Seven Reasons Why Selling Fanzines Isn't Bad, Wrong, or Hazardous to Your Fannish Health

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Title: Seven Reasons Why Selling Fanzines Isn't Bad, Wrong, or Hazardous to Your Fannish Health
Creator: bluecove
Date(s): September 27, 2006
Medium: online
External Links: Not a rant, but a list...: Seven Reasons Why Selling Fanzines Isn't Bad, Wrong, or Hazardous to Your Fannish Health, Archived version
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Seven Reasons Why Selling Fanzines Isn't Bad, Wrong, or Hazardous to Your Fannish Health is a 2006 essay by bluecove. It was written as a response to YOU DO NOT MAKE MONEY OFF OF FANFIC. EVER..

The actual title of the post is "Not a rant, but a list... "; the title "Seven Reasons Why Selling Fanzines Isn't Bad, Wrong, or Hazardous to Your Fannish Health" (utilized by bluecove in the body of the essay) is used here on Fanlore.

The essay touches upon these points:

  • 1. Zines have been around a long time.
  • 2. The word "selling" is relative.
  • 3. They already know about us.
  • 4. Internet fic is actually higher-profile.
  • 5. No one's going to sue you.
  • 6. When someone crosses the line, fandom takes care of it.
  • 7. Zines are a bonding activity.

Some Topics Discussed

Excerpts from the Post

The main reason [the essay YOU DO NOT MAKE MONEY OFF OF FANFIC. EVER.] bothered me wasn't the passive-aggressive attack on someone from my flist (although I didn't like that, either); it was the sheer ignorance of fannish history, particularly fanfic/fanzines. I know that history, because I lived a great deal of it. I've been to almost two dozen conventions over my fannish lifetime. I've written for, edited, typed, proofread, slipsheeted (mimeo), collated, sold, and of course bought zines. To put it briefly, I've been around the fannish block a few times.

Rehashing the details of the wank yet again won't do anyone any good. However, since this is something I feel very strongly about, I've come up with a list of reasons why (in my informed opinion) I think fanzines are a positive thing, rather than negative, and decided to post it for posterity.

One caveat: When I say zine, I'm talking about print fanzines. Zines on disk or CD are a newer phenomenon, and the rules may be different.

Excerpts from Comments to the Post


god I really am a bitter old fandom queen *G* I remember when authors loved getting into fanzines. That was a big deal. Anybody could post on the net but getting into a fanzine was a mark of honour.

*headdesk* this is a part of that fannish entitlement debate that's been going around. A lot of people are getting into fandom via LJ and the net and just *aren't* bothering to get themselves schooled up on fandom history so they have no idea how everything developed and they flip out when they shouldn't and *don't* when they should.

*headdesk* Aggravating as all hell.

Getting into a zine was a mark of honor as long as there was an editor at the helm. Certain zines were known for that, I think, and they were the ones people didn't mind paying for. My friend Lorraine used to rant about people who could turn out a technically perfect but creatively empty zine. "Publishers," she called them, always separating what they did from what she did.

I don't know that I'm bitter, but I'm an old fan. ;) So, I think I understand where you're coming from.

There are still certain people who show up in fandoms that i remember from like the Sentinel as being 'bad fanzine producers' who were largely blacklisted and I have to almost sit on my hands to keep from warning writers that they try to recruit.*G*

I have a few zines around here and just love them madly. I don't get near enough of them because they usually too expensive with shipping and I don't get near cons to pick up any of my own. I usually get them when friends sell off. But oh how I love them.

I jokingly call myself a bitter old fandom queen since I always end up explaining things to fandom neophytes who just don't want to hear it and I'm severely tempted to smack them...just a little *g*

Ah, the good old days. When you had to do a hell of a lot more work to produce a zine than just posting a story to LJ or a web site. A lot of zines had editors who insisted on high quality from their contributors, and went to a great deal of trouble to assure readers got quality fiction.

