"Zine Control to Major Tom!"

"Zine Control to Major Tom!"
Science fiction zines
26 September 2012

Zines come in all shapes, sizes and genres, but I must confess one of my favourite types is the sci-fi zine.  Pre dating the popular bio-zine of today and their (now) middle aged cousins the music and political zines from the Punk rock era; science fiction and zines have been synonymous with each other for over 80 years.  This fact was brought home to me after I catalogued a couple of sci-fi zines from the Henderson collection. Btw we now have over 1000 items from the Henderson collection catalogued!! Science fiction zines, commonly called “Fanzines” (they are the genre of zine to coin the phrase), are still an important part of the zine world though they do not seem quite as popular as they once were.  As a science fiction fan this seems sad to me.  So, when in recent times, I came across a couple of particularly interesting examples of fanzines I was very pleased. The first zine is called "My time annihilator: a brief history of the 1930’s science fiction fanzines” by Christopher Todd.  This zine, to borrow a quote from Zinewiki, “Details the origin as well as printing and distribution methods of early zines. Christopher describes finding a book called The Fanzine Index, which listed science fiction fanzines from 1937 to 1952, and hunting down titles from the list at a Temple University archive. Selections from the early zines illustrate My Time Annihilator”.

 

What I love about this zine is that it shows us some snippets of early fanzines while detailing some of the rich history behind zine making.  OK so while it’s not actually a fanzine zine (or maybe it’s a fanzine of fanzines?) it does take us on a time travel journey through the history of early science fiction zines. Writing a Sci-fi zine flow chart

The second zine is called “Megca”.  Well I think it’s called “Megca”, those of you who go to the record will notice that the title is enclosed in square brackets, which is cataloguer speak for “For various reasons this information may not be entirely correct, I think it is correct but am not 100 percent certain {cataloguer scratches head, crosses fingers and hopes for the best}”, followed by two alternative titles also enclosed in square brackets to show other potential alternatives for the title.  In this case the square brackets and alternative titles are because the title is written out in a very dramatic font, which looks wonderfully artistic but also makes it a little difficult to read for the humble cataloguer! {Although now I look at the scanned image it suddenly looks much clearer than the actual item - tricky!}

Luckily I didn’t let it put me off reading this somewhat rough but compelling (very) short story.  Only every second page is populated with a sparse text, alternating between pages of dark rough illustrations.  The story, though somewhat cryptic so therefore open to interpretation, is about the fate of some interplanetary explorers after their ship crashes, stranding them in a hostile environment.  What I love about this zine is that it represents  another type of fanzine, which is also often called a ‘literary’ zine, as it is a creative work written in the Sci-fi genre rather than a zine dedicated to the genre. It reminds me also that many zine creators are also aspiring fiction writers, who use zines as a starting point for their careers.  In the past, an author getting their short stories published in a literary zine or publishing their own work as a zine has been a precursor for getting their stories published more widely in pulp fiction serials or in short story anthologies - this is how sci-fi and fantasy authors such as Vol Molesworth, Ray Bradbury and H.P. Lovecraft got their start. It is fun to think that the creator of Megca may one day become a popular sci-fi writer - and the NLA will have preserved a copy of their earliest work.