February 12, 2002
9:59 AM   Subscribe

If, like me, you were part of the "underground" in the early 1990's, you'll remember that for awhile the 'zine scene seemed to be producing our next great crop of non-fiction writers. Of the original crop of greats Paul Lukas(Beer Frame) published a book that quickly faded. Jim Goad(Answer Me!) published a book, went to prison and is now up to his old tricks. David Greenberger(Duplex Planet) seems to be MIA. Other 'zinesters stories seem to have followed the same pattern. Is the reason the aging of their original audience? Are today's zinesters bloggers instead? Or perhaps todays media corporatization is, in part a reaction to that burst of independent creativity?
posted by jonmc (33 comments total)
i like what peter bagge had to say :)(via linkmachinego!)

'The odd thing is this: Buddy is always a reflection of where I was ten years ago. And for some reason that went over really well when `Buddy' was in his early 20's, but as `he' gets older comic readers become more resistant to him or bored of him, which poses a lot of questions, such as: 1 Do my readers-or comix readers in general-simply move away from comix as they get older? and 2 Do people simply not want to read about the adventures and concerns of an older and more mature character?'
posted by kliuless at 10:21 AM on February 12, 2002

kliuless - I'm out of my twenties myself and I'd actually be interested in seeing how the zinesters and other former citzens of the underground are dealing with impending middle age.

Also thanks for mentioning Buddy my personal hero.(scroll down) Several of my freinds have commented that Pete Bagge must have followed me around for weeks to create that character.
posted by jonmc at 10:30 AM on February 12, 2002

If I'm not mistaken, doesn't Paul Lukas write a pop culture column for Forbes Small Business?
posted by sassone at 10:46 AM on February 12, 2002

My zine, Prehensile Tales, wasn't quite as popular as Beer Frame, but it had a nice 3 year run.

For me, discovering the net was the death of my zine. I spent $100 an issue to distribute to 200 people when it was paper-based.

So the free, world-wide electronic distribution was all-too-tempting (see: prehensile.com). But I do miss the mailbox filled with crazy crap from fellow zine lunatics.

My old favorite: Farm Pulp (by Gregory Hirshak, I think)

And it amazes me that there must be old Factsheet Five issues circulating. About every 4 months, I get a dollar bill in the mail with a request for my zine (last published in '96).
posted by halcyon at 11:07 AM on February 12, 2002

I would bet that many of yesterdays zinesters are bloggers, though most of today's bloggers would certainly not have been zinesters.
posted by sudama at 11:47 AM on February 12, 2002

For what it's worth, Al Hoff, author of Thrift Score, and Lynn of Mystery Date also got book deals. But where are the books from Murder Can Be Fun's John Marr?

Larkfarm is a weblog by former Factsheet 5 guy Mike Gunderloy.
posted by snarkout at 12:04 PM on February 12, 2002

I just ran a search on Darby Romeo of Ben is Dead fame and it came up with book titled Did You Come? from Incommunicado Press which seems to be about to go under.
While finding out the whereabouts of some of these folks is great, I guess I'm more interested in how a bunch of extremely talented writers like these could fall by the wayside after such a great beginning and what you guys think the reasons might be.
posted by jonmc at 12:36 PM on February 12, 2002

my favorite zine, cometbus is stil there. I look forward to new editions twice a year or so. He is a really good writer, and I would recommend him to anyone.
posted by goneill at 12:40 PM on February 12, 2002

I think it's quite simple: the mainstream awareness of zines was just starting to crest when the Internet broke big. Rebecca Blood getting a book deal in 2001 is the equivalent of whoozit who did Dishwasher getting a book deal in 1996 (not that he did, to the best of my knowledge). I'd guess that the vast majority of the hundreds, if not thousands, of teenagers who were cranking out zines in the early '90s have weblogs or web pages now; they can save on postage and get a wider audience. I imagine livejournalers and the like have the same sense of community that people sending letters back and forth did in 1993, to boot.

