Despite the overwhelming popularity of the blog as a means of proliferating ideas and opinions, zines—those ever-so-frugally produced mini-books you might see next to the cash register at your community bookstore or stuffed illegally in between issues of USA Today—are flourishing as a literary form. Perhaps this is because zines and blogs attract different kinds of people. While blogging allows writers to (maybe) reach the world with a single mouse-click, producing a zine requires a much greater effort—and the potential audience for a zine is only as large as the number of copies its publisher can afford to print up at Kinko’s. Some would say that makes zines inefficient and unnecessary, but those who produce the little magazines argue that it’s a labor of love. There is a certain satisfaction in producing a physical object, after all, and in the publishing world, zines are the ultimate incarnation of an independent press.
This past weekend, a public gymnasium in Utne’s hometown hosted Twin Cities Zinefest, an annual event designed to bring Minneapolis’ underground publishing community together, and to let the public know that it exists. Below are some highlights from the one-day festival (and yes, after that lead-in, we understand the irony in directing you to the websites of zine publishers):
Creative Ladies Are Powerful (C.L.A.P.) describes itself as “a progressive quarterly zine that celebrates women in all their various forms of creative living.” Feminism—and women in general—had a strong presence at Zinefest, with many tables dedicated to female writers and artists. If that’s your bag, also check out Girl Germs Radio, the hosts of which produce a hard-to-find zine about the horrors of working as a waitress.
Top Secret Nerd Brigade seeks to marry old-school arts and crafts with modern technology. Aside from its author’s various experimental zines, TSNB also sells QR Code Cross Stitch Kits.
Damaged Mentality is a zine about author Synthia Nicole’s experiences coping with a disabling brain injury. Its descriptions of how the trauma affected every aspect of her life go a long way in putting a face on a side of humanity about which few people know much.
A whole bevy of comic artists and illustrators attended the convention, with a wide array of styles and inspirations represented. There was Anna Bongiovanni, whose surreal illustration incorporates pen, watercolor, computer graphics, and even crayons. Multi-disciplinary artist Michael Perez brought a zine called I’d Sleep There, a catalog of places where he wouldn’t mind taking a nap. And Erica Williams showed off Little Constructs, an international collaborative effort between Williams and Londoner Jo Cheung.
But not all zines are tiny expressions of one or two peoples’ ids. Some enterprising self-publishers have made a mini-industry out of printing zines, and chief among them is Portland/Kansas-based Microcosm Publishing, perhaps the closest thing in the zine world to a Pan Macmillan or a Harper Collins. Microcosm’s booth at the show was literally spilling over with hundreds of little publications for the zine-hungry masses.
Images by Philip James Hart.