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News ::
report on 03/23-03/24 'Zine Fair
24 Mar 2002
Modified: 25 Apr 2002
The weekend of 03/23-24/02 at the Mass. College of Art, people from all over the northeast gathered for Beantown ‘Zinetown, Boston’s annual ‘zine fair. A couple dozen tables were set up, displaying people’s self-published, photocopied works, which ranged from personal stories to political commentary to comics.
‘Zine Fair in Boston
by Matthew Williams

03/23/02; Boston, MA--This weekend at the Mass. College of Art, people from all over the northeast gathered for Beantown ‘Zinetown, Boston’s annual ‘zine fair. A couple dozen tables were set up, displaying people’s self-published, photocopied works, which ranged from personal stories to political commentary to comics. Although the attendees were predominantly white and countercultural, there was an unusually diversity in the age range.

Rich Mackin, Beantown ‘Zinetown’s organizer, explained what exactly a ‘zine is: “It’s any small press publication--or even a project that’s not necessarily a publication as most people understand it. The difference between a ‘zine or magazine is kind of gray. It’s like art or porn--I can tell you which one it is when I see it, but it’s hard to define. A magazine is usually thought of as something with staff, glossy covers, all the spelling is checked; they’re laid out very professionally. What most people consider to be a ‘zine is a piece of paper folded in half, stapled, and xeroxed.”

Some ‘zines certainly fit Mackin’s description. However, it was obvious that people had devoted a lot of time putting their ‘zines together, working on not just the content but the look as well. While most were the size of a piece of paper folded in half, some were small enough to fit in your pocket, and some were full-sized. A few, such as the pocket-sized comics ‘zine _Action Geek_, were even in full color. While there may be a stereotypical ‘zine look, plenty of people ranged far from it.

‘Zine culture has its roots in the self-published fanzines written by science fiction and music fans. It has spread well beyond those topics to cover just about everything under the sun though. The unifying factor is that they are all highly personal in some way. Terese, who produces _Anomaly_, says her ‘zine is about “mental disorders. I’m trying to breakdown the stigma because I have a background of that myself and I know a lot of people who do. There’s this conception of people with psychiatric disorders as drooling and slobbering and not functioning, but I’m living proof that with the right medication you can get out there and do it.”

Rosie, a sixteen year-old who produces the ‘zine _Street Pixie_, says, “It’s about everything. A lot of it’s from my journal. It’s about travel and anarchism and feminism and passion and everything. [. . .] Anarchism means that I believe that true freedom can never exist in hierarchy. I’m opposed to all forms of government. That is reflected a lot in my writing. I write a lot about how to free ourselves. That goes along with the concept of passion--never taking your life for granted; every little thing is so beautiful. It’s all political to me--it’s a life outlook.”

For many people, ‘zines are a way of exercising their creativity in a therapeutic way. Terese said, “It’s kind of a compulsive thing--I couldn’t not do it; it’s self expression spilling over. I’d probably be in a padded cell banging my head against the wall if I didn’t have this as an outlet.”

Carl Christian, producer of _Angst Boy Comics_, said “I don’t do it for fun. I mean I enjoy the final project, but it’s mostly about exorcising inner demons.”

The creation of ‘zines is a growing phenomenon, but one that’s hard to measure. Most ‘zines are very localized in their circulation, creating different local ‘zine communities, although the overall values and feel remain more or less the same. Mackin (who also produces the ‘zine _Book of Letters_) said, “Asking, ‘What are the best ‘zines?’ is like asking what the best mom and pop store in the country is. By nature, it’s something that’s not on a national level.” On the other hand, it’s grown into a big enough thing that Nike and other big corporations have tried co-opting the form to sell their products--something that runs counter to the ‘zine culture’s sensibilities.

A few people are giving away their ‘zines for free, but most are selling them for the a couple bucks. They are generally willing to trade with other ‘zine producers, getting a look at someone else’s work in exchange for a sample of their own.

In a way, ‘zines are also about building community. Candy, who produced three ‘zines--_Pink Poodle_, _Pensacola_, and _Prince Mashapee_--said, “I enjoy all the people that are involved, getting to trade, getting to read other people’s thoughts, and the freedom of it. [. . .] When you’re reading other people’s ‘zines, you get to see how alike people are. It’s about seeing your mind on paper and being able to share it.”

