Thursday, December 30, 2010

I miss zines

I miss the zine scene. Sure web pages and blogs are great (I wouldn't be typing here if I didn't like them) but they aren't the same thing. Zines were more tangible. They weren't just more tangible in the fact you could hold them and rifle through a whole stack on hand. When you were publishing a zine there was paper, scissors, xacto knives, actual cutting and pasting (with rubber cement and wax). There were heaps of sheets to locate, staple and fold before they were stuffed into envelopes (usually addressed by hand), Subscription lists were kept track of by novel and creative methods like writing down individual subscriptions on separate sheets of paper and keeping them in the same place (sometimes even using a database for a few issues).

A buddy and I used to publish wrestling zines and the occasional odd title,we sold comics for a time too and sometimes had a newsletter to go along with that, for a while they were output on his old dot matrix printer but after a while we got access to a couple of inexpensive macs (yes I said inexpesnive macs) but we didn't' have a functioning printer so we'd drive toa computer center and spend $10.00-$15.00 a hour renting out machine time to finalize the look of the zines and do some high quality out put before we took them to one of several copy centers to have them photo-copied (we were always bargain hunting there), some art was scanned and digitized but a lot of it was still pasted into place physically. We'd bring back the pile of copies (sometimes pre-collated if we could afford that in the issue budget) get together the sometimes hundreds of copies, stuff them in envelopes, address them and stick on the stamps before driving them to the post office. We'd also do a bank run every other week to deposit funds we'd collect, sometimes we'd even actually keep track of the total of all deposits. We'd go back to my buddies place after the mass mailing, pick up pizza or subs on the way. Do a little paperwork and get together the freebie mailings (to lapsed readers, people we wrote about that we could track down, prisons and military deployments that got mail) and we'd read letters people sent to us.
It's easy to type a comment online but it takes dedication to type a physical letter, tell soemone they suck, stuff it in an envelope and mail it out. It was also real satisfying to write a "polite" reply letter. Luckily most of the mail we got was cool and it was a joy to have correspondence from fans who took just as much time as the haters but it was sometimes more cathartic to write back to the people who were cranky (who oddly almost never wanted a refund and would often resubscribe). There was a lot of walking around and driving back and forth involved in the process, each zine production cycle must have involved at least a dozen hours of travel for face time with the "staff" (sometimes involving 3 people) and to actually produce and mail the zines.

Producing Zines wasn't the only thing that was fun. I'd read heaps of them comic collecting, cheap-ass indie comics,music, counter culture, sc-fi/fantasy fandom and of course gaming . I also did the occasional piece of art for music and counterculture zines, sometimes I'd even discover a piece of art I'd drawn for one person "borrowed" by someone else (this usually led to me doing more free art for the "borrower" and soemtimes even a paid bit of art for someone). A lot of it was like reading blogs and web-pages with less production values (and little spell checking or editing) but it also felt different, it felt a little more exciting. I get a little of that vibe these days with OSR blogs but it still isn't the same (Imagine if the OSR internet scene was 50 to 100 newsletters and true zines).

As with all things however time marches on. Expectations and tastes change. The zines started going online if they didn't' disappear overnight to, almost without exception, disappear shortly afterward. The web with blogs and forums just isn't the same thing. I never do a blog post that carries my pizza-stained fingerprints with a stamp I licked because I couldn't find the little stamp sponge-thingy. I miss zines.


  1. I miss zines as well.

    I had been thinking about this topic recently- even if i read blogs, i think they just don't have the same "charm" and at times i'm seriously thinking about starting one, instead of writing on blogs and the like.

    This would be really "old-school".

    check out how D&D and AD&D italian zines from the 80's looked like:

  2. @vault keeper, cool-zines post, thanks for the link. According to my wife I thrashed in bed and sat up last night and babbled a few sentences in Italian. She couldn't remember what I said, she doesn't speak Italian at all. I think it'd be bold to claim I could actually speak Italian, outside of my dreams of course.
    So Italian zines today is just a little funny in an twilight zone sort of way.

  3. that's funny indeed :)

    a coincidence? maybe the dream suggests it is time to learn my language ;)


  4. I miss zines too. I ran an RPG/SciFi zine in high school called The Bleating Badger. Ah, memories.

    Publishing platforms like Blogger popularized but also homogenized the web. It makes me miss the days when everyone was first learning HTML for their idiosyncratic little (sometimes zine-like) websites.