I've stumbled into a minefield and I want to try to stop the rumour mill right now.

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Open Letter
Title: untitled, the title used here on Fanlore is a sentence from the letter/essay
From: Jane of Australia
Addressed To: Pros fandom
Date(s): December 1993
Medium: print
Fandom: The Professionals
Topic:
External Links:
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In December 1993, Jane of Australia included an open letter/personal statement in the editorial to Cross My Heart #11.

This statement addressed copyright, zine piracy, the rumor mill, misunderstandings, possible over-reach, reputations, and what appeared to be many bad feelings.

The Subject: A Series of Share Zines

The subject was a series of zines published by Noel Silva misunderstandings and confusion regarding their distribution.

The Theme Zines: (The Theme Zines are also collected in two Pros Theme Zine anthologies.)

Jane's Open Letter

Unfortunately, I must sober up with a vengeance now: I need this space to make a personal statement. I've stumbled into a minefield and I want to try to stop the rumour mill right now. The Poison Pen Club has attacked Nut Hatch all year, I expect the toxic grapevine to go into top gear. If it doesn't, I'm amazed. This time, in fact I'm 50% responsible for what's happened, and I want to clear the air before things get complicated.

The short version of my case is: As local fans know, it's been my pleasure to share those lovely 'share zines' put out by Noel Silva. And here, I stumbled into quicksand. Like most (all?) Aussie fans, I understood the zines were indeed share zines. Like computer shareware, one can duplicate them as-is, at no profit, when original copies are unavailable. I was the only one with a copy; the cost to order from o/seas is frankly prohibitive. So I shared with my group. Unfortunately, it appears our understanding of share zine and Noel's differ. Unbeknownst to us, conditions apply, the very way this group shares may even constimte zine piracy!!

I want to state categorically, I thought I was doing right, I did not know conditions applied. The term 'share zine' thoroughly confused me. Of course I'll stop instantly, and my real dread is that I'll be painted as a zine pirate. Folks who know me would never suspect it. But Noel does not know me - hence, this statement. For her to be worried, something's on the grapevine already and I'll smell like a skunk if I don't move fast to mend things. This isn't an apology (yet): if I must apologise in print to fix this, I will, next editorial.

I've contacted Noel and am awaiting a reply; and I've prepared a statement. I'll send you a copy for the asking, if this case affects you in any way (ie., you also innocently share these zines, and may be a pirate; you got them via me and are concerned; you're confused as to what 'share zine' may mean; or you actually sent me one of these zines, and feel like hell because you might be party to the misunderstanding). I'm not a pirate. I possibly misinterpreted the term 'share zine.' Malice, underhand dealing, never occurred to me. I'm confused and concerned.

My worry? That the rumour mill will assault me. I was convinced it was OK to share. So, if you hear me called a pirate, actually advertising to sell (ie., for gain) zines that aren't mine, please get the truth from me before you condemn me.

To my Aus friends who've enjoyed the share zines: till further notice, I can't share. If you'd like my full statement, write in.

Noel Silva's Comments in 1989 Regarding "Up Against the Wall"

...it is not true that only trib copies were printed. Fifty copies were printed and forty were passed out at Zebracon 9 to friends of the contributors. Ten were sold and the money donated to the Pediatric Aids Foundation. Since the zine was deliberately produced to be given away, fifty was the most that the editor could afford to print. It was her way of returning something to fandom, the same reason all of us agreed to write a story for the zine. I have gotten a lot of friendship and enjoyment from Pros, and since Noel had this interesting theme, putting together a zine with the stories was a good way to do our part... I enjoy getting zines, and I do buy most Pros zines. It is nice to read a story that has been edited and has fewer typos than the library stories tend to, and the artwork is great. However, one of the greatest things about Pros fandom is that people can get stories without doing anything but asking. You only have to pay copy costs and you get lots and lots of stories. Sure I bitch about missing lines, bad grammar, typos, etc. but this writing is from my family and I love them, mistakes and all. Same goes for a free zine. Anyway, I hope I've made my point and that all the misconceptions are cleared up because I'm also giving everyone a warning! From the folks who brought you "Up Against the Wall," "Right Down to the Belt". This will again be a VERY small print run (actually xerox not print). It will again be FREE. And at least one copy will be given to the library. It should be available by the end of this year, 1990. So keep your eyes open for the library listings. Or talk to people at cons. Someone is likely to have a copy. [1]

Fan Comments Regarding the Share Zines: There Was Much Confusion

Some conflicting info from fans regarding Silva's zines and the distinction between circuit zine and "formal" zines, distribution methods, had money changed hands and how much, and more...

