Why Fewer Zines?

From Fanlore
Jump to: navigation, search
Related terms: Zine
See also: Zine Production, History of Media Fanzines, Fandom and the Internet, Zines and the Internet
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
One fan did some research and created this table for the article The Legacy of K/S in Zines: 1991-1995: Publisher by Publisher

The arrival and accessibility of the internet, among other things, led to a profound and lasting decline in zine production. But this decline hit different fandoms at different speeds. Older fandoms with many years of zine production, such as K/S, The Professionals and others maintained zine production longer. Different fandoms tried different strategies throughout the late 90s and early 2000s to accommodate fans who were acting out more of their fannish life online.


Even before the world wide web, fans noticed a drop-off in number of new zines.

  • there were a number of complaints by fans in early 1985 in the pages of the Starsky and Hutch letterzine Between Friends about the lack of zines published.
  • from a 1988 issue of On the Double, there was complaint from a writer/fan about lack of submissions to zines: "I hear complaints from all over fandom that zines aren't getting enough submissions."
From a 1987 issue of Comlink where a fan blames the microcomputer and electronic bulletin boards, among other things:
"We have experienced the video revolution in television, movies, cable, television, video games, interactive games, role-playing games, music of all types, MTV, and other factors outside our experience. The underlying common factor in all of the above is the idea of instant gratification: why slog through a book when all one has to do is sit back and enjoy?... While the instant gratification of the video boom certainly contributes to younger fen's disinterest in picking up an SF book, the microcomputer revolution has lured many a young (mostly male) potential fan into the world of computing. The nerds were no longer considered outcasts, but could find solace in computer fandom rather than in SF fandom... The rise of microcomputers and their associated fandom may have indeed have taken the majority of our future contributing fans. While in Omaha in 1983-85, I observed many young compufen expressing themselves on the Electronic Bulletin Board Systems. BBS are, in some respects, high-tech successors to fanzines/apazines with immediate updating and continual feedback the main differences... Many of the messages left on the board discussed SF books, so it's apparent the problem isn't that the computer fen don't read, but that they don't contribute to the established outlets of SF fandom: fanzines, apas, etc..."
  • the June 1991 Southern Enclave, a Star Wars letterzine which published many LoCs, encouraged fellow fans to make more zines to take up the slack in offerings.

Why Fewer Zines? Was It Just the Internet?

The rise of the Internet is often cited as the reason print zines had declined in number; in essence, why shell out money for something that one can get for free?

One fan's thoughts:
"Once the BBS's such as GEnie and CompuServe's started popping up, slowly and surely fans moved from the long wait between printed issues to the instant gratification (and conflagration) that the world wide web provides. Nowadays, a fan who writes a story can post it to his or her website (or someone else's) with instant gratification or disappointment from its readers. Clearly, the Internet has put an end to much of the printed fanzines."[1]
In 2001, a fan created a zine and felt she had to explain what a fanzine even was to her audience:
"Do you like to have something printed on paper that you can take anywhere, read whenever you want to, as often as you want to? Do you enjoy stories written by fans, illustrated by fans? I do -- but with the rising popularity of the Internet, fanzines seem to be in short supply these days. But search no more! Here is [a brand new new fanzine featuring various members of the DS9 crew, now available. Proceeds go to charity."[2]
In 2002, a fan wrote:
"For me, it's all about the money. I started reading fanfic back when STOS zines were first coming out. I just realized this means I'm really old. At any rate, I can remember feeling I'd been burned when, after waiting weeks for an expensive zine to arrive in the mail, it turned out to be about 90% dreck. But that was the only way to get the stuff then, so you had to pay yer money and take yer chances. You could reduce the risk a bit by finding out who was in the zine, because then, as now, certain writers could be counted on to produce good work.

I agree that slightly less bad work appeared in zines than appears online, but the sheer volume of what appears online compared to what could be published in zines almost guarantees that. I don't think it's necessarily that zine work is inherently better in some way, just that it got filtered through at least one more person before it got into the reader's hands than a lot of what's posted. But there were some very bad editors back then, too, and some very odd ideas....

I stopped ordering zines because the proportion of good stories I was getting didn't justify the cost. I look at what zines cost now, and even the ones that are produced without profit (and there's an argument you could get into, about profiteering from fanfic) are

fairly pricey, from my perspective. I think zines are how we coped before we had this wonderful internet thingie, and we should all just move on into the 21st century and get on with it." [3]
From a fan in 2007:
"Media fanzines, in Australia at least, have gone the way of the dodo, for the most part, as people discover the joys of the Internet... people decided that it was more fun to go on-line and choose stories by theme and character and, for that matter, write and publish their own stuff without having to go through the filter of an editor." [4]

Fewer Zines: Other Mitigating Factors

While the Internet is certainly a player in the decline in the number of zines, fans have suggested other reasons as well.

One interesting thing: Fans' perception of "fewer zines" is relative; fans have been complaining about the decline in zines since media fanzines were first created.

