Brothers, Sisters, We Don't Need This Fascist Groove Thang
It is valid to speak of pro writing deserving or not deserving publication (as in 'this work is bloody marvellous -- what a shame the author can't get it published') because someone other than the author takes the decision whether to publish it. If, after going to a dozen publishers the book still doesn't see print, there is either something wrong with the book or something wrong with the publishing industry.
But nothing on earth -- not even poverty, if one applies a little low cunning -- can stop someone typing something up themselves, running it off by some method and sending it off to whoever they want to; or even standing and selling it on street corners, as I once saw a man flogging his novel in Covent Garden. You can't usefully say Simsa's stuff deserves publication; if he wants to he will literally publish and be damned. All the fulminating of establishment critics can possibly achieve is either getting him to give up something he wants to do, or resign him to following rules he (presumably) finds restrictive. So what good does that do anyone?
One interesting, though annoying, aspect of fanzines is that the market economy is almost totally reversed. If you don't like a pro magazine, you don't buy it; but you cannot have any control over what comes through the post. You can't stop receiving a fanzine you hate by not loccing, or trading etc.; equally you can't necessarily get one you want by doing those things. Editorial whim in fact rules, except in the case of very well organised subscription zines or those on open sale at cons.
The positive thing about fandom is not the supposed sympathy of the readers, opportunity to express one's sacred personality or whatever; it is that publication, form, content of the fanzine are entirely under the editor's personal control. No accepted ideas of what a magazine should look like, and no concessions to the capitalist market, get in the way of what the individual wants to write or include.
Of the things you've seen in NeRB, I got most personal pleasure from writing 2nd Thermidor and the Stan and Ollie story; taking an idea, exploring its possibilities, and trying to get as many variations as possible into a short space. In fact, making an artifact for its own sake. A trivial artifact, yes, but as good in its own terms as I could manage.
I personally rage against the idea that fanzines 'should' be about sf or fandom and nothing else. As you know, my interest in sf is give or take zero, and I'm far too old and cynical to find accounts of young men getting drunk particularly impressive (unless they're brilliantly written, of course.) The reason I've stuck around is that I like the potential fandom has as a simple network of people interested in writing. In fact I'd say that a piece of writing doesn't really exist until it's been shown to others. We have an agreed procedure (it's the trade unionist in me!) for distributing work to interested people who are not necessarily personal friends. The only trouble is we're tied to sf and fandom as subjects for historical reasons.
We have in all this a way out of the difficulty of producing written work without any chance of someone paying for 'proper' printing and distribution; let's not lose it by insisting that it only be used for the stagnant reproduction of a tradition that has had its day.
Stomach Pump 3 (January 1982)
ed. Steve Higgins