Let Us Now Praise Sluggo
Somewhere in a box of old Raul's posters and yellowed clippings of then-current events like Sid Vicious' death, I have one copy of Sniffin' Glue, the notorious English zine that chronicled the rise of punk. In that box are assorted other zines: Xiphoid Process, Seattle's Chatterbox, Western Round-up, Plan 9, Monthly Chat, Honolulu Babylon, ContempoCulture, Oasis, Oo-La-La, Baton Rouge's Skinner Box, and other relics of the day plus Alcohol Drugs & Driving, Peek-a-boo, Bikini Kill, Apathy Trend, RockrGirl, and other more recent efforts. There are also brittle copies of Slash, New York Rocker, Search & Destroy, and various voices in print from the Summer of Hate, which I have lovingly hauled literally thousands of miles over the years, pissing off more than a few husbands and boyfriends along the way. Love me, love my lifestyle.
In my heart of hearts, I am a zine person. I love the screwy layouts, the bad jumps, the misspellings, and poor grammar but mostly I love the attitude. Zine makers are on personal holy missions to educate the world at large through miniscule subversions of the press, and I can't help but support that unconditionally. In order for someone to actually produce a rebel product like a zine, that person has usually experienced an epiphany that drives him or her to want to shout it from the mountaintop. Or at least the nearest sympathetic record store.
Since that Do-It-Yourself attitude is the most important ingredient of zines, why would anyone need to buy a book to tell you how to start a zine? Yet Start Your Own Zine by Veronica Kalmar (Hyperion, $9.95 paper) purports to do just that, offering well thought-out, comprehensive advice to aspiring zine editors and publishers from the former managing editor of Seattle's The Rocket. The problem is, if you follow Kalmar's advice, you won't have a zine, you'll have a nascent corporate publication -- Hyperion, the publisher of Start Your Own Zine, is a subsidiary of Disney. How subversive is that? Moreover, the extreme Seattle-centric nature of the book is of little practical use -- in the appendix of outlets listed, four of 13 locations are in Seattle -- not much help if you're in Augusta, Georgia, or Boazman, Montana, or Port Arthur, Texas, and have something to say.
This isn't to say that Start Your Own Zine doesn't offer practical advice, it does; but the advice is more suited to wannabe Details or Vibe publications. The person who is such a moron that he or she need to reads a book to tell him or herself how to start a zine, definitely does not need to be publishing one. Attitude, scissors, paper, a typewriter, and access to a copy machine -- yes. I think even computers take away from the DIY spirit of zines but there's not much choice there. But when zinesters are encouraged to concern themselves with style manuals and DPI counts, something will be lost in the translation, and that something is the rebel spirit.
Call me biased but Sluggo! was the best zine I ever saw -- in love with the Huns, trashing Standing Waves, and rejecting nearly everything else. In its four- or five-issue lifespan in Austin, Sluggo! forever changed the way I viewed music as well as writing. Now that's the power of the underground press.
-- Margaret Moser