How Ill Is Your Repute? A Sinful Review

The cover of How ill is Your Repute? by Kitty Curran and Larissa ZagerisHow Ill is Your Repute?

Kitty Curran & Larissa Zageris

During this year’s Chicago Zine Fest, I was fortunate to come across Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris’ table, where a zine sporting four intriguing, old-timey-looking women and the title How Ill is Your Repute? caught my eye. Curran and Zageris are part of the creative hive-mind behind Taylor Swift: Girl Detective – The Secret of the Starbucks Lovers, one of the greatest detective stories ever told. (Clue: their third collaborator might be a pop singer whose last name rhymes with “drift.”)

I decided to buy this zine about three seconds after flipping it open; I could tell immediately that this Buzzfeed-style quiz was full of sinful delight. Dissatisfied with dissecting solely my own dangerous nature, I roped some other ill-reputed goats from coven WWAC into taking the quiz and telling me how this zine helped them at least consider repenting.

Hello everyone! Please introduce yourselves, and confess to our dear readers what kind of ill-reputed maiden you are.

Alenka Figa: I am Alenka, and I confess that I am an Evil-doer! Like John Proctor, I have had congress with the devil! I have a cat familiar, and I am definitely OK with siccing birds on people.

Ginnis Tonik: I am Ginnis, and I am an Evil-doer. My headstrong nature has led me down “the paths of Sin and Wickedness.” Basically, I have sticky fingers, but I prefer to think of myself as a witchy Robin Hood for my fellow witches, outcasts, and evil-doers of the community.

Stephanie Tran: I am the Rogue of the group and may yet be saved if I repent of my wicked ways. None should count on it, however!

Christie Williamson: I am Christie, precariously balanced between Rogue and Evil-doer. God-fearing peasants, watch your purses and your spouses! Anyone know where to source black-market orphans these days?

Now – be honest! Is your character so questionable that you fit another, still ill-reputed type? Do you identify with a kind of wickedness other than that which this righteous zine has diagnosed?!

Alenka: I took this quiz three times: immediately after acquiring it Chicago Zine Fest, a second time for this article, and a third during a reading party I had with friends, during which I read the zine aloud and we all tallied our answers while drinking lots of beer. I’m pretty sure I got rogue twice, but since I don’t remember exactly, I’m choosing to take my fate in my own hands, turn my soul over to the devil, and retain Evil-doer as my primary type.

Ginnis: Well, Harlot came in pretty close to Rogue, then Evil-doer. I received no credits for Puritan, thank the goddess! A lot of the options for Evil-doer just seemed to so messy, lots of clean-up involved, which if Lady Killer has taught me anything, it’s what a pain in the ass cleaning up after murder is.

Stephanie: Upon taking the test the first time I found that I am but one answer (or perhaps one bad night?) away from being an Evil-doer instead of a Rogue. Strangely I was also equally a Harlot and a Puritan. Perhaps a repressed Puritan? I blame my New England roots. Upon taking the test a second time (and realizing that the test had a query about “smiting” not “smiling”) Harlot moved into second place with Evil-doer right behind and Puritan last. It appears that I am, in truth, more of a lover than a smiter.

Christie: I didn’t get a single answer in Puritan, which says everything about me, really. I would probably have weighed in more on the Evil-doer end if it didn’t seem like too much trouble to stash all the bodies that would be piled up. The Evil-doer was a little too obvious with everything – just asking to get burned at the stake, really. If I’m going to be evil, I’m going to be sneaky evil. Also, the Evil-doer in this quiz was still religious, albeit of the Satanic rite type – not my style. I got my fourteen-year-old daughter to take this quiz – she was like me, almost tied between Rogue and Evil-doer. She immediately began singing “Beelzebub has a devil put aside for meeee.” #parentingwin

Goody Wilkins, slandering thy name! Image courtesy Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris.
I SEE YOU, GOODY WILKINS! -begins muttering curses-

Let’s get juicy. We all had to face Goody Wilkins slandering our names, but four is so few options for revenge. If you had unlimited time and resources, how would you deal with a scoundrel like Goody Wilkins?

