AN OPEN LETTER TO CANADIAN FANZINE
PUBLISHERS, EDITORS, ARTISTS AND AUTHORS
(i.e. the holders of copyright of all the zines they created in part or in total)
From R. Graeme Cameron
Webmaster of CSFZA, the Canadian Science Fiction Zine Archive Web Site
I love SF fanzines. I think they are the greatest genre of minor literary ephemera ever conceived. Endlessly fascinating, entertaining, and informative: snapshots of fannish thinking and purpose at a given moment in time captured for all to see both now and into the future.
I love traditional SF fanzine fandom. The people who share my hobby. The people who chortle with glee when they complete the final page of their latest ish. The people who dream of swimming pools filled with egoboo. The people who know what I’m talking about.
I love to promote both of the above, love to encourage newbies to pub their ish for the first time, be it in hardcopy for snailmail or to post online at such sites as Bill Burns remarkable and admirable < www.efanzines.com >
Filled with fannish love I is…
But, in twenty-odd years of seeking to inspire, I know not one individual who pubbed their ish because of what I’ve said and done. In twenty-odd years only one fannish scholar extended their research to the WCSFA archive, and only one fan asked to tour it. I strongly suspect a fanzine archive is completely useless as a tool for promoting SFzinedom. Nothing but a graveyard of past hopes and dreams. Something dead.
As late as twenty years ago a fanzine panel at a VCON would draw thirty to forty fen, all curious, many enthusiastic, all appreciative of any sprightly and hilarious tales to be told springing from fanac lore, tradition, and experience.
Come the advent of the internet as an easily accessible and virtually limitless means of personal communication. Who on earth sets pen to paper anymore, much less indulge in amateur publishing on paper or online in the form of discrete separate issues? Old fuddy-duddy somewhat creepy granddaddy (or grandmomma) types obsessed with “twentieth century junk” is who… (from the perspective of many a modern fan…)
I stopped participating in convention panels promoting fanzine fandom when the four panelists on the panel outnumbered the audience four-to-one…
I stopped participating in convention panels promoting fanzine fandom when the stories to be told were no longer amusing because the necessary background situational awareness no longer existed in the minds of contemporary fen, indeed had never existed in their minds to begin with. Born too late.
I stopped participating in convention panels promoting fanzine fandom when any material handed out (lists of fanzines, one-sheet brief histories of zinedom, etc.) were tossed in the garbage before the recipient even left the room.
I stopped participating in convention panels promoting fanzine fandom when… well, you get the idea. No more needs to be said.
Then it hit me. Show! Not tell. Don’t hand out lists. Don’t wave fanzines in the air in front of a missing audience. Don’t rely on one’s skill as a speaker and an entertainer to inspire people who aren’t there…
Give interested fen ACCESS TO THE ZINES THEMSELVES!
Let THEM check out the zines in the archive. Put everything on line so that fans can log in for whatever reason seems good to them and give them the freedom to explore and examine as many zines as possible at their own pace and without any obligation at all.
Of course, the vast majority, being primarily interested in devoting their hobby fanac to other aspects of science fiction, will probably skip through a few pages, go “Meh!”, and log out.
And that’s perfectly okay. I’m interested in all aspects of SF, but not everyone is, most prefer to focus their fun quota on a particular genre within SF, and it would be wrong to ‘force’ them to expand their interests for the sake of tradition or maybe just because someone says so.
Quite a few fen, however, whatever their specific focus, are open to reading interesting stuff and looking at nifty art. These people, I’m convinced, if exposed to myriad uploaded zines would spend at least a little bit of time perusing them with a certain amount of curiosity and interest. They might say “Meh!” They might not. But there’s a good chance they’d make a mental note to come back to the site whenever they decide it might be fun to examine the zines in the archive in greater detail. Potential converts the lot of them.
Finally, I’m hoping, there are those who would be blown away by exposure to this fandom they never knew existed, fans who would marvel at what other fen had done in the past, and even more remarkable, are continuing to do today.
I’m positive there are neo-fen out there who would be thrilled to learn that the first Canadian SF fanzine was published as far back as 1936! Or that Canadian fandom first became organized during and shortly after World War II. Who would be amazed at the sheer amount of talent and effort that went into the creation of literally hundreds of Canadian fanzines over the last seventy odd years.
In short, I’m convinced there are neo-fen out there who would be absolutely astounded to learn of the scale and complexity of the Canadian Fanzine Fandom Heritage.
People who would suddenly faunch to pub their ish…
If only they could actually see what it was all about…
So now I’ve gone and created a website to allow them to do this.
