Entries Tagged 'Zines' ↓
July 7th, 2011 — Interviews, Sex(uality)/Gender, Zines
Max Mandax has a couple of zines in an art show opening tomorrow. I also think he has some interesting things to say about gender. I’m Dan Copulsky, and my friend Max answered my questions in July 2011.
You have a couple of zines in a show at Woman Made Gallery. You aren’t a woman. How do you feel about that?
I feel weird about it. Sort of proud, even kind of validated by it, but also apprehensive about my inclusion in the show being challenged. The call for submissions said the show was “open to women, transgender, genderqueer, and gender non-conforming people.” I feel included in that, but people generally see me as a man. So I’m scared someone will look at me, look at the name on the gallery door, and have an issue with that.
What is your gender identity?
I don’t really consider myself a woman in any sense. At least in some senses I do consider myself a man. But I also consider myself genderqueer and gender non-conforming. I think a lot traditional ideas about masculinity and femininity are silly and harmful, and I don’t fit a bunch of stereotypes about men. I also aspire to look more androgynous. In some ways that makes me feel like a man who challenges what being a man means, but in some ways it makes me feel like something other than a man. It’s sort of a recurring theme of my identity that I don’t feel like I’m enough. I feel like I’m seen too much as a straight man to claim a queer or genderqueer identity, and I feel like I don’t have enough experience to call myself poly. But I think that’s kind of dumb.
Do you think the gallery would see your gender identity as one they intended to include in the show?
I sent the gallery three zines. The first was a glossary zine of words related to sexual and gender identity. The second as a glossary zine of words related to non-monogamy. The third was a zine about my own identity, using some words from the first and second zines and brief explanations of how I feel those words fit me. I thought these zines addressed gender in a way that would really let them decide whether I was someone they wanted to include in the show. They only accepted the first two zines though, which makes me a little nervous. Like maybe they decided my gender identity was adequate for them but they weren’t sure it would be adequate for the audience in their gallery.
What do you think of gender inclusion policies?
I think they can be pretty problematic. Sometimes I think they exclude people to detrimental effect, and sometimes I think they reveal sexism and transphobia. But sometimes I think they do help create positive, comfortable spaces, even as I hope social change makes it easier for those spaces to be comfortable and positive while also being more inclusive. I also think it’s important policies are clear and accurately represent the organizers’ intents. I prefer the ones that include me.
Why did you make the glossary zines?
They seemed like a small and direct way to make people more aware of some things I’d like people to be more aware of, like what it means to be genderqueer or polyamorous. I think even a really concise definition can hold a big idea, though, like the definition of fidelity holds in it the idea that being committed to someone isn’t the same as only being involved with them. I didn’t realize how educational it would be for myself to try to put them together. I thought I knew what all the words meant, but I really had to think about them and how they are used to find definitions that seemed clear, satisfactory, and consistent with the other definitions. I think some of them could still be improved.
Why did you release the zines under a Creative Commons license, particularly one that grants other people permission to use and adapt your work, even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you?
I hope the zines can have a positive effect, and I want to help make it easy for other people to help make that happen. I’d prefer people cut me in if they are going to profit off my work, and I’d prefer people not adapt my work in a way that goes against my goals, but I think it encourages more people to use the work in ways I’m excited about to just release them under a permissive license. I also think Creative Commons is really cool, and something more creators and consumers of culture should be aware of and make use of. I put the zines up for sale on my website, but I also posted the files so people could print their own copies, and then I included an option to just donate money too. I guess the ideal is that this results in more people reading them and in people giving me more money, but more people reading is definitely the priority.
What are you working on now?
I haven’t been doing as much writing lately as I’d kind of like to. I’ve been prioritizing my job and social life, and I’m okay with that. But I’d like to make a glossary zine about kink and BDSM, and I’d like to flesh out the non-monogamy zine some. I’ve also been thinking about creating a more extensive, comprehensive glossary of sexual identity called “Asexual, Bisexual, Cissexual.” And I have some fiction I want to work on, and I want to do some more writing on communal living, and I’m sure there are other projects I’ve been thinking about that are slipping my mind right now. But I hope my website will start having some new stuff posted to it a bit more regularly.
Max’s Blog – maxmandax.com
Woman Made Gallery – womanmade.org
December 9th, 2010 — Interviews, Writing, Zines
Joe Biel is one of the folks behind Microcosm Publishing, a collective that prints and distributes zines, books, shirts, stickers, and more. They sell online and through their store in Portland. I’m Dan Copulsky, and Joe answered my question in December 2010.
