Curious: The Hannibal creators seem like they’re such fans of the fandom that it seems like it would make sense… I think I would have been more surprised if Fuller hadn’t bought a copy.
Aimee: Yeah. He backed us. I saw it on the list at about midnight one day. I called everyone I knew. It was one in the morning, and our poor neighbors, I was screaming, and calling everyone I knew on the phone.
Curious: That’s the coolest thing ever. I mean how could you even imagine, back when you’re starting the project, that Bryan Fuller would support your project?
Aimee: We weren’t going to make it public, or whatever, but I freaked out, and I sent out an email because somebody had joking, in a message, been like, “You’ll let us know if Bryan backs the book, right?” So I sent out an email, and I just got like 50 emails back of our contributors being like, “Ahhhhhh!”
I think that was great, because that was like the third week when we were all ready to hit the floor. We were done, and that was quite the pick-me-up.
Curious: You pulled off something pretty phenomenal. I’m so excited for this book.
Aimee: Thank you so much. I’m glad. It’s probably going to go officially to print tomorrow. January and February are technically kind of rest-ish, before things get nuts and I have to personally address and ship 3,000 books. It’s not not doable. We’re renting a storage unit, and I bought a thermal printer, which is to print postage.
Curious: That’s the kind of thing where you want to invite all your friends over and be like, “Go to it!”
Aimee: Oh yes. We have a lot of people who are like, “When it comes time to ship things, give me a call.” I’m like, “You’re going to regret that. Hell yes, you’re getting a call.” Don’t worry, I’ll lock them in the storage unit with five boxes of pizza and four bottles of wine, and it’ll be fine.
Curious: You’ve started your own company now. Bad Influence Press.
Aimee: Well technically I haven’t incorporated yet. That’s next, well, it’s like third on the list, kind of. The eternal list. It’s pretty much for sure, for sure. RAW was my test run to see if doing more things like RAW would be functional. I think I can safely say, that it is. RAW was like me being like, “Could I potentially do this?” The answer is, “Probably.” I was like, “Yeah, I guess I’ve got to do it now.”
Curious: You’ve talked about the promotion and preservation of fan works and culture. So are the books coming out of Bad Influence going to mainly be fandom based zines?
Aimee: Yes. I’m going to focus on printing fan works, but I was also like to do some meta, some academic stuff, some perspectives from fans. But it will all be fandom centered.
Curious: That sounds really exciting.
Aimee: I’m excited. I’m in the position of putting the wheels on while the wagon’s in motion, kind of. I’m like, “Okay, so …” There was all this stuff that I was like, “I don’t need to figure that out until afterwards.” Now, I’m like, “Ahhh!”
I have an accountant. And I have been working with Heidi Tandy of FuckYeah Copyright Law. She’s a phenomenal lawyer, and she’s helping me get my feet under me about what the legal side of doing this sort of thing would be. Also, you know, I need to finish up RAW, but that has apparently not stopped me from starting other things. Bad Influence Press will be publishing our first limited run single-author book: an all-new Man From U.N.C.L.E. fancomic written and illustrated by cartoonist Diigii Daguna.
Curious: Do you know how how often you’d like to take on a new publishing project?
Aimee: I have a day job, which is only three days a week. Life happens, shit happens, so I’m not quite sure. My goal is basically, currently I’m saying around … I’d like to publish one thing like RAW either once a year, or once every two years. I would like to be publishing somewhere between one and three smaller works a year. Again, subject to the vagaries of life. Stress. Money. Et cetera. The individual books will be run differently from RAW. Currently I’m looking at basically printing them up front, and then selling them, and doing limited runs. It’s not something where it’s like, I suddenly have to scale up and print 3,000 of it. It’s like we’re printing 300 books. When they’re done, they’re done, unless I renew with that person, kind of deal.
I will be paying people for their work and time. That’s really important to me. I’m done with the idea that fans don’t deserve money for their work, because it’s fan work. I don’t like it.
Curious: I totally agree with you.
Aimee: We actually got little to no shit for RAW, which was astonishing, honestly. I kept waiting for the storm to hit. We had a couple people be like, “Well, I’d be happy paying for printing, but I don’t want to pay the artists.” I’m like, “Knock, knock, knock. What kind of dick bag are you?”
Curious: That kind of reasoning doesn’t even make sense…
Aimee: The idea that people are uncomfortable supporting other fans makes me wonder where that comes from, because I don’t think it’s the moral vagaries. I think there’s this idea that fan work isn’t worth anything, and it’s something that’s perpetuated inside the fandom as much as it is outside. It’s very self-policing, but the AV Club comments were literally the worst of the shit we got, which is impressive.
