Saturday, September 22, 2001

Maze Musing

One of last spring's projects was painting a maze on scenery muslin – 10' wide by about 17' long. Hurrah for Dharma Trading Company for having all the necessaries – muslin at cheap a yard, and paints. Having a 6' round table to work on, I did the math for path and border widths, knotted a string and stitched it into the center, giving me a measure to work from; plastic-tarped the table, and laid on as much of the muslin as I could at a time (not quite a quarter of the circle at once). I didn't see the whole piece entire until it was finished and taken up, being folded for bringing to the BACDS Playford Ball in March.
What is a Zine? Some Historical Natter...
(c) 2001 Ruth Temple

Zines, amateur publishing associations, mutual arts-and-letters swaps, and their unique vocabulary have grown out of science fiction fandom over the last 60-plus years. There are prozines, semi-pro zines, fanzines (focusing on a genre theme) and 'perzines' or personal zines that are writings of personal interest to &/or by the author. Zines are usually produced as a solo work but as often including letters of comment (LOC's), articles, stories, thoughtful essays and artwork from full-page wonders of fine-art on down through the simplest of scrawled "illos" - B&W spot illustrations from friends of the editor and subscribers.

Prozines would include your glossy, slick professional magazines that pay for writing and artwork, semi-pro zines would include industry review magazines, or zines that have gained huge followings such as Locus or File 770; and amateur, as the French use the word (done for the love of it), which encompass the perzine, which became shortened to 'zine. It's the latter that has leapt forward, still before email blossomed, with the alternative and punk scenes - as a way to self-publish a burgeoning social movement.

The Beats of the 50s did a lot of self-publishing, the civil rights movement of the 60s and various social justice movements following (gay rights, women's rights, disability rights) have all documented themselves with the written word - and there has been some small crossover with the folks using 'zine' vocabulary for what they were doing, but the crossover of language from SF fandom to the larger community/ies really took off with the early Usenet groups/BBS's of the late 70s early 80s - the abbreviative jargon that was so useful when one was typing ditto masters on a manual typewriter (imho, LOL, VBG) carried over and has been taken up by most all of us (not many here don't yet know those mean: "in my humble opinion", "laughing out loud" and "very big grin").

The concept of zines has been beautifully adopted by artists, journalists, poets, and niche-hobbyists of all kinds. I believe the reason that this genre of fan publishing spread from SF fandom to the larger community is that folks who read speculative fiction are, on the whole, interested in the whole world around them - which is why one finds singing groups and art happening among the readings, costuming events, parties and literary panel discussions at SF conventions!

One of the pieces of fannish zinedom that I'm not seeing as much in the art-zine world is the letter of comment. ::waving her finger querulously in the air:: "Back in my day" - and well before the phenomenon of email and its instantaneous communication connection, the LOC on one another's writing and thinking was the ultimate form of pen-pals - you could count on getting feedback for that short story you printed last time, hear someone else's wry pun on your comment on someone else's writing - an APA group essentially becomes a fertile discussion ground – where you check in with one another once every week or month or two.

It's even slower than writing morning pages - but the continuity is there. In these days of immediate correspondence via email, I keep an APA membership or two, just because that slow growing groundswell of ongoing conversation feeds something critical to my soul.

There are zines that have been continuously published for over 60 years. This is better than the run of several professional print magazines we all know of...

APA or Amateur Press Alliance or Amateur Publishing Association, or any combination of the above, are set up to swap a certain number of copies for a collated "disty" or distribution of those from everyone playing, with a central editor/swap mama/OE who acts as sorting and mailing agent and in many cases puts a cover and what-the-ground-rules-are intro section on the collation.

What may be true of zines:
• they have irregular publishing cycles
• one finds widely varying production quality (those slubs are MEANT to be charming!)
• they include personal writings, stories, essays, editorial rants,
• reviews, letters of comment
• they include artwork, illustrations, figures, drawings, cartoons...
• they may or may not include any (paid) advertising
• they may or may not pay for writing or art submissions
• they may be long-running publications or one-offs
• they may be general or theme oriented
• zines are a great form of self-expression

Friday, September 21, 2001

So I'm teaching 6th-to-8th graders in this afterschool program, combining writing and art exercises into a zine-making course called Pub Your Ish!
Two afternoons a week, they start out with three mood words, a timed writing exercise, and move into a topic or an art project.
You can imagine Wednesday the 12th of September.
I had learned two dance-community friends had died - Stephen Adams was a sommelier in the restaurant Windows on the World at the top of the WTC, and another morris-dancing buddy, and son of an English Country dancing family, Chris Carstanjen, was in one of the planes that crashed into one of the towers. So I was able to bring the immediacy of 'this isn't just a story Out There; someone known to someone here with you, died in this.' - which put the human side of things immediately within their grasp! We discussed their views and knowledge of the incident, what they would say to such a person who would do such a thing as this; and then made cards addressed to 'someone affected by the event' - some wrote angry notes to terrorists, or the prez, and some wrote sympathy & get well cards to victims and survivors, and both were powerfully cathartic - to me as well as the kids.

Thursday, September 20, 2001

Online communities are one place I find coonnection with old and new friends, inspiration, challenge, comfort and communication. The lists I touch base with include the English Country Dance list

yahoo groups:

French-ok - being my retired french-teacher father's daily postings of readings in french and english - a delightful sometimes whimsical outlet for his unending source of storytelling and occasionaly bursts of poetry.

artistsjournals - a place where artists who journal, or do art in their journals, meet and swap projects, ideas, inspiration, occasional journal entries, sources of stuffe, techniques and calls for art.

botmzines - where a bimonthly art-zine swap touches base.

ComparativeTarot - a wild and eclectic bunch o' folk who love the art and spirit of tarot decks. Many, many decks. Look, here's another one with an interesting twist on the imagery of *that* card! Excellent juicy archives of study and thought and mythic exploration.

I also enjoy poking about at and am very taken with the project as well as the new circlejournals yahoo group. Where cyberspace punts us back into actually making and swapping Real Things through the mail - swaps and collaborative artworks and serially-collaborative journals. Good for the soul.

I also attend to private group and family sites - a yahoo group of cousins on my dad's side of the family, named for his mother and dedicated (so far) to her descendants. It's been fun looking at the photos and old news clippings some of us had, and have shared, as well as hearing more from far-clung cousins in the past couple o' years than I have in the previous few decades. Oh yeah, that's what email and the 'net are for.
I write, therefore I post - belonging to an APA for the first time in years has brought me back to the written page and journaling in a big way this past half year. So - how much is navel-gazing, and how much is meaningful in a larger context? Dunno, but being an in-the-daylight sort of person, I've decided to put it out there, in hopes that my words will entertain, amuse, bemuse, beguile, and/or inspire other friends, family, and random strangers.