Barring Major Calamity
by Victor M. Gonzalez
Our decision to slow down Apak's publishing schedule to tri-weekly likely has caused a few raised eyebrows among our faithful readership. But I think the choice is a wise one that will improve the quality of the fanzine in several ways.
First of all, for those rubbing their hands together with glee, it doesn't mean that any further slowdowns are anticipated. The change wasn't made because we've run out of steam. Yes, it is difficult to publish as frequently as we do -- in terms of work and money -- and the longer turnaround will reduce stress to some degree. But we have not evaporated into Gafia: the fanzine will come out every three weeks.
We should be able to improve several aspects of the zine. Letterhacks will have a little longer to read and respond to the previous issue, so we can get a more diverse and thorough response, and we won't have to deal with as many letters that refer to stuff we printed several issues back. We'll have more time to select and edit the material we print, which should improve its quality -- and this applies to our own material as well. We'll have more time to design and copyedit the zine, which should reduce the number of errors.
Which brings me to something that can't be called anything but a Mission Statement: we want Apak to be a great fanzine, not only because it comes out a lot, but because the writing and art we publish is of the highest quality we can obtain. We want to go beyond the idea that fan publishing is something done only for the fun of the editors and those mentioned within. We want Apak to be intrinsically interesting.
In some ways we have tried to be a fanzine that appeals to all. We present some -- albeit eccentric -- news, analysis of that news, letters and articles on fannish events, some account of the fanzines of the hour, essays on diverse topics, even some art -- pretty much everything we've ever liked in a fanzine ourselves. We also provide a nearly immediate -- by current standards, instantaneous -- forum for fans to express themselves on topics they feel timely and important.
Since I started writing for Apak in issue #26, and started editing in issue #46, it has been my goal to improve the fanzine by reducing the amount of crud and bringing other talented people into the mix. We have columnists in Seattle, England, Australia and California; we encourage writers who have never written for a fanzine before and get their stuff into print quickly. Heather Wright's piece in #63 is among the best I've seen in a recent fanzine.
Andy brought me on board when it became clear that my contributions -- many of which are behind the scenes in a sort of managing editorial role -- required more authority. I asked carl juarez to join us because I thought we could use the design and copyediting help. When Andy and I realized the significant contributions he makes, including two changes of software and what amounts to a complete redesign, we signed him up as co-editor.
But there have been many problems, some of them coming from conflicts with other fans. We've made many mistakes in dealing with some of those conflicts, and whether or not we've always deserved it, pungent hysterics have become rather a third staple of the zine.
It is a significant problem. That perception might be keeping many of the good writers and artists we'd like to publish from contributing. I'm thrilled to have fans I admire writing for us. It has been a goal of mine to involve more people, both those known and not.
Apak has been engaged in one minor feud after another for the last several months, and I hope we're able to stay out of -- or at least mitigate -- those in the future. The longer schedule might mean we're able to give these issues more consideration, and avoid pointless acrimony. The bitterness that comes from these conflicts is inevitably draining to the Apparatchiki.
Andy and I both have a tendency to pop off when we get mad -- and that has caused problems. But at heart we have proven ourselves reasonable and even friendly people. I challenge anyone to find a fan who has been excluded from publication for any irrational reason -- or permanently excluded for any reason. Every person is a different case; in some cases we have declined to publish things because we wanted to avoid more ridiculous acrimony. Many times we have declined to publish things because we didn't think they were good enough. But we don't exclude or discriminate against those we aren't particularly fond of.
I think there may be a bit of a knee-jerk reaction when we encounter people who are confrontative in print -- Joseph Nicholas comes to mind -- but then we aren't going to allow ourselves to be kicked around either. My burgeoning conflict with Arnie Katz comes to mind; he has been hammering on the same points I brought up months ago, always with a tone of unbelieving derision. Mind you, at first I found this harmless; other Vegrants have responded more positively to my comments, and Arnie has the right to blow off steam. But eventually, when he went around the track for the fifth time, I felt I had to question what he was doing. Rather than the impression I seem to have given, that I just like ragging on WH, my actual goal has been to show the Vegrants that Wild Heirs could be better, despite Arnie's seeming belief that it is perfect.
Andy and I can only make decisions based on what we believe to be best for the fanzine -- but we can get hurt too, and it's clear we could improve at resolving our external disputes. I believe, in most cases of hurt feelings, we did not start the battles -- but that position is usually taken by both sides of any conflict.
Since Andy started this fanzine as a weekly 65 issues ago, it has grown, changed and slowed down. But it remains a unique fanzine in terms of frequency and longevity. This latest choice, to extend our schedule by a week each issue, I hope will allow us also to equal or better the quality of the fanzines that developed my standard of "good." That is what I wanted to do when I signed on, and progress is a sure motivation.
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Next article: Don't Think of the Lake of Fire, by Andy Hooper.