Star Blazers Chronicles: APAs and Fanzines

The Life and Times of Star Blazers Fan Fiction

By Frederick P. Kopetz.

In 1982, I began to work on a fanzine called Space Cruiser Log. The work changed my life. It led me to places I never thought I would go. But more about that later.

Star Blazers came into my life slowly in 1980, like a benign brain-eating virus. WTAF in Philadelphia ran it at 2:30 in the afternoon. I saw only dribs and drabs because real life intruded most of the time. My first full episode was #19 in the Comet Empire series where the Argo returned to Planet Brumis. One of the first characters that stood out was Sergeant Knox. I was struck by Knox going to see his buddies, to say goodbye to them. It hit me even harder when we saw that his buddies were all dead.

When I first “met” Derek Wildstar, he seemed like your typical earnest young officer. I wondered how someone so young got to be skipper of a powerful ship like the Argo. The friends of his that appealed to me at that time were Mark Venture and the down-home Eager. Very interesting voices, I thought. I didn’t pay much mind to the girl at the radar yet. That would change a few episodes later.

The music stuck in my head. The power of the Wave-Motion Gun and the cold, cruel efficiency of the Comet Empire were very memorable. After just one episode, I wanted to find out what would happen next, but I didn’t get to see it again until early summer. I noticed that the opener looked different. Without knowing it, I was seeing the famous first series.

At first, I was a little disappointed; it turned out to be the finale of the Iscandar storyline. “Well, at least I’ll get to see how it ends,” I thought.

Boy, did I ever. And that day, I “met” the two other characters would become my favorites after Wildstar. First, there was the suave, cool, but sinister Leader Desslok at one of his most maniacal moments. I thought he looked awesomely evil with that whip and when he released that cloud of poison gas. I immediately thought he was the coolest cartoon villain I had ever seen. Someone you loved to hate. He had such style, and a great motivation (revenge).

Then there was Nova, that girl at the radar. In this episode, of course, you see how much Nova loved Derek. She risks her life for him “and for all of your tomorrows…the tomorrows of the world.” She was an incredible combination of vulnerability and strength at the same time. I was rooting for her to wake up, even though it seemed hopeless. I was not disappointed at the payoff.

After that episode, I was hooked and had to see it all. I discussed the show with a school friend of mine named Randy, and found he was hooked, too. He revealed that he had hand-written a story in script format about what happened next.

His tale was called Star Blazers 2, and it continued the from the end of the Comet Empire series. Prince Zordar’s son Zordak came back to avenge his death, and for a time seduced Desslok back into his service. Wildstar was in mourning because Nova had gone missing on some mission. The Argo ended up fighting Zordak and Desslok on one hand, and searching for Nova on the other. She was eventually found, and Desslok changed sides again once he found out what Zordak’s plans really were (the madman had lied to him). He also joined the Star Force as a Technical Officer, revealing how to disarm Zordak’s war machines and robots. There was a lot of fighting, and the good guys finally won in the end.

I was interested, but found myself critiquing it after two or three reads; the story seemed to depend too much on robots, and my friend’s version of Nova seemed to be very weak-willed. She never married Wildstar, never did much on the bridge, and needed rescuing far more often than she did in the show. Even more improbably, she also had committed suicide at least twice and was brought back to life by Captain Avatar’s ghost.

I felt that the story was cool but these were not quite the characters from the show. I thought Desslok was too proud to join the Star Force; he would stand by his own Empire and people or die in the attempt. He might be an ally to Earth, but he’d never want to live there. And Nova would at some point marry Wildstar, continue her work, and mature along with the rest of the cast

Thinking about the show and Randy’s story led me to begin writing my own stories for fun as a rebuttal to his tale. I ended up doing my own sequel to the Comet Empire story in which Iscandar is threatened and the Star Force joins forces with Desslok to save Queen Starsha. The Argo goes back into battle shortly after Derek and Nova’s wedding to defend Iscandar from an enemy race I invented. They were called the Rikashans and they had strange mental powers.

