Thief in Fandom

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Open Letter
Title: Thief in Fandom
From: Mystery L. Frank
Addressed To:
Date(s): July 2, 1997
Medium: mailing list
Fandom: Pan-fandom
Topic:
External Links:
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Thief in Fandom is an open letter by Mystery L. Frank. The subject was zines and fandom and profit and New Leaf Publications.

The open letter was sent to many mailing lists in July 1997 with Frank's plea to "please pass this message on to ANY list and ANY person you can think of." Some recipients: Virgule-L, Stallions Gate, Senad, and the Sentinel list gen mailing list (this last list was likely The Raft, though she might have been referring to Senfic).

An Ironic Footnote

Sometime after August 2015, Mystery Frank also disappeared from fandom, essentially creating the very scenario she'd ranted about regarding Peg Kennedy nineteen years later. See Site Closure.

Some Background

A zine agent is a person or publisher who sells zines on behalf of others, taking over the production of zines from a previous publisher or individual. An agent not necessarily the sole seller.

Zine agents often provide a beneficial service. Transactions, however, were not always smooth ones due to questions of profit, ownership, copyright, and what constituted good business relations and service.

In July 1996, Peg Kennedy took over Bill and Ann Hupe's massive catalog of agented zines, and by all accounts, was in over her head. Peg didn't have the in-place group of helpful fans that Bill did, and within a few months, grew completely overwhelmed by the business. Many fans started to ask what was going on, that they'd sent in money for orders and heard nothing back. Months of no information followed.

From a disappointed fan's letter in The K/S Press in February 1998: "Peg Kennedy apparently took on more than she could deal with when she assumed control of Bill Hupe’s empire. She's got lots of people from many fandoms angry at her."

Also see Bill and Ann Hupe. Also see The Retirement Letters.

Text of Mystery Frank's Open Letter

This is a call-to-arms. I need to hear from any dealers who have been lied to and deceived by Peg Kennedy (aka New Leaf Productions] and would like to join a group of dealers who are putting their collective foot down. We are informing fandom at large that Peg Kennedy no longer has the right to sell our zines and we demand our stock and all monies owed to us be sent to us IMMEDIATELY. Join us and be counted. I will be writing up a statement that will be sent out to all dealers who wish to stand with us and make a joint statement so that they may make corrections and additions, then together we will be sending this missive to everyone in fandom we can think of. Please pass this message on to ANY list and ANY person you can think of so that we can stop Peg Kennedy from drawing in any new dealers who are unaware of the situation and how she has been treating all the people she is supposedly agenting for! Let's show Peg that fandom as a whole WILL NOT TOLERATE THIS. [1]

Initial Fan Response

While I've loads of sympathy for dealers who have had problems with Peg, (and I'm one who's still waiting for a zine ordered in April) do we really want to label someone a thief? That's a harsh criticism - I'd hesitate to do that without knowing all the facts, and something more about Peg's circumstances. I once waited nine months for a zine, after all...I didn't label that zine dealer. You may be right, but somehow 'thief' makes me feel very uncomfortable. [2]

I have to agree with [R]. "Thief" is a harsh and an inaccurate word without proof that Peg's actually stealing stuff from you. From what I understand the job was and is too overwhelming for her and she's trying her best. Just because Bill Hupe tried to be superman and lost his health, good name and a lot of his spirit over it all. Maybe the lesson is go back to doing it yourself. [J] and I don't depend on what Peg sells. We plod along at our own rate, selling zines when people find out about them and order them. Going to the occasional convention as a huckster. Since we bought a second-hand photocopier, we do it all ourselves, don't carry bulk copies of the zines to deteriorate on shelves, and are happy to put out zines that only 25 people will see a copy of in this life-time as there is no market for it anywhere.

Mysti, [J] and I won't be signing any such document.

If you go ahead with it, be careful. I am sure there are libel laws over there like there are here. And this was meant to be a friendly response.

[S] (who just couldn't sit back this time...) [3]
So, this was Mysti's manifesto; she's posting it to every gen and slash list she has access to.

Hmmm... I don't have good feelings about this.

