Zines and the Internet

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See also: Zine Production, History of Media Fanzines, Fandom and the Internet
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Contents

The Internet has had a massive effect on fanzines, affecting not only their market, but also how they are viewed by fans.

Organizational and Sociological Differences

Zines and online fiction exist in and create entirely different social milieus, but not all fans agree on what those differences consist of or how to characterize these two types of fandom. Speaking from the zine side of things, fans often describe each as a single community, where the major distinction is between offline fandom and online fandom:
...They are two different communities, two different groups of people who each became a community in a different time and place. Like any community, each has its own dynamics, norms and values. For me, though, the two communities differ in that they represent two different paradigms of interacting and writing. I see the net community as egalitarian and communitarian. Communication on the net is immediate, highly interactive, and non-hierarchical. As a result, net fiction tends to be idea-driven, collaborative and interactive (see, e.g., the "challenges" and the multi-part stories written by different authors as an idea grabs hold). It cuts into deeper levels of emotional and sexual truth. If the net medium is egalitarian and communitarian, the printzine medium is hierarchical and individualistic. Writing is a more a solitary pursuit, with reinforcement tending to come from editors and the small number of readers who write reviews in The K/S Press. Editors have the power to decide what gets published and what doesn't. People take the time to write long stories, novellas and novels, and long LoCs (when they write them at all). Emphasis is less on ideas, more on how the writer handles the characters' emotions. I think there's probably also a generational difference between the two media that reflects and has contributed to overall social change. As we move into the 21st century, society as a whole is becoming more interactive, less hierarchical. The focus in industry is shifting away from top-down management to self-organized teamwork and collaboration. Diversity is actively valued because we have come to see it as a strength. So the net community is a 21st century organism, I think. [1]
Fans who entered fandom through the internet often see zine-producing fandom as one flavor of fandom among many and don't think of online fandom as a single community:
The people who freak out about zines the most, in my experience, are those who think *they* are the old guard, beset by younger fans who don't understand How Things Are Done. Other fans may be turned off by perceived hostility or strange terminology that doesn't line up with their fandom experiences (anything prefixed with 'net', for example) or they may not have their own credit cards or paypal accounts, but I see no widespread hostility to the general *idea* of paying some amount of money for unauthorized print material by fans in some form. Some individual fans are rude and badly-behaved, yes, and lots of people react differently depending on how they're approached, but a unified 'net fandom' that is anti-zine doesn't exist. [2]
A fan in 2001 noted what she felt were big differences between zine fic and online fic and posted this self-labeled "rant":
I've been reading fanfiction for close to twelve years. That's pre-Internet, all the way back to 'zines. I'm a hopeless fan-girl, always have been and like it that way. Now I've never had the same issues with 'zine fic that Internet fanfic seems to inspire, especially in regard to quality and presentation. 'Zines are edited (well, hopefully they are) polished, slaved over by obsessive people, etc. and you will rarely find too many huge glaring errors, in spelling, grammar, formatting etc. This doesn't cover content quality because I've read some serious stinkers in 'zines -- ones that I've actually ripped out of the binding and thrown in the trash lest my eyes be seared by their Overwhelming Badness ever again. (Yes Virginia, a well-edited, perfectly grammatical story can suck. It's true.)

Internet fanfiction is a different barrel of fish entirely. There is no mandatory editing, there's no required labeling, there's often no rhyme or reason to anything and once you get past the word "FIC" in the subject line, honey, you are on your own. Typos leap out of the bar doors, shooting wildly ... POVs jump around like Mexican beans in the sun ... rape fics come up behind you and hit you like the 1:13 from Memphis ... men apply garish make-up and get pregnant in the general store. It's often not a pretty sight and part of me doesn't blame people for railing against these crimes against their eyes, minds and stomachs. I can understand the emotion behind angry crits, bad-fiction sites and the like. I really can.

But none of these things will change the basic fact of Internet fanfic -- it's a writer's world, not a reader's.

Unlike 'zines, which you pay for and are allowed a certain amount of expectation, Internet fan-fiction comes with no guarantees, no rules, no respect. It's an ever-renewing pile of dung in which you must dig deeply for the oft-hidden jewels and if this tires or upsets you at any point, then your fanfic reading days in that fandom are probably coming to their natural end. [3]

By 1999, some online fans began calling print zines "dead-tree" fanfiction.[4]

Visceral Differences

Many fans of printed zines feel the object-in-hand is part of the total experience.

Some comments from fans:

