How did you get involved with zines and small press culture in the first place? What zines or zinesters served as inspiration?
This is one of those things that makes me a little sad because I can’t for the life of me remember how or exactly when I first came across zines. What I do remember is this… I had recently made the move to Bendigo about the time that I’d started looking for publishing options for my first novel. Somehow zines were part of the mix in my investigations, and it was love from there. The first zines I managed to get my hands on were all inspirational in their own ways. ‘The Nutella Cookbook’ showed me how you can truly follow your bliss in regards to picking zine topics. ‘How to Write a Mills & Boon-esque Bodice Ripper Novel’ was not only hilarious but was the zine that, in a way, gave me ‘permission’ to write about what I wanted, how I wanted to write about it. ‘YOU’ and Alex Wrekk’s ‘Stolen Sharpie Revolution’ were special inspirations on both sides of the physical spectrum of zines, encompassing the diversity that I love in this world.
You recently posted your hundredth zine review. That’s amazing! You’ve reviewed so many great titles, could you highlight a few of the zines that really resonated, or moved you?
Thank you. The 100th review certainly snuck up on me. It’s hard to highlight just a few zines because their variety lends itself to there being a lot to love. ‘Every Morning’ will always have a special place in my heart because it encompasses so much of what I love about the zine experience. The paper and printing are of high quality, the art is lovely, and it is all about morning routines. I don’t know about anyone else, but there is something so private, almost vulnerable about those first moments of our days that sharing them in a zine seemed especially beautiful to me.
Along those same lines, ‘Guest Informant #1’ was an experience for me. It was all text – a conversation between two people. Another private moment, really. I don’t even know anything about the music scene or being in a band, yet I found myself engrossed in this ‘everyday moment’ that felt small and yet so important at the same time.
I think the most zines I have reviewed of a single series comes from Pieces by Nichole. I just reviewed #11 and summed it up with: “For me, the Pieces series continues to be everything I want in a perzine in both aesthetic and content. Nichole makes me think but doesn’t lecture, and I always feel welcomed in rather than forced to watch from the outside.”
What’s the deal with the zine ninja?
Zine Ninja would like to know what the deal is with existence. I think he’s going through a little existentialist crisis, but he says it doesn’t matter.
You’ve previously wrote about how zines intersect with mental health awareness. What are some of the advantages or disadvantages of using zines as therapy, in your opinion?
I have said this many times, and I imagine I’ll say it many more: One of the most valuable pieces of knowledge is to know one isn’t alone. I’m sure it will be different things for different people, but that one thing is by far the biggest advantage of zines as therapy for me. I released Don’t Call Me Cupcake 2 at Melbourne’s Festival of the Photocopier. It’s about all of my fears, including my fear of phone calls. A few days after, a woman I’d never met contacted me to let me know that she, too, had the same fear. I was utterly gobsmacked to find out that I wasn’t alone. That I wasn’t the only person in the world who is like that. It’s a smidge more difficult to be hard on myself about this when I know I’m not the only one.
Beyond this, there are a host of other advantages, including finding support in neutral people/places, discovering new tactics for dealing with various situations, and being able to express yourself in a way that is an act of creation rather than destruction. When you have a mental illness, it’s so easy to destroy yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. To take those thoughts and feeling and create something is a truly beautiful thing to be able to do. The one disadvantage that pops readily into mind when it comes to zines as therapy is getting stuck in one place for the sake of the art. It’s the whole ‘do creatives have to be disturbed to create’ sort of argument in that I would hate to see someone so caught up in where they are and using zines as a means of staying there – or starting to feel like being in that dark space is the only way their zines can get any sort of attention or feedback. I don’t mean to say that we always need to be moving forward or even that mental health issues can be moved past. My own primary diagnosis – bipolar disorder – is one that is for life. What I mean to say is that I wouldn’t want anyone to think that not using mental health management skills and tools was the only path to creativity.
You review zines online and also self publish the old fashion way. Some of our friends seem to look down on blogging, or using social media, as lacking in authenticity or legitimacy. What are your thoughts on this?
