February 23, 2011

Fanzines book has no fans

I'm a little slow in catching up to post this, but there are some interesting discussions surrounding Fanzines, a new title by academic professor, Teal Triggs. The main discussion I'd like to direct you to is a blog post by Jerianne of Zine World, where she explains the problem with this new text and its implications.

This new book documents zines, with visuals and historical information. Although it is true an academic book about zines and zine history could stand to further legitimize the medium in research and academia, there are some problems here, which I learned from Jerianne's post. These problems center on copyright and accurate factual information. I won't repeat everything Jerianne discusses in her blog post, but do want to point out some key information:

  1. Zine images were used without notifying zinesters prior to publication (in most cases, if a zine creator even was contacted, it was an afterthought).
  2. Perhaps related to this snafu (lightly-stated), there is information about the zines and zinesters covered in the book that is incorrect.
This translates to: well, zinesters being pissed, and rightfully so due to someone profiting financially and profesionally off their DIY/not-doing-it-for-profit ethos; as well as now having a text covering a topic that is not highly documented -- that will be imprinting incorrect information into history (with not much else in formal print to contest it).

Jerianne quotes Tobi Vail:
As Tobi Vail pointed out in her blog entry about the book: “I think there should be a way to contest ‘false information’ in published works. Because once it’s in a book, it’s a ‘fact.’ People will use this book as a source for further writing on the subject matter. … Because once something is in print, it becomes an authority.”
This is true, and I see it often in student research. If information is printed, it will often be repeated without question. So, what good could come of this situation? It looks like there is no effort or interest on the author/editor or publisher's part to rectify the situation, so what to do? Using this as an example in teaching critical thinking skills in information literacy is a start; I'm not suggesting to purchase the book at all, but explaining the issue to students and showing them how misinformation can appear in authoritative-seeming sources, even by a credentialed professor, is possible.

This example could also be used to show that research is truly a discussion. Look at Wikipedia, with all the arguments that spawn out of incorrect information in entries, or even just differences of opinion. Of course, the book in question is not a matter of opinion, there is simply factual information that is incorrect, but it could be a good segue into also showing Wikipedia can be useful for the zeitgeist and basic information, but it's still necessary to double check, consider motivations, and question "authority." Wikipedia is not the only source that can have faulty information, but could serve as familiar grounds for comparison. And, hopefully, someone with more accurate information might consider publishing a book to rival Fanzines.


  1. I think there's a more practical solution: create a web page that contains all of the errors and inaccuracies. Include several reviews of the book and describe what's wrong, why it's wrong, etc. Get people to link to this page/wiki/whatever.

    Then anyone searching for the page will also come across the errata.

  2. Actually, there is a site working to accomplish that: http://fanzinesbytealtriggs.weebly.com/

  3. Hi John, yes Jerianne discusses a number of errors in her post, and also links to the site she mentioned here. Good idea!