Lloyd Mangram’s Forum

Rather as expected, there was a massive mailbag response to last month’s FORUM, where I printed letters raging against the Barbarian cover of CRASH Issue 41. There were so many, in fact, that they eat up a lot of this month’s space, further nibbled by some last-minute reviews that were deemed more needy. So without further ado, here we go with the Letter Of The Month...

ZINES CATCH A BUG

Dear Lloyd
After the BUG THAT ROARED article (Issue 43) I must put the case for the rest of the Spectrum fanzine world.

I run/write/draw/type/etc my own magazine name of EPROM. I’ve put blood, sweat and tears into producing two issues which have met with nothing but praise for the presentation and content. I was annoyed at the sweeping generality with which the article referred to the rest of the fanzine world. First and foremost, the vast majority of zines want to produce a fanzine for the fans, and that’s what they give. If they fail to keep going, no-one should be surprised. These things cost real money, and lots of it. Zines are not something you can whip up overnight, expect 10,000 people to buy, and make 100% profit overnight. Many people lose money on each issue, I do.

If the magazine isn’t strong on content no-one will buy it. But the ones that are can expect around 100 buyers, and not a lot more. So that should make it plain that we are not money-grubbers.

Free software: is it not reasonable to ask for review copies from software companies? We are promoting games for free, and gratis software helps keep down overheads and perhaps lower the cover price. If a software house doesn’t want to send a game, they simply don’t. We’re not forcing them to hand over their goods, and I totally resent the accusation by Jeffrey Davy that I, or other zines, haven’t the compulsion to continue once we get a free game. The same goes for Ian Ellery’s remark — if these people believe we are only out for freebies they do not have to comply with those wishes. It’s up to them. All I say is judge the quality of the magazine before handing out games; by all means supply to ongoing, well-made and well-written zines, and ignore the childish and poor-quality efforts.

To The Bug itself. The main content of the article was about Davy’s puerile fanzine. Mr Page writes, ‘... it’s based on words, passionate and often well-written text which rarely indulges on the puerile fooling of many fanzines’. Well, I have read The Bug, and if their criticism of Impossaball (March issue) — This game is really good! The way in which the ball changes size as you bounce in and out of the screen is brilliant!... The neat gameplay is brilliant, complementing the graphics no end. Basically, it’s brill! — is an example of their ‘well-written text/passionate’ work, then this must be a new meaning of those words.

Don’t kid yourself CRASH! And haven’t these Bugers heard of the saying ‘to bite the hand that feeds you’? Editorial integrity and expressive opinion (I frankly don’t give a damn about their politics) are all well and good, but when they offend the people who run the business they write about, it makes those people rightly suspicious of us all, and less likely to help others.

They rock the iceboat floating on a hotbed of commercial professionalism. If they want to become the Morning Star of the fanzine world why do they have such a harsh capitalist outlook? Hypocrisy perhaps? Charging up to £30 for an advertisement for a fellow fanzine-producer may be good money sense, but looks a little suspect amongst their loony-left views. And the £20 rent-a-page scheme sounds like blatant profiteering. True fanzines do it for love not the money.

Finally let me say that not all zines are like The Bug. Some of us are quite rational and caring. If you want a good read check out Reflex or Orcsbane. These zines are run by dedicated Speccy lovers, not opinionated wallies. Of course you can also buy EPROM if you really want to!

Oh and by the way — when Jeffrey Davy says ‘a single zine could make the difference’, can he mean his own? I hope not, for all our sakes!
T Worrall

I really don’t want to enter into a debate between fanzine publishers, though I’ve no objections to ‘chairing’ one. The Bug has certainly been going longer than most, and to date is the only one to secure anything like a real printing contract with another company (the now-bankrupt CSD). For what it’s worth, I’ve little doubt that their attitude to CSD was well-founded, but their attack on Gargoyle Games was highly suspect, more an attack of sour grapes. Quite simply, Gargoyle Games felt that the appearance of an ad originally produced by the National Graphical Association telling people not to buy papers printed at Wapping was a declaration of The Bug’s support for a cause Gargoyle Games personally rejected. As a result the software house withdrew any further friendly support from The Bug. It was their choice. The Bug did nothing to further its own cause by accusing Gargoyle Games in the computer trade press by lumping them in with other software houses in attempting to ‘suppress’ The Bug’s reviews.

