Before there was Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, before there was Blogs, Forums, and Listserv, there was the Fanzine!

The Science Fiction Fanzine Reader

I’m not sure people who grew up after the internet can comprehend living before the computer era. They are used to instant communication with anyone around the world. They are used to finding their peeps in a Facebook group just by typing in a search phrase or battling tempests in a teacup with digital acquaintances they’ve never met on Twitter. The internet lets everyone easily locate like-minded members of their subculture or the foes of their philosophy. Anyone can have a world-wide distribution of their writing. But in the days before networked computers, most people only knew other people from meeting face-to-face. Writing letters were about the extent of distant communication, and generally, they were to Mom and Dad when you were at camp.

However, Amazing Stories in the 1920s inspired science fiction fans to communicate with other unmet fans through the letter columns, which led them to invent their own magazines, the fanzine. That allowed SF fans to express themselves and find other fans to share and argue over the mighty topic of science fiction. Instead of HTML, they used letterpresses, ditto machines, and the mighty Gestetner mimeograph to publish text and graphics.

Luis Ortiz has just come out with a new anthology of fanzine essays and artwork called The Science Fiction Fanzine Reader: Focal Points 1930-1960. He ties 400 pages of reprints with commentary and history. Sure this is a big book about a tiny subculture. Only 200 people attended the first Worldcon in New York City in 1939. Most science fiction fans lived in isolation, hungry for contact with their fellow fen.

In my recent essay about Hugo award-winning fanzines, I provided links to sites where you can read these classic zines. What Ortiz has done is give those archives a coherent overview and history. I don’t think many people will be buying this $30 book. The old science fiction fandom is dying out. It’s been completely overshadowed by social media. But I want to let those who remember to know that it exists. And maybe let those who don’t remember a chance to see how the ideology of science fiction was spread before the world knew the term science fiction.

I joined Spectator Amateur Press Society (SAPS) in 1971 and my cousin-in-law let me use his church’s Gestetner to run off my first zine called The Blue Bomber (named after my car). SAPS was an amateur press association (APA) where I shared my zine with 36 other people around the world. In 1974, Greg Bridges and Dennis McHaney and I purchased a Gestetner together. I helped Greg publish a genzine called Diversity for our local science fiction club, but we traded it for other zines in other states, and I think England, Canada, and Australia. Dennis published a zine devoted to Robert E. Howard. I used our mimeograph for publishing my SAPS and SFPA zines.

Communicating with distant people I’ve never met in the 1970s via zines prepared me for the BBS boom in the 1980s. I joined Prodigy, AOL, Genie. I had a 2-line BBS system to discuss science fiction. When I got access to the internet in 1987 I contacted other SF fans via email, forums, mailing lists, and USENET. I created the first version of The Classics of Science Fiction for a fanzine Lan’s Lantern. I reprinted it on a gopher server in the early 1990s, and right after the web was created I set up the first web version. This site is version 4.

I feel all of this communicating across the planet was a natural progression from publishing my first fanzine.

James Wallace Harris, March 27, 2019

 

How Many Hugo Award Winning Fanzines Can You Read Online?

 

Hugo winning fanzines

In the 1930s fans began publishing amateur magazines devoted to the science fiction genre. They were dubbed fanzines, as compared to prozines, where science fiction was published by professional writers and editors. Eventually, other pop culture fans created fanzines chronicling the subcultures of comics, horror movies, rock music, the counter-culture, etc.

In the 1950s when the Hugo awards began, a category for best fanzine was created. In recent years Retro Hugo voters looked back to the 1930s and 1940s, giving awards to now legendary titles that are almost impossible to find. Most fanzines had very small print runs. Reading them today reveals how readers of the past felt about science fiction, long before the genre became well known. Fanzines including gossip, feuds, nonfiction, fiction, poetry, art, letter columns, book reviews, and anything you’d read now on the web.

Since the advent of the internet, some fanzines have been digitized and put online. Fanac.org focuses on the fan history of the SF genre, especially fanzines from before 1980. eFanzines covers all kinds of zines, including current ones. The University of Iowa is digitizing 10,000 fanzines from Rusty Havelin’s collection. And ZineWiki is the encyclopedia of fanzine history. Fanzines chronicle the histories of subcultures. Fredric Wertham, M.D. who campaigned against comics in the 1950s as a negative influence on children, praised fanzines in the 1970s in his book The World of Fanzines, claiming they were a special form of creative communication.

Fanzines were the precursors to blogs and home pages. Fanzines allowed people to inter-network using postal services around the world. Access to a school ditto machine or an office Gestetner gave fans publishing power. The web, for the most part, killed off the fanzine because HTML serves the same purpose as the mimeograph, but cheaper and more efficiently.

