Neotrope Press was established in 1976 by Christopher Laird Simmons as a teenager (age 14). The part-time side-hustle company was originally known as Silver Unicorn Graphics (S.U. Graphics), then in 1987 became Mindset Press, and in 1997 Neotrope Press.
The company is perhaps best known for its genre fanzines including “The Adama Journal” in the late 1970s, and “Galaxy Class” in the late 1980s. More recent publications have included the digital fanzine offered on AOL in 1983, called “NU*REAL,” the professional newsletter on SEO, “Search Engine Intelligence,” and Simmons’ hardcover coffee-table art book “FRACTOPIA” (2008; ISBN: 978-0971055506).
As part of the overall publishing business, the Neotrope News Network was launched in 2004, and comprises a dozen news portals including: CaliforniaNewswire.com, FloridaNewswire.com, MassachusettsNewswire.com, eNewsChannels.com, PublishersNewswire.com, MuseWire.com, and many others.
The Early Years (1976-1980)
The first publication by the company was “The Comic Collectors Comic Checklist” which Simmons produced with an offset cover, and mimeograph interior pages, and providing a nearly complete list of all “silver age” Marvel and DC comic books. The novel idea of the time was you could put a check mark next to the issue number based on the title of each series (e.g., X-Men #96, etc.). Simmons took this to sell at a table at the San Diego Comic Book Convention. Sadly, he over priced it, and ended up just giving it away for free. A bit of a valuable lesson, really.
The second venture was a one-off genre publication, called “The Galaxy of Fandom” which was Simmons’ first attempt to self-teach himself graphic design and how the offset printing process worked. Published in Oct. 1976, TGOF was saddle stitched with semi-gloss paper. Technically the cover said issue #2, as #1 was a photocopied test publication nobody outside immediate family ever saw (perhaps thankfully). Articles included a round up of season two of “Space:1999,” an article about horror/fantasy actress Caroline Munro, a future review of “Star Wars” based on the 1976 preview at San Diego Comic Con, a review of “Logan’s Run” and some fanzine reviews.
Simmons’ next venture had been a planned “properly done” fanzine, called QUASAR. A little bit OMNI, a little bit rock n’ roll. Fancy color fliers were produced, original art and articles were sourced; however, at the last minute Christopher’s dad pulled the plug as being too expensive for a hobby.
Ironically, this led Simmons to start a successful movie memorabilia business selling celebrity photos, script reprints, and other movie ephemera like buttons with funny movie slogans and the like. He advertised in STARLOG and built up a very good clientele. The company was called Silver Unicorn Graphics at this time (or S.U. Graphics), based in Redondo Beach, California.
Simmons attempted to start a fan club for the new movie, “THE STAR WARS,” and called it “The Star Wars Force.” Because Chris advertised this publicly, this led to a cease and desist letter from The Star Wars Corporation.
The Adama Journal (1978)
Pivoting with the launch of ABC’s “Battelestar Galactica,” Simmons launched the “Battlestar Galacticlub” and the newsletter was called “The Adama Journal.” After two issues, Simmons abandoned the fan club idea, and switched to doing a proper fanzine, with reviews, original ficton, original artwork, and reader feedback. Simmons had learned from prior experience it made more sense to work with “dealers” at conventions, and so he printed enough of each issue to wholesale to large outfits on the east and west coasts who then in turn sold the ‘zine to convention dealers. This actually proved fairly profitable.
“The Adama Journal” ran for 13 isssues. One book, “Tales of the Galactica” (published in 1980) was actually issue #11/12, which was the bitter dregs of a failed effort to pass the publication onto another fanzine group when Simmons got out of the fan scene to concentrate on photography, design, and printing professionally full time. He did issue #13 in 1981 as a large “encore” 60 page fully offset saddle stitched effort.
The Unicorn Hunters Guidebook (1981)
With his own money to spend from the movie memorabilia business, he came up with an idea during the “Unicorn craze” of the late 1970s, to do a book called “The Unicorn Hunter’s Guidebook.” This saddle stitched book, with art by friends in the comic business, some fiction, mainly consisted of a sort of directory of all the various companies selling unicorn stuff via catalog and mail order. For this publication, Chris wrote his first press release, based on his dad’s prior experience in self-promoting his own books, and this landed Chris a 1/4 page mention in the June 1982 “Potpourri” section of PLAYBOY magazine. The 1,000 copy print run entirely sold out in a couple months (and was never reprinted).
The Music Business
During the mid-1980s, Simmons concentrated on music publishing, recording and multimedia — and this led to the music portion of his business with a profitable cassette release record label (see: Neotrope Records).
Galaxy Class (1987)
When the new TV series, “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (ST:TNG) launched, several of Chris’ pals who were far more trekkie/trekker at heart cajoled and convinced him that he should do a new fanzine. Initially Chris said “hell no,” but on a lazy weekend in Manhattan Beach, after a long bike ride, he decided he might as well try doing one just for the heck of it. The first issue sold well enough that Chris chose to do further issues, and they sold quite well.
This also led to a couple of spin-off publications, including a mild erotic themed book, “X-GEN.”
NU*REAL was a digital only publication, which lasted two issues during the nascent launch of the world wide web. It was originally offered in Common Ground Format and available for download via AOL groups, and Christopher Simmons’ personal AOL/sites web page, circa 1994. Later it was converted to PDF format once that became widely available.
Search Engine Intelligence (2003)
SEI was a short lived professional newsletter targeted to SEO/SEM clients interested in understanding how search engine optimization actually worked. Newsletter was availble in PDF format, and 11×17 printed edition by mail in 2003. A dedicated website allowed for subscriptions and downloads.
A book of original digital art based on fractals, created by Christopher Laird Simmons in 1983. Artwork was used for a Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) course catalog, appeared in the citywide Bytes of Art Project in San Franciso, and used tor a CD album cover. A coffee table book, hardcover, cloth bound, with slip cover. Full color throughout, with video DVD. Approx. 9 x 11.5 inches. ISBN: 978-0-9710555-0-6.