Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine?

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Zine
Title: Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine? (and variations)
Publisher: Pariah Press
Editor(s): Marty Siegrist
Type: reviewzine, newsletter
Date(s): 1990-1997
Frequency:
Medium: print
Fandom: multimedia
Language: English
External Links:
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Contents

Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine? is a reviewzine and letterzine. There were 6 issues.

a parody from the first issue, "$12.95... $14.95 for Blake's 7 or Professionals"

The editor created this zine in response to reviews about zines that she felt were vapid, boring, and untruthfully positive.

In 1998, a zine ed wrote in her editorial: "Thanks to Marty Siegrist and the contributors to Psst ... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy A Fanzine? for instruction, for setting a good example, and for instilling real and necessary terror in the publisher's heart." [1]

Titles

Every issue had a slight variation of the title on the cover:

  • "psst...hey, kid... WANNA BUY A FANZINE?" (issue #1)
  • "Psst... Hey Kid... WANNA BUY A FANZINE?" (issue #2)
  • "Psst, Hey kid... WANNA BUY A FANZINE?" (issue #3)
  • "WANNA BUY A FANZINE?" (issue #4)
  • "Psst! Hey Kid! WANNA BUY a FANZINE?" (issue #5)
  • "Psst! Hey, Kid.... WANNA BUY A FANZINE?" (issue #6)

Some Info on the Printing Process

Some readers expressed interest in how Wanna Buy is produced. The first and second issues were composed in WordPerfect 5.1 on an IBM XT. The masters were printed on a Panasonic K1624, except for the LoCs and editorial in WBAF 2, which were done on an HPII laser printer. I'm currently working in WordPerfect 5.1 on a Compu Add 325 computer, doing the layout with the grudging assistance of Pagemaker 4.0, and printing out the masters on an HPII laser printer (this is the theory, at any rate; stay tuned). The first issue was entirely photocopied on sixty-pound paper, by Kinko's on Michigan Avenue in East Lansing. The second issue's cover was printed offset by ABC Printing of Lansing, using an 85-line screen done by St. Louis County Blueprint. The balance of the zinewas photocopied on sixty-pound paper, again by Kinko's in East Lansing. That some copies of Wanna Buy the Second look as if they were attacked by an inept (and confused) vampire is due to a misunderstanding on the part of Kinko's as to just what I wanted stapled, and where. Sigh.... [2]

The Rating System: Trees

The Ratings Guide: 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 trees -- click to read

The fan reviewers awarded one to five trees to zines.

This rating system was a nod to Paula Smith's essay, Trees Have Died for This??.
Some years ago, Paula Smith wrote a short essay on fanzines [3] , in which she discussed whether or not several zines then available were worth the price -- or indeed, worth the staples. Her cogent and witty review was called "Trees Have Died for This??" Since then, many fen have used that as an expression with respect to fanzines (and the pro ST:TNG novels). Given that the current ecological concerns... it's probably even more appropriate today than ever before. [4]
The zine's rating system itself:
One tree: Recycling fodder. Trees Have Died for This??
Two Trees: Below average. Acceptable use of wood, provided the tree was already dead.
Three Trees: Average. Probably a more worthy use than McDonald's bags.
Four Trees: Above average. An excellent use of common variety forests.
Five Trees: Superior! Worthy of wood pulp from a denizen of the ancient forests. (Well, almost...) [5]
At least one fan suggested there was a distinct element of favoritism and applied her own translation of the trees:
In looking through the reviews in WBAF 3, I noticed that the only zines getting five trees are zines edited by, published by, or which strongly feature the work of WBAF staff members. Now, doesn't this constitute the conflict of interest Susan M. Garrett describes in her editorial? After careful scrutiny, I begin to notice a trend in the rating of zines. May I suggest a revised explanation of your rating scale?
Five trees: Zines edited by anyone on the staff of WBAF or their good friends. Also zines which include art work by Jean Kluge, Suzan Lovett or Marty Siegrist
Four trees: Zines mat are edited by or include the work of WBAF staffers or good friends of staffers, or zines too obviously well done to give only three trees (in spite of their handicap of not being edited or contributed to by one of the WBAF inner circle).
Three trees: Zines too good to thoroughly trash, but that don't have anyone on the WBAF staff to protect them. Also, zines with good stories, but poor art work or reproduction.
Two trees: Zines that have no one on the WBAF staff to protect them, that don't concern subjects which interest staffers, or that are edited by minor enemies of the sate.
One tree: Zines written by anyone who dares oppose Peronism. I mean, the WBAF staff, and zines produced by first-time editors who can easily be scared off. [6]

List of Favorite Fanzines

Issue #4 (and a few stragglers in later issues) printed many fans' favorite fanzines. See Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine?/Top Five Fanzines Questionnaire.

General Fan Reaction

The zine prided itself on its frankness. All of the reviews were detailed and long. Fans' LoCs reflected the usual varied reactions to the reviews.

Some fans felt the reviews were discouraging to creators, cruel, personal attacks, and mean-spirited. Other fans were glad that the reviews pulled no punches, told "the truth," felt the writers and artists should develop a thicker skin and try harder, and that this zine was a service to those who had to part with their money for fanzines.

In 1992, a fan commented on the void left by another zine's cessation and mentioned "Wanna Buy":
It's too bad that Trekzine Times must come to an end; it filled a needed void in Star Trek fanzines. The only other primarily discussion fanzine (albeit it runs reviews, and then commentaries on the reviews in subsequent issues) is Marty Siegrist's Wanna Buy a Fanzine. The art prints on the cover and inside the zine are always more than worth the cover price of $3-$4, although quite a few people do not particularly care for the tone of the reviews as the reviewers seldom mince words and opinions, and sometimes the reviews come across quite strong. [7]
At least one fan openly admitted she enjoyed the confrontational reviews:
You and your bunch have such a nice and nasty way of turning a phrase, so of course I can't wait to see the next issue. [8]

Another fan writes:

I'm not entirely in agreement with the — shall we say — more provocative methods of reviewing that some of your reviewers seem to prefer. I consider them to be counterproductive to what I perceive as the raison d'etre of your zine. If the purpose of WBAF is to promote higher standards for fanzine production, I feel that deliberately antagonizing the people your remarks are aimed at is not going to bring about the desired result (Well, it might if the desired result is to drive people out of fandom and wash your hands of them, but I hope your reviewers are neither so arrogant nor so unreasonable.) Human nature being what it is, the more sarcastic and roughly-worded the criticism, the more people will get angry, defensive, and stubbornly set against recognizing any merit or truth there might be in the reviewer's observations. Make no mistake. I agree with your reviewers' high standards and I appreciate entertaining, witty commentary as much as the next fan. However, I do not think that diplomacy or tact are dirty words. Being blunt is easy, but not always useful. [9]
Still, many fans welcomed the arrival of a frank reviewzine. In response to a thread on the Virgule-L mailing list about "The lack of any type of critical dialogue within fandom," Sandy Herrold wrote:
That is why the first issue of Psst kid, so you want to buy a fanzine was so exciting to many of us. A well done zine in its own right, that was willing to name names and tell the honest truth about the quality of individual zines and stories? Amazing! However, once people realized who was reading, and how seriously the zine was being taken, the willingness to critique zines that needed negative things said about them went away. i.e., I don't think the reviewers are giving zines a free ride, I just think that they're selecting zines that they can say nice things about, (and face it, they are not the ones that need reviewing as much.) I encourage you all to try and review for Psst kid. Marty S does edit reviews; she will send them back for more work, and she doesn't want to print personal attacks. But she will print unflinchingly negative reviews of zines and stories. One of the catagories of the zine is One Tree: Trees died for This?? [10]
A fan comments in 2007:
I was in it for the Data fanart. There was a lot of it so I was happy. :) But I'd start reading the reviews, and be all like, "DAY-AMN! Harsh!" [11]
A fan comments in 2008:
In the 90s Marty S. did a yearly review zine--"Wanna Buy a Fanzine?"--that came out each year at MediaWest*Con. And each year, with a box full of new zines hot off the presses from that con, the first one I rushed to read was "Wanna Buy." I've gotten into entirely new fandoms by reading reviews. [12]

In 1997, Shoshanna posted a review of the zine to the Virgule mailing list. It is reposted here with permission:

Really really good review zine, available from Marty Siegrist.....Six issues so far, and a cheat sheet is available listing all zines reviewed, with the issue the review was in, the name of the reviewer, and the rating the zine received. Reviews are intelligent, thoughtful, often funny, and pull no punches. Also includes essays musing about aspects of fanfic. Not slash-only, but not slash-phobic either; it's one genre of fanfic among others, no big deal. Plus each issue has a ton o' LOCs in it! Warning: If you're offended by the idea of reviewers actually saying that a zine is terrible when they think it is, don't buy this zine. But if, like me, you think that's a reviewer's job, you'll love it. And none of these reviewers would *ever* stop with "this was terrible"; they go on to say what is terrible, and why, and how the zine could be improved. Or when it's great, they go far beyond the tediously uninformative "I loved it; the plot was great and the characters were well-done," to talk about why and how a story is good. They also pay more attention to art and to the physical and visual construction of a zine than most reviews do. If you like reading good reviews even of things you aren't directly interested in, this zine is for you. Personally, it's one of the first things I look for every MediaWest.
One contributor remembers:
....6 issues was a decent run for a review zine. It didn't end because of reaction to its lack of constructive critcism (which is in any case not the job of a reviewer), but due to a assorted events in the lives of its editors and contributors. It was massive fun to work on. [13]

Issue 1

front cover of issue #1, Marty Siegrist
art from issue #1, Marty Siegrist

Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine? 1 was published in 1990 and contains 22 pages.

