Madrea Marie in her Gestalt & Pepper zine published a Thirsty Bear & Hungry Snake comic strip of mine in her latest issue. She also had some kind words to say about my novel The Pornographic Flabbergasted Emus, writing that she "would recommend this book to anyone!" I agree, and it's on sale (see below) for a few more weeks! Thanks to Madrea!
I sold copies of The Pornographic Flabbergasted Emus for $10 yesterday at Genghis Con. Since some of you don't live near Cleveland and weren't able to attend, I'm having a special sale: $10 postpaid in the USA and $15 postpaid international for each copy of Emus until the end of the year. You won't find this deal on the website, so if you want to take advantage of it, then PayPal me at wredfright@yahoo. com or email me for the mailing address if you want to order via check or whatnot. The book makes a great stocking stuffer! The book is also available at a few bookstores across the US if you'd like to support them. You can find the whole list on the Emus page at my website.
I will be attending Genghis Con, a nifty, small press convention being held on Saturday, November 28, 2009 at the The Beachland Ballroom (15711 Waterloo Rd., Cleveland, Ohio USA 44110-1659, 216-383-1124) from Noon to 6 p.m. It's mostly a comic book convention, but they're including some comics-friendly zine folks such as myself. The focus is on alternative comics rather than mainstream comics but since we won't be far away from the house Superman was created in, someone will probably be walking around with a big red "S" on her or his chest. It's run by my pal Scott Rudge of Astound Comics and should be a good time. It costs $5 to get in, but every participant is giving out a free minicomic. Mine is another adventure of The Thirsty Bear and The Hungry Snake. It'ssss ssssplendid, believe me! I'll also have copies of The Pornographic Flabbergasted Emus on sale for just $10 each, and copies of Fightin' Fun Comics #2, containing my Astronaut Urine Gorilla story, for just 50 cents each, thanks to FFC mastermind Bob Socha! I'll probably have some more surprises too but you'll have to be there in person to find out. There will be plenty of other cool cartoonists and small press folks there as well such as one of my favorite newspaper cartoonists, Derf, so I'm fairly excited about the whole event. Hope to see you there!
The previous two posts are reprints of work I published a few months back. You probably guessed as much since one of them is about the 2008 election. Both works were published in issues of .zap!!, an apa that emerged around the the alt.zines discussion group. Back in the early days of the Web, and even before it, these Usenet newsgroups were pretty vibrant places of interaction. Nowadays, people are too busy Facebooking, MySpacing, Twittering, and whatever the latest online craze is to pay as much attention to them, but they're still around. However, some of us diehards of alt.zines find that it is not even obscure enough for us so we've gone back to the Usenet newsgroup equivalent of 1876 and belong to an amateur press association together. Each of us creates a contribution, makes some copies of it, and mails it off to a central editor, who in this case is Heath Row, who puts everything together and mails a finished copy of the publication back to everyone. Current members include James Dawson, Sarah Beth Eisinger, Kris Mininger, Row, Jeff Somers, and me. We're always looking for new members to join in the fun, so if you too are an old mail art/zine crank, then please contact one of us for details.
There it was. I never expected to see it, but there it was just inches away behind the glass in the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle: The Comet, the very first zine.
With the first issue dated May 1930 and published by the Science Correspondence Club in Chicago, The Comet is generally credited with being the first science fiction fanzine, starting a tradition of amateur publishing that spread the gospel of comic books, rock and roll, and whatever else rallied someone's enthusiasm enough to publish about, ultimately leading to the zines we know so well today as well as the Internet's electronic Babel of blogs and websites.
But was The Comet really the first zine?
Well, yes, but a lot of that claim depends on how we define "zine". As probably everybody reading this knows, fanzines get their start out of the letter pages of pulp magazines, specifically Amazing Stories, edited by Hugo Gernsback, when Gernsback published the addresses of letter writers, and the readers started corresponding with one another. This led to them publishing their own magazines which they differentiated from the professional magazines by calling their own publications "fan magazines", which soon contracted into "fanzine", coined by fan Louis Russell Chauvenet. This term, soon contracted even further to just "zine", and the concept it described soon spread beyond science fiction fandom.
