Part of the stash of stuff I had shipped here last October included what’s left of my modest collection of zines from the late 80s –you know, those photocopied political rags, lit mags, artists books, chapbooks and collections of rants you’d sometimes find in music shops next to the magazine racks. Or cluttering the floor underneath the record bins. The proliferation of cheap copy shops fueled the “industry”, and by the late Reagan years self-publishing was nearly as common as blogs are today. Relatively speaking.
They all carried a price tag –oftentimes scribbled on with heavy black marker as an afterthought prompted by wishful thinking– but usually they were all labors of love, produced on kitchen tables and cluttered desks with scissors, tape, and glue, before they were secretly copied on the office copier when the boss wasn’t looking. At least my favorites were.
Most of you probably know about Boing Boing, but you may not know that its beginnings are firmly rooted in the now forgotten annals of zinedom –here’s a pic of #2. I can’t imagine that too many still exist, so it was nice to find this one stuffed into my humble filing archive, an old Jugoslav Airlines flight bag my mom once threatened to throw away.
Besides Too Much Good Air (sorry, a copy didn’t make it across the Atlantic), a magazine a friend and I somehow kept alive for a couple of years in college, I had a short-lived zine of my own, Sir Realist, which I tried to market as an Utne Reader of the zine world, reprinting pieces and parts from other zines. Kind of like a blog, actually, except that it only lasted for three issues. And most copies walked out the few bookstores or record shops that agreed to give it shelf space without any sort of remuneration.
One of my favorites was something called Mallife, a work of art in and of itself. Scattered among its experimental absurdist fiction were multi-page hand-glued inserts and drawings colored by hand. Another that stood out was S(C)RAP #6 with its black sandpaper cover. These (and many others) were serious enough to actually acquire ISSN numbers.
Here are scans of a few. I’ll scan/upload some more if there’s enough interest. Anyone know what any of these publishers/writers are up to these days?
Edited to add a few links of interest:
“ZineWiki is an open-source encyclopedia devoted to zines and independent media. It covers the history, production, distribution and culture of the small press”;
Zinebook.com is an online directory with plenty of links; and
In an effort to find a permanent home for these and the thousands of others that were created, I just set up a flickr group — http://www.flickr.com/groups/zine_repository/ — where you can easily add images of zines you’ve either published or those you might have in your personal collections. Note that the flickr group will only be for zines that are no longer being published.