The Invasion of Consumer Fans or Have Fans Become Jaded?
|Title:||The Invasion of Consumer Fans or Have Fans Become Jaded?|
|Date(s):||mid to late 1986|
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The Invasion of Consumer Fans or Have Fans Become Jaded? is a 1986 essay by Carolyn Cooper that was inspired by discussions at MediaWest* #6.
It was printed in Blue Pencil #4.
Some Topics Discussed
- the good old days
- mono and multifannish fans
- the fragmentation of fannish interests
- zines and choices
From the Essay
I brought this topic out for discussion at the Blue Pencil Breakfast at MediaWest*Con 6. The concensus was "Oh, no. Zine fans haven't become jaded but...". The "but"s invariably led to examples of complaints or comments from zine buyers that sounded suspiciously similar to the complaints and comments heard at Bloomingdale's at Christmas. A collection of comments from this year includes "Do your Star Trek zines contain any post-movie stories? (Apparently the correct answer was 'yes'). Do you have any mixed media zines under $10? I don't recognize any of these artists, but some of the art is nice, but I don't like to buy a zine with new artists in it so... I don't know any of these people. Are they anybody? I only buy zines with color covers. I never buy zines with color covers. I don't buy zines with yellow covers. I don't approve of zines over 200 pages. I won't buy zines under 150 pages. I don't buy zines with reduced type because I can't read that tiny type. I won't buy a zine unless it has reduced type...they're ripping me off by not reducing the page...In light of this phenomenon and my observations, I would like to offer the following marketing/positioning profiles for the various fandoms;
Star Trek; The Safeway Approach: "I work an honest day and I want an honest deal". The basic, down-to-earth value for your money approach. Jam-packed zines by well-known writers and basic graphics and art. Bruce Springsteen would be a Trek fan (if fandom were blue-collar).
Star Wars: The Designer Zine Approach: Watch Those BMW and Mercedes ads. Go for the features, color covers by big name, designer artist (Karen River is the Calvin Klein/Ralph Lauren of SWars art), interior color, LOTS of art and make sure the zine is big (taking up two parking spaces on the shelf) and expensive. Stephanie and Michael from the Bob Newhart Show would be SWars fans if fandom were chi-chi enough. (After all Carrie DOES hang out with Billy Joel and Christy Brinkley).
Miami Vice: Honda Scooter ads were tailor made for Vice fans (actually I don't understand why the editors aren't making music video ads). Shoot for funky, fun, hip but always with style (i.e. terrific artists, newcomers welcome IF they are GOOD and sophisticated). The stories can be thin on plot but with lots of feeling. Phil Collins and Don Johnson would definitely approve.
The Brits: (Blake's 7; Dr. Who; The Professionals): The intellectual elitist approach. Study the ads in the New York Times Book Review's section on small press publications or back-issues of Village Voice (before they went to 4-process color). It is important to make certain you maintain the traditional feel of zines (almost a "truefannish/CORFLU" flavor), no sleek, A color covers; keep that rough, obviously amateur art (if any); and it helps if the text looks like it was typed on an old Remington manual typewriter that resides in the garret of a starving artist. And be sure to use lots of direct quotes from your source material. Billy Buckley would have made a great Blake's 7 editor if he hadn't gotten lost in all that New Republic nonsense.Stephen J. Cannell and the OTHER category (SiSi; H&C; RT; RS; etc.) You know those ads for the complete collection of Bobbi Vinton's greatest hits? Well, basically that's the same approach for this group. Just HAVING a zine dedicated to their fandom is enough to ensure a solid, but limited, number of sales. These folks are easy to please, if it's got a cover with a picture of their faves and the names of the lead characters are typed at least 4 times on the first page of the first story, they're happy. You may want to plan a one-shot until you see whether the show gets renewed for the next season. It's important to go with the flow. Cher and Jane Fonda would definitely fit in this fandom.
All joking aside, I think there's no doubt that fans, and zine fandom, have become jaded. Partly, I believe, because zine fandom has become older overall and come to expect certain standards of production. After all, how many of us are still sleeping on the floor and bringing our own peanut butter to a con? Most of us are of baby boomer age and all of those VCRs, digital TVs, Lean Cuisines and customized phones are bought by our generation. And partly because we've been around close to 20 years now. We've endured because we've been successful and like any successful activity we've improved in some ways and diminshed in others.
So what's the point. Only that I believe it is foolish for zine fandom to hide its collective head in the sand or to act like Nancy and Ronnie clones harking back to the good, ol' days when zines were zines and fans were fans and each knew their purpose and place. Solutions need to be sought to handle the problems of increasing pressure and burnout among editors and contributors, mounting prices, competition among editors, apathy among readers, a perceived or actual decline in writing quality, the flattening of zine sales by the fragmentation of fannish interests and more. These problems can't be solved by demanding the zine buyers, editors or contributors step back in line and march to someone's dictates as to what is acceptable. Star Trek will never again be the beginning and the end of media fandom. Star Wars is no longer the only other choice. Slash will not go away. Offset is here to stay and color is going to continue its growth. Fans are no longer going to buy everything that's pubbed for one fandom and one fandom alone. Most fans will continue to have several interests vying for their discretionary cash.
So what can be done? I don't have all the answers. I may not even have some of them. I do think it's time we re-educated ourselves into what is involved in editing and contributing to media zines. I do think we have to make an honest appraisal of ourselves and say "Am I jaded?". I also think it is time for zine editors and contributors to start talking again, not with inane panels of 4 people promoting their own publication, but actual discussion groups and workshops. And I think it's time we all realized that the "dues" are never paid; there never comes a time when you can sit back and rest on your laurels having earned the undying respect and admiration of the crowds. There are dues to be paid each year; there are contributions to be made each issue. If you no longer make the effort to rowing the boat of fandom, you've abdicated your power to help steer it and if enough people choose merely to lean on the oars, then the direction will be controlled by a handful.