How many hours a week do you all work, and do you have any other jobs or sources of income?
There’s nine of us. I work about 80-100 hours per week. Adam and Jessie, who manage our press, work well over 40 as well. At this point Nate, who builds our databases and updates our website, is very part time. But Sparky, Chris, and Dylan, who pack orders, work about 30 hours per week each. And Rio, Matt, and Corey, who staff our store, work around 30 hours each. Since we are working in an “industry” where there is no money, we each can only get paid up to 32 hours per week. I do video, odd jobs, and construction for money, as do about half of us. Matt does illustration for hire pretty much full time. Sparky teaches art to kids at after school programs. Jessie is a farmer. We’re a mixed bunch. Everyone has their passion hobbies as well.
Is someone in charge? Are decisions made by consensus? What’s the organizational structure of Microcosm, and how’s that fit the project’s values?
We have three tiers of hierarchy. There are temp workers, volunteers, interns, people on their trial hiring basis, and part time people who work for Microcosm and have stated bosses. They are encouraged to state their opinions and express concerns but do not have the ability to stop a decision from happening. There are collective members, who manage the daily operation, have the ability to make policy changes or prevent the presented policy changes of others. While we don’t use consensus—on a good day we operate in a way that takes into account the concerns of everyone to make a decision that no one is opposed to, even if they don’t think it’s necessary. This is how we rewrite our policies, in monthly meetings for administration discussions and changes. And then bi-weekly for submissions. We also have monthly financial updates and publishing updates with projects that are already approved and in motion. On top of this, people can buy in as owners, but currently since we don’t turn a profit and aren’t seeing one in our future, there is no incentive to do this and we are re-writing this role. Being an owner has no authoritative powers that being a collective member does not.
Honestly this came about because this is how it was done before us. There’s no money to be made doing what we do so a way to distribute personal investment is to put people in control of their own lives at work. I think it’s also a good lesson of learning what’s involved in running an organization and what it’s like to have to make those hard decisions.
I’ve tabled at a couple of zine fests and lost money doing it. I’ve learned that I should have a wider variety of stuff and that covers are really important, but I also figure that there are things that make doing a zine fest worth it even if I do lose a bit of money. What’s the business of tabling a fest look like from the perspective of a bigger and more establish group like Microcosm?
We pretty much break even at events—if that. When you take into account travel, the cost of the table, the cost of shipping everything, and the cost of the stuff you are selling, we are often lucky to break even. We’ve had to cut a lot of events in the last year because we were losing so much money by doing them. It’s sad. But you are right, you don’t do these things for financial reasons. You do them for a warm reception, meeting people, and having fun. But sadly, we simply can’t afford to lose money on having all that fun.
Are there any zines you feel like you’ve been waiting for someone to make, like a topic or perspective that someone really ought to tackle?
You know, when I think about that, I often realize that I just wasn’t looking hard enough for them. It’s embarrassing but the public library in Portland now does a better job than we do of finding new zines. And that’s truly amazing. You go to the library and they have zines I’ve never heard of. And in the cases where the zines don’t exist yet, it’s very often an issue of an emerging cultural matter and the zine comes out soon thereafter. Patience is the important virtue when dealing with zines
Aside from particular zines, what do you think the zine world needs more of? How about less of?
Ten years ago I started the zine that I publish now. I’ll be frank—I wanted to say “you can do this” and maybe even try to shift culture. Zines at that time were emerging from the Riot Grrrl era and moving into a very introspective, personal realm. It seemed that everyone’s favorite muse was themselves and it didn’t do a lot for reading as much as it did for writers. So I put together six issues of a zine entirely based in research. Ten years later things are evolving and shifting but there’s still a lingering problem—the most basic skills of investigative journalism is lost. The issues are cast in the culture as didactic and there’s a fence where you have to take a side. If I was writing a story about Eliot Spitzer, for example, I would talk to lots of people involved with differing perspectives. People are going to have contradicting statements but the narrative will emerge through these conflicting statements. Whereas it seems that people making zines have trouble with these analytical skills in their writing. I would like to see zines having the same kind of standards of journalism and ethical integrity that I would expect from anything else. And I don’t intend this as a dis to anyone. I did exactly the same thing when I started out. Before I made zines I was part of a DIY school newspaper. I thought ours easily had better writing than the one run by school but there was no point in any process that sat me down and said “Things are always more complicated than they seem.” And that sticks whether I’m writing about my own life, the actions of the Portland police, a character portrait of Lee Harvey Oswald, or how to compost effectively, ya know?
