The Fanzine FAQ, version 0.9 (1994)

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Title: The Fanzine FAQ, version 0.9
Creator: Alara Rogers
Date(s): September 10, 1994
Medium: online
Fandom: focus on Star Trek, but other media fandoms, too
Topic:
External Links: The Fanzine FAQ, version 0.9, Alara Rogers,from the FAQ for alt.startrek.creative, September 10, 1994
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move to The Fanzine FAQ, version 0.9

The Fanzine FAQ, version 0.9 is the FAQ for alt.startrek.creative. It was written by Alara Rogers as a guide to explain print fanzines to fans who may not have heard of them before.

Some of the Topics Discussed

The Sections

  • 1. WHAT IS A FANZINE?
  • 2. WHAT IS FAN FICTION?
  • 3. WHAT ARE THE LEGALITIES OF FAN FICTION?
  • 4. WHY WRITE FAN FICTION?
  • 5. HOW CAN I PUBLISH FANFIC PROFESSIONALLY AND GET PAID?
    • Novels
    • Comics
    • The Series Itself
  • 6. OKAY, YOU'VE CONVINCED ME. WRITING TREK STORIES FOR MONEY SEEMS LIKE AN EXERCISE IN POINTLESSNESS. I WANT TO WRITE FANFIC. WHERE DO I SUBMIT IT? AND HOW?
  • 7. WHERE CAN I BUY ZINES?
  • 8. I'M LOOKING FOR SOMETHING WITHIN A COLLEGE STUDENT'S BUDGET, ACTUALLY. FIFTEEN DOLLARS FOR A ZINE THAT MIGHT SUCK SEEMS A TRIFLE MUCH.
  • 9. WHAT IS ZINE PIRACY?
  • 10. WHAT IS AN APA?
  • 11. HOW DO I GET RESPONSES IF I PRINT MY STORIES IN A FANZINE?
  • 12. I'VE GOT SOME RESPONSES. SOMEONE'S CALLING MY MAIN CHARACTER A MARY SUE. WHAT'S A MARY SUE?
  • 13. I'D LIKE TO PUT OUT A ZINE.

Excerpts from the Essay

1. WHAT IS A FANZINE?

If you read about fanzines (sometimes called just 'zines) in Newsweek, it will tell you that they are the non-profit creation of single individuals on topics such as music and the Brady Bunch. This is not what media sf fans mean by fanzine.

To a media sf fan (ie, a fan of fantasy or science fiction in movies, comics or television shows), a fanzine is a bound collection of fan fiction, either an anthology or a novel. Articles, both fictional and non-fictional, are included.

Fanzines range in size from 40 to 400 pages. They may be stapled, hole-punched, velo-bound or spiral-bound. They may be booklet-sized or full-page sized. They may or may not have art. The only thing that defines

a fanzine is: does it contain fan fiction?

2. WHAT IS FAN FICTION?

Probably if you're on this board, you know what fan fiction, often abbreviated "fanfic", is. In case this gets uploaded to other boards, however, or if you want to use this FAQ to initiate your friends, I'll explain. Fanfic is fiction written about a media sf source (which is almost always television or movies, occasionally comics and even more rarely books), such as Star Trek or Star Wars. It is *non-profit.* This distinguishes it from the Pocket Book novels and DC comics released about Star Trek, for instance. People get paid money for those things, are authorized to do them, and have severe restrictions placed on them on what they can write about. Fan fiction is illegal (more on this in a minute), unauthorized, cannot be produced for profit, and has no restrictions, not even good taste. :-)

3. WHAT ARE THE LEGALITIES OF FAN FICTION?

There's no question about it; fanfic is illegal. By writing an unauthorized story about someone else's characters, you are breaking the copyright laws. Parodies are acceptable under the Fair Use provisions, to a certain extent; however, I am assured that legally you cannot keep parodying the same thing. You could parody Classic Trek, TNG, DS9, and each of the individual movies *once*. Then your parody protection runs out.

How serious is this? Not very. Paramount, in particular, has a "live and let live" attitude toward fanfic writers; they're well aware that fanfic writers are more likely to buy authorized merchandise than Joe Schmoe, who watches TNG when it's on but isn't really involved with it, is. As long as you don't make a profit and don't have a terribly high profile, you are almost certainly safe. If you write adult fanfic, you may wish to keep a lower profile than most, especially in fandoms like Star Wars, where the Lucas Lawyers will come down on you like a ton of bricks for implying that their characters have sex. (It's happened.)

