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Apollo Sunrise

Fan History, Man From UNCLE

I’m sure everyone has seen the Time Magazine article on fanfic by now, and what an excellent article it is:

http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,2081784-1,00.html

I kept on waiting for the snark and condescension – and it never came. Awesome.

I’ve just posted to several UNCLE lists, and I’m posting here as well, because of this section:

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You could begin a history of fan fiction in any number of places, but one of them is The Man from U.N.C.L.E., a TV show about the agents of an international espionage organization called the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. It ran for four seasons, 1964 to '68, and although it was never a runaway hit — it peaked at No. 13 in 1965 — it had another, less easily definable quality. It attracted not just viewers but fans: people for whom the world in which The Man from U.N.C.L.E. took place felt so real that it seemed to have a life beyond the show, as if you could turn the camera around and see not a TV studio but an entire planet populated by men, women and children from U.N.C.L.E. The fans published mimeographed and xeroxed fanzines about it, and a few of the zines ran original stories that were set there.
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I’ve seen this assertion several times over the years – that UNCLE fandom became a template for the fandoms that followed. But I can’t find any evidence for it. I’d love to be convinced, so if anyone has information on 1960s and early 1970s UNCLE zines and fic, please let me know.

My own experience:

I got into fandom in 1975, and I had three fannish passions: Star Trek, Dark Shadows and The Man From UNCLE. I found tons of Trek zines through the fanfic chapter in “Star Trek Lives!” and then through the Star Trek Welcommittee. I found several Dark Shadows zines through the Marvel magazine “Vampire Tales”, which listed addresses of other DS fans.

I started writing to lots of other fans, and immediately got into conversations about our fannish passions. My # 1 fannish interest was fanfic; I kept asking people, “Where’s the UNCLE fic?”

No one had any leads for me. Almost everyone I spoke with remembered UNCLE fondly, just as they remembered other fannish favorites such as The Wild Wild West, but no one knew of any fic. The woman who introduced me to DS fandom was into fic. She also ran a science fiction/fantasy convention in the mid 70s which attracted over 6,000 people, myself included, so she had fannish contacts all over the place. She didn’t have any leads for UNCLE fic either.

The Time magazine article mentioned Xeroxed fanzines – when were they published, what did they include, and:

How did I miss them???

The first Trek zine, Spockanalia, was published in 1967. The first Dark Shadows fanzine (I’m spacing on the title) was published in 1968. (By 1975, there had been many dozens of Trek fanzines published, as my bank account at the time can testify. There has also been at least 30 Dark Shadows fanzines published – even more, if you want to count the fan club newsletters for specific actors which also included fic.)

When was the first UNCLE zine published? And if UNCLE was in any way a template for the fandoms which followed, what is the continuity?

I didn’t find any UNCLE fic until – I believe – the multifandom zine Warped Space ran a short piece in an issue some time in the late 70s. I *did* find UNCLE fandom in the late 80s, and I snapped up every zine I could find. (Other 60s shows like The Wild Wild West, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Garrison’s Gorillas also went on to develop zine fandoms in the 80s and 90s, which is about the time UNCLE zines seemed to really take off.)

As far as I can see, Star Trek fandom became the template for many of the fandoms which followed. There have always been feral fandoms – Dark Shadows being one, because it developed entirely separately from Trek fandom – but most of the fandoms with which I’m familiar seemed to base their traditions and terminology on the Trek model. I remember when Star Wars took off in the late 70s; Starsky & Hutch as well. Many of the early people in those fandoms came from Trek.

As I said, I’m open to being convinced. I’d love to know about the early history of this fandom.

Comments

Same here. And while I, too, have heard the assertion several times, I've never really seen the proof. It's certainly the oldest series to have a fandom, but I'm not sure how much that counts.

And thanks for the link to the article! I'd heard about it and didn't think I'd be able to find it.
>>>Same here. And while I, too, have heard the assertion several times, I've never really seen the proof.

I haven’t seen any convincing proof either. This subject came up on several UNCLE lists a number of years ago, but even there the people promoting the theory that UNCLE was an early participatory fandom couldn’t come up with any convincing evidence.

As I said, I’m still waiting to be convinced, but I’d like to see some hard facts – names and dates of fanzines, even ones with miniscule circulation, would be a good start.

>>>It's certainly the oldest series to have a fandom, but I'm not sure how much that counts.

I don’t think the age of the series counts as all. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea aired the exact same years UNCLE did, and it also went on to develop a zine and internet fandom, just like UNCLE. But no one is advocating that Voyage was any kind of fannish precursor.

Early Trek editors specifically named science fiction fandom as being the inspiration/template for early Trek fandom. I never read where any of them referenced UNCLE at all. (Early Trek fandom was full of SF fandom terms – fen, gafiate, fafiate, FIAWOL and FIJAGDH, to name the most popular. Remember how Julia Eckler uses the term “fen” in her song “Born Again Trek Fan”?)

>>>And thanks for the link to the article! I'd heard about it and didn't think I'd be able to find it.

You’re very welcome. :-)
Very apt. Xena Warrior Princess is another fandom often referred to as a feral fandom as it developed its own customs and tropes separately from "mainstream" fandom.

Do you mean Lily F? I think I was in fandom before she was.

