The Trials and Tribulations of Fanzine Publishing

A transcription of a panel from V-Con 30, held in Vancouver, October 2005.
Your panelists (l. - r.):

Andrew C. Murdoch: nominated for an Aurora Award for his zine ZX, also editor of Covert Communications from Zeta Corbi;

John W. Herbert: winner of four Aurora Awards (with co-editor Karl Johanson) for editing Under the Ozone Hole;

Steve Forty: Long-time editor of BCSFAZine and twice nominated for an Aurora Award.

Garth Spencer: Winner of a Casper award for editing The Maple Leaf Rag, current editor of BCFSAZine and this year's winner of the Best Fanzine Aurora for The Royal Swiss Navy Gazette.

S40: We have quite a crowd.

The Audience: I feel awful. Come on, there’s got to be more people than this!

JWH: And when you leave to go to the Harry Potter panel…

S40: Well, it’s 10:00 AM. Most fanzine-type fans are not really 10:00 AM fans.

ACM: This is true.

S40: Including me, I almost got lost.

GS: I have opinions about some of the scheduling. I thought it was just my imagination but at this convention, they did it again. They put a “How to Survive Your First Convention” panel on Friday at 5:00 PM before most everyone, especially neos, have arrived.

S40: In my opinion something like that is fine on Friday, but you should repeat it sometime on Saturday.

ACM: I have to accept some of the blame for the scheduling, because when I was asked to be on the panel, I said if it was sometime in the morning because I work that afternoon.

S40: You! It was originally 1:00! I was so happy!

ACM: Sorry!

JWH: Damn you to hell.

S40: Anyway, do we want to start now? I’m supposedly moderator, I think.

ACM (to new audience member who just arrived): You are staying here, right? You’re not going to the Harry Potter panel?

JWH: You can be up here if you want.

ACM: Feel free to move forward!

S40: I’m a former editor of BCSFAzine and these are some issues that I edited. Gestetner ink does hold up. This is many years old.
JWH: That’s sweet.

GS: Nobody denies that.

S40: That’s a three-colour Gestetner cover… how many people did those? I had the infamous BCSFAzine Gestetners and actually they were mine, mostly. And the electric stencil cutters.
Okay, we’re going to start. This is the Trials and Tribulations of Fanzine Publishing. This is Andrew Murdoch, John Herbert and Garth Spencer. And I’m Steve Forty. We’ve all put out fanzines and so on. And I’ll give everyone a minute or two to introduce themselves.

ACM: I’m Andrew Murdoch. I publish Covert Communications from Zeta Corbi. Although not recently since I’ve had a child. I first got into fanzine publishing on my own because of this schmuck and his partner in crime {{Editor’s Note: Andrew is referring to Karl Johanson, now editor of Neo-opsis magazine.}} who published Under the Ozone Hole, and I said to myself, “Hey, that’s kind of cool!” My first fanzine was nominated for an Aurora Award and lost to John and his partner in crime. A proud tradition which I have upheld.

JWH: I’m John Herbert. I’ve published fanzines, did some Star Trek club zines and some other zines, and then me and my partner in crime Karl Johanson published Under the Ozone Hole in the 1990s and we were nominated for five Auroras in row, and won four, beating Andrew once. I haven’t done much lately, except that this year, I restarted Under the Ozone Hole.

GS: I’m Garth Spencer. I used to be famous for a newszine that tried to cover Canadian fandom for Canadian fans. Maple Leaf Rag, as it was then called, followed a number of such attempts and was succeeded by a few aborted attempts that petered out. Now I’ve been editing BCSFAzine in a format not unlike Steve’s. I produce this on a monthly basis. I try to provide a variety of things outside of just stuff to do with the club – regional news, national news, fan news, writers’ market news – anything that might interest or amuse people or might even be useful. And late at night when the darkness falls and the moon rises, I try to get out the latest issue of my personal zine, which is now titled The Royal Swiss Navy Gazette. It has in the past had other silly titles, like The World According to Garth or Sercon Popcult Litcrit Fanmag. This is what happens when you have too much time on your hands. As we’ll get into later, it’s been harder and harder to get these out with the increase in copying costs mailing costs. Interestingly, this happened about the same time as the Internet became available.