Art is by Jean Kluge, Susi Leinbach, P.S. Nim, Melody Rondeau, and Marty Siegrist.

Reviews are by Jean Kluge, Suzan Lovett, Susan M. Garrett, Berkeley Hunt, Marisa Chayil, and Marty Siegrist.

From the editorial:
These are critical reviews, not meant to be "harsh," or "cruel," but to analyze what did and didn’t work within a given fanzine, praising strengths, and giving suggestions for improving on weaknesses ("opportunity areas," in current corporate lingo). All of the reviewers here strive for excellence in their own work, and seek it in the work of others. We've been hearing ‘but this is only a hobby', as an excuse for mediocrity in fan publications. True, it's just a hobby, not a way of life. However, striving for excellence in all endeavors is a way of life. Accepting lesser standards (or having none at all) cheats the fen who plunk down their cash for the zine, and diminishes the "hobbyist," who deprives him or herself of the opportunity to Iearn and grow. Fanac is fun, it's creative, and it's a learning experience. (Boy, howdy! Ask me what I've learned about WordPerfect this week!) Sure, some allowances can be made for the gaffes of the inexperienced fan writer/artist/editor. However, some of those who use "it's only a hobby" as an excuse have been active jn fandom long enough to know better.


Issue 2

Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine? 2 was published in April 1991 and contains 37 pages.

front cover of issue #2 by Jean Kluge
frontispiece to issue #2, Susi Leinbach

Art by Jean Kluge, Ann Larimer, Susi Leinbach, Melody Rondeau, and Marty Siegrist.

Reviews are by Jean Kluge, Suzan Lovett, Susan M. Garrett, Berkeley Hunt, Marisa Chayil, Ann Larimer, Paula Smith, Colleen Philippi, and Marty Siegrist.

From the editorial:
With the popularity and profitability of the 
Creation-style "conventions," unscrupulous dealers and fans
have realized that there's a buck to be made, and bootleg
 zines are a neat way to make a fast bundle with little or 
no cash outlay or time investment. This has become a 
serious problem for fanzine editors, and will adversely
 affect the number and quality of available zines. Because
of the hazy legal status of media zines, and the expense
and hassle involved in litigation, bootleggers are hard to 
stop. I know some fans resent paying high prices for 
fanzines, and welcome the chance to save a few bucks, but 
there are sometimes good reasons for those high prices,
 reasons that benefit the readers. Printing is very 
expensive in the smaller quantities most zineds must work
 with, and sometimes considerable expense goes into getting
 them printed well (ask me sometime about the time and 
expense involved in printing the art for Pulse of the
 Machine...). There are expenses involved in soliciting,
 editing and rewriting material for the zine; there are
 stats, reductions and working copies to pay for, 
contributor's copies for typists, proofers, artists,
 writers, collaters, and so on. Most or all of those 
expenses must be covered by the sales of the zine. If the 
bootlegger, who is not concerned about quality, and who has 
invested none of the time, cash or sweat that went into the
 development of the product -who has created nothing--cuts
into the market for that fanzine, the zined, unable to recoup expenses, will no longer be able to do a fanzine, or will no longer be able to do it well. That means few good zines to read. Don't support bootleggers, and don't turn a blind eye if your friends do, unless you want to be an accomplice in the untimely demise of the quality fanzine.
One of the reviews this time around raises some points about those who do art for gain, rather than remaining - faithful to the true-heart -fanzine-iIloing tradition. That, plus some comments overheard at a recent convention about how goshawful expensive art prints are, compels me to offer the following observations.

Let's talk about that much-vaunted perk, the contributor's copy. "You're getting a free copy of the zine!" some cry, in the same breathless tone they'd use if we'd just won the state lottery. But that copy is "free" in about the same sense that freeways--at a construction cost of millions per mile--are "free." This belief that the artist is getting something for nothing, or damned near it, fails to take into account the costs involved. Cruised an art supply store recently? Then you know how expensive the materials are. References--you know, photos and such— can also be expensive; although sometimes editors or friends can provide 'em, they may not be appropriate to the story or scene (have you ever tried to illo a tense, dramatic scene using a stock, smiling-straight-into-the-camera publicity still of Our Hero? It's not a pretty sight....). 'Stats or halftones are often necessary-usually the artist picks up the tab. And of course there's the postage to get the art to the editor.

I recently did one illo for a fanzine. Photo references were $20.00, materials about $2.00. Postage to ship the art to the editor was $4.50. I'm out of pocket $26.50 for this "free" fanzine even before I take into account the time involved in working out and completing the illo, and packing it off to the editor. For another zine, I did three illos. References were only about $15.00, as I already had some of them to hand. But the halftone and 'stats cost me $25.00, postage another $5.00 or so, bringing my costs for that zine to at least $45.00. Again, this is before figuring up the hours involved. And there are many of those, since doing an illo usually takes considerable time and patience (unless you're Suzan Lovett, who is able to do an elaborate drawing, start to finish, in the time it takes the rest of us to unpack our pencils).

No, I don't want to chuck it all in and swear off zine illustration forever. But given the time, effort and expense involved, is it any wonder that some artists do feel that way? I think it's wonderful that so many continue to illustrate—particularly when so often the artist's "reward" is to discover that the drawings over which she labored for all those many hours look less like art than a Rorschach ink blot, thanks to problems with the printing process, or an inept or lazy editor or printer, or the myriad of other things that can go wrong.

Selling prints can help to mitigate the financial burden. I say prints because originals rarely command reasonable prices at auctions, and quality is not usually the deciding factor in that respect (yeah, I heard you snickering there in the cheap seats, again); various forces having less to do with intrinsic worth than with fannish politics, the local market, and whim, drive the bidding at a given art auction. And it's terribly frustrating for the artist to watch a piece over which she slaved for hours going for pocket change. As for the price of the prints, I'll simply point out that by the time you add up the costs involved—printing, whether by photo process, litho or offset; matting; art show fees and commissions; correspondence, shipping and packing materials, not to mention the sheer drudgery and time involved in filling out all the paperwork (I loathe the paperwork!)--even the more expensive print prices are not unreasonable.

Personal note: H.O. Petard, please come home. You're needed.

Excerpts for LoCs: Issue 2

Got the zines. The cover's a hoot by itself. I think you created a new genre--a slamzine. Unfortunately, fanfic en toto certainly earned everything slung at it. And I thought X was unkind--whew! Berkeley Hunt makes me sound like Mother Theresa. I love it. Lord, girlfriend, if you can do this on a weekend, think of what you could pub in a week--in a month....
I'll honestly admit I'm still a little uncomfortable about the LoC which became a review mainly because of the conflict of interest angle, but there is no forum where you can express your opinions of a zine in an LoC format if an editor shuts you out. I don't think you're trying to provide that forum for people...are you? Then again, if you don't who will? There are so many questions in fandom to be addressed. I thought your editorial regarding the "this is just a hobby" fan-club was very well-considered and to the point. What right do editors have to charge the money they charge for substandard material, easily improved with a little time and imagination (or a simple refusal)? Then again, editors (the honest ones) have to sell the zine for "x" price because of printing costs. So if printing has gotten too expensive, where do the beginners go?

