Raw Material
Pills a go go

Jim Hogshire,

Age: late 30s

Selection: "Reptilian Thoughts" (page 34)

Recent review (from Chip's Closet Cleaner): "Easy-to-swallow news and notes... It's not just for the addicted."

Sample: $2 from PMB 849, 1122 E. Pike St., Seattle, WA 98122 [no response to email or snail mail inquiries, Feb 2002]

When did you launch your zine? What inspired you to do so?
I started PaGG in 1991 as a way of documenting my fascination with pills and pill culture. I had moved to Seattle but didn't yet have a network of friends and I wanted something to do. I had always admired zine-makers and had once taken a stab at it in 1990 with one issue of a zine called South Coast Omelette. That taught me how much tougher it is to do than it looks. It turned out to be a one-shot "learning experience." So this time I made sure I could do the whole thing without any outside help and not creating too much work for myself.

Why publish a zine?
Believe it or not, I still see zines as an important source of information. Most zines don't You Are Going to Prisoncontain breaking news but some of them could and do—not that many establishment people would notice. Some of them report on things no one else reports on. The Sabot Times was a zine for people in the media (mainly newspapers) who were admitting to each other that they were not such bearers of the torch of truth, that they were cogs in a corporation and truth-telling was of least importance in their gigs. So they'd bitch about their disillusions but they'd also egg each other on and advise each other on ways to subvert their system. Some of their monkey-wrenching was hilarious, especially if they were able to document some outraged memo from some steamed managerial-type determined to find out who planted that fake headline or "outted" a particularly mean or stuck-up editor.
I'm sure PaGG was "first" to report on a few things. None were especially earth-shattering, but some would have been considered "important" had they appeared in hi-falutin' publications. A pharmaceutical testing company ordered a subscription. They wanted to keep tabs.
Since I didn't force my sources to identify themselves, I got a lot of cool info fast. More than a few doctors, nurses and other medical personnel subscribe and they have reported on their various theories or findings that are nowhere near what the medical journals demand or even want. These guys don't have time to conduct a "proper" FDA-type study. So I'd get first-hand information about medications from those who prescribed it, administered it, and took it. I found out a good deal about the biz from pharmacists and pharmacy and medical students.

Any general tips for aspiring zinesters?
Be realistic about your capacity to do this. For instance, if you have a dot matrix printer but plan Opium for the Massesto borrow a laser printer or even any other equipment, forget it. You'll be hostage to other people's favors. Also, don't count on friends to help you. You're setting a booby trap for yourself. And make it last a year. Factsheet Five founder Mike Gunderloy once said that the typical half-life of a zine is a year. Beat that. Same goes for design and advertising. Don't blow your wad on one or two issues. If you realize it takes too much work to be that slick then, don't downgrade—just quit. Better to start small and slow.
Keep your focus. Your zine should be directed toward something, a theme, a person, a philosophy. Then you will always know what to write about. You'll also know whether you're about to enter into competition with 10 other zines who cover Saturday morning cartoons or the history of beer or whatever. Find something that no one else does well.
A zine's success is related to the purity of spirit behind it. Trying to make money is not all that spiritually pure. Not that it's bad or wrong. But dollars or circulation figures are not, for me, the real measure of success. When PaGG got real popular a couple of years ago and Barnes & Noble and a few other chains started carrying it, I thought I might have a business on my hands. I was kinda psyched and began to think of ways to make PaGG "grow." Then this kid in Illinois killed himself (or herself, dunno) and there was an issue of PaGG in the room with a Barnes & Noble sticker on it. I don't know much more than that, except that within a few days, B&N was sending back hundreds of copies and so did each of the "independent" Borders Bookstores. I got to eat the costs.
lizard manThat's when I realized I liked it better when the zine was small. I had never meant to make money and never have. That episode showed me the frailty of such a goal. Now I have a different pricing policy. The zine is free, but I strongly encourage people to donate a couple bucks an issue. You put money into the equation and the thing or endeavor—I don't care what it is—will change. If a person is trying to sell ads more than do a good zine, the zine will quickly reflect that.

What's your favorite part of doing a zine?
Sending 'em out. The job is done. By that time, it's all I've been doing for a couple of weeks and I'm relieved. Gathering the information, writing it, pasting it up all feel good, too. Then there's the part where readers write in. My readers are super-loyal. Like, when it was too long between issues, they'd write in with gentle reminders "not to forget" to put out another issue. No one was pissed and wanting their money back.
Then, when I finally got on my feet, I get busted and have to put out a one-sheet issue while living on people's floors and dealing with the police and lawyers and all that shit. So there I was, a year late with a tiny issue and I had to ask them for help. I Pills a Go Goreceived more donations for my legal defense fund from PaGG readers than from anyone else. They also stood up for me like no other group. They gave a shit. Their advice was realistic, and their feelings sincere. They'd send in a crumpled, even soggy $5 bill or outright admit they had no money for me but they would pray. That meant and still means a lot to me.

In my other life, I'm a:
Freelance writer. I've been a cab driver, a deckboy, I've worked at a half-dozen publications, had uncountable shit jobs cleaning things. I also managed to milk the grad school game for three years, teaching Italian to 18-year-old girls.

Fan Mail
Pills-a-Go-Go: The Book
Opium, Made Easy

DM Discussion
On having a reptilian brain (113K)
More on the reptilian brain (114K)
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