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Zines Suck
by James Hetfield

Four in the morning, and where is Matt? Sitting as his desk, pounding away at his keyboard. He was writing his 'greatest' text file ever, "anarchy elite warez end here!" At the same time, on another part of the globe, Riyu, a screwed-up Japanese university dropout was writing away at his underground zine, "The role of humanity vs. humanity." Johnny, the 12-year-old from Vermont, grinded away at his keys writing down his unique processes that, went performed, would blow up the White House in one swoop. Mike, where is poor Mike? Mike is writing bad poetry about the sand and the sun.
Which of these four should gain the most recognition? I would say the poet, because chances are his horrible poetry isn't just for the computer world. Zines are crap, folks. Always have been, always will be. Until people actually form a 'zine where they are actually writing for themselves and not a retarded "underground" audience, the work they create will not have any relevance to real time life. Let's find some classic examples, shall we?
Classic example #1: "Scene whining."
EVERY FUCKING ZINE has a criticism about the scene. Look, this is a criticism about the zine! How fucking ORIGINAL of me! It seems no one can shut their fucking mouths about the 'zine. Every chance they get, they're talking about the scene. Did you ever notice that in successful institutions, they don't whine about the scene, they whine about individual products of the scene? Take something disgustingly male; football. when was the last time you heard a football player whine about football? It doesn't happen often. but 'zine writers continually whine about the scene. It's never anything new, either, it's always the same old shit. and it gets really old and monotonous.
Classic example #2: Bad poetry/parody. Listen, if you've got a piece of poetry you've worked on for a actual significant amount of time, it is a piece of work. However, if you're printing up poems in your 'zine that are still in their rough draft form, have little or no description, only 'big catchy words' like hell, heaven, pain, suffering... well, you're helping to bring down the scene. A scene can only take so much crap. after a certain amount, it begins to drown... and that is what the underground 'zine world is doing. Drowning.
Classic example #3: Prose vs. essay Most 'zines these days are almost all essay, with very little prose, if any. If it does have prose, it's usually crappy and about little trolls that kill humans or magical penises, etc. Prose is an important element of a 'zine; it gives it a polar look. People who are really into prose (like me) might actually not skip over the essays people wrote. And people who generally read essays might read the prose as well. A good balance helps out the 'zine a lot, and very few 'zines have this balance.
Classic example #4: Underground gibber. Let's face it, ladies and gentlemen. there is little that is 'underground' about the 'zine scene. Anyone who can get their hands on a computer can write up a 'zine. Anyone who goes into #new_irc_user will probably get bcc'd a copy of Jonas or Klunk or whatnot. One of the big problems of 'zines is they all say the same things. They are redundant, and redundant they are, with a little recursive recursivity. I don't think there are many people who could write anything new about hacking and phreaking, and put them in a general reader 'zine. "How to eat your eggs fried" probably has been written about less than "how to blow up your dog."
Classic example #5: Eye owns joo. Why is Cult of the Dead Cow so popular? Because it is one of the few old 'zines still alive, and many talented people write for it. Does everyone want to run a group like cdc? Hell yea. Can everyone run it? nope. just like everyone can't be the Perdue chicken man, not everyone can run a popular 'zine. But everyone tries to. I know I have, way too many times. If I listed all the different gimmicks for 'zines I've had in the past, this article would be 300k long. So very few people stay together long enough to create a work of art. Will Doomed to Obscurity stand the test of time? The odds are against it. [In fact, it didn't last.—Ed.] The odds are against every 'zine, because just about every talented writer wants to run a 'zine... So the people running 'zines have shitty submissions. The writers core for a decent 'zine is usually two or three good writers (including the editor), while a great 'zine would have maybe five or six good writers. Once a 'zine has six or so great writers, we come to the next problem.
Classic example #6: I'll do it tomorrow.
Everyone is lazy these days. Zines are the antithesis of Pringles; once you stop, you can't pop. Never once in the days that i have known 'zines have i had a good core of writers all writing for the 'zine at the same time. It would be three here, three there, but never at the same time. So the talent pool was efficiently diluted. If a 'zine could effectively have a good talent pool of writers, who continually produce, with a relatively balanced amount of prose and essay, they might have a chance at having an excellent 'zine. But those products are few and far between.

This essay originally appeared in Doomed to Obscurity. Posted with permission.

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