I and the rest of the Bwood crew will be at the Lone Star Zine Fest this Sunday. It’s free to attend, so stop by and grab a few of our mini-zines for a quarter or two.
I’m also going to have copies of Itchy Legs for sale. You can read the entire thing in a previous newsletter though if you’d like.
I think most of my friends think this zine obsession came out of nowhere, and that’s fair. Bwood is known for getting intensely devoted to something random and then giving it up. For the last two weeks, for instance, we’ve been learning Greek and have been competing on Duolingo to see who can get the weekly high score. My love for zines isn’t a new crush like Greek, though. I made and traded zines back in high school when I was a little baby riot grrl sending mixtapes to other gals I met through Diaryland. In college when I was little a baby anarchist, my zines were full of Sharpie and wheat paste instructions. As an adult, my most recent previous zine experience was fueled by spite against someone who annoyed me. My life trajectory, shown in this light, is a bit depressing, no?
Despite having once been a baby anarchist, over the years my mind has been completely warped by our culture’s Protestant capitalist morality and by the millennial sense of constant precarity. Or maybe it’s a seed that was always in me as someone who grew up poor, and it is now flourishing because I ironically have the means to nurture it. Either way I have the poisonous mindset that as soon as I begin to indulge in something for pleasure, I need to turn it into a side hustle. “If I lose my job today, how can I support myself with this new skill?” It doesn’t matter if that skill is crocheting Pokemon or identifying trees, as I learn more about it my mind has a subroutine separately calculating the financial possibilities.
This is complicated by the fact that I work in tech, an industry that purposefully tries to erase the boundary between hobby and work. For the past three years, I have volunteered running a tech conference. I love the people involved in the conference, and I believe in its mission, but I was spending ten hours a week doing unpaid work that was on some level just that—work. I was teaching tech skills so that more people could get jobs in the industry. Being able to get a high paying job is life changing, so there is real value in what I was doing. Framing it as a interest, however, means that even my “interests” are not for pleasure. Everything I did meant money for someone.
I looked around for some hobby that truly could not be monetized. I thought about things like making purposefully shitty paintings. (Frankly, that’s still not off the table.) Then I remembered my old friend, zines. Someone, somewhere might have made money off of zines. If so, those zines were probably beautiful risographed works comparable to professional art zines, or maybe an unusually popular fanzine. By definition, though, the fact that zines are poorly monetized is what separates them from “magazines.” Zines could not pervert my mind with promises of productivity. No market means that no one will try to sell me products to get better at this. No one will try to sell ads in this space, no one will pull the aesthetics of this space into commercials. A culture without celebrity. There is no master except amusement.
There is no goal to strive for… well, except to print 10 copies of something before Sunday. For zine fest.
I’d better get on that.