That's why forms of publishing that predate science fiction fanzines such as pamphlets, broadsheets, dissident newspapers, literary journals, cultural magazines, and amateur press associations aren't generally considered zines, though they share a number of attributes with zines, and one can view science fiction fanzines as just another evolution of amateur or subcultural do it yourself publishing, not much different in spirit from the others listed above. If it was personal, out of the mainstream, noncommercial, and produced as cheaply as possible, then it was likely an ancestor of the zine.
However, the direct lineage comes from science fiction fanzines. Mike Gunderloy, founder of Factsheet Five, the ground zero of 1980s zinedom, came out of science fiction fandom. So did Greg Shaw and Paul Williams who created the first rock and roll fanzines in the 1960s, which led to the punk zines of the 1970s, and so on. Comic book fanzines of the 1950s emerged from the tradition of science fiction fanzines, and presented the first published work of Robert Crumb and many other cartoonists, ultimately birthing underground comix, and leading to today's indie comics and minicomics. Even with the subsequent influences of 1950s Beat chapbooks and the 1960s underground press, today's zines are basically extensions of the original science fiction fanzine idea.
Nevertheless, even if we agree that the direct lineage of the zine stems from the science fiction fanzine, what makes The Comet the very first zine? After all, it has some rival claimants to the title. There is Jerry Siegel, the co-creator of Superman, who published a collection of his science fiction stories as Cosmic Stories in 1929. Then there are Julius Schwartz and Mort Weisinger, who would go on to edit Superman comics, but whose fanzine The Time Traveller was "the first nationally distributed science-fiction fanzine" (according to Schwartz in his autobiography Man of Two Worlds, page 14). And also in the 1930s, there were all those girls (and some boys) who published movie star fan club newsletters, just like those boys (and some girls) published about science fiction, but who have been forgotten from zine histories, as well as the women who met through the letter pages of Nursery World magazine and published a magazine of their group correspondence. Couldn't they also be contenders for the first zine?
Well, sure. But I still think it's The Comet. Here's why.
First up, Siegel. Man, Cleveland sure could use something else to crow about but as much as I'd like to claim the first fanzine came out of Cleveland, I just can't. It's true that Cosmic Stories, published in the fall of 1929, beats The Comet by a few months. According to Gerard Jones in Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book, Siegel made ten copies using a hectograph, and advertised the collection of stories in Gernsback's new science fiction magazine Science Wonder Stories (Gernsback had lost control of Amazing Stories so he started a new magazine devoted to science fiction). But according to Jones, Siegel wasn't sure later on if he even ever sold a copy of Cosmic Stories. Apparently, some did make their way in the world, as Sam Moskowitz in his The Immortal Storm: A History of Science Fiction Fandom notes that Cosmic Stories and apparently a subsequent title (both probably one-shots) titled Cosmic Stories Quarterly are "the earliest--and rarest--fan-published 'magazines'" (page 5). However, if we're going to credit Siegel for this then we've ripped open the floodgates because dating back at least to Victorian times, writers such as Lewis Carroll liked putting together private compilations in magazine form of their own writing. Most of these only exist in editions of one and were passed around Samizdat style but if we're going to base criteria on a print run more than one, then we have to note, as Harry Warner Jr. does in his "A History of Fanzines" (in Science Fiction Fandom, edited by Joe Sanders) that amateur publications devoted to fantasy fiction had appeared earlier such as W. Paul Cook's Recluse from 1927, most renowned for including an essay by H. P. Lovecraft called "Supernatural Horror in Literature". So, sorry Jerry, you, along with artist Joe Shuster, will just have to settle for creating Superman and birthing the modern superhero and as a result pretty much comic books as we know them today.
Next up, Schwartz and Weisinger. I love Schwartz for bringing back The Flash, my favorite superhero (hey, admit it, you have one too!) after the character had ceased appearing in the comic books in the early 1950s, and creating the Silver Age of comics as a result, but again, I don't think he and Mort can be credited for zines. Although there was some grumbling in early fan circles that The Comet (and Cosmology as it was later titled) covered too much science in addition to writing about science fiction, and subsequent fanzines that it inspired such as The Time Traveller focused more on science fiction, the key words here are "it inspired". Even TTT is predated by another fanzine Schwartz and Weisinger were involved with some others called The Planet (no, I checked and this doesn't seem to be the reason why Superman's newspaper changes from The Daily Star to The Daily Planet--the name change appears to predate Weisinger's work on the Superman comics), which published its first issue in July 1930, a couple months after The Comet. And, I don't know that it matters that TTT was "the first nationally-distributed" fanzine since they all were distributed by the postal service essentially, and so all could be said to be "nationally-distributed" in that way. However, TTT and the other early fanzines did inspire Siegel along with his pal Shuster to publish a fanzine in 1932 called Science Fiction and in it a character named Superman appeared for the first time, which eventually provided Weisinger and Schwartz with lifetime employments in the comics industry, so that had to be a nice consolation prize for them not creating the first zine.
