Zine Phi­los­o­phy

WHAT’S RE­ALLY IN THE MIND OF A ZINE­MAKER?

Broken Pencil - - Table Of Contents - by Davida G. Brier

I CRE­ATED XEROGRAPHY Debt to start giv­ing back. I had been in­volved in zines for a few years, and around 1998–1999 there was a sud­den dearth of zine re­view zines. Zine World, Amus­ing Your­self to Death, and Fact­sheet Five were all MIA. In the fall of 1999, I pub­lished an is­sue of Xerox Debt, as it was then known. Within a few is­sues, about 20 peo­ple were con­tribut­ing zine re­views and col­umns. When it looked like we might have to go on­line or even fold in 2008, Mi­cro­cosm Pub­lish­ing stepped for­ward be­cause what we were do­ing and how we were do­ing it fit with their mis­sion. They have sup­ported XD for eight years now, barely break­ing even (and some­times not).

I re­cently read Joe Biel's book Good Trou­ble, about the found­ing and suc­cess of Mi­cro­cosm Pub­lish­ing. Es­sen­tially, there are three ma­jor com­po­nents — 1) Joe's abu­sive and ne­glect­ful child­hood, 2) the in­ner work­ings of Mi­cro­cosm Pub­lish­ing, and 3) a re­ally fuck­ing bad re­la­tion­ship. Un­der­pin­ning all of these is Joe's un­di­ag­nosed Asperger's Syn­drome, which is both a bless­ing and a curse. Hear­ing the abuse Joe suf­fered as a child angers me as a par­ent. Hear­ing the abuse Joe has en­dured within the zine com­mu­nity makes me an­gry as a per­son.

I, like many in the zine com­mu­nity, saw the posts Alex Wrekk made re­gard­ing her re­la­tion­ship with Joe. I read the ac­cu­sa­tions and held off mak­ing a judg­ment be­cause, to me, it felt like an ugly break-up. And who was I to judge? I didn't know Joe very well, but what I did know was that the posts I was read­ing sent off red flags for me. Oc­ca­sion­ally in our deal­ings re­gard­ing XD Joe frus­trated me, but I never once felt like he was bul­ly­ing or abu­sive. In fact, I think I was prob­a­bly the one guilty of those traits once or twice. I've re­ceived emails from peo­ple who were of­fended that their zine was even re­viewed in XD be­cause of Joe's in­volve­ment. Bear in mind that Mi­cro­cosm was a col­lec­tive when the ar­range­ment was made, and Joe was one of the re­view­ers. Mi­cro­cosm has al­ways al­lowed me full ed­i­to­rial con­trol.

I met Joe in per­son a few times and never did I get a read off him that matched what con­tin­ued to be posted on­line. Even­tu­ally, he told me about his Asperger's. It was an ah-ha mo­ment and I felt like an ass­hole for the times I got frus­trated. Look­ing back, his re­sponses were log­i­cal and my re­ac­tions where emo­tional. A few years later, we met at a book con­ven­tion and he seemed like a dif­fer­ent per­son. We talked about the changes. Fol­low­ing his di­ag­no­sis, he's worked hard to un­der­stand him­self and cre­ate bet­ter, health­ier re­la­tion­ships.

Many peo­ple have asked me about Joe over the years and my re­sponse has been, “The ac­cu­sa­tions don't fit the per­son I know. What­ever hap­pened be­tween Alex and Joe is their per­sonal busi­ness.” Al­le­ga­tions made by strangers on the in­ter­net were treated as fact and I didn't want to be a part of that. In read­ing Good Trou­ble, it has be­come clear that the al­le­ga­tions and, worse, os­tracism from our com­mu­nity al­most drove him to sui­cide. It con­tin­ues to this day. I now rec­og­nize that stay­ing quiet was al­low­ing peo­ple to con­tinue to abuse Joe, his part­ner, and the Mi­cro­cosm staff. Ironic, no?

If you have a strong opin­ion about what you have read in zines and on­line about Joe and Alex, I do rec­om­mend read­ing Joe's book as well. He at­tempts to present a fair and bal­anced pic­ture of events. What comes across is that they were bad for each other. That they hurt each other. That they are both re­spon­si­ble. Af­ter 12 years, this is still go­ing on and it is hurt­ing the com­mu­nity and those in it. If you have con­sid­ered one side, con­sider an­other. It can't hurt to hear both sides and make an in­formed de­ci­sion. Or bet­ter yet, don't pick a side at all and let some heal­ing be­gin.

Davida Gypsy Breier has been pub­lish­ing zines since 1995 and is editor of the zine re­view zine Xerography Debt. Gypsy is her real mid­dle name; she was named af­ter a fam­ily mem­ber.

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