So what have we got planned now that Mimosa is ended, you may be wondering?
Well, we mentioned in A Mimosa Fanthology that the term 'fan publisher
emeritus' had a nice ring to it, and we'll be very happy just to be known as former
fan-publishers. It's not really likely there will be a successor to Mimosa,
as we have plenty of other things to keep us busy. Like the following article
suggests, there really is life after fan publishing, and we plan to kick back
and enjoy our 'retirement'. Unless, of course, inspiration strikes...
You know you're too far out of the fan-article writing game when you begin thinking you've either got writer's block or that suddenly everything in your life has become too boring to write about.
The last totally original article I wrote was in 1992, and everything since then has either been a reworking of earlier lost items and unfinished fragments or a patchwork of miscellaneous short topics. If I were a member of the Fan Writers of America they'd drum me out of the corps.
I can't tell you how many fan articles I've written in the last four-plus decades, but they have to number in the low-to-mid hundreds. I was publishing genzines and perszines before I was writing articles, but was still conjuring articles long after my pubbing had dribbled off to producing only two apazines. But my article-writing output dribbled off, too, and stopped, leaving only the apazines. Following that I got online and my apazines became threatened by anemia. Then one of my apa OEs agreed to accept zines by email and print them off upon receipt. Pass the grapes, and hit the 'Send' key for me if you've got the time.
The great bulk of what tumbled out of my meatspace fanwriting cornucopia took place between 1968 and 1992. Those were the most productive years. If I take a second cut I can narrow down an even more intense period of writing which ran from the start of the `70s through the end of 1981. What does this tell me? This says I was most active when I was in my 30s and in the decade when I was living in Southern California. Not just in terms of writing, but also publishing and meatspace fan socializing. The `60s saw a bit of dabbling from an upstate New York location, the `80s a lighter but still hefty load of crifanac from Cincinnati, and the first half of the `90s a letting go and a return to dabbling without any change in venue. In 1996 I stopped being a Luddite and got sucked up into the Internet where all was relative ease and facility and it gave my writing muse a much needed kick-start.
But in an almost wholly different direction. Newsgroups, mailing lists, and websites, obOhMy. The one age-old favorite fanwriting activity of mine -- correspondence -- was supercharged. And newsgroups and lists are a lot like correspondence and amateur press associations, so I became caught up in them almost immediately.
I certainly spend a lot of time online writing, but before I got online I spent an equal amount of time writing and a large additional amount of time processing the writing. As the years tumble along with new technologies hitting each other in the ass on their way down the chute, the processing time gets reduced to almost zero. Now it consists mainly of hitting the 'Send' key.
More and more I appreciate being able to just get down to the essence which is the writing.
But along the way, as one decade blurged into another, I incrementally lost a lot of interest in the fan article. Writing them or reading them.
Over the years I've read and have fond memories of quite a fair number of good fan articles. Most of them seem to have been written by fans such as Lon Atkins, Irish John Berry, Bob Bloch, Charles Burbee, Ed Cagle, Cy Condra, Dean Grennell, Tina Hensel, Dave Langford, Bob Shaw, Milt Stevens, Bob Tucker, Walt Willis, and the obligatory So On and Temporarily Overlooked. As with science fiction, I got to the point where I knew whose writing I liked, and as they gradually or abruptly stopped writing I noticed that the pool was being drained. I'd accept recommendations on unfamiliar names and occasionally turn up someone whose work I enjoyed reading, but the big voracious experiment was over. I was reading a lot fewer fan articles and science fiction.
So I moved over to mysteries, and went through pretty much the same Read And Cull maneuver in that genre.
If I wanted to read good articles, I'd open a proven source such as The Atlantic Monthly.
When it came to my own writings there was a great deal of evolution and devolution going on there, too. I pretty much learned to hone my writing skills in fandom, and to one degree or another made my living with those skills for three decades. In the `70s I enjoyed the process the most, and in the `80s I had it about as fine-tuned as it was going to get. By 1992, the year I wrote my last totally original fan article, I saw I wasn't going to get any better. That, plus the lack of enthusiasm for writing fan articles, and the increasing difficulty in finding something I actually wanted to write about, took all the wind out of those particular sails.
The kick-start I got from the Net had nothing to do with writing articles, though I did crank out a few items too short to actually be called articles. Brief essays, perhaps. No, the lure of the Net wasn't in a broader market for formal structures of writing. The lure was the interaction. It was also the speed of the interaction.
A long, long time ago, fan David Hulan told me "if you don't like the people, you won't like the apa." Which may go far toward explaining why I'm in Apanage, the children's fantasy apa, when I don't read children's fantasy. As I said some quarter century back, I didn't like it when I was a children and I haven't mellowed much.
But I do like many of the people in it, and I think David's truism can be applied even more broadly. I apply it to fandom.
I no longer have an interest in producing genzines or perszines, or even reading most of them. Only my interest in some of the people can explain why I'm still in two apas. Only my interest in some of the people can explain why I'm still in three online fan mailing lists, and why I intermittently dabble in one fan newsgroup, when I'm also in non-fan online forums which have somewhat to one degree or another greater concentrations of better and, to me, more interesting writers.
It was in the creation of this article that I've come to terms with the fantasy that I'm still a writer of fan articles. I have never spent more time creating an article than I have with this one. Not in the writing, but in the creating. It was a handshake agreement the end of June 2002 that I'd write one by March of 2003.
I began working on it in November of 2002. From then until March I immersed myself in the process of finding a way in. I'd think about finding a topic. I did it every time I sat down at the computer. I thought about it as I went to sleep. I kept it in mind as I read, and as I did things, because I remembered from the days when I wrote columns for fanzines that the secret to having things to write about was to leave yourself open to inspiration.
Earlier this month, having gotten nowhere, I tried the Stare At A Blank Page And Sweat Blood method. I typed: "You know you're too far out of the fan-article writing game when you begin thinking you've either got writer's block or that suddenly everything in your life has become too boring to write about."
As I forced myself further into this piece I realized that neither statement is quite true, though the latter statement is certainly closer to being true...
The truth: I burned out on it. And didn't know it. Or, at least, I didn't fully acknowledge it.
Arthur D. Hlavaty, one of our most excellent fan-writers and a man who doesn't write fan articles but instead focuses more on brief essays, captured a predominant but not universal truth about publishing genzines and perszines when he wrote in August of 2001: "If a science-fiction fan is someone who used to read science fiction and likes to hang out with others who used to read science fiction, what's a fanzine fan?"
I liked the quote so much I've done it to death in email signatures and should probably begin sending him royalty checks.
He followed that with a brief story of being at a con where, in one discussion, everyone was lamenting the relative dearth of fanzines these days. Everyone, that is, except Arthur and the one other fan present who still published one.
While I faced that truth not long after my last general-distribution fanzine, I hadn't faced it about still being an article writer. I'm still a fanwriter, but it's obvious to me now that writing articles becomes as much a thing of the past as pubbing general distribution fanzines.
In fact, I can now pinpoint the exact date I wrote my final one: March 14, 2003.
Unless, of course, inspiration strikes.
Title illustration by Julia Morgan-Scott