Ten things I hate about zines

With the fish stand at least temporarily out of business, today was a day for doing nothing — reading zines, picking my nose, cursing the crickets outside the skylight, and taking illegal drugs to quell a toothache that wouldn't stop kicking my head.

Special offer: Any dentists, dental hygienists, or dental students are invited to trade an extraction for a lifetime subscription to Pathetic Life.

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Here's an article by Bevvy Messerantsky in the August issue of Lumpen, all about everything she hates to see in a zine: overpricing, album reviews, chatty but pointless introductions, and of course, poetry.

A few of her zine complaints seem petty to me, like "a bunch of 8½x11 sheets stapled together in the corner doesn't cut it," so next time I'll skip the staple on your copy, Bevvy.

She also dislikes zines that pretentiously dub themselves "Volume X, Issue Y" instead of simply an issue number, and I'm with her on that. C'mon, there aren't going to be "volumes" of anyone's zine. You'll find Bevvy's article in Lumpen, Volume 4, Number 3.

It's not a bad rant. She's more right than wrong, and I'll endorse most of her complaints, but Bevvy's article inspired me to add a few complaints she neglected to mention: 

① Articles continued on anything but the following page. Ugh. Here's the August issue of an otherwise fine tabloid, The Haight/Ashbury Free Press, where on pages 4-5, you'll see what appear to be ten short articles, but only four of them are all there. The other six are continued like a treasure hunt, four to page 24, and two to page 30. Of the articles that resume on page 24, three conclude there, but one is continued again to page 30. Of the three articles that resume on page 30, two end there, but one jumps to page 37. Other features bounce from pages 5 to 24, 5 to 30, 6 to 30, 15 to 26, and two from 28 to 31. There's even an article on page 34 that says it's jumping backwards to page 29, but it isn't there; instead it's continued, still headed backwards, to page 31. There's no reason these articles couldn't have been laid out one after the other, so the zine could be read sequentially, which is the way people read. 

② Illustrations plunked in the middle of the words. Instead of splitting the text into two columns with a picture in between, these zinesters force you to read right across the picture, find where the sentence continues, then jump back to the left, across the picture again for a few words, then jump over the picture again, over and over. Again, that's not the way people read. It's twenty interruptions per paragraph. I'd like to read what you've written, so please don't make it difficult.

③ Collages. Oh yes, collages were such fun in 4th grade arts & crafts, but after seeing approximately 265,000 collages in zines, it's the world's most weary art form. Won't you please put away your scissors and glue stick? 

④ Illegibly handwritten zines. Sure, writing your text by hand makes a zine feel more personal, more intimate, and that can be a great stylistic choice, but only if your handwriting is legible, like Aaron at Cometbus. If your scribbles look like a doctor's prescription, please buy and use a damned typewriter or word processor.

⑤ Illegibly printed zines. There are nifty newfangled machines that let you plug in any bizarre font face you like, but that doesn't mean you should. Nobody wants to study frickin' hieroglyphics to read a zine.

⑥ 'Surprises'. A zine arrives in an envelope, so you rip it open, and the zinester has included a thousand punched-out paper holes, or some flower pedals, or glitter to brighten your day and get stuck in your carpet and never come out. Surprise! If you're sending such surprises with your zine, you are an asshole.

⑦ Unstapled zines.

⑧ Unwritten writing.

⑨ Poetry. Yeah, Bevvy mentioned her hatred of bad poetry in zines, but it can't be said enough. Zine publishers everywhere, please check your driver's licenses. It's highly unlikely that you're Charles Bukowski or Sylvia Plath.

⑩ Anything written by the ubiquitous and uninteresting author who calls himself White Boy, and sends his lame writing to every zine on the planet.

For God's sake and mine, and for zine readers everywhere, kindly cease and desist all the above.

From Pathetic Life #16
Saturday, September 9, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

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