The Zine Directory
The Zine Scene
not just the literature and cassettes, but the religions, politics, controversies, attacks, and imbroglios. The working of a networks
The ‘zine scene’ blossomed in 1984. By this date, the publishing network sported its own ‘home-grown’ luminaires, idiosyncratic commitments, and representative tendencies. Before this period, there was no discernable unity between self-publishing micro-communities, and not long after the mid-point of the 80s decade, the scene grew to such lengths that it would be impossible to find a criteria could be used to index its entirety. As a meta-network of smaller self-publishing scenes, the zine milieu was more of a broad-based milieu than a subculture. The flavor of its heterogeneous was related by one publisher who described the zine scene as a ‘dada-base [sic] of unabashed kooks, bludgeon artists and literary jackals, swaggering young intellectuals typing until doomsday their letters of correspondence, nurturing a literature on which governments might fall, and our bodies be unbound.’
While it is important not to overlook the significant events that emerged from the zine scene, at the center of this literary milieu was the self-published small-circulation photocopied fan magazine, or ‘zine’. Borrowed from SF fandom, and, more recently punk, the zine format was profound in its simplicity. Fine arts training was rendered unnecessary as the morning newspaper was replete with images that could mixed with clippings from magazines to from bizarre and mesmerizing collages. What more, as a result of the limited distribution of most zines (despite their listing in FF, some zines could have a circulation numbering in the tens) and a prevailing anti-copyright sentiment, it became a custom to reprint images and texts from other zines in one’s own. Equipped with images and text, one need only ad an editorial introduction, perhaps a polemic and a poem, or a listing for a local punk show, and one was ready to publish their zine.  For the standard, multi-page, black and white zine, a publication run of fifty would be no more than ten dollars. Many have rightly commented that the rise of this subculture would have been impossible if it were not for the technological advances in document reproduction. While SF zines had been produced for decades on mimeo and ditto machines, the equipment was expensive, the process necessitated technical expertise, and the work was labor-intensive. Two breakthroughs in publishing facilitated the production of personal documents in a cheap and expedient manner: desktop publishing and the explosion of franchise copy centers. By the mid-1980s, software companies offered a range of typesetting and printing options for the personal computer hobbyist. And for those who were not able to afford such elaborate home computing set-ups, the mid-1980s also saw the explosion of all-night, self-service copy centers that offered reasonable rates for the duplication of documents. The process of duplication, or ‘Xeroxing,’ became a standard aspect of the zine scene, so much so, in fact, that the process of making a zine came to be known as ‘Xerography’ in some circles. These major technological advancements in print culture facilitated a boom in self-publication. Furthermore, for those who publishing taboo or otherwise outré material, a pseudonym could be used to rent a PO box for a mere 35$ a year. The entire enterprise was incredibly cheap, and thus accessible to those who lack the economic, social, or political means to have their voice heard.
The ethics of this scene were distinct, though familiar to anyone who had participated in the zine world of SF fandom. Regarding compensation, it was truly rare to find anyone who entertained the delusion that their publication would be a lucrative endeavor, or even self-supporting. In fact, it was most common to distribute your publication for ‘the usual,’ which meant, either, a noteworthy letter to the editor, a zine in trade, or an essay or artwork contribution to the next issue. As one zine maker put it, zines were exchanged on the basis of ‘complementary unilateral gift-giving,’ and for those with less ideological scruples, the price of one dollar, or enough to cover printing and mailing costs, was customarily employed. There were no thematic boundaries within the zine scene, and, in listing as many zines as possible, the range of topics presented therein was nothing short of encyclopedic. That said, three common tendencies that can be traced. First, zines were punk’s chief literary modality. So while the zine scene did not encompass punk in toto, the two subcultures overlapped a great deal. Although, the zine writers involved in punk were often highly critical of the movement, particularly in regards to its Leftist politics, the perceived conformity amongst its ranks, and its cooption by mainstream culture. John Crawford’s Baboon Dooley cartoons stands out as representative of this critical, albeit embedded approach to punk. Similarly, the zine scene became the central literary domain of anarchism in America. Anarchist was the de facto political affiliation of the zine scene; however, it too was subject to intense criticism on account of being too constraining, and ideologically dogmatic. Spiritual reformulations of anarchist philosophy grew like mushrooms after the rain in the zine scene, with The Church of the SubGenius and Discordianism being the two most ubiquitous. Indeed, one could not pick up a zine without seeing an essay written by a self-proclaimed Doktor, Pope, or High Priest. The sheer eccentricity of the anarchist philosophies developed in the zine scene were sufficient to ignite one of the most heated exchanges in recent anarchist history, rivaled only by the feud between Bakunin and Marx. As explained shortly, the spiritual and ontological anarchisms that took shape within the zine scene revolutionize modern anarchist thought. The third common tendency was a connectionto SF, either through fandom or merely an enthusiastic reader. Like punk and anarchism, SF was both a central reference point for the zine scene, and yet also the routine subject of scorn. As may be obvious at this point, combative prose, polemics, and spirited diatribes were the norm in many zine publications. The range of topics covered in zines combined with the lack of censorship made the zine scene a perfect venue for ‘untimely meditations’ (or plain impudence) and those who wished to refute them. (add a note about religious enthusiasm, and rants being that)
Individualists think class theory is a pseudo-science
The title of the zine Closet Penguins offers a view into how zine makers saw themselves. The term is derived from the behavior of penguins confronted with a body of water possibly inhabited by predators. The penguins in the back continue to push the ass forward until the penguins in front are forced in. If the penguin surfaces, then it is safe and the rest follow. Zine editors are the penguins closest to the unknown waters of the political, spiritual, and sexual imagination.
