“CAUTION: Are you ready to expose your nervous system to this potent Canadian mind virus? A blend of cyberpunk, Crowleyanity, shamanism and psychedelia, ‘Virus 23’ comes disguised in an attractive, graphically innovative zine. This “new edge” publication has been mutating Simian brains for the past two issues by infecting them with techno-shamanism, reviews of the weird, and reports of the strange. Its a metaphysical pit-bull that will rip your flabby world to shreds.” (Mark Frauenfelder)
From 1989 to 1992, I fell in with a group of sun-staring visionaries from Red Deer, Alberta — chiefly Bruce and Eric Fletcher, their friend Paul Pype, and later, Gunnar Blodgett (collectively known as ADoSA, the Alberta Department of Spiritual Affairs). I met them in 1989 in Edmonton, when I had arranged to interview a then relatively-unknown science fiction author named William Gibson about his work, because I was writing my MA thesis on it. When I showed up to the interview location, aside from William Gibson and his friend, the science fiction writer Tom Maddox, there were these other guys already there, and they had beer. Needless to say, we became friends very quickly.
Over the next four years, we released three thick zines crammed full of the zeitgeist of the moment — what, in retrospect, might be called industrial culture or early cyberpunk. (We were all young enough and happy enough to still be flirting with nihilism.) Our contemporaries were the pre-digital bOING bOING, Mondo 2000, ReSearch and many others. In a pre-Web era, Virus 23 nevertheless developed a worldwide audience (we sent copies to every continent except Antarctica) thanks to the underground mail networks. Mike Gunderloy’s fabled Factsheet Five, the definitive zine about other zines, was particularly helpful, twice naming Virus 23 its Zine of the Month.
For an infrequent publication from northern Canada, Virus 23 had considerable cultural impact. When Gunderloy published his book The World of Zines: A Guide to the Independent Magazine Revolution, the blurb on the back cover cited Virus 23. I’ve lost track of many of the talented artists, writers, musicians and photographers who contributed to this project, so I can’t do much of a “Where are they now,” but I do know about the half-life of my own work from this period. After I interviewed Guy Maddin about his brand-new movie Archangel, he liked the zine so much that he put a big number 23 on the original movie poster for his next film, Careful. Digital versions of My William Gibson and Jack Womack interviews still show up all over the web, as does “WARNING,” a version of an early poem by Christian Bök that I adapted into an ad for the zine and posted to Andy Hawks’ FutureCulture mailing list in about 1992.
Other than the long-vanished MySpace page that Bruce Fletcher built for the zine many years ago (at http://www.myspace.com/virus_23) and an unreliable set of files on my Ubuweb page, there has been no authoritative source for this material, until now. It has never been available in digital form in its entirety. Several of the editors do not even have their own original copies. Complete scans of the three issues follow this introductory note. Enjoy.