Remember Zines? I Had One.

When it comes to self-publishing, it doesn't matter if your ideas are kind of stupid, because there is no editorial gatekeeper! You can just plop all those ideas down in one place, tied up in a bow of indignation and teenage moxie.

Mar 27, 2012 at 1:00pm | Leave a comment

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I missed everything cool in the 90s.

I was 7 in 1990, and being raised in Oklahoma, where any new trend or social movement takes at least 2 extra years to arrive.

I got into poetry slams (again, in Oklahoma) way after the heydey of the Nuyorican Poetry Cafe and Maggie Estep on MTV. All the music I listened to, from Ani Difranco to Babes in Toyland, I discovered after the fact. I went to a meeting for NYC Riot Grrls in New York in like 2001, where I felt fat and uncool, not realizing that the true uncoolness was having a freaking MEETING for participants in a social movement that was already over.

(I really wanted to be a Riot Grrl. Still do. That makeup! Those babydoll dresses! Uh, yeah, and the politics.)

 And, perhaps most tragically, I published a zine in 2002.

I mean, I am sure there are still people out there producing zines and some of them are probably very entertaining. But zines as a thing happened in what, the early 90s? When I was, again, 7, or 5 in Oklahoma years? I was very, very late to this phenomenon.

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Flipping through the one and only issue I managed to print is an embarassing experience on-par with reading my elementary school journal. Mostly for this reason: No one starts out as a good writer.

My first day at NYU, where I majored in Dramatic Writing before realizing I was a terrible screenwriter and deciding to double major in Journalism, the head of the department gave us this speech that I've never forgotten. The gist of it was that we were going to write absolutely nothing good for the next year, but that we needed to write all those shitty screenplays in order to get to the good ones.

I imagine this holds true for all creative fields: You have to write a bunch of stupid songs before you get to "Hallelujah" or whatever.

In publishing, the learning curve is particularly steep. There's a way to pitch for magazines and websites that takes years of trial and error to learn -- because it's all been done before, editors are always angling for fresh, new and topical. No matter how brilliant they felt at the time, I now know my first thousand ideas were kind of stupid.

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That tagline! Blergh.

But when it comes to self-publishing, it doesn't matter if your ideas are kind of stupid, because there is no editorial gatekeeper! You can just plop all those ideas down in one place, tied up in a bow of indignation and teenage moxie, and sell them for 2 dollars a pop!

So the summer after I graduated high school, I created Fangirl, intended to be a "woman's guide to pop culture," and filled it with whatever I felt like, some of which is cute and kind of funny, some of which is silly and makes me blush now, and all of which I earnestly thought was super-important and essential to the world.

From the editor's letter:

"The first idea for FANgirl started when I was flipping through a movie magazine. The front cover consisted of a topless woman, and more Maxim-y shots of various actresses graced the inside. In each movie review, they would talk about the cool plot or the main actor's acting chops and then mention something like, "Oh yeah, there's also ths really hot babe in it." ... And, consistently, when I open up a magazine about things I'm interested in, I find that the only women represented are pretty, half-naked actresses.

So what's the deal? The movie-going population is made up equally of men and women. Why should film magazines be just for men? When I started to take a closer look at the things I love: film, comedy, video games, music and all things pop culture, I noticed a real absence of female-oriented media in 'fanBOY' culture."

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I was basically the Susan B. Anthony of B movies, you guys. I was also a rare WIT, as evidenced by articles like "35 Signs Your Movie Isn't Going to Win an Oscar" and my eviscerating review of "Corky Romano."

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Not to mention my multiple jokes about the movie "Ed," clearly the height of humor to me at the time.

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A few features I think are actually pretty cute/funny include this one, about movies I liked to masturbate to:

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The opposite page included "Newsies," "The Blue Lagoon," and "Labyrinth." STILL TRUE.

I think I pitched something similar than this to Jane like, a few months ago:

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And this is so sweet because I am a precious baby feminist who writes things like, "The world of Cinema is full of cool female characters--if your definition of cool is unrealistically hyper-attractive, which is apparently a pretty common definition." Awwwww.

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On page 2, I write about Elvria, who I have been thinking about a lot lately because she really is so cool. And I promised even more "bitches, crazies, killers and biimbos" in part Two, which never came because I moved to New York for college and broke up with the boyfriend who was showing me how to use Microsoft Publisher.

But I'm glad I've still retained a single copy that can live on like an embarassingly late mosquito trapped in newsprint amber. Was anybody else into zine culture, before or after the media hubbub? Alternately, can we still be riot grrrls?