First, I just sit a minute with the zine in my lap and feel its' weight. I turn the table of contents and read that, plus any comments, notes, etc. that the editors might have put in. Then I page through the entire zine, not reading any of the stories, but just looking at the illos and imagining the stories that they are illustrating. Only then comes the serious business: THE FIRST READING. I read right through each page in order from the first to the last. I like to get the feel of a zine, the momentum, because I feel that every editor puts a lot of thought and energy into the distribution and order of the material. You can tell a little of the personality of a zine ed by the way they arrange things. I find it very hard to put down a zine on the first reading. In one case, I started on FINAL FRONTIER I at about 9:00 p.m. one Saturday night and finally finished it about 5:00 a.m. on Sunday morning. I was emotionally drained that time! On subsequent readings of the zine I mix the order, going back to a few favorite stories many times till I've picked up all the nuances. But I can't imagine skipping around on that first reading! I'd go nuts wondering what was in that one I'd just skipped over!! [5]
For those of you who've never actually seen a zine, it's hard to imagine the impact they can have... It might have arrived in your mailbox (the snail mail one <g>) on a day when everything else had gone wrong. Or you could have picked it up at a convention, just managing to get the last copy off the editor's table or being lucky enough to find it more recently in a box of used zines... It might be hard to picture them -- they can be as thick as 450 pages (huge) or small as 50-60. Full of art (when we could beg something from the wonderful artists!) and beautifully enhanced by graphics, special lettering, each one bears the stamp of it's producer. I feel a zine is a work of art in itself -- a lot of thought goes into the arrangement of the stories and how they are presented. It's more than just a few stories reformatted and printed out. [6]
A paper zine is the *real* thing, the prize. It was very interesting when I published Swords & Senses, the Net Edition -- one of the authors picked up her trib copy and held it to her bosum sighing, 'it's so much more real when it's in print!' [7]
I believe that as long as there are fans, there will always be zines. There is something very tactile about holding one in your hands that cannot be duplicated by downloading fiction off the 'Net. The 'words' might be the same, but there's no comparison. A finished zine, all beautifully bound and with a gorgeous color cover, is (and always will be) something special. [8]
We are considering scanning the zines and putting them on cds either as jpg images or pdfs. CDs are cheap to mail and people could print the zine if they wanted. In this way we could keep the zine's appearance as it originally looked. ... We aren't totally comfortable with taking the zines out of their paper format, as most of us feel that's their value -- they are paper zines. For people who have never had the joy of holding a paper zine in their hand, the library has been an important resource. [9]
...let’s face it – if you were 'raised' on zines, even with all the great things to enjoy on the web, on the Kindle or other ebook reader, there’s still nothing quite like holding a zine in your hands. Especially a zine that has the tactile pleasure of fine papers, interesting textures. That was one of my favorite things about the early B7 Complexes – portfolios were printed on lovely parchment paper that not only looked great, they were a treat to touch and hold. [10]

Decline in Number of Zines

Also see: History_of_Media_Fanzines.

The arrival and accessibility of the internet, among other things, led to a profound and lasting decline in zine production. But this decline hit different fandoms at different speeds. Older fandoms with many years of zine production, such as K/S, The Professionals and others maintained zine production longer.

Even before the world wide web, fans noticed a drop-off in number of new zines. From a 1988 issue of On the Double, there was complaint from a writer/fan about lack of submissions to zines: "I hear complaints from all over fandom that zines aren't getting enough submissions." The editor of the June 1991 Southern Enclave published many LoCs encouraging fellow fans to make more zines to take up the slack in offerings.

One long-time zine ed wrote of her excitement about the internet and zines: "1997 is revving up to be a good year, zine-wise. By February, we were juggling four in stages of layout. By our big annual convention, MediaWest*Con, we'll have a total of eight new publications for the table!... We've had a terrific surge of interest and have been very active in online fannish activities and communication. Cyberspace was absolutely the best invention that could have come along for us, as we are now in contact with fans and subscribers from all over the gold on a daily basis." [11]

Different fandoms tried different strategies throughout the late 90s and early 2000s to accommodate fans who were acting out more of their fannish life online.

Impact of the Internet

In 1995, some fans believed that there was no way to feasibly sell online zines or books because most people wouldn't want to pay for what they couldn't tangibly pick up and show off to friends. An AT&T commercial of the time showing a girl reading a "book" on a monitor, with virtual pages that turned, was lampooned as being "totally ridiculous." Others pointed out that piracy would be virulent if everything of value was available online.[12]

Randall Landers, a zine publisher, says,
Once the BBS's such as GEnie and CompuServe's started popping up, slowly and surely fans moved from the long wait between printed issues [of letterzines] to the instant gratification (and conflagration) that the world wide web provides. Nowadays, a fan who writes a story can post it to his or her website (or someone else's) with instant gratification or disappointment from its readers. Clearly, the Internet has put an end to much of the printed fanzines. [13]

A brief sampling of letterzines in the late 1990s and early 2000s exemplifies the contradictory reactions among fandom to the new technology (Note: see The K/S Press and other letterzines from the mid to late 1990's for MUCH MORE fannish discussion on this subject.)

From a LoC in a 1998 Southern Enclave
Fanzines won't become extinct any more than books. Ok, maybe books will be replaced by electronic readers, about the size of a book, but not scrolling ones, but the kind that displays a page at a time.
From The K/S Press #48 in 1998:
K/S is alive and well in cyberspace as well as in zines! Welcome to the all-Net K/S zine [the Amazing Grace Special Edition Best of the 'Net K/S Sampler]. All of the stories in this zine were previously published on the Internet. The authors have given me permission to publish them for the first time in a zine.
From "The K/S Press" #48 (2000):
Please note I do not wish any story in any of my zines The Voice, Locusts and Wild Honey and In the Wilderness to appear on the Internet at any time. This is not a matter of the future of K/S but a matter of editorial control, and control of pen names. The zines were designed to be read from paper and held in the hand and I wish them to remain that way. Any attempt to publish is zine piracy and will be treated as such."

Irrespective of fandom's attitude towards the Internet, starting in the late 1990s, fanzines began a steady slow decline as more and more fan fiction become freely available on the Internet. Fanzine publishers began complaining how difficult it was to get fans writers to contribute to fanzines.

Many zine editors started to 'release' stories back to their writers after one year, so that the writers could then publish their stories on their own web pages. This was a useful stop gap, but eventually, most writers stopped submitting to zines altogether.

