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4th Trek Day of Xmas 08: Four Fanzines

This year you get three fanzines and a lump of coal – Santa decided that you hadn’t been good enough to deserve four fanzines and … oh, all right! I only got three submissions but I’m hoping that we can improve on that again next year! Does this perhaps suggest that fanzines are loosing their popularity? I don't see why they should be. The opportunities today for creative people to self-publish are immense – whether you want to blog a daily journal or write reviews, commentary or fiction the possibilities are immense and growing every day!

Fanzines are a form of fan publication that has been around since before there was an internet, yes, when people could only distribute their writing on pressed wood pulp known as paper. Fanzines have today become a significant part of our literary culture, there has been a Hugo award for fanzines since 1955, but where have they come from? What have they become? Perhaps of more to us, what part did Star Trek play in their development and what lies in their future?

In his 1973 "The World of fanzines", Frederic Wertham describes fanzines as "uncommercial, nonprofessional, small-circulation magazines which their editors produce, publish and distribute. They deal primarily with fantasy literature and art. The fact that they are not commercially oriented, may come out irregularly, and are privately distributed differentiates them from the professional newsstand magazines. Their writers and readers belong chiefly to the under-thirty group." He cites "The Comet" that came out in 1930 as the first fanzine although Wikipedia traces their roots to amateur press associations that go back to the 19th century. If you're interested in reading transcriptions and scans of historical fanzines look no further than Fanac.

J.M. Verba's "Boldly Writing" gives us a pretty exhaustive picture of the early history of Star Trek fan activity between 1967 & 1987 - that it was a fertile time for Trek fanzines can be seen from the fact that she has a five page list of 'zines that are referenced in the book! Another important resource is "Star Trek Lives" by Jacqueline Lichtenberg who, with her writing partner Jean Lorrah, whose work was in Spockanalia, the first Star Trek fanzine, are two early luminaries of the Trek fan world who have gone on to champion the use of action / adventure stories to test the boundaries between science fiction and romance.

Star Trek has always had an emphasis on character centric storylines and over the years a subgenre of Trekzines have come to focus on love and lust in the Star Trek universe. One of the ways that Star Trek fanzines broke new ground was with the invention of the term slash, from "Kirk-slash-Spock" (K/S), the idea of Kirk and Spock being lovers.

For the purposes of this project, I set myself the goal of looking for fanzines that covered four criteria: They had to be about Star Trek, free, family friendly and a fanzine as opposed to a newsletter. Whilst the first three are self-evident, why, you might ask, make the distinction with the latter?

There is no hard and fast definition of what is, and is not, a fanzine. Over the course of the years different subsets of the fanzine world have been identified, such as Perzines (personal 'zines) Clubzines and even Crudzines which are the 'zines that no-one likes! One of the things that they all have in common though is their individuality: they have a purpose ... even though that aim might be, to be aimless!

Newsletters on the other hand have one, over-riding purpose, they exist to report on and for their readership or membership. Their scope of content is created to cater for the likes and dislikes of the members. Nowhere is this more in evidence in the newsletters of Star Trek fan clubs and Starfleet International (SFI) is a perfect example of this. Not only is there an expectation that a chapter or 'ship' will have its own newsletter, like ScuttleButt the newsletter of the USS Southern Cross, but there are also newsletters for regions, such as the award winning Subspace Communicator and SFI has it's own excellent, long-running, tabloid-sized, hardcopy newsletter sent by mail to all members, Communique.

So what’s the difference between a newsletter and a fanzine? Because of their mandate to focus on the membership, a newsletter sacrifices a large amount of the individuality that is part and parcel of the fanzine. A newsletter editor would be remiss if he reported on the latest rumours from the set of the new Star Trek film at the expense of reports that could encourage a member to participate and feel part of the crew. By the same token, Jacques Moreu, a some-time Star Trek fan of Montreal, is unlikely to be interested in the administrivia of a Star Trek club in Ohio. This is not to say that the Ohio newsletter does not have some well written material that is of general interest to Star Trek fans all over the world, but you might have to search for it.

Fanzines have no such imperative. They might have a certain scope, say to write about Music or genre fiction and they might be “clubzines” in that they are the publications of a specific club, but their focus is more on the subject of their club than the members which certainly makes them more interesting to the general reading public.

Most fanzines were, in practical terms, free - the pittance that was sometimes asked was barely enough to cover photocopying and mailing expenses. Interestingly it was usual for a fanzine editor to offer a free exchange with other editors, such that they would send you one of theirs in exchange for one of yours. This had the effect of encouraging a readership of people who would be expected to have similar interests. In their heyday, fanzines were a forum for discussion for their readership and it was expected that if you exchanged fanzines, you would exchange LOC's or "Letters Of Comment" about matters raised in articles.

Part of their charm for us today is their “hand-made look”. Because of the limited technology of the day they were all typewritten and reproduced by methods that only exist in museums today. Artwork was often original and hand-drawn and I cannot help but think we have lost a lot of originality because of the ease with which we can copy & paste a graphic (or article) from the internet to suit our purposes.

Today, many of the functions that the fanzine used to service for the literary everyman have been usurped by other, more efficient, internet-driven media. Whereas APA's struggled to distribute contributions from isolated members, Blogs, internet forums and mailing lists take all the work out of distributing your work. Similarly, whereas before computers a Letter of Comment might have been laboriously drafted and typed out, to be mailed off once a month, now we can dash off our thoughts and comments in a night, to see them exhibited and commented back on within minutes.

