Andersonic 20 Is Out Now!

Andersonic Issue 20 Cover_550

The good news is that Issue 20 of my favourite Gerry Anderson fanzine, Andersonic, has just been released, so it’s time for my usual plug. So, what’s on the menu this issue?

The current issue features:

  • Brian Johnson interview – a new interview with Space 1999’s FX director. Brian also talks about his work on Stingray, Thunderbirds, 2001 and Alien/Aliens amongst other things.
  • Mark Harrison interview – CG director on New Captain Scarlet and leader of the Scarlet Team, Mark discusses his work on Gerry’s last series.
  • Thunderbirds 1965 – We take a trip to Slough and visit the set during the filming of ‘The Abominable Snowman’, the first of the three episodes being made there.
  • Anderson Dream Episodes – Are they clever lateral thinking or a feeble cop-out?
  • Space: 1999/ Another Time, Another Place – Mark Braxton reviews one of the first series’ weirder episodes.
  • Reviews – We review Alan Shubrook’s new book, the CD21 interview CDs and ‘The Lost Worlds of Gerry Anderson’ DVD.
  • Strip Story – the Andersonic time machine goes back to 1965 to dissect the first issue of TV Century 21.
  • Thunderbirds Are Go – our ‘episode guide’ for the first 13 instalments of this new series.
  • … plus a few other things we’ve managed to shoehorn in. The issue also has new art by Richard Smith.

Issue 20 of Andersonic is 44 pages, black & white interiors, and colour front and back covers, both inside and out. There’s lots of lovely photos and artwork to go with the great articles and reviews, and all of this costs a measly £2.75, including p&p within the UK. Check out the website at www.andersonic.co.uk for details on how to purchase the current issue and back issues, most of which are still in print.

Andersonic is, by far, my favourite Gerry Anderson fanzine. It’s a genuine, classic, traditional, “real” paper/print high quality A5 zine, which is a huge plus in my book. There are very few traditional print zines around these days (almost everyone has gone digital) compared to their classic heyday back in the 1970s-1990s. They’re a bit of an endangered species, in fact. So a good one like Andersonic is something truly special. Add to that the sheer quality of this zine, consistently, issue after issue, and I can only applaud Richard Farrell and his talented team for producing this great zine .

The zine has been going for ten years now, which is roughly a six-monthly publishing schedule, although that has slowed down in recent years to an almost annual schedule, alternating roughly every six months with its equally high-quality sister Doctor Who publication, Plaything of Sutekh. We still get a zine every six months or so, but it’s two different zines rather than just the one. It takes a lot of time and effort to put quality zines like this together. I’d rather have a lengthy wait between issues and get a zine of higher quality, than a more frequent release at a lower quality, or, worse still, Richard giving up altogether because of a far too punishing zine release schedule.

I cannot recommend this fanzine highly enough. It deserves as much support as it can get. Buy it. Now.

Plaything of Sutekh #4 Is Now Available

Plaything of Sutekh 4 montage

As a follow-up to my last post, I’m now happy to report that Plaything of Sutekh #4 is now available, after what seems like an eternity since the last issue. 🙂

As the details on the Plaything of Sutekh blog state, the new issue features articles on:-

  • Pacifism in Doctor Who – a look at how The Daleks and The Dominators gave turning the other cheek the thumbs down.
  • The Ark vs The Ark in Space – David Rolinson looks at the similarities between these two stories.
  • RTD & Religion – Sean Alexander examines a key aspect of the series under Russell T’s tenure.
  • E-Space – Jez Strickley spies a dystopian slant in this Season 18 trilogy.
  • Secret Who – we look at two underrated stories The Claws of Axos and The Time Monster
  • Changing Times – a look back at Peter Capaldi’s first season.
  • Doc Top Ten – one writer looks at his favourite Who comic strips.
  • Gateway Drug – Stephen Wood confesses how it all started with him and Who…

For those who aren’t familiar with it, Plaything of Sutekh is a professionally produced, traditional A5 print Doctor Who fanzine – yes, a real paper zine, not an electronic download, a website or a blog. It is brought to you by Richard Farrell, John Connors and their Merry crew – Richard also edits the very excellent Gerry Anderson fanzine Andersonic. Both zines are among the best fanzines currently available, especially considering that the traditional print fanzine is an endangered species in the increasingly electronic and online modern era.

Issue 4 is 36 pages, fully illustrated with colour covers and black & white interiors. It only costs a mere £2.20, which also includes free postage within the UK (check the blog for postage outside the UK).

To find out more details or order the zine, either go to the Plaything of Sutekh blog, or simply send a Paypal payment directly to playthingofsutekh@mail.com – with your address in the ‘notes’ section. You can also pay by cheque, please email for the payee details.

