Fanzines: 1966-1991

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Title: Fanzines: 1966-1991
Creator: Sheila Clark
Date(s): February 1992
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS, Zines
Topic:
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Contents

Fanzines: 1966-1991 is an article by Sheila Clark that was printed in IDIC #20 in February 1992.

In it, she explains the history of Star Trek print zines to an audience that, perhaps, may have been starting to lose touch with this medium.

Excerpts

first page of article
Why were there so many zines? Simple. Apart from James Blish's script adaptations and Spock Must Die - and the books of script adaptations took several years to come out - back in the early 70s there was no Trek fiction in print. Even The Making of Star Trek (Whitfield), The World of Star Trek (Gerrold) and The Trouble With Tribbles (Gerrold) were only available as American imports. So , if we wanted to read Trek fiction. we had to write our own.
The earliest zines were, of course, American; as we all know, Trek didn't come to Britain until 1969 and it took another year or two before organised fandom arrived. Not that there weren't British writers as long ago as 1969; Jennifer Guttridge was writlng back then and submitting her stories to Amencan zines. Unfortunately she never became seriously involved in British fandom, although she did agree to let ScoTpress reprint some of her work (Enterprise Incidents 6 & 7 - now unfortunately out of print) a few years ago.
Some of these early stories were devoted to finding wives for Spock and the Dorothy/Myfanwy stories were no exception; one of them got Spock and the other one got McCoy. The names of some of the other 'let's marry Spock off' stories are known to fandom courtesy of Star Trek Lives; there were a lot of them around in the early days. Even Kraith - probably the archetypal alternate universe zine - was basically a find-Spock-a-wife series - he lost at least three during it! There were a lot of stories plotted for the Kraith series which never actually did see light of zine. and for that I feel the editorial stance must take a lot of responsibility; their stated policy was as follows: the story was read by the editors. and returned with much criticism and a request for a rewrite. If the writer was thick-skinned enough to accept this and did a full rewrite. the same procedure was followed again… and maybe even again! Their claim - their boast, even, stated in one editorial, was that some of their best stories had been rewritten enough that they told a completely different story from the one the writer had originally set out to tell!
Most of the early zines were duplicated and the legibility varied very much! One or two of the earliest were put out on a spirit duplicator, and while I don't say there are no copies of these still in the collections of long-term time readers, there can't be many, because spirit duplication doesn't last; exposure to light and air fades the print quite quickly. Stencilled zines printed in ink have the merit of retaining their legibility, but some of them were blotchy and patchy even when new - a great deal depended on how conscientiously the typist cleaned the typewriter keys! (It had to be done at the very least with every stencil to retain a good clean cut.) In my opinion British zines printed by this method tended to be of better quality than their American counterparts; the paper used for the American duplicated zines was thick (something of the consistency of blotting paper) and usually coloured and looked as if it might have been recycled. I never did find out if that paper was used because it was cheaper than white or if that was what was sold in America for duplicating - perhaps one of our American members can tell us. In time, however, most editors went over to getting their zines professionally p.rinted or photocopied.
American zines have, on the whole, been more lavishly illustrated than the British ones. There are several possible reasons for this; Britain has perhaps 2000 active, card-carrying fans; America has ten times that number. The larger number of fans means a larger number of good artists. American fans also seem to be keener on artwork than British fans; artwork sells well in auction in Amenca, but doesn't sell nearly as well in Britain, Most of the British editors write, but I can't think of any who have also been artists; but some of the American editors were artists as well as being writers (or instead of) and set out to produce something that they wanted to be visually attractive (although this sometimes meant the reader paying for a lot of white, unused space). British editors mostly went for a more functional layout that didn't waste space.
It has long been said that there are only about 6 basic plots in all of fiction, and everything that is written has to be a variation on one of these. I've already mentioned the get-Spock-married story; Mary Sue is a variety of this (though some are better written than others). Basically, Mary Sue is usually young (very young), beautiful, brilliant and beloved by whoever the writer's favounte character happens to be, She is the writer's alter ego (and yes, there have been male Mary Sue stories too - it's just that nobody has actually come up with a definitive name for them.) Everyone writes at least one Mary Sue story at some time (usually early in their' writing career); the sensible ones realize what they've done and quietly burn it or rework it so that it's less obvious; the less sensible ones submit it somewhere - and will often find an editor who likes it; the least sensible can't find an editor to print it so they print it themselves… and get quite a shock when they discover that putting out a zine isn't as easy as they thought it would be! At one time there were a lot of Mary-Sue stories about 20th century girls somehow ending up on the Enterprise - in what I thought was one of the best of that kind the heroine was 50-ish, plump, not in love with anyone in the crew and went into Security!
'Adult' zines made their appearance with Grup in America, shortly followed by R & R in America and eventually by Grope in Britain. These early adult zines were purely heterosexual, however, in the late 70s Gerry Downes in Alaska dipped a toe in the water of homosexuality with a very short zine in which Kirk and Spock found themselves bonded and deliberately chose to break the bond, and after that a number of editors, mostly in America, set out to produce zines known variously as K/S or 'slash', with varying degrees of descriptiveness. Not that the theme itself was new; K/S stories were written as far back as 1970, in Britain as well as America, but back then they were 'under the counter', so to speak. K/S editors do their best to ensure that only adults who know what they're getting buy their zines.
There are fewer new Trek zines around today, however. Sales are lower than they used to be; partly because of the number of second hand zines around, but mostly, I think, because we are no longer dependent on zines for Trek fiction (though many of the professional novels are instantly forgettable). There are still new writers sending in Classic Trek stories; it's true that some of them are 'recycling' ideas that were told fifteen years ago, but these ideas are new to them - the zines these plots were originally published in are long out of print - and the development is different.