An Open Letter to Fandom by Deb Walsh (1988)

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Open Letter
Title: An Open Letter to Fandom by Deb Walsh (1988)
From: Deb Walsh
Addressed To: Fans attending conventions
Date(s): 1988
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS, Blake's 7, others
Topic: Zine Pirating
External Links:
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An Open Letter to Fandom by Deb Walsh is undated but appears to have been written in mid-to-late 1988.

It was printed in Freedom City Gazette #4.

The subject was zine piracy.

Another open letter written at the same time and addressing the same topic was An Open Letter to Fandom by Della Van Hise (1988). In fact, Van Hise, references Walsh's letter in her own.

Another similar 1988 open letter is by Diane Gies: see The 1988 Blake's 7 Bootlegged Zines Discussion.

Some Topics Discussed

The Letter

Later Open Letters: by Zine Publishers/Con Organizers Addressing the Same Topic

In 1993 and 1994, a number of Open Letters circulated in fandom, regarding the photocopying of in-print zines.

Note: Della Van Hise and Alexis Fegan Black are the same person.

Excerpts from Walsh's 1988 Letter


Last spring, it came to my attention that a fannish dealer on the West Coast was making and selling copies of my fanzines (B7 Complex) without my permission. I wrote to the dealer, whom I knew through B7 fandom, and included a SASE for a reply to my offer to allow her to represent my zines legitimately on the West Coast. I never received a reply.

Recently (this fall), I learned that she was still selling my zines, duplicated without my permission, as well as several other zines for which she had no reproduction or sale rights. Many of the zines she's copying and selling without permission are in print and available legitimately, at cheaper prices and higher quality from the editors/publishers.

So why are people buying zines from this dealer? The answer is, in part, a lack of information. So here are some facts:

1. The name of the dealer in question is Bonnie Vitti. She deals a wide range of merchandise, and only the zines listed below are being identified as illegal merchandise; the remainder of her stock may well be legitimate. She may not be the only dealer selling illicitly reproduced zines; she is the only dealer I know of at this time selling illicitly reproduced zines.

2. Among the unauthorized zines that she's selling, several of them are still in print, and available by mail from the editor/publisher who originated them. Bonnie has not requested, nor has she been granted, reproduction rights for any of these listed zines. For more information, send a SASE to the editor for ordering information:

B7 Complex [redacted]
Forbidden Zone [redacted]
Southern Seven, Southern Lights, Last Stand at the Edge of the World [redacted]
Strategies [redacted]

Why should you, as a fan, purchase a "legitimate" zine versus a "bootleg" zine? Not least of the many reasons, bootlegging is stealing. It diverts income from the person who made the initial investment to create the fanzine (the editor or publisher) into the pocket of someone who has done nothing more than to purchase a zine, take it apart, and copy it to make a profit. There are some who consider this "artistic rape," a misuse of someone else's efforts and talent. Diverting the income from zine sales away from the originating editor can also mean that the editor or publisher does not break even on producing a zine — it can mean personal financial crisis for the editor/publisher (zine publishing is a very expensive hobby, especially if someone else is reaping the rewards!), and if there are no funds to put into subsequent issues, it can mean that a zine may be forced to close down. This has happened in other fandoms; there is no reason why it must happen in B7 fandom. Certainly if an editor cannot sell all the copies of a zine he or she has printed, there's little argument to convince him or her to produce more zines with the next issue, or even to produce a next issue at all.

Buying bootleg zines is not necessary in most cases — there are lots of Blake's 7 zines in print right now, easily available from the editor who put them together. Purchasing a zine from an editor is not just a way to get a zine legitimately, at the best price and in the best condition, it's also a vote for the fanzine — and purchasing directly from the editor casts your vote that you want that zine to continue. Purchasing zines from authorized sources — e.g., the originating editor/publisher — really is supporting your local fandom.

So the message of this statement is please help us keep Blake's 7 fandom alive and flourishing by boycotting bootleg zine dealers. If you want to purchase zines at cons instead of by mail, drop the editor a note (don't forget a SASE) asking what cons their zines will be available at, and who will be selling them. If you need information on how to order zines not listed here, contact your local club, or drop me (Deb Walsh) a line, with a SASE, with your information request. And remember — for the zines listed above, Bonnie Vitti is not, has never been, and never will be an authorized agent.