Issue 3 is also still in print. All self-respecting Doctor Who fans should run along sharpish to the Plaything of Sutekh blog and buy these two issues before they’re sold out.

COMING SOON! Plaything of Sutekh Issue 4

Plaything of Sutekh #4

A day or two ago, I posted about the availability of Andersonic Issue 19, which was released recently. More good news is that Richard Farrell and Co. have been very busy bees, and Plaything of Sutekh Issue 4 will also be with us any day now, as soon as it arrives back from the printers. It’s been quite a while since Issue 3, so this is welcome news indeed.

Plaything of Sutekh is one of the very best Doctor Who fanzines available, covering all eras of the show from over the past fifty years or so. And, like Andersonic, Plaything is a real, paper/print, high-quality A5 publication, not an electronic fanzine.

I have no details as yet, other than the above cover and internal page spread screenshot below from the Plaything of Sutekh blog, but I’ll post anything I find out, as soon as I find it out.

Can’t wait for this!

Plaything of Sutekh 4 Contents

Andersonic Issue 19 Is Out Now!

Andersonic #19

The latest issue of one of my favourite fanzines, Andersonic Issue 19, has been out for a while now, so I reckon that it’s long past time that I gave it a plug. So, what has Richard Farrell and his Merry Crew dished up for us this time?

As per the details on the Andersonic website, the current issue features:

  • Mary Turner interview – a new interview with Century 21’s sculptor/puppetry supervisor in which she discusses her work at Century 21 and the later Cinemation series.
  • Ken Holt interview – Ken talks of his time working at Century 21 on the later puppet series, UFO and The Investigator. What links a bi-plane, green paint and a very unfortunate ram?
  • Space:1999/ The Black Sun – a look at David Weir’s first draft script for this popular episode.
  • Thunderbirds at 50/ Still Flying High – our writers look at why Thunderbirds has endured to become Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s most popular series.
  • UFO/The Cat With Ten Lives – Alexis Kanner has a strange feline all over him. We look at one of UFO’s finest episodes.
  • Strip Story – a look at the Fireball XL5 strip ‘Electrode 909’ from the heyday of TV Century 21.
  • Reviews – we review ‘Filmed in Supermarionation, the Network box set and Bringers of Wonder on bluray. Plus back cover art by Richard Smith.

Andersonic is, by far, my favourite fanzine focusing on all things Gerry Anderson, from puppet shows, to the live TV series, to films, to the modern CGI series. These days, most fanzines are usually some kind of electronic publication – PDFs/ebooks or websites. Andersonic bucks that trend. It’s a genuine, traditional, “real” paper/print, high-quality A5 zine that you can hold in your hand and collect, just like the classic zines of yore. These days, when the classic print zine is a bit of an endangered species, zines like Andersonic are rare, precious gems.

It contains 44 pages of gorgeous articles, reviews and artwork, and has black & white interiors, and colour covers, front and back (both interior and exterior). And at only £2.75 (not even the price of a pint of beer), and with postage free (within the UK only), it’s an absolute steal.

All self-respecting fans of Gerry Anderson and the series he has produced over the years really should be reading every single issue of this zine. Go get yourselves over to the Andersonic website and buy a copy, right now!

Andersonic Issue 18

Andersonic 18

The best recent news on the fanzine front is that Richard Farrell and the gang have just released Andersonic #18 onto “the streets”, and just in time too, as I was in dire need of something good to read.

For those unfortunates who aren’t “in the know”, Andersonic is THE best (as well as my own absolute favourite) Gerry Anderson-based fanzine, covering all the various Gerry Anderson shows, both the various live series and the classic puppet shows, as well as the excellent CGI animated New Captain Scarlet series.

Oh yeah, and did I mention that Andersonic is a real, honest-to-goodness A5 printed zine, not an electronic publication. Real “paper” zines are as rare as hen’s teeth these days, so this is a big, big plus, as far as I’m concerned, as I’ve always loved real zines, the ones you can actually hold in your hand and turn the pages. I LOVE real, paper fanzines.

