Friday, February 24, 2012

Open Friday: 'Zines

One of the many, many positive results of the old school renaissance over the last few years has been the rediscovery -- and re-invigoration -- of old forms, whether those forms be megadungeons, hexcrawls, or pulp fantasy in general. Another form I've noticed undergoing a revival is the fanzine, with Christian's Loviatar being the best example. By the time I got into the hobby in late 1979, 'zines were hardly dead, but they weren't something that the younger generation of kids like me really got into. It wasn't until the late '80s that I ever read or subscribed to a gaming fanzine and the ones I did were all dedicated to Traveller (which was my obsession between 1987 and 1992, during which I largely abandoned D&D).

I really loved those Traveller 'zines, which I still have to this day. They weren't "professional," either in content or presentation, but they were filled with enthusiasm and imagination and they encouraged me to pick up a pen and start writing my own stuff. Some might argue that blogs are the new 'zines and there's some truth to that assertion. On the other hand, 'zines just feel different to me in some indescribable way, though perhaps Christian said it best when he wrote:
While blogs are a wonderful tool for connecting with people who share similar interests, there's an anonymity to the process. It's easy to insult someone from the safety of an avatar with a codename. It's harder to actually sit down, write a letter and drop your anger in the mailbox. Zines are a much more personal and direct way to communicate. You might read and forget a blog post. You're more likely to save a favorite zine for years.
I think he's absolutely right here, which is why I'm glad that he's keeping the 'zine alive and well in 2012 (and I understand Tim is thinking of trying his hand at the form, too -- good show!).

So, for today's Open Friday, feel free to share your thoughts about and experiences with gaming fanzines. I'm curious to hear how many of you have ever read, subscribed to, or written them.

40 comments:

  1. I had a year's worth of "The Wild Hunt" RPG fanzine during the early 80s that I acquired at a used bookstore, but didn't get it. They were crudely put together with low production values, so I got rid of them as soon as someone showed interest online in the 90s. Looking back, these are fanzines show precisely the kind of excitement and imagination I've learned to appreciate when it comes to gaming.

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  2. i am a big fan. i know there arent many 4e fans on here, but i am working on one for 4e that is more influenced by classic d&d than traditional 4e fare

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  3. I used to read "Don't Eat the Rabbit", an Irish fanzine that used to run Railway Rivals, Diplomacy and En Garde PBM. Was run by huge Phillip K Dick fan with a great sense of humour. Munchkin debates were going on way back in the mid 80's too. Went to Conecon at Coventry University in '87 because of this zine and had a great time playing Junta, Paranoia, Kingmaker (the boardgame) and meeting plenty of other groovy people. :D

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    1. Blimey, another NERTZ fan. I went to university with William Whyte, the editor of 'Now Eat the Rabbit' back in the 80's.

      (Now Eat the Rabbit as the punchline to the Watership Down joke. 'You've read the book, you've seen the film, now...'

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  4. I have some issues of "The Beholder", which was an UK fanzine mainly devoted to D&D and AD&D, and it's fantastic.
    A couple of articles taken from that 'zine i put on my blog, but alas i have no more than that. I'd love to have a complete run of it.

    I'm sorry for blogs but fanzines are too fascinating, you just can't compare the two things.
    It's much like comparing the smell of an old book with a Kindle book. How sad is that.

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  5. Here's a big old list of currently published online fanzines, most available for free in PDF:

    http://rendedpress.blogspot.com/p/old-school-zines.html

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    1. That's an awesome list, Mr. S! Thanks for posting!

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    2. Thanks, and you're welcome! Archive.org has been my best friend this month.

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    3. Thanks for including my little zine on the list! Hoping to get the next issue out next week.

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  6. The first fanzines I got were for Empire of the Petal Throne and Tekumel: The Tekumel Journal (2 issues in the 1970s), The Journal of Tekumelani Affairs (9 issues in the 1980s), The Imperial Military Journal (7 issues/1980s), The Imperial Courier (9 issues/1980s), and The Eye of All-Seeing Wonder (6 issues/1990s).

    Later, I wrote for an APAzine devoted to GURPS called All of the Above (42 issues/late 80s-2001).

    Zines are great and different than blogs.

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  7. Also, since folks are likely to see it here, I'm looking to add to my PDF zine archive. If anyone has copies of Legions Realm Monthly, Ethos Magazine, TempesT's Lore, The Campaign Builder's Guide, issues 14, 18, 22, 26, & 27 of The Silven Trumpeter, or issue 1.3 of Critical Hit (a zine for HeroClix), drop me a line or leave a comment on the zine page, which I linked to above.

    And if you know of any free PDF zines online that I missed, let me know about that, too!

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    1. I used to have a regular column in The Silven Trumpeter. Great zine!

