A Tennessee Yankee in
Prince George's County
Closing Comments by Dick Lynch
"Oh, look," I said, sorting through the day's
mail, "here's another fanzine addressed to our new Maine Coon Cat."
Nicki looked up briefly, then went back to
what she had been doing. "Very funny," was all she said. Mimosa (the Maine Coon Cat,
not the fanzine) had already decided that watching birds through the window as they
swooped around outside catching insects was far more entertaining than helping me sort
through the mail could ever be.
Feeble attempts at humor notwithstanding,
receiving fanzines in the mail has gotten to be a common (and welcome) occurrence for
us. We get about 70 different fanzine titles in trade for Mimosa (the fanzine,
not the Maine Coon Cat). In addition, we get from 50 to 70 letters of comment each
issue, some from people who weren't on our mailing list but happened to run across the
issue somewhere in their travels. All in all, we're more than pleased with this
combined response from each issue; we're averaging about two responses for every five
issues we send out. Other friends of ours who publish fanzines tell us they also
receive about this level of response, and as with us, it's the energy source that
keeps them publishing. From this, it's awfully tempting to conclude that fanzine
fandom is alive and well, if not thriving.
But I don't think it is. If fact, I think
it's barely hanging on. Of all the fanzines we receive, many of them, such as
clubzines, are aimed at special interest audiences, have limited readerships and very
limited circulations. It used to be you could count on "major" fan centers (whatever
that means) to be the foundation for one or more large circulation general interest
fanzines. Not so anymore. An example of this is the local fan organization, the
Washington Science Fiction Association. WSFA is a fairly large fan organization,
much larger than the club we helped found when we lived in Tennessee -- WSFA meeting
attendance (and it meets twice a month) is usually about 40 people. WSFA also
publishes a monthly clubzine called the WSFA Journal, which does an adequate
job of listing meeting minutes and other information of interest to the club. It's a
pretty bare bones publication, though; there's nothing much there to elicit letters of
comment, or, for that matter, a LoC column to print them if there were. However, it
hasn't always been this way.
A few months ago, I got to see some issues of
the old, "classic" WSFA Journal that were published in the 1960s. Back then,
the Journal was a true genzine -- besides covering WSFA business, it had fan
articles and lots of artwork, plus a long well-edited lettercol that from some of the
well-known fans and pros who wrote LoCs, tells me that the Journal saw a much
wider circulation than it does now. And, it was a much, much better fanzine then than
it is now; the present Journal unfortunately pales in comparison.
This is not meant to be a criticism of WSFA;
it's a fun club to belong to, and the twice-monthly meetings have the atmosphere and
many of the trappings of a small scale Midwestcon. But it's pretty clear that WSFA's
interests lie other than in fanzine publishing. The party atmosphere of club meetings
is conducive to convention fans; from my viewpoint it is conventions, most notably the
WSFA-sponsored Disclave each Memorial Day weekend, that now seem to be the club's
The most recent Disclave (held about an hour's
drive around the Beltway from here, over in Prince George's County), in fact, was a
clear indication that Times Have Changed for fanzine fandom -- I was disappointed that
there wasn't even a smidgeon of fan programming related to fanzines. When I asked the
Programming Department Head about it, he said that nobody (on the committee,
presumably) was interested in it, so there wasn't any.
So, maybe it remains for fanzine fans like you
and us to hang on for a while and see if the pendulum eventually starts to swing the
other way. The response we've gotten from Mimosa shows that there are
significant numbers of fanzine readers out there, but we're starting to get lost in
the dozens of other flavors of fandom that have grown in popularity over the past
decade or so.
I'm about out of room, and there's no cute
ending to the column this time, except to say that we appreciate your letters and
fanzines, and look forward to your responses on this issue. And we'll see you about
year's end with our next issue.
Photo by Dick Lynch