Cipher is my current, ongoing zine project. I finished the 1st one in may 2008 and finally did all the copying and collating in july.
To explain what’s going on in my head when i’m putting together a new Cipher, i guess i’ll just quote myself from the 1st issue:
I live in a world layered with meanings and metaphors, with symbolism and rules and superstitions. Many of these structures have been imposed on me — by the cultures and societies and circles that i move in, and by those that move in circles outside of and around me. And some, too, i’ve devised on my own — to comfort me, to amuse me, to wrap myself tight in a security blanket so that i don’t fly to pieces.
It’s not always an easy world to live in (just ask my spouse), but it’s my world and it works for me, by and large. And i like it.
And i like, most especially, pulling at the various threads — to understand them, to repair them, to get lost in the mystery of them. To rip apart the tapestry and re-weave it into something new.
I call the written result of this questioning a “personal critzine” — because it looks at the personal thru’ a critical lens and at the critical thru’ a personal lens. I am, i admit, an academic by training and passion. But i’ve also been a print news writer by profession (and by passion) and i really want to try to combine the best of both worlds. To try to make academia’s crazy, interesting ideas clear by writing with my journalist’s pencil.
I can only hope it’s as interesting to read as it is to create!
Some stuff you’ll probably want to know about Cipher #1:
- published: May 2008
- language: English
- size: 1/4 letter (4″w x 5&1/2″h), 40pp, ~7100 words
- status: In print!
The table of contents:
- “i speak in clichés”
- On cracking the code that is Chris=writer.
- A postmodern herbal. (Sample below!)
- How i pulled apart “Paragraph Girl” and Mockingbird Ink to find out what was inside.
- 2 recipes: drop sugar cookies & snickerdoodles.
- Wordnerdery! — corduroy.
- Why my friend Liseuse’s “Harry Potter” fan fiction is more satisfying for me than J.K. Rowling’s books.
- Epilogue, thanks, a brief bibliography, typesetting, etiquette, contact info.
cover price: $1 (U.S.)
postage: $1 (U.S.) to North America, $2 (U.S.) to Rest of World
I’m happy to take orders via postal mail, but please only send well-concealed bills (sending coins in the mail is just silly). The address is: Chris Wrdnrd / PO Box 45536 / Seattle WA 98145-0536 / USA
I can also take orders via PayPal. Please contact me via email to set it up: cipher @ wrdnrd . net
- Click Clack Distro. Still in stock! Nicole says, “I love how this little pocket sized zine contains just about everything.”
- A Room of One’s Own. I dropped off 5 copies during WisCon 33 (Memorial Day weekend 2009).
- Powell’s. Sold in Powell’s zine section starting mid-august 2008. Sorry — the 10 copies that Powell’s bought sold out by early october 2008.
reviews & other mentions:
- Chunga 15. Randy Byers talks about Cipher #1 in his piece “If You Meet a Trufan on the Road.”
A postmodern herbal.
~ August 2007 & may 2008
What’s an “herbal”? It’s a written list of plants, that, specifically, deals with their medicinal properties. The only herbal i own right now is A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieve (Dover, 1982), and it also talks about each plant’s history (if it’s known) and how to grow it.
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I’ve been growing herbs on my deck since 2003, not only for their obvious delicious uses in cooking but also for their (alleged) medicinal uses. I’m not sure exactly where my interest in herbs comes from, because my family certainly wasn’t very deeply into gardening while i was growing up. Sure, my mother and her mother tried, from time to time, to grow things in little squares known as “the garden,” but mostly, due to time constraints or indifference, these women in my life managed a few trees, shrubs, and flowers around the yard and not much in the way of fruit or vegetables or herbs. I can’t help but suspect that my interest in herbs probably comes from my penchant for fantasy fiction, an interest that was no doubt compounded by my discovery of the Brother Cadfael series of mysteries.
At any rate, here i am, a fledgling gardener of herbs. And also an intrigued reader of herbals. By and large the alleged medicinal properties of herbs haven’t been proven (or disproven) by modern, evidence-based science, but i still like the notion that we don’t always need the assistance of Merck or Glaxo-Smith-Kline or whomever to stay healthy and happy.
I guess that’s my interest in medicinal herbs in a nut-shell: they’re a low-tech alternative for dealing with health problems.
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What’s “postmodern”? It’s tempting to rely on my favorite quote on postmodernism: Moe, the barkeeper on “The Simpsons,” says, “Weird for the sake-uh weird.” Not entirely wrong!
Merriam-Webster (online) suggests 1st that in literature (which is what i’m most familiar with — there’s a whole other world of postmodernism in art and architecture) postmodernism is marked by “ironic self-reference and absurdity”, and 2nd that as a theory “it involves a radical reappraisal of modern assumptions about culture, identity, history, or language.”
For me, postmodernism 1st of all recognizes the absurdity that my day-to-day life sometimes feels like. Second of all, postmodernism, to me, means looking at everything from as many different angles as possible — not just from the usual angles that society or culture or history or family has used to look at things. I try to re-interpret the world and myself so that it makes sense to me — i’m not especially interested in going out of my way to make sure my life makes sense to everyone else or fits into the boxes that other people expect me to fit into.
I guess, in short, postmodernism resonates with me because i like to take old structures / hierarchies / organizations, old assumptions about culture, identity, history, and language, and smash them apart — atomize them, reduce them to their component particles — and reorganize them as i see fit.
And maybe that’s yet another reason herbs and herbals are interesting to me: modern, scientific medicine is the structure that’s been imposed on me, and herbs/herbals are my way of smashing that and seeking a new system.
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So what’s my “postmodern herbal”? In the autumn of 2005 i finally dragged myself off to my nurse practitioner to talk about a very specific set of things that have plagued me off and on for several years and that were, at that specific point in time, very much affecting the job i had (and need for, y’know, the maintenance of a roof over my head, food in my belly, and health insurance for my silly body). I was not terribly surprised when my NP officially diagnosed me with clinical depression.
I have not yet taken the time to find a therapist so that i can move beyond that initial diagnosis to anything more specific or to any kind of treatment. I have a hard enough time talking to people in general, or to medical personnel in particular, and my depression is perhaps the hardest thing in the world for me to talk about, especially when i consider the possibility that i may have to try more than one therapist before i find one whose treatment style meshes well with my own.
In the interim, i’ve been sort of self-medicating with a variety of activities and actions. And i know that these things, even taken all together as a whole, do not really equal “treatment.” I know that i really do need to get myself to a therapist, and i am, truly, working on that because i’ve recently promised my spouse that i will — things have reached a point where he and i and all my activities and actions put together just are not doing the job of keeping my brain from suddenly sinking into the depths.
But i still suspect even after i find a therapist that all of these activities and actions will be a part of my treatment. Because some of them are good for me and some of them are good measurements of how well i’m doing.
So i think of all these things as my own sort of herbal. And i thought it’d be a good idea to make a list of them, to sort of codify them. Because doing so will, i think, help me to better understand them and why they’re helpful for me, and provide me with a handy list for those times when my brain is sinking into the depths and i need some sort of checklist to use as a ladder to climb back up.
Because what it feels like when my brain is sinking into the depths is that all of the pressure down there is going to make me fly into a thousand tiny little pieces. I feel like i’m going to suddenly atomize and disintegrate and vanish. It very much feels like my brain has gone all postmodern — has lost all sense of hierarchy or organization or structure. My little herbal, then, is my way of imposing (my own) structure back onto myself.
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To actually find out what’s in my herbal, please buy a copy of the zine!