Vale: Tell us how you started Mystery Date. For source materials, you draw on these older–I hate to say out-dated–etiquette books?
Lynn Peril: They’re often frighteningly up-to-date. I had wanted to do a zine for a really long time. I had a couple of false starts. An original zine title that I came up with around 1988 was Bookhead. It was going to be about used books or books I liked, but that never really got off the ground. I have a folder full of ideas for that project.
Meanwhile, I have always been interested in popular culture-particularly how it pertains to women. I was inspired to collect etiquette books by reading Johnny Marr’s “(Anti-) Sex Tips for Teens,” a one-off issue of his zine, Murder Can Be Fun. It’s great; it goes the whole nine yards from the 19th century forward.
Everything finally reached critical mass, and I put out the first issue of Mystery Date, back in 1994.
Vale: You must have been incubating for years–
LP: I was incubating for years and years. I remember reading punk rock fanzines in the late ’70s and wanting to do writing for them, or produce my own. But I never wanted to do a music-only zine.
Actually, when I was a little kid I used to write my own books-about the neighbor’s cat or something like that. My friends and I were all into the soap opera Dark Shadows and we wrote a Dark Shadows newsletter.
When I moved out here, I had a boyfriend who worked at Subterranean Records. His employer kept every music zine that had ever been sent to him. There were boxes full of them under the counter space; I used to sit there and go through them and think, “I want to do this.”
Vale: How old were you when you did the Dark Shadows newsletter?
LP: Eight. It was just an activity for a rainy afternoon done mainly for pleasure. I still have my boxed set of Dark Shadows novels that I got for Christmas one year. I’m bummed because when my mom moved she threw away my Barnabas Collins game. That newsletter was hand-written and was not something we mailed out.
Now I have a Mac computer and it’s great. If you make a mistake on a typewriter, there’s no going back. Also, typing is incredibly labor-intensive.
I’m impressed that so many young kids-14- and 15-year-olds and even younger–are out there writing and editing zines. If only I had had the gumption to get it all together sooner!
Vale: The urge to publish a zine isn’t just born out of collecting etiquette books; it comes out of your entire life–
LP: And a large desire to get mail–I love getting mail! Creating a zine is the best tactic for getting mail. I have been known to get extremely upset–even outraged–if I come home to an empty mailbox. Sometimes I’m convinced it’s the end of the zine and no one’s going to buy another copy. Then someone will send me the greatest stuff. I know I should say I have loftier aspirations, but I think my number one goal is to get mail. [laughs]