10,000 zines and counting: a library’s quest to save the history of fandom

It’s impossible to talk about the history of sci-fi, or modern popular fiction more generally, without talking about fandom. H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, and many other seminal authors were shaped by and participated in fandom, whether through letters, early science fiction conventions, or fanzines. Zines were home to some of these writers’ first stories; later in the 20th century, they were central to the rise of fan fiction. But for a variety of reasons, they were usually meant to circulate through a community, fade away, and fall apart. Fanzines feel almost designed to resist archival. “Creators were working with what they had, often within pretty tight budgets, and producing fantastic images with relatively cheap materials,” Hampton tells The Verge. Many of Hevelin’s zines were hectographed — copied by pressing paper to an inked gelatin pad. The medium produced brilliant purples and blues that can still be seen in some of the illustrations. But it favored cheap, highly acidic paper, and images could fade within hours under direct light. “There are rusty staples, tape — all these material things that make a fanzine a fanzine are also what make them difficult to preserve.” Each zine is photographed page by page as quickly as possible, supported by a specially designed cradle, until it can go back in storage.

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