Is Factsheet Five still publishing? FS5's woes might well have spilled over as well.
posted by snarkout at 12:47 PM on February 12, 2002

Dishwasher Pete!
posted by goneill at 12:55 PM on February 12, 2002

The guy who put out Chemical Imbalance became a bigwig music editor at Amazon.

Jen Angel, who used to put out Fucktooth, is partially behind Clamor magazine.

Dishwasher Pete is a semi-regular contributor to This American Life.

Mike Gunderloy, the founder of F5, has an account on MeFi and also a weblog
posted by gluechunk at 12:56 PM on February 12, 2002

Factsheet Five went on hiatus a couple of years ago. There were rumors of a comeback, but if it did, I completely missed it.

The 'zine I used to do, Inkblots, has had a spotty history thanks to the Net. We used to do issues more or less quarterly, but when we took it to the Net back in 1998 (I think), we quickly got smacked upside the head with the hard lessons of information architecture. Making a website with 50 pages isn't that much harder than making a zine with 150-200, but when several years go by and you're suddenly dealing with 500 web pages without any clue about how info architecture works, you're suddenly overwhelmed with the sheer amount of work necessary to put something like that together. Which is why we basically stopped publishing back in 2000 and went on hiatus to figure out how to fix all the problems... Several aborted efforts later, we're coming back here this week or next week, but without the archives. Really, it was the only way to get something out there. We're planning on going back to print for big compilations of the best stuff from our web edition, but somehow it's hard to go back that way, giving up all the color and the zing and presto of the web.

Anybody else go through this?
posted by dreamsbay at 12:57 PM on February 12, 2002

You can find out all you need to know about the state of the zine scene by going to Google and comparing alt.zines from, say, January 2002 and January 1995, and comparing how many posts from each month are from people actually offering for sale, or commenting on, printed matter.

The web killed the zine world, absolutely atomized it. Sure, there are still a lot of print zines published, but the numbers are far lower than they used to be, and there are no longer any easy ways to get into the scene or even find out what's out there to buy. There is one FF5-esque publication called "Zine Guide," but it only comes out twice a year (which is bad enough considering how quickly most zines come and go), and it doesn't really review anything. It's just a giant list of whatever zines were sent in to them, with quickie recaps of the contents, and maybe 20% of them also include useless one-liner pseudoreviews by other zine writers. I can't help but buy a copy every time I see it, but I've yet to be moved enough by any zine's listing in Zine Guide to actually send away for a copy.

Besides, about half the zines listed have their own web sites anyway.

I guess I'm more interested in how a bunch of extremely talented writers like these could fall by the wayside after such a great beginning and what you guys think the reasons might be.

Easy: Most writers (and I'm generalizing here in terms of writers for things published on a regular schedule: zines, "real" magazines, newspapers, web sites, etc) are not hired purely because of the quality of their prose. Sometimes they're not hired at ALL for the quality of their prose. You get hired for being merely adequate plus - and this is far more important - fitting well into the office environment. Most truly great zine writers either have writing styles that the average editor of any "legitimate" publication wouldn't care for, has opinions that the editor and staff wouldn't care for, or has a personality that the editor and staff wouldn't care for. Or all three.

All you have to do is look at the writing of the current band of warbloggers, compared to the average op-ed writer of any newspaper. They spend half their time ripping apart the work of "legitimate" writers for truly prestigious news outlets - showing both their constant flat-out lies and plain old eye-rolling prose - and doing it in ways that are far more enjoyable to read than most "real" writers ever could be. And I haven't seen any of them get hired yet.

Nothing new under the sun.
posted by aaron at 1:19 PM on February 12, 2002

aaron- your right about the web atomizing the print zine world and that the better bloggers have taken up much of the self-publishing slack.
Back in say '94-'95 the cream of the original zine crop(Jim Goad, Darby Romeo, Lisa Carver, Paul Lukas, Al Hoff, Russ Forster) were getting tons of justified acclaim and seemed on their way to long and succesful careers. Now they seem to have either quit or faded back into obscurity.
The mystery is which of the aforementioned factors caused that to happen.
posted by jonmc at 1:29 PM on February 12, 2002

and there are no longer any easy ways to get into the scene or even find out what's out there to buy

For coverage of Canadian zines there's Broken Pencil magazine, worth picking up even if you're not in Canada.
posted by gluechunk at 1:30 PM on February 12, 2002

My favorite 'zine, Forced Exposure, now has a successful distribution company/label. After a quick search I'm glad to see Guinea Pig Zero is still publishing as well.