Were they free? A fan on Virgule-L in October 1993 referred to one of them as "Noel Silva's free zines."

Another fan in 1994 commented that the zines cost money:

Noel's theme zines have the odd habit of having at least one *really* good story in them--and I hate that, because then I buy them which makes me feel like I'm supporting a publisher who isn't consistent and who I'd rather not give the positive feedback of my cash... um, I see I'm climbing my Eiger-like soapbox, so I'll set up a base camp and shut up.... Suffice to say that "Fly on the Wall" was published in a Noel theme zine (funnily enough, with some sort of gross error, as I recall), and that story was worth whatever anyone's asking price could have been. [2]

Another fan in 1994 said the zines cost money but they were cheap:

This time [with my next zine], no cover art, no frills, simple production. Announce it as a circuit zine, freely copyable, with originals available from DP Press, produced only on demand, that is, I collect checks each week or so, take the master down to the copyshop to make exactly that many copies over the weekend, then mail 'em out on Monday. No upfront costs for me, lower price for the readers.

Would this sort of thing catch on? Those "theme" zines of Noel Silva's have been around for a while, right? But they're the only ones doing it, as far as I know, and the idea hasn't, apparently, "caught on". Yet this is what fans claim they want - cheaper zines - so why *hasn't* the Silva Method caught on? I've had some people tell me NOT to price my zines lower, because of buyer psychology - "if it's priced cheaper than everything else around it, people will think the quality must be correspondingly cheaper, and they won't be as interested". Well, is this true? You're standing in a dealer's room looking at one table full of no-frills, very plain, $8 zines, and one table of flashy-looking, color-art-covered $20 zines. Which ones do you most want to pick up and look at? [3]
Another fan in 1994 responded, this time suggesting the zines were "copylefted" and free for distribution:

>Would this sort of thing catch on? Those "theme" zines of Noel Silva's have been around for a while, right? But they're the only ones doing it, as far as I know, and the idea hasn't, apparently, "caught on".

For the record, Jane Carnall has been doing this all her life. All her zines (well, maybe not "touched" from ten years ago, but for sure everything in this decade) are "copylefted" for free distribution. She does put some stories in regular zines published by other people, partly because it's about the only way she can afford to get zines at all. [4]
From another fan in 1994:
Alex post an idea for a sort of 'circuit zine' which sounds nice, but might these be difficult for the less-connected fan to get copies? It sounds a bit like all those theme zines that had 50 copies printed and were supposed to filter down through fandom. Across The Table, Up Against The Wall, etc. [5]

A fan on Virgule-L in 1995 wrote that Noel Silva had a new free-zine (Pros zine distributed for cost of postage, free to copy for friends) and that fans should ask around for your "circuit"! A fan responded to her that the story "Kink" was originally printed in a free zine called "Up Against the Wall" by Noel Silva. Fans were invited to recopy the zine as they chose and all the contributors were aware of this up front.

Comments About What Defined a "Zine" as Opposed to a "Circuit" Work?

> Alex post an idea for a sort of 'circuit zine' which sounds nice, but might these be difficult for the less-connected fan to get copies? It sounds a bit like all those theme zines that had 50 copies printed and were supposed to filter down through fandom. Across The Table, Up Against The Wall, etc. Well, I managed to borrow a photocopy of Up Against The Wall locally, but have not been able to read any of the others, and I've been a dedicated zine shopper in all the used boxes...

