Fanzines—to LOC or not to LOC?

Broken Toys 21 Cover by Taral Wayne
Broken Toys 21 Cover by Taral Wayne

Fanzines—To LOC or Not to LOC? Before we get into it, let’s address the matter of “LoC” versus “LOC,” shall we? (To many fans, an apparently trivial difference in how you spell or punctuate or even capitalize a word, phrase or acronym can lead to a lot of acrimonious discussion.) I’m going to save time and energy (so I don’t have to keep hitting “shift” “unshift” and “shift” every time) and from now on will use the acronym “LOC” for Letter of Comment, okay?

Anyway, Taral Wayne’s perzine (personal fanzine, remember?), Broken Toys number 21 has a preponderance of LOCs (more than half the issue, according to Taral) by only a half-dozen fans (forgive me, but I find “fen” awkward to write; I’m planning to stick to “fans” mostly). In the email that accompanied the issue, Taral bemoans the fact that a lot of longtime readers have never even submitted one LOC, which kinda gives me a case of the guilts, as I haven’t LOC’d anyone for years. So I guess I’ll do so—maybe even to Taral—in the very near future. And this brings up a whole new topic: why do people produce zines anyway? This should be the topic of a whole blog entry, so this time I’ll just dip a toe in and say that one of the reasons is to connect with other fans; to both give and receive opinions on things (and that would be things both fannish and mundane, as I seldom see a zine that has no mundane stuff in it anywhere). How do you know you’ve connected with other fans? The most obvious way in fanzines is to receive a LOC from someone who’s read your ish and wants to comment on it. I’d say that for anyone who reads fanzines more or less consistently it’s an expectation; you are almost obliged to comment on what you’ve read. “Comment,” in the context of a LOC, could be anything from an “I agree” to a complete argument for or against something in the ish you’re LOC-ing.

The majority of Broken Toys 21, as I’ve said, consists of LOCs; the rest is mostly political, both mundane and fannish: a comment on the latest mass shootings and how to maybe cut them down; a comment on marijuana prohibition—both for the general public and for politicians!; an article on the Hugo awards, and how they may be irrelevant for the modern fan; and finally an article about collecting fossils from Taral’s personal background. All in all, an interesting read. Oh, and yes—have I mentioned the WAHFs? He has a large section of “We Also Heard Froms”: LOCs that are mentioned or partially quoted instead of being reprinted whole. Available for The Usual (in case you’ve forgotten, that would be a contribution—art or article, or a LOC or in many cases, you could just send money. Even though the zines I’m mentioning today are available on, it takes time, money and energy to produce them; all fanzine editors would welcome a little thank-you “tip” now and again. To LOC Broken Toys, write to:

SF Commentary 85 Cover by "Ditmar"
SF Commentary 85 Cover by “Ditmar”

From “A Land Down Under” comes Bruce Gillespie’s SF Commentary 85, with a cover by “Ditmar” (Dick Jenssen) which is a photomontage of sorts. SF Commentary is, if thish is any example (sorry, Bruce, but I’ve been out of it for a long time, fannishly speaking), this is a commentary about everything, not just SF. Besides an extremely long lettercol, this has sections on books, films, TV and music that Bruce enjoyed in 2012, and it’s quite revealing of character. I also appreciate his listing, after talking about the books, films, etc., the “read for the first time” or “reread” items. This is one of Australia’s premier SF fans, but little of what he mentions is actually SF. (Which is not a bad thing, really. I enjoy reading others’ reviews of books, movies, etc., especially if I’ve seen/heard/read whatever they’re discussing.) There’s also a list of favourite music documentaries and filmed performances watched in 2012, as well as other music.

There are sections on the “real” gosh-wow—here we’re talking about real, as opposed to SFnal, science. And another section on more goshwow by cover artist Dick Jenssen. The lettercol is pretty big, with LOCs from such people as Doug Barbour, Damien Broderick, Taral Wayne, John Litchen, Michael Bishop, Yvonne Rousseau, Kaaron Warren, Tim Marion,  Steve Sneyd, George Zebrowski, Franz Rottensteiner, Paul Anderson, Sue Bursztynski, Martin Morse Wooster, Andy Robson, Jerry Kaufman, Rick Kennett, Lloyd Penney, Joseph Nicholas, Casey Wolf, Murray Moore, Jeff Hamill, David Lake, Pete Young, Gary Hoff, Stephen Campbell, John-Henri Holmberg, David Boutland (David Rome), Matthew Davis, William Breiding and a list of WAHFs. If you’ve been in fandom for a couple of years or more you’ll know a lot of these names.