I remember talking with a neophyte fan who insisted that fan fic started, online, with X-Files, and hadn't existed in any form before that. I told her I'd been reading and buying zines since the 70's, and they'd been produced since the late 60's, and it all started with the original Star Trek. She refused to believe me. I didn't have any zines around at the time to prove my point, but I get the feeling she still wouldn't have believed me. I'm not sure she believed me that there was a time when the average person couldn't access the Internet, and a time before that when it didn't even exist. It was a lot more difficult to meet fans who didn't live near you, and I think many fans just take it for granted that it's easy to make friends from across the country, or foreign countries, without ever meeting them face to face at cons. That was half the fun of going to cons. Most of the other half, of course, was finding new zines to read. :)

OTOH, if it weren't for the Internet, I'm betting a lot of today's fans wouldn't even know about fanfic, or how to get hold of it if they did know.

Yeah, I'm old and cranky, too.
The Internet has certainly provided a "funnel" for bringing a lot of people in, but I sometimes wonder whether that's entirely a good thing. Instead of being well-rounded and making informed choices, many new fans seem very insular; for them, "fandom" is whatever small corner they've landed in, period. Besides being sad, that seems to be the source of a lot of the conflicts.

Thank you for this. I've been watching this play itself out via metafandom and f-w over the last week or so. Isn't it amazing just how many fen have no idea that fandom predates lj, let alone the internet? *g*

Like you, I am an old-style fan (yes, an old fart, if you will) who found fandom in 1980 when I bailed up a lady in a vulcan costume at the local premiere of ST: The Motion Picture. That led to membership of the local ST club, helping start our local branch of the Blake's 7 club, and on to our first ST convention in 1982. I missed Australia's first Worldcon in 1975 (being only 15 yrs old) but have made it to our 2nd and 3rd Worldcons. Not to mention a few overseas Worlcons and media cons. My greatest regret is that I have never made it to MediaWest.

My greatest love in fandom, alongside conventions? Zines. From my tatty, dog-eared copy of Spock Enslaved to a recent SGA slash zine Military/Intelligence. New fen may never get it, but there is nothing to beat that feeling of a postpak arriving in the mail, and having the finished product in hand, or, as you've said, the satisfaction of seeing your own zine take form before your eyes. And, yes, nothing can beat a collating party. I've been involved with two presses in my time, one gen and one slash, and I will treasure those memories always.

Yes, the internet has made finding fic easier, and I could not imagine having to go back to how we were before the internet - but, just as books will never be phased out by the i-pod etc, neither should zines be relegated to the age of dinosaurs.

Now we just have to beat that into the thickish heads of these young whipper-snappers... *g*
I've wondered in the past if older fans have any kind of responsibility to "mentor" younger fans, teach them some history and the different activities fandom encompasses. The only problem is that a lot of new fans aren't interested in learning, and we can't very well force it on them. As a result, we keep seeing fannish battles we've already fought pop up over and over again.

It's been interesting to watch that other topic play itself out via metafandom - feral fans (I hesitate to use 'fen' here, as most new fen would not understand the term) and feral fandoms. I think this is very much an aspect of modern fandom (both lit and media), as new fen are able to access other new fen via the computer, often with whiz-bang technology that allows them to vid and publish to the standard of old fandom - but without the history.

It's like a case of "Oh look, they've re-invented the wheel! Wonder if they've considered the idea of brakes?" *g*

Zines, I think, fall into this category. As does the running of meetings, leading into the running of cons. Your mention of mentoring is a good one. Many of us oldies started out in the small, local clubs, helped out at meetings, were often roped in as committee members when the then oldies realised the fresh meat was enthusiastic, and we ended up slaving over club newsletters, collating club zines, and then branching out into cons locally if we were lucky enough to have con-throwing clubs. All of this was mentored, and some of us then went off on our own, either to start our own convention groups or zine presses. Or, like me, both. *g*

All this comes back to feral fans, and fandoms to some degree. I remember in the 1990's, when The X-files was a huge mainstream phenomenon in Australia, Gillian Anderson was brought over as a publicity exercise. They put her up on stage in the larger local shopping malls, tried to issue tickets for autographs, and the police had to be brought in to manage the huge crowds. Neither the tv stations, the publicity companies or the mainstream fans had any idea of what was going to happen. We old timers sat back, shook our heads, and stuck to our relatively well behaved conventions.

