While searching through my files I came across the following speech on fanzine fandom I gave more than a quarter of a century ago. Some old-timers may find it amusing. What young fans will think of it I have no idea.
A TALK GIVEN BEFORE THE VANCOUVER BRANCH
OF THE CANADIAN AUTHORS ASSOCIATION
ON MARCH 20TH, 1989.
Unfortunately our scheduled guest speaker was unable to appear this night. Having spoken on Science Fiction markets three times in my many years in the CAA, I thought tonight I would speak to you about a little-known aspect of Science Fiction, namely amateur publications, or ‘fanzines.’
There exist people who have never earned a penny writing, yet have published thousands, tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of words. They belong to FANDOM. Fandom is something more than merely fans of Science Fiction in its various forms: books, magazines, movies, comic books, etc. Fandom is a mode of behaviour, of attitude, an approach to organized appreciation of Science Fiction which is universal among fans, so that fans as far apart as America and Soviet Russia have enough in common as to establish an immediate rapport should they meet.
Fanzines arise from fandom, and are as diverse in form and function as the varied interests of the fans who publish them.
I’ll start with SPOCKANALIA # 2 which I picked up in 1968 at the Triple Fan Fair in Toronto. As you can tell from the drawing of Spock on the cover it is devoted to the TV show STAR TREK. It contains an interesting mixture of fiction—fans writing stories featuring STAR TREK characters—and non-fiction—articles about the show, its actors, etc.—and what I call fictional-non-fiction—articles written as if the show is a documentary about real life events. Even more bizarre, there exist pornographic zines dealing with STAR TREK characters, but there is precedence for this. In the ‘70s Disney studio lawyers crushed several outfits publishing comics depicting Disney characters engaged in sexual activity. Back in the 1930s the so-called ‘Tijuana Comics’ showed prominent politicians and movie stars doing unusual things. However pornography is an exceedingly tiny part of fanzine fandom, a minor aberration, nothing more.
This next fanzine, APPARITON 1d20, is an example of an APA or Amateur Press Association zine. Most zines today are traded for other zines, or for letters of comment or contributions. An APA has a limited membership whose contribution copies in number equal to the membership go to a central editor who collates and redistributes the zines such that each member gets a copy of every member’s contributions (including his own), sometimes bound in a single volume. Because extra copies of APAzines are sometimes distributed, APA’s often have an influence extending beyond their membership. Some have become quite prestigious, even legendary.
The first APA was FAPA, the FANTASY APA, established in 1937. It is still in existence. Locally, Vaughn Fraser started CANADAPA in 1972, its avowed purpose, the unification of Canadian fandom. Since it was distributed to just 25 people this was most unlikely, but they were active fans and shared the APA with their friends. Susan Wood, a prominent U.B.C. Professor and Science Fiction critic, began AWAPA, A WOMAN’S APA, which was open only to women contributors. A feminist APA if you will. Fran Skene founded BCAPA in 1978 for local fans. This also continues.
More common are PERZINES, or personal fanzines. This one, THE DAWSON CLAIM, is an example of the barest form of perzine. A single sheet published monthly describing the daily routine of the Davidson family in Dawson Creek. Really a personal letter mass reproduced to send to all the people they know. As is ALL OF THE ABOVE by Fran Skene. This issue is mostly concerned with a recent trip to Fiji.
Contents nothing to do with Science Fiction? True. But the editors are both active fans and these zines are an easy means of sharing personal updates with all their fan friends.
MYLES VICTORY UPDATE, a digest-sized 12-pager, is a perzine of sorts, really a HOAXZINE masquerading as a perzine. It purports to be a bid by a Vancouver Island fan to hold an upcoming worldcon at his goat farm, but is in fact a little item put out by his friends. An example of a HUMOURZINE when you think about it. Humour very common in fanzine publications.
THE PURPLE ANNEX #1 by Kathleen Moore-Freeman I include as an example of a perzine produced by hectography, which involves using a bed of jelly as a printing press. As you can see, some of the words are smeared. This method of reproduction is quite cheap, but the result is often hard on the eyes. I believe Kathleen did it for the fun of it.
FILE 770 is quite a renowned perzine. Mike Glyer has been producing it for a longtime. This is the 77th issue. It’s a kind of NEWSZINE really, reporting on conventions, writers, fan activities, fan feuds, and other fanzines. But it is a one-man operation, so I classify it as a perzine.