Mackin said, “There’s a lot of people in this room that if it wasn’t for a ‘zine fair, I wouldn’t talk to. There’s a number of people that are considerably older or younger than me that I would meet in normal social circles in our society. It’s a meeting of different minds.”

Mackin and others see ‘zines not just as a way of building community, but building a non-commercial grassroots media system. “It’s very democratic--everyone is expressing their own viewpoint. As a result, you get a lot of less well known political viewpoints--anarchism, socialism, folks that would normally be considered crackpots, and all sorts of people on equal footing with each other--as opposed to the mainstream media which is--‘We’re big companies, and we own the newspapers and we own the TV stations and we own the products that we advertise and we own that the movies that are reviewed in the newspapers, etc. etc.’”

Rosie said, “It’s information from the bottom up. It’s everybody putting out their independent ideas. It’s truly what people think. You’re not getting information from somebody who’s trying to sell you something.”

In addition to the tables full of ‘zines and people happily engaged in conversations, there were workshops scheduled for the evenings on everything from “‘zine culture, history and etiquette” and photocopy center tips to necklace making and surrealist games. A young woman was selling delicious vegan chocolate chip cookies for only 75¢, while the organization Food Not Bombs was offering up free fried rice and bean sauce. The air was filled with the enthusiasm and creativity.

****

Beantown ‘Zinetown’s organizer, Rich Mackin, can be reached at richmackin (at) richmackin.org (yes, really). To get on a (low volume) e-mail list for updates about next year’s Beantown ‘Zinetown, send a blank e-mail message to beantownzinetown-subscribe (at) yahoogroups.com.
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Comments

The Best "Zine" in Boston
13 Apr 2002
All false modesty aside, the best "zine" in Boston is my eGroup. Independent, radical and real....
See also:
egroups.com/group/jpchance
the situation of why white people proliferate
25 Apr 2002
I'm "white" myself (white is a color), and I have a theory about why we "white" people (as opposed to blacks, browns, reds and yellows) proliferate in news, political commentary and activism. And how we shouldn't "look the situation" only from the standpoint of our now giving enough room to other cultural and racial groups (I'm not even sure this way of framing the issue is the best way to promote diversity).

I do wonder if the racial situation is like the sex situation: more males involved than females.

And I wonder if males are usually more encouraged, in our status-quo oriented society (even the left is pretty oriented to status quo forms as having high value--like this "news" method), than females. Especially when one looks at the form in which "participation" (what it means to participate) in dissenting community is framed; and what set of norms such participation contains and perpetuates, and tends to disassociate from.

In my view, other groups, including racial, are not "normally" oriented to this form. Or they may be either involved in projects they perceive to be more crucial, or not enjoy being in the company of a *formula* for activism and participation which they feel uncomfortable with (i.e.: the allowances of "serious news writing", the angle to "speaking truth to power", the orientation of idealistic trust in current forms of democratic methods).

These are some of my intuitions, but I admit some alienation from regular connection with women and racial minorities (tho having limited background in both).

I wonder, anyway, if the whole topic needs to be broadened out and the complexities more carefully scrutinized...
Look closer: racial participation situation
25 Apr 2002
I'm "white" myself (white is a color), and I have a theory about why we "white" people (as opposed to blacks, browns, reds and yellows) proliferate in news, political commentary and activism. And how we shouldn't "look the situation" only from the standpoint of our now giving enough room to other cultural and racial groups (I'm not even sure this way of framing the issue is the best way to promote diversity).

I do wonder if the racial situation is like the sex situation: more males involved than females.

And I wonder if males are usually more encouraged, in our status-quo oriented society (even the left is pretty oriented to status quo forms as having high value--like this "news" method), than females. Especially when one looks at the form in which "participation" (what it means to participate) in dissenting community is framed; and what set of norms such participation contains and perpetuates, and tends to disassociate from.

In my view, other groups, including racial, are not "normally" oriented to this form. Or they may be either involved in projects they perceive to be more crucial, or not enjoy being in the company of a *formula* for activism and participation which they feel uncomfortable with (i.e.: the allowances of "serious news writing", the angle to "speaking truth to power", the orientation of idealistic trust in current forms of democratic methods).

These are some of my intuitions, but I admit some alienation from regular connection with women and racial minorities (tho having limited background in both).

I wonder, anyway, if the whole topic needs to be broadened out and the complexities more carefully scrutinized..