I can’t imagine being a teenager without fanzines. I have tried, but the emptiness is palpable.
They were the purest and most innocent Xeroxed rebellion. People writing themselves into history long before Cluetrains passed through the dank suburban stations we feverishly read them on. Publishing that summarily two-fingered stiffarsed seventies sensibilities, and happened through guile and balls. Who the hell owned a photocopier, or ever even paid for paper come to that? “Oh, would you like to borrow my long-arm stapler?”
Fanzines simply took up the slack of the age – under-used machines that could always manage a few thousand extra grunts, sheaves that would otherwise be destined to memo, marker pens that would inevitably dry before they had lived a little.
Distribution (because no-one “syndicated” then) was legwork, and front. Simple economics were at play, too, cheap enough to shift them yet had to be a few cans of McEwans in it when the shoe boxes were emptied. Viral meant word of mouth, because there was nothing else. No choice of channels or traffic-boosting apps. The only stats were how many were left, if you could remember how many you had actually made before you heard someone coming down the corridor.
The rawness of the ink made them smell distinctive too, lasting long after the first greedy read. The smell almost created a taste in the back of the mouth. The paper was bone dry, toothy.
I can’t imagine being a teenager without fanzines. I have tried, but I have no proof. Nothing remains from anything I read or created. No back ups, USB’s or cloud storage. Few ever thought they were important enough to keep, they were of the time. But strong is the memory of the first kindling of a belief that I could say what I wanted, in a way I wanted. Whether anyone read it or not.
The shoeboxes were always empty, at least.