Qfer (Beauty and the Beast zine)

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You may be looking for the online resource called The Qfer.
Zine
Title: Qfer ("The Q-fer")
Publisher:
Editor(s): Nan Dibble
Type:
Date(s): 1991 - 1997
Medium: print
Fandom: Beauty and the Beast (TV)
External Links:
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Qfer ("The Q-fer"), short for "The Helper's Network Quarterly Fanzine Review" is an index of Beauty and the Beast (TV) zines compiled by Nan Dibble. It set out to survey the many fan-produced publications inspired by Beauty and the Beast and help fans tell "the best from the rest", which it accomplished via ratings of one to five stars based on how high-quality the zine was considered to be. This practice was somewhat controversial among fans, and the star ratings were dropped in 1995.

The initial compilation, which included nearly 400 zines, was based on Beth Druhan's The Beauty & the Beast Fictionzine Database from Dragonback Publications.

It appears the zine was published four times a year, and then once a year as a combined issue. The cover of some issues says "quality" and on the others it says "quarterly." This oddly, however, does not seem to correspond to the zine's publication dates (see Gallery).

There are many differences between the print version of the Qfer and the Qfer that was put online in 2001, also known as Helpers' Network Quality Fanzine Review Online. For more on these changes, see: Differences Between the Print Qfer (1995 and after) and the Online Qfer.

Also see Q-fer, the Catalogue of Dreams.

For other Beauty and the Beast fanzine listings see the The Beauty & the Beast Buyer's Guide to Fanzines and The Beauty & the Beast Fictionzine Database.

From a 1991 Flyer

1991 flyer
There's nothing better to combat a severe bout of Vincent deprivation than curling up with a good fanzine and renewing the dream with the gifted writers, artists, and poets who share your love of Beauty and the Beast.

But how can you tell the best from the rest? Try the Q-fer!

The Helper's Network Quarterly Fanzine Review ("Q-fer") surveys the over 400 fanzines-fan-produced fiction, poetry, and art publications-inspired by Beauty and the Beast. The Q-fer listings give page count and size, ordering information, ratings in terms of adult material (G-X), descriptions of the zine's contents and focus, and a star rating-from one to five stars that evaluates how well the zine, overall, is done, as compared to the general high level of literacy, art, and good storytelling to be expected in a B&B fanzine.

New zines are highlighted in their own section, with longer and more detailed reviews than are found in the regular listings. Published quarterly-at the end of January, April, July, and October-the Q-fer is a good guide to what's new in the passionate and imaginative world of B&B fanzines.

The full Q-fer, over eighty pages long, 8 1/2 x 11, spiral bound, costs $6.00. Or an update, approximately 25 pages long and containing only information new or changed since the previous issue, costs $3.00. The Q-fer can be purchased as single copies only; no subscriptions are available.

With zines typically selling for about $20, nobody can buy them all, much as many of us wish we could. The Q-fer provides the information that will help B&B fans choose the zines most likely to please them, whether they're fans of special seasons of the series or of all-Classic Vincent/Catherine, Continued Classic/Alternate Third Season, Fantasy, Steamy romance, SND ("She's Not Dead"), or "Fourth Season," exploring the new possibilities presented by Diana Bennett. Whatever kind of stories you most enjoy, you'll find in the wide range of B&B fanzines...and you'll find them objectively described in the Q-fer.

Some History

For a 2011 detailed history of this zine, see The Q-fer history, Archived version.

Some excerpts:

What is the Qfer?: Mark and Kimberley Hartman were fans who started the Helper’s Network in the U.S. to disseminate information about the show, and they decided to create a compendium of fanzines along the lines of those already being sold. However, for whatever reasons, they left fandom after a few years, turning over the Helper’s Network and the idea of producing the fanzine compendium to another fan.

One of the most active fans in the early days of fandom was Nan Dibble. She wrote fanfic, published fanzines, and was also a professional writer in the non-fandom community under pseudonyms. Nan took on the reins of the Helper’s Network, and from Fall of 1991 until 1997, Nan published periodic issues of the Helpers’ Network Quality Fan Review, commonly referred to as the Qfer or the Q-fer.

