Cambridge Zine Boogaloo

I am helping to organise a regular meeting of zine and comix people in Cambridge — click the [amazing] image to sign up for more information. Our first meeting is upstairs at the Maypole, 18th September at 7pm. Tell your friends!

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Blogs Vs. Zines Smackdown: Revenge of Print 2011

As a zine maker, I spend hours and hours cutting out little bits of words on paper, sticking them down onto other bits of paper, preparing packages of goodies to send out with Etsy orders or hand binding issues of the zine (be it by silk thread or by staples).

‘Why don’t you do a blog instead?’ people say, ‘it would be so much quicker and more people would read it’*.

Well now. Well now, indeed. That there’s fighting talk.

Blogs are all about quick and easy publishing for quick and easy access. As such, their worth is cheapened despite their practical value. Yes, they are quick and simple, and yes, they do reach a lot more people. For example I had something reprinted in Perfect Sound Forever which got over 6000 clicks in a week: it was terrifying. That’s probably about four times more people have ever read my zine.

Blogs are the extroverted show-offs of the self-publishing world: whoring themselves about for a maximum of clicks and views; all tarted up with YouTube clips and pretty pictures and sounds. But you can bet your sweet ass a lot of those precious clicks are random internet bots and scanners. Or just people who have noticed that you’ve used the words “naked musician” and want to check the site on the off-chance you have included a pic of a nekked French hornist or something (I haven’t).

Yes, it did take me a while to sew these

Zines, on the other hand, are introverted personal quests for expression. Like open letters to people you don’t know, they are much more special and delicate things. People respond to zines in ways that they never would with a blog. When people get a zine in their hands they get understand the appeal right away.

So, all you print-is-dead naysayers, print is taking its bloody revenge. In fact, the more people assume that print is dead, the more people fetishize the print and appreciate the handmade, super-personal goodness that are these things called zines. So, go ahead, say that print is dead all you like. It will only serve to strengthen the zine makers’ resolve.

Revenge of Print 2011 is an initiative for zine makers (saying ‘zinesters’ never feels quite right for me: can we claim ‘zine maker’ as a British equivalent, please?) old and new, to get their words and art in print in the year of 2011. Actual print. Yes, the initiative is being publicised on blogs and websites, ironically enough, but this just proves that the two worlds of print and online can be friends and work together for a common good.

For more information on the Revenge of Print 2011, visit The Revenge of Print Facebook group – sign up! Make something – what are you waiting for? Do it now! You have six months to comply.

For more proof as to the resurgence and fetishization of print, check out the comings and goings of the zine community on the Zine Wiki or look at the 3,182 (and counting) zines for sale on Etsy.com. Or any of Etsy.

Issue 4 of Angry Violist was produced for Revenge of the Print 2011.

*Obviously, I do a blog as well as a zine, but the blog only contains stuff that wouldn’t easily fit into the zine thematically or because sound files are required. So nerrrr.

Zinemaking 101 – how I make ’em

I got interviewed recently about my ‘practice’ as a zinemaker and ever since I’ve been thinking about how I go about making zines. Here are some facts I’ve learnt:

  • Making zines, as with most things in life, always takes much longer than you might expect. For example, issue 1 of the Angry Violist is a slender 16 pages long, but it still it took around three-four months to produce.
  • Unlike most types of writing, when you’re writing for a zine you don’t write to suit your audience, you write to suit yourself.
  • Taking a lot time to think ideas through is more important than the writing itself. It is akin to the relationship between viola practising and viola performing. Or maybe the old iceberg analogy is appropriate: 90% unseen and below the surface.

This is a zine, from start to finish, the way I see it:

1) Get ideas. From everywhere. The majority of ideas I have I end up thinking about for months: without writing anything down, I work out all the angles and approaches an article could take and think about what I want to say.

Mmmmm, books.

2) Research. I do a lot of reading on and around the subject. Most of my articles are spin-offs from questions raised by doing research about something else. For example, doing research for an article about Fluxus cellist Charlotte Moorman led to more ideas and research about prepared string instruments (which will be in Issue 5) and Fluxus and its relationship with stringed instruments.

Mmmmm, notebooks

3) Writing. This is the shortest, quickest part of all. Since I live with articles for some time, it’s a relatively fast and easy process to write. Especially because I am a lazy writer and do very little editing/redrafting. (Due to lessons learned during NaNoWriMo a few years ago, in which editing is completely verboten and speed is of the essence).

4) Cut’n’paste and make things look good. This is the stage that really takes much longer than you’d think. Always use really cheap pritt-stick so that you can easily unpick things. Number your pages too: it’ll save your head from exploding with confusion.

AV#1 proofs

5) Make one copy of the cut’n’pasted sheets and then send this to the printer to make further copies from, cos you don’t want your cut’n’pasted work falling apart in transit.

6) There is nothing like the feeling of getting a big stack of zines back from the printers, and you can now sit down with a cuppa, regard your handiwork and notice all the spelling mistakes that you didn’t see before.

7) Onwards forever onwards with the next issue… go back to step #1 and repeat.