The cool thing about publishing a zine for over ten years, is that by this time I've been able to whittle my collection down to the "Greatest Hits of Somnambulist". These are the zines I continue to sell, that are still my favorites.
I recently asked my friend Nathan to write descriptions of these zines to make them into a sort of catalogue to bring with me to zine fests. This will help people decipher what the zines are about and entice them to purchase them; I just got really tired trying to describe them over and over at zine-fests and readings.
Here is our working draft!
Written by my friend Nathan
Do you remember the days when there was no internet, and you could just walk down the road drinking 59-cent wine and have some stranger give you a ride to a new job just because you looked lost and would be willing to do it? Do you remember those days? Can you find those days on your Facebook timeline? Can you search your Gmail for those relevant conversations? Search not. You won't remember, but Frank does, and he relays his experiences working as an Egg Delivery Man, Ladies Shoe Salesman, Opportunity Thief, and, while in prison, a Dental Technician, in this issue's extensive interview. If you don't know what work was like before OSHA, craigslist, and rampant corporate greed, it was basically just like working today, except instead of networking, you'd hitchhike around the Pacific Northwest; instead of letters of recommendation from your old boss, what you'd really want after leaving a job was another score of heroin. Read and remember the days before LinkedIn, work emails, and kissing up to your managers, when you could just walk away from a job that sucked, down the road to find another one. 38 pages. Originally published November, 2004.
If there was ever a Somnambulist one-hour series finale episode, you would very much want cameos from many of the characters found in this collection of a half dozen or so stories (and an interview). The ancestral skills and "walking caveman cartoon" guy would enter the apartment and the audience would go woooooooo! and then later, the alcoholic friendwho hides beer in his parents' yard would appear at the window and the music would go womp wooomp, and then Kyle, the spastic narrator of Kyle Sundby’s story, would erupt through the front door and not stop talking to the camera about how no one can be trusted, and we'd go whoop whoop! and then the asshole doctors would show up and we would boo and hiss at them, because we remember them and their deeds. With just a few minutes to go in the whole Somnambulist story arc, the beaver that Martha tries and fails to eat would appear as a ghost and make everyone hug and say a nice thing to each other, and then they would freeze, the frame would fade, the credits would roll, and a single tear would fall down each of our cheeks as we remembered the first time we ever met these characters, in this here issue, like it was yesterday. 32 pages. Super-cool cover art and artwork by Aron Nels Steinke. Originally published June, 2007.
An issue for the Somnambulist completist, featuring the story "Palang and Peacock,” which offers a skewed vision of the world from a slowly-disappearing narrator, and it will feel familiar to anyone who went to high school with dudes who wore gigantic pants, or whose teachers shaved all the hair from their bodies. The story becomes truly universal when all the doves fall dead from the sky, because none of us would prefer to die alone. Bonus! Revealing personal ads! Super-cool illustrations! Spooky medical stories! 26 pages. Originally published MONTH, YEAR.
Somnambulist Number #15
Behold, once and for all, the Grover family in its natural habitat: a house in Gresham, Oregon cluttered with the laundry, dishes, food, shame, and personal accusations of a dozen or so people. Observe the inner workings of the family tribe, who appear at a distance to at least be functional enough to hold weekly meetings—but when you're up close, seated in their living room over these 11 months, another picture emerges: people cry (all the time), people lie on the floor, people skip the meeting, people call it waste of time.
Call the Grover Family Meeting Minutes whatever you want. Call it the "Infamous Somnambulist Issue." Call it the lasting, literal record of one tribe’s weekly council over a year. Just don't call the meeting before 9:30 in the morning, because everyone will get mad at you.
Here is the proof you’ve always needed that moving back in with your parents isn’t as cool as everyone says it is. Proof that bickering can be superficial even when family connections will always run deep. As one Grover put it, "My family enjoys making a spectacle of themselves. The Grover Family Meeting Minutes are just one more example of this." 38 pages. Originally published October, 2009. Later published in One More for the People.
Somnambulist #20 - The Food Issue
Stories and recipes make up this issue, an autobiography of sorts, told through food. Gain sacred Mustard Knowledge and the secrets of sweet potato burritos, learn about how food affects one's growing body, or how and when to give a dog the Heimlich Maneuver. With the insights and recipes of this issue, you'll learn all about hippie food, budget cuisine, and other hard-won knowledge of a veteran cheesemonger. It doesn't matter if you're a food-person or not-- you have to eat food and you have to have a relationship with it, because life and food are after all the same thing: every tomorrow is a giant fork rolled up with noodle, barreling towards you from the unseen future-- every new day, it's here comes the choo-choo! 26 pages. Cover art by Kate Berube. Originally published November, 2012. Bonus: An ad for the Bearded Lady Photography project.