different types: personal zines (perzines), and group zines which were akin to barn rasing.
the zine scene was a greenhouse of exotic ideas. Amongst the most influential was situationism. Cultivated by groulets in the Bay Area and NYC, it was anarchism, and then since the zine scene was intimately tied to anarchism, it became the defacto political sensibility. Admst its wild popularity now, it is easy to forget that it was cultivated in this underground network.
“collective and collaborative methods are necessarily a
part of reconstituting a revolutionary movement because such methods are
not only means to the end of revolutionary transformation, but are already
implicated in the ends to which we struggle.”
if there is a politics, it is anarachism, usually situationist influenced. black, underground, p.184
Both thematically and aesthetically, labels like punk, queer,
anarchist, and magick do more to misrepresent the material within
the zines than categorize them, as each of these elements were
routinely reconfigured in any number of ways throughout the
network. This is clearly true for Chaos Magick publications like
Salvation Army and Kaos, both of which were embraced by both
anarcho-queer individuals disenfranchised with what they saw as
the commodification and banalization of homosexuality as a fixed
identity, and anarchists whose esoteric worldviews ran afoul of
their atheist materialist comrades.9 Certainly, the zine scene was
an exceptionally fecund network in regards to the crosspollination
of radical politics, illegal sexualities, and esotericism,
and as such stands as “an undiscovered continent” of primary
source materials for scholars of contemporary anarchism, cultural
studies, and esotericism (Wobensmith, 2012).
Greer, Christian, p.171
within the zine scene there was- Conspiracy, weird religions, and Post-Situaionist politics,
Known as the Situationist International (1957-1972), this international (but Paris-based) group of writers, philosophers, and artists sketched a theory of alienation that proposed a social revolution that exceeded anything in the Leftist imagination. Emerging out of the French avant-garde milieu, the Situationists styled themselves as the intellectual inheritors of Dada, which initiated the assault on the absurd banality of modern life in the first decades of the 20th century. The Situationist International was formed by the merger of two smaller groups, the Lettrist international (most prominently the film maker Guy Debord and his wife, collage artist Michele Bernstein) and the International Movement for an Imaginary Bauhaus (which included the Asger Jorn and Giuseppe Pinot-Gallizio). Throughout its existence the Situationist International was rife with internal disputes, denunciations, and schisms (of the group’s seventy members, forty-five would be expelled before its liquidation). The predominant disagreement was between the political theorists and utopian aesthetes.Despite this division, the Situationists were united in their demand for ‘the realization and suppression of art,’ which meant rejecting the art industry in favor of using artistic expression as a means of self-creation, or at least social agitation. In its most developed theoretical form, the ‘realization’ of art was akin the revolutionary transformation of life into a series of ever-more liberatory ‘situations’.
The group combined Marxist dialectics with Wilhelm Reich’s character analysis in their totalizing rejection of modern society, which extended to the ideologies of its apologists and opponents. At the heart of their movement was the assertion that society conditioned its members to be spectators who live vicariously through commodities. The primary theorist of the Situationist International, Guy Debord (1931-1994), used the term ‘spectacle’ as a label for the multifaceted process by which society conditions its members to be little more than passive consumers. The spectacle could be reduced down to a specific form of false consciousness wherein the social relationship between people (and even to oneself) is mediated by the images produced within the present mode of Capitalist production. In the words of Debard, the spectacle ‘is not a mere supplement or decoration added to the real world, it is the heart of this real society’s unreality.’ Often described as the ‘totality,’ the spectacle exists as the affirmation of choices that have already been made, be they political, characterological, or existential. Against this tyranny, the Situationists extolled the virtues of refusal, sedition, and general disrespect for authority manifested across a spectrum of ‘anti-social’ behaviors. Above all else, they promoted the concept of the ‘revolution of everyday life,’ which encompassed every behavior that created open-ended situations in which prefabricated personas give way to imaginative co-creation. From the start, the Situationists valorized rebellions, insurrections, and revolutions as the ultimate means of overcoming the spectacle. The Siuationists were fortunately enough to see their theories validated during the General Strike that brought thousands of Parisian worker and students to the streets in the May 1968. Inflamed by their work, Parisians pained Situationist slogans across the walls of Paris; it was the Situationists’ finest hour.
