November 19, 2002 10:13 AM   Subscribe

Before there were blogs, before there was the Web, there were zines. Most MeFi folk know this - right? - but it seems to be astonishing news to the Washington Post. Maybe not everybody here was part of the zine scene back in the 80s and early 90s, but I bet a lot of you were. My question: Am I just an out-of-touch curmudgeon or is it insulting to do an article like this on a "Zine Guide" (which I haven't seen - I haven't touched a zine in about five years, probably) without even mentioning the Alpha and Omega of the genre, Mike Gunderloy's Factsheet Five?
posted by soyjoy (48 comments total)
Man, I must be getting old.

I had about five different zines listed in F5, back when men were men and did their "blogging" at Kinko's after a long night of manual cutting and pasting.
posted by oissubke at 10:16 AM on November 19, 2002

Some well-known blogs used to be zines, of course.
posted by Songdog at 10:18 AM on November 19, 2002

There are still zines. I've been thinking of resurrecting mine a lot lately. I put out a paper free events calendar, and we do it all by hand. It's more like a craft than doing a blog is.

It's fun to stay up all night a kinkos, especially when you've got the override code!
posted by goneill at 10:29 AM on November 19, 2002

I'm joining you in the "old" category...I remember how bloody thrilled I was when we got a great writeup in Factsheet 5 and people actually started ordering our zines... it rocked. I still have those issues of F5 on a shelf, next to the books which got write ups.

When they started their quest for a new publisher, there were a couple of the zine folks here in Texas that considered pooling assets to try and keep it running, but then the stock market crashed and we ran out of disposable income. Darn the luck.
posted by dejah420 at 10:30 AM on November 19, 2002

Used to do two zines (Retard and Universal Citizen, if anyone's keeping score). Worked with a bunch of other people on it. It turned into a tiny-but-actual publishing company. We're now doing books, but have given up on the zines--too much of a pain in the ass, too much effort/money for not enough return. Just starting to get back into the swing of things after taking a year plus off.

Anyone know what the status of F5 is? Anyone know what Friedman is up to?

Anyone care?
posted by KiloHeavy at 10:31 AM on November 19, 2002

I had a skate 'zine with the rather lame name "Mega-Zine" (I was 15!). My mom had a copy machine at her office and so I'd spend every Sunday night putting an issue together while I watched "120 Minutes", and then talk her into duplicating 50 or so copies for me.

OT: What happened to Sam Pratt & TheFinger? Looks like the domain got snatched and Google searches reveal nothing.
posted by perplexed at 10:40 AM on November 19, 2002

Mike's a longtime member here (though he's shown himself the door) and runs one of the best weblogs out there.
posted by ewagoner at 10:41 AM on November 19, 2002

Everyone's being too polite and softspoken! WHICH zines did/do you folks put out? Don't be shy . . . it's not like this comes up all that often.
posted by hackly_fracture at 10:41 AM on November 19, 2002

Well, it isn't really an article on zines, it's a review of the Zine Guide in The Magazine Reader, a regular column (which is almost always funny and worth a read).

My zine was called "Rancid".
posted by JoanArkham at 10:44 AM on November 19, 2002

and, you know, there are still fabulous zines out there, including one of my very favorites, cometbus.

i did several zines back in those halcyon days of my youth; most recently i had one about a year and a half ago.

and if you think it's fun staying up all night copying, you should try WORKING at kinko's. my god, the cool shit i made when i worked there. free!

my zines were called box of hair, league champs and the disgruntled three.
posted by sugarfish at 10:46 AM on November 19, 2002

sugarfish - you and me both! I probably wouldn't have started putting out my zine (LuciDream Journal) if I hadn't had all-hours access to good copy machines (not the lousy self-service ones). Once I got a "real" job, it seemed to become a lot more grunt work to put out the zine, even though, unlike in the first few issues, I was actually using a Word Processing program to arrange the content instead of typewriters, scissors and glue stick.
posted by soyjoy at 11:01 AM on November 19, 2002

hooray for cometbus! and, as a side note, has anyone seen a new issue? last one i saw was the, uh, "back to the country" interview issue -- i've been asking around, and nobody seems to have seen any.
posted by fishfucker at 11:09 AM on November 19, 2002

further discussion of zines, and how blogs sort of supplanted them. i did one (go to hell cornell) back in the day, and through the xerox scene i learned about countless other fascinating subcultures. not so different from the internet now, really!
posted by jcruelty at 11:16 AM on November 19, 2002

My favorite zine was Ben is Dead. I still miss it.
posted by SisterHavana at 11:26 AM on November 19, 2002

I helped publish numerous issues of The Passive Lobotomy Press, a punk-rock-anarchy-fuck-the-man sort of rag when I was in high school. We actually did some distribution for a a couple good bands (and some not so good ones, like the infamous noize-core band Nasal Sex, for whom I was the Casiotone-ist) and for some weird little small press books. The crazy dude who ran (runs) that zine is still printing issues, I think.
posted by maniactown at 11:29 AM on November 19, 2002

Of course it's not insulting. I haven't had anything to do with zines for a decade now. I read no zines. I have no zine collection. Factsheet Five is over, dead, kaput.

