Issue #16 of her Syndicate Product series is A.j.'s spectacular 24-hour zine about her not particularly rational, but surprisingly powerful desire to live in California. LA, even. I can't believe how moved and awed I was at this work, created in 19.5 hours. A.j., an obvious perfectionist, regrets sleeping from 1-5:30 a.m., but I can't imagine the zine being any better with another 4.5 hours' worth of work.
As you can see from the picture above the thing doesn't look like it was slapped together. The layout and graphics are sophisticated. The content is one long essay (nearly 3,000 words) all about why she wants to move to California and probably never will, enhanced by quotes from people like Joan Didion and vintage postcards. I was immediately taken by her opening:
"For the past three or four or five ears, I've had this mad (as in "possibly mentally unstable") desire to drop everything and move to California.
"I have no good reason to move to California."
I knew the rest of the story would be complex and soul-bearing. I've read and been impressed with lot of A.j.'s other publications, review zines, and themed compilation zines. But I hadn't previously felt so connected to her, moved by what she said. I think there's something to the pressure of the 24-hour zine challenge that forces you to go all in, and more deeply than when you have the time to muse, edit, retract. The rule of the challenge is that you're not allowed to write a single thing ahead of time, nor gather or create any images. Lots of people don't do nearly as well with the time-crunch. I've seen plenty of 24-hour zines that aren't nearly as introspective, nor as accomplished production-wise.
A.j.'s reasons for not wanting to go are practical. She lists the unemployment, her lack of appropriate skills for the jobs that do exist in California (entertainment, porn, high tech, organic farming), the cost of housing, and also, just plain old fear and atrophy. "It's a well-established fact that I am inertia's bitch."
Many of the reasons she does want to go are media inspired. The work of Carrie McNinch, John Steinbeck, and Joss Whedon and movies like Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Forbidden Zone paint a picture she finds appealing. She's done a lot of online research into the place, too, on Craigslist and the Los Angeles Times Mapping L.A. project. The fantasy is always broken, though, with interesting/mundane details from her job and revelatory tidbits about psyche and relationship history.
I really am so impressed with this zine, all the more so because I'd intended to make one myself before the end of July, International Zine Month, and inevitably didn't because I was behind in my zine cataloging. Lame!
I offer congrats to A.j. and thanks for including me in her 53 copy distribution. (Lucky 19!) One thing that sucks about 24-hour zines is that because assembling and distributing them has to fit in the day-long window, they tend to be limited editions. I'm hoping A.j. does a second printing so I can acquire copies for Barnard. The library isn't getting mine.