Jeanne Gold on The Rise and Fall of the Fanzine

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Title: Jeanne Gold on The Rise and Fall of the Fanzine
Creator: Jeanne Gold
Date(s): March 9, 2014
Medium: online
Fandom: multi
Topic: Fanzines
External Links: online here, Archived version
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Jeanne Gold on The Rise and Fall of the Fanzine is an essay by Jeanne Gold.


Fanzines. There was a time when we couldn’t live without them. Where else were we going to get our fan fiction fix? Yes, things were different back in the day. Back when there was no World Wide Web, internet, computers, cell phones, tablets and… well, you get the picture.

I was introduced to the world of fan conventions. I had been going to Creation Conventions in the basement of the Centre Hotel in Philadelphia for years, but fan conventions, while not having actors as guests, had something you couldn’t get anywhere else. Fanzines. Thousands of them! It was like shopping in a bookstore if the bookstore only carried TV tie-in books for all your favorite shows. In other words, paradise. And you could spend a bundle. I used to take two suitcases: one for my clothes, and an empty one to carry home all my reading material.

...fanzines weren’t just books. They were works of art. Meticulously edited, for the most part, and usually containing the most beautiful artwork. Editors often allied themselves with an artist who could either illustrate a writer’s story, or sketch portraits of our favorite characters. No photo-shopping back then. If your art was top notch, you could even be asked to illustrate the cover of a zine. Top honors indeed! Zines were produced by hand. Some editors used mimeograph machines to print their zines, while others used photocopiers. There were zine binding parties, where fans would get together and punch and bind hundreds of zines while watching episodes of their favorite shows their only payment: food. It was truly a labor of love.

There were two basic types of zines, categorized much like we do today: Gen (or General) and Slash (“/”). But back then, slash was even more underground than gen fic. It was usually relegated to the back of the room, or in a cubby. Paper or cardboard was placed over the cover as if it were a porn magazine. Slash has come a long way since then. I don’t have the stats, but there are probably more slash zines sold now, than gen zines.

In more recent days, however, it’s hard to make back the money you put out to produce fanzines. Many editor’s have resorted to taking orders and printing only as many as they need to fill those orders. Zines sell well if you know what is hot. My last zine, The Science of Deduction (Sherlock), sold out quickly... While the sales of fanzines have dwindled since internet and free fan fiction, they are not dead yet. There are those of us who, while enjoying downloading fic to our Kindles, still enjoy curling up on the couch with a good book — or zine — to pass the night away.