SOUTH CHICAGO ABC ZINE DISTRO
distributor of food for thought,
1. Hello! Could you introduce SOUTH CHICAGO ZINE DISTRO to the readers? When did you begin? What are the goals and state of mind of this underground activity?
thank you! We aim to provide a wide range of radical literature,
history, analysis and useful information, through the wonderful
medium of cut and paste zines to whoever is interested in accessing
it and (hopefully) becoming empowered and motivated by it. This
is a labor of love by some seriously driven “Haymarket” anarchists,
based in the southern part of Chicagoland. We do this as our contribution
to the struggle. Soon after we began this distro, in early 1998,
it has focused on the prisons in America, as we feel this is the
“ground zero” of the struggle, here at home. We work directly with
conscious prisoners, both writers and artists, as well as collect
the strongest material we find from any other source, which we feel
has something meaningful to say to people. We strive to help prisoners
(and others) understand the countless issues that are funneled into
the vortex that is prison, this black hole of society, provide contact
information for support, how to instruction as to how to challenge
their predicament and basically educate and empower each other with
the explosively written and amazingly drawn truth!
2. What led you to run a fanzines distro? Did you actually print your own zine, and noticed it was quite hard to spread it efficiently? Or you knew about someone who did this kind of distribution and felt inspired to do the same?
actually, I wrote my 1st zine – Peoples’ Polar Express in 1974.
But, it wasn’t until the mid-90’s that I became a committed anarchist
propagandist, writing my own zines, editing others and spreading
them around. In 1997, I started my own personal zine, Thought Bombs,
of which I’ve done 30 of (actually 32, as I did two split zines).
While I spread them around and learned my way around and saw how
distros worked, I was left unhappy. So, I took the punk ethic of
d.i.y. to heart and decided, if I was so unhappy about things the
way they were, and thought I could do better, there was just one
thing to do – actually go through with it and do it my own damn
self! So, that’s what I did. I groped my way through relentless
trial and error to the monster distro we run today.
3. In the underground music world, many distros use to distribute zines, but the editors have to send the finished product to the distributor... Your system is a bit different since you xerox most of the zines by yourself... Which should be quite some work! Can you tell us more about the reasons for this choice? Isn't it too hard on a financial point of view? How can you cope with it? Do you know a lot of distros to work the same way you do?
I am a hard-boiled, genuine anarchist. To me, it was a delicious
challenge to put this whole “distro” thing on its ear! I decided
only a full-bore effort, without any type of commercial interference
would be good enough to do the trick. I have a living wage-slave
job and my wife works full-time also as a librarian. We live frugally,
do not have cable t.v. or spend outside the basics. I don’t even
have a cell phone, and other things most modern-day people find
essential. I pour all my money into printing, supplies, stamps,
etc. I maximize the values, buying things in bulk and using coupons
all the time. We do print jobs in bundles of a few dozen zines at
a time to print 10,000 impressions at a time to make the cost at
its lowest possible, coupled with coupons and rewards points. We
mail on the ounce to get every cent of our postage money. I’m always
on the lookout for free printing access and encourage others to
do the same. We want to create thousands of these types of distros!
4. More than a distro, we could say you're some kind of editor, or snail mail library maybe? How many fanzines do you currently have in stock?
Answer: I’m an
editor alright, but I don’t have “editoritis.” By this, I mean,
I let people have their say-so in their own words, without trying
to manipulate what they have to say, to my way of thinking. They’ll
get an earful of my rant-loving thoughts, too, maybe in other zines.
Also, other anarchists are well-represented. But, I let people say
what they want. I do a lot of nose-to-the-grindstone transcribing,
sometimes hard to read, poorly spelled and ill-framed sentence structure
or paragraphing. But, if I see some strong ideas others may gain
from in there, I’ll work it up. Prisoners trust me with their material
and are almost always very happy with the finished product. I often
add terrific graphics, usually drawn by prisoners. It is a painstaking
process to create every zine. I do use the computer for transcribing,
but every zine is cut and pasted together and then carefully cleaned
to produce a finished master copy for copying. The great thing about
doing zines this way, is you can work on them anywhere. All you
need is paper, glue, a knife, some newspapers, whiteout and a burning
determination to create powerful, modern-day revolutionary literature!
5. Are the fanzines always available for years, or maybe the older ones could be considered sold out after some time, or after a certain amount of copies have circulated? Can you tell us how many copies of a zine you usually distribute?