A complete list of Hugo nominated fanzines and winners can be found at Wikipedia. Below are the fanzines that won the Hugo Awards. This is the smallest drop in the bucket compared to what was published. I’ve tried to find the best link possible to sample issues. In recent times the award for fanzines has gone to websites. The art of writing, editing, illustrating, and printing an amateur magazine is disappearing. Fanzines are still remembered by collectors who buy them on eBay and discussed on Facebook. However, they are disappearing quickly. Booksellers often refer to them as ephemera. I have been scanning a few issues of old zines and putting them on the Internet Archive, a library system that hopes to preserve everything that can be digitized. If you have old fanzines you might consider scanning them for IA. Especially if you believe your spouse will toss your collection in the recycle bin when you leave this world.

Retro Hugos

Hugos

  • 1955 – Fantasy Times (James V. Taurasi, Sr. and Ray Van Houten)
  • 1956 – Inside (Ron Smith), Science Fiction Advertiser (Ron Smith)
  • 1957 – Science-Fiction Times (James V. Taurasi, Sr., Ray Van Houten and Frank R. Prieto, Jr.)
  • 1959 – Fanac (Terry Carr, Ron Ellik)
  • 1960 – Cry of the Nameless (F. M. Busby, Elinor Busby, Burnett Toskey and Wally Weber)
  • 1961 – Who Killed Science Fiction? (Earl Kemp)
  • 1962 – Warhoon (Richard Bergeron)
  • 1963 – Xero (Richard and Pat Lupoff)
  • 1964 – Amra (George H. Scithers)
  • 1965 – Yandro (Robert and Juanita Coulson)
  • 1966 – ERB-dom (Camille Cazedessus, Jr.)
  • 1967 – Niekas (Edmund R. Meskys and Felice Rolfe)
  • 1968 – Amra (see 1965)
  • 1969 – Science Fiction Review (Richard E. Geis)
  • 1970 – Science Fiction Review (see 1968)
  • 1971 – Locus (Charles and Dena Brown)
  • 1972 – Locus (see 1971)
  • 1973 – Energumen (Michael Glicksohn and Susan Wood)
  • 1974 – The Alien Critic (Richard E. Geis)
  • 1975 – The Alien Critic (see 1974)
  • 1976 – Locus (see 1971)
  • 1977 – Science Fiction Review (see 1968)
  • 1978 – Locus (see 1971)
  • 1979 – Science Fiction Review (see 1968)
  • 1980 – Locus (see 1971)
  • 1981 – Locus (see 1971)
  • 1982 – Locus (see 1971)
  • 1983 – Locus (see 1971)
  • 1984 – File 770 (Mike Glyer)
  • 1985 – File 770 (see 1984)
  • 1986 – Lan’s Lantern (George “Lan” Laskowski)
  • 1987 – Ansible (David Langford)
  • 1988 – Texas SF Inquirer (Pat Mueller)
  • 1989 – File 770 (see 1984)
  • 1990 – The Mad 3 Party (Leslie Turek)
  • 1991 – Lan’s Lantern (see 1986)
  • 1992 – Mimosa (Richard Lynch and Nicki Lynch)
  • 1993 – Mimosa (see 1992)
  • 1994 – Mimosa (see 1992)
  • 1995 – Ansible (see 1987)
  • 1996 – Ansible (see 1987)
  • 1997 – Mimosa (see 1992)
  • 1998 – Mimosa (see 1992)
  • 1999 – Ansible (see 1987)
  • 2000 – File 770 (see 1984)
  • 2001 – File 770 (see 1984)
  • 2002 – Ansible (see 1987)
  • 2003 – Mimosa (see 1992)
  • 2004 – Emerald City (Cheryl Morgan)
  • 2005 – Plokta (Alison Scott, Steve Davies, and Mike Scott)
  • 2006 – Plokta (see 2005)
  • 2007 – Science-Fiction Five-Yearly (Lee Hoffman, Geri Sullivan, and Randy Byers)
  • 2008 – File 770 (see 1984)
  • 2009 – Electric Velocipede (John Klima)
  • 2010 – StarShipSofa (Tony C. Smith)
  • 2011 – The Drink Tank (Christopher Garcia and James Bacon)
  • 2012 – SF Signal (John DeNardo)
  • 2013 – SF Signal (John DeNardo, JP Frantz, and Patrick Hester)
  • 2014 – A Dribble of Ink (Aidan Moher)
  • 2015 – Journey Planet (James Bacon, Christopher J Garcia, Colin Harris, Alissa McKersie, and Helen J. Montgomery)
  • 2016 – File 770 (see 1984)
  • 2017 – Lady Business (Clare, Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay, and Susan)
  • 2018 – File 770 (see 1984)

James Wallace Harris, March 22, 2019