Anyone else got any views on the subject? For the passionate defence of caring fanzines, T Worrall gets this month’s £30 worth of free software, and I hope it helps keep those overheads down!
LM

+ TOO MUCH?

Dear Lloyd
Who exactly will be buying the Spectrum 128K +3 this Summer? Cautious software houses are only now beginning to produce real 128K software, 18 months after the original 128K machine was released. If they do the same with disk-based software, the buying public aren’t likely to purchase a machine which they won’t be able to utilise for 18 months!

The redesign of the expansion port is the most ludicrous move Amstrad could have made. Not only does it stop existing owners from using some modems etc, but it stops companies like Romantic Robot producing Multiface +3 versions to save tape games to three-inch disks as the redesigned port no longer allows interfaces to freeze programs (I’m sure Simon N Goodwin will correct me if I’m wrong).

Perhaps the most telling factor in the machine’s success will be the price of disk-based software. The original beauty of the Spectrum was its cheap(ish) software. I certainly can’t see Infocom converting its adventures for any less than £20! In fact, the Spectrum+3 could prove to be too big a step for most Spectrum owners to afford.
Richard C Hewison

You could be right, Richard, and your sentiments are echoed by another reader...
LM

TOO LITTLE TOO LATE

Dear Lloyd
Basically, what we have is a five-year-old machine. On the 128 we’ve seen the software is just enhanced versions of 48K games. The disk drive will speed up the loading process but basically we still have the old rubber-keyed Spectrum there; not that it’s a bad computer, just that it’s five years old and we should be moving forward with the technology.

And then there’s the value for money. Look at the Atari ST. The 520STFM will cost £299 from September for which we get a 16-bit machine, 520K memory, disk drive and excellent resolution — a much faster computer with arcade-quality graphics and sound and an extra 400K or so of memory for an extra 50 quid on the +3.

The Spectrum +3 is too little, too late. This machine should have been launched in 1985 when the technology wasn’t too old and the price would have been right. As it is, it’s very similar to other Amstrad products (ie unoriginal). I hope Sir Clive renews his interest in the home-computer market after the Z88 and produces a computer that can compete with the new 16-bit machines.
J Habrovitsky

Whichever way you look at it, producing a radically improved Spectrum would be like making an entirely new computer, and many may feel that the Atari ST with its new price IS the new ‘Spectrum’ of the market. What is extraordinary, though, is the fanatical loyalty of Spectrum owners, both to the computer and its creator. There’s an odd thing about this machine-versus-machine argument — more memory doesn’t necessarily mean better games, a reason why so many so-called 128 games are merely enhanced from 48K versions in details like sound. And with Mercenary, the Novagen people themselves reckon the Spectrum version is every bit as fast as the Atari original and every bit as good a game. There’s plenty of life yet in the existing Spectrum computers, because programmers still find its architecture interesting to write for.
LM

BARBARIAN BACKLASH

The letters criticising the cover of Issue 41 (Barbarian) have predictably caused a Barbarian backlash backlash, and the attacks on the magazine, but particularly on Oliver Frey and his artwork, occasioned bewilderment, ridicule and even outrage. I’m not kidding when I say thousands and thousands of words have been written on the subject, almost all in defence of the cover. I can’t fit in even a fraction. The letter that struck me the most, however, I print as fully as space permits. It’s from Tricia Maynham, mother of a 12-year-old son and a 9-year-old daughter.

I think it’s silly to protect our children too much. Don’t people remember the Sixties violence in Dr Who and Star Trek that us parents were brought up with? There may not have been so much blood shown in those days, but is death any different because the victim totally vanishes or has green blood? I don’t think so.

My daughter is squeamish at the sight of blood in hospital programmes, but even she knows that fantasy is fantasy, computer games are computer games, none of it is real or intended to be real, it’s all make believe. They’re exposed to pictures of starving children with flies around their eyes and looking like walking skeletons, on children’s time TV. I’m sure that upsets a child far more than the odd picture they might spot on a magazine cover.

If I thought that this sort of picture in any way upset my children, I wouldn’t have it in the house. I wouldn’t let my son watch the odd horror film either, but I do, I’ll let him learn and grow to understand how to cope with these things which are becoming more and more part of our lives, whether we like it or not.

