Saturday, July 09, 2016

Fandom As A Global Village

Bill Burns: Who's he?

Here I am getting my zine published on his site and I know very little about the guy.  I've never been deep into SF fandom but through his site,, I'm meeting new people outside of my usual readership of ufologists, conspiracy theorists, and supernatural investigators.

In the old days I would have to conduct an interview via telephone.  ThanX to  email I learned about Bill and the history of eFanzines, getting the story in his own words without the labor of writing transcripts.  (I try to be a stickler about direct quotes.)

The impetus for eFanzines dates back to November 2000,  the early days of the internet.  The time when dinosaurs and dial-up roamed across the earth.  Downloads would lumber, taking seemingly forever to complete.  Email size restrictions forced a sender to divide a large file into separate emails.  

Most fanzine publishers didn't have their own personal web space.  Cloud storage like Dropbox?  Didn't exist. 

One of Bill's fellow fans, Marty Cantor, was stuck with the inefficiency of email in those days.  All Marty wanted to do was send the PDF version of his paperzine, No Award, to other SF fans online.

Marty bemoaned to Bill about the inefficiency. 

As Bill explains: "As I already had a webserver and the time and ability to run the project, it made sense to start a central site to host fanzines for editors who didn't have their own on-line space."

After Marty signed up others soon followed. Initially growth was slow but the word got around and today eFanzines hosts 300 titles with almost 5,000 issues.

Bill: "Initially I saw the site as just a service which would relieve fanzine producers of having to worry about the mechanics of hosting PDF editions of their primarily paper fanzines.  But almost immediately I was asked to host electronic-only fanzines, and I realized that eFanzines could also be a venue for editors who didn't want to deal with the ever-increasing costs of producing and mailing paper fanzines."

With his lifelong interest in science fiction it was natural for Bill to become a publisher/webmaster helping other fans.

 Bill recalls: "I grew up in England in the 1950s, and like most proto-fans at the time (and quite possibly still today) I was an early and voracious reader, with the SF books in the children's section of the local library being my favourites."

At age eleven he found new authors -- Heinlen, Asimov, and many others -- thanks to a library card giving him access to the adult section.  Around sixteen years old he joined the  BSFA (the British Science Fiction Association) after seeing ads for the organization in back issues of the British magazines News Worlds and Science Fantasy

Bill continues: "Soon after, in the summer of 1964, the stallholder at Salford market put me in touch with 'a couple of lads who do their own magazine', which was the Salford-based fanzine ALIEN. I joined the local group, was persuaded to go to the Eastercon in Birmingham in 1965, and have been attending cons and involved in fandom ever since."

Bill left England in 1971; he now resides in the New York City area.  And how did he end up here?  Fandom, of course.

In 1970 he was working for the BBC.  In the summer of that year American fans on their way to the Worldcon in Heidelberg had a London stop.  Since the 1950s London fans hold a monthly pub meeting and sometimes an additional meeting is scheduled for special events.

Bill explains: "With a hundred or more Americans in town the pub was crowded, but I made the acquaintance of two New York fans of about the same age as me, saw them again in Heidelberg -- and ended up marrying one of them a year later."  

Bill and his wife Mary still attend SF cons in various countries, their first meeting an example of fandom as a global village. And it all began many years ago and miles away with the SF books in the children's section drawing the interest of a young library patron.

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Originally published in Ray X X-Rayer #120.  


X. Dell said...

Interesting story. Seems like a convenient service. Is it monetized?

Ray Palm (Ray X) said...

As far as I know Bill Burns in't making any money from the site. He's never mentioned a fee. He's doing it because he enjoys SF and SF fandom.