I always had trouble finding 'zines...usually I had to schlep to NYC or some god-forsaken corner of the state. Which I used to do with some regularity, but since I'm getting old and set in my ways, I'm not as inclined to the schlepping. As for where the zinesters go, I think the net probably has something to do with it...possibility of wider audience, lower cost and the distribution hassle is gone. I'd guess that the slow demise of independent bookstores when the B's (Borders, Barnes and Noble) come to town has something to do with it as well. Your local bookstore closes down, where the hell do you put your 'zine?
posted by kittyloop at 1:31 PM on February 12, 2002

Lisa Carver has a ton of writing at Nerve.com
posted by gluechunk at 1:33 PM on February 12, 2002

Actually, I just picked up a new issue of Duplex Planet at the See Hear in New York, so it's still going on.

With more zines on the web, I've noticed a lot more small time magazines recently. Kids that would be putting out their own zine are just writing articles instead.
posted by destro at 1:58 PM on February 12, 2002

I think that the lesson to be learned from Jim Goad is that if you're old enough for hair plugs, you're too old to be doing a zine. /rimshot
Seriously though. Jim Goad is talented enough that he should have become a more successful journalist/writer (I *liked* Redneck Manifesto) than he is; something tells me that he's probably too persona non grata to get much work.

1. Lisa Carver (who seems to be doing ok, with several freelance gigs and a regular column at nerve.com) kinda lost me in the past couple of years with (what I perceived as) her suburbanite mother shtick.

2. Recently I was shocked to discover that MaximumRocknRoll is now laid out in Quark; it's been that long since I picked it up. I can only assume that the quality is otherwise the same; it might has well have been written in Urdu for all the bands I recognized.

Point being, I guess I've aged out of MRR but didn't mature fast enough for Lisa Carver. I think this might be why our favorite zinesters fell into obscurity. As we got older, our interests became less easily defined by our obsessions with pop culture, a particular genre of music, or general misanthropism. We became fractured. Not much left to write about, or much audience left to write to.
posted by cowboy_sally at 2:05 PM on February 12, 2002

cowboy sally - I was kinda hoping they'd grow old with us, Actually the graying of "Gen-Ecch" should lead to some interesting moments.

For Instance, Imagine an oldies station in the year 2020:

[huge amount of echo]

"Hello cats and kittens, that was "Creeping Death" by Metallica...ah, what memories that brings back...this next one goes out to Bob and Lorna on their 15th wedding anniversary, here's Marilyn Manson with "The Beautiful People...."
posted by jonmc at 2:23 PM on February 12, 2002

Actually, there are usually a number of contemporary zines available for purchase at the bigger Tower Records stores. I know you can find some nifty ones at the one near my place in Alexandria, Virginia.

Also, one zine worth keeping an eye on right now is Words! Words! Words! and their publisher, So New Media. An excellent example of webloggers like Ben Brown and Derek Powazek takin' their work back to dead-tree status.
posted by dreamsbay at 2:30 PM on February 12, 2002

Actually the graying of "Gen-Ecch" should lead to some interesting moments.

I myself am looking forward to the Jello Biafra Memorial Wing of the Smithsonian, which will be his entire library of zines and 7-inches.
posted by cowboy_sally at 2:37 PM on February 12, 2002

I published fourteen issues of my zine on good old fashioned paper back in the day, but have now apparently transitioned competely to the web. I didn't intend for it to happen this way, but once I got started I quickly realized my site works better for me than the traditional zine format. I'm writing more, many more people read my goofiness now, and it costs almost nothing to produce. A great deal all around, I'd say. The only downside is that folks can't carry a computer monitor around with them in their backpacks like they can a paper zine, but other than that I can't see too many negatives.

