I was just looking through a notebook of mine and found a few scrawled notes from Hamja Ahsan‘s talk at the Autism Arts Festival earlier this year. I didn’t note down any context but I assume these were recommendations from Hamja. I’ll list them below both for my own reference and in case this is of interest to others. Please note some of these will have nothing to do with autism or zines as Hamja’s talk was wide-ranging.
“Easter 1916” series on Amazon Prime (about Patrick Pearse)
“Name of the Father” movie starring Emma Thompson
“The Establishment” book by Owen Jones
Quote: “Susan Cain is the Tony Blair of introverts.”
‘Thanks for your concern but that’s just my face – Life with non-verbal tourettes‘ is a 16-page A6 zine in colour and black-and-white. It is available on the maker’s Etsy store. Autism isn’t mentioned in this zine or in its Etsy descrition so I’ve filed it under my awkwardly-named Non-autistic(?) zines page. This creator also made ‘Autism Room 101‘, which I posted about here.
This perzine is essentially an account of what it’s like living with non-verbal Tourette’s Syndrome. When the author says “non-verbal” they seem to mean that their personal tics don’t involve speech or vocalisation, instead being in the form of repetitive bodily movements. I’m spelling that out here because this blog mostly talks about autism-related zines and in autism circles “non-verbal” is generally used as a (flawed) way of saying “non-speaking”. (The author doesn’t actually state in the zine that they DO use speech, so it’s possible they might also be a non-speaking person, but my reading didn’t infer that.)
The zine starts with definitions of the different types of tic disorders, then describes what a tic is: “Tics can be vocal – usually words or noises (such as clearing one’s throat). Only 10% of people with Tourette’s have swear words as vocal tics. Tics can also be motor – these are quick, often repetitive movements, such a blinking, facial grimacing, jerks and muscle movements.” Later sections include what it feels like before a tic happens, a very short history of the author’s diagnostic journey and school experiences, lists of their tics, some of the difficulties that they experience, insensitive comments they’ve received, and ends with a list of good things about their tics. It’s a sweet little zine and was a pleasant read.
‘a is for aspergers – a personal glossary of a spectrumy life’ is a 30-page A5 black-and-white zine. It is available to buy in the UK from pen fight distro and in the US from microcosm or Wasted Ink. The author’s website is here.
The zine is essentially a personal dictionary of terms relating to Asperger’s Syndrome. If this were written as an objective A-Z I would probably take issue with it in a few places but the author emphasises that it reflects only their own personal understanding of these terms and as such I think it’s a terrific way to not only learn some new things about autism, but also of exploring one person’s individual sense-making of their diagnosis and place in the world.
In the introduction the author states “This booklet, or zine, was a very difficult and personal thing for me to write. Bear with me. The purpose of this booklet is to explain some terms that have to do with Aspergers and autism as I understand them. My understanding might not be the same as the ones found in the media and the books that make the bestsellers list every now and then. I’ve got a lot of complicated feelings about a lot of this. My opinions are strong and deep, based on my own 42 years of exploration and introspection as a person who has an Aspergers diagnosis based on DSM-IV criteria. […] I want this to be helpful for people with autism-spectrum brain set-ups. […] I hope this work is taken for what it is: an honest effort to try to make sense out of a topic that is confusing. Of course, like Samuel Johnson, I have infused my own particular opinions and prejudices into some of my definitions. […]”
On page 24 the author defines ‘spectrumy‘, a word used in the zine’s subtitle: “This is an alternative adjective to autistic for describing people and behaviours. Sometimes people bristle and get defensive at the mention of the word ‘autism’. Spectrumy seems more conversational and approachable. Also, it’s much easier to use than saying “on the spectrum” all the time. I like having it as an option.“
‘MONOCHROME‘, published 2017, is a 24-page A6 black-and-white zine of the creator’s artwork. It is available on Cody’s Etsy store here and you can find more of their art on their tumblr here. Cody is the person behind the Flappy Hands zine, which I reviewed here.
The shop listing describes the zine as follows: “This zine contains just art, no words. It’s a tiny collection of black and white art, various styles but mostly abstract doodles and little sketches of random stuff.“
The zine includes patterns, doodles, illustrations of faces, birds, cutlery, and UFO encounters. The only text in the zine, in small letters at the top of one page, reads “I want to believe” – a reference to ‘The X-Files‘.
This is a full-colour A5 zine with 11 pages of photographs and 3 pages of text on glossy paper. You can buy a copy on the printer’s store here and you can find the author on Instagram here. I have no idea if this zine is connected to autism, so I will list it on my tentatively-named Non-autistic(?) zines page. Looking at the author’s Insta post about the zine, they use hashtags relating to mental health, disability awareness, special needs, SEN, and learning disabilities. In the zine itself the author mentions hidden disability.
