer to have your address included on this page, let me know.

Murray Moore writes: Everyone admits having the skin punctured multiple times hurts. Why not a local anesthetic?...Perhaps a practical, physiological effect is the reason tattoos are created without anesthetic? Or is anesthetic possible, but simply uncool?

((There are several reasons. One practical one is that local anesthetic can distort the skin: the process might be less painful, but the finished art might not be as good. Another is legal: in the US, most of us can't legally buy local anesthetics, and few if any tattoo artists are doctors. And yes, for some people there's probably a macho element in getting tattooed. Personally, I'd have done it even if it didn't hurt--the endorphins were an added pleasure, but they weren't why I was there.))

Your Hong Kong essay revives my faith that travel writing in fanzines can be worth reading. ((Thanks.))

Mae Strelkov writes: I was somehow proud that I know a fan with a cardinal on the arm, such a lovely permanent jewel of a companion. I enjoyed all you had to say on that--the "feel" of it for you too.

Then your descriptions of Hong Kong! well, that was bewitching. I always read whatever comes my way on China (my homeland in a sense, having been born and reared there), but you made Hong Kong really come alive for me. You speak my language more and more, I see.

Sheryl Birkhead writes: A tattoo is another thing I have never had a desire to obtain. Firstly, I have a great fear of needles and secondly, nothing goes with everything--to me, and that would make me feel a bit unsure. On the other hand, I have seen several people who could have starred in The Illustrated Man and saw that some of the designs were truly body art. Tattoos in animals are primarily for identification purposes (either for registry or for a return if lost) and I've never seen what happens to one when applied to a youngster that then goes on to grow...a lot (such as a race horse). Some of the body designs I have seen were very beautiful, but I have rarely seen them on anyone other than the biker type. Just lately I have seen the anklet style on an increasing number of women, but those are more like a permanent bracelet than an artistic statement. Of course if the understated tattoo is placed somewhere beyond the normal gaze, I'd have no way of knowing. I've never seen a tattoo when it is newly healed--are the colors brighter? Do they fade with time?

((At this point, I figure some of my clothing needs to go with the tattoo, just as it needs to go with my hair color and skin tone. I've heard that tattoos on people (or, presumably, animals) who haven't reached their full growth will be distorted: this is one reason reputable artists won't tattoo adolescents. Brand-new tattoos are brightest, because at that point the ink is at the surface, but that only lasts a day or two. After that, sunscreen is your friend.))

George "Lan" Laskowski writes: Seeing color and learning how to use color is a fascinating experience. Finding out that unnatural colors are used to highlight the actual colors is something that people hardly notice: artists do, and once pointed out to you, you start seeing them. Using the pale-blue color to highlight parts of the cardinal is a good example. In the past three months I finished reading two books on stained glass, which gives me a better appreciation of the art and construction.

Terry Hornsby writes: I have read about body piercing and S&M in several fanzines, pieces by fans who didn't come across as being particularly honest or deep, articles revealing very little about the reasons, the motivations, their past and current lives which led them to this, which seemed a pity because such opportunities for understanding are lost. The articles have, instead, been very defensive, getting in their attacks on negative responses before the attacks are made.

It's very refreshing, therefore, reading such a frank, honest and unapologetic piece on what many would consider to be a taboo activity/subject. You talk about your tattoo experience with great clarity and lightness, no great banner waving, but as if you are addressing friends. It reminds me why I got such a rush when I first joined fandom. I see very little of such material now and Quipu is therefore most welcome.

((I am addressing friends: if I didn't believe that, there'd be no point to publishing this zine.))

On homovestism: I once unexpectedly stayed over at a girl's house (her mother's, actually) and she gave me her pyjamas to wear to keep warm. I slept on the sofa in them and felt really turned on by it, but it wasn't because they were women's clothing, but because I fancied a sexual element in the kindness. I was very young and confused at the time, but realised the very next day that the gesture had been entirely innocent and that I didn't fancy the girl in any case.