Here are the contents of Issue 18, according to the Andersonic website:

  • David Elliott interview – a new interview with APF’s editor and director in which he discusses his work on the APF series.
  • Alan Perry interview – Alan talks of his time working at APF/Century 21 on series such as Stingray and Thunderbirds and directing Captain Scarlet and the live-action UFO, working with puppets, actors and chihuahuas.
  • Thunderbirds – Is it Invisible TV? A look at why the Andersons’ series are often overlooked by the more academic articles about television.
  • UFO/ Computer Affair – Someone’s in lurve but Ed Straker needs a computer to see it. We look at an underrated episode…
  • Joe 90/ Most Special Agent – two writers discuss this series opener. One of them likes it… the other one’s not so sure.
  • How do you watch your fave series? – Our writers reveal their little rituals when watching a bit of Anderson telly.
  • Strip Story – we look at an individual comic strip to see what makes it tick. This issue – Countdown’s Stingray story ‘Model Mission’ drawn by Brian Lewis.
  • …plus Alpha Log reports, 2014’s event reviews and The Overseers of Psychon. New art by Nigel Parkinson and cover image by Martin Bower.

My copy of Andersonic #18 arrived several days ago, and just as soon as I can get one of those rare quiet evenings to myself, I have lots and lots of great reading to look forward to. At only £2.70 (British Pounds Sterling), inclusive of postage (within the UK – check the website for postage elsewhere), for 44 pages of wholesome Anderson goodness, you can’t even buy a pint of beer down the pub for that. All fans of Gerry Anderson AND of fanzines should get their booties posthaste over to the Andersonic website and order themselves a copy of this delicious little zine.

Panic Moon May 2014

Panic Moon May 2014 cover

One of my favourite Doctor Who fanzines is Panic Moon, edited and published by the extra-talented and hard working Oliver Wake. Just hot off the presses (well, last month, so pretty recent) is the newest edition of Panic Moon, dated May 2014.

Now Panic Moon isn’t just one of those fairly common electronic fanzines. It’s a genuine, old-fashioned, paper and ink fanzine. But to add to it all, it isn’t a typical A5 or A4 fanzine. It’s a sexy, tiny little A6 zine, so cute and cuddly that you can just slip it in your pocket and take it anywhere with you. This may seem to be a pretty strange choice of size, but it works. This is definitely an attractive little zine.

And the quality of the contents are nothing to sneer at, either. As with previous issues of Panic Moon, the standard of the contents is very high, covering both classic Doctor Who and NuWho, and illustrated with some very nice original artwork. We also have articles and other bits ‘n’ pieces on the following:

  • An Unearthly Child
  • Marco Polo
  • The Time Meddler
  • The Savages
  • The Time of the Doctor
  • Doomsday
  • The Girl Who Waited
  • Doctor Who in Germany
  • missing episode animations
  • space opera in Doctor Who
  • the connection between The Daemons and Ghost Light
  • in praise of Carmen Munroe
  • Michael Grade
  • the Raston Warrior Robot
  • Tanya Lernov
  • the TARDIS doors
  • Planet of Giants
  • The Enemy of the World

That’s quite a lot to squeeze into a tiny little zine like this. But that’s Panic Moon all over – small and wholesome. For less than the price of a pint of beer (and that includes postage), you get a lovely little fanzine, with oodles of great reading. This is a real bargain, and all self-respecting Doctor Who fans should be supporting fanzines like this. Do yourselves a big favour and grab a copy, while it is still available.

For more information on the May 2014 edition of Panic Moon, head on over to the Panic Moon blog, where you’ll find pricing and ordering details.

Andersonic Issue 17 Is Out Now

Andersonic #17

Several posts back, I mentioned that Issue 3 of the excellent Doctor Who fanzine Plaything of Sutekh had hit the stands. And now, what seems like barely five minutes later, Richard Farrell and His Merry Crew have also unleashed Andersonic #17 upon the unsuspecting world. I haven’t even had time to finish reading Plaything of Sutekh #3 yet!

In case you don’t know, Andersonic is our favourite fanzine dealing with all the various Gerry Anderson shows, both live and puppets (and let’s not forget the excellent CGI animated New Captain Scarlet series). And it’s also a real A5 printed zine, not an electronic publication, which is a huge plus in my book.

So what’s in the new issue? Well, I’ll just repeat here what it says on the website:

Sylvia Anderson interview – a new interview with Sylvia in which she discusses her work on the APF/Century 21 series and her creation & casting of such well-loved characters as Lady Penelope, Parker, the Angels and Ed Straker.

Alan Shubrook interview – Alan talks of his time working at Century 21 on series from Thunderbirds up to UFO. He discusses his methods, materials used and his favourite miniatures created for the series, as well as sharing behind the scenes anecdotes. The interview is illustrated with Alan’s own photographs taken at the studio.

Space 1999/ Siren Planet – a look at the original script written by Art Wallace which was later rewritten to become the series’ second episode ‘Matter of Life and Death’.

Thunderbirds/ Desperate Intruder – two writers take opposing views on a mid-season outing where Brains finds himself up to his neck in it.

