Future History

This morning someone said something on the fediverse, and I responded, and my response in that moment caused me to have some thoughts. Naturally, I feel compelled to share them with you.

First, the thing I said that got me thinking…

Sometimes, someone unwittingly pushes a button you don’t know you have, and sometimes, you are well aware that button exists, but you’ve been ignoring it. I’ve been ignoring my feelings on the ephemeral nature of digital data for quite a while now, but I’ve always known that in the future, the lack of analog sources of information could (and likely will) be devastating to the study of our current time and place in history. I’m a big fan of hard copy. Things written or printed on paper have the potential to survive even the most damaging of disasters. Digital data struggles to survive on your desk in a temperature controlled house. If you want it to exist throughout the entirety of your own lifespan, you must maintain it. Coddle it. Tend to it like it’s a living thing. A photograph or a handwritten journal can sit in an attic long enough for everyone to forget it exists, and when it is rediscovered, it can be seen, read, enjoyed, learned from.

At this point, those of you who don’t know me well may be thinking I am some sort of Luddite opposed to all things digital. Untrue! I love this digital age we live in! I love computers! I love the things I can do with my iPad. I’m thrilled I can take a thousand photos to get one that’s perfect, and all it costs me is a bit of electricity to recharge a battery. It is amazing and delightful that I can communicate with the people I know near instantaneously, no matter where they are on the planet, and it brings me great joy that I can babble at length here on my blog, and once I hit “post” anyone who cares to can read it. Our digital age is wondrous, but I do worry for how humans in the far off future will learn of our time, what might survive, and if what survives (if anything) will give them an accurate picture of who the people of the 21st century were, what we believed, how we lived, and what felt important to us.

So as I’ve been shambling about the house doing all the usual morning tasks, making coffee, feeding cats, and seeing the husband off to work, there have been all these discordant thoughts and feelings bouncing off each other in my brain. That’s what my brain does when it senses a problem needing a solution or two opposing ideas that need resolution, and it can churn away at it in the background for days (sometimes even weeks) before a finished thought pops into my conscious mind. Today, it took an hour…

Don’t do an email newsletter, bring back the hard copy zine. Create something that has a chance to survive, which might outlive you.

Be the change you want to see.

A few months ago, I promised everyone a monthly email newsletter, and I have tried to make that a reality, but because I refuse to have any tracking going on within said newsletter, that cut me off from the services that make newsletter making/sending painless and easy. As I tried to spin up ways to do it all myself, I realized I wasn’t enjoying any of it. I didn’t want to do an email newsletter, but I promised people I would, so I felt like I had to do it. This only made me hate the idea even more, and so last month I (somewhat intentionally) “forgot” to keep working on it.

But oh … how I loved making zines (and receiving them), and since the day I stopped producing mine, so many years ago now, I’ve often thought of doing a hard copy zine again. I enjoyed the entire process of deciding what to do each month, what to include, how it should look, and taking the time to draw things, hand letter things, and physically cutting and pasting it all together. Printing copies on the library’s Xerox or having it printed, and then mailing it out to people who wanted to receive it and sometimes receiving their own zine in return! No pain, no struggle, no frustration. Just joyful work.

So I’m going to take the advice my brain spit out this morning. I will not be doing an email newsletter. I’m going to do a zine, and not one created digitally and then printed out (an email newsletter without the email). Nope, I’m going 100% old school. Doing it the way I did in the past, the way I enjoyed doing it. How will the people who were expecting an email newsletter react to this news? Don’t know. Don’t especially care. I can’t keep doing things just because others expect or want me to do them. I gotta do what I want to do, and what I have wanted to do for quite some time now is breath new life into my not at all forgotten zine.

3 thoughts on “Future History

  1. Happy PieDay! Mine is already happy. Thanks for making it so Number One! An honest to the gods Zine and https://moreofacomment.my/wp/ (a window into a culture that eludes (well, me). I kid you not, MY Muslims have lived next door for more than 10 years, in successions timed by the semesters. Private peeps, I get that. EID, a couple of invites (taken) and one key locked in a car. Last winter there were 5, count ’em, five Actuarial students (what the probability of that?), I have only met two actual actuarials in my life!

    Your blog is compelling and I believe it answered my question, “Why put things on paper?” I ask myself that everytime I go to buy paper — which ain’t cheap as you know!

    So, I promise you this… If you send me a Zine, I shall honour your Future History imperative and, after I’ve have finished it, I shall, with your permission, of course, 1. prepare a few copies for the free zine library in a good dark cafe in Newtown, and, more importantly, prepare a copy to be recovered by some future archaeologist, cave dwelling mammal, or highly intelligent and evolved insect — aka, whatever comes next. It will be stored for the ages and I’ll grab a very tight geo-location, so you can visit it on the intermaps. The Future of History will have some redundancy being placed on some faraway remote backwater of civilisation, and your voice will go back to the future with it!

  2. I really enjoyed doing my zine in the 80s and 90s, but even then, I used pagemaker and book publishing software so I could create printer ready pages. Then I’d send the disk, the Bristol boards with annotations to assure everything made it into the correct pages, and a mock-up that we’d create on a photocopier, to a printer that specialized in small run comic books/zines. I’ll be honest, I haven’t checked in with any of the analog vendors I used to deal with, before the internet was a thing, I don’t even know there are small press actual print run printing presses still running. But I’ll help you look, if you’d like.

  3. What little access I had to computers (that could actually do things) during college had to be used to get papers done for professors who insisted things be turned in on floppy. I’d maybe score two hours a week in the computer lab, if I was lucky. What I did have full and free access to was the education lab, which had a really nice Xerox, a mimeograph, and all the educational supplies teachers use (or used to use anyway) to dress up their classrooms or create teaching stuff. It contained all the things you’d find in an educational supply store in the early 80s, everything was FREEEE, and almost no one ever used that lab. So a mix of Xerox and mimeograph, with things occasionally printed on strange papers. It was great.

    Then college ended and getting it done became much more difficult and costly and the world was moving on to this newfangled internet thing, so I replaced my Amiga with a Windows PC, built a webpage, and the poor zine got left behind (as did the BBS).

    Anyway, first thing I need to decide is format, because all other decisions including duplication processes branch off that one decision. I might do something crazy and use spirit duplication. 🤣

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