Fans Into Pros

In response to a question from an academic, I spent an hour yesterday generating a list of pro writers who began in fanzines.

Within fandom the idea of what is a “pro” can be rather flexible. Very few people become full-time writers. And among friends, anybody who’s sold one sf/fantasy story might claim to be a “pro.” In the Sixties my local sf club, LASFS, held a Fanquet when a member sold his/her first story. That rite of passage transformed the person’s social identity from fan to writer.

I prefer to reserve the word “pro” for those who have repeatedly sold sf/fantasy stories — who have demonstrated a journeyman level of craftsmanship. In that respect I find myself in company with Dr. Gafia (rich brown)


In fandom, generally it means anyone who has been paid for a published sf story. Although, since it is in fact short for “professional,” it probably should only be applied only to those who have made a significant portion of their living by writing sf.

Surprisingly, there isn’t that great a difference between the minimum fannish definition – anyone who has sold a story – and the minimum professional qualification for a writer to join SFWA as an Active member, which is “Three Paid Sales of prose fiction (such as short stories) to Qualifying Professional Markets” for $250 in aggregate.

Incidentally, I am not including my list of pros-into-fans because I don’t want people who aren’t on it to feel bad. (I’ve made bloggers feel bad enough this week.) Besides, there are only so many Ray Bradburys who belong at the top of this pyramid, and while Mike Resnick has bought a story or two from an awful lot of fans over the years, there is no urgent reason to widen the bottom of the pyramid by adding our names.

6 thoughts on “Fans Into Pros

  1. Exactly! That one story Resnick bought from me I call a “semi-pro” sale, and I spent most of it buying extra copies of the collection to give to my relatives.

  2. And there are quite a few others who are not authors, and have had successful careers as SF professionals, who started out in fanzines or other fannish activities. Without any effort, I can think of at least three editors at Tor, plus other editors elsewhere, whom I knew as fans before they were pros.

  3. Now that the PRO vs FAN issue has been settled (riiiiight), do you think you could address the two remaining, attendant questions?

    When is a Fan a FAN? and
    Just what exactly is a SMoF and why would someone want to be one?

    Other, slightly less important questions remain un-addressed as well: Can one be into this stuff and remain Not-a-Fan? Is there any causal relationship between SMoFdom and BNFs? Do SMoFs represent a secret, shadow government? Are they in league with the Illuminati? and

    Just what exactly IS science fiction? (impish grin)

  4. Lynne M. Thomas and I are extremely proud that we were published in Steven H Silver’s Argentus before we became professional editors. I can’t imagine that we would have these careers without our involvement in SF Fandom and Doctor Who fandom.

  5. And what about pros like Roger Ebert, who very publicly credited zinac with helping him learn how to write, and became very successful writing other things than sf?

Comments are closed.