Ann Larimer sent me a copy of a fanzine called Random Encounters. The artwork probably would have been better had it been nonexistent (barring three very nice portraits in the interior) and we don't even want to talk about the front and back cover or the quality of reproduction of same; the poetry ran from abysmal (1) through mediocre (2) through competent (2), to excellent (1); the stories were beginning efforts with some heart but failed execution...one was quite good and saved by brevity, I think; the production values were nonexistent and I don't think these people had ever heard of a non-reproducible blue pencil. But I enjoyed the hell out of that fanzine for all its flaws because it was evident that these people really put their hearts and souls into the work. It lacked polish, and, dare I say it, rudimentary knowledge in quite a few areas, but it was a nice attempt for the barest cost of printing--60 pages for $4.50 1st class. I would have given it a two on the tree scale, because they really made an effort and they were as unpretentious as they come. In reading the other reviews in Wanna Buy a Fanzine, I daresay anyone else in the zine would have given it a minus three.

In fact, I sent them an LoC in which I pointed out most of the problems in the zine. Knowing the current state of fandom, I expected fire and brimstone in return. Instead, these people graciously accepted the criticism, said that my suggestions had certainty helped them and that they hope to put out a much better second issue, and invited me not only to read the zine in future, but to contribute (how many editors do you know that would invite you to contribute to a zine after you've very carefully torn their fanzine apart, piece by piece?).

The point is, I hope you don't find my reviews woefully inadequate. I'm working on a different set of standards from everyone else and I don't want to throw off the grading curve, so to speak. In the end, it's all a matter of semantics. How do we promote excellence in fandom while nurturing the new and not-quite-there-yet talents? Education is a bitch, isn't it?
It seemed, though, that the zines that might have been the most interesting, got the worst reviews. Not that the reviews themselves were bad. Quite the contrary. I read with interest Berkeley Hunt's review of NCC-1701D, not that I've had the (dis?)pleasure of ever seeing this particular newsletter, but I have seen many, MANY like it. And, since I too edit a newsletter, I know it's not easy to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse--but neither do I print an issue entirely full of pig parts. The editor IS responsible to a certain extent, and should be held liable. Too many fanzines are published by editor wanna-bes, and editors they ain't. A friend and I also hooted over Berkeley's review of The Hive. It needs to be read aloud, dramatically, for its full effect to be truly appreciated.
...several times a year I'll receive a letter, along with submissions guidelines, from a neo fanzine publisher requesting I submit a story. While flattered, unfortunately I'm too busy with other obligations to do much writing these days, so anything I do is usually reserved for my own fanzines. What's disturbing, however, is that these fledglings vow there'll be no tampering with any old verbiage that crosses their desks. Usually, these letters are immediately dispatched to the circular file, with the obligatory shaking of head and vow not to even crack the cover of said zine at the next Media*West I attend. What is so horrible about WANTING to publish the very best possible fanzine, or taking the time to ask that anything under your Press Name be the very best that author/artist is capable of? Why not take a few hours and make the effort? I think the answer is obvious--the vast majority of the people buying fanzines can't TELL good writing from drek, or just don't care. Do we blame the American educational system, or is this truly the age of mediocrity?
Hello. Thanks for sending me a copy of Psst...Wanna Buy a Fanzine? I appreciate it, considering that in it my newsletter was reviewed (shredded?) by Berkeley Hunt. Several of the other reviews were pretty on-target, and the artwork was a nice touch. Glad you included it.

I'm not writing to complain. Really, I wouldn't call it complaining. I would just like to point out a few facts—take them or leave them.

Berkeley, if I'm not mistaken, has not actually seen an issue of NCC-1701D in months. She didn't renew (and after reading the review in your publication, I'm not surprised). It sure would've been nice if she'd given me even a hint that she was so unhappy or given me some kind of constructive criticism. It was a real slap in the face to read a review like hers 1) months after the fact, and 2) when I heard not one peep from her during the year-long duration of her subscription. Reader input was always welcome and valued--oops, no complaining, I know. Sorry.

Golly-gee, I don't know why anyone would construe what she said as a personal attack on me. Aside from implying I have no eye-hand coordination, likening me to "the spiritual ancestor of Imelda Marcos, who couldn't get rid of the blood no matter how she washed and washed her hands" (I believe I'm well-read enough to recognize this as a reference to Lady Macbeth), and subtly suggesting I was not worthy of the title "editor" and should get out of the fan publishing business, she didn't say a thing about me.... There's no denying Berkeley sure has a way with acerbic phrases and did have a good point or two (even if phrased in the most snide way possible). Wading through the barbs was an exercise in maturity on my part, but from it I believe I have gleaned the following complaint: the newsletter isn't informative enough, nor is it long enough. It's something I've been working on for a while, so this isn't a new consideration. I have made some important strides forward in that area, though, with the addition of an editorial section, fanzine information and reviews, the occasional letter of comment, and an expansion of the section titled "Pertinent Data" to include such things as convention listings and other little tidbits of information. July's issue, #9 (with #10 being current), was about 20 pages long. I received a lot of compliments concerning that issue, and I'm particularly proud of it. You see, NCC-1701D has improved quite a bit in the past year...no thanks to Berkeley. Hopefully, it will continue to improve.

When writing a review, there is a fine line between reviewing the person's work and reviewing the person. Actually, Berkeley has a lot of writing talent--my only suggestion would be a brush-up on how to write a review of a work without saying insulting things about the person behind the work.
I wish to thank you for the comp copy of Wanna Buy a Fanzine, although I was less than pleased with the review of my novel, Time and Time Again. Your reviewer was quite unfair, and extremely brutal with her words. I'm sure [name redacted] is a good writer, but that shouldn't give her the right to utterly destroy one's work, not to mention someone's enthusiasm. I was nearly ready to give up writing until I went back and reread parts of my novel, reread other (very positive) reviews, and recalled the praise I've received from editors that I respect ... Now I realize that you are not responsible for a reviewer's content, but maybe next time you will be able to look over a work, especially when it has been panned so badly. I won't let [name redacted] drive me out of fandom, in fact I do plan to "strive" to make my work better. I just hope she hasn't already driven too many other people out of fandom.
While I really enjoyed reading So You Wanna Buy a Fanzine?, I do have one minor quibble and it has to do with the review of NCC-17010. If the purpose of a review is to enlighten and inform, then Berkeley did a really good job. If the purpose of a review is to also encourage the editor/publisher, then I don't think Berkeley did a good job. I like the review up until I read the last paragraph which I felt was out of place in a review that was for the most part negative but at the same time encouraging. The last paragraph came off [more] as an example of Berkeley's witty prose than constructive criticism. So it's all Paula's fault for the "trees died for this," eh? I did like the rating system you used but I think since zine publishing is much more complex than a few good stories and some decent art, perhaps the ratings need to better reflect the effort that goes into producing a fanzine.
I swear, Marty, receiving Wanna Buy a Fanzine was like opening a box of Christmas chocolates after a long sugar fast. Didn't know which one to dive for first, so I spent a number of happy minutes simply flipping pages, admiring art and reading snippets before I sat myself down to go through it from editorial to backcover. Appreciated the recurring reference to "It's only a hobby," which tired phrase is second only to "Well, all my friends loved it" as a defense for a sloppy zine. Or art. Or writing. I've wanted a Consumer Reports type of fan publication for years but up to now, everyone's been too chickenshit. Bobby Hawkins talked about it, even signed me up as "staff reviewer," then fell off the face of the planet. And Treklink, well...some of the LoCcers who hung with that zine to the very end will probably be sending in their dimes to Guiding LoCs any day now.... What struck me as truly weird was the incredible difference in skill levels between the two artists; there's no way [name redacted] is in the same league with David. Some of those Big E's of hers looked like they had been left in the sun too long. Someone in Artforum once pointed out that it is not either cheating to use a ruler, and sleek, unwavering lines are an absolute must when your subject is such a highly advanced piece of machinery. She does seem to have some kind of feeling for people's faces, but a feeling is all it is. Her finished products look like someone else's roughouts. Agreed: One artistic style throughout would have made for a much, much cleaner look. So Marisa, wanna sign an alliance? Got a feeling neither one of us will be making any friends once wanna Buy a Fanzine hits the dealers' tables
Thanks again for the copy of Wanna Buy a Fanzine. What a pleasure to read some well-thought-out, well-written famish criticism. Too often these days a fanzine "review" consists of a recap of the story, "the artwork was good to excellent," and...well, nothing else, actually. Makes me long for the good ol' days when I'd search conventions for back issues of Warped Space (tough to find in Nebraska) solely for the sake of reading Paula Block's reviews. They were rarely for zines based on fandoms I had the slightest interest in, and almost never influenced my zine-buying habits one way or the other...but they were so damn fun to read that it didn't matter..
One thing that I'm not sure entirely worked was Jean's review of Idylls. Now, as I mentioned before, I found it quite entertaining to read, and I'm definitely supportive of her right to express her opinion publicly. But I'm not sure that converting her LoC into a review was successful. I don't think that the two approaches were combined very well—kind of like slapping black paint and a bow tie on a duckling and presenting it as a penguin. The poor bird is all sticky and uncomfortable, and the final effect isn't particularly convincing. Also, I don't feel it's ever appropriate for a contributor to review a zine. It's hard to look objective when reviewing a project you yourself have invested hours or months of work in. There are lots of other ways to write about such a situation—an article, a LoC, an editorial—but a review, well...not quite kosher. Perhaps a more satisfactory approach would have been to use the piece to break in the LoC section, or set it off in some other way.
Do most fans even recognize quality? I'm not so sure. Everything is wonderful, as long as it has the characters they're desperate to see in print. The writing and art in Next Gen fandom to date (with very few exceptions) has shown that most people (like any inexperienced writer or artist--we all have to start somewhere) are oblivious to the flaws in their work because they don't have the experience to recognize those flaws, much less the things their work lacks. Boris Vallejo in one of his books mentions having talked his way into a job at (I believe; don't quote me on this) an ad agency for which he wasn't ready. When the art director finally had to let him go, Boris asked him to show him what was wrong with his work so that he could do it correctly. The art director replied that if Vallejo couldn't see it, he couldn't explain it to him. At the time feeling rather justifiably angry at the reply, Vallejo says that he has since come to see the accuracy of the man's words. Both writing and art take constant reevaluation and self-training. Eventually, one learns to see and reproduce more accurately, to observe and relate with more skill. So, does that mean LoCs, reviews and other forms of criticism are useless, because they mostly fall on inexperienced ears? No. Because occasionally they help somebody see the light.
Should reviews and LoCs avoid the kind of entertaining sarcasm that nearly all of the reviewers in the last issue employed? My viewpoint is that a little negative reinforcement can be very effective. Particularly when the inexperienced and bad writers and editors get jolted out of a complacency with their material that seems all too prevalent in fandom. Being wary of another bad review and more tough criticism to come can make a writer or editor take a lot more care with that second masterpiece. (I know I did, back in '78, with the second issue of my little Trekzine, which had the advantage of writers and artists like Leslie Fish and Signe Landon and numerous other talents, and which, despite their impressive work, I still managed to screw up generously. But...it was a huge improvement over the first issue.) If they are "driven" out of fandom, that's unfortunate. Perhaps more editors should consider that the material is going to come under public scrutiny, and caution less hardy writers before printing.

