Looking back with fondness at the zine scene. From the vantage point of the photocopier.

April 29, 2011

A recent casual look through a random magazine revealed a surprising fact: teenagers still produce zines.

My exposure to these self-produced/self-photocopied literary offerings has been limited over the years. That’s primarily because they are usually placed in music stores and I haven’t had much call to visit such an establishment since the Baby Jesus invented iTunes.

We encountered a number of zines when I worked for the Langley Times, inevitably included in the portfolio of every kid looking for a summer intern job.

Looking through them was akin to experiencing a bad acid trip. At least that’s what people told me.

The type would swirl and dance around the pages like the hard copy version of ADHD. Font styles would come and go like a hungry cat through the door flap (a production trait known as “using every crayon in the box.” The writing would be juvenile in scope and style, the artwork crude, the production values pretty much nonexistent.

And yet . . . and yet you could practically smell the teenage spirit emanating from each and every page.

I actually admired the tenacity that went into these desperate attempts at sharing the writers’ opinion with the Great Big World. It’s not easy to create in a vacuum, without any clue at all whether your words are finding an audience. The 20th century equivalent of writing blogs, I suppose, and I’m guessing a lot of those zine-iacs are, this very instant, elbowing me aside as we all compete for our share of the blogosphere.

My favourite zine of all time was called Douche. Partly because of the edgy name, partly because of the superior quality of the writing, but mostly because one of the three 16-year-old girls who produced it was my daughter Brooke.

Brooke is my first-born child and, if reading The Hockey News to her when she was only days old somehow did not manage to impart my love of Canada’s national winter sport, I was pleased to see she did inherit my love of writing.

I asked Brooke about the Douche days and this is her reply: “I loved that time of my life. When you’re 16, every idea you ever have feels like it’s important and must be heard by the world NOW. Having a zine gave you a voice. I also love the DIY spirit. It still exists now, but with less crude tools.”

She then directed me to an entry she’d posted on her blog (www.missteenussr.com) where she notes, “If our goal was to create the most frustrating thing to read in the universe, job well done! Typed up nuggets of anger, love, fear or outrage printed off and Scotchtaped to pages, then copied at my patient father’s office after hours, where we’d make him tend to the printing while we wasted that compressed air in a bottle stuff shooting each other.”

Yes, I did have a small hand in the production of Douche. I would usher the trio through the back door of the Langley Times’ office, fire up all three photocopiers and have at it.

It was a smooth operation, well, except for that one time when the publisher – a pinch-faced Scorpio of a woman – walked in unexpectedly on a weekend.

I quickly explained that the girls were working on a school project and had provided all their own paper. The publisher was kind enough not to point out that, paper aside, they were still using the company’s toner and power.

“It was the most fun I had at that age,” Brooke writes in her blog. “Having a focused way of guiding my writing, so tender and silly back then, was a lifesaver and an early start to this word-strewn path I’m attempting to gallop down now.”

In the end, Douche only lasted four issues (the final cover is included with this posting). Interests changed, best friends drifted apart, and yesterday’s Most Important Thing in the Whole Universe was too soon relegated to Tomorrow’s Fond Memories.

Oh, right, that name. I’ll let Brooke explain: “ . . . Douche, as best as I can remember, was chosen because it was one of those female devices we thought most hilarious and foreign.”

Yup, that’s my girl. I could not be prouder.


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