There was somebody who was saying, “Why would I buy fan fiction? You can get fan fiction for free.” I’m like, fan fiction isn’t worthless because you don’t pay money for it. Paying money for something doesn’t give it worth, but on the other hand, something being free doesn’t mean it’s worthless. I have really mixed feeling about financial success making fandom more palatable and noteworthy. It’s like a slider bar going up with the amount of respect we got on this project.
Even from my own parents, as the dollar amount went up, the more they were like, “Is this real?” Where it’s like, I was joking over the holiday that the difference between a weird nerd and a business person is $100,000, because my dad bragged to his friends. I was fielding questions about my gay Hannibal book at our neighborhood Christmas party.
Let me tell you, you’ve never been in an awkward situation until you’re trying to explain to somebody what you made without using the words “Gay Hannibal Book”. People are like, “You made $100,000 on Kickstarter?” And I was like, “Yeah, off Hannibal dicks.” How do you tell your mom’s friends that?
Curious: It’s so true though. I have lots of thoughts about the the policing on making money from fan works. I don’t know. It’s such a sticky topic, you know?
Aimee: Like I said, people think that the options are nobody makes any money, or five people go around shaking people down for their dollars. It’s a complicated issue, it really is.
My goal publishing fan works is not to sell them as novels. It’s not to file the serial numbers off. That’s not what fan fiction is. Fan fiction is not a novel. There’s fan fiction that could be novels, but fan fiction is something that succeeds and fails on it’s own merits. Fan work is, within a community, it’s a language spoken, and a genre in of itself. I don’t need to take it outside of that for it to have value. I am basically composing a hypothesis that people will be willing to, within the fan community, support each other creating fanworks for the sake of doing … For fan works sake, basically. That fan works can sustain having money involved without it totally collapsing everything, or changing it irrevocably.
Curious: Yeah, I’ve bought a lot of fan works on Kickstarter that have blown past their goals and raised an enormous amount of money, and it seemed to be because of the demand for the artists involved and the love of the source material. I never considered not supporting them because they were fanworks.
Aimee: Also I think people like having physical things. That’s the other aspect of this. Like I said, I came at it from an art book kind of standpoint, and I had gold foil goals. Which of us can’t remember printing out sheaves of fan fiction, or making books. I remember, I have friend who used, one of those print on demand things, to print out their favorite fan fiction. Just like the one. Just the one. They shipped themselves a book of it.
Curious: Yeah I saw someone did a similar thing as a present for the creator of the fic. They printed out a bound copy, which was such a nice thing to do.
Aimee: The thing is, is that people want it. It’s great. It’s super cool. People love having things to hold.
Curious: Very true, or hug… 😀
Aimee: It’s definitely much more common with fan art. Fan art has always sold just because … I don’t know. I don’t know why that’s more socially acceptable. I think maybe because it is more socially acceptable than fan fiction inherently. By virtue of… reasons?
Curious: Yeah, I can’t figure that one out either…
Aimee: Fan books have been coming back, kind of. One of the reasons that I seemed likely that I could pull this off with Hannibal was because of the success of the Banquet book. Banquet and Kabuki. They both ran Kickstarters that made like $14k. Quadruple their goals. They did good, and they … I remember, I think Fuller Tweeted one of their projects and they were okay, and they’ve always been very, very positive about fan works over at Hannibal HQ.
Curious: You made it, and the books are coming out, so that’s got to be a relief.
Aimee: Honestly, my initial plan was like, “$16,000, that’s not that much more than other people got. It’ll be fine, no one will notice us.” As the money kept going I was like, “Oh fuck, someone’s going to notice.”
Curious: The money and the crazy press coverage!
Aimee: It worked out. It worked out. We kind of figured after Bryan Fuller tweeted about it that they weren’t planning on shutting us down. If they were going to shut us down they would have done it already.
Curious: Yeah exactly. You had the blessing from the man himself… So when does RAW ship?
Aimee: Our goal is to have them out in May. We will be having another launch party. It will be bigger and better probably. Currently the plan is, we’re planning on having it be black-tie, or as close as you can get it, because Hannibal party. Our current timeline is May. Hopefully it won’t need to be adjusted. If something big happens, I’ll be posting about it. The only thing that I can foresee possibly happening is our printer getting the files and being like, “Actually this is too sexy, and you need to find a whole other printer.” If that happens, I will murder myself, and then there will be no book to be a problem. Or I’ll find another printer.
Curious: Thank you so much for your time. It was really great getting a chance to talk to you and good luck with everything. I’m very excited about your Man From U.N.C.L.E project and all the cool things coming down the line for Bad Influence Press.
Aimee Fleck is an illustrator and zine artist with an interest in fashion, feminism, and science fiction. She is the co-founder of Bad/Influence Press, publishers of Brooklyn: A Steve/Bucky Fanzine and RAW: A Hannibal/Will Fanthology.