Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Issue 3 - Acrux: The Trekzine!

For one issue, Acrux becomes a Trekzine instead of a perzine, playing host to Star Trek fan fiction, art and poetry. As a perzine or personal fanzine, I try to keep the content as close to 100% my own work as possible but this issue I'm publishing contributions from a number of sources. I have a challenging story written by Robin Woodell and illustrated by Ken Gurton, both from Region 3 (Louisianna & Texas) of Starfleet International, plus the story of a Christmas leave spent by Bones and Scotty in Engineering, written & illustrated by SL Watson. Of course I hope you'll enjoy the other fiction and commentaries from my favourite author - ME!

This year, I turned away from my original idea of a blogzine (a 'zine created using Blogging software) in favour of something more traditional with a pdf file that can be printed out as a 20 page booklet in A3 (or as a digest sized version on A4). Because of this, it can partake in the existing world of fanzines – I’ll gladly partake in a fanzine exchange and look forward to Letters of Comment. However as an electronic file, it also has a foot in the door of the internet such as being available for live browsing on ISSUU. Now if I can just open it up into a few other avenues of distribution …

Acrux is featured on Day 4 of The Twelve Trek Days of Christmas, 2008 along with Hailing Frequencies Open from TrekUnited and Imaginations Unlimited by Jeff Davis, the fanzine of Region 1, Starfleet International.


Saturday, 29 November 2008

Issue 2 now online

All projects must eventually grind onwards and Acrux has finally ground out it's next issue on Issuu of course!

I think you'll find something of interest: news about papermodels, fanzines, IQ 145, Starship Farragut and their new animated adventures produced by NEO/FX, critique on Odyssey, Intrepid, Of Gods and Men and Tamarlane, info on writing for audio dramas and, for those who prefer to see their fanfic in print, the first instalment of Tales of Death and Honour: Motherhood!



Monday, 20 October 2008

Looking for Group: Acrux Christmas Edition!


I'm determined that this year's fanzine day for "The Twelve Trek Days of Christmas" will have a wider choice for you than the two we had last year! We've got a great start so far with confirmed pitches from Imaginations Unlimited, the Starfleet International Region 1 fanzine edited by Jeff Davis, Hailing Frequencys Open, the fanzine of TrekUnited and, of course, Acrux, my very own perzine!

Although in general the submissions are welcomed from any quarter, each 'zine has a different focus with Jeff drawing material mostly from the massive fanbase of SFI's first region whilst the editor of Hailing Frequencies well, I'll let him speak for himself!

I've always wanted Acrux to show more of the fan talent we have in Australia so my focus is going to be on material from "Down-Unda" but not just from Australia - I would like to invite submissions from anywhere in the antipodes, New Zealand, South Africa, South America ... anywhere south of the equator!

"Trekzines" are traditionally mini-anthologies of fan fiction whilst, in general, most SF fanzines tend towards commentary. What I am going for is an entertaining 'zine that walks a line between the two, something along the lines of the Analog model: 60% Fiction, 20% Fact/Commentary, 5% Housekeeping (letters of comment & reviews) and 15% Advertising (see below).

The Christmas issue of Acrux will be a freely downloadable file as always but I will be experimenting with a couple of different media as well. The download will be a "POD-ready" pdf formatted for A4 and US Letter as well as viewable in Issuu and Scribd to get maximum exposure world-wide.