I was very impressed by the article. I think there are so many mashups in popular culture these days that fanfic is just one more example.
What really convinced me fanfic was going mainstream was, about 4 years ago, US News & World Report published an article about Harry Potter and children’s creativity. They used fanfic – without defining the term – as one way for children to explore their creativity.
I always thought Dark Shadows was considered feral because of the werewolves.


*g*
;-)
From what I've known, UNCLE fans existed before ST fans -- I think the series awakened a lot of teen girls and women to the idea of being fans, but they didn't have the ready-made network of contacts that SF fandom did when Trek started to bloom. But... I've never seen more than incidental UNCLE content in early zines, which were primarily ST zines. UNCLE was re-broadcast in the early 80s, and instantly became a fannish presence then, no doubt because a good proportion of fans had been teens or pre-teens for the original broadcasts in the 60s, and by the 80s, the concept of publishing zines was well established. Zines for UNCLE became available very quickly at that point.

Between, there were some fans collecting the UNCLE novelizations and writing letters and so on, but as I knew it, the zines were very scarce and very gen. The fandom was tiny and any slash in the fandom was very much circulated privately under the radar. I really wouldn't say that UNCLE set up a template for organized fanfic fandom (that is, "media fandom") as we know it, but there easily could have been smaller-scale fan groups I just never knew about.
>>From what I've known, UNCLE fans existed before ST fans –

Definitely, by a couple of years. Illya Kuryakin was absolutely my first fannish love. I bought several pictures of David McCallum from Jeri of Hollywood (a photo seller who advertised in 1960s movie magazines) and had them all over my bedroom wall.

>>>I think the series awakened a lot of teen girls and women to the idea of being fans, but they didn't have the ready-made network of contacts that SF fandom did when Trek started to bloom.

See, that’s my point. If Trek was the only example, I’d be more willing to accept that concept that UNCLE was somehow a precursor to participatory fandom.

But Trek isn’t the only example. Dark Shadows developed a participatory fandom back in 1968, entirely separate from and apart from Trek and SF fandom.

If Dark Shadows fans could do this, why didn’t UNCLE?

>>>I've never seen more than incidental UNCLE content in early zines, which were primarily ST zines.

Ditto. I was always happy to see the UNCLE content, and it always left me wishing for a lot more.

>>>UNCLE was re-broadcast in the early 80s, and instantly became a fannish presence then

That’s for sure! The fandom took off on rocket fuel!

>>>by the 80s, the concept of publishing zines was well established. Zines for UNCLE became available very quickly at that point.

And I was buying them all. :-)

>>>Between, there were some fans collecting the UNCLE novelizations and writing letters and so on, but as I knew it, the zines were very scarce and very gen. The fandom was tiny and any slash in the fandom was very much circulated privately under the radar.

I have a copy of a collection that was made of the UNCLE circuit slash stories, but AFAIK those slash stories were from the early to mid 1980s.

>>>I really wouldn't say that UNCLE set up a template for organized fanfic fandom (that is, "media fandom") as we know it, but there easily could have been smaller-scale fan groups I just never knew about.

I certainly wrote lots of my penpals about it; I’m sure there was a lot of that going on. But I still can’t find any evidence that UNCLE inspired media fandom in any way.
Sadly, I got into fandom through SF and fantasy in about 1978, and I don't have any memories, and very few collected zines, from before then. I *think* the UNCLE re-broadcast was more like 1985 than really early 80s, and there are zines dated 1978, and 1982 that are about spy shows in general. (Avengers was a favorite, and in the same way it *should* have had a fandom but I never saw more than scattered pieces for it, too.) Those zines include some UNCLE pieces. "Paladins" premiered then, for instance.

If Dark Shadows aired in 1968, or at least was *still* airing in 1968, that coincides with Trek, and the two or three years of separation might have been crucial in letting the smaller fan circles connect with each other. Or, maybe it was simply more available -- I remember seeing it in daily afternoon episodes instead of once a week -- to audiences, including active fans.

It looks to me like UNCLE the show inspired a lot of fans, but not that it was initially the (or a) fandom that started media fandom. (I'm willing to be wrong, as I'm exactly that era of fan and I can feel that there should have been UNCLE fandom... but I wasn't doing it myself and didn't see it myself in the 60s.)
Yes, the UNCLE rebroadcast was mid 1980s. I was living in San Jose at the time, and was getting UNCLE on San Francisco station # 20. I remember how delighted I was to see it. I promptly taped every episode – mostly on Betamax, with a handful of episodes on VHS at the end of their run, which also dates it for me, as I switched from Betamax to VHS around 1986. Channel 20 had finished their run by the time I moved to LA in 1987.

Agreed re Avengers! That show *deserved* a fandom, and I’ve always been surprised that it never attracted much of one. A friend was on a Yahoo Avengers list for awhile, but I don’t know how active it was or how much, if any fic, got produced But I’m sure there’s Avengers fic. There’s fic for *everything*, after all.

Dark Shadows aired from 1966 to 1971. Over 1,200 20 minute episodes were produced. One of the key factors in DS’s early fandom were the fans who knew the location of the NYC studio where the show was taped and used to hang out outside for autographs and photos. Some of those fans started running early fan clubs and zines. DS also got a lot of press in the soap opera magazines and teen magazines of the era.

Agreed, there *should* have been an UNCLE fandom back then. I did my best to find it.
:-)