The zine’s concerns are around guilt, paranoia, feeling ill prepared, and the tensions around a father’s role in parenting a young man with hidden disabilities and how aspects of such parenting may be misread and judged from within and without. It’s poignantly written and as a person who sometimes fulfills a not-entirely-dissimilar role I found it very moving. I won’t say any more about it, or the photographs (which are not of people), in the hope that you’ll have chance to experience the zine for yourself.
Although liberally illustrated ‘Different Times – Drag, life, rock’n’roll: Five years in Six Inch Killaz, 1994-99‘ is quite a thick, text-heavy zine at 40 dense pages of A5. The zine looks back at a period of the author Simon’s life when they were very active in the drag punk scene of the 1990s as Mona in the aforementioned band. The zine is sold by Charlotte Cooper at their BigCartel store for £3.00. You can also view some its pages and llustrations on the author’s flickr.
To me the zine seemed almost like an oral history of a culture that I knew nothing about. I found it surprisingly interesting, especially the author’s passing mentions of Asperger’s and some of the resultant social complications, naiveties, and intense loyalties arising thereof. The zine’s first page reads, in part:
“It’s a long zine, so let me break it down: I’ll start with drag in the 90s, the clubs I went to and the wider drag and queer scenes. I’ll introduce you to the five members of the band, our early history, and my zine Girly. Then I’ll talk about the way the band worked and what led to our downfall, before bringing us up to date in a different kind of queer DIY music and drag world.
My memories and opinions may not be shared by the other Killaz, and in some places these are influenced by something I didn’t know about at the time, which is that I have Asperger’s Syndrome. It’s taken me a long time to get around to writing this stuff partly because of it.
‘Autism Room 101‘ is an amusing 20-page zine listing various sounds, smells, food and drink, people, and other things that some autistic people would like to see banished from the world for all time. The zine is currently available via the maker’s Etsy store and the Vampire Hag distro store.
The opening page reads: “For this zine I asked members of the Autistic community what they would put in Room 101. The idea was to pick something that they would want to be removed from existence. (This was a game, so shouldn’t be taken too seriously)“
Some of my favourite responses were “Things that make noise. All of them.“, “The bullshit ‘citrus vanilla’ smell that actually smells like betrayal“, “Donald trump“, “People who Laugh for no discernible reason“, “Invasive questions“, and “Cats licking plastic bags“.
‘Flappy Hands‘, published 2017, is a 24-page A5 full-colour zine of photographs, drawings, collages, and general visual joy. This zine is most definitely “stimmy” and you can get a feel for the maker’s style on their tumblr here.
On the opening page the author writes “Hi, so I’m Cody and I’m autistic. Flappy Hands is an art/photography zine about the things I love, my special interests, my stims, favourite places. Basically things that make me flap my hands with happiness.” They go on to say that their “favourite thing in the world is music” and that “Some songs I associate with certain colours or patterns. Where an artwork is based on a song, the artist and song title will be listed underneath it.” Later in the zine Cody talks about their anxiety around attending their first gig, which turned about to be “amazing” and “one of my favourite memories” and then about their “absolute favourite gig [which] was an Against Me! one…“. They also include a list of their favourite songs.
This is a lovely joyful zine and a pleasure to look at. I purchased my copy on their Etsy store here.
Volume 1 of ‘Autistic Leftwing Queer’ is a 50ish page black and white A5 zine which carries the following trigger-warnings on its first page: “Sexual Abuse, Sex, Relationships, Threats of violence, Self Harm, Suicidal thoughts“. The zine is comprised of short sections of the author’s text on collage-style backgrounds such as newspaper clippings, crosswords, packets of fabric plasters, illustrations, photographs, and all sorts of other things. Although the content is very troubling and emotive I enjoyed the visual style very much.
The zine begins “Dear” followed by a black rectangle which indicates the redaction of its subject’s name and goes on to reflect on the creator’s past abusive relationship with this person. While the zine isn’t humourless or joyless most of it concerns deeply personal experiences that I don’t feel comfortable detailing on this blog. My reasoning is that the author chose to publish the material in zine form, not online, and that it would be indiscreet or even wrong of me to violate those boundaries, particularly given that the author expresses concern about potential reprisal for using #MeToo and similar in the past.
In the closing pages of the zine the author changes style to explicitly draw attention to the difficulties autistic people face in asserting their boundaries and having them respected by others, and the potentially deadly serious consequences of this in terms of increased rates of sexual abuse committed against disabled people (especially those “read as women“), and increased rates of suicide among those autistic people “deemed ‘high functioning’“. Specifically, the author argues that for many “autistic AFABs” (autistic people who are assigned-female-at-birth – in other words gendered female from infancy) much of their lives are spent being told that they are a “nuisance […] to our families“, suppressing their sensory aversions and social needs while “trying our best to ‘do things correctly’” in spite of “consistent bullying or rejection“. The author argues that this normative oppression too often results in anxious and uncomfortable enforced compliance and asks “When you’re conditioned to accept feeling uncomfortable for the benefit of others and relying on them to tell you what’s ‘normal’, how can you tell what’s unacceptable behaviour towards you? How can you recognise abuse when your boundaries have been broken over and over by pretty much everyone you know, from an early age?“. The zine ends with a rallying cry to reject hegemonic normalcy, to spare autistic people this burden, and to teach autistic children to say no and “to say it loudly from a young age“, concluding “It’s depressing stuff. But it needs talking about. And it needs addressing. This shit matters.“
I’m not sure where this zine is available to buy online. I found my copy via a distro table at Sheffield Zine Fest 2019. The creator has a facebook presence here.
