How does a person like you keep up with all the neat things in life? Where can you find a review of that Crumbsuckers record and read an interview with the auteur of "Dead End Drive-In?"
The answer, my friend, can be found in fan magazines - or fanzines, for short. They're relatively small, always independent and usually inexpensive publications that cover and cater to cult interests. They come in all shapes and sizes, and can be composed on a computer, typed out or written in crayon. Many are produced right here in the Philadelphia area.
Local fanzines report on such diverse subjects as punk rock, exploitation movies, skateboarding and science fiction. But all have one thing in common: They express an unabashed love for the subjects they cover.
"Economics are secondary to most fanzine publishers," says Jay Schwartz, a local fan magazine expert who has written for such music 'zines as New Sound and the Bob. "How popular they get and how widely they're distributed rests on the ambitions of each particular publication. It's the labor of love by the fans that's most important."
Also important in the 'zine scene is the communication to and between fans. ''The magazines begin and continue to publish so people can talk to each other," says Elaine Cox Clevers, curator of Temple University's contemporary culture archives. "They may not have any other way to express interest in their favorite topics."
Because fanzines usually come out irregularly and are often distributed using unorthodox methods, they assume amateur status. But a publisher's carefree attitude to deadline, distribution and profits can help 'zines in another way: They can have fun with subjects pro magazines take seriously.
"Working on a fanzine is more fun and more relaxed than writing or editing for pay," says Linda Bushyager, a science fiction novelist who puts out Duprass, a 'zine devoted to sci-fi fandom. "I'm getting back into putting out fanzines after 10 years. It's the comments and letters that give you immediate 'ego-boo,' which is my term for ego boost."
Fanzines can also give their readers "ego-boo." "People feel good when they realize they're not alone in admiring a certain subject," says Steve Vertlieb, managing editor of Cinemacabre, a publication covering fantasy and horror films. "I got turned onto this stuff when I was young and read Forrest J. Ackerman's Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. Just knowing there were other kids out there who enjoyed horror films made me feel secure and less lonely."
Here, then, is a guide to some of the fanzines put out in the Philadelphia area.
BLOB SCENE MAGAZINE: A print offshoot of the similarly titled radio show on Drexel University's WKDU, Blob Scene covers a branch of new music called garage rock, a blend of hard rock and '60s psychedelia. It features reviews and interviews with up and coming groups like the Chesterfield Kings, the Cynics and Babalou, as well as historical articles on seminal garagers the Standells and the Seeds.
Quote: "Playing this music on the radio wasn't enough. It needed a background which people can get from the magazines, along with a philosophical and aesthetic view of the music. Garage rock is fun; it's clean and it's happening!"
- Michael Moffa, publisher.
Info: free with self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE), c/o WKDU Radio, Phila. Pa. 19104.
THE BOB: This five-year-old publication covers the national new music world with album reviews, profiles of new and exciting groups and lengthy interviews with important movers and shakers of the scene.
Splashily laid out, the Bob actually began life as a college class project, but has grown steadily over the years. Now it boasts a 10,000 plus circulation and each issue comes with a plastic promotional record (called a flexi-disc). Its accent is on college radio faves like REM, the Long Ryders and Camper von Beethoven, and it boasts interesting advertisements for independent records. Now distributed throughout the country, The Bob is still published locally but maintains a New York mailing address.
Quote: "It's really gratifying to go to a local club and see college kids into the music we're covering."
- Greg Beaudoin, publisher.
Info: Published bi-monthly, $1.50 an issue or $15 for 12 issues. 151 First Ave., Suite F, New York, N.Y. 10003. Also found in area record stores.
B SIDE MAGAZINE: A descendant of the defunct punk rock 'zine Terminal, B Side features coverage of new music from both local and non-local groups. The writing is consistenly witty and the graphics look professional. Diversity is a strong point, too. One may find articles on British rocker Julian Cope in the same issue with an interview with synth-poppers Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark and a concert critique of African Musician Fela Kuti's show at the Troc.
Quote: "We're really interested in independent music that may not be heard too often in radio. We also like to cover local bands, which some publications seem to have a derogatory attitude towards. Philadelphia is definitely growing musically, and we find a lot to write about."
- Sandy Garcia, co-publisher.
Info: Published bi-monthly. $1.50 per issue or $7 a year (six issues), P.O. Box 1387, Fort Washington, PA 19034. Also found in area record stores.
CINEMACABRE: A slick, usually thick Reader's Digest sized 'zine that covers fantasy, science fiction and horror films with reviews, in-depth articles and interviews with prominent stars and filmmakers.
The magazine appears professional - there's lots of photos, illustrations, the writing is generally good and it's well put together graphically. Unfortunately, Cinemacabre is published infrequently, maybe twice a year. Recent entries have included a lengthy study of the "Star Wars" phenomenon, a look at the films of director Brian DePalma and an exclusive interview with Rouben Mamoulian, who helmed the Frederic March, 1932 version of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."
Occasionally, poetry finds its way into the publication. Although it's actually published in Maryland, many writers and its top two editors live in Philadelphia.
Quote: "We like to think of CINEMACABRE as a professional fanzine. It takes a long time to put out. That's because, basically, everybody's busy with their regular jobs. We also take a long time because we feel there's a level of quality and caring that has to go into each issue."
