Explicit Zines, and Print Shop Adventures

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Fans who produce sexually explicit zines, especially slash, have historically had a challenging time.

Some Anecdotes


We would also like to blame our lateness [of this issue] on that nice German lady at "Gulf Coast Negative Service" who looked at Barbara’s lovely drawing and said, "Vat, you vant us to make a plate of zis?" and to the guy at the copy shop who said they'd print it but did it wrong, and finally the Kwik Kopy who printed it right -- but who now all come out to leer at us when we go in there. Now, we have to draw straws to decide who has to go back there to get stuff done. [1]


As for tolerance: I find it hard to believe that a Real Printer would reject a printing job because of content. Real Printers are craftspersons. No matter what their personal opinions about homosexuality (and most RP's are blue-collar types who do not eat quiche and have little in common with Alan Alda), when they look at a K/S explicit nude, they are probably thinking mainly of the camera setting they will use to shoot it. I'd like to hear some factual examples (NOT rumors) of fans' experiences with refusals to print their zines. Della reported one such incident in NAKED TIMES. I'd like to know if there have been others. [2]


[ Della Van Hise ] commented upon her widely-reported incident of a printer destroying the masters for the run of Naked Times]: It seems he overlooked that commandment about coveting and/or destroying his neighbor's property. [3]
Just out of curiosity, I asked a couple of guys I know who work as pressmen for some of the big printing companies in town if they could conceive of a situation in which a printer or pressman would refuse to a customer's work. They pondered this for awhile and finally decided that it might happen "if the material were really anti-union." Since both Kirk and Spock clearly are part of management, I can see this could be a problem. Maybe if you slipped in a few kind words for your local district council in the middle of the sex scenes? [4]


The fanzine is a little late. Some of this is in the nature of fanzines, which always seem to take longer than planned to produce. A good chunk of the delay may be laid at the door of my original color printer. This man managed to leaf through Mirrors of Mind and Flesh, The Price and The Prize, Greater California K/S, and T'hy'La without noticing anything explicit enough to bother him. He seemed bemused but accepting of the project. Then, when I brought in my color art, he announced he couldn't print it. Upsetting in the waste of time, and the additional expense, but who wants a blind printer? [5]


The most bizarre moment of that long afternoon was when I discovered a puzzled, older Middle-Eastern-type gentlemen goggling at a very angsty piece of art I'd left face-up on the workspace counter. Flipped that sucker over quick, I tell ya! On the other hand, I was screening and reducing a Suzi Lovett study of Blake and Avon, nude, clinched, in a very ...sculptural.. pose--it's a gorgeous piece, and I wanted to use it for an APA cover (with permission, of course!). It happened the copy shop I took it to was staffed by Middle-Eastern appearing gentlemen--who agreed it was a wonderful piece of art! Will wonders never cease? (I admit to some qualms when I saw the staff--I was certainly relieved by the fact that they seemed to deal with it well!)[6]
Annie and I figured out a simple way to avoid the supreme embarrassment and risk of bringing adult or slash art to be screened for printing: We called the local chapter of the Gay & Lesbian community organization and asked them for the names of some local Gay or Lesbian-run printing shops. They usually have one, of course, because such organizations commonly do their own fliers and literature. We were cheerfully referred to a downtown shop owned by two lesbians (the building was painted a lurid pink, which isn't all that uncommon in Florida) where the owners oohed and aaahed over the Lovett (and other) art that we presented to them for screening. Try it if you simply can't bear to face the church lady over at Kinkos...[7]
[regarding the art for "Sweet Savage Delta"]: I got some REALLY strange looks from the Kinkos clerk when I handed him the cover of SWEET SAVAGE DELTA to run on card stock. Vila entwined with Avon is not the kind of thing you want to risk flashing around in this Bible Belt state. The things I do for you folks... [8]