Here is what Nan stated as her goal in the first Qfer: "We want the Q-fer to be both an overview and an ordering guide to every zine currently in print." In another issue, she described the contents of each Qfer: "The Q-fer [gives] information on all Beauty and the Beast creative fanzines (fiction, poetry, art, and miscellaneous – for instance, puzzle books, coloring books, calendars, cookbooks) known to be in print." Nan also advised in the first Qfer that neither out-of-print nor upcoming zines would be included, although ads would be accepted for zines to be published soon.

For several years the Qfer was published quarterly; issues were designated Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall and came out at the end of January, April, July and October. Beginning with the Summer 1992 issue, fans had a choice of ordering the full quarterly Qfer or a smaller Update containing only information that was new or had changed since the previous issue. [1]
In the 1997 issue of the Qfer, Nan advised that she was departing from her previous practice of listing only in-print zines, as she had learned that fans used the Qfer when purchasing used zines. In fact, for many years now, the Qfer has been used exclusively for this purpose, as the publication of hardcopy zines has all but ceased, a victim of rising printing costs, a smaller fandom, and the increasing relevance of the Internet.

Shortly after publication of the last hardcopy Qfer in 1997, Nan allowed an online version to be posted. It can be found in archive form on the Songs of the Blue Bird website. As it says on that site, the Qfer is "one of the most important and most informative references in the entire fandom."

While it’s not known how extensively the Qfer was read, in the Fall 1993 Qfer, Nan mentions that "[e]ach issue of the Q-fer reaches more than 200 B&B fans…." When one considers that the fans in the numerous fan clubs which existed at the time shared zines, newsletters and publications such as the Qfer, it’s probable that the influence of the Qfer extended much farther than the number of fans who purchased it. [2]

About the Zine

Star Ratings

From the Fall 1991 edition, an explanation of how zines were rated.

About the Star Ratings This is a very literate and creative fandom. Most zines are rated ***, indicating they're up to the very respectable average of readability, writing craft, good editing and presentation, and entertainment readers can reasonably expect in a Beauty and the Beast fanzine.

A rating of ** indicates that the reviewer considered the zine hadn't reached that standard. But if the subject matter is appealing, particular readers may find a zine so rated to be, for them, either equal or superior to zines which received a higher rating. Reviewers have always tried to include enough information to give you a basis for deciding if a **-rated zine will be that special one for which you'll be the perfect and appreciative reader.

A rating above *** indicates the reviewer considered the zine so designated superior to this high average—in imagination, writing, insight, originality, production, or some other aspect of what goes into making a whole zine. Such a rating is a statement that we're confident virtually all readers will find the zine well done and satisfying—extremely good of its kind, whether Classic, SND, 4th season, or whatever.

One and five star ratings are few, naturally.

Every attempt has been to render an objective judgment—that is, if there are three "Catherine comes back as a ghost" stories, which are well done and which are less well done? There has been no bias for or against Classic, 3rd or 4th season themes, events, or storylines. Each item declares clearly what phase of the show the given zine deals with, so that you'll be able to make a choice you'll be happy with, based on your own preferences.

Although most reviews have been done by one reviewer, several are combinations of remarks from two or more reviewers. Generally, the original reviewer's overall judgment was retained and merely details (titles of particular stories, for instance) included from other sources. When strong disagreements (though rare) arose, the higher rating was given.

Zine writing is like Lake Wobegon: all the children are above average. And each story, poem, or piece of artwork is someone's beloved child, inspired by a kindled delight with Beauty and the Beast, that he or she passionately wanted to share with others. Each zine has enthusiastic readers who have sent positive Letters of Comment. We have tried to honor earnest tries and heartfelt sentiment even when the execution left something to be desired in the way o f writing or artistic craft.

Zines are being judged only against the standard of what's already out there, the standard of zine writing already established within this fandom—not some imagined rules of professional caliber writing. Iffy grammar or spelling, though noted, is not terribly important if the story is strong, interesting, insightful, and moves well. The only true standard is the reader's enjoyment. Some zines, you read once, then add to the communal zine box or even pitch; others, you keep and read over and over, as we all watch and re-watch the episodes themselves. That's the standard we've tried to apply—simply, which we think will be "keepers," and which are less memorable.