S40: My name is Steve Forty. I did BCSFAzine for a number of years. It was nominated for a couple of Auroras – actually, the first time when I edited it, and the second time it was half with me and half with R. Graeme Cameron editing. {{Editor’s Note: Graeme Cameron was to be a panelist on the panel but was unable to attend due to a bizarre gardening accident.}} We lost. It’s very hard to do a fanzine like BCSFAzine every month and compete with someone who does one or two a year. And we tended to lose to those! I’m also an Elron award winner. We put out, with Jim Welch and Mark Olberg, Not the BCSFAzine 100, and Still Not the BCSFAzine 100. And it’s not named after L. Ron Hubbard, and it has nothing to do with –

GS: It’s a V-Con institution, award for worst contribution –

S40: Disservice, the word is. Disservice to science fiction. I guess now we should get into the trials and tribulations of publishing. Now the Internet is one form of it –

GS: Is it a trial and tribulation, or is it a solution?

S40: I think you’ll find there are two forms of fanzine fans. The biggest thing is the fanzine fans of old want the hard copy. They want something like that, and just printing it off in your printer is just not the same thing.

ACM: I think with regards to that, The Internet has taken over a niche that fanzines used to fill in that they used to serve as public forums through the letter columns and that sort of thing. So the Internet being so much more immediate, there’s no more community within a fanzine to the extent that that was the grapevine through which news passed. Now, the main trial is to come up with an article or solicit articles that are that much more interesting to put in your fanzine.

JWH: Exactly. When we were doing Under the Ozone Hole in the 90s, we had a few pages of news, and Garth’s Maple Leaf Rag was a news fanzine, but with the Internet, the function of being a news source has really gone from fanzines. Obviously, a club zine would have club news in it, but in terms of more generalized science fiction news or national fan news, that’s probably best served by the Internet these days.

S40: I used to have a couple of columns. One was called About the Authors by The Authors. I’d phone an author and ask him to do something on another author. And I actually had things lifted from BCSFAzine by things like SF Chronicle because I would phone all the local authors and put the news in there.

The Audience: One thing the Internet doesn’t have a corner on, if you want to phone another author, or review a movie –

S40: But even the old hardcopy fanzine you have today, you use the Internet to get the articles, so there’s really not that much difference. And if you have a fabulous set-up with a fabulous computer, you can have a fancy wonderful multi-colour cover which you really can’t do very easily on the printed copy unless you have lots of bucks.

GS: I think that the Internet has not entirely replaced the functions that used to be performed by fanzines in the mimeograph era, and the reason is that for some reasons a lot of the participatory functions and fandom-oriented functions that you see in a lot of one-man entirely voluntary publications simply haven’t been picked up. Maybe I’m not subscribing to the right newsgroups or listservs, but when I look for web pages, I find things ones that expressly professional, like SF Canada, for SF writers in Canada, or Made in Canada, whose web master is focused on films and media and writers and anything except fandom. It does make a concession by listing conventions and that’s it. The concept that there is news by, for and about science fiction fans, or there’s a community out there that might have an interest in connecting, that seems to have gone by the board. Or it’s served in different ways and I’m not seeing where it’s being served.

S40: I’d kind of like to get off that, we’re going beyond the topic. The topic is more the trial and tribulations of publishing, which would be getting your articles, troubles you’ve had actually producing the thing.

GS: We have a different take on this, Steve and I. We’ve had a different take on what needs and interests people have, just in BCSFA, and how to meet them. I’ve been flailing around trying to find the things that people would be interested in participating in, or the things they’d be interested in seeing. And I still don’t know after five or six years. Steve has been very good during his term had soliciting participation.

S40: I found that if you get a little bit of cider, if you knew what you were doing at conventions, I never had any trouble getting artwork.

ACM: I had to solicit by buying a beer for fanzine artists at Torcon.

S40: You get to know these people. Part of the thing for me was that I was always lucky that way. If you look through old BCSFAzines, this was in the days before we had much in the way of computers – when I first started doing it, I finally got my Atari Amiga 2 halfway through my editorship of about 35 issues. My biggest problem is that I am a terrible typist. The last thing I need to do is to take someone’s stuff and re-type, because there’d be ten times as many typos. So I’d just take it, photo-reduce it at your local Kinko’s or whatever, and all the pages inside the zine – you could tell I was younger then, because I was able to read them without glasses – and I’d photo-reduce it, so you have an 8 ½ by 11 sheet folded over, so you’d have lots of pages and lots of information. But it was very hard for me to re-type it, so rather than do that you’d find all different typefaces, all different styles because I just trusted my people that contributed. And I was very lucky that way, with people like Al Betz, who won an Aurora for his Ask Mr. Science column. And I’d get a letter from Harry Warner, Jr., and every fanzine editor knows you got to have a Harry Warner, Jr. letter in the olden days. And I got them, and I thought I could re-type them, or I could put in and you could see all the letters wandering and so on.. He had certain keys where the words would go like [a curvy line]. It was part of the charm, so instead of re-typing all this stuff, I would just run it as is. There was a lot of stuff in there with very few illustrations in the middle. It was just article after article.

