Zines

Are you old enough of a person to remember reading zines? I once wrote a song about them, but I can’t find the demo now. I will have to rewrite it, if it’s worth it. I think so. Zines were tiny self published magazines, sometimes very small and like a bunch of Xeroxed pages with a staple in the middle to make a book, sometimes glossy and with pictures laid out like a real magazine, although these were rarer. The pages with the staples were more common, and came out fairly regular, with blurry type that sometimes disappeared into the crease, and so you would have to finish sentences on your own.

There were really some fantastic zine writers. One was the guy who did a small paged zine called Pathetic Life, amazing and sad and wholly addictive. He was great with words and I wonder if he has a blog now. I hope so. He ate a lot of ramen noodles and was in love with another writer who was also a dancer and they had a painful relationship. He had issues with depression which were similar to mine and I think that when you read about other people’s suffering and they have wound words around their wounds like a bandage that it can be healing, both to the writer and the reader. It’s like going to a word hospital.

There was another about stalking Henry Thomas, and I read that one and then would see Henry around town at shows and ask him if he knew about it and he did and was amused and excited. I felt like a roving reporter for that zine because I would report back to the author of it and she would publish my findings in the following issues. I can’t remember if we corresponded through the mail or actually spoke on the phone. I think we did a bit of both. Isn’t that weird? Communication through snail mail. We all managed it. Years and years of letters and postcards and notes – slowly, poetically, people talked to each other that way. They read each other’s writing and wrote back.

My friends Pleasant and Iris put out a zine which completely spoke to me – Puppet Terror, all about fear of ventriloquist dummies and dolls and all kinds of puppets. They had a tshirt and everything. This was a real magazine, a sophisticated publication, with glossy pages and photos of all the different terrible manifestations of puppets and dolls and things you could animate yourself but also had the potential of self animation that was so goddamned scary.

Blogs now replace the zines, but I can’t say I have found the same connection to them as I did with the zines. Perhaps it’s the way that I would have to order the zines from Factsheet Five, or actually go buy them at Tower Records or Amok – and so there was a waiting period, maybe like the several days you must wait after you purchase a handgun until you can actually fire it. I wonder if that firearm waiting period is a crime deterrent. I think it would make you want to shoot more, the time passing causing your desire to build, just like waiting for the zines made them infinitely more readable.

I never made a zine myself, never even considered it. The 90s were for me a haze of drugs and anorexia, my rust colored corduroy jeans never hanging loose enough for me on my frame. I read a lot because there was nothing to look at online, it didn’t exist for me at all yet. There were stacks of zines all over my hillside house, which slid across each other during earthquakes and even when the winds would blow harder in Spring and Fall.

pathetic life

16 Comments. Add To The Mix…

  1. I am sure I am old enough but don’t recall zines Margaret, anyway, peace and have a nice day. ;)

  2. One of the only awesome thins about high school, for me, was putting together a ‘zine called And Alex Played the Guitar. I tried to get as many people who were willing to contribute drawing and stories and poems and rants and then I used the school copy machine to print off copies. It was one of the only times I felt really powerful and in control of my destiny.

  3. Zines never died out. They are still here. I’ve been participating in zine culture reading, writing and/or distributing since 1996.

    I wish people would really stop playing peek-a-boo with zines. Just because you closed your eyes and moved, doesn’t mean that they stopped existing.

  4. I recall a zine called ‘Hippie Dick’ which was on the lower end of the production process. It was filled with lots of pictures of scruffy hippie types rolling around in the mud and hanging out in places like Russian River. Yum! I still think about it sometimes and try and find some reference to it online.

  5. bored of blogging I’ve recently been waiting for my company to get a new photocopier (I guess you Americans called them Xerox machines) so that I can print off some of my writing as a zine. I used to do a music zine in the mid 90s and those were the greatest times

  6. I never grew out of zines, and yeah, they’re still around. I’ve never been able to express myself better than I could with a gluestick and scissors. I’ve never related to media more so than when it was made with that same tool. I’m excited that as an “adult” I get to help facilitate other people finding that outlet to empower themselves. It might not ever be how I make my living, but I’ll never stop encouraging people to make media that represents them when the mainstream doesn’t.

  7. Yeah, zines are still going strong! I have an online distribution shop where I sell zines called Things You Say. There’s also zine fests in different cities all over the world.

  8. I edited an SF zine and it was fun. I enjoyed the whole “do it yourself” movement. I saved a few copies of Dyke Review and I’ll look at them when I’m feeling nostalgic.

  9. Lots of people still make zines and many conventions and fests are held every year all over the country. I’ve been making them since 1994 and I am 47. Visit We Make Zines – the online zine community to get an idea of this diverse and independent group of artists that, yes, still do zines. http://www.wemakezines.com

  10. And zinester’s kids are making zines. My kid made his first zine when he was like 6. Now, 12 going on 27, we’re working on a split zine on the wonderful topic of scifi.

  11. I remember zines well. I loved them. They were very unique. It seems to me that more care is taken with something that has a physical existence as opposed to a blog online. It feels real and important. Blogs are like ghosts, all online presences are apparitions. I like something I can hold in my hand, and stroke. You know, like a zine. I found out my sister in law has been printing out my blog and putting it in a loose leaf binder, then showing it to my brother and sisters who don’t read anything off of a computer screen. Knowing this makes it feel more like a zine. It has a physical form somewhere.

  12. There are far more abandoned / dormant blogs than there are zines that have ceased publishing. Please stop talking about zines in the past tense! Zines and zinesters are alive and well.

  13. I did one Margaret called Art’s Garbage Gazzette and one of the purposes for it was to write funny things and to allow myself the freedom to misspell words. I sent it to the Fact Sheet Five and they gave it a real good review and then I got some really strange zines in the mail. It also got mentioned in the New York Times with the wrong mail address as well as a sheet I started called Art’s sheet for the street. I think I made a little money on Art’s Garbage Gazzette but it really was more work in the end then it was worth putting out. I think you can read all 36 copies on microprint in Madison here at the State Historical Museum and there’s a library in New York that might have bought a copy of it but I really got tired of making copies of it so I retired it. I now write for a newspaper here in Madison called Madison Street Pulse I don’t purposely misspell words anymore but I have publish poems and comics and now I write political articles it’s really more fun even though I don’t get paid because I don’t worry about selling it. So I can use my energy to make a living being an artist and musician painting paintings and singing songs both of which pay a little more than selling a small zine.

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