BOOKS ISSUE: Zine culture survives and thrives, beyond the Web
LIT For the winter holidays many years back, I received a long-arm stapler. It wasn't a surprise, I'd expressly asked for it. And no, I was not a teenage office supply fetishist.
I wanted the stapler because I wrote, cut-and-pasted, and hand-assembled my own zine, and that process was about to get a lot more efficient, thanks to my new long-arm. Those who've crafted their own DIY booklets know the thrill of the further-stretching stapler that meets the paper crease.
While the Web has undoubtedly taken some oomph away from the world of paper zines (though in some cases, it simply enhances viability), there are people, shops, and art collectives that remain dedicated to the physical craft. It's all for that undeniable, hold-in-your-hands, flip the pages, hard copy appeal of print.
And not all zines are of the cut-and-paste, photocopied variety, mind you; some are works of elaborate graphic art, others speak to controversial topics that tend to get ignored by mass media. Some, like Put An Egg on It, which I picked up at Dog Eared Books (900 Valencia, SF. 415-282-1901, www.dogearedbooks.com) in the Mission District, offer cooking tips matched with eye-popping color photos. Additionally at Dog Eared, I grabbed a zine on the history of wigs, an infographic on young Marlon Brando, and a booklet with pencil drawings of octogenarians alongside live-long advice.
In San Francisco, you also can buy fresh zines at Needles & Pens (3253 16th St., SF. 415-255-1534, www.needlesandpens.com), among other locally owned bookshops — co-owner Andrew M. Scott estimates that the store has between 75 and 100 zines in-house at any given moment. Some of the newest acquisitions include Victoria Yee Howe's Let's Get Lost Freight Train Diary (a 72-page zine of train hopping stories), Gabe Connor's photocopied music fanzine Thick Fog, and Marissa Falco's META — a fanzine all about SF artist Margaret Kilgallen. Cometbus, Burn Collector, Jay Howell's Punks Git Cut, and Finn Cunningham's Mental Health Cookbook are some of the store's all-time bestselling zines. Says Scott, "Despite popular belief, people still appreciate tangible items."
Jennie Tanouye, an assistant manager at Oakland magazine mecca, ISSUES (20 Glen, Oakl. 510-652-5700 www.issuesshop.com ), concurs. The majority of the zines that ISSUES sells are physically brought in by creators to sell on consignment. The store's main criteria for zines is that they must be made locally. Other than that, topics are all over the place: graffiti, cooking, photography, a cat-rabbit psychic detective (Roman Muradov's P/d Indigest).
One new zine Tanouye points out is by a Japanese artist who was visiting the Bay Area. Junya Matsumera's San Franshizuko is a dialogue between a character called Shizuko and passages from Jack Kerouac's On the Road, interspersed with photos. There also is No Gods No Matress #15, an autobiographical zine by Enola D. with a theme this issue of breakups and their aftermath. Trans male quarterly Original Plumbing, feminist political punk zine Doris, and parenting and fatherhood zine Rad Dad are some of the perennially popular offerings at the store.
Tomas Moriz is the force behind Rad Dad, a series he created six years back that's now past 20 issues. Before Rad Dad, he created Boxcutter, and now, he's starting a new one about teaching and the East Bay — and he's looking for contributors. He's a longtime preacher on the beauty of zines, but also doesn't disparage blogs.