A few months later I joined the Star Blazers Fan Club and made contact with Michael Pinto. I discussed my writing and suggested I could write for him. Then he put out a challenge in his club newsletter: Can you produce a fanzine? I took Mike up on this and decided to try.

Above left: Cover to Space Cruiser Log #1. Top right: part of an article by Luke Menichelli (click here to see an enlargement).
Bottom right: cartoon by Fred Kopetz.

I saw my first Yamato anime around that time, namely the Space Cruiser Yamato movie and Be Forever Yamato. I was impressed by both, and rather shocked when I saw The New Voyage and found that its plot was very similar to that of my first fan-fiction work.

In the summer of 1982 (by which time I was a college freshman majoring in journalism), the first issue of my fanzine Space Cruiser Log was born. I photocopied it myself. It had a small print run of thirty, and sold for $3.25 an issue. It included, among other things…

-A Wildstar cover by Michael Pinto

-A list comparing the American and Japanese character names

-An article called “Sexism in Star Blazers” by a fan named Steph Rendino

-Various Cartoons

-Part One of what would be the first of many drafts of my fanfic story, The Rikasha Incident. A friend contributed a few ideas but it was mostly mine.

People liked the first issue, and I began work on a second one that ended up even bigger. It included more fanfic, articles on Yamato models, and more artwork.

At this time, I also became the director of Starsha APA, which I messed up because I had no idea what I was doing.

The term APA stands for “Amateur Press Association.” It is best defined as a fanzine created by a committee of writers and artists. Each contributor writes, edits, and makes copies of their own work, which can include anything they desire. The individual copies are sent to a collator (usually called the Operating Editor) who puts everything together. Then each member receives a copy of everyone’s contribution, by mail or by hand at a collation event.

I later gave up on Starsha and turned it over to Brian Cirulnick, where it mutated into Trelaina APA and then later into Sasha under Phil Lipari.

There was to have been a third issue of Space Cruiser Log, but real-life concerns got in the way. But I contributed to both Trelaina and Sasha for some years while finishing college and raising a family. Those APAs contained humor articles, artwork, and other fanfic. Steph Rendino and John Dorsey collaborated on a project called “Star Blazers 4” and more detailed works began to appear later on, which were created as Space Battleship Yamato fanfic rather than Star Blazers.

Among them were:

Dessler in the Flames of Eternity by Rob Fenelon and Phil Lipari, a story with increased maturity as the crew of Yamato aids Dessler in what turns out to be a new war with the Dark Nebulan Empire, out for revenge after its losses in Be Forever Yamato. In that war, several members of Yamato‘s crew died, including Susumu Kodai himself. His parting from Yuki was particularly painful because they were married and Yuki was carrying their child.

Kainos Yamato: I do not remember who wrote this tale; it appeared in Sasha APA and was very well-written. This was a long, multi-part story where Teresa of Telezart returned from death to warn Earth of a new enemy and the rebuilt Yamato ended up fighting in a new war. I remember a long section in which Yuki was in command of Yamato because Kodai and Sanada were off on a diplomatic Mission for a time.

The Rikasha Incident: I made a second attempt at this, now rewritten as a Yamato tale and run as a serial. It was now set after Final Yamato, and it included more original characters with artwork by myself. It explored the friendship between Kodai, Yuki, and Dessler as it was tested by a long war in which they were allies.

As these stories illustrate, a trend had developed for deeper characterization in Star Blazers and Yamato fan fiction.

Also, other dedicated fanzines were now being made by other writers and artists. Among them was one called Highly Animated, done by Colleen Winters and JoLynn Horvath, which was a great grab-bag of stories, including an adorable piece by D.A. Lewis focusing on Derek and Nova called The Wedding Present, where they got married aboard Yamato as their last act–right before it was to be crushed between two asteroids set up as a trap. Sandor saved the day and allowed them to live, luckily.

