By Nadja Martens
It was late in the night, or rather early in the morning that my mother and I arrived at Penn Station. We walked into a deadly silent large room with wall to wall hard wood benches. There was an old woman laid against the arm rest with her luggage neatly surrounding her, a younger woman I assumed was a nun who was guarding her like a pit bull introduced herself to us. She asked us to watch the old lady as she went to catch her train and we agreed. With nothing but time on our hands all we had for entertainment was to converse. We ate chocolate covered espresso beans, discussed world issues, and eventually our discourse led to her tote bag. It was filled with stories, books, things that could of been the making of a zine if she had been born in a different era. She had no idea of the existence of zines, but I believe in a way we were able to be in good company of a “verbal zinester”.
My mother on the other hand was in perfect timing with the emergence of zines. Not to say self publishing was not ever done before, but I think there is was a certain birth of zines, and she was there to start her own. Now, 16 years after she started her zine, I have followed her footsteps as a second generation zinester. Its been a different struggle for us. My mother (China Martens) started her zine The Future Generation when their was little to none radical parenting zines made by single mothers. She was inspired by my birth and felt marginalized as well which lead to her wanting to create a supportive community for alternative parenting. Now the numbers of zines dedicated to being a mother skyrocket. The community she speaks of is apparent, although still in need of growth.
My struggle has been to find my voice amongst all the other zines, to be offbeat, and separate from my mothers shadow. After all there is always that feeling a child has to establish a distinction between themselves and their parent, that is what I have tried to do with my zine. Luckily, our zines have differed greatly for the simple fact that I am not a mother. Although I get a lot of feedback from people who have read both our zines, and they say I write a lot like her.
For the most part as a young teen I always rejected the zine community. I wanted to fit in, be like the cheerleaders and be popular. Over the next 7 years I started to grow up and separate myself from those ideologies. It was not until I dropped out of high school at sixteen that I felt I had something to say, and whether or not people wanted to listen I needed to put it out there. The name came to me from a message board where a group of girls were discussing the history of dildos. Originally I wanted my zine to focus on the lesbian community and the title Dildo was too perfect to pass up. I realized then I had a voice on many other issues and put the tag line “A Zine with ADD” under the title to let people know my zine had no real topic. Now working on my third issue, I’ve been consistent with the idea that my zine should cover topics of sex, politics, and above all humor. I throw in a story here and there about a film festival or concert and I have the perfect formula for my zine.
The Future Generation was created before the age of technology, before blogs and live journals. To put that in perspective, the only way to get information across was by paper, by zines. If the Internet had been available I’m sure at least a small group of people would have chose cyber space for means of communication. However now, with all this fast information available to me, I like many others still choose to make zines. To make a zine now you would almost have to be somewhat old-fashioned. Even if I can just email someone who buys my zine, I would rather write them a letter. It is so much more personal and fun to write. On the Internet people tend to write like they speak, throw grammar and punctuation out the window and embrace illiteracy. In a letter more is expected, and so much can be observed from handwriting. So this is major difference between my mothers generation and mine. Her generation had to make zines to communicate information, my generation chooses to despite other possibilities.
In 1984, my mom lived in a warehouse that consisted of living quarters and a underground zine library. It was the largest amount of zines together she had ever seen. Now the Baltimore County Cockeysville Library branch has opened a zine collection, and they host zine readings as well. This is just the beginning of recent changes in availability of zines. The expansion of knowledge about zines has made it possible for people in the general public, not just the alternative scenes, to explore the world of zines.
There is something about getting your zine out there that is a lot like drug dealing to me, not that I have experience at that. I’ve had to find people to distribute my zine, I’ve waited outside my old high school to find old friends to turn on to my zine, and when I’m lucky I get a person or two who gets involved with the process. My mother first gave her zines to her friends as well, because although it was about creating this alternative community for children, raising the future generations should not just be a concern for parents. After all it takes a village to raise a child. China sent her zine to FactSheet Five, and I to Slug & Lettuce and Hip Mama. This is a timeless effort that I do not think will end, and that is finding your audience. Being as young as I am, my obvious audience is my fellow teens. However its crossed into so many different groups I begun to realize that zines are ageless, sexless, and classless.