There’s also an obituary section and a section of letters that may not be particularly SFnal, but which are featured anyway because they’re extremely interesting—or at least that’s why I think they’re there. And there’s an “Aide-mémoire 2012” by one Jennifer Bryce, who is a sexagenarian living in Melbourne, who reads little SF. It’s basically what books she read in 2012, what films she saw, etc. Not particularly SFnal, but again, I enjoy reading others’ reviews. If you want to send Bruce a LOC, you can do so at

From Alien Shores is edited by Jack Avery. From Alien Shores #4 is, according to my Adobe Reader, a 104 pp. PDF, with a feature few fans seem to use. Instead of a ToC (Table of Contents), inside is a world map, with every article referenced by a line pointing to the particular country the article came from; if you click on the article’s name, you are immediately taken to that article. A small thing, but to me indicative of a professional fanzine, if you’ll forgive the somewhat oxymoronical comment. This zine appears to be mostly a reviewzine.

Oddly enough the lettercol contains only one LOC, this one from Lloyd Penney, commenting on the last issue. According to Jack, this is the lone LOC for From Alien Shores #3. I don’t know if that means enough fans aren’t reading this excellent little zine, but if you haven’t read it, go to and pick up a copy.

The map/ToC also has icons to tell you whether it’s a movie, music, play or audio play.

As far as I can tell, the reviews (most written by Jack Avery) are pretty good, though I haven’t seen much of what’s being reviewed. I did like the review of the BBC’s audio play of “A Taste For Death” by Peter O’Donnell, one of the Modesty Blaise books, adapted by Stef Penney. I’ve been a Modesty fan since the ‘60s (books mostly, because the comics never matched up to my ideas of the characters and, as always, the books have more depth than the strips), and I’m glad to hear that the Beeb has begun adapting the O’Donnell books, though it sounds like they’re not doing as good a job as they could. According to Jack, huge chunks of the book have been left out. Oh, well, at least they tried. While it’s always nice to see—or hear—an adaptation of your favourite books, usually the adaptation falls short. I’ve seen (and own on DVD) a couple of movie adaptations of Modesty; the original Modesty Blaise movie with Monica Vitti and Terence Stamp was to Modesty Blaise what the Adam West Batman was to, say, Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight.” I also saw the Alexandra Staden move My Name is Modesty, which was better, but still a bit off. Someday a smart movie producer—now that Peter O’Donnel’s gone—will do a good adaptation of Modesty. Once can always hope.

From Alien Shores #4 Cover
From Alien Shores #4 Cover

As usual, you can pick the above zines up from If you wish to send Jack a LOC, you can write to

Hey, don’t forget to write to me, too. I don’t expect actual snail mail (though it would be nice), but an email—why not? I’m still at Coming up in a couple of weeks, I’ll have an “anatomy” of a local fan-run convention, fanzine reviews, book reviews, movie reviews and other such matters. Until next time, is it FIAWOL for you or is it FIJAGH?

(Editor’s note 1:  FIAWOL.  2. The various ‘zine images here are also links to the complete issues, which can be found – and read – and even LoCed – on





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  1. In my experience, it seems to be an essential truth that a physical fanzine will “guilt” a reader into writing a loc. Of my two fanzines, the paper-only ASKEW gets a higher percentage of responses than the e-zine ASKANCE. When I do print copies of ASKANCE, then there are more actual letters of comment. So to me the axiom “paper zines get more locs than e-zines” holds true.

  2. I know from experience I am a fantastic LOC writer, an unbelievably witty and profoundly intelligent LOC writer… except I never (or almost never) write LOCS…

    To explain, I read a large number of fanzines. I read them from cover to cover. As I go I stumble across dozens of comment hooks and think up my amazing responses on the spur of the moment.

    And then I put the zine aside as I have numerous projects underway and things to do, meaning to set an hour or two aside soonest to concentrate on writing LOCS.

    When I do return to a particular zine to LOC it, my mind is largely blank. Reading it a second time, the comment hooks have largely disappeared, and what responses I do come up with seem trivial and mundane. As often as not I toss the zine aside saying “Oh well, I guess my former bosses were right, I’m even dumber than everyone says I am…”

    Obviously, what I need to do is LOC as I read, except that takes away from the pure pleasure of reading and makes it seem more like homework. So I don’t know…

    The lack of LOCS (i.e. feedback) is a real problem for faneds now a days. Tends to shrink motivation.

    Fortunately I have devised a sure-fire solution for faneds everywhere no matter what sort of zine they publish, no matter which branch of the multi-faceted SF community is their intended audience.

    All will be revealed in a future column of mine here in about a month or so…

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