Boldly Writing: A Trekker Fan and Zine History, 1967 - 1987

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Commentary
Title: Boldly Writing: A Trekker Fan and Zine History, 1967–1987
Commentator: Joan Marie Verba
Date(s): 1996
Medium: Book
Fandom: Star Trek, K/S
External Links: online PDF of the book, Amazon page, Google Book result
Boldly.jpg
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1998 notice in STAG #132

Written by the well-known Trek fan Joan Marie Verba, the subtitle of Boldly Writing: A Trekker Fan and Zine History, 1967 - 1987 says it all: It's a history of Star Trek fan activities from 1967 to 1987.

The author writes in a colloquial style, drops as many names as she could possibly remember, and lists all of the conventions she went to (or got flyers for). As a result, this book was the single best source for zine details and history (who published it, how many issues, whether it's all Trek, etc.) that Trek fandom had for many, many years.

The book is divided into five chronological sections:

  • The First Trekker Fanzines
  • Steady Growth
  • The Fanzine Explosion
  • The Splintering of Fandom
  • The Early Movie Years

From the Author

Joan Verba says Star Trek Lives! is what made her write Boldly Writing:

The first time I realized that there were Star Trek fans who were unaware of fanzine history was during a conversation in an autograph line at a 1982 Star Trek convention in St. Louis. While waiting, I casually mentioned Star Trek Lives! to the fans nearby. 'What's Star Trek Lives?' asked one of the fans. What's Star Trek Lives? The first mass-marketed paperback book (published 1975) to describe Star Trek fanzines. For thousands upon thousands of fans, this was when they became aware that such activity existed, and that they could join in. Almost overnight, Star Trek fanzine readers grew from a small intimate group of individuals who knew each other by reputation, at least, into a large, diversified network of enthusiasts. How could one be a Star Trek fan and not have heard of fanzines? But the incident that motivated me to finally sit down and write this book was an exchange of letters in June 1990. An editor had stated in her publication that Universal Translator had been the first regular publication to list fanzine descriptions. Checking my library, I found that Scuttlebutt had predated Universal Translator, so I wrote the editor, asking her to print a correction. She replied, '...when I asked friends who have been in fandom longer than I (actually they've been in fandom since fandom came into being), the response was, 'Who cares which was first?' I care. [1]

Boldly Writing. I gathered up all of my fanzines. I thought this would just take a summer.... I started this in like May or June of some year... I sorted [my zines] according to year, and I started taking notes. And I remember sitting on the couch in the living room with a stack of fanzines on one side and my notebook on the other just going through fanzines one by one, and taking notes of what was notable about this fanzine and when it was published and who published it, and if there are any notable stories or articles or artwork or anything like that. Going through all the fanzines year by year by year, and as I said, I thought it would take a summer.

It took three years. (Verba laughs) Which surprised me. And then it was done. I published in 1996, and I indexed it myself, which was quite something.

I ran off 500 copies. Now I thought this would sell in the thousands. I thought it would be really pop — it would be like Star Trek Lives! which was a hit and it sold in hundreds of thousands, and I thought Boldly Writing is going to sell in the thousands and thousands and thousands. It didn’t happen that way. It took five or six years to get out of my initial print run of 500. (Verba laughs)

But the people who are in popular culture — the fellows who were in popular culture — loved it. It’s quoted all the time. I see it quoted on Wikipedia.... I think that’s wonderful. What I’m particularly proud of is that I think that the fact that Mary Sue became such a popular term, and the fact that it is correctly attributed to Paula Smith as the first person who does it, I think Boldly Writing is responsible for that, because the scholars picked that up and reprinted it in their scholarly articles, and then people picked up on that, and so I’m very proud...

[...]

I’m not sure that I was the first person to attribute [the term Mary Sue to Paula Smith], but because the scholars were looking at Boldly Writing and publishing papers on it, I think that that’s what did it, and I’m just very pleased about that. When the print run ended, I had gathered up a lot of information after that with people, some people, wrote in and said, with either corrections or, umm, uhh, or enhancements to what I did, to what I said in Boldly Writing, and so I gathered up all that material, and I wrote up, and then I wrote up a second edition, including that material—the first edition materials plus the additions and corrections and enhancements that had put to me, and in 2003, I published another version of Boldly Writing, the second edition. It took me a year to index that. I’m not sure it took me a year to write it, but it took me a year to index that because I had to re-index the entire thing.

[...]

