Zine-ophobia

"Granted, the sexual stuff and the gory stuff is interesting, but it's being done everywhere. We wanted to put out a zine that treated the reader like they had some intelligence. I don't want to criticize other zines, but I feel they expect the reader expects the same old thing, so they do the same old thing."
Wide Awake offers anything but the same old thing. The ninth issue contains an interview with a witch, dense but thoughtful pieces on love and the politics of sex, plus poetry, album reviews and a run-down of Irving Wallace's book The Nympho and Other Maniacs. The few ads are for businesses with names like A Magickal Place and Lady Sprite's Cupboard.

The zine has the cut-and-paste look more common to the genre than the slick format of Grind; up until Hall's recent $200 score of the Apple relic, every bit of layout was done by hand.

But it's that homegrown quality that is part of the attraction, not just to readers, but to contributors. Most zines don't project the impression that a bunch of snobby editors are in charge, just aching to mail out rejection slips.

"Most people who have been our best contributors have been people who have been sitting on their writing or their art for such a long time because they thought there was nowhere they could get their own break," Hall says. "I think that's the big attraction--they know it's a smaller scale, there's more likelihood of being published and the people who put them out are on a more down-to-earth level; maybe just friendlier."
Freedom may be just another word for nothing left to lose, but to zinesters, it translates into the ability to publish the thoughts of the common man, unfettered by meddling ber editors and the politics of advertisers.

This fact is not lost on Blake Ford Hall. "Like with the Waco incident, a zine would take more time and give you the opinion of what people on the street think about the thing," he states, "whereas Time immediately gives you the big, evil messiah on the front page. Our propaganda, we'd rather it be true."

@rule:
@body:Dear Bandhu,
You seem like a pretty cool guy. I always look forward to Attitude Problem. Your religion issue is pretty cool. I personally don't have any reason to believe in God, simply because the world is terrible. If there is a God, I don't think he should be loved or worshipped because he doesn't love us. If he did there wouldn't be racism, poverty and starvation. Do you believe in God, Bandhu? By the way, I'm grounded right now, so write me.

--Letter to the editor of Attitude Problem

Behind the Calvary Bible Church in Prescott is a small building bearing a sign that reads "Salusa Glassworks." Yes, it's a glass-blowing studio, but it is also the home of the zine Attitude Problem. The editor, publisher and chief blower is a 34-year-old fellow named Bandhu Scott Dunham.

Attitude Problem (A Multipurpose Nonconformist Rag") has been around since 1987, perhaps not too long by mainstream standards, but eons in zine years.

AP is a truly impressive piece of work: 16 broadsheet pages, produced thrice yearly, of intelligent writing on music, other zines and political, physical and spiritual conditions of mind and body in general. March's issue, No. 16, contains (in addition to the standard music, skateboard and zine features) an extensive interview with a natural healer, an absorbing article titled "Scars, Heroes and the Meaning of D.I.Y.," plus poetry and short fiction. Though the publication has a few contributors, Dunham, who admits to being a "frustrated writer," does a major share of the work.

This zine is quite a project, and one that can't be done without funding. Dunham accepts many ads, but says they only "covered about half the printing expense of the most recent issue. It costs about $1,000 to print it; we printed up 6,500 last time." The zine is free in Arizona, $2.50 elsewhere.

Whether you put it down to zine-biz experience, life wisdom or plain love of the medium, Dunham is a living embodiment of grassroots zine idealism, a guru of doing-it-yourself to benefit everybody. Listen and he will tell you many things.

"This is the information age that we live in, and zines are a great vehicle of communicating information between people who are fringe," says Dunham. "The fringe of society is where any kind of growth happens; the core of society is kind of dead. . . ."
Though Dunham is no teenager, he sees his role--and the role of his zine--as a beacon to budding iconoclasts. "I see nonconformity as a central issue of modern life," he says. "Creativity is so stifled in this society, and the energy of kids is mostly about breaking out of that, which is something I like to support and something that I get a lot from. Nonconformity is about creativity; it's about moving forward."

What better way to move forward on the highway of nonconformity than in the vehicle of a zine--and Dunham has seen it work again and again.

"Zines are worthwhile if for no other reason than the fact that someone cares enough to stick their neck out and say what's on their mind," he offers. "A lot of them aren't very skillfully put together, a lot aren't even well-thought-out, but every now and then, you get some funky-looking zine, some kid in high school putting something out. There's a lot of brilliance out there, and a lot of people put it in zine form because no one else will listen to them. They try saying it to their parents or teachers or their friends and they just don't get it, but they put it in a zine and send it out and they get feedback. A zine is only one step above a note to a friend that you pass in class; if you make two copies of it and pass it around, it's a zine."
Any underground publication is, by definition, a labor of love. And Dunham wouldn't have it any other way; he takes great care to keep the ethics of Attitude Problem pure, and to keep commercialism at bay.

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