I’ve already uploaded more than a hundred Canadian zines. Zines of all types. Clubzines. Perzines. Genzines. Newszines. Etc.
I want to upload them all.
Starting with all the zines in the WCSFA archive (which began existence as Susan Wood’s personal collection).
But also with whatever PDFs other fans are willing to send me from their own collections.
Classic, historic zines are a priority, and the WCSFA archive contains damned few (three of Les Croutch’s LIGHT, only a dozen CANADIAN FANDOMs, etc.).
Top tier, highly significant zines are also a priority (THE MAPLE LEAF RAG, NEW CANADIAN FANDOM, THE MONTHLY MONTHLY, TORUS, DNQ… to name a few).
Lesser zines (I won’t name any) of great interest in and of themselves would also be a priority. And obscure ones, just because they’re obscure. And so on.
All of this plot and plan based on the assumption zine Publishers, Editors, Writers and Artists actually WANT modern fen to see and appreciate the products of their creativity and enthusiasm. After all, isn’t this why they pubbed their ish in the first place?
Do I even need to ask permission?
Sadly, the answer is yes.
There may be former faneds who treat their former fanac as a guilty secret and don’t want anyone to know about it.
Former faneds who are ashamed of what an academic would refer to as their “Juvenilia.”
Former faneds who don’t want the ‘value’ of their collection decreased through making it widely available.
Former faneds who are relying on the ‘value’ of their collection to pay for their retirement. (Hah! I say again, hah!)
Former faneds who deem the current generation absolutely and irredeemably UNWORTHY of access to their glorious past achievements.
Former faneds who are grimly determined to live and die in total obscurity, forgotten even in their own lifetime.
And no doubt many other reasons I won’t ever comprehend, let alone think of off the top of my head.
I baldly state I am going to go ahead and upload whatever zines I can get my hands on (time and life being so damned short) on the assumption that most of you, while possibly considering my purpose quixotic if not downright idiotic, are vaguely willing to let me do this. I’m hoping that a significant percentage of you will be genuinely enthusiastic.
If the holder of the copyright, the originator of a given zine, article or piece of art…
and ONLY the holder of the copyright… no one else…
contacts me and asks that any and all of their fanac be removed from the site (or if not yet uploaded, NEVER be uploaded)…
I will comply immediately.
But… be aware that any zine I’m not allowed to upload will automatically fall into the category of what I term a “Zombie Zine.”
It’s alive in the sense that it exists, but it’s utterly dead in the sense that no one is allowed to see it, to read it, to look at it. It’s a dead thing. A waste of shelf space.
So be warned. If you instruct me to remove your zine fanac from the web site, I will also remove it from the archive. I will toss it in the garbage.
There’s no point in preserving something that doesn’t want to be preserved, so to speak.
The decision is entirely yours.
Of course, there’s the old fannish law: “Never throw a fanzine away.”
The assumption underlying that law is that, even if the faned doesn’t want anyone to read it today, posterity must be served.
In the practical sense the value of the WCSFA archive lies in the organization documents it preserves. The zine collection is peripheral. I don’t see anyone inside or outside WCSFA lining up to take over the zine portion of the archive as I grow old and senile. People generally prefer hobbies more active then storing dead things in a closet.
Almost impossible to sell the zines. Hardly anybody collects any more. Prices asked are always ridiculously high. I mean great Ghu, you couldn’t GIVE most of this stuff away. It would take forever to sell it.
And even if I could will it to some university or another (assuming any want it), who would get to see it? A few academics. The chances of such a ‘hidden’ collection inspiring a fenaissance of fan pubbing are non-existent.
Realistically speaking, when I die the entire zine collection will probably be tossed. Could be twenty years from now. Could be next week.
So… Zombie zines will be culled from the collection. Period.
Because there is no posterity.
In truth, the time to inspire a revival of Canadian SF zine fandom is NOW!
Talking about zines won’t accomplish this. Writing about zines won’t accomplish this. Demanding people live up to tradition won’t accomplish this. Denouncing modern fen for betraying trufandom sure as hell won’t accomplish this.
Only be providing modern fen exposure to the sensa’ wonda that zines collectively offer, to the creativity and artistry many zines exhibit either in their visual appeal or in the nature of their content, or in both as is the case with the best zines, only then will neo-fen be inspired to join the fun, to pub their own ish.
Promoting zines doesn’t work anymore. We have to let the zines promote themselves.
I ask for your support and approval. I ask you to let me upload your past and present creativity for all to see.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to give me your answer.
Either way, I will do as you instruct.
Yours in zinedom! — R. Graeme Cameron, CSFZA webmaster