It's not brain surgery; neither is it truly literary criticism. Q-fer listings are just an honest, unbiased reading by experienced readers of B&B zines and an attempt to reflect accurately how much we guess readers will enjoy each zine.

Reviewers

From the 1991 Fall issue:

All are experienced and enthusiastic readers of B&B fanzines. Most have zine publishing experience, as well.

The supervising editor and publisher for the Q-fer is Nan Dibble: operator of Helper's Network Central and its Hotline (513-961-3317). She's a pro science fiction writer who has also had published several books on the craft of writing. She's also a pro editor. As Therion Press, she's published the Acquainted with the Night series of her own writing, as well as quality pro writing of others. She's worked with beginning writers, in and out of classrooms, for over twenty years.

Margaret Basta, contributing editor, is a zine writer and publisher of zines including 'Neath the Sidewalks of New York and many others. She began her reviews—a substantial portion of the whole—at the request of the Hartmans and updated and expanded them at Nan Dibble's request.

Beth Druhan, contributing editor, is a professional editor and, with a friend, operates Dragonback Press, publisher of the Heart of the Minstrel series and several other zines. She also compiled the zine database which was the jumping off point for the Q-fer and without which its production, in such a short timespan, would not have been possible.

Betty Mills, expert reviewer, has one of the most gigantic B&B zine collections in the country and is an avid and judicious zine reader. Many less well known zines would have gone unmentioned and unreviewed except for Betty's contributions.

Lucy Green, expert reviewer, is a zine writer and, with a friend, the operator of MacWombat Press, publisher of many zines including The Forever Night. Her timely and shrewd reviews of a vast diversity of zines show both her objectivity and her insight.

New potential reviewers with appropriate expertise are welcome to apply to help with reviewing for future issues of the Q-fer.

Ratings

From the Fall 1991 issue:

Rating zines, like rating movies, isn't an exact science. Basically, there are two broad categories: those that are suitable for children and young teens, and those that aren't—whether for strong language, sexual situations or explicit sex, mature themes (strong emotional intensity), violence, or whatever else might disturb or upset a young or very sensitive reader.

Ratings on one side of the border include G, PG, PG-13; on the other side are R and X, which require an age statement be sent with an order, attesting that the person ordering is over a specified age and is therefore aware of and accepts the mature content. This saves headaches later for publishers who don't want to be accused of sending pornography, however defined, through the mails—something you can be heavily fined or put in jail for. Nobody needs that kind of trouble.

The series itself would probably have been rated PG-13: there's the occasional profanity (as you may have noticed, by its being cut, on Family Channel); people who aren't married having sex (though implied rather than being graphically filmed), and even though the blood doesn't show much, the body count gets pretty high at times and there is considerable violence in all three seasons.

Here are some general guidelines on ratings:

G — Suitable for any reader ofany age. No mature themes or subject matter whatever. No age statement needed.

PG — Probably not appropriate for young children (under 10, say), and as in movies, for older children, a parent's opinion should probably be asked before ordering. The PG means "parental guidance suggested," not "required." No age statement needed.

PG-13 — Probably not suitable for anyone under puberty. Anyone under that age should get a parent's consent to order. There are at least mature themes and perhaps strong language, violence, implied sex or sexual themes, or any combination of these. If sex is involved, no sexual organs are mentioned except by euphemism and body parts not customarily exposed for public view are not discussed in any but a passing way (breasts, for instance). The emphasis is on emotion, not anatomy. No age statement needed.

R — Contains either graphic violence, extremely crude language, or explicit (but not graphic) sex—that is, sex acts are described but the story's sole focus isn't sexual. Body parts get mentioned, often in some detail. Age statement (18) is required.

X — the story's main focus is sexual or violent. Either element is graphically described. Age statement (21) is required.