Tricia’s comments are echoed again and again...

... the front cover immediately took my eye, (but, wait for it, I didn’t find it disgusting at all) I just looked at it and thought that’s a good drawing, Oli’s back up to his usually good standard of drawing. And I was filled with jealousy, wishing I could draw like that.

... writes Chris Taylor. It was the personal attacks on Oliver that really seemed to get everyone steamed up. Here’s a section of answers...

Your readership have told you what they think about Oli’s covers in the CRASHTIONNAIRE. Only 1.9% hate his covers; a tiny amount — don’t change the artwork for this small portion of your readers. David Price

I’m furious.. How dare people criticize Oliver Frey’s artwork. It is just fantastic!! Jeremy Whittingham

For my part, I think all of Oli’s covers are superb and I reject the claim that they are warping children’s minds. Michael Ashley

I found nothing barbaric or satanic about the cover, as usual Mr Frey’s artwork was another masterpiece. It is his artwork that brings my attention to the magazine on newsagent shelves in the first place! A loyal Oli Frey fan

I have nothing but praise for Oli Frey’s brilliant covers. The depth and detail is outstanding. The colouring and shading are both breathtaking, and you’re lucky to have such an artist. Justin Fisher

I thought the Barbarian cover was ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT. Letters criticising the cover were totally unfair, unjust to the magazine and to the artist. Jason Roberts

Some readers, like Franz Seabrook, wondered why...

as all these attacks seemed aimed at Oli, he didn’t speak back instead of looking as though he was trying to avoid the subject?

Well, Oliver isn’t really repentant, but it’s hard for one person to defend himself against such invective. He was fairly sure a lot of loyal readers would speak out for him, and it’s much better that way. Simon Hall speaks for many when he suggests...

Oli Frey’s art livens up the mag something fierce, so saying that all his work is bloodthirsty, or perverted, or whatever, is totally out of order.

An interesting defence — because something’s well-executed it can’t be in bad taste? I’m not sure I agree with that, and several other writers are dubious too. Michael Sutton asks...

Don’t let Oli go beyond the bounds of good taste. I don’t object but some people always will. Be more careful!

And Ewan Lithgow reckons that while most covers are very good...

... some of them are needlessly over the top in depicting violent scenes. Oliver Frey is obviously a very talented artist but he should moderate them a bit. Having said that, covers relating to software should not be taken too seriously. Worse can be seen every week in so-called ‘children’s comics’ like 2000 AD for instance.

But one man’s poison is another’s meat...

Oli Frey’s work is the equal of my personal favourite comic worker, 2000 AD’s Cam Kennedy. Oli isn’t ‘child-minded’ and neither is 2000 AD childish. Perhaps Ashley Barnett (who described the cover as ‘disgusting’ and ‘bloodthirsty’ in last month’s FORUM) is ignorant of the tact that grown men produce this fabulous comic, and that it is the biggest selling futuristic/SF comic in Britain. Comic artists have fantasies that they cannot live out in real life, so they produce them on paper, and the readers take part in these fantasies as they read.

That’s the view of Alan Fletcher, a non-Spectrum-owning CRASH reader. The fantastic aspect of illustrative art, which CRASH has always espoused, is a very emotive subject, for it’s at the heart of what the moralists regard as the real danger — directly appealing to people’s baser motives. But, like Alan, Justin Gilbert sees fantasy art as fun...

I read a horror movie publication called Fangoria which shows images of horror much stronger than those in your brill magazine. In all the time I’ve read this magazine, and enjoyed it immensely, I have never had the urge to re-enact any of the images seen in it, although I have been warned several times that reading such stuff would eventually turn me fluorescent orange, and give me a deep affinity for plastic goats, Black & Decker power tools and food blenders.

As Justin happily points out, this hasn’t happened yet. And even if Nicholas Sandy can assert that...

...the cover has already taken effect. I look out of my window and see four-year-old kids running around with swords, swiping at anything that moves...

...certainly the notion that exposure to violent (or sexual) imagery turns readers into ravening monsters is snorted at by many; Chris Taylor again...