‘Scorpio Moon‘ no. 2 ‘the moving house edition‘ is a 40-page 2016 perzine (personal zine) by Jade Mars, who self-describes on the last page as “a trans genderqueer femme witch” whose “writing focuses on gender and sexuality, radical politics, magic, travel, mental health and self-care“. This specific issue of their zine is now out-of-print. Their current work can be found on the MartianLetters Etsy store, the latest issue of ‘Scorpio Moon‘ being no. 7, which appears to be unavailable at present.
On the first page of the zine Jade writes: “content note: this zine discusses anxiety, depression, and Conservative economic policies. it makes reference to abusive relationships, transmisogyny, police brutality, alcohol use, state racism and sex. there are swear words too.”
I read this zine on a train yesterday and wondered what to say about it and what an ideal post on this blog should look like (this being my first). I decided that given that I’m not “of” zine culture, and that I’m not of the demographics that seem most potent within the space (being a cishet 30-something white-ish man), I’m not qualified to ‘review’ this zine. Neither am I particularly interested in evaluating a product that is out-of-print and likely unavailable to the reader. Is a zine even a ‘product’ anyway? A ‘work’ seems more fitting. And this work is a perzine – it reads like a diary – hardly something to be assessed and judged. So I thought to myself – what was I looking for when I started googling for autistic zines – and that would be a list (which I’m keeping here), some basic summary of the contents of specific zines, and maybe a few quotes where autism or a notable aspect of autistic experience are mentioned. Well, I’m not really clear what I mean by a “notable aspect of autistic experience”, so here’s a first attempt at the other stuff:
The first half of the zine is dedicated to an account of Jade’s 28th birthday holiday to Berlin, where they stayed with friends. This section includes some reflections on the cost of living in Berlin versus in London, going to a yoga class, eating German foods, experiencing social anxiety abroad, visiting various exhibitions and book shops, generally being with friends, and doing tarot readings about the possibility of moving house within London or from London to Brighton or Berlin. The week-long holiday concludes with Jade’s birthday celebration which involves going for brunch, to a sauna and various other activities. (This description seems bit lifeless, doesn’t it? I wonder how I’m actually supposed to do this thing I’ve started…)
The next section talks about spending Christmas with family and reflects on the tensions around heteronormative pressures to achieve coupledom, home-ownership, and to produce offspring whilst living as a “queer trans non-monogamous person with no intention of getting married, having kids, or ‘settling down’”.
In the following section Jade talks about leaving London after spending most of their adult life living there and reflects on the changes they’ve experienced over that time in employment, education, activism, and zine-making, all in the context of the election of the Conservative Party to government and the impact of their “heartless policies” and the personal precacity brought to Jade’s finances and housing as a result. Jade also reflects on gentrification and its impact on “queer, feminist and DIY venues” and services, and on state power, police oppressions, and the visibility of economic inequality in London. Jade concludes this section by reflecting on their personal feelings about their life in London and what a move to Brighton might mean for their future.
The last sections of the zine talk about Jade’s final month in London and conclude with “A love letter to Brighton” which explores Jade’s “first full flushes of New Relationship Energy” for the city, and includes comments on its small size, more relaxed vibe, queer scene, and their new house and housemates, and the sea.
So, there we go, my first actual post about an autistic zine, which doesn’t anywhere within its pages mention autism. From what I understand autism is explored more fully in later issues. I wonder if this post is actually useful to anyone. Especially given that Jade publishes their own summaries here. Well, at least it’s on the Internet now. Maybe someone will find a use for it, and if not, never mind, I enjoyed reading the zine.
Hello. This is blog dedicated to zines by autistic people. You can learn more about the history of this blog and its rationale here, and you can find a ‘master list’ of autistic zines here. If you’d like to learn more about zine culture you could start with the articles listed here, and if you’d just like to get busy shopping I’ve listed some online stores here.
Finally, I’d be very grateful for any suggestions of zines to list, or for the chance to interview autistic zine-makers (in writing!) for the blog, or if you know of any distros or online stores that carry autistic zines. For all of these things you can contact me here.
I’m brand new to ‘zine culture’ and I never know how long my enthusiasm for a subject will last so I’m hoping that this time rather than diving in to something and then abandoning it later without a trace I’ll actually leave a trace this time, here. Having a target for my interest in the form of this blog might actually keep me on task and be useful for other people, so it seems worth a try.