STICKY QUARTERS #18 is another quality perzine. It has good cover art and an eclectic mixture of articles; in this issue items such as the transcription of the narration of a convention slide show, military memoirs by a contributor, a song about monkey brains as food, and a lengthy description of the AIDS disease. Definitely interesting, and equally definitely the personal editorial choice of Brian Earl Brown, the man who puts it out from Detroit. Definitely a perzine.
AS an example of a one-shot perzine here is the only issue of ENTROPY BLUES which I produced in 1986. Cost me a small fortune. Thirty copies of an 18-page zine printed on a Xerox copier. But it looks good and it was something I wanted to try at least once. This is absolutely a perzine. All ten articles and the cover art are by myself. Admit I’m proud of it. Each article is done in a different writing style. As one friend put it “What kind of drug were you on when you wrote this?” Just the drug of imagination. Great fun.
MERRY BAH! AND A HAPPY HUMBUG! Is a personal REVIEWZINE put out by Harry Andruschak, a BNF (or Big Name Fan) from way back. And well worth reading, for in it he reviews a whole bunch of fanzines. In addition, his letters of comment appear in dozens of other fanzines, as do those of Harry Warner Jr. This is one of the reasons both of these fans are considered BNFs.
FOSFAX # 135 is more or less a LOCZINE, a fanzine devoted primarily to printing letters of comment. Somehow they attract letters not only from BNFs but from established writers like Piers Anthony and Poul Anderson. Their columns and occasional fiction are quite good too. All this produced by an Ohio club consisting of merely thirteen people. Has been nominated for the Hugo Award at least once. The Hugo, by the way, in various cqategories: best novel, best new writer, best fanzine, etc. is awarded by those attending the annual Worldcon.
TORUS #3 is a Toronto GENZINE (multiple contributors) put together by THE KAMIKAZE EDITORIAL COLLECTIVE consisting of four fans dedicated to producing a quality fanzine. The layout is excellent, mainly because they use a Macintosh computer and a Hewlet Packard Lazerjet II printer. Even better, the quality of writing is superb, near professional in standard. One of the best Canadian fanzines.
THE MAD THREE PARTY # 29 is an example of a CONZINE or progress report on the status of preparations for an upcoming convention, in this case for the World convention. Considering the size of the convention, such conzines are very useful in preparing participants to cope with the event and not be overwhelmed.
Then there are the FICTIONZINES, comparatively rare zines devoted to amateur fiction. This is GATEWAYS #1 which, while nicely laid out, seems to be devoted to badly written fiction. Put out by a bunch of fans in Texas. Nice cover though. Apparently they have changed the name to MATRIX and promised to improve their standards.
Our local club, BCSFA, has started a bi-annual fictionzine called FICTONS FREE-FOR-ALL featuring stories by the club’s writers’ workshop. This is issue one. A digest-sized 28-pager with ten poems and short stories, plus a sprinkling of artwork. One of our members thought the term FICTON was obscene. In fact it was coined by Robert Heinlein and means “fictional universe.” I have a story in it. Issue #2 will be coming out before the end of summer. Hopefully it will be an ongoing zine.
Now I come to CLUBZINES which are the more common zine produced today, primarily because only large clubs can afford to put out zines on a monthly basis. They could also be described as GENZINES in that their contents reflect the diverse interests of the club members: Book and movie reviews, club news, minutes of meetings, essays, letters of comment, convention reports, you name it, everything under the sun really, even recipes.
Here are a few examples of Clubzines. XENO-FILE from Calgary. STATEMENT by the Ottawa Science Fiction Society. BRUZZFUZZEL NEWS, the newsletter of the Baton Rouge Science Fiction League. SFSFS SHUTTLE, the official newszine of the South Florida Science Fiction Society. DE PROFUNDIS, the clubzine of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, the oldest club in existence, and possibly the wealthiest… they just bought their own club building! ROBOTS AND ROADRUNNERS from the Literary Science Fiction and Fantasy Society of Bexar County Texas. WARP, produced by the Montreal Science and Fantasy Association. And the list goes on and on.
Here are examples of BCSFAZINE, the clubzine put out by the British Columbia Science Fiction Association. This first newsletter, a badly printed, almost unreadable mimeographed 2-pager dates from 1971. By 1975 the clubzine had graduated to five presentable pages. These last two are the latest issues, #189 and #190, like FICTONS a 28-page digest-size zine, but strictly non-fiction in nature. BCSFAzine consists of numerous reviews, columns, and essays. Almost all the reviews of BCSFAzine I’ve seen in other clubzines, not to mention fanzines in general, describe BCSFAzine as one of the best clubzines going. I am running for editor and will, if I get the position, carry on in much the same fashion as the current editor, Steve Forty. Which is to say, interesting contents with substance. People look forward to receiving BCSFAzine because they know it will be worth reading. I hope to carry on this tradition.
