A few things that have happened recently got me thinking about reviews of all sorts and the nature of criticism on the internet. When you’re looking at a thing, be it a zine, a book, a piece of art, or even a meal, it’s all too easy to forget that there is a person or are people behind that creation. Especially when what you see – often day in and day out – are variations on the base concept.
It’s also so much easier to be negative on the internet.
When I first started reviewing zines, I knew that I didn’t want to put up any zine review that was pure criticism. If I disliked a zine more than I liked it, then I simply wouldn’t review it. There were and are plenty of other places to get that sort of feedback on your work.
That’s not my criticism of those places, by the way. I think there’s a place for them, and they certainly have audiences. All I wanted for my reviews was to accept faults and preferences while still celebrating that someone actually made the effort to create something.
Google defines a manifesto as ‘a public declaration of policy and aims’. I take it to mean ‘this is where I stand, and this is what I promise’.
I’ve had an ‘About & Frequently Asked Questions’ page (https://seagreenzines.com/about-faq/) up for a while now that covers basic things like what kinds of zines I review and whether I review digital zines. However, I wanted to create something that stands more as a statement rather than an answer to a question.
As much as this manifesto is a promise to you, it’s also a promise and a reminder to myself. I never want to forget that people make the zines I review. People with hearts and feelings. People who, whether they realise it or not, trust me to review zines in an honest and respectful way. If there comes a point where I can’t see the zine makers for the zines (poor way to say it, but let’s roll with it), I want to be able to come back to this and remind myself where I stand.
Nyx’s Reviewer Manifesto
I will not review it if I don’t like it.
I see no reason for me to post about a zine if I have nothing nice to say about it. I will point out things I don’t like in zines, but if I don’t have positives to balance it out, it’s not happening.
I will be honest about my tastes and strengths.
I’ve probably mentioned my lack of knowledge regarding poetry enough to last everyone a lifetime, but it is the easiest example. If you’re not sure if it’s my ‘thing’, you can always ask. I will tell you the truth, even if it means some happy mail doesn’t get sent to my post box.
I will not lie for the sake of money or ego.
This presumes that I have enough standing to even entertain these things, which is hilarious at the moment but worth stating nonetheless. I will note circumstances (production, price, so on and so forth) but refuse to be swayed or pressured into anything other than what I honestly feel about a zine.
I will always try to view zines beyond the scope of my own experiences.
As much are reviews are my opinions, I understand that my tastes are not in agreement with everyone. In this, I will always try to acknowledge others whom I think will enjoy a zine even if I did not.
I will not post pictures of the inside of a zine without permission.
Zines and the internet have not always been on the best terms – and with good reason. Copyright and ownership can be a tricky subject in the zine community, and the concept of permission is not something that is always respected.
Occasionally I will share pictures of the inside to show off some art or an element I truly loved. You can always be assured that I have asked and been granted permission to share these pictures. It doesn’t matter if your zine is a single piece of paper folded in half or if it takes me three months to hear back on whether I’ve been granted permission; I will get permission or I won’t put up the picture. There are no other options.
I will always, no matter the type of zine or content held within, appreciate someone who takes the time and the postage to send me a zine.
Postage costs are difficult if not impossible to manage, and sending your zine out to a stranger can be both expensive and nerve wrecking. I remember this each and every time I open my post box.
I will never review a zine if the creator has asked me not to.
If a zine creator has asked me not to review a zine in advance (for example, if we did a trade), I will not put up a review.