High Cost of Zines

A comment in 1979: A fan cites the high cost of zines as a possible reason for a decline. she writes:
"If the cost of fanzines continue to rise (current prices have been as much as $10-$15 a piece), I'm sure in the near future few fans, no matter how devoted, will be able to purchase or publish ST fanzines. [5]
A comment in 1983: A fan says:
What really burns me about all this is the astronomical rise in zine prices in the past few years. Before...1978, the most bucks.... When I [resumed buying fanzines] last year, I couldn't believe how expensive zines had become. [6]

Disinterest/Hostility Towards the Past

In 1999, the print zine story Freedom is Standing in the Light was posted as part of Foresmutters Project. While many fans were appreciative, some were not:

[comments from several fans]: I am very uncomfortable with this whole thing. I freely admit that part of my discomfort is due to the less-than-pleasant experiences I've had among the citizens of the zine world. But one of the things I grew extremely sick of was having the Glorious History of K/S shoved in my face every time I turned around, which started up the minute I entered that forum....

I personally also feel overburdened with The History of K/S sometimes, and I get tired of hearing Oh that was done before by lessee some person in 1984 whom I've never heard of (tho that happens less now than it used to, dunno why). If I can't read it now (relevant zine being unavailable), and haven't been able to read it before...

The fact that [zine stories] hail from the "old days" is a curiosity to me, nothing less, nothing more. We've all heard about the glories of the old zines--I think it's entirely possible we'll read these stories and learn that they're not that much different than what we find here on the net, today. [7]
From a fan in 2004:

I have to say that one of the things that I do NOT understand, being a newer fan in general, is the "old school" near-worship of the zine format.

I GET that in older fandoms zines were the first and only way to distribute material, and that they took a lot of time and effort to produce. But $30 for fan fic stories of very good to so-so quality? I don't think so. I don't pay that much for hardbacks. Plus, even though I doubt the publishers will ever get rich off zines (or really even buy themselves dinner at a fancy restaurant), I really think that "selling" fan fic moves it out of the area of question legality and squarely into "prosecutable".

I like reading stories off the net because I can save the ones I really like, adjust them to fit MY preferences in layout and font. I don't like the 8.5x11 spiral bound, single column format at all. I've read the comment that zine stories are always well-edited whereas net fic isn't which, based on the handful of zines I have, is flat-out not true. [8]

Online and Authorial Control

A fan in 2002 liked the control writing online gave authors:

My experience with zines was that they seemed to fall through in the end. Twice I was asked (and submitted) work, and twice, the whole project was just tossed aside. Much more freeing for an author to be able to control his or her efforts, I'd say. [9]
A fan in 2017 said:
I find that a certain number of oldschool zine people also honestly believe that zine eds are great structural and line editors, while betas are useless cheerleaders. This assumption is holding some people back. In their view, if younger fans would just give their product a chance, they’d see how superior it is and become a zine fan. My view is that the very worst online fic is worse than what you’ll find in zines, but everything else is exactly the same. Even if younger fans “gave zines a chance”, they might not find anything there to justify paying money for. [10]

Refusal to Be Edited, Laziness, Instant Gratification

Some fans cited writer's refusal to have their fanfiction edited, and that many fans preferred the instant gratification of online publication.

From fans in 2004:

I had an interesting discussion with a friend and she asked me why fanzines are still exist given that the internet is more accessible...

as an author, I find a zillion times more satisfaction in submitting to a zine, going through the editing process, being accepted, and actually getting the zine, seeing my story in print, than I do in posting a story. While we're lucky to have so many good writers posting fic in this fandom, I've seen the most utter garbage posted on some sites in different fandoms. So in a way, posting a story, for me, doesn't seem as much of an accomplishment when someone can throw together something with no concept of plot, spelling, grammar, punctuation, character motivation, and still have it available to anybody. True, there are some less than stellar zines, but for me, there's nothing like a really good zine. The moment of delight when you see it in the mailbox, looking through it for the art, recognizing the names of familiar authors, and then just curling up somewhere comfortable with a zine.

Also, reading long stories on the computer make my eyes want to fall out. My eyes aren't as young as they used to be, and reading on line is just too tough. So while I do post stories, I tend to zine them first.

Yes, some of the editors I've talked to/worked with have said that the easy axcessability [sic] of fanfic on the internet has affected both the production of zines and the quality of material that gets submitted. Simply with several authors I've talked to, they don't want to go through the trouble of the editing process when they can easily post it on a website somewhere and get immediate feedback. Others are newer to fandom and feel that they "don't write well enough" to trib to a zine.
I know as an editor, I have had more trouble, unfortunately, with some writers who started internet posting and then tried zines. There was often a reluctance to be edited. I had one writer pull a story in a huff because I didn't instantly proclaim it was perfect to the last commma [sic]. her response was, "My beta reader liked it, so why don't you?" Alas, because it needed major work. On the other hand, there have been several authors who have been extremely responsive to editing and found they enjoyed it once they got past the initial reaction. I know I like working with a good editor myself.
As for sales, I have heard from people that sales of zines were down. That's disappointing. I hope it's just a fluctuation and not the complete wave of the future.
I do know there are many writers out there who don't want to be edited and/or don't understand what goes into editing a story. I do try to break it to them gently, but when writers first get the file back with all the pretty red and blue Track Changes and highlighed [sic] editorial comments, it tends to come as a shock. <g> [11]