I look to create zines and add others I find that are not “dated.”
We don’t really do music zines. We’re all about politics, history,
psychology. We do have punk zines, and some mention bands, but they’re
the more political and can hold a usefulness for many years. Some
zines I distroed years ago, I no longer carry, but for the most
part, we still have them. Every year I add maybe 75 to 100 new ones,
from just 1 - sheet mini - zines to 19 sheets (or more) zines, some
as part of a two or three zine set. It depends on the particular
project, but I make sure I maximize the space on the paper with
text or some graphic. I don’t have any blank pages or parts of pages.
I call it “European style!” (smile*)
6. Your system of zine distribution can offer some kind of alternative to the Internet... But is it meant to be so? Have you got a problem with Internet and the massive amount of information it procures, maybe you're some kind of nostalgic person. Or it's just that it's much better on paper?
this approach is the antithesis of the ho-hum internet. Active real
paper means the world to prisoners, as they are not allowed access
to the internet. The internet is for relatively rich people and
we are trying to get the explosive truth into the hands of the salt
of the Earth – “Les Miserables!” I happen to detest the internet
and the sell-out attitude that goes with it. I don’t blog and I
don’t have a website. You can make and take zines anywhere, but
you’ve got to sit and stare at a screen for e-zines. They are for
unserious people who are not genuinely concerned enough to deal
with issues that concern the most oppressed, in my opinion. Besides,
the pigs can’t track you with paper zines, like they can with the
internet or cell phones. I happen to like my autonomy. Internet
people seem tame to me. With cut and paste, you can make it how
you want, you don’t need to rely on a machine and the graphics are
way better hand-drawn than the fuzzy crap you get from the internet.
7. I know you're in touch with quite a lot of prisoners. Due to the quite political nature some of the zines display, didn't you have troubles with the prison authorities? I know they're sometimes quite restrictive, and would avoid anything provocative that could influence inmates about certain subjects... So have you got some tips for your publications could enter the prison walls anyway? What was the worst feedback your received from the authorities? And the best feedback from an inmate?
we get a lot of zines rejected, invariably for ludicrous reasons.
We don’t instruct prisoners on how to fashion tools to break out
of prison or how to start a riot. But we do help liberate their
mind, so that they can traverse the fear line, think freely for
perhaps the first time in their lives and dream of a real life,
instead of wallowing in the dead-end misery of gangbanging, despair
and hopelessness. Like in chattel slavery times, it is basically
a crime to genuinely educate prisoners, for an educated prisoner
is a “dangerous” (revolutionary) prisoner, no longer content to
expend their energies in petty squabbles, but now using his or her
innate talents in the service of the oppressed.
8. How can a writer be distributed by your services? Is there something special to send or offer? Do you distribute only the "final product" (Something with a finished layout) or did you ever made the visual side of the thing if needed?
I get manuscripts, poetry, essays, rants, analysis, all kinds of
stuff – dynamite graphics, all the time. I read through the material
and make a determination. If I think the stuff is good, I will probably
work it up, regardless of how much work is involved, whether they
are indigent or can help defray costs or whatever. Sometimes it’s
just a mess of hand-written material. Sometimes, prisoners work
up the zines themselves – pasted together with toothpaste! I’ll
take whatever and turn it into a finished product. Sometimes, I’ll
put a couple dozen prisoner contributions together in a series I
call Prisoners’ Speak! I often add my own writing, either an essay
or an introduction or something and fill it up with cool appropriate
graphics and maybe strong quotes.
9. Maybe you distribute the writing of some inmates? It could be a nice way for them to spread their ideas, yet without having to deal with the prisons' censorship... And hard task to send every package from the inside of a prison (I don't ever imagine it), and to have access to a computer or type-writer...
Answer: I do indeed distribute the work of several (dozens) of prisoners. I put their contact information in these zines, too, so that people can contact them. Of course, the authorities catch on sooner or later too and sometimes these courageous writers and artists are treated most brutally. Some are beaten, gassed, tasered, thrown naked into a cold cell with nothing but a hole to piss into. It’s a war doing this! Sometimes our correspondence (and zine components) are “disappeared.” Inmates are transferred in the middle of the night, sometimes stuck on a prison bus for months! It’s a constant cat and mouse game. And, the closer we get to the truth, the harsher the repression gets. Very, very few prisoners have access to a computer. A few do have a word processor or a typewriter. Mostly, they are lucky to have the inside of a Bic pen or a pencil stub and a scrap of paper. It’s amazing the intricate artwork they can create from a pen filler and a pencil stub!
