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Entry updated 1 October 2022. Tagged: Fan, Publication, Theme.

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A fanzine is an Amateur Magazine produced by sf fans and increasingly defined by its focus on Fandom and individual fans rather than on science fiction or sf stories. The term "fanzine", first coined by Russ (Louis Russell) Chauvenet in the October 1940 issue of his magazine Detours, has since been borrowed and used by Comics collectors, wargamers, underground publishers, music fans and other non-sf enthusiasts. A particularly popular category in the 1980s and 1990s UK was the soccer fanzine.

The first known sf fanzine was The Comet (May 1930) edited by Raymond A Palmer for the Science Correspondence Club, followed by The Planet (July 1930) edited by Allen Glasser for the New York Scienceers. However, both of these were mainly about science, although the second did include reviews of the professional sf magazines. Some regard the first true fanzine – certainly the first major one – as The Time Traveller (January 1932 #1) edited by Julius Schwartz and Mort Weisinger. Schwartz, with others, went on to publish Science Fiction Digest (see Fantasy Magazine). These and other early fanzines were straightforward publications dealing exclusively with sf or amateur science, and were produced by local fan groups founded in the USA by the more active readers of contemporary professional SF Magazines. However, as interest grew and sf fans formed closer contacts and friendships, individual fans began publishing for their own amusement, so that fanzines became more diverse and their contents more capricious; fan editors also began to exchange fanzines and to send out free copies to contributors and letter-writers. Thus fanzines abandoned any professional aspirations in exchange for informality and an active readership – characteristics that persist to the present and distinguish fanzines from conventional hobbyist publications. From the USA the idea spread to the UK, where Maurice Hanson and Dennis Jacques started Novae Terrae (later ed E J Carnell as the forerunner of New Worlds) in 1936. Since then fanzine publishing has proliferated and many thousands of titles have appeared, the majority in North America but with substantial numbers from the UK, Australia and Western Europe, and occasional items from Japan, South America, South Africa, New Zealand, Turkey and Eastern Europe, with a growing number on the internet by way of blogs.

Many modern sf writers started their careers in Fandom and published their own fanzines; Ray Bradbury, for example, produced four issues of Futuria Fantasia (1939-1941), which contained inter alia his first published stories. Other former fanzine editors include James Blish, Kenneth Bulmer, Terry Carr, John Christopher, Harlan Ellison, Damon Knight, C M Kornbluth, Charles Eric Maine, Michael Moorcock, Frederik Pohl, Christopher Priest, Robert Silverberg and Ted White. Some still find time to publish in later life: Wilson Tucker, for example, continued to produce Le Zombie from 1938 to 1975, and again in electronic form in 2000-2001.

Fan editors are of course free to produce whatever they like, and so fanzines vary dramatically in production, style and content. Traditionally they were duplicated (mimeographed or hectographed) or sometimes printed; in the twenty-first century they are photocopied, printed or – increasingly often – distributed entirely in electronic form (see online magazines). The traditional fanzine consisted of anything from a single sheet to 100+ pages, with a circulation of from five to 5000 copies. (The five-copy run would probably have been achieved with just a typewriter and multiple carbon copies.) Since the 1980s introduction of the Hugo "Semiprozine" category, though, the tendency has been to call fanzines with a circulation of over 1000 Semiprozines. Smaller fanzines are often written entirely by the editor and serve simply as letter substitutes sent out to friends; others have limited distribution within amateur press associations such as FAPA and OMPA. Larger printed fanzines, with an average circulation of 200-500, fall into three main categories, with considerable overlap: those dealing with sf (containing reviews, interviews, articles and discussions); those dealing with sf fans and fandom (containing esoteric humour); and those dealing with general material (containing anything from sf to Biblical engineering). A further category, consisting of fanzines exclusively publishing amateur fiction though not widely enough circulated to be regarded as Semiprozines, is covered under Amateur Magazines. On the fringe there are specialist fanzines catering for Fantasy and Sword-and-Sorcery fans, others devoted to cult authors such as J R R Tolkien, H P Lovecraft and Robert E Howard, and yet others which deal with sf films or tv series such as Star Trek. Since 1955 there has been a Best Fanzine category in the Hugo Awards, and since 1984 a Best Semiprozine category also.

There has been relatively little critical attention paid to sf fanzines, although Fredric Wertham, best known for his highly controversial view of Comics in Seduction of the Innocent (1954) which encouraged the creation of a Comics Code, provided a rather idiosyncratic and far from balanced study in The World of Fanzines (1974). He concentrated on comics fanzines and his choice of sf fanzines was rather limited, but his conclusion was that "the editing of fanzines is a constructive and healthy exercise of creative drives." A rather more structured analysis will be found amongst the essays collected in Science Fiction Fandom (anth 1994) edited by Joseph L Sanders.

Some selected, variously notable fanzines – some later regarded as semiprozines – from different periods of fandom receive full entries in this volume. This selection includes Algol, The Alien Critic, Ansible, Australian SF Review, Australian Science Fiction Review: Second Series, Back Brain Recluse (earlier issues), Bizarre, Cheap Truth, Checkpoint, Critical Wave, The Drink Tank; Emerald City, Fanac, Fantasy Magazine, Fantasy Review, Fantasy Times, File 770, The Futurian, Futurian War Digest, Hyphen, Janus/Aurora, Locus, Luna Monthly, The Mad 3 Party, Maya, The Metaphysical Review, Mimosa, Moebius Trip, Niekas, Novae Terrae, Plokta, Psychotic, Quandry, Quarber Merkur, Relapse (formerly Prolapse), Riverside Quarterly, The Science Fact & Science Fiction Concatenation. Science Fantasy News, Science Fiction: A Review of Speculative Literature, Science Fiction Chronicle, SF Commentary, Skyhook, Skyrack, Slant, Steam Engine Time, Speculation, Thrust, Vector, The Vortex, Warhoon, Xero and Yandro. Data on a number of further fanzine titles are available by following up cross-references.

The majority of the above are critical magazines, and many are listed again under Critical and Historical Works About SF. Many of the others are or were Newszines carrying news of sf and fandom. [PR/PN/DRL]

see also: Academic Journals; Amateur Magazines.


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