Deb Walsh posted to her announcement list a couple of days ago that Vendredi Press will no longer be publishing zines. She said that it was too hard to recruit enough writers and to sell enough zines to make all the hard work of putting a zine together worthwhile. I also heard that the zine dealers at KazCon had low sales and were surprised by how many fen didn't even know what zines were. [14]
There were many reasons fanzines were being bypassed by writers and readers:
From a writer's standpoint .... I can kind of see the problem. Why submit a zine fic, wait months for the zine to be published, and wait after that for letters of comment from the few (percentage-wise) readers who comment on zine fic, when you can post a fic on your LJ (or Web site or Yahoo!Group) and be knee deep in feedback within hours? You can even discuss points of the fic with your readers while the fic is still fresh enough in your mind to remember the details of what you wrote. [14]
A writer's letter to The K/S Press #6 (1997) illustrates one dilemma:
It seems that just in the last couple of months the number of Classic Trek (and K/S) fans on the net seems to have increased dramatically. Just within the limited circle of people I correspond with, several difficult situations have arisen. We have all tried to resolve these situations as best we can, but it seems to me that there are areas where fan-etiquette and "nettiquette" come into conflict. If a writer posts a story to the internet, he or she faces some hard choices. The alt.startrek.creative and alt.startrek.creative.erotica newsgroups provide a wonderful forum for getting instant reader feedback, and lots of it. But what if the writer also wants to publish the story in a zine? Is it fair to the editor of the zine? What about the reader, who's buying the zine and may have read the story on the net already? It's not that big of a fandom, and as more people get online the chances of this happening will increase. I posted a story on the net last year, never intending it for a zine. But an editor approached me after the fact and asked if she could have it. I said yes. Now I am writing a sequel, and I'm really stuck. I want to post the sequel on the net too, because I promised it to the internet audience months and months ago. But if I do so, I really need to repost the original story! I feel bad possibly taking sales away from the zine editor--but I posted it to the net first. Now I'm wondering if, from now on, I should refrain from posting my stories on the net to avoid this happening again. Should I have said 'no' when the editor asked me? Do I have to choose? I know I'd be annoyed if I paid a lot of money for a zine full of stories I've read. On the other hand, the sheer numbers of responses you get from net readers are awfully nice. But the last thing I want is for zines to disappear! What's a net- savvy writer to do?... What does anybody think is the right solution?"

Readers also saw a huge benefit as they discovered they could wander across the vast plains of the Internet, steadily devouring an endless supply of free and easy to access fan fiction.

But other fans pointed that the 'free' online access came at a price: most stories or fan fiction archives went offline after only a few years: "Yet, no matter how old my zines get (and some of them are over 25 years old), I've never opened one up and gotten a 404 File Not Found error. [14]

In the end, after one business analyst examined the fanzine vs Internet 'markets', fanzines could not maintain their competetive edge against the flexibility, reach and relatively low cost of Internet fan fiction.

"People do not write stories or purchase zines so that the publishers can make money. Running a successful business means finding a way of turning a profit by meeting the needs of your contributors and customers.

The zine publishers are the middle men in this, and the web is eliminating the need for them. Middle men cannot survive unless they provide added value to the people on the two ends.

So, zine publishers, here's some advice that you may find helpful. If you're going to compete, then compete. What does the web do that you can't? You can't publish as quickly, nor can you force your readers to send feedback. Those are facts that I doubt you can change. So if you're to stay in business, you have to start delivering something that the customer wants so badly that s/he won't object to the cost and the wait. You will also have to offer something to the writers that they can't get on the web, or an enticing print-only variation of something they do get on the web.

I don't know what that something is, but right now, it would appear that zines do not offer it. They aren't giving enough added value to justify the cost to the other parties involved. "[15]

In actuality, prior to the advent of graphical websites, fanzines did have one competitive advantage over netfic and that was fan art. However, by the late 1990s most fanzine publishers had dropped fanart and offset printing in order to take advantage of the faster and cheaper method of xeroxing. One zine publisher explained this shift:

Actually, I've been given this some thought. And what I think happening may be a (Lord, I hate this word) paradigm shift. When ORION PRESS first debuted in 1979 (it was STARDATE PRESS at that time), zines were produced either through off-set printing or through mimeography. Our first two issues were printed off-set, in fact. In the Spring of 1980, we made a transition to xerography, and we were suddenly able to produce zines as fast as we could fill them. We literally did a 60-100 page zine every 6-9 weeks with quality works (most of which are available in the asc TOS archive). Submissions were flooding in because we could turn around the zines so quickly, as compared to most of the other zine presses who were, for better or worse, and for the sake of quality artwork, entrenched with the offset printing process.

A few years later, every single person who wanted to be a Trek zine writer was heading to Kinko's and producing their own zines. The larger, older, more established, offset printed fanzines had a harder and harder time filling their pages. Zines like our STARDATE (which in 1984 became ORION) and IDYLLS came out quickly, reliably and more often than their offset counterparts. However, there were still offset counterparts which then strove to maintain levels of quality of production (and artwork) as well as sales.

Now, there's a new paradigm shift away from print into the electronic realms of this newsgroup and personal websites. Printed zines are striving to hold on to their readership by cost saving measures, by increasing their levels of expectation of quality, and by increasing their production schedules to keep up with the voracious appetites of the readership.

What's being lost is the artwork (in April, we made the decision to minimize if not eliminate interior artwork--cover art will remain, but the illustrations for the stories are being phased out). What's also being lost is the esprit de fandom of the authors, editors and publishers as they face what literally may be the extinction of an art form. I certainly am guilty of my lamentations about this. I've been doing it for twenty years, and I have enjoyed every minute of it. (Well, okay, that's an exaggeration, but you get the idea...)