ACM: Especially for CCFZC, I’ve been using my computer solely so layout contributions have not been too much of a problem. I’ve been quite blessed with quite a bit or artwork from Brad Foster and I forget who it was sent me a huge amount of fillos by a fan artist who passed away recently. Rostler, William Rotsler. So artwork I haven’t had a problem with fortunately, it’s been articles and getting actually writing done. I’ve been told I can write, but it takes me a long time to do it between writer’s block and 1 17 month-old running around the house.

{{Editor’s Note: At this point, a person entered asking where Boardroom A was. There followed a long discussion concerning the location of Boardroom A. With a 3-to-1 vote (Andrew dissenting), it was eventually decided that Boardroom A must be next to Boardroom B. }}

ACM: So I’ve been very lucky in the artwork department, but most of the verbiage I’ve had to create myself. That’s pretty tough when you’re trying to fill an entire zine which is why mine comes out so infrequently.

JWH: That’s the tough part, filling up the pages with words. Fortunately I have a government job so I have plenty of time to type. It also depends on what kind of zine you’re doing. With a perzine, your own personal zine, you realize that the ultimate responsibility to fill those pages lies with you. If you’re doing a club zine, you’re somewhat at the whim of what the club decides to put in, and if they put out a lot of effort and get you a lot of stuff, then that’s terrific. It cuts down your work immensely. But sometimes you have to harass people to contribute things.

ACM: I remember you were a master at harassing us.

JWH: A master harasser.

S40: I was lucky when I was doing BCSFAzine because we had FRED, which is the weekly drinking thing. And I did cover that was infamous, we didn’t know if it would go across the border. You see a naked Leela on top the Time Lord lying on the floor and his scarf wrapped around the TARDIS. And it says, “Again, Doctor! Again!”

GS: Let’s do the time warp again!

S40: Fosfax wrote to me and asked if they could trade with me. I’d never heard of them before, but they’re quite a famous fanzine with all these famous authors, and they wrote to me to ask me if they could get this issue. Someone had seen it.

GS: Then Timothy Lane took over as editor.

S40: I took the time that if someone commented on something in the zine, I made sure that the person who wrote it saw it. I brought the fanzine to them, I opened the page and I said, “Look at this.” That’s how I got people like Sidney Trim and so to keep contributing, you keep working the people. It sounds cruel, but it works. You take the time and effort, and you get a lot more out of it. I never had trouble getting articles, except one or two in the early days. As far as a clubzine, it sort of was and sort of wasn’t because it was what I could find. The club really didn’t contribute except for upcoming events, which was one of my columns anyway.

GS: I found over and over again that a minority of people will continually get into something participatory for publication on paper. And a majority of people will accept it. Whether they appreciate or whether they have a problem with it, only a minority will tell you. And that’s just the deal. Since the mimeograph era, I’ve found that costs have risen. It’s been a lot easier to do things purely on the Internet. I’m aware of at least one web site,, which is where fanzines are archived in electronic format. I could have produced a long list of what are current zines that I don’t have in paper format. Fanzines are always changing; they change address or title. They’ll always sound goofy. I have in the past produced fanzines with titles like Scuttlebutt, The Maple Leaf Rag, The Perfect Paper, The Filthy Rag, Black Marxist Lesbian Quarterly, Sercon Popcult Litcrit Fanmag, The World According to Garth, and most recently The Royal Swiss Navy Gazette. That’s typical. When I first got into fandom, I heard of a club called The Elves’, Gnomes’ and Little Mens’ Science Fiction Chowder and Marching Society. It’s hard to catalogue things like that. At the Worldcon in Glasgow, some people got together and whipped up a one-shot – a fanzine that’s only going to exist for one issue – on the spur of the moment, very quickly and spontaneously, and it was called The Pork Authority. And I realized that different people have different funny bones, different live nerves. It’s really hard to predict where you’re going to hit them, what’s going to arouse their enthusiasm. And I think that no matter what media you’ve got, what the price structures are, that’s the major quandary.