As for the early female "fanzines", the earliest I can trace them is to the mid-1930s, which is a few years after The Comet kicked off the continuous tradition of fanzines, and there doesn't seem to be any interplay between them and the science fiction fanzines of the time. However, they're an interesting and noteworthy precursor to the feminist and riot grrrrl zines which would become such a major part of zinedom from the 1980s on.
So as the first zine I guess I'll stick with The Comet, which lasted 17 issues from 1930-1933, and left a trail in do it yourself publishing that lingers in the sky of the printed page and electronic screen to this day. What do you think?
Love, Part 2 of Blog Love Omega Glee, is now complete! We're at the halfway mark of the silly novel that is starting to rival the length of War & Peace; alas, B.L.O.G. isn't as good as Tolstoy's classic and has less Russians in it to boot! However, Part 3, Omega, starts tomorrow! Thanks to all the readers who have been with me since the beginning and welcome to any newcomers (you can catch up easily)! Stay tuned for more madcap adventures of Francine, Jake, and the gang as time runs out on the calendar of 2012! In the meantime, why don't you buy a copy of The Pornographic Flabbergasted Emus if you haven't already? And, if you have already, why not buy another one and donate it a local library or give it to a friend? I suggest this because I'm afraid there's not much money in giving away novels for free on the Internet so I have to feed Jake's cats and keep the coffees coming for Francine somehow, and that's how I do it! Toodles until tomorrow!
This blog is now available for Amazon's ebook reader, The Kindle. They charge a monthly subscription fee of $1.99 but apparently it beams the blog right to your Kindle. Why you wouldn't just read it for free online is beyond me, but if you're a Kindlemaniac and want to give me and Amazon some money, then that's fine with me. This past week, Blog Love Omega Glee has been published daily, a frequency that, barring catastrophe, I don't see changing until the novel's finished, so it should be a good deal at least until the end of the year. After that, it may be crickets for a time, but if that's the case, my conscience would probably cause me to pull it from Kindle, but you never know, I might get used to money coming in and become as prolific as Jack Saunders, or I might see how long someone will pay $1.99 a month for nothing. Perhaps, people might even pay me not to write! If so, get in touch. Let's negotiate!
A slightly revised version of my short story "Cancer" has been published in the 2009 issue of Inscape, the Ursuline College fine arts magazine. Inscape's not online alas, but you can read an earlier version of the story published on Underground Literary Adventures, a literary blog that Pat King and I once edited for the Underground Literary Alliance. The story is about a young girl who thinks she has cancer. As a guest speaker in a creative writing class, I used the story as an example of how to write fiction and Celeste Wiggins, the instructor, asked to publish it in Inscape.
Last year I visited San Francisco for the first time. I liked the city but was stunned by the number of homeless people on the streets. I've never seen so many people begging and sleeping on the street, and I've been to many cities and seen this sad situation before; I've just never seen it on such a scale. The experience sparked a poem, "SanFran PanHand Sort-Of-Sonnet," which San Francisco zine Xploited has published in their new issue (#3 for those keeping track on their scorecards out there), which has a homeless theme. You can find the poem here.
#22, the latest issue of Go Metric zine is out. As usual, editor Mike Faloon's done a nice job of collecting an assortment of popular cultural oddities for your reading pleasure. Read about Dick Cheney as a boy detective, why Iron Maiden rocks harder than emo and indie rockers, a dissection of The Wrestling Album, nutty cartoons, and a tasty hunk of literary fiction including the first five chapters of my Blog Love Omega Glee, marking the first time the novel has appeared publicly in printed form. About the only thing I didn't like about the issue was the analysis of Plastic Man and Mr. Fantastic, but that was only because I wanted to see The Elongated Man thrown into the discussion of stretchable superheroes as well!
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