by Catherine E. Twohill
ND: Why Mimosa?
RL: Well it goes back to when we were living in Tennessee. We started Chat—the club ’zine for the Chattanooga SF Association. We did that for 40 months—before computers! We had to print it out and paste it up by hand.
NL: That got us noticed but we quit after 40 issues as the club had started to disintegrate and we really couldn’t do much more with the format we were under. Plus, it was tough doing it on a monthly basis with just the two of us working on it.
RL: While friends would help collate and provide articles and artwork, printing monthly was non-stop work. We tried to print eight or fewer pages but, toward the end, we had 24 pages. Chat was made up of author interviews, commentary, and continuing comic strips. All of that eventually led to burnout. We wanted to try something else that was a little less structured. We wanted to publish articles rather than be a focal point for news. So we decided to do more of a genzine and we started Mimosa. “Why Mimosa?” you said—back to the question! Well, we were still living in Tennessee and we wanted a one-word name.
NL: Something that was indicative of the south but not necessarily from the south—just like us.
RL: Kudzu was already taken and Julep just wouldn’t do, so we decided on Mimosa. It’s a tree, it’s a drink and, after Issue #25 while at the ’99 Worldcon in Australia, we found out it’s also the second greatest star in the Southern Cross, thus bringing the name back to the science fiction aspect.
ND: Okay, so… Why Mimosa?
RL: We were doing it for preservation reasons. There were many, many stories that were fragilely preserved in the memories of the older fans—many of whom have since passed away. There was a real need for preservation for some of these stories. That was one of the reasons we started Mimosa.
ND: How many years were you publishing Mimosa?
RL: January ’82 was our first issue so this would be our 21st year but there was a five-year gap between Issue #s 1 and 2. We published thirty issues in total. Once we got going again with Issue #2, we were averaging about two issues a year.
ND: How do you pay for it? There’s no advertising!
RL: Nope, no advertising. We paid for it out of our own pockets. We did charge per issue but near the end the price we were asking was less than the cost to publish each issue.
ND: Why no advertising?
NL: It’s a fanzine! You never have advertising in a fanzine!
RL: Well, some fanzine’s do, of course, to cover costs. But we wanted to be in control. We definitely did not want to make it a commercial enterprise with compromises. Plus, if you have advertisers, you need to stick to a timely print production schedule.
ND: Tell me about it…
NL: The same reason we didn’t take subscriptions, either! We never knew when we were going to stop it. If we took subscriptions, we’d be beholden to fulfill them.
RL: So, we never took money for more than two issues in advance.
ND: How many copies did you print for each issue?
RL: At the last part of the run, we were printing 500 copies and we’ve never done more than that. Early on, we printed about 200-300 copies each.
NL: Because we mimeo-ed them all ourselves!
RL: Up through Issue #16, they were stapled by us, too. After that, we farmed it out to a commercial printer.
ND: How have you recruited writers and artists?
RL: It’s hard at first, that’s very difficult to do. You have to start with the people you know.
NL: Yep, you lean on them heavily!
RL: You have to be a pest in a nice way. But nobody’s going to contribute if the product doesn’t look attractive and if it doesn’t contain decent writing. The longer you go the easier it gets as your reputation starts getting around. Networking at conventions is key.
NL: Every now and then, out of the blue, someone will say, “Hey, I’ve got an article for you.” Sometimes they actually fulfill on that promise!
RL: We were usually planning for 20% more content than we could print as often, work failed to arrive. We’re not paying people for their work so there’s only so much we could do.
ND: Without a formal print schedule, how did you set your deadlines?
RL: We’d let people know about three months in advance. Before email, lots of snail mail went around.
NL: We have people who don’t have email still! One fan in particular refuses to get email—and he’s a lawyer! Also, lots of our contributors are older.
RL: But that’s a nice thing about an open-ended schedule. We used to say we’d publish as soon as we had about 36 pages of usable material. After about Issue #12 or 13, the page count went up and up so that rule went out the window. Our last issue was 68 pages and one of our “Best of” issues had 108 pages.
ND: Let’s talk about your cover art. I’ve noticed that the two of you have been woven into the fabric, so to speak. What’s that all about?
RL: I don’t know how this trend started but, with the last four or five issues, all the artists decided they were going to put us into the cover.
ND: So, Mimosa’s taken that long ride into the publishing sunset. What’s next?
NL: <laughing gleefully>
RL: Wait for the economy to improve, I think.
NL: Yeah, I was laid off in December. I was a software tester.
RL: We don’t necessarily have quite the disposable income we had before. My job with the Department of Energy is stable so we’ll be ok.
ND: If you didn’t have SF Fandom to define you, how would you define yourself?
NL: A quilter!
RL: That’s an excellent question and, to be honest, I really don’t know. When you’ve been doing it for as long as I have, it’s tough to say. Maybe astronomy?
ND: How many cons do you attend a year?
RL: When we lived in Tennessee, we’d attend about ten a year. Nowadays we attend the Worldcon, Midwestcon, the local conventions and that’s it. It takes time and energy. But we haven’t missed a Worldcon since 1988.
ND: How many Hugos line your shelves at home?
RL: This year was our sixth win. However we were nominated and didn’t win many, many times. Theoretically, we’re eligible for next year’s ballot but it’s probably not going to happen. In order to be nominated, you have to have something out by the end of the year and we ceased publication as of August.
ND: How long have you been married?
RL: This is our 30th year.
ND: Do you share your home with other 2 or 4-legged creatures?
NL: Yes, we have a cat named, of course…