Is Microcosm an evolving project?
Yes, we’ve very much evolved over the last fifteen years. Just looking at the last five or so, we’ve been able to adapt and do “real” books where we take on an editorial role, do design work, and produce something as a group effort. Even five years ago we were simply doing production work—scanning, digitizing masters, sending to print, and distributing. I think that’s our biggest accomplishment of late. We’re now able to make a book better and work like an artistic brain rather than just a production brain.
How do you think the project might change in the future? Are there any particular new things you’d like to try doing?
We’ve lost at lot of money on certain projects over the last four years and as a result are toning and shaping our efforts to focus more exclusively on zines and books about how to do something in the 128-160 page range. We decided this at our annual meeting last May but it takes many months to implement.
For the sake of maintaining our own interest, there are many things we’ve tried or would like to try. We had a big push towards more books with original content instead of reprints, like we used to do. At certain points there have been pushes to do books about current events issues like American Apparel or Suicide Girls and their inherent contradictions. But because we are unable to pay a standard book advance, we have to work with people who can afford to be paid incremental royalties across many years instead of a lump sum in advance.
Microcosm Publishing – microcosmpublishing.com
December 2nd, 2010 — Interviews, Sex(uality)/Gender, Zines
Christopher Wilde is one of the folks behind the Queer Zine Archive Project (QZAP), an effort to build a free online collection of zines by queer people and about queer subjects. A zine is a self-published booklet or magazine, and QZAP preserves digital copies of these works. I’m Dan Copulsky, and Chris answered my questions in November 2010.
QZAP launched in 2003 with a couple dozen scanned zines. Where did the idea to start the project come from?
The basic idea for QZAP came about when my partner, Milo Miller, and I were part of the collective organizing effort for Queeruption 2001 in the San Francisco Bay Area. After a particularly challenging meeting, we went home and were discussing what happened and I casually said that one of the issues that came up in the meeting I’d already read good information about how to overcome in an old queer zine. I went to the box labeled “zines” in my closet to prove the point, but it was obvious that this was a rather inefficient way to share the wisdom of this particular zinester.
This sparked between us an ongoing conversation about how we could bring past and present queer zines to a more broad audience within the spirit of how these zines were originally created. We knew of libraries and institutions that archived queer zines but did little to make them publicly available. Since Milo and I are both Mac tech heads and grew up along with the Internet age, it was natural for us to think of starting a website and seeing what we could do from there. I contributed my personal zine collection that was based on trades and zines I’d purchased, and Milo threw in the zines he had saved, and that kicked us off with about 300 zines at the time, which has grown to about 1200 zines today, seven years later.
What’s QZAP’s physical collection like? Where is it, how’s it stored, and is it publicly accessible? If it isn’t, would you want to make it?
Our physical collection is kept in standard two-drawer file cabinets, and we recently added two more to the other three we had for a total of five. The fronts of the cabinets are decorated with posters, graphics, stickers, and in one instance, the front of the package from when one of the largest zine collection donations was sent to us from the Czech Republic (the sender purposefully put an assortment of colorful and gorgeous stamps on the box). Drawers have magnetized alphabet letters to denote the letter range of what is in each drawer, or in the case of zine collections the collection title is spelled out with the letters.
These file cabinets live in our dining room in our flat in the Riverwest neighborhood of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Our house, built mostly by hand in the 1890s, is of a style native to this neighborhood called a Polish Flat. The house originally would have been a one or two story house, and then much later in time was jacked up to have a basement foundation of Cream City brick, a creamy yellow colored brick exclusive to the Milwaukee area. We are currently in the process of making minor renovations to this brick basement area so that the QZAP collection can be moved there and at that point we can determine how to make the zines more publicly accessible. It is likely the space, a former two bedroom apartment, will be a work space in addition to having a reading room style area in the front room.
QZAP uses a fairly broad definition of queer zines, including any zines written by queer people and a wide definition of queer. I’m curious where the margin of that is. Are there zines you’ve turned down or considered leaving out? Are there zines you can imagine that you wouldn’t be sure whether to include or not?