All of the above have produced fine zines in this fandom, though given the series' focus on chaste (but intense) romance, either G or X rated zines are relatively rare. A rating is not a judgment on the quality of the zine, only a description of its orientation in terms of mature material. When rating information was supplied by the publisher, it's been included. If not, the reviewer took her best guess, as indicated by parenthesis, as in (PG-13).

Differences in Opinion

From the Fall 1991 issue:

Now, the uncomfortable part. Not everybody's going to agree with all the reviews. Some may even disagree strongly. We knew that from the start and went ahead anyway. Disputes, alas, are inevitable—especially about B&B, especially in this highly independent and passionate fandom. These are the procedures we've formulated to address some of the most likely problems and still get the job done.

The Q-fer will review zines with or without their publishers' approval. By publishing and selling zines, authors and editors have offered their work for public scrutiny. Private dreams are one's own property and beyond criticism; public dreams, sold for money, are not. And readers/purchasers have a legitimate right to know what they're buying. The Q-fer is an attempt to give them that information. Therefore no review will be withdrawn as long as the zine involved remains in print. Regarding new zines, if we can't get a publisher's cooperation in furnishing a review copy, if we can beg, borrow, or borrow (certainly not steal!) one, we'll review it.

As mentioned before, we urge publishers to help us offer accurate information about all matters of fact regarding their publications—prices, dates, addresses, page count, and so on. We welcome such corrections. However, there is more than fact involved here. If we were objective machines, we wouldn't love B&B as we do. Naturally and inevitably, each review is someone's opinion. Informed, judicious, thoughtful, experienced...but still an opinion. And about matters of opinion, it's always possible for reasonable people to differ.

If you think your zine has been misrepresented by a review—a matter of interpretation rather than one of fact—feel free to write to the Q-fer, and this editor (Nan Dibble), and say how you believe the reviewer has gone wrong. (Having enthusiastic Letters of Comment proves nothing: everybody has those!) If the review was done by someone else, I volunteer to re- review the zine involved if sent a sample copy with return postage. If I originally reviewed it, I'll lend the sample copy to someone else whose judgment I trust and ask him or her to do a re-review.

We've all tried to be as honest, objective, open-minded, and sympathetic as possible but I know in some cases that won't be enough and no explanation for a negative review will finally satisfy. I don't know any way around that, and I heartily regret any hurt feelings any review may cause. It's either face that or have no reviews at all. And I believe the Q-fer is something that this fandom needs and something that will be to the eventual benefit of all zine publishers.

Is there a better way to do this? We could review only the stuff we think well of, as I do in The Gathering Place', but in a guide to all zines, that doesn't seem right, and seems a disservice to readers. However, if you can think of a better way to do what the Q-fer is trying to do, to serve zine publishers and readers in this fandom, please make suggestions. We're all — and I, especially — making this up as we go.

Differences Between the Print Qfer (1995 and after) and the Online Qfer

The information from the print zines was the starting point of the current online listing, however the format was changed in Fall 1995 from providing reviews to giving just the facts of the zine.

See an example of the Qfer and its review format as it existed in 1997 at The HNG Quality Fanzine Review; [3]

Too Much Work

Two reasons were given for this change: 1) the physical time it would have taken to retype all the information, and 2) fannish discontent regarding reviews on content and objectivity.

Too Much Opinion

The editing of the online, current Qfer included several types of changes, including:

  • taking out almost all descriptive words and opinion and leaving bare, dry descriptions: "Strong art borders" became "art borders." "Startling poetry" became "poetry."
  • shortening reviews, many of them considerably: the comments regarding Dreams of Thee in the print Qfer read:
"C, attacked in her basement, is taken Below by V, where she learns she's been blinded. How V/C cope with C's loss and how it's connected to yet other traumas in C's past is the subject of this well-written novel, which includes intervals of highly graphic V/C sex. V tends C, first Below, then in her apartment, steadfast against all her fears and despairs. Yet their closeness brings out all his latent anxieties and uncertainties...and it's C's turn to reassure and comfort him. In the course of this experience, they become lovers. The emphasis in this novel is more on character than on sex, which gives it substance the R/X rating doesn't necessarily connote. Although, in the copy seen, the proofreading left a bit to be desired, the writing is good, the scene-creation vivid and powerful, and the emotional exchanges-not only between V/C, but between each of them and Father-are strongly imagined and rendered." In the online Qfer, this becomes: "C, attacked in her basement, is taken Below by V, where she learns she's been blinded. Includes intervals of highly explicit V/C sex."
  • some reviews in the print Qfer are not included in the online Qfer, perhaps due to a perceived too-frankness of language. One example is for The Crystal Tear. The print Q-fer had this opinion:
"Earnest beginner's try to convey her feelings about how the B & B story should have been told. Ideas are better than the execution." The online Qfer has no description of this zine beyond the mention of a title, author, year of publication.