The Post covered zines with reference to Factsheet Five back when I was publishing it. Now they've moved on to more current affairs. Hey, what an idea, news in a newspaper.

You want Factsheet Five, go to the New York State Library. They've got it all, in boxes, somewhere. That's it. Otherwise, move on.
posted by ffmike at 11:32 AM on November 19, 2002 [1 favorite]

Factsheet Five is over, dead, kaput.

Yeah, but I still miss it sometimes and it looks like I'm not the only one.
posted by maurice at 11:41 AM on November 19, 2002

I published CHAOS Magazine, We did our first few issues at Kinkos, then tried to do a more comic-y 4 color cover and format highlight some of the really amazing artists we had, like Shannon Wheeler and Tom King, but the costs and a censorship case that kept us off the shelves in our home state (Texas) pretty much put us out of business. It was fun while it lasted though. :) I wouldn't try to do a zine now, but I had a blast being an zine publisher in Austin during the grunge years. :)
posted by dejah420 at 12:01 PM on November 19, 2002

Ben is Dead

i *heart*ed BID.

new favorite is The East Village Inky, put out by the semi-famous Ayun Halliday, mother of the titular child and wife of Greg Kotis, who wrote the sneaky Broadway hit "Urinetown." the EVI is nominally about parenting, but it has a deliciously zany vibe and includes lots of random tidbits about NYC in general.

as for me, i used my ghost-zine TAP to get review copies of books and music for years. yes, i am going straight to hell.
posted by serafinapekkala at 12:06 PM on November 19, 2002

Yeah yeah yeah.

It's so American, isn't it, this "celebration of the weirder fruits of the First Amendment." We may not have a 1st Amendment in the Uk, but as far as I recall, the 1st (fan)'zine was 'Sniffin' Glue', started in London in 1976, which spawned the new style, cut'n'paste publishing movement. It only lasted for 12 months, granted, but it spawned a host of imitators.... samizdata style publications began in the USSR, and had a great impact there, too, y'know.
It reveals what happens when the citizens of a great nation are granted an inalienable constitutional right to publish anything they darn well please -- then also granted easy access to computers and copy machines.

Yeah, cos no other country has freedom of speech, right?

A shallow article, with a narrow, ahistorical focus and a lack of awareness bordering on the arrogant. Par for the course at WaPo, maybe, but not good enough, in all honesty.
posted by dash_slot- at 12:08 PM on November 19, 2002

But...it isn't an article...
posted by JoanArkham at 12:10 PM on November 19, 2002

ffmike, print 'zines aren't a dead culture.

I produce one for a small London scene, and know about four others in the same scene making them. Those are all free'zines with a print of about 30 but there has been a mini-revivial of not-for-profit 30page 'zines with subs lists as well. That's all within one cult scene - I know a writer heavily into a different music scene who gets several 'zines a month. I've give you URLs but, of course, one of the reasons for a revivial of print'zines is a desire to regain a sense of difference, of being off the obvious map.

Oh, and Dave Langford's Ansible is still a printzine, as well as an ezine.
posted by anyanka at 12:11 PM on November 19, 2002

The Sound of Suburbia - The fanzine.
That said, the zine scene in Sweden is pretty darn interesting at the moment. Lots of new titles, lots of women. Lovely.
My favourite american zine? The almighty Tuba Frenzy.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 12:27 PM on November 19, 2002

I forgot to plug! Must plug! Those of you not familiar with Robots & Electronic Brains should check it out immediately. It digs deep, deep into the UK underground music scene and has got this cluttered layout we all know and love. Swedish zines are often in swedish (duh), but one notable exception is The Broken Face. It covers the kind of music you find at Terrastock and beyond. Order your copy today!
posted by soundofsuburbia at 12:36 PM on November 19, 2002

ffmike, with all due respect - and that's a lotta respect - I did find it a little insulting, not so much to you or FF individually, as to the whole culture. The impression a reader gets from this article is that zines are this current fad the writer has chanced upon, rather than a whole phenomenon that has stretched over decades (maybe the Post did cover them way back when, but it looks like this dude couldn't be bothered to search his own paper's archives). The fact that this is an article not just on zines but a Zine Guide without mentioning the Zine Guide that was the bedrock of zine culture, makes it a little like, say, covering Gus Van Sant's version of "Psycho" without mentioning that an earlier version existed. That's how it comes across to me, anyway.
posted by soyjoy at 12:41 PM on November 19, 2002

ffmike, print 'zines aren't a dead culture.