New fandom is in many ways still like that. They are fans, they want to fangirl with the best of us, but they have not had the chance to learn the fan dynamics (mob mentality, if you will) of dealing with other fans - let alone the actors, TPTB etc. So you get instances of slash, illegal downloading, zines etc being shoved in the faces (or on the official boards) of the official folk. And then the oldies are up in arms over breaches of protocol, the newbies are 'what the fuck's your problem' and a new war starts... again...

Ain't fandom wonderful?

Hi from another old fart! Great post! I'm completely bemused by these waves of hysteria that seem to overcome a few people on occasion.

I could not believe how much time it took me to dig through page after page of the original rant, only to find out what they were going on about was...

...just a fanzine.


In the 1990s, I attended a number of "net versus zine" fan panels at conventions. I publish zines. I've been doing that for ages. A number of people, at that time, made patronizing comments to me that boiled down to: "Why are you still making buggy whips when we're all driving horseless carriages?"

That attitude, at least, I could understand. Nevertheless, I carried on with my-quite-obviously-obsolete hobby.

It never occurred to me that fandom would morph so much that so many of the new fen would not encountered the concept of fanzines before.

Now I think I'll go right back to manufacturing my buggy whips. I have one in progress right now...
[nakeisha ]:

Just to say that I agree entirely with what you say.

I love zines. Have a huge collection of them. Write for them. And would be very sorry to see them vanish.

And I wish people would understand more what goes into pricing them and how zine producers are not making huge profits. And yet oddly enough I have never seen anyone complain about artists making profits, and there we are talking in the hundreds of dollars at times.

I have never understood why it's okay for artists to make such a large amount, but zine producers get stamped on if they make maybe the odd dollar or two. Which isn't a rant against artists, not at all. It just seems somewhat less than logical.
My understanding is that artists (at least those who draw flesh and blood characters; anime is another kettle of fish) are perfectly within their rights to do what they do. You can copyright a character, but you can't copyright his image. So, neither creators nor actors can sue fan artists for drawing them. As a result, art is sold out in the open, for as much as fans are willing to pay. In fact, I've seen art auctions at cons where the actors themselves were the runners. It doesn't seem fair, I know, but that's the way it is.
[munchkinofdoom ]:

I think that some of the difference with how zines and art are seen in fandom - particularly at conventions - is that zines are mass produced and sold, hopefully at cost, in order to stay both below the radar and in good graces with fellow fans. Art tends to hit its hugest prices when in auctions, where it is exactly as has been said above... supply and demand. A single piece, original, without print or reproduction rights, usually will achieve the highest prices - with established artists valued by fandom usually topping that group. Limited edition prints - sometimes including photomanips - usually go for lesser prices directly due to them not being as much a rarity.

Mind you, the whole issue of the sale of photomanips is something that fandom is probably going to have to decide how to handle at some time. When does it go from being a manipulation of an existing image to being a work of art in its own right, therefore commanding more value?

It has been a while since I have made it to a US media con - where the best prices for auctioned fan art are usually achieved - so I am not sure what the current expectations of fans are when they are considering how to spend their money... *g*

Perhaps I was never in fandom before the internet, but I do have respect for all that was done with zines for things before the world and fans were so well connected like they are today.

Although, I wonder with newer copyright laws today (just say a talk on it about how it relates to textbooks and distributed teaching material) if even selling fanzines of stories based on copyrighted material at cost is legal. My guess is with new laws it may be more illegal than it once was.
Just wanted to say thank you for this post! I have a humongous zine collection myself from the beforetimes, plus I belong to a fandom that still has very little Netfic and puts out fic almost entirely in zines (Rat Patrol, the Amish of fandom), and I was absolutely boggled by the fanficrants kerfuffle.
[lilacigil ]:

Hi! I'm not quite a pre-internet fan: I got involved in 1992, reading fic on newsgroups and buying the occasional zine.

My non-fannish hobby is making altered art (journals, art quilts), and that exists online, but also, due to limitations on what a computer screen can actually show, in both professional publications and zines. Everybody works from the principle that if you wish to publish (and be paid), you would only incorporate clearly non-copyrighted work, such as public domain clipart and the Mona Lisa. If you're producing for a zine, anything goes because it's non-commercial. By the same token, you don't go around waving your zine in the faces of the professional publishers (or stamp or sticker manufacturers), even though many people are in both groups. It's a common sense approach that everyone can live with, and leaves lots of creative space.