We set the definition to be as broad as possible so as not to exclude people from telling their stories and sharing their work. On rare occasions, we do receive submissions that seemingly do not fit with our curatorial mission. In these instances, we attempt to contact the creator to clarify the reason behind their submission. In one case, because we reach out to and collect zines in all languages, there was a language barrier issue that “queer” was translated by a Russian zinester to a meaning that did not have an element of sexual or gender identity. They applied a meaning nearer to the British English meaning of “odd” or “outsider” and when we explained what we mean by “queer” they completely understood why their work would not appear online, but we did keep the copy they sent for our physical collection of non-queer zines.
It may help to pause for a moment and explain that we adopted “queer” right from the start as representing the reclamation of the word as a slur and as a denigrating term to be a positive representation of the diversity of sexual and gender identities. Our collective members identify under a wide range of terms, and some even would define themselves as “straight” (meaning heterosexual) but that they acknowledge the right of people to self-identify, especially when there is pressure from hegemonic gay and lesbian mainstream people to subscribe to a single way of being gay or lesbian. This is problematic to us, as it leaves out the lives of folks who identify as bisexual, transgender, pangender, or asexual or other identities that are fluid and ever evolving. Each of those groups has their own struggles, their own cultural traits, and things to share with other sexual minorities, which is why we embrace a term like “queer” that has a flexible meaning.
Who are the people behind QZAP and what do you do when you’re not working on QZAP?
QZAP is a loosely affiliated collective that consists of a core of about five to seven people in the Milwaukee area and many others globally through contact via the Internet and email. All collective members are zinesters themselves and typically produce work outside of QZAP. We’re also big fans of alternate methods of printing, such as letterpress, silk screening, stenciling, and graffiti style street art.
Most of us do a fair amount of traveling to other cities and other countries and speak or at least read one or more non-English languages. Many folks, including co-founder Milo Miller, are avid chefs and share their talents with the collective via meals they prepare for “QZAP night” once a week where we gather to work on various projects, such as scanning and cataloging.
The QZAP collective also joined forces with other local Milwaukee zinesters to help organize the Milwaukee Zine Fest. We’ve benefited from attending zine events around North America and felt that we could create an event here in Milwaukee that brings attention to the amazing zinesters and comic artists that live here in town and around the Midwest. We also have a long history of sponsoring a late-night film at Milwaukee’s LGBT Film and Video Festival where we work with Festival Director Carl Bogner to bring work that ties into queer zine culture.
All QZAP members are also politically active or community minded, participating in neighborhood watch groups, helping to launch efforts such as alternative currencies, promoting art shows and gallery nights, and doing other efforts like community gardening. Many of us also utilize bicycles as a primary source of transportation.
Do you have any plans or hopes for the future of the archive, QZAP:meta (the project’s queer zine about queer zines), or related projects?
We look forward to the day when QZAP moves into its own flat and can become even more of a hub for creative endeavors and a place for researchers and queer zine fans to come and visit and look through the physical collection. We’ve also thought that once we complete a catalog (currently the collection is only partially documented) we might also be amenable to loaning zines.
The call for submissions for QZAP:meta #5 is out in the world as of October 2010 and will be produced in early 2011. We’re soliciting content that explores the connection between queer zines and queercore, the music movement that parallels the advent and rise of the queer zine genre. There are quite a few movers and shakers from the queercore scene who have already said they are excited to contribute and we’re curious to see what other submissions will be sent to us. The queercore scene has never had a truly representative narrative written about it, and this issue of QZAP:meta should be the catalyst to get people thinking about how we can create an inclusive, authentic, and inspirational history.
Is there anything you think queer zines need more of? How about less of?
As I present workshops and lead discussions on queer zine history, I find that two things which were key in early queer zines don’t often exist these days and likely should be revived. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, without the Internet as the go-to reference for just about everything, queer zines often contained both a letters section from readers and fans (and sometimes detractors!) and the zine editors would often have a zine review section. Even though Larry-bob’s stellar “Queer Zine Explosion” documented the bulk of queer zines produced from 1990 to the present, there are always queer zines out there that he or we at QZAP haven’t heard of, and to stumble across zine reviews by zinesters really helps not only to see what’s out there that we missed, but also give vital clues to the networks that exist between different queer zine titles.
I, personally, also miss the now traditional “cut and paste” style layouts punctuated with Sharpie markers! I don’t think they are superior or more authentic, but they do speak to the urgency of the message contained within the pages of a zine. I’m all about computer aided graphic design, primarily as I made a living through this field, but honestly there are times where I know my work would probably get done a lot faster with my old Royal typewriter, an X-acto knife, a glue stick, correction tape, and several cups of strong coffee!