Besides, witty reviews are a form of entertainment that I greatly enjoy.

Which, of course, means that I loved Berekely's two. Good god, she had me practically hemorrhaging. Stylish, outrageous (Brent Spiner's urologist??? Dear god.), witty, and quintessentially Berkeley Hunt, these reviews not only pointed out what didn't work with the zines reviewed, they did it with panache. The effect of the dry simplicity of "culminates in an admonition along the lines of 'Don't miss this one!" or 'Well worth the read.'" is strong, while the less subtle, and hysterically funny lines regarding fans in caribou hide tents, "William Shatner's fine performance as Riker" and "the Budweiser and hardhat set" make these opinions ones I'll read on future occasions for a quick giggle-fix. (And by the way, she was too generous in rating The Hive. Haven't read the other one, so I can't comment.)

Oh, and the "sorry if I spoiled it" line was a gem!
It's about time someone had the guts to come right out and say what we all know in our hearts to be true. Some of the stuff out there is crap. And not because these people are trying to produce feces in paper form, but because they just don't know any better. The notion that Fandom is somehow exempt from examination or heightened expectations is precisely what makes me not want to waste my time with it. Why do something if there is no expectation of benefit? No benefit to the consumer in the form of value (what's that?). No benefit to the artist, writer, or editor in the form of improvement of craft. Okay, okay; that's assuming there is a craft to be improved. My personal problem is that I don't do things that don't challenge me to learn and grow. I just can't relate to people who do something just to do something. Producing loads of aimless drek without the slightest impulse to improve reminds me a little too much of overeating. It's an activity that fills time, relieves boredom, wastes resources, bloats, and produces more shit. I want to smack the fans who have a zining disorder and use one of those tired cop-outs (oops, I just dated myself) like "it's just a hobby," or some other excuse for sloth. When you charge money, it's-not a hobby. It's a craft. And if you're not ready for criticism, even if it's wrong, and you're not ready to defend your work (with something intelligent and thought-provoking), then please don't ask for payment. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you say. You expect too much from fan publishing. What's too much? Six too many? One not enough? Only the consumer can decide.... And what's good for the goose is good for the artists and writers. Criticism (also known as feedback) is a vital part of getting better. What do you learn from "gee, it was just swell?" Granted, some critiques can be devoid of helpful insights, but somewhere there is something you can use. All you have to do is look for what you can use and go on from there. Your editor or art director must be able to make suggestions without sending you screaming into the night, vowing never to work again. Save the histrionics. So I guess what I'm suggesting is that you develop a little bit thicker skin, if you don't already have one, and take responsibility for your own learning curve. Chances are that if these are new concepts for you, you were probably self-taught (it's the first thing covered in most adult writing and art classes). All communication requires feedback to be effective. And listening is probably the most important, and most overlooked, component to communicating ideas. It doesn't matter if you write, edit, or deal in visual communication, open yourself to criticism and you can't help but improve the value of your work. Just remember, as a paying customer, I have the right to determine that nebulous thing called value. And don't hate me if I think your work is less than...beautiful.

Issue 3

Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine? 3 was published in May 1992 and contains 40 pages. It has a front cover by Jean Kluge. Other art is by Suzan Lovett (some from Perestroika), Ann Larimer, Melody Rondeau (some from Pulse of the Machine), and Marty Siegrist (some from Guardian).

Reviews are by Jean Kluge, Suzan Lovett, Colleen Philippi, Susan M. Garrett, Berkeley Hunt, Paula Smith, Daniel Barth, Marty Siegrist and Charlene E. Fleming.

From the editorial:
Since Wanna Buy first appeared over a year ago, several contributors and I have taken considerable flak from our fellow fen. It isn't surprising that so many feel that readers have no right to express unfavorable opinions of others' work. Our society as a whole is becoming more repressive, and fandom simply mirrors that trend. It is discouraging, though, in a subculture that professes so strong a respect for the basic freedoms, and for IDIC.

Discouraging, too, is the manner in which some fans have handled controversy. I had planned a long discourse on the lack of honor and ethical sense among some segments of fandom, but will spare y'all that spiel. Suffice it to say that disagreement can and should be handled without resorting to whisper campaigns, or twisting (or inventing) facts to support one's "case." And if one publishes an unfavorable editorial or review about an individual or hisor her work, the very least that courtesy demands is that the individual being discussed receive a copy of that piece. To do otherwise smacks of cowardice and immaturity. (For the record, all editors or publishers whose work is reviewed in Wanna Buy receive a copy of the issue in which the review appears.)

The role of the review has been the subject of much discussion. I've read several LoCs, both here and elsewhere, whose authors advocate that fannish reviews explain, oh, so gently, to zine editors and authors exactly where and how their masterpieces-now in print-should be improved. Er...folks, the appropriate time to avert disaster is not after it's happened. A review can and should provide useful feedback, but it isn't the proper forum for a line-by-line analysis of a story. Thatshould have beendone by the authorand editorlong before the final paste-up was begun. Once that story or fanzine is out there before the public, the best time for prophylactic measures is long past. After all, once the baby is born, it's a little late to discuss whether or not to use a condom.
from cover of issue #3, Jean Kluge
from cover of issue #3, a parody of a flyer for a imagined zine called "By Data Obsessed" --"Did you think Cygnet was the best fanzine ever published? Do you think third, fourth, and fifth season ST:TNG is the best thing that ever happened to television? Did you just adore "Brothers," because it had more than three times the usual amount of Brent Spiner? Do you write in regularly to Data Entries and Electronic Male? Was your order (and your check) for your very own Limited Edition Data Life Mask in the mail as soon as you clapped eyes on the ad in Star Trek: The Official Fan Club Magazine? Well, have we got a zine for you!"

