Because I write cross-genre, I did promise to cover things other than just fiction. Today we’ll segue into self-publishing in the form of a zine. It may be a word you’ve heard before as it can be traced back to Ben Franklin, but zines gained popularity in the 1930s and 40s with the science fiction fandom of H.P. Lovecraft.
A zine (short for magazine or fanzine) is a self-published work. This can be short story, poetry, comics or a combination. It may have one contributor or can be the work of many collaborative artists. I’m not really narrowing the field, am I? How about this; most zines are the product of the amateur press movement.
That means Ben Franklin cranked his out on his own printing press, punk culture in the 1970s utilized access to copy machines and the more recent zines are done on home computers. Throughout time, zines have always retained that personal touch, right down to hand-folding and hand-stapling.
Sounds easy, right? Well, there’s a philosophy behind zines that is much harder to pinpoint. Many of them are defined because they have a very narrow readership. Nana doesn’t want to read a zine about the best punk bands of 1976 or a piece of Star Trek fanfiction. I could, however, probably get her interested in an Elvis zine. Another defining piece is attitude. Much of what goes into a zine is not mainstream thought, zine creators are sometimes the outliers, those who feel voiceless, or the radical thinkers in our society. This can give zines an edge that you won’t find in more traditional publishing.
How do you find some of these interesting zines? Here’s another word to add to your vocabulary: distro. Short for distribution. A distro can be online or a section of an established store. We have several in our area – Chicago’s Quimby’s Bookstore, Milwaukee’s Woodland Pattern, and right in our own neighborhood, Kenosha’s Left of the Lake Distro. Zinesters (us who make zines) usually start by picking up and reading zines created by others.
And say, maybe you now want to create your own zine? I can help! Left of the Lake hosts Beer & Zines twice monthly – usually the first Saturday morning and the last Wednesday evening. Each event has a theme like Jesus and Dinosaurs or What’s going on with those cowboys? Each participant creates a page, kicks in a few bucks, and we print up an issue of our very own zine, Moss Piglet. It’s a great way to start!
This August, we will again be host to the second Kenosha Zine Fest which brings together zinesters from all over the Midwest. (For more information on any of these events, just plug them into Facebook.) Kenosha Zine Fest will give you a chance to meet other writers, buy zines, and even get a table to sell your own.
Got some poetry? Got an opinion? How about a stapler? Two out of three? C’mon, make a zine!