In the interest of completeness, I’m keeping a copy of the original nine Air in the Paragraph Line issues here. They are somewhat less interesting in quality, and only the PDFs are available – the print versions are long gone.
Death Metal Beginnings
Way back in 1990, an old friend of mine named Ray Miller had a zine called Metal Curse. I also listened to metal, and started writing a regular column for him. But a year later, I transferred schools, and I was also looking to get free tapes, too. (Face it: that’s the only reason anyone starts a music zine.) So I started Xenocide, a death metal zine, laserprinting pages in the basement of the science building and photocopying them at Kinko’s with a stolen print meter.
Death metal got redundant after a while, but I enjoyed talking to people all over the world, and I learned how to use PageMaker. Mostly, I enjoyed creating this thing of my own that I could read for hours, and carry around with me for when I was bored at a bus stop. Xenocide died after five issues, when I got too busy and poor with school. But I knew I wanted another zine someday.
Free Photocopies and a Perzine
Back in the beginning of 1996, I was at my first corporate job, probably abusing their 1-800 number, when I realized that on every floor of the building, there was a huge Panasonic copier – one of the kinds that sorts, staples, does two-sided copies, adjusts for photos – everything except make pancakes. (which would be a good idea – how about it, Panasonic?) These copiers were totally unguarded, unaudited, and I was always there after 5:00. So I knew I needed to start a zine. It was just a matter of figuring out what it would be about.
At the time, I had finished my first book (the first draft, anyway) and started the second. And I was always writing people back home about stuff, so I figured I would make a sort of Jon Konrath newsletter, with parts of the books, stories, news about my boring life, and more. The ‘more’ usually ended up being some odd book reviews and pieces of my outgoing mail. I cut all of this up, crammed it together in FrameMaker, and the first issue of Air in the Paragraph Line was born. I made about 50 copies of the first issue, stapled each in the corner, and mailed them to a bunch of people. It had no price, and my main design consideration was that it weighed less than an ounce so I could mail it with one stamp.
Everyone liked the format, and the writing. It was like a little booklet – trifolded and casual, with tons of words on the page. And it was free. Since it only took me one night to put it together, I figured I could do the same thing every month. This lead to issues 2, 3, and 4 – each a little bigger, with more stories, a trip report, some excerpts of my writing, and a lot more mail. I made more copies, and got a lot more responses as they spread.
After #4, I quit my job, and started another one, without the copiers. I still had enough stories in the queue to warrant another issue, so I typed out a huge monologue, instead of the usual monthly columns. I printed them on a Mac, and used a totally different layout but still did the tri-fold pages. I did a much more limited run, since I had to pay for them myself. I like issue 5 the best of the older ones – it reads a lot different, and has some great writing. I still find myself reading the whole thing through and laughing at jokes I forgot I made.
Things deteriorated from there. Issue 6 was written on a legal pad with a felt tip marker, and a dozen photocopies were sent out. #7 was also very short, done only as an ezine. After that, the whole project took a long nap.
Second Edition: More Writers, Pages
Almost a year later, I got the idea to do a real literary zine. I read a lot of paper zines and literary journals, and didn’t like any of them. They all had an alterior motive, or some kind of academic or holier-than-thou attitude. I liked reading stories because they were fun, or entertaining. I loved the zine Cometbus, and wondered if I could do something as readable. I asked around for some writing from others, and chipped in a few of my own stories. Some contributors were actual writers, working up from the bottom of the ladder, trying to get exposure. Others were non-writer friends who had good stories that I was able to goad out of them (or do some ghost-editing.) I got some art, did the whole thing up in Frame, and spent a bonus check getting a few hundred of them photocopied. Finally, in October of 97, I had a box full of issue #8.
I got some excellent response on issue 8, and a lot of good reviews, too. This meant I had to do a followup. I got many of the same writers, and a bunch of new people, and pulled together an even longer issue with tons of great stuff. Once again, it got many good reviews and a lot of people loved it.
Things died after issue #9. My book writing was at full steam, the zine scene was getting a little stupid and I wasn’t punk rock enough to hang out with the cool kids. I moved to New York in the beginning of ’99 and focused on my own writing. Then, after doing a few print-on-demand books, I realized a zine would be a great project for the medium. In 2005, I refactored everything, asked a new set of friends for longer stories, and here we are.
Here are the first nine issues of Air in the Paragraph Line in PDF format for your reading pleasure.
Note: #8 and #9 are formatted with a blank page on each alternating page, so they could be printed double-sided, so the PDFs look weird.