Thursday, March 20, 2008

From the fringe of fanzine fandom

My nose is running, my head feels too heavy for my neck, and I feel alternatingly too hot or too cold. Nice. At least I have a new issue of Banana Wings to entertain me, between the long spells when I do nothing but stare out the window.

In case you don't know, Banana Wings is a well known fanzine (edited by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer) with readers and contributors from all around the world. Fanzine fandom consists of people who communicate through eachother's fanzines -- it is a virtual community surviving from the time before the www, when all mail was snail mail and you had to publish on paper if you wanted to publish anything. It is not directly transferrable to the internet, it has it's own culture with expectations and conventions and survives as a distinct mode of conversation. Of course, nowadays many fanzines are also available for download from

From the previous paragraph you can see that I'm not expecting everyone of my readers to know about these things.

In the beginning, when I was new in the world of fanzine fandom, I used lots of fan slang and obscure references in everything I wrote. I wanted to show that I was on the inside, that I was one of the initiated. After a while, when the newness of fanzine making had worn off, my focus shifted from showing off to communicating. I also realized that fanzine fandom was very small, and that I didn't want to scare away newcomers who had not yet discovered that they were interested in deciphering the jargon.

Nowadays when I write I'm trying to address everyone: the experienced fans as well as the neos or proto-fans. By "proto-fans" I mean science fiction (including fantasy, of course) readers who might be interested in fandom but who don't know that yet. I love fandom, fan culture and fan history, but I love science fiction and meeting people even more. I want to build bridges between people I think could have something in common, and I want to promote an exchange of thoughts and ideas about science fiction (again, including fantasy). At the same time I really want to be a involved in fandom.

Reading the editorial of this issue of Banana Wings, it's also obvious to me that I'm not as involved in It All as I sometimes try to be. I have missed the discussion about "Core Fandom" that is mentioned (it has taken place in some other fanzines, which I know of but haven't read), and I don't know "The Eminent Peter Weston's theory about handing out fanzines at conventions". I try in periods to sample what I find at, but I have two problems with that: I usually don't find them suitable for reading on the computer screen, and I don't want to waste printing resources at work. This means that to get into the habit of really reading fanzines, I would have to get my own printer -- or make myself take a memory stick to a copy shop to print things. At the moment, I'm just sometimes printing sample pages, or compressing them to two or four pages per page (and double-sided of course) to save paper, or not reading fanzines at all.

I'm happy when I get dead tree fanzines in the mail. Especially when they bring with them a feeling that fandom is alive, which Banana Wings does (despite expressing a sligth pessimism about the whole thing). A letter column that takes up ten pages! There is the conversation.

And yes, I'm making a fanzine to bring to Ad Astra.

No comments: