Wednesday, 08 February 2017 11:10

Here be Tygres - my life & fanzines

Here be Tygres – fanzines and my life underground

I’ve been thinking about the impact fanzines have made on my life – and the result is this blog! Enjoy…

For someone who really was a Teenager in Devon (the poem isn’t an exaggeration http://www.rosiegarland.com/news-and-events/item/53-i-want-to-be-a-teenager-in-devon.html ), it’s hard to overstate the impact on a fifteen-year old geek girl of a let-off-the-leash long weekend in London.

Mid 1970s. Mum sets a friend and me up in a vicarage beyond the twilight zone of the North Circular. Every morning we take two long bus journeys into central London. My mate smokes cigarettes and swills cider like any normal teenager. I haunt Dark They Were And Golden Eyed, Atlantis Bookshop and the innumerable second-hand bookshops around Soho. It’s a four-day sojourn in a tatty oasis for the starved mind and spirit. As well as the books and comics I expect, I also discover fanzines.

They flick an entirely different switch in my imagination.
I’ve been making magazines since I was a kid, but now see I’m not the only nerd in the world to spend evenings with glue and a stapler. Even more groundbreaking, the zines cover interests I’ve learnt to conceal in order to limit my bullied isolation: horror movies, vampires, sci-fi, punk, weird illustration, weirder literature. The Gothic, in short. For the first time in my life, I see myself reflected. I encounter an underground community of the imagination. I know I’ll never meet any of these fellow-weirdoes, but I am not alone.

I return to the mix of beauty and soul-death of rural Devon (miles north of the artsy bit around Totnes), grit my teeth, make it to 18 and escape. In my new home, Leeds, one of the first things I do is check out the 2nd-hand / radical bookshops (a tip ‘o the pen to Austicks & The Corner Bookshop). As well as reviews in mainstream music papers such as Sounds, Melody Maker & NME, I now feature in fanzines that interview my band The March Violets (eg Rendezvous, Attack on B-Zag, The Angels are Coming, Whippings & Apologies – best zine name ever IMHO). We even produce our own Violets zine. High production values, or handwritten, it doesn’t matter. It’s all part of the vibrant build-your-own record label / indie scene of the early 80s.

Another hiatus follows when I quit the UK to work in Sudan from 1984-1986. In 1987, semi-fanzine independents Shocking Pink & Spare Rib inspire my move to Manchester where I find a thriving LGBT scene. However, it soon becomes apparent that being a dyke AND a Goth is a step too far. I have no problem making the connections between goth, punk and post-punk, fetish, feminism, queer, vampires and weird literature but I’m damned if I can find a queer pal who’ll go to The Banshee with me. As for my penchant for leather trousers, the less said about that the better. I can come out, but not about everything. However, late 80s feminism is a different blog.

It seems I can still feel isolated in a massive city, and I learn what it’s like to be marginalised within a marginalised community. I need help, and once again find it in the fanzines of the late 80s / early 90s. One particular pleasure is Dominic Regan’s graphic Dom Zombi story in AARGH (Artists Against Rampant Government Homophobia ) which drew everything together so succinctly. Others include: For the Blood is the Life, Bats and Red Velvet, The Velvet Vampyre, Udolpho and early issues of Skin Two (produced on Tim Woodward’s kitchen table). Listings of penpals, society meetups and clubs provide me with a flesh & blood community, not simply one of the imagination. All of it pre-internet, off the map, under the radar. I even meet a bisexual Goth.

Jump cut to the present day.
I’m excited and encouraged by the rebirth / renaissance of Xeroxed, glue-and-collage, passed from hand-to-hand zines. There’s a fresh new family of folk learning the liberating impact of turning off search engines so your keystrokes can’t be tracked in order to tailor more bloody advertising into your feed. To quote Keith Lowell Jensen: “What Orwell failed to predict is that we'd buy the cameras ourselves, and that our biggest fear would be that nobody was watching” https://twitter.com/keithlowell/status/347741181997879297

Only last year I met a woman in Athens, Georgia, who knew my work because she’d come across Pink Bomb, a CD fanzine produced in Manchester by the radiant Ste McCabe . Our words don’t need wifi to span the globe. And if you can’t hold something in your hands, it doesn’t really exist.

Fanzines are still there when the battery runs out on your phone. When some yellow-haired dictator decides you can’t Google ‘that’ article any more. Fanzines can’t be deleted at the swipe of a button. So - Buy that ancient typewriter. Get stapling.

© Rosie Garland 2017‏