S40: I think all of us here have been involved in paper fanzines. Part of the Trials and Tribulations of fanzine editing is actually printing it. Now something like {{holds up an old BCSFAZine}} would take about four hours to actually print, because I had the gestenter, the electo-stencil cutter, time seven sheets which would be 14 electro-stencils, plus if you did the colour cover, you had extra ones. And you had ink everywhere. And you’d have a group upstairs. Because it was a clubzine I got get a group of people to do collation and have a big party. And we had a treasurer for a while who wouldn’t give the address labels. So later at FRED, we’d put the stamps on and the labels, because you can’t put the stamps on without the labels.
Audience: How big a run did you do?

S40: Between 100 and 200. This was when we used to have 100 members, a little over 100 members, And the you’d have trades. It added up to a fair bit of time. It was a lot of work to do that, but it was a work of joy for me for the longest time, then it go to be onerous in the end when you’ve got 28 pages every month. ‘Cause that what that is, 28 pages. But I enjoyed it and I’m proud of it.

ACM: For my current zine, I use computer layout which makes life tremendously easy. You can have a fairly polished looking page. That helps quite a bit. In the early days, I did my zine on an Apple Iic because that was the only computer I had at the time. I used software that could not make a margin along the side so I stapled my zine at the top. Which I got plenty of comments on, having an 8 ½ by 11 fanzine stapled at the top.

JWH: It was unique.

ACM: It was. If nothing else, I got known for that. How it was stapled! No one remembers anything I wrote, but it was staple really cool!

JWH: Never read it, but I liked the staples!

ACM: So these days layout is not so much of a problem for me personally. The main problem is afterwards and that’s the expense of printing it. Photocopying has gotten ridiculously expensive lately. And postage has gone up in Canada every year for the past three.

S40: Can I recommend going to some place like Staples Superstore for printing?

ACM: That’s where I do go, but even there the prices have gone up a cent a page in the last year. Layout has gotten easier but everyone has their own fleet of gestentners in the basement anymore. Reproduction is getting costly.
{{Editor’s Note: Transcribing this a year later, the Editor can only shake his head in wonder at how he let that straight line get away unscathed.}}

S40: I did have them but they all went to CascadiaCon. They were given to Seattle people. They came up in a big van, and these people in white coats came and instead of kidnapping me, they took all the gestentners and electro-stencil cutters.

ACM: What happened to them?

S40: They wanted to show all the new fans how the old fans used to print. So I started to get them running and a whole pile of people took pictures of me and a gestentner at CascadiaCon.

JWH: The first zine I was involved was a one-shot we did called The Electric Gang Bang Pork Chop. So there must be something about pork and spontaneous one-shots. {{Editor’s Note: The Editor would like to point out that no pork products were harmed in the creation of The Electric Gang Bang Pork Chop.}}

GS: There was a creative character in Edmonton who came up with something with no pork in it called You Can’t Get to Heaven on Roller Skates Infrequently.

JWH: We should just do a panel on zine names.

GS: Yeah!

S40: There you go!

GS: The problem I have is: a) finding out where all the members are because I’ve had this continual struggle over the last year just establishing who is a current BCSFA member, who’s expired, who’s moved and where did they move to, and it took an extremely long time simply to meet up same time same place with the treasurer and the vice-president—

S40: They have electricity today!

GS: The other problem I have is getting people to understand what I was saying quite clearly in plain English on paper where the words stayed still and you could re-read them. It’s amazing how English is broken down semantically so that you can read the same sentence four ways depending on the state of mind someone is in at that time of the month {{Editor’s Note: I’m sure Garth is referring to “rent day.”}}, or what country they’re in, or what language or speech community they originally come from. It’s very amazing. Within one club.

S40: When I had to do it, originally most people would rejoin at a certain time, so I’d get 13 sheets and type all the names on all the labels, and I’d run 13 sheets, of labels. But then they decided that they don’t all want to renew in May and that made it a lot harder. Most people did renew in May for the longest time at V-Con.

JWH: I was going to say that when I started I did some gestetner work, too. Bernie Klassen had one so we were doing a lot of work with that, but I came in just as that was fading out and computers were coming in The latest issue was done using Pagemaker 7.