What am I looking for?
  • 3-4 short stories / flash fiction of 2-3 pages each
  • 2 longer stories of 6-8 pages each
  • 2-3 science fact articles
  • 1-2 page editorial (This one's mine!)
  • 2-3 pages of book reviews: fact as well as fiction
  • 2-3 pages of Letters of Comment focussing on the state of Star Trek
  • Articles will be chosen competitively, ie the best get's published, but I might limit them to one per organisation, to try to get a good spread of contributions. However if I don't get contributions of sufficient quality, I'll be bending that rule - I'm not going to knock back a good story just to publish a Mary Sue from the USS Good-Ship-Lollipop!
  • The criteria I will be judging submissions on will be style and originality for fiction and non-fiction (some seasonal, Christmas content will be appreciated), book reviews will be judged on content (current releases will be favoured), Letters of Comment will be judged on wit and commentary as well as your standing in the Trek fan community - let's face it, a letter from J.J.Abrams will be published before one from the C.O. of the Good Ship Lollipop RPG. LOC's could be edited for length on agreement with the author.
  • Drafts are expected to be already edited for spelling and grammar, a badly edited article will reflect badly on you. Gross examples of badly edited articles will be returned.
  • Submissions must be in English but both American and "The Queen's English" spelling and grammar will be respected at the authors request. If you're looking for advise on grammar or style try Lynch's "Guide to Grammar and Style" or anything based on the Chicago Manual of Style such as this although their focus is journalism rather than fiction.
  • If you want submission or general writing advice, Dean Wesley Smith's quidelines for "Strange New Worlds" make good general sense, although the info on hardcopy submission doesn't apply in this case (see below). Even better advise is DWS quoting Heinlein, although you needn't bother sending your FanFic to a Simon & Schuster, send it to me instead!
  • Submissions should be emailed to me at as either MSWord, OpenOffice docs, rtf or txt files.
There are some conditions I must insist on though for inclusion in Acrux. If you feel your work cannot fit into this then you are still free to excercise your right to publish privately and I wish you all the best!
  • As a fan production Acrux will have adequate copyright disclaimers to acknowledge the rights of the copyright owners but I make no claim to ownership of your work - the original aspects of your work remain yours and i will support your moral right to be identified as the author of the work.
  • I would like the Twelve Trek Days of Christmas to be family-friendly so I must ask that your content be no more than moderate in impact, for example M according to Australian classifications. However in the spirit of IDIC I support the GLBT Trek community, and would welcome a story that shows how a Star Trek future could be free of all prejudice.
  • As a fan production, there can of course be no paid or sponsored advertising however contributing authors will be offered space to publicise the organisation or fan production group of their choice. Authors work will be accompanied with a biographical paragraph unless they wish to preserve their privacy.
  • Space will be allowed for accompanying graphics at the editors discretion
  • The deadline for the Twelve Trek Days of Christmas is Dec 1st with half of December for leeway. There will be a "second string".
I hope you'll consider using this project to make a statement this Christmas of how Star Trek fans can can give during the season of good will. Feel free to contact me on my email address or to join the discussion on the subject on the google group.

My best wishes for success in all your endeavours

-------------------Kirok of L'Stok, Editor, Acrux ------------------
----------------------- bISovbejbe'DI' tImer -----------------------
------------------- When in doubt, surprise them -------------------

Saturday, 26 July 2008

An experiment in online publication

I've had the last issue of Acrux on Issuu for quite a while now and I've been wanting to tryout embedding it in a post so, here goes ...

Pretty slick, eh? just click on it and you go to the full viewer. This might revitalise the idea of using pdf as a format for online publication. You get the best of both worlds: you get a thumbnail to draw the readers in to your publication, an online viewer for them to preview it and the option of downloading it to read at their leasure or keep for reference!

What more could you ask for?


Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Can We Do It? Just watch me, sport!

A mud-map to the development of the House of L'Stok

So, you want to make a fan production? When most people think of a fan production, they think in terms of a fan film. They might have seen an episode of Star Trek: Phase II (until recently known as New Voyages), Hidden Frontier, Exeter, Farragut or Intrepid and thought, wouldn't it be great to do something like that? Well, the good news is you can!

Unfortunately, the bad news is ... it ain't easy!

A full length, live action episode will require the construction of extensive sets which could cost thousands in materials, as well as costumes, props, lighting, cameras, storage space ... and time! Oh, my goodness, yes! It can take anything between two to six years of planning, scripting, constructing, rehearsal, filming and post-production.

There are, however options that can be fun to do, create an entertaining production and be a significant personal and group achievement... without mortgaging your life for years on end! I'm not suggesting that you compromise on quality, but there are compromises that can be made ...

  • Does it need to be a film? If you want to do a fan production, you should not rule out all the other options that are open to the common man today. It could be a fan fiction novel or short story, web comic, audiobook, audio drama or animation... of which there are a half dozen different types, depending on the software you use to create it, ranging from professional quality to the weekend project!
  • It need not be a full episode. Creating a story that will fit in a five-ten minute timeframe, what is commonly called a vignette, is not easy, but it can be done. However, even here there are options if one thinks outside the box... I have a few ideas in that direction.
  • Lastly, although live action filmed against real sets is the Rolls Royce of fan films, live action filmed against a green (or blue) screen with backgrounds 'keyed in' afterwards is an increasingly viable option.

Be very aware though, even these low-key options require significantpersonal investments. For example, it will definitely be a learning experience, so you must be prepared to acquire new skills and develop existing talents. You will need to take on extra jobs: everyone wears at least two hats as a member of the cast and crew of a fan production.

