Ann Wortham's Response to Connie-Sue Hamilton

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Open Letter
Title: Is Fandom Slipping into McCarthyism?
From: Ann Wortham
Addressed To: Connie-Sue Hamilton (fan), Joe Isham (editor of Tarriel Cell), and general fandom
Date(s): April 1994
Medium: print
Fandom:
Topic: zine piracy
External Links:
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Ann Wortham's Response to Connie-Sue Hamilton was printed in Tarriel Cell v. 7 n.4 (April 1994) and can be read here: Tarriel Cell.[1]

It is a direct response to the letter: Is Fandom Slipping into McCarthyism?.

The subject was zine piracy.

Some Background Information

Making copies of zines that were still in print could be financially damaging to many zine editors and publishers. It was an issue that was first publicly discussed in media fandom in the eleventh issue of Probe in August 1977. The editor, Winston A. Howlett, wrote:
Have you heard of the Underground? The one in ST fandom... They Xerox things. Lots of things. Like parts of fanzines, or whole fanzines, or even whole sets of fanzines. All without permission of any kind from anyone who had anything to do with the fanzine's production. And I'm not talking about just a copy for 'personal entertainment,' but five, ten, forty copies... whatever number fits their 'small circle of friends.' Sometimes they sell them, sometimes they trade them for other fanzines (copies or originals), sometimes they give them away...to someone else who also has free access to a duplicating machine and another circle of friends. I first heard about the Underground when a fellow zine editor stumbled across a Xerox of her visual series (elaborate comic book if you will) in the hands of a neo-fan at a con. Said neo praised the artist/editor for her work and casually mentioned that 'XYZ in California' had Xeroxed about forty copies and spread them all over the country... People with free access to Xerox machines make me very nervous, if just for the built-in temptation that the devices [will be] be used irresponsibly. What good is all the extra effort and expense an editor goes through to acquire a special story or article for an issue, when somebody with the 'Start Print' Syndrome can wreck the whole process? In case you hadn't thought about it, zine editors don't just give their works that extra effort just for the sake of the art, but to acquire new readers. In short, friends, when you fellow Trekfan starts drooling over your latest zine purchase, try gently imploring them to buy their own copy, instead of running to Daddy's office.[2] Xerox doesn't need the business, but we do.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, there were strong feelings in fandom about some fans who were making copies of zines still in print and were, from one point of view, "stealing" from zine publishers by copying in-print zines. There were also strong feelings about zine editors who kept zines in print forever, thus continuing to make sales while the story authors never received any additional compensation. This coincided with growing resentment among other groups of fans regarding rising zine prices, often for zines which they felt were not worth the higher prices.

Many of these tensions came to a head at, and after, RevelCon 1993.

A Series of Open Letters: by Zine Publishers/Con Organizers

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.

Some related earlier essays:

"Ann Wortham's Response to Connie-Sue Hamilton" by Ann Wortham: Introduction

In April 1994, Ann Wortham wrote a letter to Tarriel Cell V.7 N.4 in response to Is Fandom Slipping into McCarthyism?. Wortham's letter can be read in full at here.

Wortham's letter excerpted much from Zine Piracy Letter by Ann Wortham in Response to Candace Pulleine, but included a long introduction that specifically addressed Hamilton's letter six months previously.

"Ann Wortham's Response to Connie-Sue Hamilton" by Ann Wortham: Specific Comments Regarding Connie-Sue Hamilton's Letter (Excerpts)

I was pleased to find out you [Joe Isham, editor of Tarriel Cell] are online. It makes it so much easier to write to you. I didn't know that you were still around in Blake s 7 fandom. Anyway, an acquaintance of mine sent me a copy of an article that appeared in Tarriel Cell by Connie Sue Hamilton. I don't wish to take up a lot of space in your magazine, but I think it is only fair that I be allowed to reply to her allegations against me and my publications. Accordingly, I have attached my "standard" reply, and also a short reply which deals specifically with a few of the issues she raised. I hope you will be fair and print it. Thanks.

Regarding the article which appeared in Tarriel Cell, I'd like to make a few short comments:

Connie Sue Hamilton is hardly an objective person to be writing about Ashton Press. The only time she ever ordered a zine from me (years ago), she was so obnoxious that I refunded her money and invited her to never order from me again. I doubt she thinks kindly of me, under the circumstances.

Connie Sue also mentions some figures refolding the length of time it takes to make copies on single sheet feed copiers. I do not know what she based her "research" on. I will tell you from personal experience that when I turned printing of my older zines over to a new printer, I had to make single-sided masters (my old ones were missing or incomplete). I went to Office Depot and made single-sided masters off of the zines themselves (2-sided, in other words). I copied about 1500 pages and it only took me a couple hours. Of course, once you have a one sided master, you can make copies much faster. As for the figures regarding the number of copies made at Kinkos, the figures quoted by Bill Hupe were obtained directly from the Kinkos National Accounts Office. Since both Bill and I have National Accounts with Kinkos, the Kinkos national people were involved in finding out that information. What was Connie Sue's source to dispute this figure?

I do indeed have a letter in my possession wherein the author threatens to bootleg all my zines and tell all her friends to do so. The author is Joyce Davidson. Candace Pulleine was told of this letter and the author of it was named. In the very first letter Leah Rosenthal wrote to Candace, Leah told Candace about the letter from Davidson. Candace never asked to see a copy of the letter. In fact, she never replied to the fact that I had it, at all.

I have never addressed the issue of bootlegging at Revelcon in public, other than ONE sentence in Southern Lights 6, until the last month. In the last month, I have finally begun to defend myself. I have been, in fact, working over 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, at my job for well over a year. Candace has gone on a personal crusade against me and my publications in the meantime, sending huge packets of letters and sarcastic letters to fans far and wide.