UFO/ The Long Sleep – we curl up with a tube of Smarties and take a look at one of UFO’s weirder episodes. Take a trip with us back to that ruined farmhouse…

Home Taping: 1999 – Mark Rosney recalls the days before VHS

Strip Story – we look at an individual comic strip to see what makes it tick. This issue – Countdown’s UFO story ‘The Final Climb’ drawn by Jon Davis

…plus DVD reviews and other stuff. Internal art by Steve Kyte, cover image by Martin Bower.

I’ve just ordered my copy, so lots and lots of good stuff to look forward to. I love it all, particularly anything to do with UFO, Space:1999 and Countdown comic. 🙂

At only £2.65 (that’s British Pounds Sterling), inclusive of postage (within the UK, that is, check the website for postage elsewhere), it’s not even the price of a pint of beer. So why don’t you all scoot over to the Andersonic website and order a copy.

Plaything of Sutekh #3

Plaything of Sutekh #3

I’m absolutely delighted to report that, after quite a long wait since the previous issue, Plaything of Sutekh #3 is at long last out in the wild. I’m tickled pink by this news, as it is not only one of my favourite zines, but one of the best fanzines being produced today.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, Plaything is an ultra-classy, professionally produced traditional A5 print fanzine – yes, a real paper zine, not an electronic download, a website or a blog. It’s forty pages of pure, wholesome Doctor Who goodness, with full colour front and back covers, and black and white insides. It is brought to you by the same folks (Richard Farrell and John Connors) who produce the excellent A5 Gerry Anderson fanzine Andersonic. Both zines are heavily influenced both stylistically and quality-wise by one of the greatest telefantasy fanzines ever, the classic Circus. So anyone who appreciates really good fanzines will know just what they’re getting. One of the best zines currently available.

I won’t elaborate on the contents of Plaything of Sutekh #3 – all of the details are available online from the Plaything of Sutekh blog, which is where you should be heading right now, instead of reading this tatty old blog. And just to make things even better, Plaything #’s 2 and 3, which have been out of print for quite a long while, are now back in print, for a “limited period”. Snap them up before they’re gone again.

If you live in the UK, each of the zines are available for the paltry sum of £2.40, including postage. You can’t even buy one lousy pint of beer down the pub for £2.40. That’s a bargain by any measure. Postage/shipping costs vary, depending on where you live:

  • The UK: £2.40 for the zine, postage is free
  • Rest of Europe: £2.40 for the zine plus £1.70 for 1 issue or £3.00 for 2 or 3 issues
  • Rest of the world: £2.40 for the zine plus £3.90 for up to 3 issues

All self-respecting Doctor Who fans should have every single issue of Plaything of Sutekh in the reading pile by their bedside. I’ve already got mine. Take my advice, run, don’t walk, over to the Plaything of Sutekh blog, and pick up the latest issue, or, even better, all three issues, if you haven’t got them yet. That’s an awesome stack of excellent Doctor Who reading material for just over seven quid.

Plaything of Sutekh #'s 1 and 2

Fanzines – Creative Genius at the Grass Roots (Part Four)

Okay, here’s the fourth and final part of my ramblings on my memories of and experiences with fanzines. This one takes us right up to the present day and the most modern fanzines.

I’ve already mentioned how I faded away from collecting fanzines in the late-1990s, and have only really rekindled the passion for zines again over the past five years or so. I’ve seen some really big changes since I came back to collecting fanzines again. The number of print zines has obviously declined drastically over the years, at least since I last collected fanzines on a regular basis, back in the mid-1990s. Things are obviously very different nowadays compared to how they were “back then”, and many former zine editors and writers have either turned professional, or moved on to different creative activities, totally unrelated to fanzines.

At one point, particularly in the 2000-2005 period, I was beginning to think that the traditional paper Doctor Who fanzine had become an extinct species (which is the main reason I didn’t get back into them again much sooner). But fortunately there are still a few traditional paper zines out there, if you look hard enough for them, and there seems to have been a minor resurgence in Doctor Who zines in recent years, most likely as a result of the popularity of the modern Doctor Who television series.

Of the modern DW “paper” zines, I’ve managed to get together a nice little collection of a few of the best:

Richard Farrell produces the excellent Plaything of Sutekh, a new A5 kid on the block, which has two issues under its belt so far. This one certainly looks like it’s going to be a front-runner among the new breed of Doctor Who zines. Richard also produces the equally excellent Andersonic, another high-quality A5 zine dedicated to the Gerry Anderson television shows, in particular the two live shows, UFO and Space: 1999. Both of Richard’s zines are inspired by the classic Circus, which he was a great fan of (and a contributor to, if I recall correctly). This should give you an idea of how high the quality is of both these zines.