Yeah, I did it by hand, and I published the second edition in 2003, and that is the current edition, and then I put another cover upon it because Phil Foglio — I told you that I bought artwork at the SekWester con and the MediaWest cons. I bought, and Phil Foglio was very nice, and he included the rights to publish in the purchase price. I bought a satire, a satiric Star Trek sketch that he had made, and so the current edition of Boldly Writing is a second edition, but it has a different cover, and it has his cover on it, and I notified him of it, and he acknowledged the fact that I had bought the rights to it. He said, “Just send me a couple of copies,” and I did. Umm, so there is a new cover on the second edition, and that is not indexed because I had to reformat that for printing, and did not want to spend another year fighting another index.

So I do have a second edition, and since then, I gathered even more information. I gathered even more information every once in a while from people giving me more information, but since I’m not going to do a third edition, I just have that information sitting around. I sent some of it to Iowa. I think some of it is still here and may eventually go to Iowa, but other people have continued to comment on it, and I’m—even though it wasn’t a commercial success and never has been, I’m just thrilled with the fact that all the scholars and the researchers’ stuff—I think that Boldly Writing is worth citing and worth referring to and using as a reference, so I’m very happy with that. [2]

Reactions and Reviews

Unknown Date

This is one of the key books for anyone interested in Star Trek fandom, though it ends in 1987, as The Next Generation hits the airwaves. Of course, the tremendous mass appeal and success of The Next Generation changed fandom, so that's a reasonable place to end a book like this. Verba is a fan fiction writer, and for several years published a newsletter of fanzine reviews called Treklink. I was a subscriber for a year or two during my fanzine-collecting years, and found Treklink very useful. As a result, I was glad to hear that Verba had written this book. It's a solid, year-by-year history of the fanzine subculture, describing a few hundred fanzines, discussing the trends in the field, and so on. The book has two main problems. First, it could have been a lot longer, with more time spent on discussions of the key stories and writers. Second, and completely out of Verba's control: the fanzines covered here are now very hard to find. If one of the fanzines described piques your interest, you may be doomed to frustration. [3]

1998

I've been reading through an interesting book I picked up at MediaWest. It's Joan Marie Verba, Boldly Writing: A Trekker Fan and Zine History, 1967-1987. It's exactly what it sounds like-- a year-by-year history of the first twenty years of Star Trek fandom, rather dryly written but very full and accurate. How I wish someone would do something similar for B7 fandom! But I suppose it would take someone who was in on it from the start, has saved everything, and is very detail-minded; and I'm not sure such a person exists. Do we have a Joan Marie Verba in B7, who can tell the rest of us what happened when? [4]

2000

I've bought a couple of copies, one as a gift. and it is a beautifully done history of a section of fandom. It you weren't involved, it could be a little like reading someone else's high school yearbook, tho. [5]

2003

Certainly the people writing fanzines at the time didn't realize they were making a certain kind of history, but it was (and is) a significant movement. And Star Trek was one of the first and biggest of the media fandoms, where fans were organized, took a hand in creating the universe, and in general became interactive participants rather than passive viewers. This book does a nice job of capturing that energy and showing the early struggles of editors trying to publish with Xerox machines and staple guns - and successfully creating an underground network. I enjoyed reading it. The writer does a chronology, and puts in some of her own insights as well as others. [6]

2005

. . . except that the work was rather long on facts but rather short on analysis and criticism. Perhaps that would be the subject for a companion volume. [7]

2010

'Boldly Writing' is Joan Marie Verba’s documentation of Star Trek fanzines and fandom from 1967, the year she discovered and began collecting fanzines, to 1987, when Star Trek: The Next Generation went on the air and the fandom incorporated the new series into its love of the old. As the mother of all fandoms develops, it ultimately codifies the modern experience of what it means to be a fan... Verba pretty much lets the experiences stand for themselves, occasionally including some pieces here and there. She mentions her experiences at certain cons and her reaction to certain pieces of fanfiction, but she keeps herself to the side, allowing others to speak for themselves. And they do, and it’s fantastic. Bottom line: If you’re not in fandom or are new to the whole thing, this isn’t the way to introduce yourself to it. But if you’re part of fandom and enjoy fandom history, Boldly Writing will be a delight, connecting you across decades to the mother fandom and all the glories, fights, and silliness therein. [8]

References

  1. ^ from the introduction, Archived version
  2. ^ from Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with Joan Marie Verba
  3. ^ The Complete Starfleet Library, Archived version
  4. ^ Lysator, Sarah T, June 1998
  5. ^ on October 1, 2000 at alt.startrek.creative
  6. ^ fan review at Amazon, September 1, 2003
  7. ^ fan review at Amazon, August 5, 2005
  8. ^ The Literary Omnivore, posted February 6, 2012, accessed February 20, 2010
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