Late to a Party, or a Beginner's Guide to the Zine

Rachel Schrauben Yeates

          My first exploration into zine culture (the zine scene, if you will) was in the basement of the Atlanta Vintage Bookstore in a section labeled “Radical Literature.” The zines were displayed prominently next to the communist manifestos.

          I was there for research. It was part of a literature class project in which I may have become overly invested, drawn in by Riot Grrrl, xeroxed pages, and the smell of ink.

          The zines I discovered generally fell into two categories: the personal zine (or perzine, a close and intimate look at someone’s thoughts and emotions, a bit like gaining willful access to someone’s diary) and the social justice zine (concerned with matters of intersectionalism, racism, dismantling capitalism and the patriarchy, etc.). I’ve lived my whole life within an hour of Atlanta, and I had no idea that a thriving DIY community existed just past my doctor’s office.

          Marginalized communities have long found voice in small press and self-publishing. The advent of the zine follows a natural progression of DIY publishing and creative expression within these groups, notably POC, the disabled community, those with mental illnesses, and the LGBT+ community. The location seemed apt as well – zines and their audiences tend to be younger and travel in underground circles. Their cheap prices make for accessible content, but they address very niche audiences.

          I have been interested in zine production and content for a while, but hadn’t done more than purchase a few zines by local artists and research current zine makers on Tumblr, feminist websites, and artist collectives. I have been actively following the evolution of identity and vocabulary within the LGBT+ community for several years now.

          As someone pursuing a career in the publishing industry, I find it fascinating how self-publishing has turned those norms on their head. Zines and DIY publishing tend to make full use of the book as art, using every aspect of the “book” and re-examining form, flow, and readership. I have been able to attend multiple book-making workshops in the past two years, and the simple cuts and folds necessary to turn a single sheet of 8.5” x 11” paper into a multi-page book seem to meld geometry and magic.

          Creative space exists on the conventional pages but also in the space between folds, on the flip and undersides of the paper, in the direction that the reader examines the final product, on the re-flattened full sheet of paper-made-poster. And all of this is compounded with the mixing of genre.

          In my first zine, I tried to incorporate elements of zine aesthetic in their prime (Oh, the 90s). These elements included: found and repurposed materials, media recommendations, stream of consciousness diary-like entries, a respect for negative space and production via a copy machine. I ran a grand total of one copy. Mainly because I lost a battle with the copier.

          Zines are the Alka-Seltzer of self-expression – they’re travel-size, fast acting, some relieve indigestion. They are intensely personal because they are the product of creative energy without expecting profit. They are a cry for community and a listening ear.

          When production is kept to a minimum, creative control and freedom lies with the artist/author. Mass production is not often the goal, so the creator can focus on detail in the most minute way. It’s small press at its smallest.

          For anyone interested in the zine resurgence, check out Hodge Podge Café in East Atlanta. It’s the current home of the Atlanta Zine Library. You can browse hundreds of zines from local and not-so-local artists. Riot Grrrls are a good feminism starter series if you’re into that sort of thing. Other locals to check out include Muriel Vega, Sunni Johnson, and the staff of WUSSY Mag.

Spring, 2017 Issue

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