Excerpts for LoCs: Issue 3

I picked up copies of Wanna Buy a Fanzine #1 and #2 at MWC last weekend, and enjoyed reading them very much.... Zine reviews which evaluate fans' work by the high standards we could wish applied at all times, are sorely needed. And I do recognize that they will be painful to some of the reviewees, who will want to know-and rightly so—why some-one couldn't have explained about commas and spelling before Berkeley Hunt or the like do it in public; but the problem here is the literacy level among reasonably well-educated people today, usually on matters more subtle than spelling. After all, computers can correct spelling (to a point), but a good story hook or plot closure is another matter. At any rate, I very much welcome commentary on zine writing, especially from those who prefer competence to its opposite.
Marty, I was interested but envious of your tale of artist's woes. Writers don't get anything back from their labor but a fanzine. Yes, writers' materials are cheaper, on average, but they aren't free. Paper, ribbons, postage and blank video tapes cost $'s; reference tapes and books cost ten times $'s; VCR's and typewriters cost one hundred times $'s, and when you get into PC's or word processors... And writing takes more time than illoing, if only because it takes up much more space in the average fanzine. A novel-length work can take up all spare time and some work time for well over a year. (I'm contemplating~uneasily-an Arthurian- UNCLE crossover novel that would take several months just for the historical research.) True, artists generally get less recognition and respect in fandom, but they can and do get money-cold hard cash-to compensate them at least partially for the money and time they have spent. Writers don't. The grass is always greener, I guess.
It was refreshing to read LoC's that weren't all "gosh wow," even though the negative LoCs were mostly boo-hoo's from writers and editors that couldn't take theheat. My advice to them is, if you can't take the heat stay out of the kitchen. I'm glad to see reviews that generate some heat.
To [N M], who objected to my review of NCC-1701D on the grounds that it is "not a fanzine:"Omigod!--am I ever sorry. You're so right. NCC is not a fanzine, but a lactose-reduced dairy product whose target buyer has difficulty digesting milk. Imagine my chagrin when I found out that I'd accidentally popped the product update I owed the gastroenterologist. I work for into the envelope meant for Marty's zine. Not only did I do NCC a grave injustice by not pointing out that it has only two percent milkfat and an extra enzyme to aid the lactose-intolerant among you,but the people who make Lactaid want to know why I never even mentioned their full-color foldout of Kirk and Spock in Samurai costume...

Which brings me, via the scenic Coast Highway, to something [A D] said about my piece on Lactaid in the first Wanna Buy: "If the purpose of a review is to also encourage the editor/publisher, then I don'tthink Berkeley did a good job."

She's absolutely right. I didn't. Because encouraging the people at the pasteurization plant wasn't my purpose.

Not that a review shouldn't be encouraging... if you hope that it'll mean getting more good stuffout of writers, artists and editors that you admire. For instance, I pray to God (Jove, Cthulu, Oz the Great and Terrible-whoever'll listen) that my Perestroika review will goad another couple of zines-maybe even three or four?--out of the incredible team of Lovett and Urich. But my primary purpose in writing these things is never merely to encourage the writer, illustrator or zined.

Nor is it to inform. A pie chart can do that much. Or, you want to know whether or not to order a zine? Just flip through Wanna Buy and count how many little trees follow each installment.

No. The raison d'etre of my commentaries is to communicate my own experience as I read the zine in question; to let others in on what it was like to be me--something I wouldn't normally wish on an innocent bystander...
Okay. I've changed my mind. I don't want you crucified and burned in effigy and disemboweled. But I still see a lot of things in WBAF that I wish could be changed. Most important is that instead of using your verbal talents (you being Marisa, Jean and Marty) to turn a witty and quite acid phrase, I hope you can first try to find something good-somelhing wonderful--in every zine. This isn't always possible, I realize, but come on, you're brave...exalt in the challenge! Something good can be said for [R D's] stories, right?
Fandom does indeed mistake the fecund rate for the first rate. Which brings me to a point in [C D's] LoC last issue, where she mentions a particular fanzine, and the fact that it isn't out yet, implying that nothing can be worth waiting for, even if the final product is good. Sounds like a result of our instant gratification throwaway culture. In fact, I'd personally rather see fewer zines {far fewer) of much higher quality than is currently available, and have them come out when they come out. Give me Laurie Huff's Galactic Discourse 5 (four years or so in the making, and worth every minute and every penny) over Orion any day. Or ask me sometime if I'll ever part with Marian Kelly and Connie Faddis' Scales of Justice (something like three years in the making, and a veritable work of art).
I realize that it's way past the point of being meaningful, but I must say that I don't know where the rumor that Pulse was going to be out at last year's OktoberTrek could have gotten started. Certainly not with me, and I was the only one in a position to give publication dates! As a general comment, I know that things can get blurred in the case of a novel as opposed to an anthology, but people really shouldn't bother an author or an artist about zine publishing dates or delays; they really have no control. The editor/publisher is the only one who can give you accurate information; if you want to make inquiries or hassle someone; keep it to her/him.

Issue 4

front cover of issue #4 by Jean Kluge, "with apologies to Chris Van Allsburg" -- "Data's overalls and Tasha's ruffly-sleeved apron over their Federation-issue uniforms made for a nice, Kluge-esque touch. As to what she's serving up, I wonder how many parts is 10W-40 oil and how many Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup?" [14]
back cover of issue #4, "No controversy, no discouraging words, no negative vibes, no substance."

Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine? 4 was published in May 1993 and contains 50 pages.

Art is by Jean Kluge, Suzan Lovett, Susi Leinbach, Ann Larimer, Melody Rondeau, and Marty Siegrist.

Reviews are by Teegar, Colleen Philippi, Dan Barth, Jean Kluge, Susan M. Garrett, Berkeley Hunt, Marty Siegrist, and Karen Swanson.

From the editorial:
There are some people out there who still Just Don't Get It, and all this willful incomprehension is getting old. Fast. So, even though I've said all this before, several times and as nicely as I could (pay no heed to the grinding noises), I'm gonna try again. Only maybe not so nicely. You Are Warned... Look, the primary purpose of a review is not to praise and reassure zine producers. It is to express one person's opinion of someone else's work. The reviewer is not the editor (I shouldn't have to keep saying this, you know). It's the editor's job-not the reviewer's-to work gently and patiently with the contributors to ensure that their work is fit to be seen in public before it goes to press. The editor who won't or can't do so does no one any favors (and whining about criticism after the fact or resorting to personal comments about reviewers, whether in a LoC or from one's own editorial platform, is no substitute for simply doing one's homework beforehand). The zine reviewer's primary obligation is to the readers, those poor souls out there who quest for farmish treasure. These days, it's pretty much a crapshoot whether they'll hit paydirt or sand, and, while zine prices are on the rise, disposable income isn't Losing a gamble on a zine is both frustrating and expensive. Reviews that highlight both good points and bad are tools for those potential consumers to use in their search. (Of course, if the possibility of an unfavorable review makes editors and publishers pause and think twice - once, even; I'll settle - about whether that magnum opus of theirs is really fit for public consumption before they send it out into the Cold, Cruel World, well, so much the better. For everyone.) Besides, reviews should also be entertaining. Frankly, page after page of the sort of painstaking line-by-line analysis deemed proper by some would give tedium a bad name.

Excerpts for LoCs: Issue 4

Visually, you have a lovely zine. The art is high quality work... I can tell by the look of the zine that it is not something you simply throw together, and that you do indeed care about the product you put out. This is why some of the contents (written) of WBAF are so disturbing. One rarely expects to find cyanide in a candy jar. Some of your LoCs and reviews are genuinely designed to improve the level of editing and production in fanzines; others are vitriolic at best...

I don't usually write letters in review of letters, but Berkeley Hunt is a rare individual whose letter is worthy of comment. While Hunt's adulation for the members of the WBAF staff is high almost to the point of obsession, praise is obviously not her ralson d'etre. Ms. Hunt proudly admits that "encouraging people...was not my purpose." Fortunately for us, there are still people out there who are willing to give new writers and editors the benefit of the doubt, and who will offer positive criticism instead of insults.

Ms. Hunt does have a point. Reviews are not usually written for the purpose of encouraging those reviewed. Still, I think reviews should at least be fair. If one wants to continue getting quality work, one must be able to sort the good from the bad without bias and without malice. And one must not be afraid to say when a zine needs improvement. Writers and editors should not automatically view a bad review as a personal attack—the good ones practically beg for comments, good and bad.