Lack of Communication from Editors

A comment in 1985: There were some fans who felt that lack of communication from some zine editors didn't encourage writers and led to fewer zines:
There's a lot of talk going on about writing fan fiction right now, from the trials of the timid neos to the tired pros. I don't write much or often, but one problem I keep running into is unanswered queries and submissions that disappear along with the zine. Could be a lapse of etiquette on my part, but I find it difficult to keep up my enthusiasm when editors don't answer guideline questions, ignore submission ideas, or accept stories and then are never heard from again. I wouldn't say this kind of behavior is the norm, but it happens often enough for me to wonder how committed editors of new zines are.. [12]
A fan in 1991 complained:
Zine editors, with a few exceptions, aren't too encouraging to writers. Many of them do not answer queries and do not acknowledge material sent to them... I'd love to get even a rejection slip, or something like "I hated your stuff, besides XY had a better one on the same idea two years ago." Writers desperately need feedback, even harsh criticism! I have sent stuff to almost every zine in SW, and seven of them never even bothered to answer! I wonder if other writers have the same problem. [13]

The Decline of the Letters Of Comment (LOC)

A comment in 1988: Jacqueline Lichtenberg blames the decline of the LoC. She has a long letter in On the Double commenting on rejected fan fic, LoCs and the difference between letterzines, review zines and LoCs:
Lately, I've been hearing from established writers that Trekdom has lost the habit and art of the LoC... Faneds ceased publishing Locs because zine prices skyrocketed, so LoC writers ceased writing them because there was no free copy to be won by doing a good job on a LoC, so new writers no longer had incisive reader commentary about published stories to study and learn writing from, faneds no longer had a running commentary on their own editorial practices to keep them polite in their rejections, and as a result the quality of zine submissions has fallen and zine eds are baffled and offended by that fall in quality. Meanwhile, to make matters worse, the upfront investment in publishing a zine is going up and up, and the zine buyers are totally spoiled by the number of professional-level writers working in the zines... Zine eds are trying to revive the vitality that we used to have in zine fandom, but which we lost when we lost the LoC column and the free-issue for a published LoC policy. With our feedback look cut like that, faneds are getting ulcers, writers are depressed, and the readers are starving for good reading. Letterzines and review zines don't do the job because the letter writer has to consider that many of the readers haven't read the stories being discussed. Letterzines and review-zines consist of people expressing their own opinions, usually without reference to what anyone else in the issue is saying, or to what was said in the previous issue. Perceptive and in-depth discussion of a work which all the readers of the zine have also read, argument over various points in the work, so that the LoC column reader can see all sides of the issue, is just missing.
A comment in 1991 from Maggie Nowakowska:
Why are there fewer and fever stories around? One certain reason is because the writers can't believe fandom wants stories anymore, not really, not without the guaranteed proof in the hand that a LoC represents. It's not a coincidence that stories started to get sparce about the same time that LoCs began dwindling. In Gian Paolo's letter, he says he'd like to see stories on Mon Mothma. Okay, I published a story on MM, but whether it was good or bad or indifferent, I don't bloody well know because no one has told me. The artist liked it (thanks, Catherine), but not one LoC appeared. Zilch. Nada. Niente. [14]

Proliferation of Professional Fannish Goods

A comment in 1988: A fan suggests the proliferation of professional fannish goods has had an impact on zine production and sales.
One of the things that struck me most powerfully about the dealers' room at Midcon was that the number of fan publications had dropped, and what there were didn't seem to be selling particularly well. In the early days, it was all we had, and we bought everything. Now there is a such a proliferation of merchandise -- novels, toys, pins, calendars -- that by the time a fan has purchased just a few of these, there is simply no cash left for the fan publications. [15]
A comment in 1998: A fan blames the many pro books:
The enormous production of zines has dried to a trickle. Of course, now we have the official novels packing out bookshop shelves so I guess the drive to continue the all too short original series was satisfied and fan fiction didn't seem necessary any more. I don't blame the Internet — this trend began when new Trek series started to appear. [16]

Declining Quality

A comment in 1988: A fan suggests that it is declining quality that doesn't bode well for zines.
We spend so much money on zines nowadays, only to find very little of quality between the covers. [17]
In 1996, Joan Verba talked about this supposed decline in Boldly Writing:
... some Star Trek fan fiction writers [like sf writers before them], reached a certain level of competency, submitted to professional markets instead. Of those who still wrote fan stories, some, after Star Wars, wrote only for other 'media' fanzines. Either way, Star Trek fanzines gradually lost some of their best writers, and these could not be easily replaced. A resurgence of professional-level fan writers would not take place until the Internet era. [18]
From a fan in 2004:
I don't buy zines, and one reason is that I often *don't* know the caliber of stories I'm going to get. I don't recognize many of the authors, those who seem to write only for zines, and I don't want to spend $25 to find out whether I'd like them. If I don't like a net story, it's cost me nothing to try it. The few zines I've looked at didn't seem particularly better edited than a good net story, either. As a writer, I do want to be edited, but a good beta reader (or, better, readers) should be able to do the same job as a good editor. But maybe I'm misunderstanding the zine editor's role. Who has the final word? The editor? As a writer, I admit *I* want the final word, after getting all the input and advice I can. I think there may be as many variations on zine editor role as beta reader role. I've had beta readers whose complete input was the unhelpful note "love it!" or who commented only on spelling and grammar. I've also had (rare) beta readers who made insightful comments on structure, pacing, plot, character, etc. - which is what I would expect from a good zine editor too. But I've seen zines that seemed to be edited only with a spell checker.. [19]