Above left: Cover art for Highly Animated, pages from The Wedding Present and Cosmo Ransom Note.
(Click on the names to read enlargements.)

Highly Animated went on for two issues. I contributed a parody tale to issue#2 called Cosmo Ransom Note in which Jordy Venture got kidnapped. Jordy was not a popular character among the fans at that time. Ardith Carlton wrote a hilarious sequel that was printed as a companion piece to my story.

In 1988, I encountered Texas fan Derek Wakefield, and we decided to produce an APA called Starsha all over again. Starsha II focused more on fanfic, though it also had some speculative articles like those in Space Cruiser Log. Some were articles by Jeff Blend on the wave-motion engine and which Yamato characters were most popular in Japan. I began Rikasha Incident all over again, restoring it to a Star Blazers tale. Derek Wakefield’s entry was a long work titled A Call to Arms that involved the crew of another EDF ship, the spacecraft carrier Columbia. This ship, rebuilt from the remains of the actual US aircraft carrier Saratoga, was commanded by an original character named Captain Helena Yarnell.

Above left: title page for Rikasha, Cover art for Starsha II #4 by Ken Mayes, Helena Yarnell and Mark Venture from A Call to Arms.

Some new trends emerged around this time. The Comet Empire began to be called the ‘Cometines,’ based somewhat on the first Star Blazers comic book from Comico. Some characters from the comic, like Cosmo “Pop” Shannon, also appeared in Derek’s story.

When Keith Johannson came up with the Star Blazers fleet simulation wargames in 1997, some of his ship names found their way into fanfic, such as “Borodino class” for the EDF space battleships.

Derek and I continued with a few issues of something called Weird APA. It contained a long, strange story wherein Derek found himself thrust through a time warp onto the Argo and got apprehended as an enemy agent. I did some short stories then, too.

Visions began as an accident in 2000. I had built a personal web site and posted some of my Star Blazers fanfic on it. It drew traffic and compliments, so I gradually transmuted it into a fansite. My last version of The Rikasha Incident ended up there, finally completed many years after I first started it. (Although I still like to go back and add to my chapters, or edit them.)

Readers who liked what they saw on Visions began to contribute their own works; one of the earliest writers was Andrea Lyon/Wicked Good Grrl, who began her own novelization of the first series in 2003. Fan writer Jamie Tucker also began contributing stories of his own around this time.

The lack of a need for paper meant that the stories on Visions grew even longer. Tom Sczepkowski began a story titled The Iconoclast in 2005; it’s now 35 chapters and growing. More recently, Yvelises Giordano has graced Visions with a romantic tale about Wildstar and Nova called The Honeymoon’s Over. She has a sequel in the works.

Paper fanzines are gone now, but you could say a ghost of Space Cruiser Log still exists at the Visions website. And it doesn’t need to be photocopied anymore, either.

So how did producing fanzines, APAs and a website change my life? Well, I learned to write far better than I had before. I learned to draw (somewhat). I learned to network with people far and wide. And I met my wife Gail. We met in 1982 when she subscribed Space Cruiser Log under her maiden name, Gail Daltry.

Be careful who you work on a ‘zine. You might end up marrying them.

The End

Visit the Visions website here.

Visit anotherStar Blazers fanfic site here.

3 thoughts on “Star Blazers Chronicles: APAs and Fanzines

  1. Frederick,
    It’s very fascinating for me, as a second-generation fan of the show, to see what it was like back when it was first beginning. I was wondering: do you still have a copy of “Dessler in the Flames of Eternity” somewhere that you could possibly put up somewhere on here?

  2. I no longer have a copy of “Desslar: In the Flames of Eternity” (my paper copies of most of Trelaina APA got chunked five years ago when my wife and I bought our current house and moved) but I’m still in touch with one of the co-authors (Phil Lipari). I’ll contact him to see if he has paper copies of the story, and if so, I’ll see if he and the other co-author Rob Fenelon will grant me permission to transcribe in on my fan fiction website “Visions”.

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