Bike Curious?

BCN 87 cover

This originally appeared in BCN issue 87, September 2007

I always intended to do something to mark the tenth anniversary of my bi humour zine Bike Immunity news.

Unfortunately, the tenth issue wasn’t issue ten, and by the time I got to issue ten, I was onto my eleventh. Now that I’ve safely missed both milestones, perhaps it’s time for a look back at the birth of a piece of bisexual history.

It might surprise some people – particularly those who were staring at me at Bicon saying “woah! They’ve got old people here!” – that there was a time before the internet. In those days we only had the one name, unlike today when we can have pseudonyms like CyberAdonis online, but we’re all called Dave in real life. We also had to do without blogs. If we had something to say, we either wrote it with a stylus on a wax-tablet, or we kept our enormous gobby mouths shut.  And so it was in this atmosphere that, last century, I wandered into a workshop at Birmingham Bicon on the subject of zines.  With the recent invention of the printing press, I learnt that many people were committing their thoughts to paper, and then selling them for money.  “Money?” I thought, and in that moment the idea for Bike Immunity news came into being: a zine that would moan about how nothing useful ever comes out of workshops.  People would pay for this, I vowed, and pay well.

There followed a year of quite intensive writing, during which I experimented with new ideas, tried out new formats and worked sixteen-hour months.  Finally, at next year’s Bicon at Kingston-upon-Thames, high on Bicon energy and flushed with success, I postponed it for year.  Now that even my zine was faffing, I knew that it was set to become one of the backbones of the bisexual movement.

At this point, something finally spurred me into action. I started a training course and found myself with access to a free photocopier.  Now I was brought up to know that, if you have a free photocopier, you damn well photocopy stuff.  By the end of the first week I was suffering from that painful condition known as “office party arse”, so I decided to move on to writing.  At that time I had a regular column in Bifrost, and it occurred to me that if I simply reprinted this, I could make money out of my zine without even bothering myself to write it.  And at that point, Bike Immunity news issue 0 was not so much born as assembled in the laboratory from used body parts.

All I had to do now was sell it. Back in those days, Pride (as Mardi Gras was then called) was very similar to being queerbashed – you woke up with a headache and no money, and wished you were straight. Some bright spark had actually succeeded in selling three slices of toast for a pound, so I priced my zine at one and a half slices, and took it along to the bi tent. I humbly asked the organisers if I could sell a few copies on their stall. They enthusiastically agreed, gave my zines pride of place at the front of the table, and then covered them up with a t-shirt.  It seemed that I had fallen at the last hurdle. But fortunately help was at hand as my partner Anne, increasingly annoyed at me for being trapped in an intractably boring conversation, decided to amuse herself by removing money from the bi community.  You may not realise that The Terminator was based on Anne’s career as an Avon lady. Within a couple of hours she had sold copies to all the bisexuals by gentle persuasion, all the transsexuals by offering them make-up tips, and all the lesbians by complaining about me (at which she is even better than selling).

I had a pocket full of money and no zines left.  In the space of only a single year I wrote another one, and from then on nothing could stop me – except, of course, everyone’s belief that they didn’t need issue 1 because they already had the first issue.  This has plagued me for my entire zine career, and indeed “don’t do an issue 0” is the only lesson I’ve really learnt from life.  Since then I have kept up an annual schedule, and although I’ve frequently considered abandoning the project, I made the mistake of thinking I was being clever and funny by selling a forty-year subscription.  I’m stuck with the damn thing until 2037.

And so here we are ten years after, and like it or not, Bike Immunity news remains a regular feature of Bicon.  Indeed, people often congratulate me on having such a firm grasp of what’s going on.  As you’ll know if you were at this year’s decision-making plenary, where we voted on whether to vote and considered a pre-pre-decision-making plenary workshop workshop, reality comes to me for inspiration.  All I can say is that it must be the only example of a successful bi zine that was conceived at a Bicon workshop: after all, if there were any others, I’d be writing for them.

Neil Hudson