As we get ready to put out Blonde, a new zine (I say we because it’s a collaboration with a friend of mine, Raph, and his friend), on May 18th, I can’t help but think about how different zine-making is now than it was eight years ago, how different the thing that is “putting out a zine” seems to mean. Of course, this fact seems straightforward enough: eight years is a long time, comprised of different stages of life and choices and falling in and out of love with different forms and literary preoccupations and rolling with shifts in the political landscape, so of course there will and should be a difference in how zines were made then and now and these acts should mean different things. But maybe it’s equally straightforward that eight years doesn’t very often feel like eight years when you’re the one living through them. Inside the eye of the storm, things seem static. The “it” feels less like an “it” and more like a “they”: less like one big, continuous stretch of time than it does small pockets of the stuff—small lives lived once or twice a year that don’t seem to have anything to do with each other, don’t seem to make sense, don’t seem to be happening to the same person. And in the same vein, the work produced doesn’t seem to be coming from the same person either.
I started making zines in 2011. I was twenty-one and in my last few years of college and remember everyone being obsessed with the idea of alternative publishing: there was this notion of using zines to build a new system or to circumvent the existing system or to rebel against the status quo. Of course, a lot of that is still present now and I think there is something intrinsically rebellious about zine-making in that it’s taking control of the publishing process, taking the nitty gritty of such a polished process into your own, usually inexperienced hands but the main difference I feel, is that back then, a big part of the zine conversation revolved around the question of do we settle for the old system or do we fight for a new one?
And nowadays, the thing that seems to be surfacing for me, the more I work on this new project with Raph, is that we still have to fight for what we settle for.
In a world where social media has become both a necessity and an instrument that’s no longer for talking with but talking at people, we have to realize that it’s possible for entire creative ecosystems to cannibalize themselves and spit out the same things again and again at attempts to imitate whatever sells (over the past eight years, a number of mainstream, old-school publishers have also attempted to “indie-fy” or “DIY-stylize” themselves and work published decades ago, which thankfully, failed) or whatever’s “won”.
And we have to make sure that we never win without contemplating what we’ve lost. We can’t be glad about selling zines without thinking about what that selling means, what making something from something means.
The fight is no longer to choose between settling for what system’s grown around us and making something new, the fight is to keep on making things even if you might not ever topple the system. The zine in 2019, at least to me, is a way of being grateful for still having the ability to create something, to spreadsheet-done-done-done my way to making something that attempts to say something well thought-out.
All this is a long-winded way of saying that the thing I love about Frank Ocean’s music is what I will always love about making zines: we never have it all figured out but the point is to keep trying, to keep guessing.