High Cost of Zines Combined with Declining Quality

A comment in 1989: A fan suggests the declining quality combined with increased prices of zines:
"... zines are starting to get expensive; there are two out right now that are in the $18-20 range, and I think people deserve some hint of what they may be buying... When I started writing Trek (way back in 75 -- hand me my cane, sonny!), fandom was blessed with some editors and reviewers who were professional or near it (like Joyce Yasner, Devra Langsam, Paula Smith, Connie Faddis, Signe Landon) at what they did. Some of the writing from those old zines -- Menagerie. Spockanalia. Interphase -- still stands up beautifully against even the newer, well-written pro-Trek novels. Those were the people who scared the hell out of me — some are the people I now ask for critiques and edits. The process can be embarrassing, even painful, but putting out something good is work, not necessarily comfortable. "Star Wars" was as critical as "Trek" -- lots of the people in it were migrating Trekfen. Even in S&H fandom, where the criticism got nasty at times (which is not necessary) the writing was usually good and occasionally excellent... Sorry if this offends anyone... [but I've] never read a S&S zine that did not contain at least one story in desperate need of major repair. UNCLE fandom has both ends — very good and very awful. Before this starts to sound like terminal egotism, I'm not claiming to be an expert on fanzines. But I got spoiled on the good stuff." [20]
A comment in 2013:
While it's true that a well-edited zine is a joy forever, a lot of zines just honestly aren't that well edited. I was getting pickier and pickier about that, especially given the cost. I could read well-edited fic online for free. I started getting angry when I spent money on a zine that was poorly written or edited; it was no longer a chance I was willing to take. [21]
A comment in 2013:
As for how popular zines still are... they're still very popular with a set of people who've been doing them for years, but as those people get tired or move on to new fandoms that don't care about zines, their numbers thin. There's also a lot of crankiness and bullshit about how fans online don't care about books or don't believe in editing or other nonsensical explanations for why we don't buy zines... anything other than recognizing that most zines these days aren't that high quality but are offered at extremely high prices. Zine publishing isn't dead, but it's a pretty small segment of fandom compared to even the 90s when the internet had already started to take over. If more people did paper zines that functioned as collector's edition versions of already-popular online longfic (and I were in fandoms large enough that there was any of this in the first place), I would buy more recent zines. But that's not the way they work in "Media Fandom". People publish first in a zine and then are free to post the story online after a year; the stories are the standard range of good and bad like fic anywhere else, and there aren't many artists still active, so you're unlikely to see gorgeous illustrations that justify spending money on a physical copy. As it is, I buy used zines with fic I can't get any other way.[22]

The Fracturing of Fandom

A comment in 1989: A fan blames the fracturing of fandom and the availability of too many choices:
I've read zines lately -- usually from small fandoms, with so few zines even miserable writing is welcomed -- where there seems to be little or no constructive criticism. [23]
A comment in 1990: A fan writes that she has seen a vast decline and writes that there:
[There] seems to be a new breed of fan emerging over the past five years... [one] who has no knowledge of, or interest in, fannish traditions and things fannish like zines... [then pro publishers realized] there's gold in them there fannish hills and flooded the market with goods, and this new generation of fans lapped them up. [24]

Increased Production Expectations for Zines

A comment in 1991: A fan comments that increased production expectations are partly to blame:
In the ancient time (a more civilized age?), it seemed that the second thing a new fan did was start a new zine. Not all were quality products, needless to say, but they existed. Have the newer fans no inclination to take that route -- or is it that entry into an established fandom (with "established rules" and so forth, half of which aren't worth the hot air they're spoken with) is simply too intimidating? The cry I always hear is that it costs an arm and a leg to produce a zine these days. True-but, in relative terms and keeping inflation in mind, it was hardly any less expensive 'way back when. Everything costs more these days than it did ten years ago, not just zine production I wonder if part of it is the "production values" syndrome ... the few surviving zines are high-quality products (arrived at through long practice along with trial and error), and fandom has become intolerant of zines which don't measure up to the existing standard. If that's part of the reason, then we probably have no one to blame but ourselves for the scarcity of the product--the old thing about the road to hell being paved with good intentions. The existing zines deserve the praise they get for appearance, etc. -it's the visible result of hard work on the part of the editor. But perhaps we've managed to give the impression that nothing less is acceptable, that any editor not capable of such quality work will be tarred and feathered. Fandom is very good at conveying that impression, perhaps without intending to do so. As an example, I'll offer my own experience: When I first got into fandom (circa 1978), I learned very quickly that one either had to write (1) straight action-adventure or (2) the complete, textured universe of a Thousand Worlds saga (which is beyond the reach of most neos, and frankly even beyond some experienced writers). Nothing else seemed to be permitted - at the very least, anything else ran the risk of being chopped into very small pieces of bantha feed in the locs.[25]

Readability Issues

A comment in 2011: A fan cited clumsy binding and cite other readability issues with printed zines:
Don't get me wrong, exclusive art? New fic? Stuff I can carry around? Stuff that won't spontaneously disappear on me when an archive folds or I lose all of my bookmarks to a virus? All great things! By all rights I should adore them. But as I look at the ones I own, I just don't feel the love. They're too large--I have to lay them flat and squint and crane my neck to read them. Most of the ones I own have those horrid comb bindings, so I can't flip them around like a spiral notebook to hold easily. Space and formatting issues can also make them really annoying to read (My vision is terrible, so readability is a huge honkin' deal to me). It's petty, but it irks me. [26]

