Sunday, February 11, 2007

So Long, Apa... Hello, Aba!

Back in 1968, I launched a fifteen-year involvement with amateur press alliances, or apas. For those who were never a part of print fandom, here are the basics: apas were fanzine amalgams, sort of. Each contributor would prepare and print a set number of copies of his apazine (usually, members were expected to do at least four pages every two issues, although most did far more). These copies were mailed to the Central Mailer or Official Editor (different titles, same duties), who prepared a contents and membership listing in a small magazine that served as a home for all the apa's business (dues, page requirements, etc.) and then mailed one copy of each apazine to each contributor. Basically, you prepared, say, thirty copies of your zine, and got one copy each of thirty people's zines.

It was a lot of fun in its time, but it was also incredibly expensive: not only did you have to cover the cost of your own zine (and that usually meant having a mimeo or ditto machine of your own, since photocopying was too expensive for most back then), but you also had to cover the cost of postage to the Official Editor and you had to pay dues to cover the cost of mailing each set of apazines to you.

At one time, I was involved in CAPA-Alpha (the first comics apa), Myriad, SFPA, Galaxy,Apa-5, REHUPA (the Robert E. Howard Apa), The Esoteric Order of Dagon (the H.P. Lovecraft apa), DNQ (an apa for folks in the comics biz)... and I'm sure there are others that I'm forgetting. I probably prepared a couple of thousand pages for various apas over the years. I enjoyed it, and it was great practice for the weekly deadlines of Comic Shop News, but the energies I once put into that were diverted into Dr. No's and CSN, so I finally gave up apas in the late 80s (although I did briefly dabble with them again for a year or so in the mid-90's before I accepted the fact that I simply didn't have enough time to do this on a weekly schedule).

Apas had their own social hierarchy, their own jargon, and a uniquely apa-esque form of interaction known as mailing comments: you'd read each mailing and respond to various members' zines with individualized comments that were sort of a cross between a conversation and a letter of comment. These were sometimes clever, sometimes caustic, sometimes serious, sometimes whimsical, sometimes confrontational, but they were the lifeblood of the apa; without them, what you had was just a compendium of unrelated fanzines.

At one point, I had toyed with the idea of trying to revive the apa concept with a PDF-format apa: members would send PDFs of their zines to one person, who would then compile the PDFs and send one copy to everyone. It sounded great, and it circumvented the "let's make the Post Office rich" structure that was inherent in the print apa modus operandi. It never coalesced, though, and I gave it up.

Then came the advent of blogs, and I'm convinced that even the PDF apa is too structured, too rigid for the 21st Century. If you look at my sidebar links, you'll notice that many of my friends have blogs of their own. Even people who'd never do a fanzine, like my sister Kim, have dabbled in blogging. It's the universal fanzine. Oh, it may lack mailing comments, but there are comments; if you take a look, you'll see that many of us have posted comments on one another's blogs, continuing the mailing comment tradition into the blogosphere.

We even inspire one another to comment on the same topics; you'll find crossover commentary in my blog and Charles's blog, for instance, in which one person's postings leads the other to comment on the same (or a related) topic. So we don't exist in a vacuum: it's a sort of Schroedinger's Keyboard, in which the existence of one person's blog in some way shapes the topics towards which another's blog gravitates and vice versa.

Now I'm eager to see if some of my old apa friends like Sven Ahlstrom, Wade Gilbreath, and Janice Gelb, among others, will begin blogging more frequently. I'd love to see this sort of informal blog-chain replace the old apa; it'll be interesting to see if our group of friends will expand to include others known by one but not the other.

In the meantime--well, it's a lot of fun, and somehow the deadline pressure seems far less intrusive when you know you don't have to write if you don't want to... or, if you want, you can post three or four things on the same day!


Brett Brooks said...

Aba. I think you misspelled that. The group's name is ABBA. Named after the members of the group.

Unless that's not what you meant?...

Janice said...

Now I'm eager to see if some of my old apa friends like Sven Ahlstrom, Wade Gilbreath, and Janice Gelb, among others, will begin blogging more frequently.

What a pleasant surprise! Had to egoscan on Google for another purpose entirely and was surprised to find my name here and delighted to find you online. Your wish has been granted, although not in this particular format: I've had a LiveJournal (smofbabe) for a few years now. Very pleased to find recent writings by you and now have to figure out the most efficient way for me to get this fed to me!