Edited by William Whyte
by Stephen Agar
When I showed my wife, Esme, a few issues of NERTZ her response was “Urrghh, how untidy. “Another editor who was talking to me on the phone last week and who had just seen his first copy of NERTZ claimed to be distinctly unimpressed (though given William’s comments in NERTZ 77 the feeling appears to be mutual). However, this common first impression of NERTZ is completely and utterly unjustified if it is taken as an indication of the intrinsic worth of the zine. On the basis of the last four issues, NERTZ is an intellectual arty fanzine with lots of contemporary media chat and piss-takes all wrapped up in a classic punk/anarchist presentation and amusing to boot. What is wrong with that?
How can I describe NERTZ to someone who has never seen it. Well, it is A4 (usually) and has two columns of text (except when it has one or three). All chat, letters, articles etc. may be cut up into strips and then re-arranged for the hell of it or pasted down on top of some background picture/comic strip so that bits of the picture show through the space between the columns (except when the zine is A5 and they are not). William uses odd photographic/cartoon covers and scribbles essential information (eg. the deadline) around the cover picture in an expressive but indecipherable handwriting. The visual impact created by this air of anarchy must either be very hard to achieve or incredibly easy. I am genuinely not sure which.
That is enough on the presentation. What is it actually like?Well, it’s almost Just William in that a good third of NERTZ appears to be amiable rambling from William’s typewriter and whether or not you take to this zine will depend to a large extent whether or not you take to William’s literary style. William is almost an academic by training (and by default); he is now doing a PhD at Oxford, having graduated from trinity College Dublin. I suppose that William’s musings could be considered to be “studenty” in that they tend to be reflective, introspective, liberal but to use such a label sounds derogatory and it isn’t meant to be. William has a well-practised improvisational bent when writing chat which can be very amusing indeed. NERTZ is such a personal zine that I would suspect that its readership feel that they know William well (if only through the zine) and thus the letters in NERTZ do resemble the sort of discussions that one has with a group of friends over a cup of black coffee at 2. 00am in the morning. If NERTZ were a TV program it would be on Channel 4 late on a Friday night and probably hosted by Clive Anderson.
From what I’ve seen letters in NERTZ are usually well-informed, whether the subject is literature, cinema, philosophy or music. Having read a lot of zines over the last few weeks and a lot of letters columns, I would say thatNERTZ is one of the more entertaining. The standard of some of the debates in some zines reminds me of school general studies lessons when I was 15, rather than the developed thoughts of adults. Still, each to his own.
Although you may find that you have to turn the pages of NERTZ through all sorts of angles to be able to read the chat, one way or another NERTZ has a lot of chat in it. The letters are usually jumbled up along with William’s bits which makes skimming through a copy of NERTZ more like listening in one six different conversations all at once.
NERTZ is not one of the most reliable zines in the world. Two of the last four issues have been small, late and apologetic (though William has suffered more than most from the latest Irish postal strike). Perhaps unsurprisingly there are relatively few games in NERTZ. Issue 76 seems to have one game of Diplomacy, two variants, 3 games of Railway Rivals, 3 games of “It Can Be Cold In London, Damn Cold” and a game each of Government and Sopwith. Lists take a long time to fill in NERTZ and the erratic turnaround and deadlines probably would not attract a hardened games player. This is not a healthy situation, for I think that NERTZ could do with some new blood to prevent the same old chat from the same old correspondents becoming stale. It is undoubtedly easier to attract new players if you can offer them a lively games service to start with and at the moment NERTZ cannot. I would recommend NERTZ to those of you who think that you are playing enough games already, but would like to receive a colourful chat zine provided you are not too conservative in your tastes when it comes to presentation. At the moment NERTZ does not look to me like the sort of zine to play in, yet, until more people do play in NERTZ it won’t be. Hmm. No doubt William will come up with a cunning plan.
Reprinted from Spring Offensive 2