“Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between the production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximize corporate profit and advertising revenue is not quite the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship.”
These are the words of Ursula Le Guin, excerpted from the speech she gave upon receiving the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, back in 2014. She goes on to scorn the profiteering of the arts within the publishing industry, selling writers “like deodorant.” The speech makes no apologies, which fits with the impression Le Guin makes on the whole. Her books are incredible treasures. They make words more than words—more like matchsticks, set in neat rows, glowing from the page, burning the house down.
Ope! Publishing has the same burning heart, even as we begin, humble: two women in a Midwestern kitchen, lamenting our modern American experience. But remember, a lament is not simply mourning, it is productive. Here in the dregs of late-stage capitalism, we at Ope! are in the process of creating through remembering—the muscle memory of lives we haven’t yet experienced. By cutting out the rows and rows of middle men, the corporate suits and the cubicle smell, we can grow in our own way, starting, as they say, from scratch. Surely, women have done this before, scratched at the walls of empires. But now, it’s personal.
The zine—pocket-sized and gorgeous as hell—is our key to the kingdom. A modern word for a very old art, the zine condenses the grandeur of literature and art into a form easily passed from hand to hand, purse to purse, head to heart. Think of trading baseball cards, maybe, but for artists. Within this form, literature and art can act in endless ways. How-to manuals, graphic narratives, serialized stories—the idea is to share readily, and creatively. To open up avenues of thought, leading to places unknown. Eventually, a whole silk road of artists. Ope!—the possibilities!
But, before getting too carried away, let’s simplify: our mission is much like the zine itself—small, sustainable, and beautiful, in both purpose and design.
To again quote Ursula Le Guin: “Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art – the art of words.”