APAs: Pre-Internet Communication
August 2, 2010 5:38 PM   Subscribe

Before the internet, nerds communicated through Amateur Press Associations (APAs). Members wrote and photocopied their individual 'zines on a subject, then mailed them to a central mailer, who collated and mailed the completed sets to all the members. The earliest APAs were founded by printers and amateur journalists. The National Amateur Press Association is the oldest, founded in 1876. Later APAs were often the province of science fiction and comic book fans. They are still around [pdf]. A lot more inside...

APAs have existed for almost any subject that has any kind of organized fandom: sports, movies, music and many types of niche or outsider communities. Some have migrated from a print format to web forums. Here is a list of some comic and science fiction/fantasy literature APAs (because that's what I'm into) that have any kind of web presence:

Alarums and Excursions: Dedicated to Role-Playing Games.

ATDNSIN-Northstar: The APA That Dares Now Speak Its Name. An APA for Lesbian, Gay, Bi, and Transgendered Comic Book Fans.

Edgar Rice Burroughs Amateur Press Association (ERBapa): dedicated to the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan.

Fantasy Amateur Press Association (FAPA): The longest running science fiction APA, founded in 1937. It is still going in paper format, and they have a LiveJournal forum. Famous alumni include: Forry Ackerman, Robert Bloch, Frederick Pohl and many others.

INTERLAC: A long-running APA focused on The Legion of Super Heroes.

Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society Amateur Press Association (LASFAPA): What it says on the tin.

Point of Divergence: Dedicated to Alternate History.

The Robert E. Howard United Press Association (REHupa): An amateur press association dedicated to the study of author Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian.

The Southern Fandom Press Alliance (SFPA): Science Fiction APA, based in the southern United States.

X-APA: We got your X-Men.

Even though they don't have a web page, I can't do this post without a mention of CAPA-alpha, the grandaddy of comic book APAs.

Some of the above pages haven't been updated in awhile, and the demise of Geocities seems to have taken out a few APA web pages. In case you are interested in joining up, the above linked .pdf has a list of APAs currently in existence as of Summer 2009. This page has links to some more APAs.

Oh yeah, there's a WebRing too.
posted by marxchivist (12 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
I'm mostly familiar with APA's from reading about HP Lovecraft, Sonia Greene, Robert Bloch, and those sorts. Thanks for the links!
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:47 PM on August 2, 2010

This takes me back to my forays in small press in the 80s. So very small that I don't know if Blue Moon even listed 'em. Some stuff I was a part of appeared a couple times in Factsheet 5, but there was never a consensus about if we wanted that much attention or not (although as it turns out, that was mostly only good for getting letters from prison convicts asking for reading material.)

American History had a fantastic article back in the late 80s about APAs, starting from the dawn of tabletop hand-operated presses that fostered the American small press movement.

It's amazing to think that people are still keeping alive some of the press titles that have been running nonstop (or nearly-nonstop) for over 130 years. There are few aboveground commercial magazines that have lived that long unchanged.
posted by ardgedee at 6:45 PM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ah, memories. I was in APA Centauri for a few years, was even CM for awhile, god help me. And because nerd-world is the smallest world imaginable, it turns out my husband knew and hung out with another AC CM, one who pre-dated me by quite a bit. Except he was in Iowa and was in Oregon.

I liked it while I was doing it but lost interest eventually. I can't tell if it's still running (the link for it on this page, above returns a 404.)

In any case I still encounter former ACers on Facebook occasionally, and that's enough for me.

Props to the folks who have kept the genre alive and engaging.
posted by That's Numberwang! at 6:50 PM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks for mentioning Lovecraft, Pope. How could I forget the Esoteric Order of Dagon?

Full Disclosure: I was an original member of the Comic and Fantasy Art APA (CFA-APA) back in the 1980's. It is for collectors of original comic book and fantasy and science fiction original art. They are still going strong, I recently rejoined. The blog is a little dusty. A little bit more on the CFA-APA here.

American History had a fantastic article back in the late 80s about APAs, starting from the dawn of tabletop hand-operated presses that fostered the American small press movement.

Some folks claim that the Committees of Correspondence formed in the British colonies in America are precursors to APAs as we know them today.

And damn, hadn't though about Factsheet 5 in years.
posted by marxchivist at 6:51 PM on August 2, 2010

This sounds so much cooler than an RSS feed.
posted by mecran01 at 7:03 PM on August 2, 2010

> This sounds so much cooler than an RSS feed.

There was a time when you looked forward every day to what might come in the mail. It was kind of like the RSS feeds of a couple really good blogs, but very, very slow, and occasionally mangled in transit by random postal workers. The waiting made every zine and minicomic that much more special, and people spent a lot of time designing and decorating and detailing everything they mailed out. Oh god. It's happened. I'm an old man.
posted by ardgedee at 7:36 PM on August 2, 2010

Oh my God, this is the coolest thing.

And of course there is one for furries.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:09 PM on August 2, 2010

I keep wanting to buy a big pile of Alarums and Excusions but not getting around to it when I have the money.

We've done a fair number of panels at local cons about how the Internet replaced APAs. LJ, for example, has replaced a lot of APA communication in Minnesota fandom.
posted by jiawen at 9:21 PM on August 2, 2010

Stipple-APA (as listed in the Blue Moon list) is still active...next collation is in 3 weeks. Hopefully we won't accidentally shoot staples at the cats.

Incidentally, I joined the APA due to a panel at Minicon (40?) that stated that "no, APAs aren't dead yet!"

And, yes, some of us do still go ridiculously detailed on our zines. do you know how long it takes to make 20 slightly variant scrapbook layouts? answer: too long
posted by Electric Elf at 10:18 PM on August 2, 2010

Before the internet, nerds communicated through Amateur Press Associations (APAs)...

I thought pre-internet nerds communicated by phone-phreaking.
posted by mreleganza at 10:24 PM on August 2, 2010

> Ah, memories.

Indeed. I still have some of my LASFAPA zines somewhere. Thanks for the post!
posted by languagehat at 7:12 AM on August 3, 2010

Thanks for linking to my little directory of apas, Blue Moon Special! I should be putting out another edition this fall. Will probably become an annual thing rather than the quarterly I aimed with.
posted by h3athrow at 9:28 AM on August 3, 2010

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