Fan Magazines vs. Fanzines: letter to LC from Jenna Freedman

This letter was sent to Barbara Tillett, Thompson Yee, and policy@loc.gov on October 10, 2009

To Whom It May Concern at the Library of Congress:

I want to ask you to reconsider your decision to absorb FANZINES into the new FAN MAGAZINES subject heading. I believe the two publication types are so different that even connecting them with a Related Term would be erroneous. Perhaps the defining characteristic of FANZINES is that they are self-publications that stem from subculture movements, primarily punk rock in their current incarnation, and science fiction in the 1930s. FAN MAGAZINES are commercial and mainstream, catering to celebrity culture.

Sources:

  • Wikipedia (Wikipedia is cited in the FAN MAGAZINES authority record, so I feel it is not inapropriate to use it here, as well.)
    “The term fanzine is sometimes confused with ‘fan magazine‘, but the latter term most often refers to commercially-produced publications.”
  • Merriam Webster
    “a magazine written by and for fans <a sci-fi fanzine><a punk rocker with her own fanzine>”
    No result for “fan magazine” search
  • Googlefight
    Fanzines results in a Google search: 319000 vs. “fan magazines” results: 3940
  • Anthony Slide’s website
    I am unable to review the work that inspired the change, but judging from the author’s website (presuming I have identified the correct author, which I am fairly confident that I have), his writing is entirely related to film fandom, not at all to science fiction or punk, which are the primary subjects of FANZINES.
  • Bowling Green State University Fanzines page
    “Fanzines (or zines) are magazines published by individuals or groups of individuals who have a particular subject interest or who just want to express their own ideas to the public. These are generally self-published magazines, usually issued with less than 2,000 copies, and typically have irregular publication times (i.e. not monthly or quarterly, etc.). Although most zines are pubished independently, some zines may be published similarly to standard library periodicals, including publication information, reviews, editorials, and regular numbering sequences. However, the typical zine is usually stapled together, sometimes folded and in small print, may have strings holding it together, or any other means of collating.”
  • University of California at Riverside Fanzines page
    Zero references to film or movie fan magazines.
  • Whatcha Mean What’s a Zine, The Book of Zines excerpt
    “Zines (pronounced ‘zeens,’ from fanzines) are cut-and-paste, ‘sorry this is late,’ self-published magazines reproduced at Kinko’s or on the sly at work and distributed through mail order and word of mouth. They touch on sex, music, politics, television, movies, work, food, whatever. They’re Tinkertoys for malcontents. They’re obsessed with obsession. They’re extraordinary and ordinary. They’re about strangeness but since it’s usually happening somewhere else you’re kind of relieved. You can get to know people pretty well through their zines, which are always more personal and idiosyncratic than glossy magazines because glossies and the celebrities they worship are so busy being well known.”
    [You'll note that this definition does reference movies, but the essence of the definition is the self-published, obsessive nature of the works.]

    Also, from the author’s Master’s Thesis:
    As Fredric Wertham points out in his book “The World of Fanzines.” The word fanzine was originally an in-group slang expression used loosely and interchangeably with ‘fan-mag,’ that is fan magazine.”
    This signification of “fan magazine” differentiated the publications produced by fans from the “professional newsstand magazines” such as Amazing Stories and Weird Tales, which were referred to as “prozines”—professional magazines. Fanzines were widely devoted to discussion of science-fiction and fantasy literature, and featured articles, cartoons, and fiction related to the subject, all produced by the fans themselves. In her introduction to “Some Zines,” Cari Goldberg-Janice writes that the fanzines united far-flung fans to write about “the subject they loved to talk about the most—science fiction.”

I hope you’ll agree with me that the self-published/underground nature of FANZINES vs. the corporate/celebrity focus of FAN MAGAZINES is an essential difference. I know that the scholars that use the Zine Collection at Barnard College and other zine libraries will be poorly served by this change.

FANZINES would be better placed as a narrower term for ZINES, with other narrower terms for ZINES such as:
ART ZINES
COMPILATION ZINES (UF COMP ZINES)
DIY ZINES (UF COOK ZINES)
LITERARY ZINES (UF LIT ZINES)
MAMAZINES
MINICOMICS (UF MINI-COMICS)
PERZINES (UF PERSONAL ZINES)
POLITICAL ZINES
I give examples of each of these on the Barnard Library Zine Collection website.

It would be helpful if the terms were also usable as genre headings.

I invite you when making any future changes to FANZINES and ZINES headings to consult the Zine Librarians discussion list. Contributors give matters related to zine librarianship great thoughtfulness and expertise. We are very happy that the Library of Congress has established headings useful to our work. It is an exciting time as this specialty grows and we develop standard practices for cataloging it.

Thank you!

Jenna


Jenna Freedman, MLIS
Coordinator of Reference Services and Zine Librarian
Barnard College Library
212.854.4615
AIM, Google Talk & Yahoo: BarnardLibJenna

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