1.28.2004

Waiting to get called up to the Bigs

There are a lot of little venues on the net. Little e-zines popping in and out of existence like literary zero-point energy. Most of them suck. Most. Sad but true.
Some of them are fairly diverting, though nothing worth linking to and certainly not worth the time and energy of a full-scale review. But then again....
It seems to me that what we have in the e-zine is the virtual analog of the old fanzines of the 50s and 60s. What they lack in technical expertise and literary merit they make up for in enthusiasm and sheer love of the genre. Make no mistake, whether it's a fifty page leaflet dropped off at local coffee shops and laundromats or a monthly e-zine publishing roughly the same five people every issue, this kind of active fandom takes work. The energy and exuberance I see in some of these Grass League zines tops anything I'm seeing in the Bigs. For them it's all about the thrill of it. They can't wait to send out the message, through e-mail groups or bulletin boards or whatever, that the latest issue is here! Come see what I did!
This is where Harlan Ellison got his start. Robert Silverburg and Damon Knight too. It's where a lot of the Grand Old Men of Sci-Fi first took their leaps. This is the way it used to be done. Before the Internet, before media culture, most young writers spent their apprenticeships writing stories for free, the thrill of seeing their stuff on some cruddy little mimeographed rag the only compensation many of them would ever see. And it worked pretty good. Writers learned the craft, they had their audiences, and they eventually moved on to the big time. That's not to say we'd never have had Unca Harlan anyways, but maybe we wouldn't have. Who knows? And maybe these new fanzines are where the next batch of Grand Old Men is gonna come from, neh? Maybe the next Asimov is placing a story a month here or here. Maybe we should keep an eye out for the next wave of young turks here. The next big thing might just pop up here first. And maybe we should be just a little sad when little zines like this run down and finally stop because the love and the joy are all gone away. Because, as we're talking about reinvigorating the genre and spreading out, taking over the mainstream and all that good stuff, maybe we should take just a moment and try to remember why it is that we care so much about the future of Science Fiction. Maybe the secret to getting where we're going isn't only in charging ahead and taking no prisoners. Maybe part of it is right where we left it, waiting for us where we've already been.

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