Oliver Wake produced seven issues of the excellent Panic Moon, a sexy little A6 Doctor Who zine, before calling it a day. Most of the issues are still available from him.

Grant Bull edited three issues of Blue Box, before moving onto bigger things. Blue Box is an unashamedly retro/cheapo A5 zine, deliberately produced in the old pre-computer DTP style, paying tribute to the classic cut ‘n’ paste photocopied Doctor Who zines of yesteryear.

Kenny Smith has just put out the 12th issue of The Finished Product, an excellent A5 zine dedicated to the niche market of Big Finish audio adventures of the Doctor and his companions.

Richard Bignall has produced three issues of the classy Nothing at the End of the Lane, a huge A4 prozine of incredible quality, dedicated to behind the scenes aspects of Doctor Who. Issue three is available directly from him, and an omnibus of the first two issues is available from Lulu.com.

Colin Brockhurst and Gareth Kavanagh have put out two issues of the simply amazing Vworp Vworp!, another high-quality and colorful A4 prozine which pays tribute to the classic official Doctor Who Monthly/Magazine of days gone by.

Most of the above still have a few back issues in stock. All fans of Doctor Who, or of fanzines, or of both, should do themselves a huge favour and try out some of these zines. They cover a wide range of types, from tiny A6, through traditional A5 (both retro cut ‘n’ paste and more slick DTP), to gorgeous, full-sized A4 glossy colour prozines. They also cover an enormous range of subject matter, but each and every one of them is stuffed to the gills with amazing Doctor Who (and in the case of Andersonic, Gerry Anderson) goodness.

They’re unmissable gems, every single one of them, and there’s absolutely nothing on the newsstands remotely as good, as enjoyable or as deserving of your meagre pennies. Support these zines, buy a copy of each, and encourage the editors to keep producing these wonderful slices of fannish goodness. I know one thing for sure – my life would be a lot poorer and less interesting without them.

There are also many other fanzines out there, both physical/paper and electronic, most of which I haven’t gotten around to trying out yet (but I will). Go find them, and enjoy. Happy hunting!

Fanzines – Creative Genius at the Grass Roots (Part Three)

In my previous two posts, I’ve talked about my general experiences with, and thoughts on, fanzines. Now I’ll share a few more specific thoughts about the actual zines that I’ve come across over the years.

The earliest zines that I collected date from the 1970s and early 1980s, and were mostly based around SF literature and comics. But these were sporadic, one-off zine purchases, and I didn’t really become a hardcore zine collector until well into the 1980s. The pattern of zine purchases in that latter period was also different to what it had been before, in that most of the zines that I collected from the mid-80s onwards were deliberate, regular purchases of individual titles, in order to have a complete collection of each of my favourite zines. The pattern was also different in that the vast majority of these newer zines were based around my favourite sci-fi television series, rather than SF literature and comics.

My first regular fanzine (which I have every issue of, more than twenty of them) was published in the mid-80s, the excellent Flickers ‘n’ Frames, a reviewzine, which now has its direct descendant on the internet in the form of The Borderland website. Flickers ‘n’ Frames ran the gamut of pretty much everything, publishing reviews of sci-fi films, TV series, books, graphic novels, music, and the occasional piece of fiction. This one zine pretty much kick-started my current obsession with collecting zines, and I immediately moved on to collecting other fanzines, mostly based around telefantasy and SF.

My main fanzine collecting years coincided with what is known as the “Golden Age” of Doctor Who fanzines, circa 1985-1995. And so most of the zines in my collection are therefore based on Doctor Who, which just happens also to be my favourite ever TV sci-fi series. Although I’ve got quite a few non-Doctor Who zines in my collection, such as the previously mentioned Flickers ‘n’ Frames, and a large number of other zines covering various cult television shows ranging from Star Trek, to Blake’s 7 and the various Gerry Anderson TV shows, the bulk of my collection is made up of Doctor Who zines. That love of Doctor Who zines continues right up until the present day, and I still collect as many of the current batch of zines as I can.

The hoard of zines that I collected over the years covered many different themes and types, but most of them tended to fall into several different categories.

The first, and largest, category was the general review and article-based zines, which covered not only Doctor Who and other telefantasy series, but often other completely unrelated topics as well. They usually also included the occasional piece of fan fiction. These were mostly traditional A5 zines, and included (off the top of my head):

Circus (which also went A4 for several issues out of the eight-issue run).

Star-Begotten.

Soft Targets (A6).

625.

Brave New World.

Purple Haze.

Peladon.

Cygnus Alpha.

Auton.