10. Why does you distro name contain the "ABC" word? I know some English peoples use it for the not very scholar peoples who have problems to read... Was it the reason of the choice? Maybe to "educate" peoples, or better said help them to think with some writings you distribute?
Answer: ABC stands
for Anarchist Black Cross. In the wake of the 1905 revolution in
Russia, the Anarchist Red Cross was created to directly support
anarchist prisoners because the support had been going through the
social democrats (Mensheviks and Bolsheviks) and they were not allowing
support to get to anarchist prisoners. Lenin was showing his lack
of solidarity and his vicious sectarianism even way back in 1905!
It was later renamed the Anarchist Black Cross so as not to be confused
with the International Red Cross, which was an arm of the U.S. (and
allies) government, treating the wounded soldiers fed into the meat
grinding imperialist world wars. Black cross because black is the
color of the anarchist flag. We are serious anarchists and our main
focus is in support of prisoners, perhaps especially anarchists,
but all prisoners! We believe strongly in solidarity. We also believe
providing the voice of all resisters helps develop a well-rounded
radical and that anarchist ideas will fire the imaginations of most
of them! We are plenty willing to provide basic education for those
who need it. Many prisoners never had any read education – only
police-like discipline and punishment and quasi-prison “classrooms.”
We try to write plainly and clearly so anyone can understand our
message. We are not high brow ivory tower fucks! But, some of the
analysis can get complicated. So, we do a lot of letter writing
too to get on a personal basis with people, answer specific questions,
and encourage them to develop their nascent talents. It’s amazing
how a person with low self-esteem, once encouraged and turned onto
zines and someone who gives a damn and is willing to mentor and
work with them – what they can blossom into!
11. Did you already distribute music zines? Or it doesn't enter your criterias? SOUTH CHICAGO is quite seriously focused on certain subjects, or you could also distribute underground comics, music or mail-art zines?
Answer: No, we
don’t do music zines, although recently we did some real strong
hip-hop lyric type zines. We get writing from musicians, songs and
poetry and I’ve even written poetry. But, it’s pretty politically
focused. Sometimes I get CD’s or cassettes, which I listen to and
sometimes make copies of and distribute on a limited basis. You
can’t really send CD’s or cassettes into prison, anymore. We do
have some cartoon zines and art zines, again, mainly political in
nature. Underground commix we do a little of. Some of the wild shit
we get from prisoner artists is better than any commix you’ll see
in the alleged “free world!”
12. Talking about music, what kind of sounds do you enjoy? What is your musical background, and do you/ did you play in some bands?
Answer: I’m a
creature from the sixties, so that the stuff I like. My favorite
is Van Morrison. I listen to the Clash, the Pogues, Jeff Beck –
groups like that. I like Bruce Cockburn, the Grateful Dead, the
Airplane, Jane’s Addiction. Like I said earlier, I have hundreds
of cassette tapes that I listen to for hours every day. I never
played in a band, although my older son is very musical. Lately,
he’s been carrying around a homemade bagpipe, made out of PVC pipe,
a beach ball and a pump usually used to inflate an air mattress.
It sounds just like a nice bagpipe, too! Words are my music!
13. This is the free question, you can talk about whatever you want!
Answer: I’m sure
I must sound like some self-glorying smug jerk to some, but I’m
not. I’m a glib happy cat of a dude. I consider myself “Joe Normal”
because what I’m doing seems so logical a response to modern-day
life to me. Just send me a letter to:South Chicago ABC Zine Distro
14. What are the next projects of SOUTH CHICAGO? You can conclude this interview, It's almost over. Thanks for the answers.
the last two zines I did are these. One is a lengthy expose of the
horrible practice of the Chinese government who harvest the organs
from perfectly healthy Falun Gong practitioners for transplants.
This ghoulish monstrosity takes government torture and murder to
the next level – highly profitable and high tech! Another one I
just finished is called High Risk Potential, written by Coyote.
It’s pure dynamite! My next zine is a nice essay by a real sharp
anarchist prisoner in California entitled: Fascist America: Reflections
on Orwell. I’m going to do some Each One, Teach One doubIe interviews