I Miss Zines
In my sophomore year of highschool I discovered zines. I don’t really remember the first one I found or even what it was about, but I knew from the minute I had my hands on it, I needed to make my own. Over the next 10 years I created and distro’ed 5 or 6 different titles, banging them out on a typewriter over a few weeks and spending a night at Kinkos making copies. Before we moved to Los Angeles, I found a few old copies of Nerve TV, my first attempt at home publishing. One word: Terrible. Mostly it was Bad Religion quotes, angry rants about some girl who’d broken my heart, and recipes for vegan brownies. All of this punctuated by the words “sex” or “fuck” or “violence” that I’d cut out of my Rolling Stone magazines. I ended up doing 6 whole issues over the next year, often having friends add articles or poetry or whatnot. After highschool, I tried again. A less successful attempt this time, yielding 2 or 3 issues of MindRiot which I have been unable to locate. This is not so much of a bad thing because I’m pretty certain it was worse than NerveTV. I was only slightly older but way more full of shit. Plus, I was listening to SO MUCH MORRISEY that my friends should have been held accountable for NOT holding an intervention on my behalf.
There were some one-offs here and there. Mini issues, where after a particularly bad breakup, I’d sit in my floor smoking cigarettes, typing all night long. If you were able to put your hands on one of these Pulitzer nominees, it just might be possible to hear wailing and gnashing of teeth if you held it up to your ear. It makes me feel like a caveman when I say this, but there was no internet, or, there was, but it took so long to look up porn that no one used it. Instead, young, disappointed, angsty kids wrote zines about hardcore bands, girls, boys, politics, short stories, and what have you. Even in Memphis, zines were readily available at record shops, coffee houses, and punk shows. At the time I didn’t even see it, but it was a pretty incredible and motivated network or engaged writers and assemblers. The same thing is happening now on tumblr and WordPress. It’s a lot easier to put what you want into the world now, but, as a result, it’s a lot harder to be heard. This is great and this is terrible.
A physical thing in your hand is most often about a zillion times better than what you can experience online. The act of creating a zine, a piece of art, a book, a painting, etc takes time, skill, and a certain amount of introspection that most of the internet is sorely lacking. Not to mention…editing…pulling stuff out that isn’t as good as the other stuff. Making things fit. Curating your own collections. Things all got real grey once you didn’t have to worry about the confines of an 8×11 page, or how much it was going to cost to print them or mail them all around the country. I’m not saying things are worse–I just don’t know if they are better.
Building something you can hold in your hand that takes days or weeks and a certain amount of agonizing over is pretty excellent. Having this finished product that people can hold and pass around, crease, spill coffee on, talk about, steal from, gift to others…I don’t know. It’s just so damn romantic I’m getting all misty.
This weekend, after a long hiatus, I am starting the assembly of another zine. It will be mostly photo-related with a zero-to-minimal amount of bad poetry about girls, but no promises. Over the last year I’ve been building a huge body of work that remains largely unseen and hidden deep inside my harddrive which is the ultimate failing of digital photography. It’s all just so digital. So much hard work, not a thing to show for it. Because of the nature of the work itself, I feel like it may be better understood in printed form..even if it’s crappy xeroxed prints on smudgy paper. I’m telling you this as a way to be held accountable, so make a note, internet!
And if you’re somewhere and you run across an old issue of Mudflap, Cometbus, or Fucktooth (I mean, it’s called “Fucktooth,” what kind of asshole would pass that up?) do yourself a tremendous favor and pick one up. No bad rambling poetry, no cut and paste obscenities, just really excellent writing. Go make something this weekend! I’ll see you Monday.