As far as zine review publications go, Reader's Guide has pretty much taken the place of the old Factsheet Five. It's a great resource, founded by Doug Holland of Pathetic Life fame.
posted by jeffkay at 2:37 PM on February 12, 2002

BoingBoing was a great magazine. The weblog of the same name has a hint of how good it was, but not really. It could occasionally be found in Borders or Tower Records. Then it just disappeared. I miss the mag.
posted by crunchland at 3:07 PM on February 12, 2002

Sorry you're disappointed. We do our best!
posted by doctorow at 3:23 PM on February 12, 2002

Pagan Kennedy (Pagan's Head) has had a few books out in recent years, at least one of 'em a novel. And I think I see an article or two popping up in unexpected places every so often.
posted by sesquipedalia at 3:45 PM on February 12, 2002

I used to write for print zines and it was always a real kick to get the printed matter in my own hands. But I do my own sporadic zine these days and primarily use email to distribute it. There are always going to be people who use paper and print, but for quicker and cheaper publishing you can always fire up that crappy copy of Frontpage and pump something out.

Me? I use Notepad. I thought I'd say that to be annoying ;)
posted by skinsuit at 3:48 PM on February 12, 2002

Eyeball is a smaller version of what F5 used to do, plus they cover the "microcinema" scene.
posted by owillis at 3:54 PM on February 12, 2002

fwiw, insound has a zinestand. bad subjects seems to still be going strong. there like the only zine i know about.
posted by kliuless at 6:25 PM on February 12, 2002

Coincidentally, I picked up my first copy of Farm Pulp last week. I haven't bought many 'zines, but there's something about the feel, the texture, the rendering that I like. For some reason, weblogs just don't do it for me the same way.

I never did care for Jim Goad, though I did check his stuff out. I never could figure out if he was a pseudo-intellectual exploiting what is considered 'low' culture, or if he was doing a parody of a pseudo-intellectual exploiting what is considered 'low' culture. Either way, as someone who grew up in the redneck/white trash world he writes about and supposedly lives in (with much of my family still there, geographically and socioeconomically), his stuff always seemed off key, kinda like me (a white Georgia boy) trying to rap. I came away from Redneck Manifesto with the impression that this college kid was trying to write something to shock his professors, and that if Mr. Goad were to come across a redneck who took the time to understand what he wrote, he'd be in for an ass-whuppin.
posted by troybob at 7:24 PM on February 12, 2002

troybob - I get the feeling Jim was simply using the "Redneck" stance to tweak folks a bit, although he does come from a humbler background than a lot of the alt.culture crowd. By siding with the group most despised by the so-called "enlightened folk" he could show up the hypocrisies of a lot of limo-liberals and radical-until-graduation smash-capitalism-while-mommy&daddy pay-their-bills types. Actually it sounds like you and Goad are on the same page more or less. For instance:

"I choose to identify with the white working class although they probably don't identify with me....the call of the redneck was stronger, so sue me."

Goad's a long way from perfect, but I'd still recommend Redneck Manifesto to anyone willing to have their assumptions shattered.
posted by jonmc at 7:40 PM on February 12, 2002

jonmc...thanks for the thoughtful view on it. When I bought Redneck Manifesto, I was hopeful about the message of the book. I do understand his arguments, and agree what some of what he is trying to say; however, I don't feel he genuinely respects white working class as much as uses them to make a point (and a career). His website in particular indicates he has chosen to identify with that class by becoming a gross caricature.

Goad has a habit of trying to discredit his critics before they have a chance to criticize him (as in the last chapter of Redneck Manifesto). This is underscored by his website statement:

"...I come from a humbler economic background than anyone who's ever accused me of not being white trash."

I won't submit a white-trash resume, but I assure you that statement is false.
posted by troybob at 9:08 AM on February 13, 2002

zines have never gone away, they've just decreased in numbers. i quit publishing my zine for a few years in order to focus on web projects, but in the end i realized that i valued a small readership more than a huge one made up of people who only *really* cared because suddenly the content was free.

good zines aren't any harder to find these days.. they're out there.
posted by jacksaturn at 9:19 AM on February 13, 2002

« Older   |   Are there other universes? Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments