Here Teday, Zined Forever
by Teresa Kilmer
Lucy's column was clear evidence of why net fanfic readers and zine authors, editors and publishers have some very real philosophical differences. Reading it was discouraging, frankly, because it seemed to hold little hope that we might move beyond the old 'ziners vs. netters' debate. I'd like to explain my perspective and hopefully we can reach some understanding of one another's point of view.
In her column, Lucy expresses puzzlement, frustration and outrage when authors take stories from the Net to publish in zines.
I am one of those authors.
Zine editors have contacted me and specifically requested to print a story of mine that was posted on the Net. In those cases, I cheerfully said yes and felt flattered that the request was made in the first place. In my fandom (Star Wars), a one year moratorium for Net posting is requested by most editors and most writers adhere to this policy. Not all editors request stories come off the Net but in my experience most do. And at this point in time, the majority of authors in the Star Wars zine community have no difficulty understanding the financial realities of zine publication and accept this small restriction. That may change over time; editors may realize that Net publication can enhance the zine world. But, that's another column entirely.
I have posted some stories to the Net, received some feedback, sometimes made changes based on that feedback and then submitted this material to a zine. I have always been clear that beta feedback was appreciated as I was probably going to place the work in a zine. Whether on a list or an archive, getting feedback so the story could be improved was my intention with posting.
But whether an author states ahead of time that his/her intention is to remove the story from the Net *is entirely moot.* The story is the author's work. *Period.* If it's removed to publish in a zine, to be submitted with a query to Bantam Books, to be used in a writing contest or just stuffed in someone's drawer for the rest of time, it is still the author's work and the author's choice.
And this is where Lucy and I appear to have fundamental and irreconcilable differences about Net access. I cannot understand Lucy's 'outrage' when stories are pulled from the Net for zines. The logic completely escapes me. First, she states that netfic is free anyway. (This is a false statement. Not everyone is a grad student with their Net access chummily provided them by their university. Most adults I know pay about $20 per month for Net access. That's $240 a year- a long way from free and the equivalent to about ten zines.) Then she complains because something free (and therefore less valued) is gone.
This is a very simple problem to solve. Really, if you like the story that much, send a loc to the author and ask permission to save it to your hard drive or print it off. Given the transitory nature of the Net- sites disappear, television shows issue 'cease and desist' orders, an ISP goes down, an archive mistress gets angry with an author and pulls her stories- it's irrational to complain about a medium that is, by its very nature, constantly in motion.
Bottom line- there are NO guarantees (nor should there be) that once a story appears or is started on the Net, that it will be there forever. Get over it- the Net is simply NOT permanent.
As a writer, at no point in time do I feel any sense of "obligation" to Net readers beyond writing the best story I can. I am certainly not obligated to provide Net readers with access to my stories and their sequels, etc in perpetuity- that's an absurd notion. Taking this logic to the extreme, that would mean I couldn't remove my stories from a particular archive (which I have done) because I didn't like the snuff stories there. As author, I choose which medium presents my stories; moderated archive, public archive, list or print zine.
It's really no different than a professional author moving her work from one publishing house to another. Changing venues also changes your 'market' as it were, and in the case of zines, it makes that market smaller, your audience automatically more selective. Going from the Net to a zine is really the equivalent of going from a self-published vanity press to a small press publication. You're moving from 'anything goes' to 'some things go'.
Yes, there are very real advantages to publishing in zines far beyond the mere pride in seeing your work well presented. Receiving a contributor's copy is the only tangible payment an author will ever see from this labor of love. Another advantage is that zine stories can also be nominated for awards. In Star Wars fandom, there's the Star aWards for one, the Fan Q's sponsored by MediaWest Convention, Stiffies for slash zines and stories and even the Hugo Awards have categories for fan written works and zines. Now that's egoboo!:)
In all frankness, I view the Net as a secondary 'market' for my stories. It is precisely because of the egalitarian access to the Net that makes posting a story to the Net not special. Anyone with a keyboard and an ISP access can post anything they want. Posting to the Net is, for me, no real accomplishment; nothing special has been attained or earned. Sure, it's nice to get feedback; everyone likes strokes, but, in the end, Net posting is just not that big of a deal.
Zines have submission guidelines, zines have some standards, zines have some quality control, zines are (for the most part) edited.
Nothing of the sort could possibly be said about Net fan fiction.
Yes, there are some sites with selection standards and quality control and yes, there are some authors who are scrupulous about using beta readers for editing purposes, but that is by no means a commonly held standard on the Net.
Overall, I think it's the sense of entitlement in Lucy's column that bothers me the most. Its very real possessiveness about others' fan fiction seems misplaced. The bottom line is- whether a work in progress, sequel to a story or part of a story series- you are simply Not Entitled to someone else's intellectual property.
Enjoy them while you can, when you can.