Eat less, exercise more, kick the crack, start a "zine. It seems one thing Kinko's has in common with producers of nicotine gum and low-carb snacks is a significant spike in business. Just three months into 2006, shelf space at record and book stores has become scarce due to a flood of new local 'zines.
Just as all squares are polyhedrons but not all polyhedrons are squares, not all magazines can be called 'zines. Or something like that. I never was very good at trigonometry.
According to Wikipedia, "A 'zine-an abbreviation of the word magazine-is most commonly a small circulation, non-commercial publication of original or appropriated texts and images. More broadly, the term encompasses any self-published work of minority interest."
That's a decent definition, though many would argue that "'zine" is more correctly an abbreviation of fanzine, and the medium was an offshoot of science-fiction and pulp fanzines that flourished early last century. History-minded folks trace the roots further back to Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" and beyond, perhaps to when Ogg carved "Mammoth Slaying Quarterly" on some cave wall.
I'm not one to criticize those whose New Year's resolutions involve delving into the exciting world of self-publishing, as January gave birth to the first issue of my own attempt, Fast Times Issue One.
Publishing one 'zine hardly qualifies me as an expert. Paul Williams' Crawdaddy started in San Diego in the '60s and evolved into the first music magazine-yes, predating Rolling Stone. For two decades, local musician Mike Stax has published Ugly Things, a periodical ode to "Wild Sounds From Past Dimensions." Aging punks reminisce over their dog-eared and tattered copies of The Daily Impulse, Loud and Clear, Black Market and Subculture from the '80s.
Larry Harmon has published one of San Diego's finest examples, Genetic Disorder, since the early '90s and Scott Puckett carved an indelible mark in local music history with Sick to Move later that decade. Puckett left town, but still publishes an excellent webzine at www.punkrockacademy.com.
San Diego is also home to The West Coast Zine Collection, an archive of 'zines preserved for posterity at San Diego State University. The collection is curated and maintained by Cristina Favretto, the school's head of the Special Collections and University Archives and one-time proto-Riot Grrrl 'zinester.
Some of the most interesting and heartfelt examples have been produced by homeless teenage punks and obsessive nutjobs with questionable writing skills. Most 'zine publishers have no formal education and few resources beyond the desire to throw something out there.
My own interest in 'zines may have developed when I was a kid and I'd pick up tabloids published by separatist gun freaks at the local bait shop. Luckily, none of the views stuck with me, but I did hold onto the idea that everyone has the right to say something and the ability to unleash it upon the masses.
Fast Times marks at least my third attempt to publish some sort of magazine and the first one that has seen print (the remnants of an earlier attempt are still online, for better or worse, at www.swaggermagazine.com). I consider Swagger a failure because, while Internet publishing is a viable and perfectly honorable option, I'm old-fashioned. I wanted something people could hold in their hands, laugh at on the bus or leave on the back of a toilet seat. I dreamed of nice, pretty printing but, when the time came, just couldn't risk throwing my whole student loan into something that would most likely end up lining a birdcage.
Like most independent publishers, I am mostly driven by ego, obsession and high-falutin' idealism. It was also to save my sanity by providing a much-needed outlet. I make part of my living as a freelance writer, but have found most of my writing lately to be short stories, vignettes and oddly-written bits that CityBeat music editor Troy Johnson shoots down. CityBeat has limited space and, understandably, its editors aren't convinced they should fill it with tales about the time my girlfriend and I got stoned and drove 60 miles east to Winchester to buy a rooster.
After years of talking big and acting little, in early January I set the impossible goal of putting something-anything-together for an annual event in Las Vegas called "Punk Rock Bowling." I spent a day rehashing old tables of contents that were destined for 'zines that never saw the light of day. Then I called in some favors and started writing. I decided to focus the first issue on Las Vegas, of the people I've met there who more resemble literary characters than actual human beings. And other stories that I thought someone on a bus might read before lining his bird cage with the issue.
After getting all the content together, I sat down late one night and dusted off the rudimentary design skills I picked up in junior college. Three sleepless nights later I was at Kinko's, blowing what little food money I had for Vegas to make copies.
An invaluable lesson in 'zine-making is to always know what you need. After getting home from Kinko's at midnight, I realized the loose sheets comprising 100 copies of a magazine mean nothing if you don't have a stapler big enough to tack 'em together. In the 11th hour, I modified a plastic stapler with some bloodied fingers and a steak knife.
The first issue is poorly edited. Xeroxed pictures never look as good as you hope they will. The last two pages of the comic came out pixelated in the first print run. And other associated disappointments.
Now I'm two weeks behind my own self-imposed deadline to have another one done. No matter how much time, effort and money I put into it, Fast Times will likely never make a penny. I cringe when I watch people thumb through it. But then they laugh a little and I feel better.
Maybe they'll use it to potty train an adorable puppy or maybe they'll reminisce over the dusty copy they find 20 years from now. But I sold or traded enough in Vegas to stay alive. Plus, thanks to Fast Times, a few hundred people know a lot more about hookers who take coupons.
I'm beyond satisfied with that.