I published another zine last week. It’s a bit of a throwaway thing, an experiment, an attempt to get back to writing. I deliberately did not make this something I would try to sell or distribute. I wanted to focus solely on writing and producing something that would take my focus and time. If my writing was running and this was a couch-to-marathon thing, this zine was like getting off the couch and walking around the block. And it worked well.
I like making zines. I think one of my biggest distractions with writing is focusing too much on what sells, what people want, what’s expected of a book. Also, working on a book takes forever and I don’t get feedback until sometimes years after I write something. Making zines just for the sake of making zines alleviates both of these. Back when I first got free access to photocopiers at my corporate job in 1995, I started Air in the Paragraph Line so I could copy dumb stories and mail them for free to a dozen or two friends. I didn’t care about the layout or the format or anything else, because I wasn’t trying to get stuff in Barnes and Noble. At the apex of this, I was putting out a zine every month, and I loved doing that. I would drop off a big box of envelopes at the PO, and within a week, people were emailing me, telling me what they liked.
Another reason I love zines is they are tactile, physical objects. There’s something about getting a zine in the mail, opening the envelope, holding the little booklet in your hands. There’s a certain joy in paginating a stack of copied pages into individual bodies, folding them in half, stapling them, counting up the number you made, stacking them up and getting them ready to stuff into envelopes. I’ve messed with e-zines and posting PDFs and whatnot, and it’s just not the same. Creating a newletter on Substack or writing a blog like this is its own thing. Reading a physical book is another. And it’s even better when you’re holding an object that you know the author held, folded, stapled, ran their fingers over the spine. It’s a direct connection between author and reader.
So, back on the horse. I couldn’t find my long-arm stapler, but I did find my (fake) bone folder to fold pages in half. I did the layout in Apple Pages this time, laid it out in portrait and pasted in a bunch of crazy graphics as backgrounds and asides, mostly screenshots taken from badly scanned PDFs on the FBI’s FOIA page, things about UFOs and cattle mutilations and how to build fallout shelters and perform tracheotomies on the battlefield. I spent a lot of time messing around with that stuff and it was a lot of fun. It reminded me of the time me and Ray messed around in Photoshop 1.0 when it first came out, in the Mac lab in the Fine Arts building at IU. They had these Mac IIfx machines (“wicked fast!”) loaded up with an insane amount of RAM, dual monitors, color printers, drawing tablets, Sytek drives, and everything else. We spent a few hours just chopping up Anne Geddes pictures of babies, and it was an overwhelming amount of joy just working on nothing, playing and having fun.
Some of the writing in this zine was old stuff from automatic writing going back to 2016. I think one of the pieces was something cut from Atmospheres in 2014 during the final edits. The actual writing was more of an afterthought. 5000-some words, 20 pages, double-sided and folded in half. I’m not selling these; maybe if I do a few more (and that’s the plan), I will bundle them up in a book. That’s not the point. It’s not about selling it. Hell, my name isn’t even on the front cover. It’s just about creating.
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Pro tip: I don’t know when this happened, but Adobe made it much easier to print stuff like this. I used to have a labored process of laying out folded-in-half booklets, where the first landscape page for a 20-page zine would have page 20 and page 1, and the flipside would have page 2 and page 19, and so on. Huge pain. Now I can make a PDF that’s in portrait orientation, pages 1-20 in that order. Acrobat will turn them sideways, shrink them down, and paginate them so it’s 20-1, 2-19, 18-3, etc.
There’s a trick to this, though. If you shrink down 8.5×11 pages, the trim will be all off. So anyway, here’s what I did. (Note that this assumes you have a real printer to print the master.)
- When you do your initial layout, make a custom page size with no margins. File > Page Setup, I made one called “half-letter” that was 7.14 by 11 inches. (My math may be slightly off there.)
- Write the zine. Make sure your number of pages are a multiple of four.
- Print to PDF, double-sided and make sure scaling is shut off.
- Open the PDF in Adobe Acrobat Reader (not Preview.app or some other knockoff PDF reader.)
- File > Print.
- In Page Sizing & Handling, select Booklet.
- I think all the default settings will be right. You can flip through the pages in the preview to the right, although the preview sometimes looks junky. (For me, I had Booklet subset on “both sides” and Binding as “left.”
My right margin on odd pages was a bit truncated, so maybe that’s my math. Also I could not figure out how to print to PDF with this feature. https://github.com/rodyager/RWTS-PDFwriter might do this for you, but I haven’t tried it.
Oh, and if you’re on a Mac, Apple Pages has a mode called Page Layout mode. Instead of working like MS Word (ugh) it behaves more like Pagemaker used to, where you put in text flows and hook them together and resize them, and it shows at the end of a flow if there’s more text and you need to add another column or box or resize things. Back in 1993, I did Xenocide 5 in Aldus Pagemaker 4.0, which was the gold standard for desktop publishing back then, and was absolutely amazing in a world where a lot of people in the labs where I worked were still on the cyan-screened Wordperfect 5.1 for DOS. It’s a great memory to be back to juggling colums and placing images behind them.
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Also, programming note that this page is back, with a list of everything I’ve written. It has the awkward issue that many of the things on there are not currently published. I’m working on it. But I’m currently at the start of another writing project which I can’t talk about, but I’m excited to start actually writing again. I’m off the couch, but I’m still walking.
Oh, and if you read this far and you didn’t get a zine, drop a line and send me your address. I’ve only got a couple left, but if not this, I’ll send the next one.