Too Many Zines, Too Many Choices

A comment in 1991: One fan feels that there are too many zines, and in that sense, this means the herd needs to be culled:

I think that in addition to the popularity of multi-media zines, one of the problems K/S is having is that there are too many K/S zines for the fandom to support. K/S has never had so many titles. It's not surprising that no zine is selling as briskly as it used to and that all zines are having trouble getting enough material to fill an issue. The same few editors are proliferating K/S titles trying to find the one that will sell, and it's got to stop. Let each editor pick one K/S zine to keep afloat, and all K/S zines will be that much more viable. [27]

Aging Fan Population

A comment in 1991: A fan speculates that there are fewer zines because of an aging fan population:
... the average age in fandom seems to be creeping up towards the mid-30s... and fanzine publishing is slowing down as more of the people engaged in it devote more time to family and job responsibilities. [28]

Lack of Physical Space

A comment in 2013 from a fan who cites lack of physical space:
I was almost out of shelf space (which also means "I had zero room to add more bookshelves"). Seriously, huge consideration; I know lots of people go the plastic-tub route, but I didn't have any place to put those, either. I couldn't just randomly buy zines and assume they could fit anymore; I had to consider whether I could store them or not. [29]

Proliferation of Photocopy Machines

From 1993: The increasing ease and availability of copy machines caused some zine publishers to question the viability of the craft. Fans who, in the past, were dependent on the ability of others to produce zines could now run out to the local Kinkos and make their own copies. This, in turn, reduced the need for originals, and sent costs up for publishers. From one of the many Open Letters that year:
In essence, I and a lot of other editors are sick to death of all the zine pirating that's going on these days. I'm not even referring to the "pro" pirates (whose names I don't _need_ to mention, since they've become synonymous with pirating). I'm talking about "the Kinko's crowd"--those fans who think it's perfectly all right to trot themselves down to Kinko's (or whatever other copy shop is in the vicinity of a convention) and make multiple copies of brand new zines for friends, relatives, distant acquaintances, and their pet cat... So what this all comes down to is that those of you who belong to "the Kinko's Crowd" are directly responsible for the downfall of zine publishing. You don't have to like it and you can all get together and say what a bitch I am for bringing it to your attention, but it doesn't alter the facts. Every in-print zine you copy is destroying editor's ability to produce new zines. [30]

"The Professionals" Fandom and Sharing

A comment in 1995: A fan blames, among a number of other things, The Professionals fandom:
In 1988 editors were making zine runs of 250 to 300 copies per issue and selling them within a year. Slash fandom had not splintered into the tiny fandoms that exist today. (Forever Night, Highland, The Wild Wild West, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea etc.) Due to the splinting, and boredom of the fans jumping from one fandom to other, K/S fandom has grown smaller. Editors have reduced their run to 150 to 200 for a first run of a zine to accommodate the shrinking fandom base. I believe that with the advent of the Professional fandom, where for the first 5 years, the only way to have anything to read was to use the "Library." Copying from the Library was the only way to have stories, because they were very few published zines in this fandom. Copying did not seem like such a bad idea to many fans, and unfortunately it was carried over to other fandoms. And in 1990 when many of us faced a downsizing in our professions, something had to give in our budgets. Usually it was a hobby. Zine sales stalled, and have never recovered from the "non-depression" of the early 1990's. Fans learned how to share their zines with each other in order to get their fix, and instead of each fan buying the same zine, a circle was formed in order to have the most zines for the money.

Government Meddling

A comment in 1995: A fan in Australia cites government meddling and The Viacom Crackdown:
Viacom closed down Trek fanzines in Australia, one of the few countries where there isn’t a technicality in the law that allows them to continue. [31]

The Print Zine as Elitist

A fan in 2002 wrote:
I think Zines are a form of Elitism. I'm a net writer born and bred and I believe everyone has equal right to read my stories if they should chose, whether they can afford to or not. I cannot afford zines or to travel to Cons to buy them, so I feel for anyone else in the same boat.
Another fan replied:
What about the people who aren't online or don't have access to a computer? Don't they have a right to read fan-fiction, too? Or what about the people who simply prefer holding a hard copy "book" in their hands to read? I truly don't mean to step on anyone's budget or to imply that buying zines is necessarily inexpensive, but we're not talking about a new car either. As in all things, it's a choice. If you don't want to purchase or can't afford to purchase a zine, there is plenty of wonderful fiction to read on the net, but I think that saying zines are a form of elitism, is in my opinion, painting with kind of a broad brush.... I'm sorry, but to me your analogy is akin to saying that movies shouldn't be made because they cost money to get into, and everything should just be on free television. I like to go to the movies. I hate what they cost now, but I enjoy going to them and eating my popcorn that never tastes the same at home. It's a treat, and maybe purchasing zines is a treat, too, but it isn't elitism in my opinion. It's a choice of how you want your entertainment. [32]