While completely agreeing that [Peg Kennedy] is not keeping her agreements, and is months behind on her bookkeeping, and maybe even is skimming a little across the top, it still seems...icky -- to use a technical term -- for Mysti Frank (who cleared enough at MediaWesCon to buy a new effing laptop) to be leading the charge from this high a horse. [4]

Peg Kennedy, and Warpaths

I hesitate to put this comment forward, but what, exactly, would I be counted *as*? As I understand it, many many zine dealers make more than is strictly needed to actually produce a zine. Some buy new computers with their earnings, computers they can afford even *after* they've paid for ALL expenses associated with making a zine: airplane fares, hotel costs, etc. to conventions, all their printing costs, all reimbursements, all trib copies, etcetera. And some, of course, just cover their zine selling-related expenses (which basically covers everything above except the computer.) Others are even more generous, and recoup only what it costs them to make the actual, physical zines. I'm suddenly pining for a few pollyanna posts, here, about fandom being for *fun* and how, while any hobby can (and should, in my opinion) be treated in a businesslike manner, producing zines filled with copyright-violating material should not be considered "legitimate".

Peg Kennedy is a nice lady. She may be a bad business person, or she may simply have gotten in *way* over her head trying to take over the work Bill Hupe started years ago. Either way, while it would likely be a relief for her to have some people remove their zines from her inventory (we all know a smaller inventory equals less hassle), I hesitate to be a part of some sort of fannish possee, riding to the northwest to haul Peg in.

Of course, that's because I *like* Peg, and because when I run into her at conventions I ask for payouts and she promptly grants them. It's also because I know how easy it is to get overwhelmed with something that started out as a fun, friendly hobby.

I *definitely* don't want to participate in some sort of globally distributed statement where I'd be clearly announced not only as a zine seller but as one who's complaining about people's business behaviors. It seems *far* too likely that someone from certain better-left-in-the-dark production companies will see this list and have an easy way to shut us all down--all zine publishers' names, on one convenient list? Please, do *not* include any zine I've ever been associated with!

I guess I'd suggest that people consider the attention such a widely distributed statement could bring down on us, because while fandom has developed a certain credibility as the years go by, it's still a very little fish and production companies can be very large sharks just waiting to gobble zine producers up....

Again, my paramount concern is that this message to Peg is exactly the message that we, as fans and zine makers, want *desperately* to avoid receiving from production companies...

It's my hope that you and Peg can resolve this issue peacefully, and that you get your zines back. I'm not at *all* complaining or suggesting that to do so would be inappropriate; Peg *is* overwhelmed. But I hope you'll consider the kind of attention you may be drawing fandom's way, and that it could have some really bad fallout for zine makers in general. [5]

A Follow-up Letter by Frank

Posted to Virgule Mailing List on July 4, 1997:

Ruth, Susan and several others have called me to task for labelling Peg Kennedy a 'thief,' and I'd like to publicly acknowledge that they are correct in doing so. I was reacting emotionally to the fact that Peg owes me a large sum of money (we're talking thousands here) and that I had to cash in one of my US bonds that my grandparents bought for me over 10 years ago just to pay my rent this month. Having Peg go incommunicado for over a year while owing me money and zines angered me and I opened my mouth without thinking.

I apologize to Peg for calling her a thief. What I meant to say was that she been a year delinquent in making payments for zines sold and has refused all communication until only just this past week when I got a long e-mail full of excuses as to why she couldn't pay me anytime soon. This one e-mailed response to all the e-mails, phone calls and snail mail I have sent her is outrageous and ridiculous. I can also say from personal experience that the phone number she so blithely gave out at MediaWest so various dealers could call her has had a block placed on the line to stop all incoming calls. This means she can call out, but no one can call her. This is not something the phone company does on a whim--it must be requested by the customer. What does that tell you about how Peg intends to handle this situation.

I'm not looking to call Peg names. I simply want to get as many dealers together to issue a joint statement listing all the zines Peg is NOT authorized to sell any longer and to make fandom aware that sending money to Peg is not conducive to receiving a zine order through the mail. (Has ANYONE gotten a zine they've ordered from Peg in the last year?)

I hope this clears up my position. If anyone wants to add to this, or make clear their own dealings with Peg, I'd really like to hear about it.

Mysti (Zines-for-sale@jxxx.com)

Well, for one thing, I never stand under falling objects...

Have a zine (or ten) you'd like to sell to the world? Send it to me, and I'll take it to cons with me. Let's get the zines out there where fans can find them!

Also See

References

  1. letter posted to many mailing lists on July 2, 1997
  2. comments on Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (July 3, 1997)
  3. comments on Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (July 3, 1997)
  4. comments by Sandy Hereld on a private mailing list, quoted with permission (July 3, 1997)
  5. comments by Michelle Christian on Virgule-L, quoted with permission (July 10, 1997)