Lastly, I think there also needs to be a lot less energy spent on the “zines vs. blogs” debate, both from outsiders commenting about the two genres, and also from us zinesters defending ourselves and our work. Zines are a physical craft with a longevity and a rich history that can be traced back in time over a couple of centuries, whereas blogs are a fleeting ghost of flickers on an electronic screen that can be generated mostly at ease and without much thought given to overall structure and how components fit together. Of course, in terms of the content of each there exists some degree of overlap, and I think this is why the debate gets out of hand. So instead of looking at the messages, we need to look to the physical media and be clear about zines having a rightful and respected place in this history of publishing as well as continuing to be a driving force into the future alongside technological advances in communication.
QZAP – qzap.org
June 3rd, 2010 — Interviews, Writing, Zines
Alex Wrekk is a zinester. She’s responsible for Brainscan, an ongoing zine, and Stolen Sharpie Revolution, a how-to book about making zines, and she’s involved in the Portland Zine Symposium and the Independent Publishing Resource Center. Alex also sells customs buttons and craft roast coffee. She answered Dan Copulsky’s questions by email in May 2010.
How do you organize and schedule your work, life, and hobbies? Are there things you do every day? Deadlines you set for yourself?
The problem might be that I don’t schedule. I’m pretty bad at setting deadlines but I do set priorities. One of those priorities is other peoples’ money. If someone has already paid me for buttons/coffee/zines then they are at the top of the list to get done. I may get sidetracked by drinking coffee, reading facebook, or working in my garden, but at the end of the day that priority to do the job someone has paid their hard earned cash for is important. It’s sort of a weird intuitive thing of knowing just how long I can work in the yard and still get buttons made before the postal carrier shows to pick up the mail. As for as making zines and fun stuff, I sort of wait until The Muse strikes me upside the head. Often I see the cover and layout of a zine before the words.
When I’m home I usually wake up between 8 and 9:30am. I sit in bed with my laptop, my housemate’s cat that has claimed me for its own, and my partner, Paul, sound asleep next to me. I check my e-mails, make mental priorities of what needs to be done that day, and maybe answer a few of those e-mails. I’ll relist sold items in my Etsy shop, check facebook, and whatnot. Then I head downstairs to make some coffee and get something to eat, then start to pack orders or make buttons while watching TV on the internet. I usually quit working between 4 and 6. After that I might have a zine symposium organizing meeting to go to, Paul and I may walk or bike ride to the store to get food to make or craft beer to drink, or we may be brewing beer, I may work in the yard, or my wine steward friend may show up with a few bottles she insists we share in our ongoing vegan food and wine pairings.
How many zines do you read, and how do you find new ones and pick which you’re going to read?
I honestly don’t read as many zines and I used to. I have stacks of them in a basket by my bed and another in my office. When it comes down to it, I read my friends’ zines first.
I understand the value of putting something in print and the unique experience of holding paper between your fingers. But what’s the value of not also putting some version of that work online, where those ideas might reach people that the print version doesn’t?
I do put some things on the internet. I have a blog at alexwrekk.wordpress.com. The difference is the intention of the medium. If I want to share something with you in a print format with cut and paste layout I’ll put it in a zine. If I wanna tell a story about how my housemate’s cat tried to take on a raccoon and I care about the immediacy of the documentation then I’ll write it in my blog. If I wanna complain about personal stuff I’ll call my sister or my friends. The things that I put in zines belong in that format. That’s where they were intended to be and that where I’d like them to stay.
How useful do you think being involved in zines has been for drawing in customers for your custom buttons and roast coffee?
I don’t think most zine folks really think of doing a lot of promo for their zine with buttons, but a few have. I think the crossover is a lot smaller than you would imagine. Most of my custom button and magnet customers are people who found me through my Etsy shop and I do a lot of local custom button orders in Portland.
What are you working on now?
Well, I just rearranged and decluttered my office so that feels nice. I’m working on the Portland Zine Symposium a lot, we have meeting every other week. I’m also about to take a few days off around my birthday to head to our family cabin to work on my next zine. It’s about my trip and mini zine tour of the UK and France last year. I’m also planning an autumnal zine tour with five friends coming over from the UK. It will sort of be a cavalcade whimsy with stories of zines, food, and activism in the UK including my American experience last year. We are calling it Zines On Toast Tour!
Alex’s Etsy Store – brainscan.etsy.com
Alex’s Button Store – smallworldbuttons.com
Stolen Sharpie Revolution: stolensharpierevolution.com
Alex’s Blog – alexwrekk.wordpress.com