[16 pages, digest size, $3.00 cash, trade, or letter of comment - Dale Speirs, Box 6830, Calgary, Alberta, CANADA T2P 2E7 ]
I have read so many reviews of Dale's Opuntia, in Zine World and Xerography Debt mainly, but elsewhere too. He's one of the most prolific zine publishers out there. He's got a unique classification system ('Speirsian'?). Each issue number is followed by a decimal point then another number - .1 issues are reviewzines, .2 issues are indexes, .3 issues are apazines (at this point feel free to jump over to Wikipedia - I know I did when I first saw this word 'apazines', which wasn't very long ago), and .5 issues are perzines. (Why are there no .4 issues, eh?)
Before I write about the contents of Opuntia 69.1, I've got some personal Dale Speirs anecdotes to share. First of all, since I'd read so much about Dale and his zine, I sent him a Blackguard and asked if he'd be up for a trade. I received a letter back from him saying, "Received Blackguard but it is not my cup of tea (I prefer the real thing.) However, I include some Opuntias as exchange. Regretfully I must decline any future trades, mainly because I'm not interested in comics."
Well, I appreciated his honesty (although I didn't understand what he meant by 'preferring the real thing') and it was cool of him to send me some of his zines. So I read his Opuntias and was initially put off because he seemed to go on and on about the price of gold, and boring financial/economic matters. But first impressions can be deceptive. I read more, and learned that this guy has pretty broad interests, reads widely, and has a pretty sharp yet dry wit. Then, around the same time, another zine publisher I had begun corresponding with had something very amusing to say about Dale - that no matter how many notes he wrote to him, Dale always sent copies of his Opuntias but never any note with them, even though this bloke sent Dale some vital Sherlock Holmes info that Dale used soon after (Dale has a Sherlock Holmes obsession). But! This bloke did eventually receive a note from Dale - letting him know that he'd been spelling his name wrong. Haw!
OK, how about some actual information about Opuntia 69.1D then?
This issue is really fascinating as it covers a book called THE DISAPPEARANCE OF WRITING SYSTEMS  edited by John Baines, John Bennet and Stephen Houston. Dale efficiently and entertainingly summarises this book and covers such writing systems as the Andean nations and their system of knotted cords used to store information; revelatory scripts which are writing systems invented by illiterates who received them in dreams and visions (that mostly occur among peoples being colonized by imperialist nations); oral history, where people remember specific names associated with hunting territories, farms, and pasture, and events with topographical features, which could explain modern ethnic feuds like those in the Balkans; as Dale suggests, a place name that translates as "place where the other tribe stole our chickens 500 years ago."
That review by itself would be worth picking up this zine, but following that there's a substantial and penetrating review of the anthology, Steampunk, edited by Ann and Jeff Vanderneer , then finally letters to the editor. (Dale printed part of my letter to him in this issue, where I commented on a book he reviewed in a previous Opuntia about the history of mail bombs, so I wrote about my experience of receiving a potential mail bomb where I work, in a mail room. A pretty exciting anecdote!)
Opuntia is definitely worth investigating for those of you who are serious about delving deep into the esoteric labyrinths of the rich world of zines.