Reading Log, December 2020

Everything (of substance) that I read in December, with some annotations.

A best of/reflection piece for 2020 will come out when I've put more time into it... I ended up doing collages over my break instead of writing!

A ⌛︎ before a title indicates that I have not finished reading it.

Total: 6 novels, 2 light novels (+ 3 short stories), 3 visual novel stories, 1 short story, 14 zines, 5 articles, 1 manga chapter


Opuntia zine

During the last week of November I started a zine binge. A last purchase from the Pioneers Press going-out-of-business sale included a freebie copy of Xerography Debt #20, a review zine; several of the reviewers covered circa-2006 issues of Opuntia. The topics mentioned (as well as the botanical Latin title) piqued my interest, so I did some online sleuthing.

Opuntia is a zine written by Dale Speirs that has been running since 1991, with 488 total issues to date. The content is a diverse mix including history, economics, and science articles, zine, science fiction, and mystery reviews, write-ups of conventions and fan events, abstracts of academic articles-of-interest, editorial correspondence, and stories about the author's daily life in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

The older issues use a fractional numbering system to divide the content: “Whole-numbered OPUNTIAs are sercon, x.1 issues are reviewzines, x.2 issues are indexes, x.3 issues are apazines, and x.5 issues are perzines”, which for those unfamiliar with the jargon are serious-constructive, amateur press association , and personal zines. Beginning with issue #248 (April 2012) Speirs switched to a straight numbering scheme; after retirement, he no longer had as many work anecdotes to share, and the focus of his serious writing shifted to longer projects with the eventual goal of publishing a book. (I have no idea if he's succeeded — I haven't read more recent issues!) Two years later, Speirs distributed his final issue by mail and switched to online-only publishing, as he could no longer afford the increased postage rates. You can find all issues archived on efanzines.

I've found myself most interested in Speirs' sercon and perzine issues; Speirs is a philatelist, worked for over 30 years in the Calgary parks department, and has a love of science and the outdoors — all things that I enjoy reading about. I have also, as a non-Canadian, appreciated the insight into life and politics in a different country, and the little bits of local history.

After flipping through Opuntia issues from 2004—2012, here are my favorites:

If anyone out there can recommend their favorite issues, send them my way! 488 (and growing) issues is a lot to sift through and I doubt my attention will hold for long enough to get through the complete archives.