Tell us something about yourself and why you thought it was important to produce Nancy?
My name's Alex and I live and work in London and my hobbies include DJing, watching TV and drawing! In my teen years I lived in Eastbourne; I was very into music and was constantly attending gigs in Brighton – which was when I first experienced zines. After a gig, I was approached by a girl and a guy who were selling their music zines outside and I bought them both. I became good friends with the girl, Beth and her sister Ruth and ended up collaborating on the third issue of their fanzine (called Sugar Babylon #3 – which can be found in the Women's Library if you’re interested!).
It was a great experience – getting to meet and interview our favourite bands and then creating this thing that we could then share with like-minded people – it was especially important at the time because the music press generally weren’t as interested in the girl fronted/riot grrrl related bands that we wanted to read about. It was also a gateway into meeting new people, especially through selling it at Ladyfest London 2001; my closest friends that I have today I would say were a direct result of the contacts I made through making that zine!
I'd say the shift in zines from that time to now is away from music and more towards personal topics. The internet has completely changed the way we can find people with the same music taste and share it, but talking about your sexuality or gender is something that you don't do in that same way! It’s kind of precious and personal and it’s nice to be able to contain your thoughts in a packaged up printed format – like a small diary or letter to a friend. I wanted to produce Nancy because I wasn't seeing myself in any of the zines produced by other queer guys, in the gay press or generally in the world! My tastes are a bit more, what would typically classed as, girly and I was near exhaustion being bombarded with heteronormative/hyper-masculine/over-sexualised images and ideologies everywhere I looked. I wanted to create something that was almost the antithesis of that in fact – not for contrariness sake but because I needed it and I think there must be others like me - it’s actually been quite cathartic putting it out there if I’m honest!
It was also important to me for the zine to be jargon free, personal, funny (in parts) and easy to relate to! I find the mountain of academia surrounding gender identity and queer theory really daunting and I think that's true for lots of people. I really love hearing about people’s individual situations and stories in their own words. I know what it's like to believe that everything you feel and everything you think is not alright and then subsequently, how reassuring it can be to finally read it or see it somewhere; especially when it's personal rather than theoretical. I'm hoping in the long term that Nancy will encourage at least some femme men to embrace their girliness and not to be scared of it!
What is the significance of popular culture in your zine - both visually as well as in the choice of subjects you cover?
Alternative music/culture is probably my first and truest love but the honest truth is that I love pop culture! But I guess, it's also to do with making the zine easy to read and identify with. For example, everybody thinks there’s a plethora of gay characters on TV and in films these days but actually, if you actually think about it; there’s a tiny handful of positive strong effeminate male characters – most gay men characters are depicted as ‘straight acting’ in an attempt to normalise them and make them more palatable, which is, I think, a reflection on mainstream attitudes.
As an isolated gay teen, I was desperate to see myself represented in the TV and films I was watching. There's no way you could be brave enough to buy a glossy gay magazine or gay book for fear of being spotted or discovered. It can be strangely validating and encouraging to see someone at least nearish to yourself in mainstream culture – especially if that person is confident, successful and hopeful when you're not yet in that position. I guess that's still with me, even as a grown up gay but luckily I do get the encouragement and support I need from the people around me now!
In terms of the way I put the zine together visually, I'm sort of a perfectionist/worry-wart and so I was tweaking and adding to it even after I gave copies to my friends for feedback. Laying it all out on the computer rather than using the cut-and-paste fit the way I work better! It probably would have taken me months of extra work every time I picked out a typo and something that didn't make sense and having to start that page from scratch! I know zines are meant to be rough around the edges and there are still a few typos in Nancy which is as close to rough as I could comfortably get! Ha! My first zine I did using cut-and-paste and I remember the heartbreak of seeing that some of the elements had gotten chewed up in the machine while it was being duplicated and so some of the copies had half an interview missing; it's obviously left a deep scar too!
How do you see your zine operating in relationship to the 'Creep' blog?
Like I said, my first love is music – I live, breathe and eat it (- it's delicious ha!) and so the blog is my way of sharing the music I love in the hope that other people will end up loving it too. In terms of how the Nancy relates to it, it was great being able to make something as static as a zine come to life a bit with YouTube videos and extra information related to what I was talking about online – like a bonus disc on a DVD! Plus, I'd say that for me, my community/friends are intrinsically linked through our love of music.
Is there a zine you would recommend that we should all be reading? And please tell us why?
I’m lucky to have lots of talented friends who’ve created amazing zines! My favourite has to be Pamzine created by my friends The Savages – although it was produced a while ago and it's still an amazing collection – funny, smart, great music and pretty – I’ve been told if you drop them an email (pamzine [AT] yahoo.co.uk
This is getting a bit Oscar-acceptance-speech-long but just a couple more I need to give a shout out to - Future Nature zine created by the industriously creative Andrew Milk is a great read and visually stunning and Ricochet! Ricochet! Fanzine is also brilliant and R! R! are kindly distro-ing my zine!
I'm also desperate to hear about zines written by gay guys about girliness or femininity so if people know of any please do get in touch! Also, I'm looking for contributors for the next issue – please drop me an email!
Creepclub (at) gmail (dot) com