Statements regarding these changes: from the online version:

What happened to the reviews? I don't know where to start reading, and want some guidance: We have made some changes to Nan's original format, and she is in no way to be held responsible for these changes! (Complaints and criticisms should be directed instead to the new keepers of the Qfer.) Most notable at this time is the approach of "just the facts" for each zine. While Nan's reviews have been VERY helpful to many, the thought of typing them all into the computer again sent shudders down our spines. After much thought and debate as to how best to translate the Qfer into an online publication, we decided that a strictly factual approach would be best. [4]

From JoAnn Bacca, Q-fer, the Catalogue of Dreams:

It was noted... that apparently there were some fans who felt the ratings system was not as objective as it could be. Of course, fans will always disagree on which zines are great and which are merely good (and which are not good at all!). Although Nan had intended the Qfer to be "evaluative" at a time when other "just the facts" zine listings were available, those other listings had all long since ceased publication after the Qfer became the "gold standard" for reviews. Thus, when Jackie and JoAnn began to prepare the consolidated Qfer, there were no other comprehensive zine listings online, and in order to create as objective a list as possible for the one such list that would be kept updated online, Jackie and JoAnn received permission from Nan to remove the ratings, and to shorten the reviews in order to remove some subjective comments. [5]
From the Fall 1995 print edition of the Qfer:
The star ratings have been scrapped as no longer appropriate. There are no longer any one or two-star zines being produced. All are at least readable and at least minimally literate; most are well edited and presented; many are excellent. The text of the review gives you an idea what the story's about and tells a bit about the reviewer's opinion of the writing craft displayed. That would seem enough, and appropriate, information for you to decide whether or not you're interested in the zine, based on your own preferences. So we've done away with the star ratings altogether.

As always, however, every attempt has been made to render an objective judgment: that is, there is no bias for or against Classic, Continued Classic, or 3rd or 4th season subject matter. That hasn't changed, and won't.

For reviewing purposes, all writers are allowed their subject matter, whatever it be. Some readers will inevitably like or loathe a zine based on subject matter alone; a reviewer's only question, however, is how well that chosen subject matter has been handled in terms of originality, insight, literacy, editing, production, and overall creative craft.

Zines are being judged only against the standard of what's already out there, the standard of zine writing established within this fandom-not some imagined rules of professional caliber writing. The only true standard is the reader's enjoyment. Some zines, you read once, then add to the communal zine box or even pitch; others, you keep and read over and over, as we all watch and re-watch the episodes themselves. That's the standard we've tried to apply-simply, which we think will be "keepers," and which are less memorable.

Issues

  • 1991 (Summer): Qfer for Fall 1991 contains 70 pages. On the cover: "Helper's Network Quarterly Fanzine Review Fall, 1991."
  • 1992 (Summer): Qfer for Summer 1992 contains 82 pages. On the cover: "Helper's Network Quarterly Fanzine Review Summer, 1992."
  • 1995 (Fall): Qfer for Fall 1995 contains 26 pages. On the cover: "Helper's Network Quality Fanzine Review Fall 1995."
  • 1997: Qfer for 1997 contains 91 pages. On the cover: "Helper's Network Quality Fanzine Review 1997"

Gallery

References

  1. Qfer History.
  2. The Q-fer history, Archived version.
  3. WebCite
  4. FAQ. What is the Qfer? (accessed 20 Dec 2009); WebCite
  5. from Q-fer, the Catalogue of Dreams, accessed February 8, 2014; WebCite