I started all of this writing stuff making zines in junior high school. It would be difficult to overstate how much that experienced shaped who I have become. While the means of production and the channels of distribution have changed since my days at the copy shop, there are still some zines circulating. Here are a few of the standouts I’ve gotten recently.
The first issue of Andy Jenkins’ Bend zine I got was #7, which came in the mail over 25 years ago. That issue changed my own preset limits of what a zine could be, of what a page could represent, of what could be done with pens, scissors, glue-sticks, and a copy machine. His layouts burst onto the page in ways not even the magazines he made at the time did. There’s something about the constraints inherent in this medium that makes some people shine.
Andy hasn’t stopped innovating though. His last few zines buck the traditional two-page spread layout of magazines for a more stacked-and-jumbled approach. It’s a schema that works well for issue #22’s theme: rejected work. Bend: Rejected (Bend Press, 2014) consists of Andy’s rejected design and written pieces between 2010 and 2014 for such clients as Beats by Dre, Lakai Footwear, Jackass, Girl Skateboards, Hundreds, Fourstar, and Moneyball, among others. It’s a collection of case studies of how great work can still not fit a client’s needs or just fall short of expectations. No two copies of Bend #22 are the same. Each one has a different set of rejected work and includes an original drawing by Andy (mine is pictured above).
Gareth’s Tips on Sucks-Less Writing (Sparks of Fire Press, 2013), an excerpt from Gareth Branwyn‘s forthcoming book, Cyborg Like Me, and Other Tales of Art, Eros, and Embedded Systems (Sparks of Fire Press, 2014), is a handy guide for writers of all kinds. First compiled one the eve of blogging craze 15 years ago, Gareth has continued to update his tips in the meantime. Because of its ever-updating status, he calls it “a work in perpetual beta.”
The subtitle to Gareth’s Tips is “Or, Everything I Know About Writing, I Boosted from Other Writers and Editors.” Having compiled a couple of my own sets of writing guidelines, I can totally relate. Gareth taps wordsmiths and editor-types like Mark Frauenfelder (bOING bOING, WIRED, MAKE, etc.), Mike Gunderoy (Factsheet Five), Rudy Rucker (duh), Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird), Connie Hale (Sin and Syntax), and Warren Ellis’s gonzo Transmetropolitan protagonist, Spider Jerusalem (pictured on the cover). Gareth’s also been doing this word-thing hisdamnself for over 30 years (at Mondo 2000, WIRED, MAKE, and bOING bOING—when it was still a print zine!), so he knows there are no rigid rules for writing, but that there is a lot of advice floating around—some of which can help guide you to better prose. Gareth’s Tips brings together some of the best.
V. Vale’s McKenzie Wark zine (RE: Search, 2014) is the 48-page transcript of an interview between the two conducted in late 2012. Wark was visiting Berkeley and Vale invited him over for tea. The zine comes with two hand-screened prints – one yellow, one pink. Wark is on one side and Abby the cat, who also inserted herself in the interview, is on the back. Perhaps a bit a head of me, Vale and Wark got into punk early on, Wark at age 12 in Australia. From there he got into the rave scene and the hacking underground. Vale follows the thread through these interests to the future, theming the interview with the question, “Where is all this going, and how do we keep our bearings and our punk outlook and philosophy?” If anyone can follow that line of questioning to fruitful answers with experience and erudition, it’s McKenzie Wark.
So this site and all the things attached follow from my own thread of punk and D.I.Y. print work. I do still love a good zine though. There’s something to the physicality of the pages in your hand and the focus on those pages that pixels on screens don’t afford. I hope the committed few continue to make them and new minds and hands pick up the practice.
I marshal the middle between Mathers and McLuhan.
Editor of Boogie Down Predictions (Strange Attractor, 2022), author of Escape Philosophy (punctum, 2022) and Dead Precedents (Repeater, 2019).