Who are you? Where are you based?
Hi, my name is Ryan, and I publish Pocket Thoughts zines. I’m located in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, with an additional office somewhere in the back of my mind.
What are zines to you?
Zines are some of the truest, purest voices of people. There’s no editorial staff, no advertisers to please, and no one to tell you your idea is stupid. A good zine will make me feel like I’ve gotten to know a new friend, even if it’s not a per-zine. I like that I get a feel for the person thru their work.
What was your first encounter with zines?
In 2002, I had already been making zines for about 3 or 4 years and a pretty girl I was trying to impress with my creative stuff said something like, “oh, you make zines! Cool!” I had no idea what she was talking about and had to have her explain to me what a zine was (not only was she really pretty, but she was also super cool and hip and rad and down with all the underground art scenes). So from that day forward I started referring to my zines as “zines”. Maybe someday I’ll impress a cool girl with them. 🙂
Tell me about your zines. What kind of zines do you make?
Pocket Thoughts is an every-other-month zine with random thoughts, artwork, ideas and more – and it fits in your pocket! In the alternating months, I create one-off zines of different themes (such as “Inappropriate ABCs”, “Halloweenies”, “Misuses of the Word Vagina”, “Flossy”, “Neurotica”, and “The Little Book of Big Caulk”.
What inspires you to create zines?
I sort of find inspiration everywhere… but I’ve always been someone who needs to be creating something. I like to think that there’s no such thing as a bad idea. Like, we all have those moments of “Wouldn’t it be silly if….” but I like to expand on the IF and see where that goes. In conversation with another zinester one day I was just bullshitting and said “maybe I’ll make a zine all about toast,” and after a few laughs I started imagining in my mind how I could design each page on a piece of bread then photograph them and create the layout from there. I was going to do it too, but then I really wanted toast for breakfast the next day.
What’s your favorite thing about zines?
I love that the creator of the zine can do it on their own terms and retain complete ownership of the creation. They can make it however they want, distribute it (or don’t) however they want, and create as much as often as they want. And that’s a beautiful thing. I think about artists (literary, visually, and musically) that have given us works that we cherish dearly, but then they don’t own it. Siegel and Shuster didn’t own Superman after publishing it. Prince didn’t own Purple Rain after releasing it. And Lizzy Maggie… not only did she not own the Monopoly board game, but she had it stolen from her and someone else took the credit and rewards. But even he didn’t own the darn thing. Zines are a way that creators can explore all the freedoms of their own limitations.
Do you recall your first zine ever, what was it about and what inspired you to create it?
When I was 18, I was in a high school theater group and we were all talking about what we were going to do when we became famous. I joked that I would be famous that next week, and I’d have a fan club and it would be awesome. Well, the next week I made up a one-page application form for joining my fan club and got all my friends to sign up. Then I made them little membership cards and a joke newsletter all about me. Well, more people wanted to join – people I didn’t even know – and everyone wanted more newsletters. Little did I know I was making zines. 300-and-some members and many years later, and the joke had to finally come to an end. But so much of what I know today about zine making really goes back to trying out crazy different ideas in those old Ryan Fan Club zines.
Tell me a little about your zine-making process.
I tend to follow the “AC/DC Songwriting Approach” when I do anything creative. Most often, I’ll stumble myself into a catchy title and then make a zine from there. I’m currently working on a faux children’s storybook zine called “Daddy’s Dating A Dirty Ho”, and if that title doesn’t just rhyme off your tongue… well, I don’t know. But on the actual process… I try to do something different every time. Pocket Thoughts #10 was all done in collage style. Issue #Eleventeen was a mock “Cosmo” type magazine. Number 8 mixed hand drawn art with Photoshop techniques and images… everything eventually gets scanned into the ol’ compy though, and formatted there.
What do you hope people get out of your zines?
Their money’s worth! But also, I hope to get people thinking in different ways – especially about the way we use language and words. I like words and wordplay. Wordplay is my second favorite kind of play. I think it’s really flattering when someone messages me on Instagram because they’ve seen my zines and want to pick my brain about the zine they’re working on, or just how to get into the zine scene. I guess, I just hope that at the very least I was able to use some words and pictures to help someone escape from the world for a few minutes and be somewhere else that made them think a little, giggle a little, and maybe want to share what’s on their mind too.
Name two of your favorite zinesters.
Crash Reynolds is, like, my ‘zine bestie’. Just imagine me saying that like one of those girls from Clueless. But really, she’s often the first zinester I tell about a new wacky idea, or the type of paper I want to try using for a new zine. Her zines, the Sometimes Human series among others, are comforting and inspiring, and always a treat. I’m also a huge fan of Rachel from Word Tonic’s zines – one of her recent ones called Don’t Fuck The Patriarchy was both funny and unsettling in the way that she was able to make me question how I act as a man while giving me a bit of a laugh. Everyone should check her stuff out. I could go on and on about zinesters I love…
Do you have any advice for new zinesters?
Don’t overthink it. Put something – ANYTHING – down on paper and go from there. If you think nobody is going to want to read your idea, think again, because if you’re thinking of it then chances are there’s someone out there interested in that subject too. Just do it. But, do it for you, not in the sense of some corporate shoe hawking fuckoffs.
Is there a zine website or resource you would recommend new zinesters to check out?
Just search around on Instagram for zinesters and reach out and say hi. Every zinester is likely to recommend a handful of their favorites to check out. But I also challenge new zinesters to share their zines with people who don’t know what a “zeen” is… “what are you making? what’s a zyne?????” because wouldn’t it be cool if YOU were the person who turned someone new on to being a hip zinester? Now that would be rad.
Interview conducted by Solansh M.
Pictures provided by Ryan E.