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    2. So, would you happened to have the missing issues? :-)

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  8. Zines are new to me but I always loved gaming mags...White Dwarf, Imagine, Dragon and Dungeon. I've only recently discovered Loviatar but it's great. I love the format even better than those old magazines...small, short and yet full of gaming goodness. And, as you (or Christian) say...more personal and so, in a way, more accessible.

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  9. You can google and find that blog post that you faintly remember, while a favorite zine is more likely to have been lost, fallen apart, mistakenly trashed, or locked away in storage. ^_^

    (But if the zine comes in a good PDF, I can search for that too.)

    Sorry, I don’t really have anything to add. Just had to present the flip-side of that quote. I like blogs, zines, and everything in-between.

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  10. I'm working on Delve! Zine that I hope to get out in the near future. I'll have to blame it on Christian ;)...

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  11. I ordered Loviatar and was quite pleasantly surprised by how much I really enjoyed it. Having contributed myself to a D&D APA zine in the late '70s, this kind of thing can really bring one back.

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  12. Glad to hear you give a shout-out for zines. Shortly after I discovered the OSR, I dug out my old zines I made in the early nineties and posted them on my D&D blog: www.digitalorc.blogspot.com

    Looking back, they're not very "good", but show an unflagging love to tinker with game systems and be a voice.

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  13. I never got into Gaming Zines, but i'm an active subscriber to some tech ones, including the semi-infamous 2600. If the gaming zines have the same level of quality that 2600 has, i'm sorry i missed out on them.

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  14. Zogorion 'zine. It's great!

    http://roll1d12.blogspot.com/

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  15. I keep thinking it'd be fun to put something like this out - specifically in a format more like Christian's Iliria zine used to come out, as stapled sheets of paper stuffed in an envelope and mailed. PDFs are just too soulless to me, for some reason.

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  16. I love em'. I'm working on a zine too, right now! And it's called CRAWL! I can't talk about it right now, but I hope to share it soon, and I'll be looking for contributors when I can announce it. I buy, take and read zines from my local Info-shop all the time.

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  17. Anyone remember "Abyss" by Ragnarok/David F. Nalle? I had a few issues as a teenager, lost them, and have been reacquiring them over the last year or so - now up to 15 issues (I believe it went to around 50 issues). Not a bad little 'zine, wouldn't call it amazing or anything like that but it had some good articles. Its main theme was constant TSR bashing. And my goodness, that tiny text!

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    1. Oh, yes. I've got a bunch of issues from #25 onwards. Dave Nalle and his compatriots were quite convinced they were cut above TSR. Some interesting ideas in their Ysgarth Rules System, and it probably could make a comeback today, if he was interested and inclined.

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    2. Hi Victor, here is some interesting news about Ysgarth:

      http://www.fontcraft.com/ysgarth/

      "We are now working on the revised 8th Edition of Ysgarth for release in 2012."

      I'm looking forward to getting this and seeing what Dave's current take on "state of the art" FRPGing looks like.

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  18. i'm anxiously awaiting my first ever zines and am happy to say they're loviatar #1-5. matt jacksons's "lapsus calumni" (http://www.msjx.org/p/zine.html) is also another shining example of a high quality fanzine. i think that physical production of a zine necessitates higher quality material - whether we're talking production quality or the imagination and inspiration many of us are seeking. whereas the minimal cost of blogging, in terms of effort and dollars, means any schlub can post uninspired drivel until the end of days reaching some undefined audience.

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    1. Thanks for the nod! I would LOVE to put out a physical zine, but given my insane life (two very active kids and the Army) keep me terribly busy.

      The next issue of LC should be out sometime late next week.

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  19. Collected Underworld Oracle, Trollcrusher, Alarums & Excursions, RQ Adventures, Codex, The Eye of All Seeing Wonder, and, of course, Tales of the Reaching Moon (which in APA terms would probably be considered a semi-prozine; it even had colour covers and was printed on glossy paper at the end). There were a few others I got along the way, but I can't remember their titles off the top of my head.

    Only published two myself: The Omegahedron Chronicles and Rallying Point (although the later was effectively a club magazine and I was only editor/publisher for a year but it operated on the APA model). The first used one of the very first laserwriters Apple ever produced (first issue June 1985) and which a local store couldn't sell because no one ever thought the things would be useful. The second (published earlier), used a Gestetner with typewritten stencils. How times have changed.

    Of course fanzines are mostly a relic of "before the web." They are no longer needed for people to keep in contact with each other any more. Now it's easy for anyone to publisher and you don't need the reciprocal arrangements that were common with fanzines. Although there is not as much of the community spirit in a blog (although there are some webzines that do exist).

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  20. I wrote a very bad fanzine in the 80s and I too also attended Koancon at Coventry in the UK around 1987. I remember that there was a 'zine room' with a collection of many, many RPG zines that were available back then. During that period in the late 80s in the UK there seemed to be a proliferation of them - they spawned as people maybe realised that it was good to communicate in some way with other gamers and proudly show off you fantastic (or not so fantastic) ideas for the game.