Fanzines must pay for themselves in order to continue. By doing so, they need to sell around 100 copies of an anthology, 50 copies of a novella, with a reasonable mark up to cover the expenses. An exchange of currency occurs, and the editor hopes to break even (which we've done two years out of twenty). [16]
Eventually graphical and interactive websites would erase this advantage, but the failure of fanzine publishers to use the advantage in their favor did not go unnoticed by fandom:
[Eliminating art] may be a mistake. One of the few things you *have* over web zines and forums like ASC is that you can reproduce art almost as easily as text. On the web, art takes time to download, and take a a lot more space on the provider's site, and if you want to hang it on your wall you have to print it youself, which is time-consuming, costly, requires equipment many people don't have, and results in a lower-quality reproduction. Zines such as Orion Press may *be* the only place people can get high-quality fan artwork (and I'm almost not exaggerating when I say that Orion Press is the *only* fanzine I've seen in the Trek world whose art does not suck; there's some lovely art for Blake's 7 zines, but mostly what I see as far as quality in Trek is some lovely Bashir/Garak slash zine covers, Orion Press' art, and the rest is utter dreck.) [17]
Or as another fan expressed more succinctly:
Sounds like you need to do some serious market research to find out what people *do* want from your product...You are not your market. Apparently, the people who really value [the] aspects of a zine [that you value] are a small number. If you want to attract other readers, don't try to make them accept your reasons for loving zines as theirs. Find out what they want. And deliver it. [18]
By 2010, much of online fandom had adopted a hostile, almost dismissive attitude towards print fanzines:
That is so not right. You do NOT charge for fic! That's the only reason TPTB let us get away with writing it! Ok maybe it's one thing for zines where you're only asking for the amount it takes to print off all the paper and ink (but really? We're in the computer age. History, blah, blah, how everything started, blah, but come on. it's 2010. move into the computer age)… [19]
I'm uncomfortable with zine subculture in general, but I don't have a specific problem with the moratorium on reposting fics for a set length of time. I get the idea that it's fannish convention, not a legal contract thing; you *could* repost it, but you probably wouldn't be invited back to any future zines. However, the whole concept of zines bothers me now that we can put our fic online for free -- if it's having a print copy that's important, you could just as easily make the zine content available in a free PDF that anyone could print out. I recognize that it's a part of our fannish history and that some people prefer doing things that way (and I must admit there's a special fun in scrounging for old zines in long-defunct fandoms) but I'm not personally comfortable with participating -- I've turned down offers to put my work in zines before. [20]

Also see: Fanzines and the Internet or "Whither Thou Goest, Orion Press?" for much more discussion.

Value and Money

In the days of print zines, the practical lens of money was one through which many fans viewed their fanfiction.

The quality of fanfiction was a big issue when fans forked over money for the privilege; and judging the quality was a big topic of conversation. Zine reviews rated products on readability, art, and a number of other things; and almost always included a section on whether a fan got her or his money's worth with a zine's purchase. Whereas today, a fan can easily make the choice to click a back button on a disappointing piece of fiction or art, fans who'd paid cold hard cash (and had often waited months, sometimes years) had much more invested in fanworks.

One fan writes:
The Castaways... at $2.50? After all, there are zines, good solid zines that cost more and are worth it. There are even more zines that cost more and aren't worth it. And I'm sure that Vicki Kirlin isn't making one cent off this project, what with the fancy two-color cover and the nice, heavy paper stock, and the unreduced type. It is very pretty. It is also overpriced... Interphase is worth $6. Sol Plus is not. The Other Side of Paradise is worth $3. Contact is not. Masiform D is worth a buck… [21]

Fans filled letterzines with complaints about zine covers being too intricate (read: expensive), and white space and filler art getting in the way of the meat of a zine. There was a constant battle over font size, and whether a zine was good if it squeezed in as much type as possible, or if it was bad because the print was too small. Fans were constantly discussing zines and whether they had gotten their money's worth.

Some comments:

Unquestionably, we have entered the era of value of money in Trekzines. TOSOP #2 may be the best bargain available at this particular moment, for quantity of high-quality work. It looks good and reads well, and it offers a variety of types of stories, articles, artwork and poetry. [22]
IPH is worth the lauds, worth the critical abeyance, and worth the three bucks plus postage. [23]
Some zine eds have a tendency to reject out of hand letters of comment that are not favorable. They won't print them; they label them unnecessarily harsh. They say the letter letter is reacting out of proportion -- after all, 'it's only a hobby.' So what's wrong with this attitude, other than the obvious fact that the zine reader's right to express an opinion... is guaranteed by the Constitution? Well, it may be YOUR 'hobby,' but if you want readers to pay out THEIR hard-earned dollars for it, it entitles them to comment on any aspect of your zine from the staples to the copyright notice... With the ever-increasing costs of purchasing zines, this factor becomes more and more important. For those of you who are just in it for the Vanity Press, who don't want to hear anything but ego-boo and the compliments, you'd be much better off to just hand your material away free to your family and friends. [24]

There was much debate surrounding critical reviews of zines. Discussion abounded in letterzines, in adzines, and LoCs everywhere as fans debated the value of what they felt to be overly critical and harsh reviews. The reviewers would, in turn argue that one of the goals of these pointed reivews was to keep fans from wasting their money on crappy zines.

A fan comments:
The main purpose of a fanzine review is to provide potential purchasers with a basis on which to decide whether or not they wish to order the zine. [25]

Some would argue that the exchange of currency for fiction was one way to ensure that the quality of said fiction would remain high—a monetary hoop all authors and artists had to jump through. Fans who experience the availability of fiction on the internet today could argue that it was simply one more gatekeeper, an obstacle to creativity and accessibility.

Elitism

Even as early as 1986, fans were complaining that zines were elitist.

