Day #48: Penetration- “Nostalgia”
I recently watched $100 & a T-Shirt, a documentary by Microcosm Publishing founder, Joe Beil, that asks zinesters about their craft. It’s hard to even begin to describe a zine in the first place. To me, they’re self-published labors of love, and that’s really the only way I can describe them. That’s because there aren’t any rules about form or content. They are whatever you want them to be (though if you want a creative manual, checkout Esther Watson’s book, Whatcha Mean, What’s a Zine?).
In fact, the only really definitive thing about them is what they were. And sure, that history could start hundreds of years ago with the invention of the printing press, but often, zines are traced back a little more recently to sci-fi fan fiction of the 1930s, and then as part of the self-sustainable DIY ethic of the punk and hardcore years (skateboarder Jocko Weyland talked about how he got his hands on them via mail-order labels that threw them in with orders, in The Answer is Never), and later, as a major outlet for young feminists during the Riot Grrrl period of the early 90s (as noted in Amy Spencer’s DIY: The Rise of Lo-Fi Culture).
My last zine. (Not the actual size)
Even if the content was shit — and there were a lot of really, really awful zines out there (some of mine, included) — it was still the perfect example of entitlement. Early Free Culture in the works that anyone could participate in. Put out a few issues of short stories, or poetry, or writing about bands. (Ironically, a lot of slick music magazines started that way). Whatever it is, there’s always someone willing to read it. (And sometimes sue you!) I got back into making zines a few years ago, in grad school, and they were almost entirely focused on music. I met a shit load of great bands that way. It was really encouraging (although I didn’t have the time to keep it going).
But, if ever there was a form of print doomed for total extinction, I would think it would be zines. Not so much because the Internet made everything even cheaper and more accessible than xeroxing (it has!), but because a lot of the supporting distributors have disappeared. I used to make zines in high school and, other than handing them out to friends, the owners of independent CD shops gave us the OK to put them on the racks. Those kind of places are all but totally gone now. Almost all of the mail-order places have disappeared, too.