Strange truths clash inside the mysteries that make up this issue, some biographical and emotional, some anthropological and scientific. These thirteen or so short pieces blur what your mind’s eye sees when you think about the differences between humans and animals, or the path that we often call “progress.” And this is all coming from someone who grew up as an evangelical Christian. Faith, science, reason, and belief… The overall effect in these pages is a renewal of what we think about our own life when we try to remember what’s true about it. 24 pages. Originally published February, 2014.
A diary of change. Heartache, heartbreak, cat-tarot, bike rides, Richard Pryor smoking crack, the devil, banging a guy just because you feel like it, a carousel horse, Gorilla Galaxy, college, burns, dream-Bernard, child criminals, break-up emails: All what it is to be a newly- and once-single adult, forced by time to grow. 28 pages. Originally published July, 2014.
A collection of flash fiction, flash essays, and flash who-knows-what, arranged as meticulously and as meatily as an $18 sandwich. Inside this issue is the kaleidoscopic mouth-feel of reality television, the zesty whip of scientific autobiography, and the rare-cooked interior of a family's pre-history. Add ritual Japanese suicide to taste. Served with a generous portion of online dating. 36 pages. Originally published MONTH, YEAR.
Somnambulist #25 - The P.I. Story - What It's Really Like to Be a Private Investigator
Why would Bitch Media call this the best Somnambulist issue ever? Why would comic artist Jason Martin of Driftwood City fame call this a "tense, richly-layered story"? Why are you so curious about this issue’s acclaim? Instead, maybe you should be asking, What could ever go wrong if a writer became a private investigator—or maybe, what could ever go right? What does it mean to work a job that cuts bone-deep into your own existence? What if it gives you stress-diarrhea? You ever thought about that, buddy? Why are you asking so many questions about this issue, when all the answers are inside of it? Have you ever investigated anything? Have you ever investigated a god damn thing in your life? What do you do, just sit around, drooling at the walls all day? What's gotten into you lately? 34 pages. Originally published MONTH, YEAR.
Somnambulist #26 - Xi'an and Portland - Two Friends Talk About Their Cities
This exchange of letters with writer TJ Acena crisscrosses the 6,000-ish miles of ocean between Portland, Oregon and Xi'an, China. When looking at their cities, they see histories of imperialism, consumerism, capitalism, and several of the other isms, all from the everyday vantage point of someone just trying to get by: for TJ, teaching English in China; for Martha, cleaning houses in Portland.
And maybe it's useful for readers of this issue that Xi'an started as a city with the closing of a wall and Portland started as a city with the opening of a port, because these conversations show us on different levels how “the city” is one of our greatest and most annoying contradictions: you can feel alone in populated places, as TJ does in the Chinese fake-Starbucks; you can see a city decay while it grows, as Martha does in “developing” Portland. These letters, back and forth, are both political and personal, intimate and informative, urgent and ageless. 40 pages.
Somnambulist #27 – Amsterdam and Portland - Two Friends Talk About Their Cities
The second in a series of correspondence between writers, this time with David Small, #27 expands and deepens topics from the Xi’an and Portland issue relating to urban space, migration, privilege, and how a person tries to grow as the world keeps shrinking. Sometimes you save a stranger’s life, sometimes a distant friend dies, and you always have to be a witness to it. Whether it’s at a mountain ledge in rural Oregon or in the crowded streets of a European city, these letters remind us that we’re always strangers in strange lands. Also, here is a direct quote from David Small: “I actually like the smell of cow poop.” 60 pages. Originally published July, 2016 and serially on somnambulistzine.com.
You may or may not be amazed at how many stories people have about getting something stuck up their nose, or about how they became physically stuck in something. You probably have one of those stories, and even more probably have something stuck up your nose right now. The "Stuck Issue" is an ode to this predicament, told by 13 different real-life people who had something stuck, or were themselves stuck, in a physical or existential grip. Stacie stuck candy corn in her nose—Rachael stuck herself in an impulsive marriage—Mark S. was stuck in a couch—another Mark was stuck with a mother who sexually assaulted him as a child, setting him up to be a 40-something whose mind and life have been “seriously fucked with.” You will find inside: the goofy, the emotionally devastating, and many such tales of stuck-ness in between. 13 stories. Cover design by Aaron Robert Miller. 40 pages. Originally published December, 2016.