As of the start of this year, I am developing a production group that will explore the options open for low budget fan and Indie production, because some people have original ideas that they want to develop, too. The truth is that, whether you are playing mind-games with someone else's copyright or dealing in completely new fiction, the mechanics of production are exactly the same. I will be focusing on five media options:

  • Writing. This is where it all starts: good storylines, you must have them! I am going to kick things off with some example works of my own, then search for fan and original fiction to produce.
  • Hardcopy. The first step: to investigate options for self-publishing. Learning from overseas experience we might need to develop an audience by offering initial works for free, however options for commercial eBook development on the internet and Print On Demand will be followed. Most noticably I will be looking into the possibilities of Print On Demand in Australia.
  • Audio books. This is the next step: To turn the printed word into the spoken word. It requires the recruitment of voice acting and sound engineering talent and is a step up in production that does not require the specialised writing skills necessary for an audio or video script.
  • Audio drama. I am in the process of putting together a proposal for a Star Trek fan audio drama. This will develop dramatic abilities and organisational skills, it will also be an option for involvement for people who are too shy to be part of a film or too remote from other cast members.
  • Ultimately though, any experimental production group, investigating the possibilities would have to try a video production, a Fan film. When it happens – it it certainly won't happen this year! - my first production will be a "proof of concept" production. It will be complete in and of itself - a stand-alone. What will it be? I'm sorry, but you'll have to sign a non-disclosure agreement to find that out!

Each of these "steps" is an achievement in itself. Some group members – and it will of course be a team effort - might be quite happy to continue with creating written fiction, perhaps turning it into scripts for audio or video production. Other cast & crew members might be happy to stay with audio drama and this is a very viable option in and of itself because Australia has a strong tradition and market for radio drama.

You might be forgiven for thinking that I am aiming low but I can only stress that this is only meant to be a "proof of concept" proposal – I'm not building any media empires here! It is meant to give the participants an introductory experience of a wide range of media so that they can ask themselves, "Where do I want to go to from here?" Believe me there is a whole spectrum of possibilities that can be explored, all of it fun and challenging!

The next question is – fan production or Indie? Will it be based on an established copyright, one of the 'fictional franchises' like Star Trek or Dr Who, or will it be totally original work?

Anyone who's got this far in my fanzine will guess that I have an ulterior motive to create a Star Trek fan production in Australia. Reality must prevail, however: our population is spread so thinly, with such vast distances between that getting the numbers together for a large production will not be easy. Add to this the fact that the average Aussie doesn't have the same disposable income as our American cousins and the smaller fanbase with costumes and props and you'll start to realise the obstacles.

I believe the answer is to develop fan productions in partnership with independent productions. Australia has a strong amateur theatre culture but few venture into video or audio. Our university's are pumping out video and audio trained individuals into an entertainment industry that has to fight tooth and nail against overseas productions. Cosplay is immensely popular and yet ... I've never heard of anyone taking, what is to me at least, the next, logical step.

Whatever I end up doing, completing any of the steps listed will be an achievement to be proud of. I am committed to this because I firmly believe that an involvement in fan productions can be a positive step towards encouraging a viable, small scope, media network within the Australasian region.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Building the Blogzine

Hah! "Adventures in Multimedia" indeed! Like most adventures the first thing you have to watch out for is not to trip and break something when when taking that first step out of the door! Before I start trying to distribute anything over the web, I need to have an efficiently working website / Blog site.

Now, although the Blog template I had originally - "Four Column Fire Template" by Mauriya - worked, there were a few problems with it ...
  • The colour scheme was very primal and blocky, whereas I see it being more dark and dangerous! I could start modifying it, but I decided to try other options instead ... I could always reload the template again afterwards if it didn't work.
  • Whilst I want to cultivate the idea of a "monthly release" of the content on the Blogsite as a fanzine, I also want to get a sense of immediacy about the posts as well. What i would like to do is have a front page that is changed on a monthly basis with certain regular articles that will be released at that time. No worries, That was what I was doing anyway. But I also want to have a regular content that is continually being updated so that my content is not too much out of date at the monthly publication date.

So ... Back to the drawing board!

First off I lodged a call for help on the Blogger help forum regading the ability to show the last ten posts in a specific Tag on a different Blog - no response to date. Moving that into the too hard basket for the nonce, I went in search of a different look. I shortcutted the process by searching in Google on "Blogger template" and viewing the images resulting. I ended up picking up a rather cool black blogger template by DanDyna of Jack Book called Dark Slined Mod 2.0

The template loaded easily enough but when I came back the next day to start modifying it, I found that it had lost all it's unique features and was just a single column text on white screen. Checking on Jack Book, I found that this was caused by him blowing his download limit. However He had obviously been through this before and had a workaround for this which entailed me copying and pasting his CSS file into the template on my Blog, which I assume made it so that the Blog no longer had to look at his website to get its instructions. Worked fine!