There was indeed a short exchange on Prodigy months ago. It went something like the. "I hear there might have been a problem with boot-legging at Revelcon the year. It seems Bill Hupe couldn't give my Miami Vice zine away, even though sales seem to be going good elsewhere." And I replied: "Yes, it sounds like there might have been a problem. Unfortunately, Candace is not taking it seriously. Everytime someone contacts her, she reacts defensively, in spite of the fact that everyone has repeatedly tried to reassure her that she herself wasn't being accused of anything." Now, that's a paraphrase, because I don't think I kept copies of that innocuous little exchange. It was, in fact, the only time I've ever mentioned RevelCon in public other than the one sentence in Southern Lights 6.

"Ann Wortham's Response to Connie-Sue Hamilton" by Ann Wortham: "Standard Reply" -- Comments Printed in Zine Piracy Letter by Ann Wortham in Response to Candace Pulleine (Excerpts)

"What follows is the standard reply I have been forced to sending out"

In her first paragraph, Ann pointed out that she had not granted permission for her Southern Lights #6 editorial to be reprinted in full:

First of all, let me point out that Candace Pulleine has not asked my permission to reproduce the entire text of my editorial, and she certainly does not have the right to give everyone else permission to reprint the entire text of my Southern Lights 06 editorial. She is guilty of "bootlegging" it, in fact be that as it may, I will take that up with her.
One point to keep in mind: Southern Lights #5 had a bit of a complicated publishing schedule:
Bill had done me an enormous favor this year. I had the masters for Southern Lights 05 ready early, but I could not afford to print the zine myself until MediaWest. Bill knew that I had many pressing bills... so he offered to print the zine at his own expense for a limited run just for Revelcon. He said be would take care of telling everybody there that the zine would be "officially" available at MediaWest. When I checked my records I found that only 4 or 5 people who would be attending Revelcon had actually prepaid for the zine. After the convention. Bill said he had explained to these people that they would be getting their copies of Southern Lights #5 at MediaWest and none of them seemed to have a problem with this arrangement.

Anne then went on to write that she had been assured by Bill Hupe and other attendees that piracy had taken place at RevelCon and that the sales of her new zine Southern Lights #5 were impacted. The proof was that issue #5 sold poorly at RevelCon:

Bill informed me that there had apparently been a great deal of bootlegging taking place at this year's Revelcon. He was an eyewitness to several incidents that led him to believe it could be a major problem. Further investigation, and talking to other editors who were at the convention, revealed that there was a problem, and that many people were aware of it. Later, more editors would come forward maintaining that they stopped attending Revelcon due to the bootlegging they saw taking place…… It is my understanding that other editors wrote to her, as well Bill had told me that, although he did very well at the convention overall, he had not sold more than a copy or two of each issue, even brand new zines. On at least one occasion, two fans stood in front of his table; one was about to buy a zine and the other told her, "don't buy it; we're making a Kinkos run later and you can copy mine cheaper.

When Bill wrote to Candace, he used the sales of Southern Lights #5 as an example of how his sales of new zines went at the convention, since he knew my zine was well-known and generally sold well. (In fact, Southern Lights #5 sold very well at MediaWest... about as expected.)

Ann wrote that she herself had not spoken directly to Candace, but when her co-editor Leah Rosenthal phoned Candace to inform her of these facts, Leah felt their allegations were not taken seriously:

….we were certain that Candace must be unaware of the situation and that she would be horrified to know. Unfortunately, Candace's attitude was one of complete denial. She kept asking Leah how we could know what happened at Revelcon since we weren't there. (People talk to us, Candace, that's how we could know!) Leah hung up with the feeling that Candace was completely unconcerned and wondering why the head of a convention would react so defensively. So, Leah followed up with a letter, again simply asking Candace to put in place some safeguards for future Revelcons, to insure that bootlegging would at least be discouraged.

In a later section Ann wrote:

All that was originally asked for on the part of Leah, Bill and others was a simple statement of policy from Candace that bootlegging would not be tolerated at Revelcon in the future. This was handled privately in the beginning and could have remained so, if Candace had reacted responsibly instead of with defensive hurt pride.
Ann's letter suggests that the debate’s focus on the sales of Southern Lights #5 was a misdirection from the larger issue of piracy:
[Candace] seemed to be maintaining that if people bootlegged my zines, they were justified because, after all, I had held one person's deposit on a zine for two years! She seems to have totally missed the point that Bill was trying to make regarding overall poor tales at Revelcon, tied in with the eyewitness accounts of bootlegging attempts/plans. The sales of Southern Lights #5 at Revelcon or anywhere else are not the issue. Launching personal attacks against me and my publications does not do anything to solve the problem [of bootlegging].

Ann's letter then outlines several other negative responses she had responded from Revelcon supporters and concluded that Revelcon attendees were working to drive zine publishers out of business:

I have received hate mail from others in the Houston area whom Candace has obviously recruited in her campaign. I would say this is a case of "shoot the messenger"... except I never even wrote or spoke to Candace myself. I am shocked and disappointed to learn that Houston area fandom would react in this way to the knowledge that some fans among them are apparently driving up the cost of zines and, literally, plotting zine editors out of business….. “ Evidence of this plot came in the form of a letter: “… I have in my possession a handwritten letter from a Revelcon attendee, wherein Joyce Davidson tells me pointblank that she intends to bootleg my zines and encourage all her friends to do to, as well.

References

  1. archive link, Tarriel Cell, April 1994
  2. Winston Howlett uses "running to Daddy's office" to infantilize fic readers, something that Fegan Black does later with her use of the phrase "Suzy Cue trotting down to Kinko's" in May 1993's open letter Open Letter to Fandom by Alexis Fegan Black Regarding Zine Pirating.