The Club House 12/26/14: Why Talk About Fanzines?

RG Cameron Dec 19 Illo #1 'Moebius Trip'

Some of you may have noticed I stopped contributing columns to Amazing.

Editor Steve Davidson and I have been discussing this.

For one thing, I’ve lately experienced assorted health issues which caused my fanac to come to a shuddering halt. Simply too fatigued to devote much mental energy toward anything. I seem to be getting better now, however, which opens up the possibility of resuming fanac at a reduced level.

Besides, I was beginning to run out of ideas. I need something reactive, something full of comment hooks which trigger my synapses, something which doesn’t demand the effort of shaping a full blown essay, which will allow me to write material even frothier than my usual lack of substance.

What better than fanzines?

It’s not as if I stopped reading them. When ill and dispirited I still remain a voracious reader, in part to keep my mind alive and prevent me from feeling sorry for myself. Fanzines I tend to read cover to cover. Always have. Every fanzine contains at least a few comment hooks. So why not comment?

On a regular basis. A weekly column entirely devoted to fanzine reviews.

You know you want it. Being readers of Amazing you are as addicted to reading as I am.

RG Cameron Dec 19 Illo #2 'Pulsar'

However, it may be that you are reluctant to explore fanzines because you’ve heard that some faneds, out of an excess of enthusiasm, tend to embrace potential converts with a comprehensive syllabus terrifying to contemplate. This explains why newbies often run screaming from their first exposure to trufandom.

Such faneds mean well. They truly believe fen require a thorough knowledge of fannish history and lore before they start exploring the “literature” of fandom. A reader who lacks this background knowledge may not be able to “get” fanzines. Unfortunately the prospect of clawing one’s way up such a steep learning curve is a tad intimidating.

Even worse, some faneds are known to snicker when a newbie reveals they’ve never heard of Ghu Ghu or the Tucker hotel. This can be off-putting.

To be fair, this is the sort of thing any fan who has worked his way into any hobby is often prey to as the decades mount up. It’s a very human sort of possessiveness, not at all uncommon.

RG Cameron Illo #3 'Star Line'

For example, I know nothing about barbed wire fandom. I’m sure many a barbed wire collector would snicker if I admitted I didn’t know “Simpering Sally” is the nickname for the 40 ton tensile strength Razorback Rudder type 36 with Spanish Sword blades manufactured by the Molten Metal Company for the Merino Sheep Farmers of Texas from May to November 1888 at the Padunkydunk plant in Dallas. To me this is the sort of nitpicky obscurity best left till after one has plunged deeply into a given hobby. Not the sort of thing suitable for a recruitment drive (pictures of nudes work much better).

Truth to tell, it is my contention that you don’t need to know anything about fandom’s history and lore in order to appreciate and enjoy past and contemporary fanzines. You don’t have to give a flying Foo Foo about the fannish equivalent of “Simpering Sally.”

So what do you need? Curiosity mostly, and a desire to be stimulated and amused.

The American Founding Fathers got it almost right. “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” But “happiness” is a bit vague. What they really meant was “pursuit of fun.” Everybody knows what fun is. Just ask them. They’ll tell you.

I read fanzines for the fun of it. I like interesting ideas that are new to me, amusing anecdotes, odd facts, perceptive observations, hilarious self-deprecating revelations of Murphy’s law, anything that is intriguing, fascinating, or original. Such things are often to be found in fanzines. Not always, mind you, but often.

In short, fanzines are entertaining. They are very much “in the moment” as you read them. No need to study the background or the historical context; that comes later, and only if you are interested. If not, don’t bother. A fanzine is an entity unto itself, and best appreciated as such.

So don’t worry. You don’t need to be traditional fan to appreciate fanzines. If you enjoy reading interesting stuff, fanzines are just what you’ve been looking for. Something to dip into from time to time and savour.

RG Cameron Illo #4 'Eniznaf'

I sense you remain suspicious. I have a bit of a reputation as a fan historian. Am I not likely to bore you to tears with excessively detailed accounts of ongoing fannish debates on topics like “What the heck is a fanzine anyway?”

Well, yes, that is my natural tendency, but I promise to restrain myself.

For instance, there are technical terms for different kinds of fanzines, each term fiercely debated by them as cares as to proper definition and origin. Dull. Dull. Dull! Here are my definitions for the purpose of this column:

PERZINE = a personal zine in which the editor rants and raves about why he is so good and everyone else is so bad.

GENZINE = a zine where the faned encourages multiple writers to rant and rave about why they are so good and everyone else (though not the other contributors, or maybe especially the other contributors) are so bad.

NEWSZINE = a zine in which the faned rants and raves about why fandom is going to hell in a hand basket.

SERCONZINE = a zine in which the faned rants and raves about fen who don’t take seriously the serious stuff.

CLUBZINE = a newsletter in which the faned cleverly hides the fact the whole point of belonging to the club is to get drunk and/or laid on a monthly basis.

CONZINE = a newsletter in which the faned cleverly hides the fact that the whole point of attending the convention is to get drunk and/or laid on an annual basis.

ELITISTZINE = a zine in which the faned expresses contempt for non-traditional fen.

PSUEDOINTELLECTUALZINE = a zine in which the faned expresses contempt for his readers.

CURMUDGEONZINE = a zine in which the faned expresses contempt for every human being who ever lived and for all those yet unborn.

I do believe that covers all the bases. Zinedom in a nutshell.

RG Cameron Illo #5 'Dork Pizzle'

One thing I promise you. I will not review zines on the basis of their quality of writing and presentation. No point really.

After all, I’m the sort of guy who reads ‘The Peloponnesian War’ by Thucydides looking for the fun bits. Like the bit about the Spartan General who was condemned by his men for effeminate luxury-loving because he made a pillow out of snow during a winter campaign. That’s a great info tidbit, that is. Them Spartan dudes really were hard ass. No wonder no-one invited them to parties. Killjoys, the lot of them.

In short, I don’t intend to be deferential or awestruck by the zines I review. I’ll just be pointing out the fun bits in the hope it will intrigue people enough to check them out and maybe become addicted.

Don’t get me wrong. I genuinely love fannish lore and history, but that’s not the primary focus of “The Clubhouse” column. The focus is fanzines, pure and simple.

RG Cameron Illo #6 'Stefantasy'

Specifically, I will be targeting enthusiastic SF&F fen who like intriguing stuff to read but who have not yet tried reading fanzines. I’m going to attempt to prove, in as entertaining a manner as possible, that zines are worth reading. Nothing more than that. My mandate for the column. My promise to the readers.

And how exactly am I going to do this? Not sure yet.

No doubt I will cover as wide a variety as possible, especially new zines if only because I am attracted to novelty and like to try something new whenever I can.

The column will have an international flavour for the simple reason that zines are published in many countries, including the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Canada, and elsewhere.

And since SF&F zines have been published for over eighty years I will probably describe at least one golden oldie every column.

Plus I’ll do my best to review zines that are actually available somewhere on line and include links to them that will allow you to read them in full should you wish to do so.

Above all I expect to have fun. It is my fervent hope that you will too.

Expect my first reviews Friday, January 2nd, 2015. All comments welcome. Even those I fully intend to ignore.

RG Cameron Illo #7 'Scavengers'

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1 Comment

  1. Whew! Glad to see you back, Graeme… I was beginning to worry. I hope you don’t mind if I cover the occasional zine myself–because I still get them specifically because I was Amazing’s fanzine columnist. 🙂

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