S40: You cheated!

JWH: It’s the only way to go! The only way to go! Printing costs are horrible, but what I do is use Pagemaker which very easily exports to pdf and email a lot of copies out to people.

GS: I have a problem. When I was first editing BCSFAZine and using pdf, when I exported to pdf strange things would happen to illustrations, especially on the cover. First, for several issues one half on one side of the cover illustration, just the illustration, would disappear. Just blank white space. And then it was ¾ of the cover illustration would disappear and you would get to see one quarter of it in the upper left hand quadrant. That was when I gave up on Pagemaker. I still to this day do not know what the glitch was. Now over the past year or so, I’ve been struggling with machines, different programs, different conversion strategies. I finally gave up. I’ve been doing this in Word.

S40: You notice what you guys are missing? What’s different about BCSFAZine that’s different from all the rest? No colour. You guys are in black and white. I used to like the fact that you could get blues and reds and browns. Yeah, you can get it on the email version—

ACM: My last issue did have a colour cover—

S40: It’s very rare. It’s sad to see that sometimes— well, you can’t afford to print it in colour. I was going to keep one gestetner with colour ink in case I ever print something I can throw a little colour on it just for fun, but it was too easy to put them on the fun and see them go.

JWH: We did a couple of colour covers for Ozone Hole in the ’90s and —

S40: Oh, I remember that!

JWH: —they looked great but the cost was, oh god, it instantly doubled the cost.

GS: One of the things that we represent, some of us with graying hair, is that we’ve seen several changes in media and that means we’ve learnt crafts several times over. I’ve used spirit duplicators, ditto machines. I’ve seen hectograph. You’ve used mimeograph.

S40: Yeah. I’ve also used inkjet printers and all that. Did you ever do anything like I did? I had collectors that liked BCSFAZine and wanted “The” BCFSAZine so every now and then just to get even with them, I’d throw in different sheets of coloured paper. You’d have a random colour so you couldn’t get all the BCFSAZines identical, I even did one with two different covers once.

ACM: I remember an Under the Ozone Hole that had every issue customized—

JWH: No, it only had eight different covers.

GS: That’s been done several times. In the earliest years—

ACM: I remember the personalized letter columns—

JWH: Go away!

S40: The worst thing I ever did was –and next time I will think very carefully if I ever get involved with that— we did a hoax ad for BCSFAZine. I got together around V-Con 8 with a lady from Edmonton and a person from Calgary and we came with addresses that were not viable. In Calgary it was like “Something SW” and there was no such place. In Edmonton, it was a burnt-down sports arena, and in Vancouver it was the Hotel Devonshire’s parking lot. After they had ripped the hotel down. And so I came up with a title called Jape’s Books, a new chain of bookstore. And I announced this new chain of bookstores and it came out in these other fanzines, and I, not carefully thinking this out, I ran this ad for Jape’s and a number of people went down to this fancy, early opening of Jape’s Books and I forgot that the BCSFA meeting was at my house the next day. Ooooo, they were not happy. They fell for it hook, line and sinker. But I thought they would pick up on the word “Jape.”

GS: You never know what joke people will notice. Or get. Or where the comprehension fails. That’s the problem with any hoax, any satire, and it’s not specific to fanzines.

S40: How many people went to that? Ken, do you remember?

Ken Wong (who had wandered into the wrong room): No, not me!

S40: You were one of the ones complaining and so was David George and a number of other people. You went by at another time and noticed where it was. Every now and then people will do a hoax like the Not the BCSFAZine 100 and Still Not the BCSFAZine 100. Gerald Boyko was supposed to do the 100th issue of BCSFAZine. By the time issue 104 came out, we did Not the BCSFAZine 100 and sent it out to all the BCSFA members, and just after we did Still Not the BCSFAZine 100, just after BCSFAZine 108 came out, then the real BCSFAZine 100 came out.

ACM: Better late than never.

S40: How about you guys and deadlines?

ACM: Well, I’m pretty much wide-open. Always have been. I knew pretty much right from the outset that setting a regular schedule would almost would either kill me or result in a terrible zine since I was providing most of the writing. Since it’s inception there have been gaps of months and in the most recent case, two years between issues simply out of necessity. It’s pretty much a hobby. Some people have been wonderful at keeping deadlines,

S40: BCSFAZine’s been excellent.