Absolute rubbish about the cover corrupting young children; have you ever seen a ten-year-old or teenager going around psychopathically killing people with a broadsword or chainsaw? I mean, I haven’t killed anybody since I saw the cover, not yet anyway.

Well, let’s hope you never do, Chris. David Price, who’s 15 and been reading CRASH since Issue Five, doesn’t feel...

... at all corrupted by anything seen or read in any issue, and nor does anyone else I know. I’m pretty sure that all teenagers can decide for themselves what they want to read. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the proverbial kitchen.

And it’s from the very same room that William White (15) has never...

... been manipulated through a mere painting, or felt the urge to grab a kitchen knife and hack the first person I see to pieces. Come on, be realistic!

Don’t talk so wet! We all have brains of our own and I, for one, am not going to grab a sword and starting killing people because I saw a picture portraying it. The average CRASH reader’s age is 16.14 years and I’m sure they know what not to do and what to do...

... says Robert Collier, just up the road from CRASH Towers. Jon Gajos (16) is frankly amazed...

A picture in a magazine is going to have some sort of subliminal effect on young children which turns them into violent junior psychopaths?! No, I think not. If I showed an identical picture to my friends, I don’t think they would run into the streets and start cutting each other’s throats. Sure, my friends are nuts, but they aren’t that stupid.

An attitude of common sense in the face of the hysteria hinted at in last month’s letters seems to be the theme running through everyone’s comments, often along the line of ‘what’s so bad about the Barbarian cover when there are so many other, worse, sources of savagery?’. As Richard Gosling says...

You are hardly likely to watch the news and hear about people’s heads being hewn off by Barbarian swords — no, what you see is the real world. A world in which evil and powerful people stockpile nuclear weapons and genuinely sick people (not someone who has just seen the cover of June’s CRASH) rape and murder because of psychological disorders.

Just about every kid I know has, at one time or another, seen a video such as Friday The 13th or Evil Dead, and these kids haven’t suddenly taken to carrying axes around with them, and slicing off people’s heads. David Price

All around us there is violence. Every night on the news people are murdered, raped, blown up. If this doesn’t create ‘a passive attitude to violence’, as Mr Eilds stated (in last month’s FORUM), I don’t know what does. Jonathan Tickner

Why complain about CRASH being even semi-naughty when everyone knows violent videos are very accessible to young children. Okay, so they have an age certificate, but most video rentals don’t give a damn about moral values. At a nearby video outlet I can lay my hands on XXX rated porno films if I want. Pirates at that.
Jon Gajos

Morals were very much a part of the original backlash in Issue 43, and no letter caused as much reaction as that of Mrs Angela Cooke. Chris Eason of Leamington Spa was...

...quite frankly disturbed 200 times more by her letter than by the cover itself. It portrayed her as some kind of demented religious hippy.

And Franz Seabrook didn’t like the idea of people...

... using CRASH as a brunt for the reactionary attitudes of the world today. Leave CRASH alone. It’s a computer mag not a scandal sheet.

Mrs Cook, no offence, but in the Bible, a man is publicly nailed to a cross. I rest my case. Kevin Washbrook (14)

Not only was she complaining, but she was being biblical with it, which exacerbated the situation. Think of all the gory, horrifying things that happened in the Bible, which I shan’t mention ’cos I can’t be bothered. (It’ll do you all good, anyway, having to search through the Bible for something gory.) Tobi Wood (15)

Even the God squad manages to get a say and call Oli a Devil’s minion. I thought the fanatical Bible-bashing belt of people could only be found thriving in America. I’m proved wrong. Jon Gajos

The effect of Bible-bashers worries several readers, as Paul Long points out...

First they campaign against video, then cinema, than television, and now computer mags. Their letters come across as limp-wristed and overdone. Fanatical in the extreme. Mrs Angela Cook, I, for one, am not convinced that CRASH is in league with any Devil. Only those that have been shielded from the real world could find such artworks grossly offensive.

And Richard Gosling goes even further, calling the complainers ‘sick’...

Why should these people dictate to me what I can and cannot see? Religious nuts who go on moral crusades to ‘clean up’ the world only infringe our personal liberties. I’m not trying to justify evil, but it is ridiculous that in America, where it’s usually legal to carry a gun around the streets, it’s becoming impossible to buy certain rock music because the groups are supposed to be satanists!