This is where I reveal that I am a professional fence-sitter who should have ‘why can’t we all just get along?’ tattooed somewhere on my body. I completely understand why some of the zine community would look down on blogging and things that are of the digital world. I have my own biases and preferences in that direction in that I only review physical zines. Yet I ‘distribute’ zine reviews and commentary through digital means. I’m sure that, in some circles, that probably makes me a hypocrite. On the one hand, I understand how blogging, social media, and the often-sneered at ‘e-zine’ can be an affront to the zine community. It’s not simply about words; it’s about expression. Part of that expression is choosing cardstock or copy paper, glue stick or double-sided tape, stapling or sewing. I can completely understand the view that, when you create an ezine or even write a review digitally, there is a tactile quality to the process that is lost as compared to creating something physical.
On the other hand, I know I wouldn’t have the relationship with zines and the zine community that I have now without my blog, my Etsy shop, and so forth. There are a number of people I simply wouldn’t know – and a number of people who have even said to me that my blog was their first introduction to zines. Online avenues make it easier for people, like me, who get very nervous about stepping into new circles. ‘Lurking’ has its purpose. For me, it all blends together in a strangeness that I am, frankly, nervous to question. I attended my first zine festival because I reviewed a zine that I found in a physical distro, contacted that zine writer online who then invited me to table with her. Zines themselves will always be a physical act of creation to me, but it’s by embracing both the online and the offline that I am taking in everything I can in regards to the zine community. I accept the reality of the situation and use what is available to me for the sake of connection. If that makes me less authentic for doing so, I’m afraid I’ll have to accept that as well.
Interest in zines and zine culture waxes and wanes, going in and out of fashion. There seems to be a resurgence of interest in zines as of late. What do you attribute this to?
I think it could be a number of things, or the combination of all of them, really. The near-instantaneous way of many things in the world today lends itself to a certain kind of patient creation that involves more tangible things than a keyboard and a screen. Something to work on and work toward. There are also a lot of people who are hurting over a world that they see is in trouble and feel powerless to help. Or feel like they have some ideas but need some help to accomplish them. To me, all of this adds up to a lot of people having something to say but wanting to say those words in a way that is something different to throwing them out to be torn apart on the internet. Something that can have more meaning, thought, and feeling behind it. (This is not to say that the entire internet is like this, but it’s certainly easy to feel that way.)
Where do you see zines and zine culture evolving over the next 5, 10 or 20 years?
I feel like such a small frog in the pond that I hesitate to comment on the larger community or culture. I’m not sure that I know enough about where zine culture has come from to know where it could go. I can only really go back to my thoughts about the previous question. Unless people start feeling like they are being heard, their art/expressions is/are being seen, I can see the times we are now in being the foundations of something that will grow even larger and more encompassing.
Where should zinesters send their work to be reviewed by you?
My address for the rest of 2016 and early 2017 is: Nyx / PO Box 786 / Bendigo Central, VIC 3552 / Australia I will be moving at some point mid-ish 2017, though, so it’ll be best to check the blog for my most up-to-date address.
What’s next for Sea Green Zines? Any upcoming zines, or other projects you’d like to highlight?
When it comes to Sea Green Zines, I am dreaming big. There are so many things that I want to do that I have a hard time deciding what to do next. In the short term future, though, I am looking forward to releasing Dear Anonymous 5 before the end of the month and Don’t Call Me Cupcake 5 in the next month or two. Otherwise, I want to concentrate on updating every aspect of the website, from my listing of distros to a page with an ‘International Zine Event Calendar’. So whether you have a letter for Dear Anonymous 6, a distro you’d like me to link, a zine event for the calendar, or something else, please don’t hesitate to get in contact.
Nyx is a zinemaker, zine reviewer, zine admirer, and all around zine fangirl living in Australia. She likes to keep things on the positive side, so you won’t find rip-apart reviews or that sort of thing at her site Sea Green Zines. When she’s not ‘all about them zines’, she likes baking, PC gaming, and roaming around Australia with Zine Ninja.
Zine Ninja has yet to share details about his life before he came to be Nyx’s friend. He prefers to live in the moment.