The print industry has felt pressure on readership due to the rise of digital media, but there is one print medium making a comeback: zines.
Zines, also known as mini-magazines, have been around since around the 1930s and flourished in the punk and riot grrrl scenes of the 1980s and ’90s. Zines can be anything from political to radical. by the idiot and many use it as a platform to express their thoughts, identity, political beliefs and, of course, their angst.
Jonathan Valelly is the editor of Broken Pencil Magazine based in Toronto. The magazine is published four times a year and is dedicated to zine culture and the independent arts. He says fanzines and self-publishing are tools for building relationships, discussing politics, and working on personal projects.
“I think [zine culture] encompasses the ethics of DIY and accessing information and empowering people to be their own platform, âhe says.
He created his first zine while spending the summer with his parents in Philadelphia after his freshman year of college in Toronto. To avoid his boredom, he started dating and fell in love with a locked up boy who ghosted him after they got to know each other.
Heartbroken, he started writing punk songs on his ukulele to express his feelings, but after accidentally breaking his ukulele, he needed a new outlet: zines.
“I said, ‘I still have all these feelings that I have to channel’, so I made this poetry zine that had a bunch of collages and other artwork … I used old gay porn magazines and a bunch of other cut and paste stuff, “he says. The zine was called Carajo, which is the Spanish word for asshole; then he mailed it to her.
Valelly says that accessible publishing like zines can allow people to control not only the appearance and content of the publication, but also create a specific distribution network. Festivals like the Canzine Festival, hosted by Broken Pencil Magazine, first came to Calgary in November 2017 and are a way for zinesters to showcase their work.
âYou reach people who are part of your community and often you give it to them directly and tell them about it and maybe trade themâ¦ Zine culture allows a little more privacy in terms of sharing and accessing the experiences of others, âsays Valelly.
According to Valelly, self-publishing is empowering, especially for members of the queer community. âI think a lot of it is the overlap between feminist punk culture and queer punk culturesâ¦ super surprising.
Blake McLeod, an Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD) alumnus and one of the hosts of Queer Art Night, a monthly arts event in Calgary, began creating fanzines during her freshman year at the ACAD. She says she also sees a connection between zine creation and the queer community.
âIt’s tricky in the queer community because there’s so much oppression already so I think it’s harder to make your voice heard,â she said. âIf you’re just doing a zine, it’s like everyone can just share and swap it and eventually it comes out and it’s like ‘I didn’t even know that was a weird thing.’ “
McLeod says she enjoys doing zines because of the versatility of the content. A zine doesn’t have to fit into a mold, it can be heavy, it can be your cat, and it can also be knowing how to get up after battling anxiety or depression.
Similar to Canzine, an underground zine and culture festival, is the We are not an island: the Queer Zine fair which took place during the 2017 Sled Island festival. The festival’s mandate was to create a safe, accessible and inclusive space for members of the local queer community to explore art and meet other like-minded people, among others.
Bronson Smillie, the founder of the fair, says he got involved in self-publishing in Montreal where he attends Concordia University for painting and drawing. The idea of ââa zine fair had been in his head for several years and when the opportunity arose to do it in Calgary, he seized it.
A comic book artist himself, Smillie says the zine culture and the culture of self-publishing are community-based, and there are plenty of opportunities for people to come together through the medium.
“I think it’s just this way of disseminating information that really leaves the agency to the person distributing it, so you don’t go through a third party, you don’t have a publisher telling you what So you can and can’t. So it leaves a lot of freedom to just tell your story and I think because of that gives a voice to a lot of people who don’t have a lot of representation in the mainstream print media.
The next Queer Art Nights will take place April 22 and May 20 at the CommunityWise Resource Center on 12th Ave. Make sure to check Broken pencil website for the upcoming Calgary Canzine Festival as well as the Sled Island website for more information on We are not an island: the Queer Zine Fair.
Publisher: Polly Eason | [email protected]