And of course I agree wholeheartedly, but Richard goes further still...

These people must be stopped — the letters in last month’s CRASH are just the thin end of the wedge. I am genuinely disturbed about these people’s attitudes and I sincerely hope you will not be censoring the mag in any way.

No, we won’t, but we’ll always listen to genuine and sensible opinions — no-one here WANTS to offend. But I can’t see in all seriousness that the Barbarian cover should have given offence. Many writers defended Oliver’s fantasy on the grounds that it was a realistic interpretation of the game it portrayed — that’s probably a dubious argument too — and others on the grounds that it wasn’t meant to give offence...

If you look at the picture, you don’t actually see the sword enter the other bloke’s body. How do you know that the sword hasn’t been broken and the man isn’t holding the end of the sword? I mean, you’d have the same look on your face if you had a dirty hand under your chin!

... says Kevin Washbrook. Another fanciful interpretation was that the one man was giving the other a friendly shave! But perhaps the final word ought to go to Paul Naylor...

Honestly though, there are squillions of people around who aren’t happy unless they’re complaining about the welfare of humanity etc... If they don’t like the cover then they can stop buying the magazine, instead, they try to ruin it for the rest of us.

Amen to that!
LM

BAD OLD DAYS

Dear Lloyd
I write in response to Stephen Hibbert’s letter in the August edition of CRASH. I’m tired of hearing about what it was like in the ‘good old days’. I’m a newcomer to home computing, and to me the software scene is exciting and dynamic. New prospects are appearing over the horizon all the time, but Stephen is too busy looking at the past to see them; it’s not the software that’s getting old and stale, it’s him!

Ask anyone whether they would prefer Space Invaders to Exolon, or even Software Star to Tai-Pan — I know which they would choose, the new ones!

So come on people, stop looking back and start looking forward.
D A Schofield

Looking at the past is only of value if it provides relevant background to the present, otherwise it becomes a self-indulgent moaning about how fings ain’t wot they were. Well ‘fings’ never are, thank goodness! History gives artefacts an intrinsic value, and I see little wrong in looking at the past, especially when you can say that even today (cliché of the month) a game stands up well, if you provide continuity to a programmer’s work or if you simply explain how events led up to today’s situation. It’s patently rubbish to say games now aren’t as good as they were.
LM

AND TALKING HISTORY...

Dear Lloyd
I agree with recent letters commenting on CRASH’s increased quality. But one element present during the first couple of years has almost, though not entirely, disappeared. And that’s the parts in-between, which give the facts some atmosphere and provides insights to the lives of the CRASH team.

Before 1986 CRASH had a homely atmosphere, something that other magazines have lost completely. That is the thing which makes any publication readable; a string of plain facts gives mind-indigestion. That’s why I often look back at a 1985 CRASH if I want a good read, but only rarely at one of 1986.

Those who say that CRASH is a computer magazine and nonrelevant subjects should be completely removed are, of course, talking rubbish. In magazines, like books, apart from the main plot there must be many other ideas, and if it were not for these other subjects, then the books/magazines would be totally boring.
Michael Pacey

Perhaps CRASH has become less ‘homely’ since those first two years, but then (check with the coming history of CRASH, starting next issue) we were, to be honest, less professional then. However the original Editor and creator of CRASH, Roger Kean, is now back at the helm and, as far as I can see, hasn’t changed his basic philosophy. CRASH is still as full of additional team information as it was, but far more subjects are now covered (and I’m talking about computer-relevant topics too). The next writer has much the same views...
LM

NOT BORING

Dear Lloyd
I presume most people intensely dislike missing the end of a film, or discovering the last chapter of a book to be missing. I am being driven insane by the mysterious disappearance of TAMARA KNIGHT! Not a word has been uttered about its sudden nonexistence in the July and August issues.