Lack of Visibility

A comment in 1993:
When I first started buying zines, it was a tradition to list other zines - currently available or in development - somewhere in the back. You don't see that much anymore. Letterzines/adzines are the only places where you find listings now. I suppose the market has evolved that way for a reason, but I miss the feeling of community those listings represented. [33]
A comment in 1996: There were apparently fewer zines ads submitted to adzines and letterzines:
As far as I know CT is the only letterzine for K/S fandom and I thought I would find ads for all new zines there. So, please, editors, place your ads in CT when a new zine is out. We the readers, are no telepaths!! We can only order if we know about new zines!!" The editor of this letterzine interjects: "Just a note - I have to constantly on the lookout for new zines then I beg, plead for the editors to send me the ads for the zines - [K R] are you reading this? She has two new wonderful zines out!! The non response of editors is also holding up On the Double as new zines ads are not being submitted." [34]
A fan in 2001 commented about not knowing where to find zine submission requests, or zines, for that matter:
I've went to Vidcon for several years (which is a great fan fiction convention in Tampa) and we'd often discussed whether Internet fiction was slowly taking over from 'zines. While most of the people at the convention felt 'zines wouldn't be going away, am having more and more difficulty finding 'zines to send stories to and to purchase. Would like to know if any list members can recommend any good resources for 'zines. I haven't seen adzines like Datazine or The Monthly for years. Where do you send your stories? How do you find 'zines out there? 'Zine editors, where are you finding contributors? I have a 'zine I've been wanting to put together, but can't get enough stories for and two other 'zine editors I've talked to have similar problems. [35]

The Bad Economy

A comment in 1996: The editorial in Full Circle notes a decline in zine sales, both at MediaWest and in general, and she blames the bad economy.
The next issues are going to be later again, beause of the very, very slow rate at which zines sell these days. Yes, yes, I'll continue to do the zines, but if I'm to fund them, first my little business has to stop being a money pit, and get into profit. Either, that, or folks out there have to start buying zines again, which given the current bite of the economy is a tall order.
A comment in 1997: A fan blames the Internet for cutting in on fanzines sales by offering "free fiction," but also making fanfiction more visable to the threat that is Viacom:
Recently, the net has cut into zine production--free stories can't be beat, even if they're rarely illustrated like zines. While Viacom's crackdown on fan activities has scared off even some long-time distributors, there are still terrific zines around. [36]

Television Itself

A comment in 1998: A fan blames television [37] and the VCR:
It is the malady of the newer fans that they are brought up with TV and video and may of them cannot create Trek for themselves. [38]

Feeding Frenzy

A comment in 1998: A fan suggests that the decline of printed zine fiction is due to the voracious appetite of fan fic readers:
Here's the main reason why I love the web. If you write and read a lot (as I do), there simply aren't enough zines, and they don't come out often enough. I really doubt that people want to see three or more stories by the same writer in every issue of every K/S zine. And I don't know how K/S fans who are entirely dependent on zines survive between fixes. [39]

The Internet, Diversity, and Boredom

A fan in 1999 suggests that the Internet brought more diversity, showcasing that print zines, at least in the Kirk/Spock fandom, had gotten boring:
Many of the most active members of the current K/S printzine community became active in K/S in the early 1990s, a period when K/S was in a state of contraction following the Great K/S Expansion of the 1980s. The average K/S zine circulation had fallen from up to 1,000 to slightly more than 100. So, the "typical" member of the current crop of printfen began writing at a time when K/S fandom consisted of a small number of women, mostly in the US, mostly straight and married, who all knew one another and read and reacted to one another's stories...*Current* K/S print fandom has become so respectable and bourgeoisified that it seems to have little edge left. K/S printfen are not the underground any more, they are the mainstream, the nice straight housewives. So the freewheeling diversity and gender-bending of the net culture is not necessarily the printfan's cup of tranya. [40]

Art vs Fic

A fan in 2017 pointed out that fans' tastes were changing:

Another problem is the art vs. fic issue: Most zines I see advertised on Tumblr have a lot of art in them. It may be narrative art (i.e. comics), or they may be purely artbooks, or they may have a lot of fic in amongst the art, but they cannot be made except by a zine publisher who has the backing of artists. Because of that, they must also maintain a certain level of physical quality to be worth buying. [41]

Bad Editors

One zine publisher, Randy Landers, blames the internet and a bad editor:
I had gone through too many editors for our [zine name] and one of them in particular had simply exhausted my patience. She wanted Orion Press to serve as her personal vanity press, and she wanted to publish the stories simultaneously in print as well as on-line. The simple economic fact of the matter is that fanzines need to pay for themselves (fanzines never make money), and posting the stories limits the sales of the zines. She demanded the 'right' to post her fan fiction to her own website, and I told her she had to wait for a year before doing so. She... kept posting her material to her website anyway. This is one of the things that kept driving her zines' sales down, and she kept driving away contributors. [42]

Bad Marketing in a Changing World

From 2017:

Honestly, I think the “generation gap” is more about people who used to get what they wanted from fandom, who no longer do, and who are not willing or able to put in the large amount of work it would take to get those things back.[43]

For Fun, or For Business?

From 2017:

The trouble is that some zine publishers are treating it half like a business and half like a fandom project. Either one works, but not a hybrid.

