Letter from the editor: zines in a bleak world

Every day I wake up and I feel this funny mixture of emotions. It’s part dread and part anxiety; that kind of knot in your stomach. But it’s also a weird focus, a kind of conviction.

The world is bleak right now. There’s no denying it. We are asked to measure out our sympathies, and to cry proportionally for each crisis. We weep for starvation in Venezuela, unspeakable tragedies in Yemen, serial gun massacres across America — all while grappling with Canada’s complicity in the geopolitical chaos. That’s not to mention our paralyzing inability to reckon with ongoing colonial violence and inequality right here on this land.

And yet I also feel the fire, the urgency. I’ve never felt more committed to supporting the organizing I care about.

After Trump was elected, I even felt, for the first time since I moved here nine years ago, that it might be worthwhile to go home to Philly and join the fight. Of course, I was quickly reminded of the fights in my own back- yard: the Overdose Prevention Sites on the line, Stolen Children camps in Saskatchewan and Queen’s Park, racist police, the housing crisis, teachers fighting for the right to knowledge and respect for LGBTQ students in Ontario. Shit is rough, it’s complex, and it can be paralyzing to think about.

And somehow, we are asked to push forward with the mundane tasks of our day-to-day lives. We go to work, we see friends, we make dinner. We make art, and we manage to build resilient communities. Most importantly, we speak back to the dark clouds above.

Perhaps that’s why we see a resurgent interest in noir, the genre of bleak criminality, nihilism, and, somehow, a dark romance. As Leah Coppella argues in this issue’s cover feature, noir is coming back because once more, our political structures, our environment, our cities seem ever more stacked against the well-being of the masses. Yet, the creators using noir to reflect back society’s ills in 2018 are doing so with a new analysis around gender, race, and class that is subverting and challenging noir’s traditionally macho-white-guy underpinnings. It’s an awesome thing, and profoundly telling of the world we are negotiating.

As I try to wrap my brain around the horrors happening here and elsewhere, I also find myself delighted and surprised by the ways people resist, small and large. I had the privilege of interviewing more than a dozen zinesters and organizers from around the world for this issue. I made new friends from Slovenia to South Africa, and learned about how zine communities new and old continue to create spaces where artists, writers, and everyday people can share their practice on their own terms. The emerging scenes in Beijing and Shanghai, the long held and diverse zine scenes in Indonesia, the absolutely massive and vibrant Australian zine scene, they all give me hope.

I don’t know if zines alone will save the world, destroy fascism, and redistribute wealth (though a girl can dream, right?). But when on any given day you might wake up and find out that Trump has cut off aid to Palestine, that another journalist was killed in the Congo, that the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, has left this dimension… Well, I’ll be damned if we don’t create our own narratives, our own networks, our own knowledges. It’s okay if we can’t always do it all, cry for everything wrong in our hometowns or other hemispheres. But let’s keep making our own small beacons of hope and power if we can.