Sunday, May 16, 2010

About fanzines

Not to get too nostalgic, or uncomfortably so, but there was a time...for me it was back in the late '80s and early '90s, say around '91 and '92, where the world of the fanzine was my main connection to the underground writing in this country...and I'm not talking about metal fanzines, which have almost always been labors of love (and people in this country seem to love with very little self-respect or expertise), but rather the many kinds of self-produced, amateur, novice publications that would get sent for "review" or cataloging in a magazine like Factsheet 5, bubbling to the surface in wave after wave of cast-off, detritus-styled, enthusiastic overt emotionalism. Of course Factsheet 5 would list almost anything, barely daring to label or box all of these productions in loose categories...it was more of a rough-hewn guide or collections of signposts (pointing in 360 different directions, as well as up and down), and there simply wasn't any way for any single individual to track all of these productions, what they meant, where they came from, or what place they held in their creators' hearts. As a wave effect of underground literature, the fanzine movement was necessary in order to provide generations of enthusiasts (no matter the obsession) with essential avenues of communication and expression, and I suppose the basic motive of attention-seeking (no moral judgments from this attention-seeker) can not be ignored. This was all before the world wide web, of course.

Now, in 2004, so much of this energy and desire for communication and expression has been sidetracked and switched over to the internet and appears there daily in ever-shifting layers of constantly decaying segments of HTML, pulsing on and off, appearing and disappearing with an accelerating frequency. But is this any more ephemeral than the common fanzine - whether xeroxed, newsprint, or pro-printed, etc. - sent out to the vanishing (and always invisible, from the start) circle of anonymous readers/admirers? Each issue of one's fanzine sent off in little packages across the country or the world, into awaiting specter hands or the shredding mechanisms of the post office...all of those words, all of those thoughts, impressions, dreams, desires, all of those illusions. Instead of a biomass, I suppose, one should think of a quantity of brain mass, of collected thoughts and reflections, fiction, poetry, nonfiction (records of events in lives that leave no other record save in steadily-slipping memories), like Borges' Library of Babel, all of this collected, finally, in fantasies of permanence (free of ashes, so foreign to fire), all of this saved and rendered permanent, building ever higher and higher...the collective word-remains of the human race. Now since I mainly look to the electronic world to connect with the thoughts and illusions of others (becoming part of that Great Other, that Other Mind that is the eternal audience on the internet) I am out of touch with the print fanzine world, although I am sure it still exists. No culture ever seems to totally drift into darkness in this world...somewhere there are people who only look over folios printed by Gutenberg, convinced there are vintages of ink as relevant to their aesthetic enjoyment of immediacy (mortality) as fine wines or spirits. And as long as there is boredom there will be the resurrection of obsolete cultures in the pursuit of variation and diversion, the more flagrantly useless the better - or, I should say, the more valuable. But if I am being a little too cruel here in paging through my memories of fanzines it is only in order to be ironic, and laugh at my own efforts. I loved the fanzine movement at the time that I was involved with it (as I put out a few issues of my own zine, dedicated to my hateful, sanguine, and bilious poetry, back in '89 or '90, that tried and always failed to distill the gray poison of Houston), other people were engaged with it earlier or later. Many people, as I said above, are doubtlessly still head-over-heels in love with its possibilities.

One has to admit that the texts have a tactile range of aesthetic opportunities or prospects that the internet just can not offer...even just in the orientation and positioning of ink, of artwork, of cut and paste culture. Then there is the engagement with the other senses...the feel of rough paper or smooth, the size of the print, the smell of ink and materials, the scent of the packaging (I remember buying a Christian Death album in '89 or so that smelled like sandalwood...I still don't know why, it was fresh from the "factory", but that fact of course was enchanting) - which I always imagine as arising from air trapped in the folds of the envelopes and items inside them. When I was buying Earache vinyl back in the early '90s each individual album smelled differently, and when I bought Carcass's Symphonies of Sickness in the original black gatefold, for example, the slightly spicy or sweet stench of its paper sleeve and moist, heavy, thick covers (absolutely doused with ink, dead dripping) was as relevant to the final impression the album wrought as the music itself. It smelled wrong. The internet exists behind a sanitized glass screen, levitating in a vacuum...of course it just isn't the same. And where the main powers of communication or expression have been limited to visuals, images, colors, whatever catches the eye, etc. we find a corresponding concentration on focusing and developing the media the internet does allow us. Text suffers on the internet, and I recognize this fact...but I try to forget it. I tell myself there are people who still can read. I tell myself people can divorce cognition from most of the human senses, I tell myself people can summon enthusiasm or passion in a vacuum. I still spend odd moments thinking about the radiation the human race gives off, though...just the constant effluence or emanation (menstruation) of words, symbols, references, sounds, etc. I think about the void that this phenomena (all of these individual acts - each word being in itself an act and a decision, a choice) flows out of and then the void it flows back into...ears, eyes, mouths, hands, and the nothingness inside all of them. Here are more words to add to the white noise.

U. Amtey
26 November 2004
23:50 CST
NP: Mercyful Fate - Don't Break The Oath