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Read the Printed Word!

Amateur Press Associations (APAs) (UPDATED)

Do you think of fan fiction as something new?  As an online-only art form?  Think again — writing on tor.com, Patrick Nielsen Hayden wants you to know:

Before the internet, before BBSes and Fidonet and Usenet and LiveJournal and blogs and Facebook and Twitter, before the World Wide Web and hot-and-cold-online-everything, science fiction fandom had a long-lived, robust, well-debugged technology of social networking and virtual community.

According to Hayden, this was accomplished via Amateur Press Associations or APAs, organizations dedicated to the collation and distribution (traditionally by post) of contributions (articles, poetry, short stories) by members, to members.  The first APAs, established in the late nineteenth century with the advent of affordable letterpress, were literary affairs and did not focus on genre fiction.  One such APA that is still extant is the National Amateur Press Association (NAPA), founded in 1876.  Many of their more recent printings are now available online (also here).  The National Amateur is NAPA’s quarterly journal.  Some PDF versions can be viewed here; older copies, as well as NAPA conference proceedings, may be found for sale on AbeBooks and Amazon.

APAs really took off, however, when they were adopted by science fiction and fantasy fans; for a description of how H. P. Lovecraft was instrumental in this adoption — via correspondence with one Donald A. Wollheim — see Hayden’s article.  Science fiction’s oldest and the first fan-oriented APA was the Fantasy Amateur Press Association, formed in 1937 by Wollheim and John Michel.   It still publishes today.  The list of members and former members includes a number of famous and influential SF writers, such as Jack Speer and Marion Zimmer Bradley.  A partial list of current members can be found at ZineWiki.  As this LiveJournal forum lists FAPA’s Wikipedia entry as its website, it might be inferred that the page is maintained by members of the group.  The Albin O. Kuhn Library and Gallery of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, owns as part of the Coslet Collection “long runs” of FAPA mailings, published between 1937 and 1972.

LASFAPA, or (apparently) the Los Angeles Science Fiction APA, includes a list of present and past members, APA news, instructions on how to join and a glossary of “fannish” terms, as well as a mini-history of APAs and a persuasive argument for the merits of print over digital.

APAs grew to cover such topics as comics, gaming, LGBT issues and popular culture.  There are also APAs devoted to particular authors, and general interest.  According to the Blue Moon Special, as of 2009, there were 34 APAs still operating worldwide, too many to cover in detail here.  The Blue Moon directory includes the year each APA was founded, the focus of the APA, frequency of publication, minimum activity, number of members and membership caps, costs and contact information (including websites, where applicable).

Any information on APA holdings in libraries or archives, or even personal collections, is much appreciated and will be added to this post.  Submit here or email i.barlova at gmail.com.

UPDATE 5/4/2011:  I have heard from Marty Cantor of LASFAPA regarding access to their complete collection.  Marty owns all but two of the 414 LASFAPA distributions, and these may be viewed at his home, by appointment.  He will bequeath his collection to the Eaton Collection of the University of California, Riverside, which already has an impressive science fiction collection including several fanzines. There is also an almost-complete collection of LASFAPA distributions at the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society.  Marty writes that so far as he knows the only complete collection of distributions resides with a member in Eureka, California.

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