Typically, publishers, editors and contributors to fanzines receive no financial compensation. Fanzines are traditionally circulated free of charge, or for a nominal cost to defray postage or production expenses. Copies are often offered in exchange for similar publications, or for contributions of art, articles, or letters of comment (LoCs),which are then published.
Some fanzines have evolved into professional publications (sometimes known as "prozines"), and many professional writers were first published in fanzines; some continue to contribute to them after establishing a professional reputation. The term fanzine is sometimes confused with "fan magazine", but the latter term most often refers to commercially-produced publications.
As professional printing technology progressed, so did the technology of fanzines. Early fanzines were hand-drafted or typed on a manual typewriter and printed using primitive reproduction techniques (e.g., the spirit duplicator or even the hectograph). Only a very small number of copies could be made at a time, so circulation was extremely limited. The use of mimeograph machines enabled greater press runs, and the photocopier increased the speed and ease of publishing once more. Today, thanks to the advent of desktop publishing and self-publication, there is often little difference between the appearance of a fanzine and a professionally produced magazine.
When Hugo Gernsback published the first scientifiction magazine, Amazing Stories in 1926, he allowed for a large letter column which printed reader's addresses. By 1927 readers, often young adults, would write to each other, bypassing the magazine. Science fiction fanzines had their beginnings in Serious & Constructive (later shortened to sercon) correspondence. Fans finding themselves writing the same letter to several correspondents sought to save themselves a lot of typing by duplicating their letters.
Early efforts included simple carbon copies but that proved insufficient. The first science fiction fanzine, The Comet, was published in 1930 by the Science Correspondence Club in Chicago and edited by Raymond A. Palmer and Walter Dennis. The term "fanzine" was coined by Russ Chauvenet in the October 1940 edition of his fanzine Detours. "Fanzines" were distinguished from "prozines," (a term Chauvenet also invented): that is, all professional magazines. Prior to that, the fan publications were known as "fanmags" or "letterzines."
Science fiction fan magazines used a variety of printing methods. Typewriters, school dittos, church mimeos and (if they could afford it) multi-color letterpress or other mid-to-high level printing. Some fans wanted their news spread, others reveled in the artistry and beauty of fine printing. The hectograph, introduced around 1876, was so named because it could produce (in theory) up to a hundred copies. Hecto used an aniline dye, transferred to a tray of gelatin, and paper would be placed on the gel, one sheet at a time, for transfer. Messy and smelly, the process could create vibrant colors for the few copies produced . The easiest aniline dye to make is purple (technically indigo) and the next step after hecto is the spirit duplicator, essentially the hectography process using a drum instead of the gelatin. Introduced by Ditto Corporation in 1923, these machines were known for the next six decades as Ditto Machines and used by fans because they were cheap to use and could (with a little effort) print in color.
The mimeograph machine, which forced ink through a wax paper stencil cut by the keys of a typewriter, was the standard for many decades. A second-hand mimeo could print hundreds of copies and (with more than a little effort) print in color. The electronic stencil cutter (shortened to "electrostencil" by most) could add photographs and illustrations to a mimeo stencil. A mimeo'd zine could look terrible or look beautiful, depending more on the skill of the mimeo operator than the quality of the equipment. Only a few fans could afford more professional printers, or the time it took them to print, until photocopying became cheap and ubiquitous in the 1970s. With the advent of computer printers and desktop publishing in the 1980s, fanzines began to look far more professional. The rise of the internet made correspondence cheaper and much faster, and the world wide web has made publishing a fanzine as simple as coding a web page.
The printing technology affected the style of writing. For example, there were alphanumeric contractions which are actually precursors to "leet-speak." (A well-known example is the "initials" used by Forrest J. Ackerman in his fanzines from the 30s and 40s, namely "4sj." Fans around the world knew Ackerman by three letters "4sj" or even two: "4e" for "Forry.") Fanspeak is rich with abbreviations and concatenations. Where teenagers labored to save typing on ditto masters, they now save keystrokes when text messaging. Ackerman invented nonstoparagraphing as a space-saving measure. When the typist comes to the end of a paragraph, they simply move the platen down one line.
Never commercial enterprises, most science fiction fanzines were (and many still are) available for "the usual," meaning that a sample issue will be mailed on request; to receive further issues, a reader sends a "letter of comment" (LoC) about the fanzine to the editor. The LoC might be published in the next issue: some fanzines consisted almost exclusively of letter columns, where discussions were conducted in much the same way as they are in internet newsgroups and mailing lists today, though at a relatively glacial pace. Often fanzine editors ("faneds") would simply swap issues with each other, not worrying too much about matching trade for trade, somewhat like being on one another's friends list. Without being closely connected with the rest of fandom, a budding faned could read fanzine reviews in prozines; and fanzines reviewed other fanzines. Recent technology has changed the speed of communication between fans and the technology available, but the basic concepts developed by science fiction fanzines in the 1930s can be seen online today. Blogs -- with their threaded comments, personalized illustrations, shorthand in-jokes, wide variety in quality and wider variety of content -- follow the structure developed in science fiction fanzines, without (usually) realizing the antecedent.
Since 1937, science fiction fans have formed amateur press associations (APAs); the members contribute to a collective assemblage or bundle that contains contributions from all of them, called apazines and often containing mailing comments. Some APAs are still active, and some are published as virtual "e-zines," distributed on the Internet.
