When I was 16 I left high school, sick of the drama that came with it, and enrolled in independent studies. Because my new school schedule, which entailed only a few meager assignments and one in-class meeting a week, was considerably less challenging and time consuming than “real” school, I was suddenly bestowed with long, luxurious weekday hours to do pretty much whatever I pleased.
So naturally, being a teenage girl, I started a zine. I called it Octopi are Jellyfish and I spent most of that year doodling with thin-tipped Sharpies, clacking out idealistic prose on my electric typewriter and making free photocopies of all my efforts at my part-time job at an insurance company (yes, I had a more grown-up job at age 16 than I do now).
Soon enough, one corner of my room was filled up with the tools of my endeavor—piles and piles of papers, old rub-on letters, and all kinds of odds and ends overflowing from boxes and filling up onto my walls. And then it was my mail box that overflowed, as I started sending zines back and forth with faraway pen pals.
I would argue that zines were sort of like the predecessor to blogs, only like most “old” things, they took more energy and creativity to produce. Sure, anyone with a pen and a Kinko’s card could (and still can) make a zine, but the resulting aesthetic is always going to be cooler and more distinctive than any template-driven blog. But it’s the accessibility of both formats, the fact that anyone with the time and the urge can be a self-published writer, artist or photographer, that unites the two methods.
I called it quits after three issues of my zine, but continued to collect them and spent around five years doing zine reviews for Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll magazine. I hate to say it, but the majority of the stuff I came across over the years was mostly just photocopied garbage, and I got kind of burned out on the whole zine scene. But I tried to save the better ones, some of which I’ll probably keep forever.
I rediscovered a huge stack of old zines in the corner of my bookshelf this morning and got a little nostalgic for the medium, both as an art form and a mode of communication. Here are some photos I took from some of my favorite zines, including some shots of Octopi are Jellyfish. As far as zines go, I love anything from the standard black-and-white photocopied stuff to the more fancy, glossy-paged printed mags.