Remember fanzines? Dating back over a hundred years, they were the first scalable form of self-publishing. Students with access to moveable type printing presses would delight in composing anthologies of short stories or news tid-bits and running off a hundred copies or so. In the 1920s, writers of science fiction bypassed the limited space in Amazing Stories and produced their own works in the first of many genre fanzines. Other fanzines brought together horror film fans, fringe music scenes, political commentators, and conspiracy theorists. These xeroxed works were the successor to the coffee shop and the precursor to the internet.
After the web gained popularity in the mid-90s, the fanzine moved online. Websites and blogs filled the same function, except now these works were permanent and the potential audience went from hundreds around town to The Residents of Planet Earth. Fanzines were read and then lost, discarded, recycled, forgotten. They had a limited lifespan and a limited audience. They were as disposable as razor blades.
Recently, we’ve seen a group of authors argue that books aren’t like razor blades (an insult to people who make things for a living, but set that aside). But maybe these old-fashioned writers are on to something. Because books were indeed like razor blades just ten years ago. They were printed once, and then they gradually wore away, whether through use, by rot, or the fact that most went out of print. Continue Reading →