However, DO NOT MAIL YOUR STORIES TO PARAMOUNT! Showing a zine to an actor you meet at a con is one thing; they are freelancers, paid by Paramount but not associated with it. Showing your zine to Rick Berman, or mailing it to Paramount, is asking for trouble. Paramount can legally protect its copyright only if it adopts the official posture that it doesn't know its copyright is being challenged. If Paramount officially knew about fanfic, Paramount would be forced to officially crack down on it or risk losing their copyright. Paramount doesn't want to do this, you don't want them to do this, so DON'T SHOW YOUR ZINES TO PARAMOUNT. This goes for zines in other fandoms as well.

(An exception to this rule is fandoms based around books. Mercedes Lackey has established legal rules for other people to play in her universe, and therefore it's perfectly acceptable to show her your fanfic. Anne McCaffrey has done the same thing. Marion Zimmer Bradley has gotten burned by an asshole fan whose husband, a lawyer, told her that if she had been given persmission to write Darkover stories she could legally challenger Zimmer Bradley's copyright [1], so I'd be careful about Darkover stories if I were you. This doesn't apply to all authors; for instance, don't show Count Saint-Germain stories to Chelsea Quinn Yarbro; she has cracked down on them and will serve you with a cease-and-desist order.)

4. WHY WRITE FAN FICTION?

Again, if you're on this board chances are you don't need to know.

On the most basic level, the question means "Why write using other people's characters at all?" If someone needs to ask, there really is no good way to explain it to them. Professional writers tend to be very anal on this topic, and cannot understand why you would play in someone else's universe when you can create one of your own. For those interested in a scholarly study of why fans write fan fiction, check out "Enterprising Women" by Camille Bacon-Smith and "Textual Poachers" by Henry Jenkins. "Enterprising Women" is published by University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992, ISBN 0-8122-1379-3, and I *think* it's $32.95. I'll post info for "Textual Poachers" when I find the book in my disaster area of a room again. If some snotty jerk implies that you write Star Trek because you have no imagination of your own, you can turn around and loftily tell her that you are engaging in a discourse with an alternative community, or that you are participating in a form of storytelling far older than the Western preoccupation with originality. Failing that, you can just shove War and Peace up her nose. :-)

On another level, the question may mean, "Why not try professional avenues of publication?"

8. I'M LOOKING FOR SOMETHING WITHIN A COLLEGE STUDENT'S BUDGET, ACTUALLY. FIFTEEN DOLLARS FOR A ZINE THAT MIGHT SUCK SEEMS A TRIFLE MUCH.

It *is* a trifle much. Such is the price one pays for obsession.

Cheaper methods of getting fanfic include:

1. Find a friend who's got some. Borrow theirs. (Do NOT xerox their zine unless it's centuries out of print. That's zine piracy. See below.)

2. Look for stories on the net. (If you are not reading this FAQ on its original board, then you can go to alt.startrek.creative for stories, or better yet to the archive at ftp.cis.ksu.edu. Once you ftp to the archive, go to \pub\alt.startrek.creative. There's tons of stories, of quality ranging from excellent to abysmal, for the price of a download.)

3. Join an APA. (See below.)

9. WHAT IS ZINE PIRACY?

Zine piracy is part of the reason for the high cost of fanzines. The zine pirate makes a xerox copy of the fanzine; with modern copying technology, these are sometimes indistinguishable from the original. Then the pirate sells the zine, generally for a higher price than the original publisher would have charged.

Zine pirates justify this practice as a way of bringing fanzines to people who wouldn't otherwise get them. However, they are in fact driving up the cost of zines. Modern printing is far cheaper in bulk; the more orders for a zine an editor gets, the cheaper the zines he or she can produce. If people are getting reprints from pirates, it will drive up the cost of reprinting the zine and/or make it difficult for the editor to make a return on their investment. (Zines are supposed to be non-profit; that doesn't mean they're supposed to take the publisher to the cleaners.)

Many fanzine editors have resorted to exotic methods to avoid zine pirates. Color covers, color covers with protective covering, hand-numbering, weirdly colored covers that won't copy right, embossed pages and cutout covers are some of the methods I've seen. One outdated method is to print the cover on red paper. Older copiers cannot filter the red, end up copying it black, and the whole cover comes out looking like mud. However, advanced copiers can solve this problem, so if you're a zine editor, you might want to look at a different method of protecting your zines from piracy. I recommend embossed or watermarked pages; you can get embossed or watermarked paper in bulk (and by bulk I mean five hundred to several thousand sheets) relatively inexpensively, and then using that paper for the first page of your zine, with a disclaimer telling people to look for the watermark, is almost certainly a cheaper method than using a color cover, and less annoying than hand-numbering your zines in red, and is less reproducible too.

If you suspect you've been buying your zines from a pirate, you can always write the zine editors and ask them if there are authorized copies in the style of the zine you have. Many zines have authorized reprints produced in a different style.