In the late 70s, fiction that included a sexual relationship between two of the male characters of the media source (first Kirk/Spock, then later Starsky/Hutch, Napolean/Illya, and many others) started to appear in zines. This became known as slash from the '/' mark used in adzines to differentiate a K&S story (which would have been a Kirk and Spock friendship story) from a K/S story, which would have been one with a romantic or sexual bent between the characters. Slash zines eventually became their own sub-sub-genre; in many fandoms you rarely saw slash and non-slash stories appear in the same zines. By 2000, when web publishing of stories became more popular than zine publishing, thousands of media fanzines had been published ; over 500 of them were k/s zines.
It started modern-day superhero comics fandom and is thus sometimes cited mistakenly as the first comics fanzine. Contacts through these magazines were instrumental in creating the culture of modern comics fandom: conventions, collecting, etc. Much of this, like comics fandom itself, began as part of standard science fiction conventions, but comics fans have developed their own traditions. Comics fanzines often include fan artwork based on existing characters as well as discussion of the history of comics.
In Britain, there have since 2001 been created a number of fanzines pastiching children's comics of the 1970s and '80s (eg Solar Wind, Pony School, etc). These adopt a style of storytelling rather than specific characters from their sources, usually with a knowing or ironic twist.
Mark Frank’s Photon -- notable for the inclusion of an 8x10 photo in each issue -- was another fine '60s zine that lasted into the 1980s. The Baltimore-based Black Oracle from writer-turned-John Waters repertory member George Stover was a pint-sized gem that evolved into the larger-format Cinemacabre. Stover's Black Oracle partner Bill George later became editor of the Cinefantastique spinoff Femme Fatales. Japanese Fantasy Film Journal (JFFJ) from Greg Shoemaker covered Toho's Godzilla and his Asian brethren when no other publications much cared. FXRH (Special Effects by Ray Harryhausen) was a specialized 1970s zine co-created by future Hollywood FX artist Ernest D. Farino. And Richard Klemensen’s Little Shoppe of Horrors continues to be the definitive fanzine on Hammer horrors and has been publishing its generously-sized issues on an irregular schedule since 1972.
See Monster Magazines - The First Decade for further information on early horror film fanzines.
Crawdaddy! (1966) quickly moved from its fanzine roots to become one of the first rock music "prozines," with paid advertisers and newsstand distribution. Bomp remained a fanzine, featuring many writers who would later become prominent music journalists, including Lester Bangs, Greil Marcus, Ken Barnes, Ed Ward, Dave Marsh, Mike Saunders and R. Meltzer. Bomp featured cover art by Jay Kinney and Bill Rotsler, both veterans of SF and Comics fandom. Bomp was not alone; an August 1970 issue of Rolling Stone included an article about the explosion of rock fanzines. Other rock fanzines of this period include Flash, 1972, edited by Mark Shipper, Eurock Magazine (1973-1993) edited by Archie Patterson and Bam Balam, written and published by Brian Hogg in East Lothian, Scotland, beginning in 1974, and in the mid-1970s, Back Door Man and denim delinquent.
In the post-punk era several well-written fanzines emerged that cast an almost academic look at earlier, neglected musical forms, including Mike Stax' Ugly Things, Billy Miller and Miriam Linna's Kicks, Jake Austen's Roctober, Kim Cooper's Scram, P. Edwin Letcher's Garage & Beat, and the UK's Shindig! and Italy's Misty Lane.
The punk subculture in the United Kingdom spearheaded a surge of interest in fanzines as a countercultural alternative to established print media. The first and perhaps still best known UK 'punk zine' was Sniffin' Glue, produced by Deptford punk fan Mark Perry. Sniffin' Glue ran for 12 photocopied issues; the first issue was produced by Perry immediately following (and in response to) the London debut of The Ramones on July 4, 1976. Other UK fanzines included Blam!, Bombsite Fanzine, Burnt Offering, Chainsaw (punk zine), New Crimes, Vague fanzine, Jamming, Love and Molotov Cocktails, New Youth (fanzine), Peroxide (punk zine), ENZK, Juniper beri-beri, Rox , Grim Humour and Cool Notes. Of these, Tony Fletcher's Jamming was the most far reaching, becoming a nationally distributed mainstream magazine for several years before its demise.
In the US, Flipside and Slash (fanzine) were important punk zines for the LA scene, both debuting in 1977. Among later titles, Maximum RocknRoll is a major punk zine, with over 300 issues published. As a result, in part, of the popular and commercial resurgence of punk in the late 1980s and after, with the growing popularity of such bands as Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Fugazi, Bikini Kill, Green Day and The Offspring, a number of other punk zines have appeared, such as Punk Planet, Razorcake Magazine, Tail Spins Magazine, Sobriquet Magazine, Profane Existence and Slug and Lettuce. The early American punkzine Search and Destroy eventually became the influential fringe-cultural magazine Re/Search. Some punk fanzines from the 80s, like Threatening Society are experiencing a second life by placing all past content online for free and adding new content.
In the UK Fracture and Reason To Believe were significant fanzines in the early 2000s, but both ended in late 2003. Though not technically a 'national' fanzine Rancid News has to a limited degree filled the gap left by these two zines.
A fanzine community developed and was based on sale to a reading public and exchanges by editor/publishers. Many of the pioneers of RPG zinedom got their start in, or remain part of, science fiction fandom. This is also true of the small but still active board game fandom scene, the most prolific subset of which is centered around play-by-mail Diplomacy.
And also away from the world of Football there are a number of established fanzines, for example Rugby League has such notable publications as Who The Hell Was St.George Anyway? (the world's longest-running Rugby League fanzine by supporters of Doncaster RLFC) and Scarlet Turkey of National League One club Salford Reds.