If you’re a fan of science fiction, then you’ll find yourself in good company at the Eaton Collection, which houses an impressive collection of fanzines from 1940 to modern day. Get your introduction in the first episode of UCTV Prime’s new series “It Came from Riverside: Inside the World’s Largest Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy” and check out this list of the top 10 notable fanzines available for viewing at UC Riverside’s Eaton Collection.
No genre has inspired such an evangelical fervor in its fans like science fiction. These days, there are countless conventions, websites and portals for communication between the authors, fans, publishing houses and various pop culture kibitzers. But before fans congregated on i09 and Locus message boards, there were fanzines.
You could say the fanzine is the internet’s precursor. These amateur publications began in the 1930s as a way for science fiction fans – who were geographically spread out–to share their ideas with one another. Created with mimeograph machines during people’s private time, fanzines included letter columns, author interviews and book reviews.
Some were more sophisticated than others, depending on the editor’s skills. But “they were totally labors of love,” said Rob Latham, professor at UC Riverside and senior editor of the journal Science Fiction Studies. (Oddly enough, the term “fanzine” was coined by editor Russ Chauvenet in the October 1940 edition of his fanzine Detours – 10 years after the first official fanzine was actually created!)
From the beginning fanzines fostered a feeling that SF fans were part of a community. They became a way that professional writers, editors, readers and fans were able to communicate. The Eaton Collection is home to nearly 100,000 fanzines, which grew out of the collections of four prominent fans: Terry Carr, Fred Patten, Bruce Pelz, and Rick Sneary. (Nerd alert! The Eaton Collection was a “major draw” for Latham, who moved from the University of Iowa to UC Riverside in 2008.)
Here, Latham talks about 10 of the more notable fanzines you can find in the Eaton Collection.
1. The Comet
Published in 1930 by the Science Correspondence Club in Chicago and edited by Raymond A. Palmer and Walter Dennis, the Comet is widely heralded as the first fanzine ever.
The first media fanzine – meaning a fan publication based on science fiction found in a mainstream medium – was, of course, based on Star Trek and was called Spockanalia
“Media fanzines took off in the 1970s with Star Wars and all those movies,” Latham said. “Star Trek was seen as the most intellectually interesting and responsible [product of pop culture]; an SF fan could say they were a fan of Star Trek and not be embarrassed, whereas they might get embarrassed by saying they were fans of other things that passed for SF in pop culture. Some media fanzines published fan fiction and pushed stories forward; Star Trek actually went off the air in 1969, and it was a decade before the movies came out. So fans sustained a cult interest that made it clear that you could return to it. The fans kept it alive,” he added.
3. The Fantasy-Times
In 1955, editors James V. Taurasi, Sr. and Ray Van Houten won the first Hugo Award for “Best Fanzine” for the Fantasy-Times. “Zines nominated for Hugos meant fans gave awards to other fans. The ones that won usually had the broadest possible influence or interest, and are called genzines – general interest ‘zines,” Latham said.
5. The biggest, most longstanding genzines—which spanned the years from the 1950s to the 1980s — were called Warhoon and Yandro.
Le Zombie’s editor Bob Tucker started out as an SF fan and eventually became a professional writer. “He was famous for having invented certain terms that started in fan culture and now are widely used,” Latham said. “He invented the term ‘space opera,’ which is now used to refer to things like Star Wars movies. Before there was an academic discourse on SF, there was critical terminology and literary criticism of the genre going on in the ‘zines such as Le Zombie,” Latham explained.
7. Shangri L’Affaires
Shangri L’Affaires is the official publication of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. Established in 1940, it’s one of the longest-running zines around, and has changed editors numerous times.
Many zines were specialized based on an editor’s interest “Amrawas a major ‘zine in the 1960s that was responsible for getting people more interested in fantasy rather than just science fiction,” Latham said. “It came out around the time that J.R.R. Tolkien’s books were being introduced in America, and people were getting interested in sword and sorcery,” he said.
9. Psychotic. (Later known as the Science Fiction Review).
“To me, the most important fanzine editor was Richard Geis,” Latham said. Geis edited a fanzine but changed its name from Psychotic. to Science Fiction Review. “He was very much a proponent of the of science fiction,” Latham said. Geis edited his zine during the 1960s and 1970s, when there was an infusion of counterculture interest among the SF fans. “[His zines] were very much on that edge. They had very psychedelic covers, and were interested in the newer, younger writers who were dealing with themes such as gender, sexuality and politics – which had not really been part of the genre before then.”
“The Australian Science-Fiction Review was probably one of the most intellectually rigorous and interesting of the zines,” Latham said. Started in 1966 (around the time an academic interest in SF was growing), the Australian Science Fiction-Review was one of the first few ‘zines that pushed the fan culture into a more academic direction.
Not all fans were appreciative of the fanzine’s efforts and resented the fact that academics – and not fans were writing about SF. As Dana Benatan said, “We have to take SF out of the classroom and back in the gutter where it belongs!”