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Publishing a Fanzine
During Wartime
by Mike Gunderloy
from "How to Publish a Fanzine"

Fanzines are, for most of us, just a hobby. But somewhere in the back of our minds, at least for those of us who occasionally give vent to mildly "subversive" words, there's always one little worry: what if THEY don't let me publish?
For most of us, human beings that we are, the choice is inevitable: to submit to suppression in the hope that things will shortly get better. After all, the government knows what it's doing, right? But some few will find themselves pushed to the edge by censorship and resolve to fight back. In particular, during times of intense repression, whether by a domestic government or a foreign occupying force, some individuals will continue publishing, and form the REAL underground press.
The power of the press is multiplied when the competition is lessened. Major H. von Dach Bern, author of the guerilla-warfare guide Total Resistance, says, "Keep in mind that a typewriter is often more important than a pistol, a reproduction machine is worth as much as a light machine gun. On the other hand, he also says, "If, during a search of private homes, supplies or paper and repro duction machines are found, the inhabitants will face imprisonment or execution," so this is not a subject to approach lightly by any means.
To a large extent it's arrogant of me to try and discuss this real underground press, as I've never had to be terribly clandestine about my activities. But on the other hand, there are people publishing even today, even in the United States, who need to make use of security measures in order to get their words out. For example, zines devoted to pedophilia are increasingly the target of police activity, often in blatant violation of their civil rights. Anarchists preaching "direct action" have had similar problems. If you're thinking about publishing matter that could get you arrested, perhaps I can pass along a few hints from others in similar circumstances.
There are two basic rules to remember. The first is that you can't trust anyone. The second is that you can't afford to leave any evidence behind you. These are not graven in stone, and the first, especially, will have to be violated by, say, a resistance movement in wartime. But I'm not concerned with getting ten thousand copies of a leaflet scattered across occupied territory as much as with putting out 100 copies of something that personally and graphically insults El Presidente. With this in mind, let's look at how the two basic rules affect putting out a zine, from initial conception through final distribution.
Assuming that you can't trust anyone, you'll end up writing the whole thing yourself. This shouldn't be any problem, as no one is going to get into this situation who doesn't feel he has a lot to say. Of course, you'll have to do your own illustrations, if any, or do without. You never know who that artist might be talking to in his spare time.
For getting final copy ready, typesetting is of course out of the question. One is reduced to more primitive methods. In our current society, it is difficult to imagine any sort of effective control over typewriters and computers being undertaken by any oppressor. But it could happen. If your typewriter is registered with the local police, you can't use it for typing subversive literature. There are two alternatives. One is to go even more low tech, and handwrite everything this only requires procuring paper or pens and pencils. The other is to find a typewriter, perhaps in an office, to which you have access for other, more legitimate reasons, and use it on the sly. In any case, as soon as the copy goes from manuscript to typescript, the original should be destroyed. This does not, of course, mean pitching it in the garbage can for someone else to find. It means burning it, and stirring the ashes thoroughly so that they cannot be pieced back together into some bit of the original. Police procedures get more inventive all the time, so destroy things as thoroughly as you possibly can. (See the book by Background GMBH for more information on the battle of evidence.)
Comes time to print this stuff, once again you must remember that you can't trust anyone. This, at once, rules out all methods of printing that require a printshop. It probably also rules out home copiers, as someone is bound to notice that you're buying toner and other chemicals in large quantities. Ditto machines and mimeographs are the way to go, and my preference would be for the former, as it is smaller and requires less supplies to operate. A ditto machine can be run on grain or wood alcohol if only you have had the foresight to lay in a stock of master sheets before the crunch. A mimeo requires ink, which is potentially subject to much tighter controls, although making your own ink is possible. In either case, the master should be destroyed as soon as the press run is finished. If you need to reprint, you can always make another master. The destruction must include the backing sheet of the mimeo stencil or the carbon sheet of the ditto master, as either of these will easily reveal what has been typed.
A problem with these machines is that the kachunka-kachunka noises which they make are quite distinctive and thus easily recognized by anyone who has heard them in the past. If you are in close proximity to other people, some sort of noise cover may be needed. Run your radio full blast in the next room; arrange for a large truck idling in front of your house; or get a confederate to do some noisy wood or metal work as you print. The problem with these latter two methods is that they bring other people into the big picture. An alternative, if you have a closed vehicle such as a van available, is to drive the press out to a remote area and print where you can't be overheard. Of course, this again becomes very difficult if the machine you're using requires electricity, or if gasoline is tightly rationed.
Mailing is right out under these circumstances it's too dangerous for you and for the recipient. Some sort of hand distribution system is essential. The basic method to use is to pass the zine along to people you trust directly, while intimating that you yourself got it from someone else. At the end of the zine, there should be a request for the reader to pass it on to someone else trusted this will maximize your circulation, although it, of course, also increases the chance of a copy falling into the wrong hands. But the latter outcome can scarcely be avoided, which is why you must be very careful to be untraceable.
For wider, random distribution, several subterfuges are available. The boldest move is to put on a postal uniform and stuff copies in mailboxes as you go down the street. Another possibility is to buy a newspaper from a vending machine and leave fifty copies of your own paper behind in the box. A third means of distribution is to leave a stack atop a tall building, letting the wind distribute them as you leave.
Finally, if you're seriously thinking of dangerous propaganda in an occupation situation, you should consider posters instead of newspaper. Posters can be seen by people who don't care to carry subversive literature, and thus garner a wider audience. Perhaps the cleverest idea is to make mini-posters modifying the official one. These can range from a simple "ALL LIES" to long diatribes against the Glorious Leader or whoever. Self-adhesive stock is readily available today, and can be printed on by any of the methods we have discussed. Failing this, there's always plain paper and flour paste. Just make sure that you're not noticed as you sidle up to the Big Brother poster with the sticker that says "Sisterhood is powerful."

Copyright 1988 Mike Gunderloy. Posted with permission. To download "How to Publish a Fanzine," click here.

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