I would like to say that TERMINAL MAN is great, likewise the video reviews. I think it’s very important to have interests aside from computers, so these people who write in saying that everything unconnected with computers should be kept out of CRASH are probably immensely boring.
Yours psychoanalytically
one of the 1.6% — Victoria White

I must say I’m disappointed at the ungenerous carping of people who want everything except Spectrum computer games excluded from CRASH. Obviously that’s the essential part of the magazine’s reason for existence, but it isn’t everything. The usual argument suggests that pages are being wasted, that other mags devote more room to the central subject. But it clearly isn’t so. Go back over the past year and simply count the pages. Other Spectrum mags have generally averaged out at between 72 pages (including ads) and around the 100 mark. CRASH has never, ever been less than 112, and tends to average out at 124 pages, with very few more ads than the others. Obviously we want to monitor changes to see that they’re acceptable to the majority, and we do that constantly through your letters and personal contact at shows.

You weren’t the only person to want to know what happened to TAMARA KNIGHT- it was a case of space and pressure of mail saying get rid of it (sorry Mel, you’ll get your own back on us in ZZAP!, I know!). I’ll see if I can lobby for an abridged version of the final two chapters in the CHRISTMAS SPECIAL...
LM

CHARTED

Dear Lloyd
You asked for CRASH Readers’ music charts, so I’ve provided you with my favourite Spectrum tunes. Sadly I can’t afford a 128K so all these tunes are 48K. It’s actually a Top Seven chart:

  1. Chronos
  2. AgentX
  3. Ping Pong
  4. Terra Cresta
  5. Robin Of The Wood
  6. Arc Of Yesod
  7. Mikie

D Smith

Is that D J Smith? Well, you’ve set the ball rolling, there must be others...
LM

WHERE WALLY?

Dear Lloyd
What happened to the Official Wally Week Fan Club? I slaved away over our Wally Pack for nearly a month, and we won the runner-up prize of Everyone’s A Wally, but we received no details of how to join the club at all. Now, two years later, I’m beginning to wonder if we should have bothered. Does the Club exist? I hope so — I love Wally Week and his brilliant games.

I just LURVED the OINK! supplement in the July issue. My favourite characters are Mary Lighthouse and the strip Pete’s Pimple, excellently drawn by Lew Stringer, of Derek The Troll fame.

Nice to see Robin Candy making a comeback in the reviews, too. By the way, do you write the introduction section on each review?
Matthew Hales

Wally Week went the way of all flesh. His creators, Mikro-Gen, sold out to Creative Sparks Distribution about a year ago, and, as you may know, CSD went into receivership recently.

Though I used to write some game intros once upon a time, I don’t any more — that’s done by Ian Phillipson.

I’m glad you enjoyed the OINK! supplement — several readers have complained that it was a waste of (here we go again) valuable space, and that the comic is for three-year-olds (which would explain, I suppose, why W H Smith recently requested shop managers to place it higher up the shelves, out of reach of youngsters). Check out the next letter.
LM

WHERE DEMO?

Dear Lloyd
In early 1985 I started to buy CRASH because it was a Spectrum-orientated publication, and it also treated the reader as a thinking adult. I have purchased every issue since then, and will continue to do so, but I feel the editorial content is becoming more distant from a computer publication. This was brought to mind when the OINK! supplement and features were included. It wasn’t funny, it wasn’t entertaining, but it certainly was crap!

What happened!! ZZAP! 64 readers get a free tape with playable demonstrations and a superb Rob Hubbard tune on the flip side. If ZZAP! readers had got OINK! instead I’m sure they would have been greatly disappointed!

Interesting to note that deteriorations in CRASH have occurred rapidly since LM’s conception. Also, it seems that every month brings us another of LM’s staff, or sees someone from CRASH moving to ZZAP! (eg Ciaran Brennan and Barnaby Page. There are still good bits, and I applaud Newsfield for having the guts to keep trying different things, but can you leave CRASH (and its logo!) alone.
Dean M Ashton

As a matter of fact, the ZZAP! team wanted the OINK! supplement, but it had only been set up with CRASH. You will be getting a demo cassette on the front of next month’s CRASH. Staff changes are inevitable in any company, and their movement has nothing whatsoever to do with LM. Only one person has survived that magazine, and as you rightly point out it’s Barnaby. As for leaving CRASH alone — it’s such a silly notion, magazines grow almost of their own accord!
LM

I’m quite worn out after this FORUM, what a concentrated affair it’s been! And due to the sudden lack of space, I apologise to the many writers whose letters were picked out, but which failed to make it into print. Don’t let that cast you down, though, it’s strong opinion that makes the FORUM tick, so keep writing in with any views you have.