Granted, this is not why many reviewers become reviewers. There is a feeling of power one gets from inflicting pain on another individual. It is heady and cheap and easily obtained. The satisfaction, however, only lasts for a short time, and the person inflicting pain needs to find another victim quickly.

It's much harder to get personal satisfaction from constructive criticism. Why bother to point out ways of making a piece better when you can just say it's "a lactose-reduced dairy product whose target buyer has difficulty digesting milk."

As a fanzine editor myself, I know that suggesting positive-improvements requires much more than-a malicious mind and a junior-college vocabulary. It requires a sensitivity and understanding of the artistic mind. (Regardless of talent, anyone who writes, draws, or edits considers themselves an artist and should be treated with at least a modicum of respect.) It requires a knowledge of human nature, and an ability to transform words into actions. This is why most people fail as editors—they think that red ink immediately brings perfection, no matter how bloody those ink stains are on one's ego. (In fact, many of these unsuccessful writers and editors make a career out of trashing better writers' and editors' work.)

So, what is the point of a review? For some, it's a chance to bleed the malice from their soul and release the pressure of an unfulfilling life. For others, it's a chance to try to improve a genre they enjoy. Which are you, Ms. Hunt?
Got Psst, Hey Kid last week and enjoyed it immensely ! Your review crew is so good—I wish I could write half as well. The real corker was Berkeley's letter. That woman is dangerous] (I nearly hurt myself laughing.)
I'm sorry, but you have to get these out on a regular basis. One a year is just not enough. I mean, I get through reading it and then it takes about six months to get out of my system. So when I pick up the next one a year later...well, it's like the agony and the ecstasy all over again. Give my poor fannish nervous system a break!
I've been following the ongoing debate of what constitutes a review for many years now, and I hope you won't mind if I put in my own two cents' worth. I have produced fanzines and I have written reviews and LoCs (not many, true, but I have written some), so I think I can speak with a modicum of authority here. In WBAF, I've seen two schools of thought as to how one should write a review: a "tea and sympathy" approach or "devil take the hindmost." I would like to offer a third, one that combines the two, yet strives for civility when pen is put to ink (or the electronic equivalent). By that I mean "constructive criticism." While I agree with your comment [that] "the appropriate time to avert disaster is not after it's happened," I think it behooves a reviewer to use language that is not deliberately abusive to the editor. A review needs to explain lucidly why something didn't work for him or her, not just abusively criticize. The reviewers for WBAF, for the most part, understand this and act accordingly, analyzing their chosen zine and pointing out both its good and bad points... A reviewer should also take under advisement whether a given zine is an editor's first attempt. As a reviewer, I tend to be more lenient toward a "first-timer" than an "old-timer"-which brings me back to constructive criticism (unless the price of the zine simply cannot justify its purchase under any circumstances). It is one thing to criticize, it is another to categorize what went wrong and offer suggestions for fixing such problems in subsequent issues. One can't go home again, and the editor can't redo the zine—but the editor can learn from mistakes, if those mistakes are pointed out in a fashion mat doesn't shut down the communication being offered. Which brings me to semantics: A reviewer has to be as careful with his or her words as any writer. Being careful with one's choice of words means asking oneself how those words will be perceived by the editor as well as by the potential purchaser. A reviewer who is deliberately abrasive will not be perceived by either the reader or the editor of the zine under review as caring enough about that editor to help him or her learn more about the craft And it is the job of the reviewer to educate the editor as much as it is to educate the buying public. That's what separates a review from a LoC. Fandom is a training ground; that it is a training ground is what distinguishes it from any other kind of amateur gathering!
I did get WBAF #3, thank you. Good Stuff. The cover makes me drool slightly and breathe faster (a pathetic sight, really), and I loved the reviews! Berkeley Hunt usually reduces me to tears, I get to giggling so hard.
I've seen Factsheet Five. I've seen lots of non-media fanzines. Some are fantastic and match the best Media fandom has to offer and others are so abysmal you wonder why someone even bothered. I still think it's wrong to assume that you shouldn't do the best you possibly can simply because you're an amateur. Or that the existence of zines worse than your own should be an excuse for shoddy production values, inept editing, or discourtesy to contributors and readers alike. With regard to comparing the quality of content and production values of non-Media and Media zines—content must be taken into consideration. Patience mentions a horrible story (illustrated, no less), in which the content offended her and, from her description, it would damn well turn my stomach as well. To say that we must treat Media-people with kid gloves because there's all sorts of sadistic non-Media trash out there is a non-argument.
Marty, I want to reiterate that I thought your editorial was great, as was Susan Garrett's "Back-Talk" and Paula Smith's "Satisfied?" I have often complained heartily (mostly to myself, but sometimes to friends) about the lack of professionalism in fan writing. There's a lot more cattle fodder out there than well-written, well-plotted stories of substance. I hardly buy fanzines anymore for that reason. Not that fandom isn't the place for amateur writers to try their hand, but I sure get disgusted listening to the whining and gnashing of teeth over sound, honest critiquing and/or editing. A good story takes time and effort If new writers would only spend more time on their stories rather man simply rushing to get something "in print" I think the quality would most certainly go up. Merely having your best friend read it and say, "it's wonderful" does not constitute "editing." Who wants to hurt their best friend's feelings after all? There ought to be, if there isn't, a pool of accomplished writers/editors who would be willing to read and critique other people's stories (for a fee, of course—I wouldn't dream of suggesting that anyone do it for nothing; time is too valuable).
Attractive overall as the visuals are, the reason I want to marry this fanzine is its heart and soul. Susan Garrett and Paula Smith have both written incredibly thought-provoking articles this time around. I wish I thought more TNG fans would see them and take them to heart, because both have such insight into fandom and its workings. Susan's very thoroughly encompasses the LoC situation and provides solid observations and solutions. Paula's is a piece of poetry disguised as prose—her own insights into the uniquely (and almost universally) feminine origins of fanfiction give her words a sheer "rightness," a veracity that made me just sort of sit up and grin like an idiot ("YES! That's it") That's what we want out of fanfiction-bless your heart, Paula, for expressing it so perfectly... Berkeley's LoC had me weakly holding my stomach between breathless hoots as I read it. Wicked. Purely wicked. And, to comment once again on The Purpose Of Reviews And LoCs, I especially liked Berk's and Marty's and Susan's and Barbara's comments on the best time for "prophylactic measures" being before the zine is in print I must say that I'm much more inclined to "mollycoddle wispy creative lights" (what a great line that was, Susan—I'm envious!) if a new writer asks me for an opinion before they're in print—and if" they have no intention of going to print for a while. A writer who plans to take time to improve before being published is highly likely to get lots of encouragement and gentle nudges of criticism (same for artists) from me. Somebody who's already been printed and whose work is painfully inadequate, but who plans to Get That Next Story (or illo) To The Zine in a state just one step shy of Connie Faddis-well, they're going to get the blunt version, because, let's face it, there's not a lot of time for this miracle to occur. You wanna get better in two days? Toughen up and listen, then. And be prepared to see a manuscript covered with blue pencil.
I just got the back issues of Wanna Buy a Fanzine-and it is, as in the words of one contributor, a sweet little zine. It's right on the money—the total, fear no evil, slamzine. I tell you, if Artforum gave me religion, Wanna has put the fear of God in me. I feel like calling every editor I've done anything for in the past year and saying, 'Uh, could I look at my stuff one more time before you go to print?' It's the swift kick in the butt that fandom, myself included, needs. The zine would be worth its price just for the illustrations even if you decided to start printing marshmallow wrappers instead of reviews.
I'm a slash fan, first and foremost, though I adore any well-written story with strong emotional understructure. The action/adventure plot is secondary to character development and interaction as far as I'm concerned, and I find it easier to locate those stories in slash universes than in gen ones. That's one of the reasons I originally ordered Wanna Buy a Fanzine: I wanted to read good gen stories with a solid emotional component, yet didn't have a clue about where to start. A couple of the zines I've ordered on Wanna's recommendation have been too overstructure-oriented (or analytical or action/ adventure plot-driven, call it what you will, it lacks the emotional, intuitive appeal that I'm looking for), but I've got a better bit ratio this way than I've ever had on my own. Now my biggest problem is determining the realist/ romanticist style ratio of an author when the review includes no quotes! Since I've got a pretty narrow tolerance here, I basically have to try different zines recommended by different reviewers until I find someone who either enjoys or hates what I like. For example, St. Crispin's Day Society 2 was too realistic, and Perestroika too romantic for my taste, though are both good zines.
I was happy to see a lower concentration of acid in the reviews in #2. There's a fine line between caustic wit and downright nastiness mat I felt was crossed a couple of times in the first two issues, and I'm glad to see it gone from this one.
After careful scrutiny, I begin to notice a trend in the rating of zines. Five trees: Zines edited by anyone on the staff of WBAF or their good friends. Also zines which include art work by Jean Kluge, Suzan Lovett or Marty Siegrist. Four trees: Zines that are edited by or include the work of WBAF staffers or good friends of staffers, or zines too obviously well done to give only three trees (in spite of their handicap of not being edited or contributed to by one of the WBAF inner circle). Three trees: Zines too good to thoroughly trash, but that don't have anyone on the WBAF staff to protect them. Also, zines with good stories, but poor art work or reproduction. Two trees: Zines that have no one on the WBAF staff to protect them, that don't concern subjects which interest staffers, or that are edited by minor enemies of the state. One tree: Zines written by anyone who dares oppose Peronism... I mean, the WBAF staff, and zines produced by first-time editors who can easily be scared off.
[E R] makes an interesting point about the rewards for fannish writing as opposed to rewards for fannish illustrating. However, it should be noted that the number of artists who don't get any dollars back for their work is probably far greater man the number who do. Not everyone is a Jean Kluge or a Suzan Lovett, turning out dazzling and evocative work that compels folks to reach for their checkbooks, no questions asked. Many artists get no more out of it than the writers do, although I'm sure it's a labor of love for all concerned.
I'm not entirely in agreement with the—shall we say--more provocative methods of reviewing that some of your reviewers seem to prefer. I consider them to be counterproductive to what I perceive as the raison d'etre of your zine. If the purpose of WBAF is to promote higher standards for fanzine production, I feel that deliberately antagonizing the people your remarks are aimed at is not going to bring about the desired result (Well, it might if the desired result is to drive people out of fandom and wash your hands of them, but I hope your reviewers are neither so arrogant nor so unreasonable.) Human nature being what it is, the more sarcastic and roughly-worded the criticism, the more people will get angry, defensive, and stubbornly set against recognizing any merit or truth there might be in me reviewer's observations. Make no mistake, I agree with your reviewers' high standards and I appreciate entertaining, witty commentary as much as the next fan. However, I do not think that diplomacy or tact are dirty words. Being blunt is easy, but not always useful.

