From time to time, I’ll be posting things my dad wrote, because I miss him, and because I think they’re worth sharing. This one, a bit of social history about amateur publishing, is from his submission to the National Amateur Press Association, “Experiment #1,” in March 1989. I’m transcribing it from a dot-matrix printout. (And, duh, I’ve added the links.)
My first introduction to amateur journalism was some thirty-five years ago. The quantity of my production probably still qualifies me as a tyro rather than a fossil. Nevertheless; three decades of fiddling about in and out of the hobby, mostly on the periphery, provide the opportunity to observe and reflect on the motivations of the hobbyists. Self included.
Science fiction fandom brought me to it. After a few issues of a fanzine, the next natural step seemed to be joining fapa. (The lower case usage was probably a way of being pretentious while pretending the opposite.) The Fantasy Amateur Press Association seemed to be made up of wild and crazy guys who enjoyed science fiction but even more enjoyed talking and writing about it and anything else that struck their fancy. Belonging to fapa wasn’t amateur journalism; it was “ayjay,” and calling it anything else was pretentious. (See above.)
Word reached me of another group which published small magazines— not fanzines, but “papers” or “journals,” as though they took themselves and their publications seriously. More pretensions. What’s more, they had officers, a constitution, by-laws, and PAID ATTENTION TO THEM. What a bore. Fapa seemed to have one officer who served a useful purpose, the official editor, who, four times a year, assembled and mailed the publications produced by the membership during that quarter. This seemed usually to be the occasion for a party, as nearby members descended upon the OE to assist.
For fapans, the mimeograph was the reproductive method of choice (and wouldn’t that statement have gotten a reaction from the membership), but a few of the sixty-five members had the equipment and inclination to get fancy. They printed their science fiction fanzines with cold type on real printing presses. The contrast was astounding (also amazing, startling, and fantastic) to a youngster who felt triumphant when he’d produced 65 copies of a 6- or 8-page zine with almost every page absent of ink smears. But REAL printing, goshwowohboyohboy. Danner and Wesson and those few other guys (like Walt Willis) must be rich or talented or both.
Such work was admirable, but obviously beyond the reach of mere mortal fans. And besides, who needed to print the kind of wacky ephemera that made up the contents of most fapazines? The idea, really, was just self-expression, wasn’t it? And a way to hold a long-distance conversation with some like-minded persons and practice a little good-natured (usually) one-upmanship? Sure it was. And if your mimeo’d fanzine was fairly well produced and half-way literate, your work was probably above the average. With a Sears mimeo, ink, stencils, paper and a typewriter, you could speak your mind.
And there’s one philosophy of ayjay. “Here’s what I think, take it or leave it — or argue with me.” It moves us all, whether we bring out a publication every month or a few times per decade; whether we do neat work or not; whether we publish our own stuff or write for someone else’s magazine. Nobody involves himself in amateur journalism unless he thinks he has something to say. There are plenty of hobbies for the inarticulate. (But of course they don’t appear in amateur magazines…)