by Nalini Haynes
Note: this article was written and published in Dark Matter fanzine issue 8, nearly two months before Kathryn Linge approached me about interviewing me on the fanzine versus podcast conflict for Australian Snapshot.
Someone please explain to me why fanzines and podcasts have been dumped in the same category for awards in science fiction fandom?! In the ‘real world’ newspapers, magazines and books are given separate categories to TV, movies and webcasts, so why are fanzines and podcasts lumped together as if they are a comparable homogenous mass?
When I listen to podcasts I easily discern differences in quality. Are the speakers easy to understand? Is there distracting background noise? What is the sound quality like? Is the content interesting, informative and presented clearly or do the speakers digress into soliloquys about topics irrelevant to the alleged focus of the podcast? If it’s a podcast about TV like Boxcutters, then I expect lots of discussion about TV and none about, say, kitchen utensils – unless they’re discussing something that occurred in a TV show. (I haven’t heard this happen on Boxcutters, I’m using an example of an excellent podcast to illustrate what happens in some less professional podcasts.)
Reading fanzines is a completely different experience to listening to a podcast. Some people don’t have the time or energy to read, so fanzines hold little appeal. Fanzines are created by people like me who aren’t being paid for their efforts; this means often using out of date software, lacking education in layout and design and a mad scramble to find source material.
Packaging a fanzine appeallingly takes an horrendous amount of effort. It takes more time and effort to write an article, edit it and place it in the zine than it takes to record a discussion about the same content. And interviews! Interviews take many hours of preparation, which would be similar for a podcast. After the interview is recorded in a podcast, editing is minimal. In contrast, an interview for a zine needs to be transcribed (written up), which can take a whole day for a one hour interview. Then the interview needs to be edited: have you ever tried reading an interview that was directly transcribed, including ‘ums’, ‘ahs’ and repetition? It’s horrible. Every interview needs to be carefully edited to make it easier to read while keeping the voice of the speaker. I give interviewees the opportunity to edit their own interview as well as editing interviews myself and Edward proof reading. Overall one interview can easily take 10 to 12 hours to write up and edit; some interviews have taken longer.
Layout takes ages even though I’m not a professional graphic designer. I take care with the layout, doing my best to ensure DMF is easy to read both on PCs and mobile devices. And the number of emails I’ve had about putting more pictures in! I do my best to include pictures but this requires artist permission (special thanks to KRin Pender-Gunn for continuous permission to use Ian Gunn’s illos!), minimal borrowing from other sources – always ensuring credit is given – or it requires me to take photos (hours of travel and photography for each report or article) or I create artwork myself, another incredibly time-consuming task.
And at the end of it all, a fanzine is compared to a podcast.
I realise that historically this situation probably arose when podcasts were new so, in order to be fair, podcast creators were given recognition by lumping zines and podcasts together. However, several years on, the organisers of awards haven’t updated the rules to separate zines from podcasts. So we’re stuck, comparing newspapers to radio or TV.
I wish to graciously congratulate both Boxcutters and Galactica Suburbia for cleaning up the Awards at Continuum 8 in June 2012. Their awards have been well-earnt; their podcasts are excellent. I am a fan of both podcasts.
ADDENDUM: Apparently there has been conflict between the fanzine and podcast people; to me this is crazy. If the productions are free it’s not like consumers have to choose between the formats unless they’re strapped for time as well as cash. I would have thought that some people would choose a preferred format based on their personal preferences while others will consume as much pop culture as possible regardless of the medium. I felt like I hit a wall of flame when I experienced the animosity from podcast people who saw me as ‘other’ but then it evened out. I discovered that certain fanzine people hate what I’m doing even more, going to great lengths to denounce Dark Matter and myself in numerous issues of zines over a course of months. Since I posted the linked article it seems that the SMoFs have largely decided to call a truce although I’ve been abused by a minority.
UPDATE: My track record of incorrectly predicting awards is nearly unblemished: The Writer and the Critic took out the Chronos Award and the Ditmar Award in 2012. I’ve only ever correctly predicted the flaming obvious, like Neil Gaiman’s Hugo win for the Doctor’s Wife.