Next problem. I liked his header, it looked vaguely like a men at work sign, but I need to put my own header on it, so searching for what looked like a link to a graphics file in the header/centre column, I found it, copied and pasted the graphic in my graphics editor (PhotoImpact) so that I could get the right size (500x250) and made my own. It's a bit of a rushed job but it holds promise! I might change it monthly until I'm satisfied with it.

So how does it work?

Basically Acrux is actually two Blogs ...
  • Acruxfanzine - which is the front page: Editorial, comment, announcements ... basically a defacto webpage
  • Acruxcontent - which is [Duh!] the content: News items on the scope of the 'zine, mostly fan production news

Whenever I link to the Blogzine, I link to the front page which is four columns ...

  • The First column is the Contents column, at the moment showing links to the archive pages of the content Blog for a few Labels - eventually I'll include most of them - followed by the last 10 posts on the AcruxContent Blog using a script that shows them all from their RSS feed. The script is generated by Feed2JS although another similar service here. This is meant to look like the contents of a magazine.
  • The second column has header buttons, which I haven't decided what to do with yet, followed by my own header at the top of the acruxfanzine blog content section. This Comment, news about the 'zine itself, pdf monthly versions, podcasts and audio books that I do.
  • The third column is a Links column with buttons that link to the major Trek fan productions (I've done most of the Fan Film groups so far). I suppose I could use lists but I have a thing for buttons.
  • The fourth column is currently house-keeping: the editorial contents, subscriptions, stats etc.
Changed Acrux Content settings to redirect the site feeds to the Feedburner RSS as per the Help item.

  • Make the Editorial block so that it has a teaser of the full post using "How can I create expandable post summaries?". I've got the first two parts of it done but i can't get the "read more" link to appear - I must be putting it in the wrong part of the template.
  • Ideally, make the Contents so that it shows the posts for the current month grouped by Labels, "FanFilms", "FanAudioDrama" etc.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Feb '08 issue - Paying Your Dues

They say that if a shark stops moving he drowns. I don't know how true that is, but life's a bit like that: without constant change, development - hopefully improvement - we cease to grow. One of the things I am chasing with this fanzine (besides a Hugo!) is the Holy Grail of fan publishing, the 'zine that is up to the minute ... but still tries to follow the look and feel of the traditional monthly fanzine.

At different times I am an apologist for technology, a Luddite who decries the death of hand-crafted word-smithing, the leasure of sitting and reading a book and at others I am constantly looking for more up-to-the-minute information on websites, forums and newspapers. In effect, I want the best of both worlds - the leisurely, considered comment of magazines & books and the immediacy of broadcast news and personal interaction.

What brought this to mind was my leg-work during the week doing research on fan productions - I don't just get it from Google news y'know! I have to go out looking for it! I think of it as "paying my dues". Just like the shark, Star Trek fan productions are constantly in movement, new ones starting up, established groups releasing new productions and the thousand-and-one permutations in between that make it a dynamic field of interest.

The problem is, how best to report it on this 'zine? Ideally news should be as fresh as possible and there should be the option for getting your news as it happens. However many people might only want a 'monthly magazine' type summary of what's gone on during the month so that they can pick and chose what is of interest to them.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Jan '08 issue - Adventures in multimedia

The Twelve Trek Days of Christmas project was stunningly tiring but personally empowering! It stretched my conception of what I was capable of. Producing the podBooks and being involved with the Podcasts was fascinating stuff! However, to some extent I was on the outside looking in. I was writing about podcasts and organising other people to do the podbooks and it made me wonder if I had it in me to be a creator, to produce a podcast or perform in a PodBook myself?
Never being one to let an opportunity to go to waste, I will now dip my big, hairy toe into the cold waters of podcasting with the first production from the House of L'Stok, "Acrux 0801". It's not a review or a critique - no, no, no, that's way too easy! I leave that to people with thicker skins and a higher regard for their own opinion. No, I see myself as a commentator and citizen reporter of Star Trek fan productions - Whether I am a successful one or not is up to you, oh hypothetical reader ... read more
So, what's this about 'adventures in multimedia' anyway? Podcasts have been around for ages! The idea of a PodBook is not new either, PodioBooks - an institution in itself! - have had the facility to subscribe to a feed of a book for years. However PodioBooks is all original content, whereas there is a whole world of fan fiction out there, some of it very good, that deserves to be distributed in an audio format. Keep your eye on this space for the first of a new PodBook series ... read more