Somehow I think I'm going to take the word of the zine movement's Christ figure (for want of a better term) over yours. :-)

There are still zines, yes.

But there are still people living in log cabins, though the log cabin era is long since over.

The zine culture, society, movement, whatever has faded and no longer exists. "Blogs" will go the same way, though there will probably always be a few webloggers around.
posted by oissubke at 12:43 PM on November 19, 2002

It's so American, isn't it, this "celebration of the weirder fruits of the First Amendment."
If you must quote the article while looking down your snoot at us 'Muricans, please do it correctly. The full quote is:
Zine Guide is, in short, a celebration of the weirder fruits of the First Amendment.
So, yes, this partuclar publication is about US zines. I'm sure there are ones about the UK ones as well. And, for the record, my US zine was The Purple Cow.
posted by haqspan at 12:46 PM on November 19, 2002

I think aaron was busy on the "cometbus omnibus" (you can order it here. It's well worth the money. It's massive!
posted by goneill at 1:12 PM on November 19, 2002

My top zines: Teenage Gang Debs (Erin Smith, where are you?), Ben Is Dead (which really was slicker, more magaziney--and produced the wonderful book Retro Hell), Snackbar Confidential and Beer Frame.

I came to Cometbus late, but now love it, and second the recommendation for the Cometbus Omnibus.
posted by GaelFC at 1:29 PM on November 19, 2002

anyanka, Mike didn't say zines are dead. He said Factsheet Five is dead. Difference.

soyjoy, the article is about current zines. Is it required to also be a history of the zine scene? If so, why? Particularly since getting an old zine is an order of magnitude more difficult than getting a current zine. Peter Carlson's beat is reading, and reporting on, magazines -- magazines that are currently available for sale. In this column he reads, and reports on, Zine Guide. I think demanding his column be something more than it is reveals more about you than he. If he were writing a profile of the zine subculture for the lifestyle section, he might be more comprehensive, but that isn't the beat he covers. If he wrote an article about a magazine called Dairy Today, would you expect a history of the domestication of the cow?
posted by dhartung at 1:33 PM on November 19, 2002

Mine was called Fink. Suzanne Bartchy gave me a great review in MRR and it made my teenage life. I know a guy who's still doing his one-man zine and is very close to his hundredth issue. (I lasted two before I discovered the interweb.) I remember when Bratmobile was a zine, then a band. There's a lot of them I have in boxes in storage and have forgotten, but they were all so strange and wonderful, great little pieces of blood and viscera you'd trade for in the mail. They were so real.
posted by teenydreams at 1:52 PM on November 19, 2002

dhartung, you're overstating my case in order to make it look silly. I didn't say he should have gone into the whole history of zines. But whether it's a column or a news story, it's standard journalistic procedure to provide one or two sentences of background on anything current - the concept of "what led to this?" It's the fact that FF is not even mentioned that suggests to me that this basic research wasn't done, which taints the whole piece.

Even if we agree that it's just a narrowly focused review of this Zine Guide, my first question, and probably many people's, about a new Zine Guide would be: Well, how does it compare to Factsheet Five? By not mentioning FF's existence, the value of this piece is seriously undercut.
posted by soyjoy at 2:06 PM on November 19, 2002

See also: thread 14709 - "...Are today's zinesters bloggers instead?..."

The zine culture, society, movement, whatever has faded and no longer exists.

There are still hundreds and hundreds of people in North America still doing zines. The zine culture still exists. This past summer there were several hundred zinesters at the rockin' Portland Zine Symposium.
posted by gluechunk at 2:07 PM on November 19, 2002

Hehe... I ran VideoCheez -- a bad movies 'zine -- got a job at Kinko's... (probably the most horrible working enviromnent ever, but I did make a lot of cool stuff on the highspeed docutech.)

I still see a handful zines down at the local punkrock record store, but for the most part, that whole culture seems to have moved to the web. Better distribution for the buck, but still DIY. It does make me sad, though, to think of a new generation of kids growing up, not knowing about that whole culture.