Leaving aside the zines dedicated solely to expounding Situationist praxis such as Bill Brown’s Not Bored!, the assumption that the mechanisms of oppression were embedded in the conventional mentality and behavior was standard. While there was a Situationist influence present in SDS chapters, as well as groups like Black Mask in New York and The Nameless Anarchist Horde in Chicago, their influence in the zine scene can be traced back to the Bay Area in the 1970s, where a handful of Situationist ‘grouplets’ took form. Among the most active at this time was the Council for the Eruption of the Marvelous, Contradiction, Negation, Bureau of Public Secrets, League of Concerned Commies, Point Blank, Council for Conscious Existence, and For Ourselves, who work consisted of reading groups, poster campaigns, and self-publishing. Notwithstanding their reputation for constant infighting, the Bay area Situationst groups were able to exert a considerable influence on anarchist theory. This began as early as 1970, when the Detroit based publisher Black and Red, along with the underground anarchist newspaper Fifth Estate, published Situationist writings, including the first English translation of Debard’s Society of the Spectacle. While there was an implicit Situationist influence on punk (which became evident in the punk zines of the late 1970s) it was explicit in anarchist milieus, for example in Jay Kinney’s Anarchy Comics, as well as Black’s The Last International (both of whom had personal contacts with the Bay Area Situationist group For Ourselves). Another aspect of this in their pioneering use of postering. The Last International should be understood as participating in this tradition. By 1983, the Situationist critique of everyday life was among the most salient perspectives in the zine milieu; from anarchists to occultists hailing them as inspirations.
It is telling that the most popular zine in the zine scene was a directory, and not the official organ of a movement or faction. The centrality of FF perfectly reflected the fact that the zine scene was a decentralized, horizontal communication network. Based on self-produced media, the zine scene provided amble opportunities for aspiring radicals to find the ‘other mutants’ they were looking for; however, this amateur information economy was also unstable. Longevity was indeed a rare trait. Zines are ephemeral in every sense of the word, though that is not necessarily a mark of quality. Though, in terms of quality, a handful of high profile zines did emerge from the scene. Unlike zines based on a particular subculture, movement, or ideology, these zines took the scene itself as their subject matter. The most notable of these included Donna Kossy’s False Positive, Rev. Crowbar’s Popular Reality, and Jim Keith’s Dharma Combat. While the ‘core’ of the zine scene remained FF, these zines represented the native turf of the intelligencia that had developed among the self-publishing milieu. Like FF, Inside Joke, and The Stark Fist of Removal, these zines were all associated with both Discordianism and the Church of the SubGenius, and played host to their best representatives. Along with recognizable Discordians and SubGenii, these zines also published material by groups like Dadadata (Ed Lawerence), Anti-authoritarians Anonymous (John Zerzan & Dan Todd), Association for ontological anarch (Peter Lamborn Wilson, James Koehnline), The Last International (Bob Black), and Minitrue (Zach Replica & Gerry Reith). Like FF, False Positive, Popular Reality, and Dharma Combat were all compendiums containing links to the zine scene; however, unlike Gunderloy’s voluminous directory, these zines only showcased the most provocative, intelligent, or amusing material in circulation.
As mentioned, Situationst writings functioned as the baseline for antiauthoritarian thought within the zine scene.
Ontological anarchism and Situ are both about consciousness, breaking out of prefabricated consciousness.
While arguing that chaos ontology and Situationist philosophy are essentially the same would be grounds for intense debate. What is undeniable is that some of the most prominent figures in the zine scene found the two philosophies to be entirely compatible. Behind this remarkable level of compatibility is the fact that the Spectacle is a perfect name for the false consciousness that obscures chaos. Whereas Discordians and SubGenius utilize the neologism ‘Fnord!’ as a convenient means of identifying the mental constraints that define the ersatz reality of ‘the Conspiracy,’ they could just as easily employ Situationist language concerning the Spectacle. Furthermore, the existence of the Spectacle (conceived of as the realm of false consciousness brought into being by the current means of production) suggests that an immanent domain of absolute potential, chaos, existed just beyond the strictures of convention. Indeed, Thesis 9 of Debard’s famed La Société du spectacle  could just as well have been written as a justification for the Church of the SubGenius’ veneration of “Bob”: ‘In a world that has really been turned upside down, the true is a moment of the false.’ The rejection of prefabricated roles in the name of anarchic self-creation unifies both groups, and explains their shared aversion for Leftism.
Least it should be concluded that the two were identical, or even companion ideologies, their dramatic differences must be pointed out. The Situationists reviled the Beats and hippies. Allied with the European avant-garde tradition Situationists would have undoubtedly spurred acid consciousness as another form of ‘bourgeoisie mystification’
Dobbsheads, the word ‘Fnord!’, as well as Emperor Norton were enshrined as the shibboleths of the zine scene as a result of the ubiquity of Discordians and SubGenii within both the aforementioned groups and zine publishers. Being non-hierarchical religions, though, meant that the appearance of these symbols did not denote the presence of a party-line, but rather, they represented an endorsement of the uncompromising individualist ideology that lay at the heart of Discordianism and The Church of the SubGenius. The preoccupation with meritocratic individuality within the zine scene allowed for the elevation of a small number of participants to the status of ‘demigods’. Referred to as ‘Xerox saints,’ these individuals came to embody some of the most salient aspects of the zine scene.