I’ve previously posted articles from the science fiction fanzines my dad published in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Conscientious archivist that he was, he kept copies not only of his zines but also of all his correspondence. Today I found a letter he wrote to a college friend who’d asked him about this odd hobby of making zines.
In honor of Father’s Day, here’s my dad explaining, in 1961, the history of fanzines.
Once upon a time (around 1930) there were people who were interested in science and stories about science. Some of them wrote letters to magazines which published science fiction stories. The editors printed the letters (comments on science, the stories, and the science-in-stories) and soon the readers were writing each other, discussing their common interest. Clubs were formed in some cities. Some of the people, who had begun to call themselves “fans,” began writing and publishing little magazines of their own, containing their own fiction, comments on the fiction in the professional magazines, and letters from other fans. Gradually the original interest of fans in science changed to an interest in fiction, and other topics began to be discussed in their amateur magazines (called “fanzines”). In the late thirties the Fantasy Amateur Press Association was formed to distribute publications of members to the whole membership at once, every three months. The interests of fans, as fans, broadened to include almost any topic; more and more people became interested, through reading the pro magazines, which published news of fandom’s activities — which came to include conventions, conferences, and other amateur press groups besides the F.A.P.A. — commonly, fapa. Nowadays many fans read very little science fiction, but are held together by other interests — mainly, I think, the need to communicate. This is done by letter, by gathering in convention (this year it’s Seattle), by publishing fanzines, both for general distribution and for distribution through the amateur press associations, or apa’s. (Apa’s, by the way, antedate fans, I believe; originally they were groups of printers who just got a kick out of printing.)
Bw (my dad’s zine, Bandwagon — sr) is a fapazine, and I think you could figure out from the above that that’s a fanzine which is distributed through fapa. There are 65 members; requirements are dues of $3 per year plus publication of 8 pages of material. When a member publishes, he sends to a designated officer enough copies of his zine for the whole membership. This officer (the “official editor”) assembles one copy of each publication received in the previous three months into a “bundle.” This is done for each of the 65 members. On specific dates in February, May, August, and November, the bundles are mailed out to the members. Almost anything, as I said, might be discussed, but much of the material is “mailing comments” — comments on remarks made in the previous mailing. Which is why so much of a zine is incomprehensible unless you know what’s gone before. Recently there have been hot discussions on sports cars, jazz, and capital punishment, to name a few.
So there you have it.