An APA or Amateur Press Association is a group of people who produce individual pages or magazines, which are typically referred to as “zines,” that are sent to a Central Mailer for collation and distribution to all members of the group.
Long before the advent of the internet and personal computers, APAs were a way for geographically disadvantaged people to discuss a common interest together in a single forum. Although Wikipedia says the origins go back to 1976, they really took off in the 1960s and 1970s by fans of science fiction, comics, music, movies and other topics such as pulp fiction. A good number of professional journalists, creative writers and artists practiced in APAs and some still participate. Although internet chat groups have displaced many APAs, there are still lots of them out there.
A Central Mailer (CM) is the heart and soul of an APA. The CM manages the subscription lists and the deadlines to which the association works. The CM is usually responsible for chasing members to ensure maximum participation although some APAs simply accumulate contributions between deadlines and mail out whatever is available at the mailing deadline.
Where the APA requires the submission of multiple copies by contributors, the CM collates the contributions. Most APAs require the members to submit a minimum amount of material in a specified format to a specified number of mailings. This minimum activity, abbreviated to “minac,” is usually specified as something in the form of, for example: “at least two A4 pages to at least two out of every three mailings.” Most APAs also require each member to maintain a credit balance in a central funds account to cover shared reproduction costs and individual postage costs to mail the finished product back to the members.
In most APAs the CM provides an administrative report listing the contents of each mailing and any business information associated with the association. This can include financial accounts, membership information and some news items. Although most APAs have predetermined deadlines at regular intervals it is normal practice for the CM to specify the next mailing deadlines explicitly in each mailing.
Although some APAs are autocratic, most run on a democratic basis and the CM usually chairs any discussions and arranges any management meetings.
APAs that require members to submit multiple copies of their contribution or “zines,” usually set a limit to the number of members and run a waiting list if this becomes necessary. In many cases people on the waiting list are permitted to contribute to mailings and may receive excess apazines provided by the members.
So, why am I telling you about APAs? Well, because the one I belong to, Interlac is coming up on it’s 200th issue. Published 6 times a year that means that the APA is over 33 years old and still going strong! Back in June of 1976, the late Rich Morrissey founded the APA, calling it LEAPA (the LEgion Amateur Press Association); it changed its name to Interlac three mailings later. There were 15 founding members, and the first mailing was 26 pages.
Interlac was based on CAPA-alpha and APA-5, two comic based APAs. But unlike the two established APAs, Interlac consisted of fans of a single comic book come together in a single APA. So while Interlac’s form came from CAPA-alpha, its membership came from the Legion Fan Club (started by 13-year-old Mike Flynn in 1972) and The Legion Outpost (a fanzine Originally published in 1972 as the official newsletter of the Legion Fan Club, the Legion Outpost soon became the premier Legion of Super-Heroes fanzine of the 1970s, featuring contributions by fans, pros, and soon-to-be pros.)
By 1976, the Legion of Super-Heroes’ comic was a hit for DC and, with the rich Legion mythos (although some say a baggage train) giving members plenty to discuss. The membership roster grew to its 50-member limit and evolved into a community. Members met each other at comic book conventions and became real-life friends; members Tom Bierbaum and Mary Gilmore met through the APA, began a romance, and eventually married. Even more notably, the Bierbaums later graduated from Interlac to working as scripters of the Legion comic itself.
The roster, with the exception of a few stalwarts, has turned over repeatedly, breathing fresh life and bringing new points of view into the forum.
Interlac is also the “language of the Unite Planets: it’s one of those things that you have to put up with if you’re a Legion of Super-Heroes fan, just like how you have to put up with Jason if you’re a fan of the Argonauts. Interlac is the language of the future, but also kind of the language of today. That is, it’s what everyone on Earth speaks a thousand years from now but also apparently what basically everyone else in the galaxy speaks in the present-day DC Universe, which is how, say, Aquaman can have a meaningful conversation with, say, Kanjar Ro.
Now, I don’t exactly know what Interlac sounds like and I don’t know the fake history of this fake language (Okay, I just looked it up and there really doesn’t seem to be one. Wikipedia claims that it’s just a future language, but I don’t believe it) so I’m going to be dealing with it on a purely aesthetic/utilitarian level.
First off, here’s the Interlac alphabet and number system:
This character map is a bit more comprehensive than the one I used to use, which had only one symbol per letter. Until I saw the vertical-line-as-capitalization innovation I had assumed that the future was a place where everyone wrote all in caps, all the time, i.e., a place where I would be angry all the time. Instead, looking at some nearby Legion comics, it seems that most of humanity never ever capitalizes, which is both more tolerable and more understandable, as that looks like a pain in the butt.
Speaking of ass-pain, take a look at those letters. I figure that there has to be a simplified written version of this alphabet, because otherwise, these already-too-complex characters would take for-freakin’-ever to write, what with all of the little notches and cutouts and so forth. Until I remembered that Interlac wasn’t just an Earthian future-language I had figured that it was the result of font-design gone berserk. I mean, look at that ‘o’ – what’s the point of the little notch? I’ll tell you the point: to look all futuristic. Can’t you just picture some dude in California circa 2345 putting all this together in an attempt to make the place look more like the future? Now I’m forced to believe instead that the race that originally came up with these letters had some sort of collective physical or psychological tic that left them unable to draw a proper circle. But I digress.
APAs in general are not going the way of the dodo. At least not until the generation that grew up with typewriters, mimeograph machines and photocopiers all finally begin pushing up daises