Marysue Dixon Predicts
|Title:||Marysue Dixon Predicts|
|Date(s):||mid to late 1986|
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Marysue Dixon Predicts is a 1986 essay by Carolyn Cooper.
It was printed in Blue Pencil #4.
Some Topics Discussed
- fandom and profit
- fan entitlement
- the "20th" anniversary of "media zine fandom" (a reference to Spockanalia and other Star Trek: TOS zines)
From the Essay
Something is happening under the surface of zine fandom. Some force (Force?) is at work. You can hear the rumblings in the night. You can feel the tension in the uneasy calm of correspondence and the polite jockeying of editors at art shows. An artist recently agreed to do art for my zine on the condition that she would only do portraiture so she could sell them at the cons. Another artist admitted all of her illos were planned with auction sales in mind. An editor recently discussed an impending retirement to concentrate on her art which would bring her more money than pubbing. After watching the auction at MediaWest, I know she's right. Another editor seriously discussed her plan to catch the next hot fandom this fall and get a "down and dirty" zine ready for next year's MediaWest in order to "cash in on the fandom at the beginning".On the other hand I heard railings against a couple of editors who had wholesaled zines to a dealer in order to pay their hotel bill. I know a writer who bemoans the size of K/S fandom and lobbies against the expansion of Professionals fandom. She favors writers simply mailing their works "around the circuit" to pubbing zines. And there's the artist I've worked with who doesn't even enter art shows because her interest is strictly for the zines.
A schism is brewing in media zine fandom. Media fandom has been "big" business for sometime now. That's one of the underlying reasons for the schism between "truefandom" and media fandom; the fans were willing to pay more for posters, pictures and collectibles than they were for used books, old APA zines or SF art prints. And the "big" business is invading media zine fandom. The pro dealers are stocking up and selling at outrageous prices on the one hand while denigrating their customers with the other. The artists, including many pros, are finding that they can walk away with several hundred to several thousands of dollars by selling lots of small portraits, especially in color, so why should they waste their time on unmarketable pieces for zines. Writers drop out of fandom to pursue professional sales and those who remain use the "professional" status to hawk their self-published ventures. A pro dealer invaded MediaWestCon a couple of years ago and, under the guise of buying gifts, purchased multiple copies of as many "marketable" zines as he could for resale at other cons at exorbitant prices. And zine editors are learning to watch that cash flow and P & L statement, some by necessity, others by preference.
But others in fandom consider money a vice, a "sin". They feel writers, artists and editors should do it for the love of fandom and therefore concerning onesself with money shows a lack of the proper spirit. It all smacks of the conflict within the Church at the time of the reformation and I, like many of the devout of yore, find myself confused and fearful, lest my confusion be construed as support for one side or the other and I become a casualty of the conflict. For I firmly believe there will be a conflict and quite possibly a schism which, like reformation and counterreformation, continues to break into smaller and smaller sects and disciplines.
The sad thing is I'm not so certain that the conflict is necessary. No one works in fandom, particularly media zine fandom, without a genuine liking of fandom. If money were all that was important, much more of it could be made much faster in almost any other field. But still I'm uneasy in fannish debates on zine fandom as a stronghold of free enterprise and the quintessential capitalist market; caveat emptor and whatever the market will bear philosophies grate against my fundamentally ingrained belief that one doesn't rip off friends and that fans, all fans, are to varying degrees my friends. We have some form of common bond. On the other hand, money makes life a great deal easier paying for cons, VCRs, tapes, collectibles, clothes and more. As the saying goes, I've been rich and I've been poor and rich isbetter.And however much we try, Tom Wolfe was right — we can't go home again. In the 19.7 years since it's inception, media zine fandom has grown and it will continue to grow; and as it grows it will grow more "professional", more commercialized, but that doesn't mean the spirit is dead or dying. Nor does it mean we must follow in the footsteps of Luther and break away from media zine fandom forming yet another "other" zine fandom to cleanse our souls from the corruption of the true faith.
Are we to celebrate the 20th anniversary of our fandom by a "spiritual" war? Are the choices limited to the selling of indulgences or casting the money changers from the temple? Are the issues black & white? Are there no shades of grey? Wouldn't sitting with a few drinks and agreeing to disagree while seeking solutions to mutual concerns be more fun?
Each December some broadcaster or columnist laments the death of the true spirit of Christmas. But the spirit of Christmas is not dead. A spirit cannot die. It can he violated, it can be abandoned, but it cannot die. For each of us there is some act, some tradition that represents the "spirit" of an activity. When that act or tradition is not performed, we say the "spirit" has died. And, as the religious of ensuing centuries have discovered, each of us holds a different act or tradition as evidence of spirit. Which means each of us holds the key to our own spirits, be they fannish or secular and for each it is a personal code. To prevent a fannish schism we must each look into ourselves and our habits and say, "What is it that makes me feel the spirit is dead? What used to happen before that isn't happening now?" and then YOU do what makes the spirit live for you. Is it a $3 Trek zine? Then you pub it. Is it the sharing of letters and ideas within a select group? Then become a regular contributor to a LoC zine or develop a small network of correspondents. Is it an all-night philosophical discussion on characterization at Shore Leave? Then you invite a group together and hold the party. When was the last time you made a new friend in fandom? Why not now? Is there someone with whom you're having a problem? Why not sit down with them in a relaxed atmosphere and discuss it openly?
Sometimes you have to make small changes in your traditions. It comes with time. Nothing remains the same without stagnating and dying. Including fandom. In the coming anniversary year, media zine fandom should be celebrating its past, enjoying its present and planning its future. The spirit has been here for 20 long years. May it live long and prosper.