One fan writes:
...if you don't have the right sort of 'connections' to borrow the zines from and you don't have the bucks, you can't get a zine. In addition, if you write a story, even a GOOD story, and it, for some reason, doesn't fit the zine ed's view of the universe, it'll get rejected; if it doesn't fit the theme of the zine, it'll get rejected; and if it isn't that good a story, it'll get bumped too. At least, with the circuit, the first timers and the stories that are, sometimes not quite zine quality, get an outing. These are the things, that to my mind... make the circuit (and the Library) more democratic and less exclusive that zines will ever manage to be. [26]

Some fans argue that in today's era of online access, buying and selling fanzines is elitist:

I hate zines on principle. Don't think I could pay for fanfiction of any kind. I also find it snooty and shady when these authors lock up their fic into zines. I mean, what's the point in todays society when everything is digital? ~batgurl10[27]

Others point out that not everyone has access to a computer, even in developed countries like US or Europe. In addition, some fans have accessibility issues that preclude them from reading online. Both statements counter the elitist argument with one of their own, namely that online fandom has equal potential of being exclusionary. [28]

For others, the worry is that if fanzines once again become the norm or if too many fan writers stop offering their fan fiction for free, it would be a shift in our fannish culture:
In effect we would create a two tier fandom the haves and the have nots, and that's something I wouldn't want to be a part of....I'd be sad to see her fan fic and fan fic in general become a 'pay as you read' commodity for the simple fact that in my own case anyway, I couldn't afford to pay for that commodity. I'd feel excluded and in all probability would be forced to leave fandom, and that saddens me because fan fiction and the wonderful people that I have encountered in its warm embrace have brought me great joy. ~nicky69[29]

Some fans feel that zines have an exclusionary effect based on region as well. A zine that is quite cheap to purchase via media mail in the United States will be significantly more expensive once postage to Canada is factored in and often prohibitively expensive if a fan is paying postage to Australia or South America or Europe. Most zines, at least most zines about which it's easy to find information, seem to come from the US or the UK with only a handful from other locations. Fans in other countries often feel that it is only through the internet that they are able to participate in fandom.

Perhaps the middle of the road approach is to recognize that fanzines "obviously provide a service and for fill a need, because we as individuals all have our own preferred way of reading fan fic, some prefer to use the net, some like the weight of an actual book in their hands, neither option is better than the other, just different." ~nicky69 [29]

Regarding the subject of elitism and fandom, some fans in the mid to late 1990's felt that it was the computer and internet fandom that was elitist, citing the costs of a computer, of internet access, and the costs, many hidden, that went into online life. Fans wrote in The K/S Press that it was the availability of print that kept things affordable and accessible to everyone.

Or, as some might say: Fandom should continue to operate under the principles of IDIC.

Visibility

Fanzines predated the Internet by decades; however, when it came to visibility on the Internet some fanzine publishers were slow to embrace the Internet's marketing and outreach opportunities. While fanzine listings can be found as early as 1984, they were often buried among more general book store or part of other general fandom merchandise and fan club listings.[30] Slash (or K/S) was rarely mentioned, although there was one 1985 Usenet post to net.startrek explaining why info on K/S, even though popular among fans, was not something that should be widely disseminated.[31]

A few fanzine publishers did end up on the Internet; whether intentionally or not. In 1992 Kathryn Andersen compiled an extensive seven part Blake's 7 fanzine list and posted it to rec.arts.sf.tv. It included mainly gen fanzines along with a smattering of slash zines. [32] Also in 1992 a fan posted ordering information for several K/S zine publishers to rec.arts.startrek.misc including Wendy Rathbone and Bill Hupe.[33] In 1993, Star Wars fanzine ordering info was posted to rec.arts.sf.starwars. The listing was intended to include both gen and slash fanzines, although no specific slash fanzines were part of the initial posting.[34] Quantum Leap fanzines and reviews were posted to rec.arts.sf.tv.quantum-leap. While only gen zines were listed, the list owner did invite fellow fans to compile their own slash fanzine list.[35] Other newsgroups included information on where to order Battlestar Galactica fanzines[36] and Doctor Who zines.[37] By 1995, fanzine advertisements on the open Internet for both gen and slash zines were neither new or unusual, although slash fanzine publishers tended to publicize in smaller numbers.

It was against this backdrop that in 1995 one fan decided to take advantage of the World Wide Web graphical web and create a website listing slash fanzine publishers. Websites were still a relatively new phenomena to most Internet fans with most of their fannish communication taking place via person to person email, closed mailing lists, private bulletin boards and the public Usenet. The fan began by contacting fanzine publishers in 1995 and sending emails and letters requesting permission to put their ordering information onto a secured website. Some of their contact info had been obtained, with permission, through On the Double, a fanzine adzine. The site was intended to be password protected and initially only the fanzine publishers and volunteers assisting with proofreading the site had access.[38]

However, one of the zine editors passed on the info to her friend who claimed she was able to access the site without the password. Her friend immediately began raising the alarm and in September 1995 posted to Virgule-L, the slash mailing list, that someone (whom she refused to identify) had listed the addresses of fanzine publishers without permission. The vagueness of her alarm and the lack of specifics resulted in a swift and negative reaction in the online slash community with many raising valid concerns about outing and privacy violations. As one publisher commented: "We put our flyers in fanzines. At SF and media conventions. In places where we are relatively certain other fans (Slashfans) will have access to them but not necessarily the general public. The WWW is like a YELLOW PAGES. Why put slash in the yellow pages?" [39] And, even though the coordinator immediately posted to the mailing list the full details of the project, including the fact that the website logs had shown no unauthorized access, the overall reaction remained negative.[40] The site was quickly taken down and the website owner begged fans to let everyone know that the project was always intended to list contact info only with permission. However, a month later the tale had grown in scope and had become the subject of (inaccurate gossip) at Zebracon. (See issue #23 of Come Together).