ACM: BCSFAZine’s been excellent, but it’s a clubzine though, so that helps.

S40: No, not really. I was still up at 2:00 in the morning wondering “where the hell’s that article”and I had to print that morning because that was the final deadline.

ACM: My zine is officially listed with the National Library of Canada as being “irregular.”

JWH: Well, I try to keep a roughly quarterly schedule with Ozone Hole and I’ve done pretty well except for that nine year gap. But going back to deadlines and clubs, that was the one thing that was a problem when I was doing the club zine. When I’m doing Ozone Hole, it’s just me. I all can do is get mad at myself and I’m not going to do that. With a club zine, it’s good in one sense because you’ve got a lot of people contributing things, but it’s bad in another sense because that deadline’s coming and your on the phone and pulling your hair and screaming at people “You promised me an article! I need it! I have three blank pages waiting for it!”

S40: I must admit that I was lucky there. I always had too much stuff.

GS: I very hard-nosed about deadlines. I can afford to be because a) I produce BCSFAZine on somebody else’s dime, and thereby hangs a few tales I won’t tell, and b) I get somebody else to the actual production of the physical zine. Having a computer to work with solves a lot of my problems enormously. I find it really easy to use boilerplate. I also get other people to do significant chunks of the zine. Sometimes it’s embarrassingly obvious how I slap the thing together.

S40: Here’s another thought. Have any of you gotten anyone really mad at you, almost enemies? I was asking for artwork. And this one person submitted a whole pile of artwork. I said that I disliked dragons intensely and that I would very rarely run them. She sent me pages of dragons. And I ran one of hers, and then I think I ran a second one. But they were all very similar and I didn’t want to run a bunch of them. And she got really really mad at me!

GS: You could have done a one-shot called What a Drag.

S40: You’d get artwork that really wasn’t what you wanted and they would get really mad if you didn’t run it.

ACM: Not so much from what I didn’t run, but I’m very surprised that John didn’t deck me in Winnipeg. I ran an editorial in defense of one friend at the expense of another, and I realize now that I realize now in older wiser times that that was pretty much a mistake. At the time I thought I was doing the right thing and I got the nastiest letter from him as the result.

JWH: But you’ve learned well, Grasshopper.

ACM: So that’s the only instance in my case where I’ve really ticked someone off.

JWH: Yeah, I’ve ticked a few people off.

S40: I don’t want names!

JWH: I’m not giving any! When you’re doing a clubzine like Garth is doing now, especially when it’s on someone else’s dime, there is that struggle between what you want to do as the editor and what the club wants done and perhaps what certain people in the club want done, and that gets into the whole club politics thing spilling over into the zine. That’s why I just gave up on clubzines. I like making a zine and I’m just going to do my own zine.

S40: You mean the club actually interfered? My club never said anything to me.
JWH: Well, it was a rare thing, it didn’t happen all the time. But it happened enough times—

ACM: It got political—

S40: I just realized that the artist that I had rouble with was a club officer—

JWH: Exactly.

GS: Have you noticed that the level of interference with people’s behavior or their rational thinking from not looking at their assumptions? If people want to do their own thing their own way and they enjoy their own hobby activity, that’s one thing. But everyone wants somebody else to something their own way, that’s when you get politics.

S40: Yeah.

ACM: Yeah.

JWH: Yep.

GS: And it took me a long time to realize how much of this bullshit is going on. The other thing that I’m facing most of the time now is people not communicating in terms that I can recognize. I don’t know and I’ve never known what people would want to enjoy in a clubzine. So I’ve pretty much been left to my own devices doing my own thing at other people’s expense. I’m saying that now “on record.”

S40: Another thing to consider. Have you put things in that you thought were totally in bad taste? I already mentioned the Doctor Who cover that I didn’t think would cross the border. The other thing was when they had a meeting at my place and David Stewart didn’t lock the bathroom door and someone burst in the door and took a picture of him sitting on the toilet. I ran that as a cover on BCSFAZine.

ACM: (almost dies laughing)

JWH: I would’ve run that!

S40: But I’m trying to get you guys to say did you ever put out something that you thought was well, maybe that wasn’t such a smart idea? Come on, you must have!

JWH: Only you, Steve.

GS: I can be fairly snide in my editorial columns sometimes. I think that I am self-critical and people can see it but in the editorial and letter columns I can have a very sardonic and somewhat stuffy tone that I think is going to grate with some people. Maybe I’m putting people off and not realizing it.