Slash? Well, I handed in this zine at the engineering firm, it had the front page clearly marked "this zine contains homosexual material and is not to be sold to under 18s," The only comment was "You've got a mark on that sheet, I'll tippex it out for you." Which she did. The young men copying the zine were charming, even helped me to carry the boxload out to the car. I don't know if they read it, I never dared to ask. I've had no- problems in getting screens done. This may be partly due to the fact that I have a policy of no explicit art, but I've gone as far as a picture of Avon's upper body with no clothes and a set of handcuffs and had no comment from the printer at all. It's worth noting that I queried a printer over the phone about this once and was told that pretty anything was legal artwork wise as long as it didn't show an erect penis, involve children or go really over the top. Look at what you can buy on the top shelf of a newsagents. There are publishers who specialise in gay fiction. Why should slash be so difficult? [9]


Village Press doesn’t go into print very often. This is partly because I have to do the printing myself. The climate of tolerance, although much improved, still makes it hard to find a discreet printer. [10]


The manager, long inured to what she's been so faithfully producing for us, engaged me in a discussion about a Gayle F picture! The one where Kirk is straddling Spock in the grass, he is obviously being penetrated, Spock is raised up just a bit so he can twist Kirk's nipples, Kirk has Spock's cock in his hand, and our captain's head is thrown back in a fair imitation of ecstasy. I don't know if you can get more explicit that this picture.
"Oh, look at this," she said. That's really nice."
"Yes," I enthused." She's a terrific artist."
"No," the manager chided me. "I meant the quality. We caught most of the details. [11]


After ten years of countless trips to the printer with erotic K/S art to be reproduced, you'd think nothing would faze me, but this story makes me blush every time! [12]


Once I finished "T'hy'la" #1, I needed to get the zine in print and that would require finding a new printer. If I took "T'hy'la" to the printer I'd been using for my genzine, he'd have a heart attack....It was, I admit, a bit difficult to go in there for the first time. I was a bit...embarrassed. After all, I was asking them to print explicit art of naked men doing sexual things with each other...The people who owned the print shop were as cool as they could be....My printer really enjoyed printing my zines. By the time I'd done my 3rd or 4th issue, he told me the women in the bindery always looked forward to my zines. They'd post prints of the artwork on the bindery walls to keep them entertained while they worked.[13]


A printer to make the zine a reality was actually rather easy to find. There were several printers in Washington, DC (Virginia is more conservative, to say the least) vying for the job—I chose the one who gave me the best price for offset. My friend and writing partner, Susan K. J., accompanied me for moral support. After all, spreading out Thrust on the counter was diving into very cold water; Susan told me later that my face was beet red, though I thought I’d handled it rather well.... Funny aside: The printer was thrilled to get the job. He was gay, and when 20 of my zines went missing from the boxes, I had to have a little talk with the fellow. I found out that they had printed extras of the artwork and that those extras had made the rounds all over the city. [14]


The editor of Nocturne decided they wanted to do an "American-style" K/S zine, i.e., using photo offset printing rather than mimeo, which required finding a professional printshop willing to handle the material. IIRC, she did a great deal of research into finding a printshop that would handle this material; a lesbian-owned printshop agreed to print the zine. There are several other instances I am aware of where fanzine editors researched for gay- or lesbian-owned print shops to publish slash fanzines.[15]


Well, that's why [Katherine S] and [Mary L] went into— set up their own printing business. You couldn't find someone in Houston who would be willing to print slash. Especially not artwork. There was nobody. People who lived on the west coast were much easier, especially up in the San Francisco area. They could get stuff printed. But in the Houston area, you kidding? They would be calling the cops on you. [16]


I contacted a local printer, gave him the parameters of what I wanted done, and he gave me an acceptable price. His print shop appeared to be a small, one-man operation, but he indicated that he'd have the fanzines done within a reasonable timeframe. I don't remember if I mentioned to him the nature of the fanzines, since all had slash material. I might have mentioned that there was explicit sexual material, which he was okay about; or maybe I just figured I was better off not drawing his attention to it.

At some point, when the fanzines were still at the printer, a good fan friend called me, in a state of distress. "Go look at this URL I'm emailing you. I think this guy is talking about your zines!" A friend of this friend was the one who had found the URL, while doing a search for my zines.

