What the hell is Cipher?
We’re as unsure of how to answer this question as you are. On our quest to find articles to republish for this “Archival Issue,” we dug through the Publication House’s derelict old filing cabinets and through the depths of our website’s archive. What we found left us even more uncertain of what this magazine is than when we started. In this issue, we’re republishing some of the most interesting, moving, and timely articles that we could find.
Cipher got its start as an “Alternative News Magazine”—in other words, a vaguely socialist, decidedly left wing, cheaply printed newspaper littered with red raised fist logos in place of the much less ideological triangle you now see at the end of each article. After taking a sharp turn away from the political in the early 2000s, our content got a bit goofier. One year, we published “The Beer Issue.” On the cover was a caricature of a beer-bellied fellow named Beer Man and a handful of catchy bubble letter headlines, the type that you’d see on a tabloid. The Beer Issue now seems laughable to our relatively highbrow publication, in which we publish mostly long-form journalism and memoir pieces, aiming desperately to make every article New Yorker-ready.
Cipher’s been a little bit of everything and nothing at all in particular. With our ever fluid staff and transient student body, there hasn’t been anyone around long enough to nail down exactly what we’re doing. But I don’t think that’s bad. We, the editors and contributors, get to do pretty much whatever we want. Unlike The Catalyst or Leviathan, (not to drag either of them) we have no fixed format—we’re just a student magazine. Without the obligation of sticking to a pattern, the magazine becomes a close reflection of the people and era that produce it.
Take “Once Upon the Internet,” a satirical Shakespearean poem written in the wake of the Kanye West-Taylor Swift VMAs fiasco. The year was 2009 and the internet was a shiny new toy that hadn’t yet shown its ugly side. The music star conflict was a prehistoric meme that got everyone laughing—times were good and Cipher decided to publish an adequately written two-page joke. “Watchability” similarly reflects on the nature of the early internet, observing from 2013 how having a perpetual audience, in the form of a social media following, hinders our ability to know our “true” selves. Perhaps a bit more obvious now that we’ve been steeping in internet culture for an additional six years, the point the author made was revolutionary at its time.
“Apocalypse Right Now,” also from 2013, begins with another fun throwback, reminding us of the absurdity of 2012’s predicted armageddon. However, the article quickly turns to the more serious issue of suicide cults and the counterproductive ways that people react when faced with disaster. Its moral rings dismayingly true in light of our current descent toward an environmental meltdown.
Some articles in this issue are simply universal, and remind us of how unchanging relationships and experience can be. In “How to be Lonely,” an anonymous writer reaches out to us from across the years to tell us about their pervasive solitude—though no connection can be made in person, perhaps a modern reader can connect to the writer through their story. “The Domino Effect” also attempts to traverse the divide between one’s self and a stranger, coming to the timeless realization that making an honest connection is harder than you’d think.
In this issue, comprised entirely of articles published between 2006 and 2015, we invite you to dredge up some old memories and some enduring emotions and reflect on times gone by. Students have been publishing out-there, compelling, thoughtful (or not-so-thoughtful) pieces in Cipher for decades. The pieces we chose reflect what Colorado College was, what Cipher was, and what the world was for young people in that era. They’re worth reading not only for their historical significance but also because they continue to resonate with us years later.
We tried to do our predecessors justice and relay what they thought was worth writing. Looking back, it seems like we mostly chose articles that reflect ourselves. This issue is less of a “best of” and more of a demonstration of what strikes us in 2019. I think that’s okay—I would want the 2029 Cipher staff to have the same mentality.
Yours then, now, and ten years from now,
Kat Snoddy (and the Cipher staff)
Archival Issue | March 2019