A small focus group at the con discussed the feasibility of putting slash on the net:
The 'pro' people said: having zines available on a web site would be a) cool--i.e., the first zine out there would get additional fannish interest, b) it would go along with the 'personallizing your web site' idea: if slash is one of the most important things in your life, your web site should reflect that, and c) it would bring new people to slash. The 'antis' mostly said the same things that are said any time we discuss 'slash' being mentioned in the mundane world: a) could endanger us by making the copyright holders more aware of what we're doing, and b) growth for its own sake is not good: bigger community [equals]! stronger community. Most of the people there agreed that a flyer *for* *your* *own* zine including a PO box (rather than a home address) could be cool, but we broke down again trying to decide whether you'd link the flyer to a 'zines 101' page, or just let it be self-selecting: people who know what zines are order your zine, people who don't go away confused, and don't cause us trouble (we hope). [41]

Less than a year later, another fan who was a member of a more openly advertised slash mailing list, slash-sis posted emails and addresses (and in a few cases the phone numbers)[42] of fanzine publishers and convention organizers. Again, members of the slash community objected, but the website owner left the website up, although she did remove individual contact info upon request. [43] The website which had been optimized to be invisible to search engines was later used as the basis for a magazine article about slash, proving to some fans that their fears of visibility were not unfounded.[44] By November 1996, Yahoo's search page had created a category just for slash websites: "News and Media:Television:Shows:Fan Fiction:Slash".[45]

These facts serve to illustrate that fanzine publishers, and slash fanzine publishers in particular, remained uncertain how to use the extra visibility afforded by the Internet. However, as with most fannish print vs. online interactions, the bulk of fandom simply bypassed the fanzine publisher's reservations and began posting their fan fiction - and even their slash fan fic - directly, first to closed archives and eventually to public websites. By 2000, most fanzine publishers had followed suit and set up their own websites, although by the time they fully embraced online advertising, print fanzines had significantly fallen in popularity.[46]

Legality

As fanzines faded from fannish life, a few newer fans who had only seen fan fiction online developed a negative, almost hostile attitude towards the buying and selling of fanzines suggesting they were, among other things, elitist and illegal.

In 2009, a copy of a custom zine found its way for sale on eBay which then led to some fans to argue that all fanzines were a violation of copyright law and were 'putting fandom in peril' by introducing profit to fan fiction. [47] The fact that fan fiction had existed solely in fanzine format prior to the Internet and that reimbursement printing costs was necessary in order for the fan fiction to be shared was conveniently overlooked. It was as if Internet fans were throwing away 30 years of fannish traditions in their desire to protect the rights of fan writers to control the distribution of their fan works. [48] In many ways, some might argue that fandom is increasingly folding some of the more restrictive copyright practices of the book publishing and entertainment industries into their culture. [49]

Ironically, as some legal experts point out, if printing and selling a fanzine is illegal, so is writing and posting a fan story. All fan fiction runs the risk of being considered an infringing act. It is the fair use defense that can shield fannish activities as an authorized use of copyrighted material. Or to put it another way, the fair use defense depends on a number of factors, and profit is only one of those factors. Increasingly, more courts are dismissing the 'profit' factor in order to find a whole host of previously 'fair use' activities to be acts of infringement. [50] The "don't sue me, I make no money!" disclaimer may no longer be worth the paper it is (or is not) printed on.

Decline in Quality

While zines are still being produced today, some fans feel that do not measure up to the quality standards of decades past. As klangley56 explains:
...of course the overall quality of fan fiction has declined--greatly. How could it be otherwise, when the Internet is the ultimate Vanity Press, on a global scale. With...technology and ease of access, ever more “zine compilers” (as they have been dubbed by a friend) have joined the zine production ranks. (With today’s technology, it literally is possible to produce a zine without ever reading its contents.) Zine compilers either do not have, or see no need for, editorial judgment and critical standards. Judging by the zines they produce, they must say “yes” to every contribution that hits the e-mail inbox, and these contributions apparently go directly from the contributor’s keyboard to the final printed product, with no stops for editing (even basic copyediting) or revision in between. Any zine quality achieved as a result of this would be in spite of the efforts of the zine compilers, not because of them. Zines of this type muddy the waters for the zine editors/publishers genuinely practicing the craft of zine production, as zine compilers seem to beget more zine compilers ("Oh, is that all you have to do to make a zine? *I* can do that."). [51]
Langley positions her view on zines in the overall context of the Internet's impact on fandom, arguing that there has been an overall decline in both the quality of writing, quality of zine production as well as the quality of fannish discourse. In short, technology and ease of access have cost fandom dearly:
And, of course, the Internet has produced a major shift as well, with archives, fiction lists, individual Web sites, Live Journals, etc. For many, this technological freedom for as many fans as possible to contribute is a big plus. However, the freedom to create fiction that goes directly from the keyboard to public distribution, often without benefit of anyone's second thoughts, is also a very large minus. Again, good things can and do happen in the arena of online fan fiction, but my perception is that the vast majority of story posters seem to be without adequate writing skills or the urge to acquire them, or access to or interest in proficient editing ("beta-reading" as it is in modern fan vernacular). And, as with the ever-increasing number of lousy zines, the lousy fan fiction spawns more of the same ("Oh, that's all I have to do to post a story? *I* can do that.")

And that's not even taking into account how the process of interaction between writers and readers also has greatly changed over the decades, and the negative effect that has had on quality as well.