The internet is changing many of the things that made fanzines what they are. I found the article "Fanzines: Their Production, Culture and Future" by Phil Stoneman to be fascinating and stimulating reading, even though the thrust of the content was more on music 'zines in the UK. I particularly liked his comparison between Perzines and personal home pages, to which, given the speed with which things change, I would now add Blogs, Facebook and MySpace ... or whatever flavour of social networking you prefer.

These all facilitate cultural communication far quicker than the unwieldy fanzine yet it might be that very aspect of the intermittent nature of LOC's that made them more valued. If you knew that you only had one chance a month to say your piece, you jolly-well put some thought into it and the resulting missives are some quite excellent examples of the essayist’s art.

Trekzines are a specific subgenre of fanzines that has evolved in a different direction to the average fanzine available today which, to my mind, is more about commenting on literature than creating it. Their roots lie in the early Star Trek 'zines of the 1967 - 1987 era as described in J.M. Verba's definitive "Boldly Writing" and Jacqueline Lichtenberg's seminal "Star Trek Lives" which covers the whole fan experience of the time, not just fanzines. Their focus has always been on fan fiction, art, poetry and filk and as such I feel that today they represent a largely underused distribution medium for creative fans.


In alphabetical order, the fanzines we have for you this year are …

Acrux Fanzine 0803, Dec 2008
For one issue, Acrux becomes a Trekzine instead of a perzine, playing host to Star Trek fan fiction, art and poetry. As a perzine or personal fanzine, I try to keep the content as close to 100% my own work as possible but this issue I'm publishing contributions from a number of sources. I have a challenging story written by Robin Woodell and illustrated by Ken Gurton, both from Region 3 (Louisianna & Texas) of Starfleet International, plus the story of a Christmas leave spent by Bones and Scotty in Engineering, written & illustrated by SL Watson. Of course I hope you'll enjoy the other fiction and commentaries from my favourite author - ME!

This year, I turned away from my original idea of a blogzine (a 'zine created using Blogging software) in favour of something more traditional with a pdf file that can be printed out as a 20 page booklet in A3 (or as a digest sized version on A4). Because of this, it can partake in the existing world of fanzines – I’ll gladly partake in a fanzine exchange and look forward to Letters of Comment. However as an electronic file, it also has a foot in the door of the internet such as being available for live browsing on ISSUU. Now if I can just open it up into a few other avenues of distribution …

Hailing Frequencies Open Issue 26, Christmas 2008
Since it's creation three years ago, TrekUnited has shown itself to be a pro-active (some might say Quixotic) fan group that tries to give Star Trek fans a voice, within the fan community and outside it. Part of that mandate for action has been their magazine, Hailing Frequencies Open (HFO), which through a long, monthly print run of nearly two years, steered by the flamboyant Richard Anderson, they delivered a quality news magazine for members. Over the past year though their focus has changed, primarily with the winding down and eventual closing of the Save Enterprise Campaign, and what has taken it's place is an organisation that strives to provide a friendly forum for Star Trek fans to make the most of their fandom, regardless of whether they are into collectables, conventions, gaming or fan productions.

As a sign of that re-direction, they are rebooting their flagship publication in a new format - as a fanzine and as the incumbent editor for the rebirth of HFO it is my privilege to be able to deliver something a little different for the TrekUnited membership and fans in general. What I've tried to do is to give the TrekUnited membership a publication that is written *for* them rather than *by* and *about* them. I see the scope of the 'zine as entertainment, information and commentary drawn from the whole of Star Trek fandom rather than just TrekUnited. I see this as a fan production in that it is a meeting of the energy and creativity of the common man and the love of their craft shown by respected professionals. I feel that it should reflect the "Infinite Diversity" of Star Trek fans (and isn't everyone a Trek fan deep down?) and that it should provide a fan experience for both those who wish to be involved in it's creation and those who simply want to enjoy reading it.

Starting with a short summary of online resources for those who like to read or create Star Trek Fan Fiction, it has three episodes of Star Trek: The Forge, a new Enterprise Virtual Season 5, a short story from Robin Woodell, a longer Christmas tale from the Mirror Universe by SL Watson and a flash fiction from my favourite author. The issue is dedicated to Majel Barrett Roddenberry, ‘The First Lady of Trek’, from her fans.

Imaginations Unlimited Vol 11, Dec 2008
Imaginations Unlimited is a Trekzine that started as a member’s project with Jeff Davis, the president, or CO, of the USS Indiana, which is a chapter of Starfleet International (SFI). It is now the official fanzine for their Region 1, covering Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, North & South Carolina and Virginia & West Virginia where he draws his material from a core of contributors although submissions from outside this area are welcome.

Jeff's fanzine follows the accepted Trekzine formula of a fan fiction anthology covering short stories, serials, artwork, poetry, filk, etc. For this year’s Twelve Trek days of Christmas he has released a 28 page Christmas special with a mixture of fiction with an episode from Jeff’s "Captain Ryan Chronicles" and a new collaborative story from two of his crew on the Indiana, Walter Ewing and Michael Kent. This month, Jeff too has tried something different, with a review on the Original Series episode Amok time and an article on a new starship design, the Proxima.


What does the future hold for Star Trek fanzines? Well they're certainly not going to disappear altogether although perhaps they will need to think about what their readers want and what their contributors have to give. There is plenty of scope for development, in the same way that fan films and audio dramas have, though some exciting technological advances in the fields of desk top publishing, electronic publishing and distribution.

Who knows, perhaps next year we might have more Trekzines available than I can shake a stick at? One can but hope!



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