Another irresponsible practice is the ludicrous markup of fanzines. I bought the zine "Qubed", produced by Peg Kennedy and Bill Hupe, at a dealer's table at DRAGONCON for $24, and considering that it had a color over thought it was a reasonable price. Imagine my chagrin to discover it's available mailorder from Bill Hupe's catalog for $15. Unless the zine dealer is a reputable one, or is the publisher of the zine, you might wish to avoid cons in favor of mail-order. (Of course, the advantage to cons is instant gratification...)

I'VE GOT SOME RESPONSES. SOMEONE'S CALLING MY MAIN CHARACTER A MARY SUE. WHAT'S A MARY SUE?

Oh boy.

I've interpreted this question as an excuse to explain ST fandom terminology, or the classification of fanfic. These definitions have been taken from a lot of different people's explanations, and really can mean different things to different people. This is just to give you a general idea of the fan writer's lexicon.

"Slash" fic features characters (who generally are not homosexual in the source product) involved in a homosexual relationship. The most famous and first kind was Kirk/Spock (abbreviated K/S)-- the slash between the names is where "slash" fic gets its name. Other famous kinds include Blake/Avon (Blake's 7), Starsky/Hutch, and Bodie/Doyle (The Professionals.)

While all forms of fanfic are illegitimate, this one could get you in worse trouble than others. Lucasfilm will hunt down writers of Star Wars slash fic and slap them with lawsuits-- it's happened. Blake's 7 fandom suffered a serious rupture when the actor who plays Avon, Paul Darrow, who had been pally with fan writers, found out about this stuff and demanded that people stop. B7 slash fic is mostly written under pseudonyms; I'd suggest that if you want to write slash, pseudonyms are a good idea in any case.

"Mary Sue" refers to a kind of character that nearly everyone hates. Nearly everyone in the story loves a Mary Sue; it's the readers who hate her. There are a few overlapping definitions of a Mary Sue:

a. A wish-fulfillment fantasy of the author's. The character may have a similar name or use the author's middle name, or simply resemble the author.

b. A character who is young, eager and very, very good at everything she tries to do. These Mary Sues fall into the following: "Lieutenant Mary Sue, Starfleet's youngest lieutenant at 16 years old, beamed aboard the Enterprise. Immediately Kirk, Spock and McCoy were all struck by her amazing beauty. She was sweet and as innocent as her sainted dead mother who had left her to be raised by nuns, but she could fight like a Klingon and spoke every known language in the galaxy. Soon she proves her worth to the crew by saving the universe with her keen superintellect and charming demeanor, and either dies nobly at the end or ends up in bed with the character of the author's choice, or both."

c. Any female character who upstages the regular crew.

There is a certain sexism to these definitions-- many people are willing to brand any original character a Mary Sue, particularly if the character is competent. Many more people are willing to brand any original love interest a Mary Sue. Mary Sueism is not the sole province of fan writers; Wesley Crusher is a classic Mary Sue, the one marring factor in his perfect Mary Sueism being that he can't get girls (by the time he can, he's less of one.) Amanda Rogers, in the episode True Q, is even more of a classic Mary Sue-- the character was invented by high school student Matt Cory, who wrote her to be male and had dreams of playing the character himself. As (extensively) rewritten, Amanda is not terribly offensive as the breed goes; her attempt to mindrape Riker gives her a dimension of flawed humanity that many Mary Sues just don't have.

If someone calls your character a Mary Sue, you must answer these questions for yourself:

Given the parameters of the Star Trek universe, is my character realistic? (If you are a 16-year-old lieutenant, you are not realistic unless you come from a very short-lived species-- in which case your mental age is greater than 16 anyway.) Is my character upstaging the regular cast? If so, is he or she upstaging

  • all* of them, or just one or two?

Does my character have flaws that make him or her human? (Regardless of if they are alien)

If the answer to these is yes, no, yes (or yes, yes, no, yes), then congratulations, it's not a Mary Sue. Laugh at your detractors and keep on writing.

If it *is* a Mary Sue, look at ways you can make the character more realistic. Does she have to be 16? Will 19 do? Does he have to be the only one who can work out the equations to save the ship in time? Maybe he can provide a key part, and Data or Geordi provides the rest? Does she have to be so charming and sweet? Can you make her nerdy and insecure to compensate for her 180 IQ?

Few Mary Sues are inherently unsalvageable-- it takes a bit of work, is all. [2]}}

References

  1. This statement is very full of errors, one of them very cruel and thoughtless, see the Marion Zimmer Bradley Fanfiction Controversy.
  2. The Fanzine FAQ, version 0.9, Alara Rogers,from the FAQ for alt.startrek.creative, September 10, 1994