Aha. I was wondering what the deal was with those Noel Silva theme zines - didn't know how they were being published and/or distributed. It sounds as if they simply aren't covering all the bases. Reaching fans, as far as I can tell, consists of:

1. Advertising in "Media Monitor", "On the Double", for sure, maybe one or two other adzines.

2. Selling the zine at cons

3. Telling the Slashlist - that's what, 70 people?

4. Sending a few copies to both the Brandl and the Sara Slinn circuit libraries

5. Word of mouth

Other methods? I don't see how "getting the word out" would be any different than for any other zine, and if people get the information, than they can get the zine. I've done all of the above, except for #4, of course, for DP Press, and I know I'm not reaching all the Pros fans out there, I know there are "less connected" fans, but that's a problem whether I publish a "real" zine or put out a circuit zine, no difference that I can see. I mean, as long as someone has the "press" address, they can get a copy. I wouldn't do a limited print run - I'd do however many copies people want. (One problem would be the cost of a larger run vs. the cost of a small run - if you run a lot of copies at once, you get a price break at the copyshop. But with a circuit zine, it would probably be more like "a few copies here, a few copies there", which would have to done at the slightly higher rate - we're talking maybe a 2 cent per page difference here. So let's see - a 150 page zine at 5 cents a page, that's $7.50 plus cardstock covers and the comb for binding...hm. Well, if I used my own binding machine instead of the copyshop's, I could do it for $8 per zine. Still quite a bit cheaper than $15-20 for a regular zine.)

> will get a copy of any zine in print. Of course, you have to know it is available, which means advertising, which takes both time and money from the publisher.

I think just putting ads in the above two major slash adzines would cover a lot of territory, and that's what, I think MM is $13 a year and OTD is $19 - I'm not going to go broke advertising, believe me.

I suppose the only real way to see if this would work would be to try it, and see. And work out the kinks as I go along.

Actually, not binding copies at all might be good - would make it easier for people to copy, and then they could bind it anyway they wanted. Could just mail it to people with a big fat binder clip on it or something. I dunno. Open to suggestions. [6]

Complications

Jane Herself

The issue was likely complicated by fans' strong and varied opinions regarding the quality Jane of Australia's fanworks and reputation in fandom regarding her personal use of pseuds.

Distance, Distribution, Cost, and Quality

Some fans may have been reacting as well to the high cost of Jane's zines being shipped from Australia, and her statement in the open letter about cost and availability of Silva's (and other American and British) zines to her own country.

Jane's statement regarding "zines" and the "circuit" in 1988:
To people who would like to see their stories appear in zines rather than on the circuit, I'd just like to say this: what is a zine but photocopies and staples? Find an artist, and/or some photos, type your stuff, shuffle in your art or whatever, staple it with a card on the back — do your own zine! Fandom will be the richer for your contribution, and there is a lot of satisfaction to be reaped from doing a zine, and doing it well. The more the merrier, so -- come on, give it a shot. [7]
Jane's statements printed in her later zines:
Reproduction of this zine without written permission from the publisher is strictly forbidden.... THAT OLD PLEA TO READERS: for the umpteenth time we beg you not to duplicate this zine for the circuit. Also, if you discover someone doing this, gently suggest to them that they stop, because The Nut Hatch will get stuck with $1000's worth of unsold copies, and go broke all over again! If you would like to bulk-order for your group, circuit or con, please write to us, we would be delighted to give details in full!
Kathy Keegan (rumored to be one of Jane's pseuds) wrote in 1995:
I want to take the opportunity to pin a medal on JJ for the way she's kept Nut Hatch going, and the incredible 'look' of the zines these days! That desktop publishing software cost an arm and a leg and took a lot of learning, too: all down to JJ. Drag out CMH #1, and compare it to this final issue. Now, that is progress! [8]

References

  1. ^ from Cold Fish and Stale Chips #6
  2. ^ comments by Charlotte Hill at Virgule-L, quoted with permission (June 9, 1994)
  3. ^ comments by Alexfandra on Virgule-L, quoted with permission (October 29, 1994)
  4. ^ comments by Shoshanna on Virgule-L, quoted with permission (October 29, 1994)
  5. ^ comments by Susan H. on Virgule-L, quoted with permission
  6. ^ comments by Alexfandra on Virgule-L, quoted with permission (October 28 1994)
  7. ^ from the editorial of Cross My Heart #2
  8. ^ from Cross My Heart #14, comments by Keegan on her very last story published.