Last, but hardly least, here are two PROZINES, magazines which began as fan perzines but have since developed into professional publications which actually earn profits. They are LOCUS and SCIENCE FICTION CHRONICLE, both essentially industry trade magazines reporting on book and magazine publishers and writers. There is very little fanac (fan activity) mentioned in these, but of course they are of tremendous interest to fans. As you can see, both have slick paper, excellent colour covers, and thoroughly professional layout. These are prozines, fanzines gone legit, so to speak.
So there you have a brief glimpse of the world of fanzine publication, a world of amateur writers, editors, and publishers, a world which gives beginners in these fields a chance to hone their skills and move on to the professional writing world where people are actually paid to do this sort of thing. A number of established writers, editors, etc. did actually begin in fandom. Isaac Asimov. Frederik Pohl. William Gibson. It can happen. And if it doesn’t… well, it’s a heck of a hobby.
Thank you. Feel free to examine these zines. Coffee and doughnuts are available.
Aggh. Reading this today, there are a number of things which make me cringe. However I resisted the urge to rewrite, and simply copied the talk as originally transcribed. It really is a moment caught in time.
Bear in mind I was standing at a lectern addressing about thirty people. Every time I mentioned a title I would hold up the fanzine I was talking about. Whether people could make out the cover art I don’t know. I suspect not. The idea was to give people a subliminal impression of variety. And to throw out easily digestible capsule descriptions before people got bored.
How interested were the audience members? In one case, interested enough to run off with one of the zines. Never got it back.
The Canadian Authors Association is Canada’s oldest writers organization, but has always consisted mostly of people wanting to be authors rather than established authors. I believe I was President of the local branch at the time of my talk.
One of my more interesting tasks was to line up speakers for the monthly meetings. I particularly remember a talk given by Professor Mason Harris of Simon Fraser University. He had recently completed giving a film course on fantasy literature at Matsqui Prison, and commented that the prisoners found the threat of violence in Lugosi’s DRACULA pathetic and stupid, nothing compared to the threat of real violence in their daily lives. On the other hand, Karloff’s FRANKENSTEIN left them terribly excited and agitated, as they identified completely with the “misunderstood monster” aspect of the theme. An interesting psychological insight.
Harris is famous for his off-the-cuff talk on H.P. Lovecraft at VCON One in 1971. For years we kept inviting him back to do his Lovecraft impersonation, especially on our Dead Author panels. As Lovecraft he debated the genuine (and living) Robert Bloch, who had known Lovecraft personally.
But back to the fanzines. Most of those mentioned no longer exist. Which is to be expected. BCSFAzine still going strong though, with 508 issues and counting. Current editor Felicity Walker.
Gad. When I gave this talk I had published but one fanzine. Since then, including BCSFAzine, I’ve put out at least 150 individual issues of assorted fanzines, possibly more. Don’t know how many. I’ve lost track. I no longer publish fanzines with any sense of writing “for the ages.” Now I publish just for fun, for the sheer joy of writing and editing. And I’ve gone semi-pro, putting out OBIR (Occasional Biased and Ignorant Review) Magazine devoted to reviewing contemporary Canadian Speculative Fiction, and recently my first issue of POLAR BOREALIS, an honest-to-ghu paying market SF&F fiction zine for Canadian authors and artists. My rates are low, below SFWA standards, so it qualifies as semi-pro only, but it is an old dream of mine finally come true.
Publishing fanzines, as a self-generating sense of wonder process, does make dreams come true. Even today still worth doing. Loads of fun.
Spockanalia – Kathy Bushman
Entropy Blues – R. Graeme Cameron
Torus – Taral Wayne
Fictons – Clip Art
BCSFAzine – Mike Jackson
BY THE WAY:
You can find a fantastic collection of zines at: Efanzines
You can find yet more zines at: Fanac Fan History Project
You can find a quite good selection of Canadian zines at: Canadian SF Fanzine Archive
And check out my brand new website devoted to my OBIR Magazine, which is entirely devoted to reviews of Canadian Speculative Fiction. Found at OBIR Magazine
And while checking out OBIR, click on the sub-heading “Polar Borealis Magazine” to see the first issue of my semi-pro SF&F fiction zine.