I accessed the URL, and it was some sort of discussion list for guys that owned print shops. Or guys that had their own small businesses in the Denver area. Something like that. This one guy complained about how barely-tolerable his day-to-day life was, in his boring shop, but every once in a while something brightened it up, he said sarcastically. He went on to explain that he was currently printing a bunch of books called "fanzines", and it had the characters of Starsky and Hutch having sex with each other. He talked like he'd printed this kind of material before, with other TV characters. He scoffed at how silly and ridiculous it all was.

Though the poster was, of course, using a pseudonym that I wouldn't recognize, there was little doubt that he was talking about my zine order. [17]


When you go into a new copy shop to have a slash zine made, you take one you've already got, and you say, "Um, could I speak to you over to the side, please?" So the church lady who's getting the flyers for the church picnic made is not gonna see this. You say, "This is what I'm printing," wh-wh-r-r-r through the pages, y'know, and you kind of open to an illustration, and you don't look the person in the eye. And they either go, "Well, you know, we'd rather not do that," or "Hey, no problem," or "Oooh, what's that?" [18]


I had a wonderful printer for my zines years ago. In 2018, when I was getting ready to publish that year's SHareCon zine, I found out the owner retired. When I asked the new owners if they would be willing to publish the SHareCon zine, being honest about its homoerotic content, they balked. They wanted to evaluate the content first. You turn the files over when the zine is ready to be printed, not weeks before. I couldn't agree to that, fearing they would nix some illos or stories and allow others, or turn down the whole job at the last minute. I wasn't about to let them censor our content. I had to spend a lot of time interviewing other printers and was getting discouraged as one after another wanted to review the content.


This morning, the original printer cold called me. She wanted to know why we stopped printing with them and what could she do to get us back. I flat out told her they rejected us for content. She seemed stunned. "We did? What kind of content?" I told her it was homoerotic content and her manager wanted to approve it first. "Ohhhhhh," she said. She still hoped she could win back our business, but basically, still wanted to see the content. I was very happy to explain that we had a wonderful printer who was fast, reliable, cost effective, local, and had no concerns about our content and that I had no reason to change printers now or in the future. And still she seemed dismayed.


Their original owner published Dark Night of the Soul, with some of the most homoerotic content and art I ever printed and had no issues. Years before, a previous printer I loved (who retired and went out of business) told me printers couldn't afford to be so picky and couldn't imagine any printer turning down work because of content. I laughed, knowing how the world worked and seeing how conservative businesses were becoming. [19]


  1. ^ from the editorial of Obsession
  2. ^ from K/S & K.S. (Kindred Spirits) #5 (June 1983)
  3. ^ Della Van Hise writes that she is had to re-do Naked Times #4/5 part two as her "born-again printer" had completely destroyed the original and the dummy copies after she had paid her bill in full -- from Datazine #32
  4. ^ from K/S & K.S. (Kindred Spirits) #7 (January 1984)
  5. ^ from the editorial in Choices
  6. ^ Lysator, exchange between two fans, dated September 4, 1994.
  7. ^ Lysator, unidentified fan (possibly Leah R), dated September 4, 1994.
  8. ^ Lysator, the Southern Comfort's editor, dated September 4, 1994.
  9. ^ the editor discusses Forbidden Star #1 in Late for Breakfast #28
  10. ^ from The K/S Press #6 (1997)
  11. ^ from The K/S Press #49 (2000)
  12. ^ from The K/S Press #61 (2001)
  13. ^ from Kathy Resch's My 30 Years in Trek Fandom.
  14. ^ from A 2007 Interview with Carol F.
  15. ^ Recollection posted in 'The Pages Two and Three K/S-zine heaven (My trip to the University of Iowa Fanzine Archives)', dated March 3, 2011, quoted with permission.
  16. ^ from Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with Kandy Fong and Marnie S
  17. ^ an excerpt from You Just Never Know..., posted by Charlotte Frost, September 6, 2013; WebCite
  18. ^ from Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with Alayne Gelfand
  19. ^ comments by Flamingo at sharecon@googlegroups.com, February 4, 2020 quoted with permission