Suzanne Vick writes: Hongkong! Wow! I've always been interested in Asia. I have been fascinated since childhood with China, but never really thought I'd be able to go, so I haven't been too disappointed by not making it. I don't think I'd want to go while it's under Communistic rule.

((I see your point, but Chinese "Communism" isn't much different from numerous other one-party states. Not that that's an argument in its favor, but plenty of people are happy to visit dictatorships as long as they don't call themselves communist.))

I'm glad you and Lise made it. It sounded fantastic. I don't like planned tours very much, either.

Now I can know what I would have seen and done if I had made a perfect trip there. Although I don't think I would have done too much walking. Once upon a time, I could outwalk most people. Let's face it, I'm getting older.

((I'm flattered, but I don't think we made a perfect trip. If I had it to do over--skip Macao, go to Lantau while our feet were still up to it, maybe get to a music club, have dim sum for lunch more than once, maybe learn at least a little Cantonese. I picked up a phrase book a few weeks ago, but haven't done anything with it, and Lantau is the site of the new airport, so that really is at least as much "I wish I had" as "if I go back."))

I've always toyed with the idea of a tattoo. I never could choose a subject. Never thought of a bird. Did think of some leaves, maybe a vine. I'm afraid of contamination, so I don't think I'll take the plunge.

((Done properly, with ink poured into disposable containers and new, sterile needles, there is no risk. A reputable tattooist will be willing to show you their precautions against infection; if not, don't let that person take a needle to your skin.))

Walt Willis writes: I have seldom enjoyed a fanzine as much as I did QUIPU #7. It was full of interest and beautifully written. ((Blush.))

I even enjoyed your account of being tattooed, though I have never contemplated doing anything of that kind myself. No more than I have ever thought of having my body pierced. But a recent fanzine article, by someone whose name I have momentarily forgotten, changed my view of the practice, though not my personal attitude to doing something like that myself. I can now understand why people do it. In the same way I can now feel that having an arm tattooed with a picture of a cardinal is quite a sensible thing to do and I wish you all joy of it.

David Levine writes: Butterflies are like flowers: the brightly-colored sexual part of the organism. The difference is that where a plant has flowers as part of its mass, caterpillars have butterflies as part of their time. The whole butterfly thing makes little sense for the individual caterpillar, but seems to work for the caterpillars as a species....

Frank Denton writes: I read about your tattoo with great interest. We don't have cardinals out here in the northwest, but I have seen them in Arizona and in Missouri. Beautiful birds. I caught some on video while we were lunching during a hike to some Anasazi ruins. Better than a rose, better than skull and crossbones. I have a number of Indian friends who have tattoos. I was thinking about all those years of being a very straight college administrator and wanting an earring. A year ago a couple of Indian friends at a pow-wow said, go ahead, do it. At age 67. So now both ears are pierced and I have some beautiful earrings in the shape of eagle feathers carved from buffalo bone which I wear to pow-wows. Just studs the rest of the time.

I also heard from: Lyn McConchie, who asked what counted as an "interesting" feather and sent along three small black feathers with white and yellow highlights (almost anything except pigeon and crow will be welcome here, but I particularly want colorful wild bird feathers and quills suitable for writing), Buck Coulson, Steve Green, who regrets that we haven't already landed humans on Mars, E. B. Frohvet, Richard Geis, who liked my tattoo experience and admires my courage, Lloyd Penney, who does not miss childhood in the slightest, Steve Stiles, to whom Tiger Balm Gardens sounds "like a combination of museum and funhouse," thus reminding me that one advantage of doing fanzines is that my friends sometimes figure out exactly why I liked something so much, George Flynn, Harry Warner, Jr., who is relieved that we tattooed fans aren't risking HIV infection when we get inked, Henry Welch, and Jerry Kaufman.

Future issues of this fanzine will probably appear on this Web site, but the paper edition remains primary--which means, among other things, that it is produced first; after I've mailed it, I take the files, turn them into HTML, and add a few links.

Copyright 1997 Vicki Rosenzweig. Last modified 24 November 1997.

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