Game of Rassilon.

Club Tropicana.

Burning the Ground.

the original Skaro.

Rumours.

Apocrypha.

Shockeye’s Kitchen.

Timelines (the fanzine of the Grand Order of the Time Lords).

Frontios.

Cybermag.

Sonic Screwdriver.

Queen Bat/Space Rat.

Eye of Harmony.

Vipod Mor.

Drake’s Drum (an A5 Star Trek zine).

and a few others that I can’t recall right now. But occasionally the zines were A4 and glossy (or sometimes not), such as:

Celestial Toyroom (the news/reviewzine of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society).

Second Dimension.

Matrix.

Skaro.

Antoinine Killer.

Metamorph.

Metamorph II.

Shadowsphere.

Neutron Flow.

The Tomb.

and a few others that I can’t remember off the top of my head.

The second category was fictionzines, mostly A5 but sometimes A4, zines composed almost totally of fan fiction based on Doctor Who, Star Trek or other telefantasy series. I’ve always had a soft spot for good quality fan fiction, so I have a LOT of fictionzines in my collection, including:

A5:

Mandria.

Silver Carrier and many other one-off fictionzine “novels” by the excellent Seventh Door Fanzines.

Chronicle.

Cosmic Masque (the fictionzine of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society).

Inner Door.

The Key and The Key Presents.

the various Gallifreyan Presses publications.

A4:

Inferno Fiction.

Fan Aid – The Storytellers.

Wondrous Stories.

Black Pyramid.

Universal Dreamer.

Vortex.

Trenchcoat (US Letter).

Myth Makers (US Letter).

and, again, quite a few others that I can’t recall right now. Again, mostly Doctor Who zines.

The third category was the larger A4, glossy (and often more colourful) semiprozines such as:

The Frame, which contained an enormous amount of photographs and background information on Doctor Who.

DWB, which started off as a semi-prozine dedicated to Doctor Who, but then morphed into Dreamwatch Bulletin and finally the professional newsstand magazine Dreamwatch, which covered telefantasy and sci-fi cinema of all shades.

Century 21 (based, obviously, around Gerry Anderson shows).

Portal 31 (a tribute to the classic TV21 comic).

There are quite a few other zines that I haven’t mentioned, as this is all from memory, but this is a good sub-section of them, all falling into the three categories which cover most of the zines in my collection.

To Be Continued…

Fanzines – Creative Genius at the Grass Roots (Part Two)

I remember my older Doctor Who, Star Trek and other general SF and telefantasy fanzines from the pre-computer DTP era, and the difference between those old zines and the modern variety is startling. The contents of those old zines were amazing, but the production values were, understandably, universally low, dodgy typewritten and photocopied efforts, the text and pictures so faint that they could often be barely made out.

The computer/DTP revolution of the late-1980’s and early-1990’s gave rise to a modern generation of zines where even the bog standard A5 and A4 variety are far more professional and classy looking than the older zines. I know that many older fans wallow in nostalgia and bemoan the demise of the old cut ‘n’ paste photocopied zines, but I myself (despite usually being one of the nostalgic mob) much prefer the more modern DTP-produced zines. In fact, I would love to see some of those classic old pre-DTP zines reissued in modern DTP format (not just scans, totally DTPed), even if only as PDFs.

But fanzines, the printed, paper variety, have always been expensive and bothersome to produce. The computer/DTP revolution of the last twenty or so years may have resulted in a quantum leap in production quality for even the humble A5 fanzine, and given all zine editors the ability to produce zines of at least semi-professional standard. But the one weak link in the production chain still remains, largely unchanged since the bad old days of the 80s – the cost of printing.

Printing has always been a major source of grief and expense for zine publishers. Most printers deal in print runs of thousands or tens of thousands, and the more copies printed, the cheaper the cost of each individual copy. But fanzine editors deal with tiny print runs, maybe two or three hundred zines at most. This makes printing individual zines extremely expensive, relatively speaking. And once this is done, the zine editor also has to deal with the trouble and expense of mailing out a couple of hundred fanzines. A guy (or girl) has to be pretty dedicated to do this on a regular basis.

Since the second half of the 1990s, the explosive growth and widespread accessibility of the internet has given the vast majority of former and new zine creators a much easier and cheaper option. Many of these creative types have given up on printed zines (sadly, but understandably) and turned instead to producing online fanzines. Websites and blogs are now, for most editors and readers, the online equivalent of classic fanzines. They are certainly a lot easier and cheaper to produce, cutting out altogether the problematic and expensive final stages of dealing with print shops and postal distribution.

