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Strange New Worlds Issue 8 - Apr/May 1993

Birth of the Audiozine

by Maggie Cooper

Fanzines (a combination of the words "fan" and "magazine") are amateur publications produced by science fiction, television, and movie fans. Fanzines, or "zines" for short, have been produced by dedicated fans since the early 1930’s. Originally these zines were only a few pages long, reproduced as cheaply as possible, and contained only nonfiction articles and commentaries about popular science fiction.

Modern zines often contain fiction, poetry, and elaborate art. These publications can easily run over 200 pages. As both desktop publishing and fandom have become more sophisticated, advances and innovations have flourished within the amateur zine market.

Publisher Maggie Cooper has introduced an entirely new format to the world of zines . . . the audiozine (or a’zine for short). In the following article, Ms. Cooper details the origins of her unique concept and the genesis of VAMPIRES!, the first a'zine.

When my husband Bob and I lived in Italy from 1978 to 1980, I found a wealth of information to share with family and friends in the States. To save time and my writing hand I mailed cassette tapes with narratives about our experiences back to the States. Not until Bob and I returned from abroad did I discover that most of the neighbors had come to our parents’ house to listen to my audio stories. I felt honored, but gave the project no more thought until last year when I developed the audiozine.

The inspiration ignited when Pat Nielsen, director of Small Press Writers and Artists Organization Criticism Service, asked me to critique a story written by a blind woman. The woman sent me a printed copy of her work, but she requested I reply on a cassette tape. This made me think of other blind people unable to afford the machinery available for "reading" typed pages. I also thought of the twenty percent of Americans who are illiterate or have no more than a fifth grade reading level. Standard magazines are not accessible to these people. Could an audio form of magazine serve the needs of these groups? And what of work-aholics who refuse to take time to read and the over-worked who cannot find time to read? Would an audiozine interest them?

I advertised for submissions to three test audiozines, (1) poetry, (2) general interest, (3) horror. I received one poetry submission and nothing for general interest. The stories I selected for the horror a’zine were all vampire stories.

Besides fiction, I wanted the a’zine to include articles and poetry. Finding poetry was not difficult, since the one poem I had received, "Night" by Robert Danley, was perfect for a vampire mood. Articles were another matter. Stanislaus Tal of Tal Publications recommended Nancy Kilpatrick to me as an excellent source for vampire articles. Nancy, in turn, referred me to vampire organizations and fanzines as potential market sources. If it had not been for their help I do not think VAMPIRES! would have been completed.

Besides offering a combination of stories, articles, and poetry, the audiozine differs from other cassette literature in that background effects are excluded, or present only enough to enhance the mood of the work. I desire a plain reading, preferably by the author. This unadorned recitation gives a sense of hearing someone reading from a magazine, rather than an impersonation of old-time radio programs.

The audiozine is still in its infancy with many places for growth and improvement. For now, I record with nothing more than home equipment of the most spartan quality. This first issue of VAMPIRES! has no real title cover and the tape jacket is less than one step above homemade, yet response has been promising. After three months, my first run of tapes is almost sold out and I am starting a second release. Future a’zines will include artwork and perhaps even a few ads. One difficulty I have encountered is getting writers to submit in audio format. Writers seem bashful about sending recordings of their stories.

The audiozine idea makes sense. After all, there already are cassette learning packages, cassette books, even a cassette Bible, so why not cassette magazines?

You can listen to an audiozine in environments where reading is impossible. How many people read magazines while mowing the grass or jogging? An audiozine could be a good substitution for a music tape while driving along the highway or when stalled in a traffic jam.

In our busy society, we need to invent new ways to relax, even if only for ten or fifteen minutes at a time. The audiozine can provide those few moments of pleasure. Hopefully, with time, the a’zine will expand to other genres for a wider audience.

(WARNING: VAMPIRES! contains material not suitable for minors. Please send an age statement when ordering through the mail. Maggie Cooper is interested in receiving any comments or suggestions for improving the audiozine concept.For ordering information write to Margaret L. Cooper, SMALL PRESS, 11857 Dunn Creek Road, Jacksonville FL 32218-2011.)


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