- Steve Vertlieb, managing editor.
Info: $2.50 per issue. P.O. Box 10005, Baltimore, MD 21204. Also available at local comic and book stores.
DUPRESS: This mimeographed, bi-monthly tribute to science fiction fandom comes from Leslie Smith and Linda Bushyager who published the highly-regarded, full color fanzine Granfillon 10 years ago. Featured in the most recent issue of Duprass is a humorous article called "Never Leave The Straight and Narrow," about getting lost on the way to a sci-fi convention; a long tongue- in-cheek quiz section called "Trivial Zootsuit;" and pages of Loc's ''Letters of correspondence" from fans.
Duprass is packed with illustrations and cartoons and, in many ways, will remind readers of The New Yorker - if it was put out by science fiction fanatics.
Quote: "I'll usually work intensely for eight hours a day for two weeks before Duprass goes out. It's really a hobby, although there's lot of work involved. Publishing our own fanzine has lots of rewards, especially the opportunity to express our views, in a humorous way, about science fiction fandom."
- co-publisher Linda Bushyager.
Info: $5 for three issues, 6092 Drexel Road, Phila. PA 19131. Also available in certain bookstores and at sci-fi conventions.
DWID DOMINATION: Who would have thought that skateboarding and rock-and- roll would have so much in common? According to this anarchic but entertaining magazine, they do. It features record reviews and articles on rock stars into skateboarding, as well as interviews and pictorials on champion skateboarders. Gangrene and DagNasty are two hardcore rock groups into the scene, and more according to this 'zine, are getting into it. Dwid Domination also contains humorous articles and comic strips.
Quote: "I wanted to promote skateboarding and music together, because they're my two greatest interests. There's a magazine called Thrasher that started as a fanzine and is now professional and incredibly popular. I'd like Dwid Domination to go that route."
- Richard Saxton, publisher.
Info: $.50 an issue. 1448 Hollywood Ave., Langhorne 19047. Also available at local skateboarding emporiums.
EXPLOITATION RETROSPECTIVE: Published by college students and film freaks Dan Taylor and Lou Gancey, this well put together 'zine covers exploitation and horror films that have been recently released in theaters and on videocassette. Its inspiration comes from two infamous New York based chronicles of schlock flicks, Gore Gazette and Sleazoid Express.
ER, however, is slick in comparison: it's composed on an Apple computer which makes it easy to read. And the publishers really know their stuff, whether they're writing about the latest "Rambo" ripoff or low budget horror opuses like "The Vindicator" and "The Kindred."
Quote: "So many mainstream movies seem to come from an assembly line. Exploitation films are eccentric, but that's what makes them interesting. Some critics have their minds made up when they see a film - they have a reflex action. "Class of Nuke 'em High" and "Re-Animator" were great, but got one star from local critics. So they're not Bergman. Do they have to be?"
- Dan Taylor, co-publisher.
Info: Now published "at least monthly." $10 for 20 issues. P.O. Box 1428, Delran, NJ 08075.
MAXIMUM ROCK 'N' RAOUL: This mag takes its namesake from a popular California based fanzine, but the similarity ends there. MRNR is a straight out parody of rock journalism, complete with bogus interviews, fake tour schedules and put on record reviews. Recent issues have also featured cartoons, illustrations and even a photo essay on the 'zine's "First Annual Fishing Tournament."
There's also lots of local angles to the satire, with in-jokes involving such Philly bands as Electric Love Muffin and the Fabulous Fondas with lead singer Rocco Socko. Co-Editor Jeff Fox's goals: to become the Whig Party presidential candidate. His partner Jonny Earthshoe's favorite actress: Talia Shire. These guys have got to be kidding.
Quote: "We want to be the Mad Magazine of fanzines. People take themselves too seriously. Everything we do is to be laughed at. We make fun of everybody without anybody getting hurt."
- Jeff Fox.
Info: $.75 an issue, published four times a year. 1464 Easton Road, Warrington, Pa. 18976. Also available at some local rock clubs.
MEDIUM CONDENSED: A compilation of comic strips, poems, opinion pieces and off-the-wall illustration with a definite avante garde slant. Produced by local comic artist Matt Howarth and his Howski Studios staff, this infrequently published 'zine has ties to the underground comics of yesteryear and publications like Heavy Metal and early Mad Magazine.
You'll find mention of the bizarro West Coast new wave band The Redidents, an article on what it's like to go to jail for failing to pay your income taxes and cartoon strips called "Mundane Funnie" and "Flakey Fables From The Depth of History." And the most recent issue is dedicated to surrealist filmmaker Luis Bunuel. Weird and entertaining.
Quote: "The first issue of Medium Condensed is, in reality, something like a 3rd or 4th generation mutation of what was originally to have been a simple compilation of a bunch of stuff taht has been languishing around the Howski Industrial complex, none of which bear anty direct relationship to anything else and all of which was wonderful in its own right and deserved to be printed."
- from an editorial by publisher Matt Howarth.
Info: Published whenever, along with other similar magazines. $2.50 per issue. P.O. Box 804, Langhorne, PA 19047.