How Fanzines Helped Put Doctor Who Fans in Charge of Doctor Who

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News Media Commentary
Title: How Fanzines Helped Put Doctor Who Fans in Charge of Doctor Who
Commentator: Nolan Feeney
Date(s): December 24, 2013
Venue: online
Fandom: Doctor Who
External Links: online here; reference link
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Contents

How Fanzines Helped Put Doctor Who Fans in Charge of Doctor Who is an article in "The Atlantic" by Nolan Feeney.

Its teaser: "Before there were message boards and Tumblr, fans discussed the show via DIY zines—which helped keep the series alive and housed debates that have directly influenced the show."

Some topics discussed: fanzines as the foundation for the fandom today, Peter Capaldi as a super fan and links to a letter he wrote to a fanzine in 1976, Steven Moffat's 1990s online posts, quotes by academics Paul Booth and Matt Hills, quotes from other fans including Leslie McMurtry (the editor of The Terrible Zodin), and the issues faced by female Doctor Who fans.

Some Excerpts

As the longest-running science fiction series ever, whose generation-spanning viewer base has often been named one of the most intense and devoted fandoms ever, Who offers an case study in the way that modern fandom has evolved. The fanzines where Capaldi and others got their start may have seen their numbers decline over the years, but their DNA is all over the modern fandom in a way that distinguishes it from other sci-fi fanzine communities like that of Star Trek. Doctor Who fanzines not only helped keep the fandom alive during its hiatus, they've been a long-standing venue for fans to debate and police the limits of the Doctor Who universe—and these debates have had a direct and noticeable influence on the show itself. The golden age of Doctor Who fanzines, when the number of zines peaked in the hundreds and their most famous writers were most active, lasted from the mid-80s and into the ‘90s. The explosion was enabled in part by new technology: In addition to the advent of desktop publishing that made producing quality zines at home easier, the rise of VCRs and commercial video releases by the BBC allowed fans to rewatch and catch-up on episodes, facilitating detailed, in-depth discussions about the show…
"There's often a temptation to see contemporary digital fandom as something radically new, but there are a lot of strong continuities between what fans did then and what they do now," Hills says. Fans won’t find animated gifs in the Xeroxed pages of zines as they would on Tumblr today, but the same kinds of content—fan art, illustrations, fan fiction, reviews, and essays, all in varying proportions depending on the publication—have appeared in both print and online spaces.
"Fans do the same type of things they used to do offline, and they do it for the same reasons—to meet people, form communities, be creative, and show their appreciation for something they love," Booth says. "It’s a show and a fandom that thrives on growth and expansion, and fans want to share that with people." Growth, expansion, transformation—the theme of evolution naturally comes up a lot when talking about Doctor Who and its regenerating hero. And as Capaldi ushers in the next evolution of one of television’s most beloved characters, it’s hard to imagine what the show would look like if zines didn’t give him and others the space to do those very things.