Ginnis: So many pranks! I suppose I am too much of a softy for cruelty, but pranking? That would be fun.

Stephanie: If I had more patience and less need to destroy my enemies perhaps I would use my skills to ferret out her darkest, most embarrassing secrets, and nail an anonymous declaration of such secrets upon the church door. As it is I would most likely settle for announcing her lesser secrets and great many faults in a loud voice while standing in the town square, and be ready to settle the score by fists if she comes at me again.

Alenka: Stephanie, we must be different types because I would take the opposite approach. I’d prefer my revenge to be insidious, quiet, and deeply personal. While I like the idea of digging up her most embarrassing secrets, I would find Goody Wilkins when she was alone, reveal my knowledge of her sins, and then hold the threat of revealing them over her head as long as we knew each other. Oh, what I could accomplish with such leverage!

Christie: As already established, I’m sneaky evil. So I would probably make sure she took the fall for all my dark deeds. Two birds, one stone.

I’m scaring myself a little.

I found the black and white art of the zine to be very helpful in seeing the world as black and white, good and evil. I especially loved each person’s facial expressions; their eyes really communicated their sins. What did you think of the art?

Ginnis: Well, firstly, I loved that they used the old printing for the lowercase S’s. I used to know why they printed that way from when I took a Sex and Gender in 18th Century Literature class, but I have long forgotten.

The facial expressions were really good – like the depiction of Goody Wilkins slandering names – she is clearly delighting in it, and all those tight corsets with heaving bosoms – perfection.

The shading, though, I think is what made the seeming simplicity of the art so impactful to me. It stands out most in the depiction of the moon, which is beautiful, but it adds a shadowy wickedness to the pictures – for all the characters, not just the “evil” ones.

Stephanie: At first I found the black-and-white style surprising, but gradually I grew to enjoy it. It reminded me of dark stormy nights and bright fall days.

Christie: I really enjoyed it. Like a choose-your-own-adventure version of The Crucible, with woodcuts! I also appreciated the different textures of the backgrounds and some of the fabrics.

The miller's son, image courtesy Larissa Zageris and Kitty Curran.
I don’t care how pretty he is, still not into it. #miller’sdaughter

The Witching Season is here, and ill-reputed ladies and non-binary folx must be wary of its temptations, should we wish to repent. As the quiz asked, what do you believe is the appropriate way to spend hours of moonlight? How should we spend the devil’s month?

Ginnis: Casting spells, obviously. Might I also suggest communing with our animal familiars on long walks amongst the trees and forests? Or what of brewing up some spiked concoctions in one’s cauldron? Here are some recipes to try.

Stephanie: Nowadays I do not plan my nights and instead have several possibilities to choose from. Perhaps I will dance naked around a bonfire or meet a man. The night is young and so am I!

Alenka: As mentioned above, I took this wonderful zine to an alcohol-fueled reading night with friends, and we had more fun reading it that I could ever have anticipated. Each page was an absurd argument; how much is a ducat really worth? As queer women, should we pretend we’re trysting not with the miller’s son, but with the miller’s daughter? Would we be too closeted as Puritans? (Kitty Curran’s weigh-in on this issue: “I personally think the miller’s daughter would be the most logical alternative, seeing as trysting is a SIN regardless.” #QueerPuritans) We laughed until we cried, teased each other mercilessly about our goofy interpretations of the questions, and had a joyous, moonlight meeting, like a coven of queer witches gathering to plot whose milk they’ll spoil and children they’ll curse next. I highly recommend getting a copy of this zine, gathering your own coven, and discovering the true nature of your ill repute, perhaps while drinking one of those spiked concoctions.

Christie: This seems like a great thing to combine with alcohol and Halloween. Time to head out into the woods and get to work. Those demons aren’t going to raise themselves!

(Also, Alenka, #QueerPuritans made me spit diet coke out on my keyboard).

Do you too need to diagnose your ill-reputed ways? Snag a digital copy of How Ill Is Your Repute – repenting your sins is a steal at $2.50!

Alenka Figa

Alenka Figa

Alenka is a queer librarian and intense cat parent. They spends their days reading zines and indie comics, and twittering about D&D podcasts @alenkafiga.