Please tell us about the zines you’ll be tabling at ABQZF.
I have 2 self-published comics, mostly about depressing stuff, but with a few jokes, 'Cut' & 'Bleak City', and whatever else I come up with!
When did you make your first zine, and what was it about?
My first zines were just interviews with bands and that sort of thing. When I was around 24 I started doing a really personal comic / zine about failed relationships called 'New Girlfriend'. That went for 2 issues, then started over and went for 4. My friend Tana Thornock did a few of the comics, too. I hope she puts out more stuff, because her comics are just great, really perfect personal stories. I am currently moving into writing books, but most recently put together the zine for the 6th year of the Gatas y Vatas music festival with Cecilia McKinnon, whose music and friendship I highly recommend.
Name three influences in your life that have affected your work, or even how you work.
1. Gilbert Hernandez's comics, including Love & Rockets but pretty much everything he has done. My comics take a lot of influence from him, it's not intentional but I think it is obvious, but it's more than my comics. My whole world view had that melancholy yet relentlessly kind angle that I see in his work, and the level of forgiveness he gives even his worst-behaving characters is really profound. We also share an ability to look unflinchingly at the most chaotic and violent aspects of life while retaining a rather absurd sense of humor about it. People criticize him for the way he draws women's bodies, but that criticism is irrelevant because most of his commentary is about how terrible men are to women with specific body types, that they are fetishized for having them, and that everyone's body image reflects deeply on their character.
2. Yoko Ono's words, art, and music, because she is decades ahead of her time, and the world still hasn't caught up or given her even a fraction of the praise she deserves as literally one of the most innovative and influential artists of the latter half of the 20th century. Even the avant-garde fails to acknowledge her or list her among her male contemporaries. It's really gross the way the world has treated her, truly fucked and indicative of much greater issues facing women of color and feminist artists. She has spent her entire life working for peace when pretty much every other artist or musician of the 60s lost their edge to either drugs, money, or Watergate. Her wisdom is great, and her music is, to me, far preferable to that of the Beatles. Her lyrics often qualify as feminist theory in and of themselves.
3. Dorothy Parker, whose wit and writings were an absolute beacon to me as a young teen when I first discovered her in the shelves at the library. She was best known for making jokes and poems about her depression, addiction, and suicide attempts, but her reviews are hilariously snarky before women were allowed to be that, her screenplays were fantastic (the original "A Star is Born" is really just one of the best movies), and her short stories are either hilarious, or devastating, or both. Her humanitarian side was something she often hid, but she was once arrested for protesting the then pending execution of Sacco and Vanzetti, as well as donating most of her estate to the MLK foundation upon her death. She wrote many heart-wrenching stories about the mistreatment of African Americans in the first half of the 20th Century, often in a way that was from a white perspective but that pulled no punches discussing how truly vile white people could be to PoC. Her criticisms are specific to the time period, but of course the actions and scenarios she describes are often ghosted by white people even today, and remain relevant. My small town library didn't carry bell hooks, so these stories were part of my introduction to the true severity of racism, which is often portrayed only as these violent moments, seldom examined via the social sleights and microaggressions inflicted on PoC by white people of every time period. She taught me that I don't have to be nice and I don't have to dumb myself down, that to do either of those things would compromise my value as an artist. My artistic sense of bravery came very much from Dorothy Parker as much as it came from zines and punk rock!
What do you say when someone asks you, "What are zines?"
"Self-published pamphlets which can be about absolutely anything from the profound to the utterly mundane. The subject matter and the level of quality runs the gamut and back again."
Do you have a zine crush? If so, are you willing to reveal the object of your zine affection?
Hm, there's a few I shouldn't say, but I think I can pretty freely say Vanessa X of Asswipe, which is a really great zine that covers music and the punk rock life that comes out of Oakland, and Osa Atoe of Shotgun Seamstress, who is definitely one of the smartest people on the planet. They are both so incredible, and they have the qualities I find essential in a crush: intelligence, art-obsession, very sharp humor, and kindness. There are so many more zinesters I could rave about, who might be crushes too, but we haven't had the conversation, "Hi, PS I have a crush on you." I'm always pretty secretive about my crushes, anyway. There have been a few times where I started out by crushing on someone, then we became great friends, and I was really stoked not to have acted on my initial thoughts of crushing on them.
What's the most challenging thing about zine making? What do you enjoy most about the process?
Going to the copier is the most challenging part, I think. Formatting is annoying to me, but it's so much of the process, so you have to learn to love it or get out now while you still can. What I enjoy is that if I don't want to make a book, or I don't want to go to a publisher, I don't have to. I'm able to make something that is all me and that is exactly what I want to say. I also really like selling out of a zine. That's the moment when the zine feels completed. I enjoy the process, but the process of creating art is just what my life is centered around, so that's typical.
Why are zines important?
I mean, this question is sweeping. Asking why zines are important definitely leads me to wish to break down each zine I love and say why that one in specific is so important. To start, zines are important to me as a lesbian, as a queer woman. The first lesbian-run 'publication' in North American was 1947's 'Vice Versa', which was typed out on carbon paper and distributed via mail. Each reader was encouraged to give their copy via person or mail to another queer woman, thus despite there being only roughly 10 copies of each issue, hundreds of queer women were able to read the zine. In times where lesbians were literally sometimes sent to mental institutions and practically tortured in attempts to make them straight, or were even sometimes lobotomized, the existence of such a zine is now viewed as being a veritable godsend to the lesbian community. In the 90s, the spread of feminism is almost directly attributed to the zines that were out at that time. Zines have helped countless music scenes and subcultures thrive and survive. That's exclusively from a North American standpoint: one can only imagine what kind of zines are being made in countries with heavy news censorship laws at present simply to spread word of the real news. Zines help survivors of abuse and assault talk about their healing process under a pseudonym, keeping their writers safe while reaching out to others in the same situation. Zines are beyond important, and they will never cease to be important, whatever new forms they might take.
Thank you, Sara!
Visit Sara Century's table at ABQ Zine Fest on Saturday, October 10th. And, later that evening DON'T MISS Sara's solo music set at the Tannex, 8pm. $5