If it’s a fun fandom project that has lots of community buy-in, or it’s just a thing you’re doing with your friends, then it’s reasonable to expect people to help you foot the cost. All of your buddies chip in for the copy shop fees, and then you hand-sew the bindings on your doujinshi, etc. It’s reasonable to expect people to be tolerant of crappy printing and a less than professional physical product.

If, on the other hand, you’re doing zines more like a business, you need to ask what the market wants. You need to ask what price the market is willing to pay for that product. In my experience, the average fan on Tumblr is not willing to pay very much but expects a highly polished product. Complaining that postage and printing costs are ruinous is irrelevant: these fans feel no and have no obligation to help a stranger make a zine. If it’s more fun than some cheap-ass romance novel ebook off Amazon or more tempting than the bazillion fics on AO3, they’ll buy. If not, they won’t. [44]

Changing Cultural Fannish Norms

For some 2009 discussion, see Fandom Secrets #914-secret #122; WebCite, scroll to the bottom of the page for comments.

"I hate that it's not OK...for fan authors to sell their fan fic," an anonymous post to Fandom Secrets discussing the negative attitude towards fanzines that had developed by the early 2000s. To read the complete discussion, go here (PDF file will open)
A fan in 2004 cited a lack of shared history and her lack of interest:
I started reading fanfic on the web, and suspect that many of those who love zines starting reading pre-web. I have no history with zines, no nostalgia for them, no desire to have most of them in print. This is sort of surprising to me, since I have bookshelves full of books & buy paperbacks, not ebooks. I also just like the idea of sharing fiction for free, both as a reader and writer. Sure, the problem on the web is sifting through the chaff, but there's certainly gold out there. I like to put what I've written online as a gift, and like any gift, I want it to be as nice as I can make it, and wrapped real purty. [45]
From a 2015 discussion regarding changing fannish culture, selling fanworks for a "profit," the value of the print zine, and status:
Zines, [are now] are often just a way of transmitting information. Before anyone howls with fury, no, they don't *have* to be only that. I have seen some gorgeous zines where the paper, binding, layout, and other things distinct from the content were exceptional, but they have been few and far between, especially in our community and especially in recent years. (As opposed to, say, "doujinshi" communities, where a whole different set of factors are in play.) A big reason I don't buy a lot of zines at this point is that they mostly don't offer me anything special physical product-wise, and the price points are much too high for me to be interested purely because of the content. (I'm not blaming zine publishers for the price of paper and shipping. Those things aren't your faults, but I'm also not morally obligated to support other people's hobbies, which I feel is the subtext of much conversation around these issues.) There are still things I would pay through the nose for, like good, novel-length fic about Tubbs from Miami Vice, but the reason I'd pay is the same reason nobody would do that zine except for their own amusement: there's very little of that content online or off because most people don't share this taste.

But in terms of fans who know nothing about zines freaking out over discovering zines being sold, I think the issue is that contemporary online fic fandom is all about writers all the time. If a writer says "I'm doing a printed collection of my work.", most people never think twice about that. But the role of a zine editor who is not the main or only writer is not as understood or valued. The way zines work, that role is the BNF-y one. To someone coming from outside, from online fandom now, that is going to feel weird and maybe even exploitative of writers because it's an unfamiliar role, and they're used to writers being the people in charge of anything to do with fic. (I do not think that editing--whether major structural editing, line editing, or half-assed cheerleading--is rare online, but the relative power and social status of the writer and editor roles is different.)


I think a lot of the "how dare you make a profit?" stuff is less about the profit per se and more about unconscious expectations about the relative roles of authors and editors. I see a lot of us on the list talking about the value of a zine editor's time and effort, and I certainly don't want to undervalue those, but I think some of the disconnect comes from how archivists/fest mods/etc. online are paid in nothing but egoboo for their organizing efforts, even in cases where those efforts take over their lives and end up costing real money. The idea of paying back the exact amount the paper and ink cost is easy to explain to anyone, but payment beyond that, even if it all goes into taking a chance on producing other zines, isn't going to seem like the normal course of things to somebody unfamiliar with this kind of zine culture.

I think there's a lot more to this, sociologically, than ungrateful ~kids~ who don't know history. (Though you do always get a share of chicken little bullshit about how TPTB are going to "outlaw" fanfic, which they currently "allow", if they catch anyone selling it--never mind that this reflects nothing realistic about TPTB's current behavior *or* the law. But this is only a small portion of the reactions to zines I see online.) [46]

A 1999-2000 Conversation

These are some remarks given to a survey administered to zine librarians, and published, in "Zine Guide: The Ultimate Independent Press Resource Guide" #3 in January 2000:

Some former zinesters claim that the 'zine revolution is over . What is your take on that statement, as someone who SPECIALIZES IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST IN ZINES?:

I believe this is somewhat true due to it being cheaper to do an e-zine. I think the printed zine is entering a dead lull. But e-zines are gaining popularity and becoming more in number. - Chuck Swaim (Curator), Zine Archive Project

The revolution may be over, yet the interest in self-publishing remains. Documenting the papernet is an ongoing inquiry. - John Held, Jr. (Director), Modern Realism Archive & Gallery

Revolutions end, but people will always publish. Fretting about the end a revolution seems absurd when people continue to do interesting work. - Dan Howland (Librarian) Independent Publishing Resource Center

