Longform

Zine-ophobia

Page 3 of 5

One is a bedroom--there is, in fact, a bed among the debris. The other room contains, among other things, a legless kitchen table, an ancient Apple computer with a keyboard missing the number 3, mounds of paper, a battered copy of the Rolling Stones album Their Satanic Majesties Request and a book titled Shamanism and the Esoteric Tradition.

This is Blake Ford Hall's office.
These two rooms are the nerve center of a zine titled Wide Awake, and though they might seem too chaotic to produce anything more than grime and headaches, to Hall and his staff of five, they are a yeasty bog of creativity.

Hall, 25, is a student, a fully ordained reverend in the New Age Community Church of Phoenix and self-proclaimed "Editor and Nocturnal Emissionist" of the three-year-old publication. The zine is 600 photocopied issues strong each quarter--the biggest readership being out of state--and is filled with information on topics from paganism, sex, psychedelia and music to New World Order and conspiracy theories.

Where some zines are fairly linear in their subject matter (guess the thrust of San Francisco's Taste of Latex), Hall tries to cover as many bases as he can. "I may look like a hippie or whatever, but I've got a mind, and I feel that most of the people in my age group do, and a lot of zines aren't supplying what we want," he explains with the kind of zeal that makes for a fine reverend.

"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.

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Peter Gilstrap
Contact: Peter Gilstrap