So, yes, I *would* say that "things were better in the good old days," and I believe my glasses are still my normal prescription and not particularly rose-colored…. [52]
Another fan's opinion: Deb Walsh writes:
Lest we attribute a quality to zines that wasn’t always there, I will admit that there were plenty of zines that were every bit as bad as the worst netfic. I remember one zine that came out at a con, eagerly awaited, touted as the largest zine ever done up to that point. People snatched it up. And within an hour, tried to sell off their copies. The proofreading was so poor, the errors were circled and pubished [sic] that way. And apparently the story could have been less than half its length, and still been too long. And then there were the zines that accepted anything without editing. [53]

Additional Reading

References

  1. a September 1999 interview with Judith Gran, accessed 5.15.2011
  2. Franzeska in “Re: Sharing and Preserving Printed FanFic” from Zinelist, quoted by permission, 6.1.2011
  3. Mako's Tank: Daily Ravings of a Slash Hysteric -- Rant Ahead/reference link, posted December 1, 2001, accessed June 5, 2013
  4. Where to get Star TRek Voyager P/K AND P/T fanfiction???? post to alt.startrek.creative dated August 1, 1999.
  5. from Not Tonight, Spock! #2
  6. VenicePlace, accessed 12.15.2010;webcite
  7. VenicePlace, accessed 12.15.2010; webcite
  8. from the editorial in Leave a Light On for Me
  9. The Starsky & Hutch Lending Library, accessed 12.15.2010. As of 2010, no progress has been made on the Library's digitization plans. The current debate is whether to use an opt-in only model with offline distribution on timed-out CD disks. Basically, the concept of online distribution and open access to historical records remains elusive.
  10. My Life in Fandom: Presentation and Purpose; WebCite, accessed 5.4.2011
  11. from the editorial in Wild Cards #5
  12. From Morgan Dawn's personal notes, accessed October 4, 2010
  13. Orion Press, accessed 12.7.2010
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 No More Zines? :-( as posted by the-othersandy on August 15, 2007; Webcite.
  15. How to publish a 'zine (was: fanfic on the net) post to alt.startrek.creative dated May 31, 1999.
  16. How to publish a 'zine (was: fanfic on the net) post to alt.startrek.creative dated May 31, 1999.
  17. How to publish a 'zine (was: fanfic on the net) post to alt.startrek.creative dated May 31, 1999.
  18. How to publish a 'zine (was: fanfic on the net) post to alt.startrek.creative dated May 31, 1999.
  19. comment in the Grr post on LJ dated June 23, 201;reference link.
  20. comment in the Grr post on LJ dated June 23, 201;reference link.
  21. from Implosion #5
  22. from a review of The Other Side of Paradise #2 from The Halkan Council #24
  23. from a review of Interphase from The Halkan Council #10
  24. a long-time fan writes a letter with a focus of the purpose of LoCs and reviews in Comlink #44
  25. from Datazine #8
  26. from The Hatstand Express #10
  27. Comment by batgurl10 in Poll: I'd like to hear your thoughts. Post by fluterbev, 26 February 2009. webcitation.
  28. Livejournal posts by fluterbev. Poll: I'd like to hear your thoughts (webcite) and Meta: Profiting from fanfiction (a follow up to my recent poll) (webcite). 26-27 February 2009. (accessed October 4, 2010). See discussion in comments.
  29. 29.0 29.1 Comment from nicky69 in Poll: I'd like to hear your thoughts. Post by fluterbev, 26 February 2009. webcitation
  30. See the Star Trek Dealer's List (VERY LONG !!) post to rec.arts.startrek dated September 7, 1990.
  31. "Feminists who are interested in erotica written by women for women should find themselves very able to "stomach" K/S. They should check out the rave review of K/S written by SF feminist author Joanna Russ in a fanzine named NOME, "Another Addict Raves about K/S." Naturally there is a spectrum of material--from mild to X-rated, from well-written to total trash. This material is widely circulated, but not "Published" in the ordinary, or profit-making sense, and is in fact underground material of great interest to the participants--the writers, readers and editors. Unfortunately, attention paid to K/S for its feminist importance, may be damaging to fandom as a whole, if Paramount gets too interested in it. Starsky/Hutch and Star Wars fandoms were severely restricted by paranoid producers. Joanna has refused to supply the names of K/S editors and writers to the editors of Penthouse FORUM--but FORUM is interested. As for the writers involved, writing fan material is wonderful fun, and may just provide the impetus for writers to break into publication, as a number of fan writers have. While it is true that REAL SF writers look askance at Trek as formula fiction, the first item of importance to most aspiring writers is GETTING PUBLISHED. Trek is a "hungry" market." Requested information on K/S post dated August 14, 1985. The info about K/S was offered in response to an inquiry by a net.starttrek fan after reading about K/S in a Kirkland, Washington area newspaper. See Star Trek erotica?!? dated August 6, 1985. Read a cautious follow-up reply here.
  32. Blake's 7 Address Listing (1/7) dated October 10, 1992. A few months earlier fans had also posted slash and gen Blake's 7 fanzine publisher addresses, along with a discussion of slash and their ordering experiences. See Blakes 7 Fanzines dated April 1992 and More on B7 zines dated April 17, 1993.
  33. Kirk/Spock zines dated September 20, 1992.
  34. SW fanzine list dated December 17, 1993.
  35. QL Fanzine List Update + Reviews dated June 20, 1994.
  36. BSG Digest 100 post to rec.arts.sf.tv dated April 17, 1995.
  37. fanzines post to net.tv.drwho dated January 31, 1984.
  38. Source: Morgan Dawn's personal notes, accessed November 18, 2012.
  39. Charlotte Hill's post to the Virgule-L mailing list dated September 14, 1995, quoted with permission. Today, 17 years later, she adds that given how exuberantly open slash fandom has become, it deserved "its own damn marquee on Times Square."
  40. One of these details illustrated just how unfamiliar most fans were with the Internet and computer technology. While the project coordinator thought she had obtained permission from the editor of On the Double to include the adzine's publishing info, the editor claimed she had no idea it was going onto a 'public' website. Another detail was that even before the website address was leaked, the owner stripped much of the contact info because she was worried that URL would be leaked (as it was – by the very zine publishers she was attempting to protect.) Source: Morgan Dawn's personal notes, accessed November 18, 2012.