I know many people who are assiduosly doing their zines, unaffected by what self-appointed trend setters are telling them they should or shouldn’t be doing, as well as young kids who are starting their own zines for the first time. I don’t think trends apply to something that is so individual and personal. Even if no one were reading the zines, I think zinesters would still be doing them! - Delfina (Volunteer), ABC No Rio Zine Library

I don’t think it’s a true statement, but zines are always changing with the times. - Alison M. Scott (Head Librarian) Popular Culture Library, Bowling Green State University

Fuck them! If they are getting old and feel tired, they must assume it. The zine is the first way of auto-edition, a good way to express ourselves, to do it our¬ selves, spreading information that the media won’t inform us about. Long life to the zine. - Sir Desestre (Director), Fanxinoteka

There definitely isn’t the interest in zines that there used to be, but there will always be people doing zines, so I’ll always be here to read them. - Mark Tristworthy (Curator) Safe Haven Zine Library

Since there were zinesters before there were zines, I would think it useful to say that there will always be zines. The self-publishing impulse seems permanent. - James P. Danky (Curator) State Historical Society of Wisconsin

A lot of current zinesters have a lot of intricate definitions for what a zine is that I’ve never been able to grasp. From where I’m sitting, zine is just a fancy new term for things that have in previous generations been called amateur press publications, fanzines, alternative press publications, small press publications, samizdat etc. As far as I can tell, this kind of underground, non¬ commercial publishing has been going on since at least the American Revolution and isn’t likely to stop any¬ time soon. Some things, like APA’s seem to be being replaced by other methods of communication on the net. We’ll have to see if publications >as a whole will be. -

However, when you asked this question you were probably thinking of the punk rock zines and the perzines that got so much attention in the 90’s. I’m not much in touch with the punk rock scene so I don’t know what’s happening there. The energy that used to go into perzines seems to be going into home pages, so I think that’s probably dying off. My zine community (media fan fiction) is still going strong, though there have been some erosion by new fans insisting that the net is a better way to “publish.” - Billie Aul (Senior Librarian) Manuscripts & Special Collections, New York State Library

Some Conclusions

In conclusion, the decline in the number of print zine created was due to a many factors. Fanzines that were continuously kept in print competed against new releases. As zines began to have less and less art, fans were less willing to continue to pay the same price for zines that were “walls of text.” And, as fandom moved away from central fandoms in the 1980s, the market for a specific, less popular fandom would invariably be smaller. [47]


  1. from Orion Press: Questions and Answers, accessed March 10, 2012
  2. an ad for Beyond the Wire printed in Trexperts #96
  3. violet at zines vs online; archive link, November 2002
  4. The Great Raven: Vale Centero! Sue Bursztynski Blogspot, Archived version, posted 1.2007, accessed 9.2011
  5. In Interstat #23 (September 1979)
  6. from Datazine (1983)
  7. see Foresmutters Project
  8. Fanfic Haters Anonymous]
  9. Kipler at zines vs online; archive link, November 2002
  10. olderthannetfic.tumblr, April 28, 2017
  11. from comments on Cascade Times Mailing List, quoted anonymously (January 4, 2004)
  12. in response to another fan's complaint about the lack of zines lately, from Between Friends #8, March 1985
  13. from Southern Enclave #28
  14. from Southern Enclave #29
  15. from IDIC #1
  16. from STAG #131
  17. from #7/8 (1988) issue of On the Double
  18. from Boldly Writing
  19. from Cascade Times Mailing List, quoted anonymously (January 4, 2004)
  20. from Jan Lindner in The Blackwood Project #4
  21. from December meme: Zines by Arduinna, posted December 4, 2013
  22. Fandom, uh.... unicycles? Re: Does anyone here buy fanzines, or have you bought them in the past?, January 26, 2013
  23. from Jan Lindner in The Blackwood Project #4
  24. from Star Trek Action Group #94
  25. Southern Enclave issue #28, June 1991.
  26. comment by dorothy_notgale on LJ [1], July 17, 2011
  27. from The LOC Connection #27
  28. from Comlink #47
  29. from December meme: Zines by Arduinna, posted December 4, 2013
  30. an excerpt from Open Letter to Fandom by Alexis Fegan Black Regarding Zine Pirating. For other similar letters in 1993, see Open Letter.
  31. The Great Raven: Vale Centero! Sue Bursztynski Blogspot, Archived version, posted 1.2007, accessed 9.2011
  32. conversation at VenciePlace, quoted here anonymously
  33. from a comment in Southern Enclave #37
  34. from Come Together #6
  35. comment by Laura M at Gen Fic Crit, December 2001
  36. from Now Voyager #18
  37. which is ironic, considering the original medium of Star Trek
  38. from STAG #132
  39. from The K/S Press #21
  40. from A 1999 Interview with Judith Gran
  41. olderthannetfic.tumblr, April 28, 2017
  42. Orion Press, accessed 12.7.2010
  43. olderthannetfic.tumblr, April 28, 2017
  44. olderthannetfic.tumblr, April 28, 2017
  45. from Cascade Times Mailing List, quoted anonymously (January 4, 2004)
  46. a comment by Franzi, posted to Zinelist on November 12, 2015, quoted here on Fanlore with permission
  47. Morgan Dawn's personal notes, accessed March 3, 2012.