Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Stringray Issue 1

The introductory piece of this anthology of prose pieces says that the issue is filled with each creator's response to the idea of ‘community’, this made me think.

Recently I was talking to someone about zines and the zine scene, and they said they found it incredibly odd that there would be events, websites, and a sense of community surrounding zines. The idea that all zinesters had in common was that they photocopied their own stuff and wanted others to read it was foreign to them. The breadth of stuff I’ve read about in zines is pretty amazing, but perhaps this person was right and what's more amazing is the fact that there is a zine community at all, let alone one as awesome and supportive as the one that does exist.

Stingray is a pretty good literary styled zine. Nothing in here totally blew me away, but I enjoyed almost every piece and think several of them are worth reading. There is an article about how London is dealing with homelessness in the run up to the Olympics (which though well written and informative probably should have mentioned Vancouver in some way), a piece about cats and how their stare at each other, a bizarre piece of fiction that involves a guy having his nose cut off, a comic about living in Stoke-On-Trent and how the sense of community there used to be about working in the potteries but is now based around “mutual suspicion of others” (and is also at least the third time this year I've read a comic that featured a Jobcentre Plus), a history of the the Israeli music scene, and more.

The piece on the evolution of Israeli music is possibly the most interesting just because it was about something I knew absolutely nothing about. It was lacking in that I would have liked some more background information (if the residents of Israel were from such a diaspora why was their music so “dominated by Anglo-Saxon culture”?) and detail (what type of music did the musicians coming out of the army play?), but it was still a good read.

There has been some effort put into design and layout in this zine, which I always appreciate, and I enjoyed the giant letters used to present each piece’s title. At the same time parts of it are strangely formatted: the intro page is littered with the >> common of emails, while there are a number of blank pages that always kind of frustrate me in print publications.

Perhaps the strangest thing about this comic is the vague sense of despair that seems to fill all the pieces. No matter who the writer is, whether they’re writing prose or creating comics, using fiction or journalism or memoir, there always seems to be a sense of confusion and sadness in the pieces. You wouldn’t immediately see a connection between someone writing about their mother’s dementia and someone else silently freaking out because their new boyfriend just bought their old boyfriend’s sweater in a used clothing shop, but put them together in an anthology like this and they all seem to fit.

It might just show success on the part of the editor that the styles of the people who have contributed mesh so well thematically, but more anthologies could benefit from strength in that area.

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