Except for the most dedicated tradzine publishers, most zine editors no longer go to the expense and trouble of doing it the old way, printing and posting out a small (but relatively expensive) print run of a couple of hundred zines. Why bother, when making the zine an online edition instead is much easier, has a potential audience of thousands, rather than hundreds, and costs virtually nothing to produce (financially), except for the time and effort?

Some other editors have taken a “half-way” approach. Rather than translating the fanzine to a full website or blog format, they produce their zines as PDFzines, which are then made downloadable from their websites. PDF is a print format, used almost universally by the modern printing industry in the publication of magazines and books. An electronic PDF zine is the exact equivalent of the printed zine, except on a computer screen. Actually it often looks better, since you have the full-color, highest quality version of the zine. Most zine editors simply cannot afford to have their zines printed out in colour, on high-quality, glossy stock, and instead resort to black & white (even if the on-screen version of the zine is in colour), and cheaper paper.

For some people, zines in high-resolution PDF format are extremely useful if they actually want to print out the fanzine themselves, on a colour inkjet printer, and on nice, high-quality, glossy paper. Some of us more obsessive collectors even like to collect entire runs of their electronic/PDFzines. Maybe not quite as nice as a collection of paper zines, but a bit more coherent and less disjointed than a bunch of webpages. 🙂

To Be Continued…

Fanzines – Creative Genius at the Grass Roots (Part One)

I’ve always loved fanzines. I have, for some reason, an extremely strong affinity with fanzines and small press in general, a powerful connection that I’ve never felt even with the best “pro” mags. It’s almost a religious thing with me. I get a bigger kick out of reading a tatty old A5 black & white fanzine, produced on an ancient dot matrix printer, than I do from 99.9% of professional publications, which are supposed to be “superior” in every way, both visually and production-wise, and in the quality of writers and articles. So why do fanzines fascinate me so much?

Probably the main reason that I love fanzines is that, unlike the glossy, expensive newsstand mags, ANY one of us can produce a fanzine, if we put our minds to it. All you need is a computer and a cheap DTP program (or the old way, with a typewriter, scissors, glue and a photocopier). We can all get in on the act, if we’re determined enough. If you’ve got even a modicum of talent, and also the dedication needed to sacrifice the huge amount of time and effort required, virtually anybody can cobble together a fanzine.

But don’t forget the financial outlay on print fanzines (online zines are a lot less expensive to produce) and thick skins needed to protect you against the barrage of criticism that you’ll inevitably get from many quarters, should you publish anything controversial. Fanzine readers are extremely passionate about their little obsessions, and can be very critical and outspoken on matters that get their gander up. The flip side of that coin is that they can also be fanatical supporters of their favourite zines.

At their best, fanzines contain the type of raw, undiluted genius that you’d rarely find in commercial magazines. Fanzine editors and writers don’t have to abide by the same kind of rules as the pro publications, as they aren’t constrained by having to please a certain audience or market. The authors can write pretty much whatever they like. Fanzines can publish virtually ANYTHING, including stuff that you’d never see in mainstream mags. They can be rude and irreverent, as they don’t have to worry about offending publishers or readers. They can publish wacky, off-beat material, gems that pro magazines would never touch with a long pole. And they also contain the real, personal thoughts and opinions of the editors and contributors, who would be a lot more restrained if submitting an article to a “pro” magazine.

There are fanzines covering almost every conceivable topic. There are zines devoted to telefantasy, cult television and sci-fi cinema, Science Fiction in books, comics, music, sport, history, poetry, zines for amateur dramatic societies, club news and activities, indeed pretty much ANY subject you care to mention, or even a mix of many of the above. My favourites have always been the fanzines based on my favourite sci-fi television series, SF literature, and music. Doctor Who fanzines make up a considerable proportion of my large fanzine collection, and are probably my favourites of them all. Some of these are truly amazing publications.

Commercial publications are created by a nebulous elite, away “up there” in their ivory towers, far removed from we mere mortals. Fanzines are created by “one of us” (in most cases more than one) down here on Planet Earth, your average (although talented) “Joe Bloggs”, who wants to let his frustrated “inner writer” or editor out into the world at large. Any of us can potentially make a zine, focused on ANY subject, or we can at the very least contribute to a zine created by someone else. Very few of us would ever have any chance of being published in a pro magazine. As far as I’m concerned, this is one of the most exciting and attractive things about fanzines. It’s self-publishing BY the fans, FOR the fans.

