A 'zine! A 'zine! My kingdom for a 'zine!

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Title: A 'zine! A 'zine! My kingdom for a 'zine!
Creator: LJC
Date(s): February 9, 2000
Medium: online
Fandom: many
External Links: A 'zine! A 'zine! My kingdom for a 'zine!, Archived version
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Other Essays by ljc

A 'zine! A 'zine! My kingdom for a 'zine! is an essay by LJC.

The subject: the history and production of zines. "...the goal of this column is actually to get more online folks to read fanzines."


Once upon a time, there were beautiful, well-crafted, lovingly edited and produced books published by fans called "fanzines."

'Zines were the logical next step from APAs (Amateur Press Associations) — mimeographed or Xeroxed stories sent through the mail, that began back in the days of pulp magazines. They were sold at conventions, and through the mail, and spanned the globe. In Japan, some 'zines were in the form of fan-written and drawn manga (black and white comics). In the US and the UK, they were produced annually (or whenever there were enough submissions to make up a decent sized issue) and debuted on a schedule usually based around fanzine conventions such as mediawest and revelcon. Some were typed out on typewriters, others were typeset using computers, and still others were run off disk on docutec machines and were as slick as any professional fiction anthology. All were crafted with love.

They contained cartoons, vignettes, poems, filks, short stories, novellas, and novels illustrated by some of the best artists in fandom such as the incomparable jean kluge, Marty Siegrist, and Suzan Lovett. They were sold at cost with few notable exceptions (Beauty and the Beast fandom being the chief one — and a practically criminal example at that, where some fanzine publishers charged up to three times the cost of printing), with editors and publishers often going into the red to do so. Readers paid for cost of printing and binding, and got the stories, artwork, poetry, layout, design, and editing for free.
'Zines are still being produced, and have not been "replaced" by the Internet. However, while the relationship between online fanfic fandom and off-line fanzine fandom remains new, awkward, and generally uneasy, with each passing year one group teaches and learns from the other. Speaking as someone with a foot in both worlds, please believe me when I say that if you're an online fan and have never held a fanzine in your hands, you are missing out on something truly special and part of makes fandom, well... fandom. The differences between printing out your favourite story and having it in a 'zine are many.
The icing on the cake—and what the web has yet to reproduce in the same way and with the same quality as well as quantity—is the fan art. 'Zine fans buy a fanzine as much for the art as the stories that accompany the illustrations. Illustrations bring the stories to life, and are what truly set fanzines apart from online fan fiction. They add an entirely new dimension to fan fiction, and can help the reader envision the stories more fully, or just provided droolable visions for the reader to lavish attention on between stories, poems, and novellas.
I won't lie to you; while most fanzines operate below radar, the internet has made it that much easier for lawyers who are trying to protect a studio's properties from pirates — including fan writers and fanzine publishers — to find and shut down those who break trademark and copyright by producing unlicensed merchandise. The risk to you is increased, particularly if you publicise your 'zine online. While it is rare, it has happened. Just ask Rat Patrol fans...

But aside from legalities, we're talking about morals here. It's just not ethical to try and make a profit off of other people's copyrighted characters —not to mention soaking fellow fans by over-charging—and I strongly suggest you set your sights on putting out the best work you are capable of, and trying to break even. Nobody likes pirates, and a fanzine publisher who tries to derive her living from 'zines is a blight on the entire fandom, not to mention gives the rest of us folks a bad name.

Fanzines have been a particular kind of joy in media fandom for the last thirty-odd years, and I cannot stress enough how much I personally have enjoyed reading them, writing and drawing for them, and even editing and publishing them.