Happy international zine month

I’m getting in a bit late, since today is the second to last day of international zine month. In my defense I’ve spent this month making zines, not blogging about them. And anyway, this is a good opportunity for a self indulgent ramble about my zinemaking history.

I made my first ever zine at age seven. It was called ‘a story about a turtle’. My friend’s sister was babysitting us and getting us to make homemade books was a pretty genius way of entertaining a kid whose main interests were books and crafts. The zine was inspired by my deep love for the teenage mutant ninja turtles, hence the name.

I had another brief independent publishing phase when I was eleven and me and my friend Lisa decided we were gonna publish our own magazine. I can’t remember what the name was or how much content we got together, but I don’t think we ever finished putting it together, thanks to the Worst Friend Break-up Ever.

There’s a good story about how I was actually introduced to zine culture. When I was sixteen I really really wanted to be a journalist. It’s the kind of career that sounds really exciting when you’re an over-earnest teenage leftie hell bent on singlehandedly saving the world. So I was in the journalism class in sixth form. The main activity of the journalism class was producing the school paper. This was heaps of fun and I wrote a whole bunch of over-earnest leftie columns to publish in it.

I wasn’t writing anything particularly radical or groundbreaking. There was an op-ed about bullying, a feature article profiling students of different religions and a review of Irvine Welsh’s The Acid House. Pretty fucking benign. But for some reason my high school principal decided to censor everything I wrote from the paper. When I went to talk to her about it she condescendingly explained to me that ‘journalism is not about free speech’. That pretty much put an end to my aspirations of being a career journalist.

Lucky my friend Joshua, who didn’t go to my conservative rural high school, was around to tell me ‘you should make a zine [insert generic spiel explaining what a zine is here]. He gave me a zine called Pepper, which was an A4 sized faq about zines and how to make them. It was incredibly exciting and totally got me hooked.

For a while I tried to put together a zine with a bunch of friends so I could publish everything the school paper had censored. It was called The Buzz and I think I got as far as setting up a website for it but haranguing people into meeting deadlines and writing things they said they would was way too much work [I’ve gotten much better at it since then].

Then I put together a perzine called Hotdog Nation. The title was a reference to a phrase I’d read somewhere: ‘the hotdog is the noblest of all dogs. Instead of biting the hand that feeds it, it feeds the hand that bites it’. It was crock full of teenage punk angst, with articles on why txt speech is capitalist, why Avril Lavigne is anti-feminist, and why all sorts of other things are Bad and Wrong. I never actually made copies of it because I was so anxious about other people reading it, but I still have all the original pages in a folder somewhere.

Since then I’ve published a few of my own zines, and edited some too. So letting other people read my writing has become slightly less scary, but only slightly. I still get mad anxious every time I’m putting together a new publication. It’s awfully personal, and I write about a lot of things I wouldn’t necessarily talk to most people about.

At Auckland zinefest a woman came to my stall and asked why I made zines instead of publishing my writing online. I really didn’t know how to respond so I just kinda stammered a bit and explained that I do publish writing on the internet but that I like making zines. There’s a lot of good arguments for why printed media is still worth producing even though we now have computers and the internet. Because it’s portable and you don’t need special expensive equipment to read it and it’s a format that won’t go obsolete in twenty or even a hundred years and as a buddy of mine has pointed out, after the apocalypse we’ll all be reading zines because computers won’t be usable.

But actually I think the reason I love zinemaking so much, is that it’s an opportunity to utilize all the craft skills I learned in kindergarten which I never get to use anymore: drawing, fingerpainting, collage, stickers, stamps, bookbinding etcetera. It’s a medium that lets you combine writing and visual art, and it’s hekka fun to do.

It’s also totally independent, which means that it actually is about free speech. So in a way every zine I publish is a fuck you to my old high school principal.

Hope you had a good international zine month. Now go find a gluestick and a pair of scissors.

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