Issue 5

Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine? 5 was published in 1995 and contains 40 pages. It has art by Julie Evans, Mariann Howarth, Ann Larimer, Joy Riddle, Melody Rondeau, and Marty Siegrist.

front cover of issue #5, Marty Siegrist did the sketch, Jean Kluge did the layout and the color -- "Pinky and the Brain"
back cover of issue #5, a Berkeley Hunt doll

Reviews are by Susan M. Garrett, Anne Collins Smith, Melody Rondeau, Marty Siegrist, Michael Macomber, Berkely Hunt, Teegar Taylor, Jude Wilson, and Paula Smith.

From the editorial:
I've started illustrating for fanzines again, and I've noticed an uncomfortable trend in fanzine publishing, at least within the fringe I currently call home. All save one of the zines I illustrated for are slated for MediaWestCon '95 release. It's not a biological imperative, like salmon heading upstream at spawning time (at least, I don't think it is), it's an economic one. Zine publishing is an expensive proposition, so publication is timed for the best chance for recouping those expenses quickly. That chance appears to be MediaWest.

Also, many fen are no longer willing to purchase zines through the mail, even from reputable editors or publishers whose work they know (well, except maybe through Bill Hupe's fannish version of Publishers Clearinghouse-no offense intended, Bill). Many fans save up all year for their MediaWest*Con fanzine feeding frenzy, and that's their zine-buying for the year. Maybe they don't want to pay postage. Maybe they've been burned in the past by publishers who took their money and in return sent drek -- or nothing at all.

Both these patterns of behavior are reasonable and eminently understandable. But the combination is turning into a vicious circle, with the one factor exacerbating the other to the point where supply and demand revolve crazily around one weekend a year.

This puts enormous strain on fandom's creative resources -- authors, writers, and editors -- during those last few months before MediaWest (what some refer to as the "MediaWest Crunch"), and I find myself wondering whether this is affecting the quality of material being published. Is quality being sacrificed for the sake of getting the product out in time to catch the first wave (Thursday night, I'm told) of the MW*C feeding frenzy?
art (inside back cover) from issue #5 by Marty Siegrist, originally printed in Guardian #8

Excerpts for LoCs: Issue 5

Strangely enough, after reading four issues of WBAF, I disagree with the opinion that this is a "slamzine." I realize that some reviewers are rather acidic; however, literary criticism is just that-critiques that point out strengths and weaknesses. With the prices of zines going up (along with everything else), I like reviews that explain what is right or wrong with the product; then I can make up my own mind.
A friend remarked that she didn't know why WBAF kept reviewing Eridani, particularly since it garnered such mixed comments every time. My fannish reaction was that she was right, but my reaction as a teacher differed. I'm hardest on students who show potential but are too lazy or undisciplined to reach for the next higher level. Since Eridani is the main Next Gen zine that my friends bring back from Media West year after year, I'd like to know the contents before I send off my money. In the main, I won't read most Next Gen stuff because it's rather mediocre, and I'm not desperate enough to read mediocre stories just because they're the main ones available.
As always, a nice dead Tasha cover.
My condolences to the family and friends of [D B] as we gather to view her bloody remains liberally scattered about the LoCs Populi section of Wanna Buy a Fanzine #5. We may never know what caused her to commit suicide by LoC. Weren't the "Don't tease the Berkeley" signs big enough? Couldn't she have just gone to some place like Media West Con and asked rather than having to have the combined reputations of Jean Kluge, Marty Siegrist, Paula Smith, and Susan Garrett forcibly crammed down her throat?... Her demise is a tragic loss for fandom of someone with an obvious talent for maliciousness and a solid command of a junior-college vocabulary.
I was very much interested to see what made the top ten list of people's fanzines. It's a habit in fandom to forget that there ever was a before (as in 'before the dark times') and that there will be an after and I'll be the first to admit that many of the zines mentioned have only been made known to me in the form of urban legend. I suppose I am not a golden age fan, but came in with the end of the silver and beginning of the bronze age, as media and multimedia had already broken the Star Trek-only hold on the market and the splintering process was already well under way. The current bronze age seems to be fading into a fannish Cretaceous period, with great monolithic BNF's rending the flesh from one another in some primitive dance of survival. Then again, maybe it's just me.
Art is one of the reasons zines sell at a con. Granted, most mail orders are based on content, the priority usually being the series, the cost, the writer, the editors and, eventually, the artist. But art sells a zine on a table. Show me a great zine with a lousy cover at a low price (say under $10.00) on a table and I'll show you a zine that will sell to very few people in a large fandom (you see, they're all over at Bill Hupe's table buying the zines with the pretty covers...). But let us also not forget that art is a creative endeavor that deserves as much respect as videos, writing, poetry, filking, etc. An editor who treats artwork as mere filler in a zine doesn't deserve art submissions. Then again, I have no problem with a zine that has a clean layout with no artwork. It's a matter of choice. The point is, if an editor decides to include artwork in a zine, it's up to the editor to treat the placement and reproduction of the artwork submitted with as much respect and importance as is given a written submission.
As an editor, I am willing to slog through a story full of painful prose, but as a paying reader, I am not. I expect the editor to have done his or her job so I'm not mentally blue-pencilling as I stumble all over the page trying to follow a frayed thread of maybe-logic to its dubious and long overdue conclusion. I don't expect every story in every zine to be a gem, but I do wish they'd at least been tossed in the rock polishing machine so the worst of the rough edges would be at least blunted.
I agree wholeheartedly with your comments about what is or is not "proper" in a zine review and often those crying foul the loudest are the same ones who have no intention of changing anything to better their product. After all, why should they? It's still selling. And I am appalled at the poor quality dreck the buying public will snap up. It's a vicious cycle because there will always be some non-discerning fan out there starved for more adventures of their favorite characters and will pay gladly for the privilege to read the drivel that's come from some little coddled writer's typer. These zine eds see themselves in an ever-so-noble light as seeing a need and filling it. Anyone who says something the least bit critical is seen as small-minded, divisive, and just plain mean, 'cuz isn't fandom just one big support net for all us aspiring little talents?
Illegal Copying: Recently I found a copy ot a zine I illustrated several years ago at a day-long rip-off event...I mean, a minicon. I suspected the copy was a bootleg because the zine's publishing organization had gone the way of the dinosaurs and because my 'trib copy had a tape binding and this one didn't. However, I had no real proof. Because I had received my contributor's copy for free, I didn't even know what the original price had been.

