After a brief hiatus and a kickin’ launch for Issue 3: ‘Space,’ DOAS’s fortnightly author interview series returns. Get a glimpse of what makes our authors tick : how they write, why they write and what is the best or hardest thing about putting words to paper.
John Stevens — ‘self-professed neurotic
tranny librarian’ is your well-rounded
artist type. He plays in a band, runs
an art space in his house, works in
the depths of the state library and
produces little zine gems: the kind you
want to leave on a bus for an unsuspecting
nonna to read. He is also the author of
‘This Room is Larger Than That Tower’
in Issue 3 : ‘Space.’
DOAS:I have read Blue Floral Gusset, a zine that you produce – it was pretty raw and obviously autobiographical…I loved it Is most of your work autobiographical i.e. your piece, in Issue 3?
JS: Thanks for the kind words. I started back into zine-making through azine all about mix-taping, which was already a big step away from the dense fiction I started zine-ing through about a decade ago, and heading towards a more anecdotal approach. This became more focussed when I drifted away from talking about my life through things like tapes (and chairs, on one occasion) and on to talking directly about things that I’m trying to figure out about my life. I’m quite fond of trusting readers to really personal information, as the main reason I zine is to make connections with people, and this tends to be the best way to do this. It’s risky, as much of what I say in my zines wouldn’t come up straight away when I get to know people. But I think it’s worthwhile – stops me from getting too complacent in my writing, if nothing else. It’s hard not to be aware of your writing when you’re spilling your guts so regularly.
DOAS:What’s next? I remember speaking to you at the Format Festival where you mentioned another piece in the horizon.
JS: A follow-up to Blue floral gusset, based around the things I haven’t quite figured out about how I want to live as a transvestite. Like, it’s an identity that I hopefully won’t need one day, but I’m far from that point now.
DOAS: Are your zines produced on a regular basis? Or do they embrace the beautiful fluidity that zine-making affords authors?
JS: Pretty regular – well, the weekly one is (been doing that for a little over a couple of years now). The problem with doing a zine weekly is that it tends to take up all your zine-making time/energy. The ones I put more time and effort into – and ultimately look back on more fondly, like BFG – take much longer to see the light of day.
DOAS:You love zines – you produce them, are involved in Sticky Institute and even work in the Zine archives at the State Library.What do you think of publications (like DOAS) that challenge the traditional zine category?
JS: I’ve yet to read two definitions of ‘zine’ that are the same – even in the library world, with it’s supposedly strict thesauri and rigid categorisation of information. This can make it both easier and harder – some things about a certain definition may be seen as being more impermeable than others, depending on who you’re talking to. But as you’re working with a newly defined form – one that refers to zines,though doesn’t claim to be the same (forgive me if I’m misunderstanding the approach) – you just need to be clear about what those particular aspects of your understanding of the zine format you’re referring to, as you’ll no doubt have to defend it over and over again. The term ‘zine’ is derivative itself, so I wouldn’t let detractions pointing out a ‘zournal’s derivative nature drag it down.
DOAS:Blue Floral Gusset is so very personal; what is the hardest thing about writing such material?
JS: A lot of the usual things – showing, not telling; avoiding tangents,and trying to keep a clear narrative arc; oh… and just getting the damn words out. I don’t pause for too long when wondering how much to self-censor, but I still find it hard to get the damn words out. That’s partially why I started the weekly zine thing. Well… the main reason, actually.