    I don't think gamers brought up since the advent of the internet maybe understand the revalation that this communication was. When I started gaming the only avenues for information were the local games shop (yes, my small town had one of those back then) or White Dwarf and Imagine magazines. That was it: there as no other way of finding out anything that was going on in gaming - I devoured any information I could get my hands on and the two gaming magazines available then offered a vital way of finding out SOMETHING.

    I think blogs have completely superceded fanzines. They were a transitional technology - similar to fax machines. If the internet had been available back then would anyone have produced a zine at all?

    Having said that, I LOVE fanzines. I think the hombrewed low-tech real-ness is irreplacable. It was an actual object - a thing - that you posted off to someone, that you waited to receive in the post. People were sharing RPG talk by any means necessary and I think that's what appeals to me about them - it was a way of coping with a lack of communication that is only apparent now that we have the internet. Back then, it was just the way that we (slowly) communicated and, as someone said earlier, it was maybe more considered and less rude because it was not so instant. Although thinking back to it maybe that wasn't entirely true.

    I still love zines and I think there is definately a place for them now - as an antidote to ill-considered or insubstantial blogs. Present company excepted. I miss the zines that I threw away in the 80s - Utter Drivel, Telegraph Road, Demon's Drawl, Tome of Horrors, Danse Macabre and more. I would love to read them again but have found, weirdly, that when they rarely come up for auction on eBay they are hugely expensive. I would love there to be some kind of on-line archive with PDFs of old zines but I guess the copyright problems might be insurmountable.

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  21. Dragon Magazine #50 had an article on zines that opened up a whole new world for me. I was a regular reader and occasional contributor to Alarums & Excursions from issue 98 to 130 or so. I also read Ragnarok, APA-Dud, and a couple of others whose names can't recall now.
    In the late 90s I got into the nongaming zine boom, publishing my own zine, Ichthyoelectroanalgesia, an archaeology/travel zine, and trading with people around the world. It was tons of fun.
    You're right that the Internet has taken over the space that zines once held. It also took over my hobby of shortwave radio listening. Sad, and perhaps inevitable.
    I would love it if you did a retrospective on old gaming zines for this blog.

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  22. The FANAC website has an excellent collection of scanned science fiction fanzines, some going back to the earliest days of sf fandom. they list modern webzines too.
    http://www.fanac.org/fanzines/

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  23. Thanks for the mention James. Being in rural PA we had no idea what a zine was until much later. Most of the zines I've experienced were in the horror fiction market and really liked the intimacy of them. I liked the rawness and genuine excitement of the whole thing.

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  24. I wrote most of my first gaming articles for a diskmag called Chaos Ultra, which was essentially a fanzine that came on a floppy disk (usually multiple issues would fit). I think diskmags weren't too big in the States, but for a while, they were very popular in Europe, and were the 90s' message boards and blogs, sort of, with custom music, art and what have you. Well, Chaos Ultra was one of the last of its kind; it even transitioned to an online format and only ceased publication in 2005. Most of the archives are still up on the net at http://member.rpg.hu/cu/index.php?page=3 - missing some of the original charm, but still featuring tons of reviews, discussions, rants, bad fiction (including some of the most entertaining and most trashy Cyberpunk 2020 stories), house rules and so on.

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  25. Not to be too heavy on the shilling, but:
    http://initiativeone.blogspot.com/2012/02/announcing-dungeon-crawl-1.html

    This was finally the kick in the ass for me to put some things I have had on the burner into a package and offer it for sale.

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  26. One 'zine I really enjoyed in the late 80s was Gateways. I enjoyed the editorials and the articles. It was a nice magazine, with more about comics and books along with RPGs. Back in 2004, I was involved with the Harn fanzine Thonahexus and wrote a few articles for them. That was fun.

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  27. The only fanzine I occasionally read was titled "Future Wars". Dealt primarily with Battletech with some Twilight: 2000, Car Wars, Cyberpunk 2020 and the like thrown in.

    They were a fun way to hear ideas, discuss confusing rules or contradictions, read fan-fiction, and see how skilled people were with a Xerox machine and ancient word processors.

    Although I really wouldn't see myself ever searching one out now. The convenience and searchability (not to mention price) of blogs and the internet is just too great to pass up. I could maybe get one or two fanzines in the day...now I have virtually unlimited ones at my fingertips.

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  28. I agree that getting a physical book is a completely different feeling. Despite the fact that I pay for a subscription to Loviatar, I honestly feel like it is a gift when I find it in my mailbox. Reminds me a bit of how it was to receive the next issue of X-Men once a month when I was a kid.
    Once Christian mentions he has started mailing the latest issue...I eagerly check my mailbox every evening looking for my copy. :)

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