I’d be the first to concede that the visual quality and production values in pro magazines are usually superior (after all, they DO have a much larger budget), although some of the higher-end fanzine and semi-prozine publications are just as slick as their pro counterparts. With a few notable exceptions, the classic fanzines of yesteryear were usually cheap ‘n’ cheerful A5 “cut ‘n’ paste” publications, mass-produced on photocopiers. But once computers, DTP software and fancy inkjet and laser printers became cheaper and more accessible for Joe Public (from about the late-1980s onwards), even low-end fanzine production took a quantum leap forwards in quality.

Compare the average A5 or A4 home-produced fanzine from the 1970s or early-to-mid 1980s with one produced today. At least in the area of production quality and visuals, there’s no comparison, with the exception of the occasional modern fanzine produced the old-fashioned way, to intentionally give it that retro feel, most often as a tribute to the classic zines. The one thing all the best fanzines over the years have had in common is in the single most important area, that of the content, which has remained consistently excellent.

I’d argue strongly with any assertion that pro magazines attract higher quality articles, writers and artwork. Some of the best articles I’ve ever read came out of fanzines, and some of the art I’ve seen in them over the years has also been top class, definitely pro quality. Many of the top “fan” writers are at least as good as their pro competitors, in some cases better. Being a long-time fan of a certain television show often means that they have a much more in-depth knowledge about their chosen subject than a pro writer, who has no personal interest in the topic in question, but has merely researched it for the purpose of writing an article. The quality of zines can admittedly vary drastically, from dire to sublime, but I’ve read fiction and articles in fanzines that beat seven shades of crap out of ANYTHING I’ve ever read in “pro” mags.

The people producing fanzines do it “for the sheer love of it”, not for money. There’s precious little of that available in publishing fanzines, as the vast majority of them barely recoup their costs at the best of times. And this “doing it for the sheer love of it” really shines through in the writing. I’ve read so many articles in pro magazines that were competent enough but obviously done just “by the numbers”, to earn a pay-packet. In comparison, a good fanzine article is a breath of fresh air, a jolt of high-octane enthusiasm and fanboy expertise, done simply for the sheer, obsessive love of the subject.

This goes much of the way towards explaining why I’d read articles in fanzines that are based on topics which wouldn’t interest me in the least if they were to appear in a commercial publication. Completely different sets of expectations and values for small press vs commercial press, I know. But both play by different rules, and are judged accordingly (at least by me).

Many of the “greats” of the past, as well as the current generation of pro writers and artists in SF and comics, started out originally in fanzines. There they honed their skills and gained experience, until their talents were eventually recognized and they were able to move on and work on pro publications. Unfortunately many others, just as talented, never make it into the pro field, and continue working for fanzines until they either give up altogether or just fade away, and return to having a Real Life, working, paying the bills and raising kids. But their legacy and talent lives on in the existing small print runs of the zines they’ve worked on over the years.

Fanzines, by their non-commercial nature and miniscule print runs are as rare as hen’s teeth, especially once they go out of print. They can be almost impossible to find. I know, because I’ve been looking for certain classic zines for years now without ever having any success. It’s just a matter of sheer luck if these zines turn up on Ebay. Many have disappeared into the mists of time, forgotten by all except for the tiny audience who had the pleasure of reading them. That, in my opinion, is a tragic loss. These gems are in dire need of rediscovery and preservation, which is why I’m a rabid supporter of any initiative to preserve small press publications of all kinds.

To Be Continued…

Christmas Comes Early – Santa’s Bringing Me 19 Issues of Spaceship Away

I joined the Spaceship Away group over on John Freeman’s excellent Down the Tubes forum a while back in preparation for my first subscription/purchase of Spaceship Away. I’ve been following the magazine very closely since the early days (still have some of the fliers that they sent me) and have always intended to subscribe, but a seemingly endless parade of Real Life crap and tragedies over the past few years has always diverted me at crucial moments.

Well, this morning, I said, “To hell with it”, bit the bullet, and ponied up for the entire run of Spaceship Away. This was the fourth and final part of a humongous early Christmas present to myself (nobody else buys me any pressies, do they? Boo, hoo, hoo!), which started off with sending off for the entire run from #1 to the present (Vol 2 #4) of Dangerous Ink, catching up with the last couple of issues of Andersonic (I have an otherwise complete run), catching up with the six back issues of Crikey! that I was missing plus placing a sub for the next six issues, and, finally, that enormous run of Spaceship Away from #1 up to the yet-to-be-released #21.

My credit card/wallet is a lot emptier now, but what’s money for, if not to spend on stuff like this, eh? I now have all this incredible reading material plus, lots of lovely food and booze to tide me over Christmas. And, on top of that, I’ll have everything I need to take part in John’s discussions over in the Spaceship Away group on Down the Tubes. I just can’t wait for these goodies to arrive. At the moment, I’m a real happy bunny. 🙂