There are ways to get around this situation. Editor/Publishers, if you're serious about this, DEVELOP an anti-bootleg strategy. Number copies by hand. Buy a stamp that says, "If this notice doesn't appear in red ink, then this zine has been bootlegged." Stamp all issues. Print random pages in non-photo blue ink. Be creative.

Next, LET YOUR CONTRIBUTORS KNOW WHAT YOUR ANTI-BOOTLEG STRATEGY IS. I would be more than happy to carry signed letters saying, "All authorized copies of MYZINE #12 are signed and numbered in green ink," or "The only authorized distributor of PULSE OF MYZINE is Meandmypals Press" with me to Exploitation, I mean. Creation Cons and scour dealers' tables. I wouldn't be at all embarrassed to go so armed to convention officials and demand that bootlegged copies be seized and destroyed and the perpetrators be forced to watch the entire run of Starlost without medication. If unauthorized copies are having the sort of negative impact on the price and availability of zines that people say they do, we need to confront this problem in earnest.
I rarely go to the local "cookie-cutter" comic book conventions anymore, unless to meet with friends and chat; I usually opt out for RevelCon in Houston (zine con something along the line of Media West which unfortunately has a huge slash element in it now-unfortunate, because it affects sales of other zines and also because some of the slash fans are incredibly rude! Some of them would go around to dealers' tables, pick up a zine and ask, "Is it slash?" and on being told it wasn't, would put down the zine and say, "I only buy slash. What's this doing at RevelCon?" *sheesh*)...
I read the reviews, and usually borrow a friend's copy to see if it's really something I want to own or not; my money is fairly limited right now, so mostly I volunteer to do artwork for a zine once I find one I want. One good zine usually produces another, so there are entire series of zines that I like and reread. But I do like seeing other people's opinions and critiques; helps me to study zine layouts and check on various ways to make my art work better, be more grounded, etc. I could kick myself for not getting one of the original copies of Pulse of the Machine, but at MediaWest '91 I didn't have much money to spend and that was really a bad first MW to attend, as well. Luckily, I had friends so I could read their copies and know I should be beating my head against a wall....

Issue 6

Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine? 6 was published in May 1997 and contains 25 pages. The back cover is blank. Marty Siegrist did the front cover. Interior art by Marty Siegrist, Julie Evans, and possibly someone named A. Black.

front cover of issue #6 Marty Siegrist
art from issue #6, Julie Evans

Reviewers were Berkeley Hunt, Teegar Taylor, Kitty Woldow, Helen Adams and Brenda A..

From the editorial:
This issue appears after a year's hiatus. Last year, several illo assignments were keeping me busy, plus I was publishing a fiction zine (thank you, Cindy Rancourt, for letting those great stories see print!). There was no time left over for poor, li'l ol' Wanna Buy. Besides, response to Issue #5 had been disappointing, to say the least. No, it didn't generate any hate mail. In fact, it generated precious little mail at all, peevish or otherwise. To make a long story short (too late!), I had no plans to publish another issue now. Then I glanced through the back issues, and was suddenly overcome with enthusiasm about bringing out another one.

Excerpts for LoCs: Issue 6

Re: the quote from the intro about combining Ghostbusters and gut-wrenching: if there's one thing I dislike about a lot of fanfic, it's the hurt/comfort writing formula so many people have embraced. There is a lot of it in RGB at this point: characters sobbing on each others' shoulders, running away to avoid hurting their colleagues (and worrying them half to death as a result) and wallowing so excessively in guilt that I get the urge to start slapping the pages. I have tried VERY hard to avoid these elements in my stories. I love a good drama; I don't mind making the characters sweat and work a little. But no sobbing, no hiding, and could we PUH-LEEZ keep the guilt under wraps?
...one of my writing tendencies is to put a lot into my guest or supporting characters-likewise both a strength and a weakness. It makes for well-developed characters, but I have to be careful not to neglect the main characters as a result. Nellie has been well-received by almost everyone, as far as I know, and as she certainly wasn't meant to be a Mary Sue, I'm pleased no one has ever referred to her as one. I would call her a quasi-persona: my personal projection into a universe I enjoy. I gave her the profession of psych nurse because it's something I'm familiar with... but in appearance and personality she's nothing like me. Much more believable, and certainly more fun, that way.
[A C S] and [M M's] LoCs were two breaths of fresh ocean air compared to the smoggy rumblings and protestations with which fan editors usually reply to criticism. Mara wrote "the thought of being skewered by you guys or being accused of wasting people's money made me a bit more determined to work as long as needed on this." Glory, hallelujah! What a far, far cry from the blue-faced howlings of those who insist that any criticism at all indicates a subversive plot to drive them out of fandom.... If some fan is going to write in, kicking and screaming and drumming her widdle heels on the floor while she rants about the nastiness of Wanna Buy's "staff," I too wish she would be specific about which review(s) pissed her off. And offer up something rational in defense of the writer, editor or artist she feels was treated so shabbily. Otherwise, the only possible conclusion I can draw is that she has no defense other than the happenstance of said maligned editor being a friend of hers...or herself, working under a pen name. That would go a long way toward explaining why this fan's attack on Wanna Buy was such a shotgun blast of generalities, and why she refused to name the zine(s) she was aiming to protect.
Yes Marty, your Luke on the inside back cover [of issue #5] is a better illo...technically. Cool border, too. It's the freight of emotion in the earlier, more primitive illo that I like so much. Its fire and nouveau-fannish (fanique?) enthusiasm takes me back to those innocent days of my zine-buying youth, when Interphase's demise was still a fresh hurt and Galactic Discourse was just beginning to fulfill its adolescent promise. When life was seen through a haze of floating rose petals and heard against the background music of jingly seventies bubblegum.... No, really, this started out to be a compliment.
Zineds, avoid the gushing about your tribbers and your own self-congratulatory back patting as you would the mouth rot. Taking the opportunity to thank your artists and writers, especially those who have gone above and beyond, is different, although it sure wouldn't be a problem for me if an editor of mine chose not to take up space with such an item. What I love most in an intro is to hear all about the last minute, hair-tearing little fuckups that threatened to kill the zine or delay its debut. Like learning that Kinko's can't follow simple directions as to where staples should go, for instance.
The last few lines of Paula Smith's article, "Bringing Home the Bacon," became especially meaningful in light of the recent re-release of the Star Wars Trilogy. I have seen the special edition ANH, and yes, it is possible to recapture some of the thrill of twenty (gasp!) years ago. Naturally, I had to dig up and reread some of the SWfan fiction I still own, and that's where Paula's words ring true: "And regular sf writing, even the professional variety, sorry to say, has nothing to match the best of media fandom." I tried to read some of the professional SW novels that have appeared in recent years, and although they are, I assume, following whatever plots and guidelines George Lucas has approved of, none of them can match the sheer ingenuity, imagination and scope of some of the best fan stories written in the wake of the films' original releases. The ThousandWorlds Chronicles, Stormbrother (probably the best alternate epilogue to TESB), the early stories in Warped Space, Moonbeam, and Guardian, later works in Time Warp and Errantry, and many other works by fan authors are far superior to the stuff that's cluttering up the shelves in my public library and local bookstores. Sigh...can anyone tell me if Ellen Randolph ever wrote a follow-up story to her brilliant, compelling "Avernus," published in Guardian 8?

References

  1. from D-Tales
  2. from the editorial in issue #3
  3. most likely in an issue of Menagerie
  4. from Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine? #2
  5. from issue #1
  6. from issue #4
  7. from The Trekzine Times v.2 n.2/3
  8. from a fan in issue #4
  9. from [K L] in issue #4
  10. Sandy Herrold's Feb 1993 post to the Virgule-L mailing list, reposted here with permission.
  11. from Fandom Lounge, posted August 29, 2007, accessed June 4, 2013
  12. klangley56's July 2008 reply to Wank, wank, wank + question for those who read my reviews
  13. WAY old printzine.... dated August 29, 2007 in fandom lounge; WebCite.
  14. from issue #5 in Wanna Buy a Fanzine
  15. from issue #5 of Wanna Buy a Fanzine
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