Felicity Walker lives in Richmond, British Columbia. She has been consciously publishing zines since 2003. Some of her previous works are BCSFAzine, This Is What Happens When You Don’t Eat Your Vegetables, Drawings of the Vancouver Goth Scene, and Ish. She has edited BCSFAzine since 2009. To find out more about the BC Science Fiction Association (BCSFA), please visit: http://www.bcsfa.net/
Interview by Sarah Trick. Edited by Christel Bodenbender
Felicity, how did you become editor of the BCSFAzine?
I became editor in March 2009 when the previous editor, Garth Spencer, decided he would like to step down. Garth was editor when I joined BCSFA in late 2001. I began regularly contributing letters of comment, articles, and artwork, and after a while I started formatting my letters of comment as a zine, called BCSFAZINEzine. I also did an irregularly-published, unofficial second zine for the club called Ish. Garth contributed the name of the zine and several articles, and guest-edited the fourth issue. Finally, I published some one-issue zines and mini-comics. I think all this activity probably convinced Garth that I had enough interest in zine editing to take on the job.
What has changed for you since you took over?
I’ve been pretty happy with the format as Garth left it to me, both in terms of physical materials and size (digest, folded and stapled), and in terms of departments (LOCs, calendar, news, reviews, and articles). Garth and I both use humour, but it’s safe to say we have different styles of humour. He would come at things from a more intellectual point of view, combining his university background and interest in science and sociology with a Monty Python-esque absurdity, surrealism, and Dadaism. I’m not sure if I have a style yet or not, but in the last year or so I’ve noticed that I tend towards understated, gentle irony via footnotes and image captions. I also added the “Random Nostalgia” list to fill blank spaces and hopefully jog readers’ memories of obscure pop culture.
From a cosmetic standpoint, I’ve changed the fonts (Arial Rounded for headlines, Times New Roman for body text, and comic-book-lettering fonts I made by scanning my comic collection, for Random Nostalgia) and have limited the palette of cover paper to warm colours such as cherry, salmon, goldenrod, canary, buff, and ivory, with orange every October and red every December. I inherited the pattern of changing the colour every month from Garth, but he would use a wider range of colours, including the cooler colours of blue, green, and purple.
I’ve been told that I use more clip art than previous editors. Traditionally, fanzine editors would rely on both cartoons and serious illustrations from readers. I use all images that are submitted to me (and have no objection to fan art!), but I also save potentially useful royalty-free clip art, plus photos I take, to break up large sections of text.
What kind of work goes into editing a zine? How do you make judgements about what kind of content appeals most to your readers? What sort of content are you looking for?
The work that goes into editing a zine falls into “easy work” and “hard work.” The easy work (for me) is adding contributions from other people (letters of comment, articles, news items, calendar events, artwork) and looking up events to add to the calendar. The hard work is writing meeting notes and zine reviews, and fiddling with the layout of the images and text so that the zine is optically well-composed and comes out to a number of pages divisible by four, so that we can use the digest format (5½×8½ inches) that I greatly prefer.
It’s hard to say which of those two hard parts is harder! Both can involve a lot of sitting at the desk, brow furrowed, changing things back and forth over and over.
Your zine caters to a small local community. Is there any conflict for you between the needs of the local community and larger fandom? Has the zine changed as fandom has become more global?
There hasn’t been conflict (as far as I know) between the needs of the local community and larger fandom. The zine is our club newsletter, and our club is the British Columbia SF Association, so if a judgment call has to be made (such as whether to include an item in the calendar or the news), I can use geography and SF-ness as filters. I don’t usually have to do that; I appreciate contributions wherever they’re from, and some pieces of national news, such as the Aurora Awards, are relevant nationwide.
With so much genre content in the mainstream, fandom rapidly expanding and splitting into different subfandoms, and the Internet to help people find each other, clubs today represent a smaller share of the options for fans than 30 years ago.
Where do you hope to take the BCSFA zine in the future?
BCSFA members have a wide variety of interests and activities, but we’re still in the process of finding our place in global fandom. Trading zines with other clubs and editors was a way for fans across the globe to get a window into each other’s local scenes. The very long calendar of events in BCSFAzine is partly because I hope that a centralised list of local subfandoms’ events can somehow lead to cross-pollination and friendships between subfandoms. I should be getting the zine out there to more people, in that case.
Zine fandom seems to be going underground again, in that people today are more familiar with blogs and podcasts. Editors now have to consider the possibility that the average modern fan finds that zines don’t speak to them.
Zine editors are increasingly switching to PDFs rather than printed zines, mostly due to the high cost of printer ink and postage. I’m a die-hard fan of paper zines and will keep publishing on paper (plus a digital copy) as long as possible.
What place do up see for paper zines in the future with a new generation maturing who doesn’t know life without the Internet?
I recently had the idea that Generation X might be the last bored generation. The nice thing about the modern era of continuous Internet access is that you’re never bored. I can remember twenty years ago having hours, sometimes an entire day, with nothing to do, and desperately needing more stimulation. A zine to work on would have been helpful back then. Now, between work, friends, editing the zine, reading the zines sent by other editors in trade, and my own side projects, plus my offline and online entertainment options, I’m never left with nothing to do. In fact, I keep losing track of everything (like remembering to write this reply!).
Therefore it’s not that young people have shorter attention spans and read less, but that they don’t have entertainment vacuums to fill. That means that reading a zine, which requires focusing on one thing exclusively for several minutes, is proportionally more of a commitment for them than it would have been 20 years ago. They might feel as if they’re missing a lot of things if they stay on one thing for too long.
I was born at the same time as the personal computer, but reached adulthood shortly before the Internet became a commonplace utility for everyone. It’s hard to believe today, but as recently as the 1997, there was a huge percentage of people who didn’t have Internet access or cell phones, but they weren’t behind the times. Future historians could see the Millennials as a watershed in that way.
I wonder if every generation considers itself “the last bored generation.” Did people during my childhood see our twelve TV channels and early video games and think that was as much stimulation as anyone could ever need?
Are there any other projects you're working on that you want to tell us about?
I’d like to get back into drawing and tighten up my reviewing skills by reviewing everything from old 1980s B-movies to comics to zines to pro-wrestling to restaurants to books that authors have sent for review. Other projects: I’m struggling to write (with Amos Iu) a microbudget comedy web series called Paragon about a low-budget paranormal investigation company. I’m currently snagged on the series bible.