Random Thing From My Files: “Oh Boy” Magazine

So this week I decided to reach into my giant stack of rejection letters. As usual, I went to random.org to decide which section of the file to pull from, and it told me that this week, it would be the letter O. Despite its ubiquity as a vowel, my file folder for the letter O turned out to be virtually empty. (O, The Oprah Magazine wasn’t in operation when I was submitting a lot of short stories places. Not that I would have submitted anything there anyway, since that wasn’t exactly my target market.) However, I did find something a little unusual: Submission guidelines to an ancient fanzine called Oh Boy.

Now, before anyone starts getting any funny ideas about what the subject area of a fanzine called Oh Boy might be, let’s just think back to 1991, when popular TV show characters had to have a catch phrase:

¡Ay caramba!

That’s right, Oh Boy was a fanzine for Quantum Leap, in which each episode started with Sam Beckett “leaping” into the body of some person from the past, usually in the middle of some dire situation, to which Sam would typically respond with “Oh boy.” Except that one time he leaped into something really bad and said “Oh God.” I swear that happened, but now I can’t find the episode, so to distract you, here’s the trailer:

Ahhh, those halcyon days of 90s network television.

Anyway, here are the guidelines, a little time capsule of early 90s submissions technology and practices. The document is two pages long, so let’s take it one page at a time, shall we? Note: Normally I leave the contact info for editors and agents intact in these old scans, but since this is a non-professional fanzine that’s been defunct for a quarter-century (good Lord), I decided to blur them out.

OhBoy1

Did you read all that? Let’s review and analyze!

  • “If you head of OH BOY through Writer’s Digest, please note [snip] the fact that there is a second editor. Sharon has been with OH BOY from the beginning of publication and is an important part of the partnership.”
    • Translation: Writer’s Digest messed up whatever the listing or article about OH BOY was, and left Sharon out. Not cool, WD!
  • Item 1: PG-13 (for the numbered guideline items I’m not going to bother retyping them in their entirety)
    • Wow, TV sure has changed since the 1990s, since you can see any of those excluded things on cable these days, although not, perhaps, on the ancient classic networks like NBC. I mean, shit, they even say “fuck” on shows like Breaking Bad on AMC these days. Also: Boo, no going all Fifty Shades of Quantum Leap on Sam and Al.
  • Item 2: How and What to Submit
    • Either a double-spaced manuscript or … wait for it … 5 1/4″ double-sided, double-density disks! Preferably using WordPerfect!! Or formatted in ASCII!!!
  • Item 3: Proofreading/Editing
    • I’m not sure any publishing venues do much proofreading or editing anymore, given how many typos and errors can be found in articles and stories from ostensibly professional sites these days. And, wow, the editors were willing to work with writers to refine their stories? Inconceivable! The part about staying within the character of the show reminds me of a very nice reader comment I got on my “Angelus” scenario for the Buffy the Vampire Slayer board game. I never did write anything for OH BOY but if I had, I’m pretty sure I could have kept the characters consistent with their canonical appearances.

OhBoy2

  • Item 4: Poetry
    • Well, I don’t write poetry, so I probably skipped right over that section. I do note that you needed to have two poems published to get your free copy of the ‘zine. Presumably one really long poem would have snagged the author a free copy, though.
  • Item 5: Artwork
    • Yeah, I don’t do artwork either, as previously noted. If I did, maybe things with Eclipse Comics would have worked out a little differently. Not that I’m bitter …
  • Item 6: What’s A Fanzine?
    • Unexpectedly expensive, that’s what.
  • Item 7: OH BOY IV
    • So this is interesting: They were working on a shared-world novel based on Quantum Leap back in the early 90s, around when I remember shared worlds getting going. A shared world is different from, say, a themed anthology, in that various different authors all contribute stories or chapters that advance a main story, rather than simply all be roughly grouped into a single theme. (For an example of a themed anthology in which one of my stories appeared, see “Draw“, which appeared in the anthology Crossings.)

      Of course, other media, notably comic books, had been doing shared worlds for decades, but I don’t really remember seeing them in novel form prior to the late 1980s/early 1990s. Some of the early examples of shared-world novels that I remember reading included Wild Cards #1 (edited by George R.R. Martin!) and Liavek, and I’m currently partway through The Mongoliad, a series of shared-world books by Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, and others. (If you are at all familiar with Neal Stephensons and Greg Bear, you will not be surprised to learn that each book in this series is a doorstopper.)

So those are the fanzine guidelines for OH BOY. The main question I had for myself, after pulling this out of my file, was: Why do I have it? Well, this was my wife’s favorite show back at the dawn of the 90s, so possibly she encouraged me to see if I could write a story using the characters. Or possibly I just thought I might give it a try as an exercise to see if I could pull it off. As I alluded to earlier, though, I’m quite sure I never actually wrote or submitted anything related to Quantum Leap. (The lack of any actual correspondence from OH BOY certainly points in this direction.) Kind of a shame, I suppose, as we have since learned that it’s possibly to parlay fan fiction into a mini-empire of media. It doesn’t even have to be good fan fiction (in fact, if it’s not, probably helps, because of all the free publicity about how bad it is). But it does have to be fan fiction with lots of sex in it, which, unfortunately, was precluded by the PG-13 guidelines way back in item #1. Sorry. No sexual relations allowed between Sam and Al.

But … hmm … It doesn’t say anything about Sam and Ziggy …

Ah, crap, that’s been done already. Never mind.

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