S40: Maybe what you need is more of a light-hearted tone.

GS: I am being light-hearted. People just don’t quite get my rather Victorian default mode.

S40: What I would try and do is get a couple of people like “Ask Mr. Science.” I’m not particularly funny, but these people are, so I tries to get them to do the funny bits. And that’s another trial and tribulation – what do you want to put into a fanzine?

ACM: When I started my second fanzine, I thought of something that Dale Speirs said which is “have a focus for your zine.” And looking back, my first zine didn’t really have much of one except that I was a fan. So I decided that I wanted to write about science fiction and fandom. So that gives you something you can go for, something you can strive for, and at the same time if you’ve got thoughts percolating in your head that have nothing to do with science fiction and fandom, there’s been a long tradition of that in science fiction fanzines – you’re always going to be wrestling with yourself, does this fit in? What are people going to think about this? I ran an article in my zine following September 11 and it had not terribly much to do with science fiction or fandom except that it referenced myself and my life it’s been the single most commented-on article that I’ve ever written. So it’s where do you draw the line? How much do you put in what form?

JWH: That’s a good approach, to have a focus for your zine. I should try that sometime. I don’t want to limit myself to what I put in the zine. So I don’t have a focused approach to what the zine is going to be about. I try to make sure that everything is well-written and of quality. Let’s put it that way. So I prefer more the quality of a piece as opposed to the specifics of the subject matter. So it goes all over the place. In the latest one I’ve got an article about kayaking I wrote, and an article about The Who, and someone submitted an article about the woman up in the Interior who on Valentine’s Day her car went in the river and she saved herself by eating chocolates until the rescue crew came. She was strapped in her car under water.

GS: The key to underwater survival: bring chocolates.

S40: For me focus – what I tried to do was, being a clubzine, was to think about what fans wanted. Well, they like to eat, so there was a fan food column I’d try to get. They liked humour so I tried to get Mr. Science. I tired to get someone to do movie reviews, I tried to get someone to do book reviews. And then I had an artist do the front cover and the back cover.

GS: Advertising. I’d forgotten that we had advertising. Was that paid advertising?

S40: We got 10% discounts.

GS: When I inherited BCSFAZine, I inherited a bunch of regular ads, I started adding advertisements for writer’s workshops or for my Royal Swiss Navy or The Western Fandom Illuminati. I try to be as general and unfocused in the zine as possible. I try to include things like market news or recently published works by Canadian writers or the evil influence of Danish cultural imperialism on Canadian fandom. I think that I’m going to get some letters of comment eventually.

S40: What about letters of comment?

ACM: Letters of comment are essential.

S40: No, I mean do you get lots?

ACM: I got quite a few from The Usual Bunch of People. By that I mean Lloyd Penney, and Harry Warner Jr., and a lot of people that I traded fanzines with down in the States.

GS: I always though that Lloyd was the Canadian love child of Harry Warner and –

S40: We’ve got about five minutes left, so we should start wrapping this up, unless someone wants to ask a question. Does anyone want to ask a question?

The Audience:

S40: I guess we should wrap up. Thanks for coming!

originally published in Under the Ozone Hole #18

1 comment:

Kevin Standlee said...

At the Worldcon in Glasgow, some people got together and whipped up a one-shot – a fanzine that’s only going to exist for one issue – on the spur of the moment, very quickly and spontaneously, and it was called The Pork Authority.

Er, not quite.

1. The Pork Authority wasn't exactly a one-shot. It was several issues (five, actually, plus a follow-up issue).

2. It wasn't all that spontaneous, in that Chris Garcia and Cheryl Morgan worked up the idea more or less in advance.

3. Neither of the people who did the 'zine were at the convention.

4. The name was not make up out of the blue, but was a very specific play on the name of the convention's newsletter, The Port Authority. The con newsletter was called that because the theme of the Worldcon was "Spaceport Glasgow," with the idea being that the Scottish Exhibition and Congress Centre was actually a spaceport.

Technically, The Pork Authority actually was Hugo-eligible the following year, because it published at least four issues. Mind you, that was five issues in five days, but the con newsletters at Worldcons usually publish an average of 2 1/2 issues per day.

I thought it was pretty funny, myself, but some of the people being skewered were less thrilled about the parody.