  41. Sandy Hereld's post "the web and fandom..." to the Virgule-L mailing list dated November 1, 1995, quoted with permission.
  42. The editors of Plastic Cow Press received a phone call from a reporter writing an article about slash fandom during which he requested a copy of their adzine Media Monitor. Source: Morgan Dawn's personal notes accessed Feb 26, 2014.
  43. The June 1996 version of the website read: "Hello and welcome to the Slash Home Page! My name is Kronette. (note: this is the fan's current pseud. She used her real name at the time). I'll be your host, taking you through the maze of depraved, disgusting, and downright delicious story montage! I am just the 'keeper' here; all authors retain copyrights over their stories. Do not publish, pass around, or otherwise attempt to make any money off of them, or we'll come after you. A quick explanation -- this page was created to give us slashers one central place for our stories. After the authors listing, you'll find stories by said author and where to obtain their stories. Just click on the author's name and away you go! Once at said author's list, clicking on their name will let you send email directly to them; some have their own web pages where their stories are available. I'll update this as I get new information!" Source: Morgan Dawn's personal notes, accessed November 19, 2012.
  44. Please Not In Front Of The Klingons Captain by Gareth Branwyn dated September 1996. In a sidebar, Gareth noted that as soon as he had contacted the zine publishers they vanished and some refused to send him any further details. See Access To Slash Sidebar.
  45. "Just when I think I'm so blase, and so over the 'outing' of slash on the net conversation, something else boggles my mind...Remember when some people went ballistic on this list over a proposed page? I'm on another list that's currently agonizing over whether to have a slash web page, (you know, the same things we argued about: what's the state of the art for security, should you list people's full names, and contact addresses, should you explain what slash is...). Slash-sis list went through it a few months back when their page (which they thought was unsearchable), was used as a starting place for a web article on slash. It's fascinating to watch the questions unfold again, each time with a little more information left over from last time..." Sandy Hereld's post to Virgule-L mailing list dated November 7, 1996.
  46. By 1997, Fan Fiction on the Net began listing slash zine info, along with slash websites. KnightWriter Press' zine website predates [http://web.archive.org/web/19981205191342/http://www.nas. com/~lknight/index.html 1998]. The earliest archived website for Agent With Style dates back to 1998. Teeny Gozer Production set up Fanzines.com in 1998.
  47. Excerpts from the July 2009 "PSA to Fanfic Writers"
    "If you are a Fanfic writer or Artist please go to this ebay site doctor_beth2000 and check to see if YOUR fanworks or someones you know and like are being sold as Fanzines for profit in what appears to be a very lucrative and active operation." petzipellepingo, dated July 29, 2009 and
    "I've never charged anyone for my fan works and actually turned down an invitation to a fanzine because I disliked the idea that anyone would have to pay for my creations, even if it was purportedly just for production costs. Seeing the 'real' fanzines listed for sale in that Ebay store just adds to my personal reasons not to participate in such projects." cited in 'Interesting copyright infringement issue', Fandom Lawyers, dated July 29, 2009).
  48. :"Publishing and selling a fanzine is not a crime. It is not (although this is arguable) a violation of copyright (see 'fair use' defense). Publishing and selling a fanzine is no greater of a copyright violation than publishing your fan fiction online (in fact, more and more courts are skipping over the exchange of money when applying the fair use defense, so free online fan fiction does not necessarily get greater legal protection). Fans have been publishing and selling fan fiction in the form of fanzines for over 30 years. Let's not try to rewrite history to fit current flashpoints in the copyright debate."' from 'Fanzines and Fan Fiction Are Not Crimes, Morgan Dawn's blog dated July 26, 2009.
  49. Common misperceptions as to the legality of fan fiction overall often lead to a chilling effect dissuading fans from participating in fanzine publications. Compare these discussions about the legality of fanzines:
    "I'm pretty sure that what doctor_beth2000 is doing is illegal on quite a few levels. It is a violation of copyright law to make a profit off of someone else's work without permission. Fanzines normally are given for free or nominal cost - because of this rule. The original creators of the work could sue them, and the fanfic writers could potentially sue."petzipellepingo, July 26, 2009[1] and
    "While it is permitted to create a fanzine and to sell one, you have to get permission from the owners of the work first. IF you do not, then you are in violation of Copyright Law", shadowkat67, July 26, 2009
    with the fair use and legal discussion in 'Interesting copyright infringement issue', Fandom Lawyers, dated July 29, 2009. It is not surprising then that this leads to the following negative attitudes towards fanzines in general:
    "I do not charge for what I'm creating for my fandoms. In return, all I ask is that no one else charge for my work either." danceswithgary, July 25, 2009 and
    "I've often thought about making zines of some off my BtVS fic. Online archives are fine, but there's nothing quite as satisfying as holding concrete proof of your literary efforts in your hands. Stuff like this, though, pretty much ensures I'm never going to do it. I guarantee that the updates and clarifications are not going to spread half so far across the net as the original accusations." rahirah, July 26, 2009
  50. See Tushnet's User-Generated Discontent: Transformation in Practice, 2008 in which she argues that the non-profit aspect needs to play a more central role when courts analyze transformative works.
  51. comment to the difference between fanfic and profic, dated April 6, 2007, accessed Feb 9, 2011; WebCite.
  52. comment to the difference between fanfic and profic, dated April 6, 2007, accessed Feb 9, 2011; WebCite.
  53. My Life in Fandom: Presentation and Purpose, accessed 5.4.2011
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