Factsheet Five, though, was rad. I'm talking 'bout the oldschool FSF, the one that took a month to plow through. That was a serious loaf of a 'zine...

... and whoever gave props to the Cometbus Omnibus, I want to second that. It's kind of remarkable, reading through all of Aaron's writing all in one place.

As a side note -- what DID happen to Murder Can Be Fun? Anyone know?
posted by ph00dz at 2:09 PM on November 19, 2002

Never had a zine of my own. But I loved/still love Beer Frame, Preparation X, and Stay Free!. Also really enjoyed Duplex Planet (which I think is still going) and Dishwasher...anyone know what Pete's up to now?
posted by Vidiot at 3:26 PM on November 19, 2002

I helped my friend Don put out the latter day issues of his zine, Space Age Bachelor.

Some days I miss the smell of toner at 4 in the morning in a overly bright Kinkos. I wonder if "blogs" hurt Kinko's bottom line in the long run...
posted by shoepal at 4:35 PM on November 19, 2002

I was just thinking about "Skate muties from the 5th dimension" the other day. ( From Bristol, England if i remember correctly )
Now there was a zine you had to read with a magnifying glass it crammed so much stuff onto each page. You could read it multiple times finding new things hidden away.
posted by stuartmm at 5:08 PM on November 19, 2002

Oh, Space Age Bachelor! Great zine! A bit hard to read, but amazing content!
posted by soundofsuburbia at 5:15 PM on November 19, 2002

is it insulting to do an article like this...without even mentioning Factsheet Five?

posted by adamgreenfield at 7:05 PM on November 19, 2002

I did a zine called Dead Jackie Susann Quarterly, which died when the relationship I was having with my co-editrix went south. It was xerox, but after our breakup, she put it all online, and I'm glad she did.

My favorite was Judy!, which was brilliant and funny and poked fun at academia (hence the name, referring to Judith Butler.)
posted by ltracey at 7:11 PM on November 19, 2002

I did a couple of issues of a little-seen zine called Out of Focus, and there's a publication called the NASWA Journal that I work on, devoted to shortwave radio, that's been publishing for over 40 years and got a couple of positive reviews in Factsheet Five.

My favorite zines are/were Beer Frame, Thrift Score, Lynn Peril's Mystery Date, Nancy's Magazine, and Temp Slave. Oh yeah, and Dishwasher Pete's eponymous Dishwasher.
posted by geneablogy at 7:37 PM on November 19, 2002

i had one called horrorshow that i made on my first job's photocopier. oh the good old days.....

but nobody has mentioned the all time classic and the first one i bought: Sniffin Glue, from the legendary mark p.

it is now avaliable in book form, here's a great review
posted by quarsan at 12:00 AM on November 20, 2002

I think Sniffin' Glue may have been the true archetype. Punk! had too many aspirations to pro-dom, Temporary Hoardings was too...sincere.

But I do tend to agree that it is precisely the same energy that launched zines that now fuels many a blog.
posted by adamgreenfield at 1:49 AM on November 20, 2002

I am surprised that no one mentioned Lisa Carver's Roller Derby. That was a great zine. I used to do a Xeroxed zine called Pyschocandy and used my tip money from my job at an ice cream parlor to by zines I found out of FS5.
posted by jasonspaceman at 6:06 AM on November 20, 2002

For the record, blogs and live journals, and such ARE zines. They're just pixels instead of paper.
posted by metameme at 7:25 AM on November 20, 2002

I disagree, metameme, or maybe I'm interpreting that comment differently than how you meant it...the energy that fuels blogs is similar to the energy put into a site, but the technical education you need is very different, and the content is a lot different as well. Cometbus was pretty journally, but I saw way more zines with band interviews, record and show reviews, DIY articles, and the like. Plus there's no good web equivalent for the ubiquitous quasi-political collage.
posted by teenydreams at 7:55 AM on November 20, 2002

Yeah, blogs are fun, but for the reader, there's a quantum diff between something that comes in the mail and you hold in your hand and page through expectantly, and something you routinely check along with a roster of other things on your screen. I miss trading and reading all those weird zines - even though a lot of them are still out there, that whole gestalt doesn't seem to be part of my life now. [sappy violin music]
posted by soyjoy at 10:01 AM on November 20, 2002

Teenage Death Songs, a Johnson City, Tenn.-based zine devoted to "documenting the dark side of growing up in the rural South."

I've been to Johnson City. I peed my pants at attention in the marching band. Teenage Death Songs, indeed, but far from the rural south.
posted by mikrophon at 2:05 PM on November 20, 2002

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