‘CHICAGO ZINE FEST 2013’ was a subject title shimmying through the inbox of my e-mail for most of the year. I would open one message or the next from time to time and read about the meetings, the bake sales, the readings. I would skim over the finer details, thankfully being sorted out by the dedicated CZF crew. I meant to be looking for the “RESERVE YOUR TABLE TODAY” e-mail. I meant to clear my weekend work schedule. I meant to find transportation and have a sack of crisp zines stapled and ready to go a month in advance.
It’s nice to not have to depend on yourself solely for action in life. Richard, as my friend, compatriot and fellow agitator at Monster House Press said,
“Wanna come to Chicago Zine Fest / table with me at it? March 8th / 9th. I got MHP a table and will be there!”
I said yes, called off work and found some zine freaks / punk geeks to kindly and safely drive me to and from Chicago. Gas station snacks were a plenty to the dismay of our guts. Thanks to these folks and the last minute for nudging me impeccably forward.
Now a few weeks beyond the event, I know that I was met with a meaningful experience. Youthful enthusiasm spread through me for the duration of the event. So many people, by their own volition or by gutsy collaboration with friends at the risk of financial and romantic drama, are making beautiful things. That seems like a general and subjective statement. It is both but I will award BEAUTY to things born of the mind and transferred to the hands, photocopiers and staplers, sharing, trading, the urgency to connect with people, the informal flow of ideas outside of A**AZON or F****OOK, the personal contact that has potential to stir up possibility in an individual or within a subculture. I let my (free) coffee-perked spirit bounce back and forth between the two floors of zine fest territory.
The key to maintaining my sanity in the overwhelming amount of mostly self-published works was finding familiar faces; people I knew from touring in bands or as a touring reader, as well as booking shows and readings here in Ohio. I hovered around faces I might like to know and waited for some space. Then on to bright colors. Finally I moved to walking around and trading things based on a simple non-system. EX 1: That girl gave me a spoon for my yogurt at the book store. She gets a zine as a trade. EX 2: I traded with this person at the first CZF and they are here! I want their new stuff and will give them my stuff whether they want it or not. EX 3: Money for goods (accepted) EX 4: Oatmeal cookie for goods (rejected)
I want to highlight some zines I picked up and encourage folks to hunt down these titles.
Kate Larson was the zine fest sweep for me. Upon arriving, I saw Kate give a reading at 826CHI from her most recent zine, No Better Than Apples 9. I can say I was mesmerized and flattened at the same time. To speak bravely and eloquently about illness- very real fear and pain- and elevate your audience’s conscience, empathy and ultimately, remind them that being alive is good and giving care to loved ones is good, is beyond invaluable to those who witness such an act. It was moving to see happen. This zine documents Kate’s sudden symptoms and subsequent diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis.
No Better Than Apples is the kind of zine that you want to pick up because of how it looks; beautifully screen printed (by hand, by Kate) covers on colored paper (gold ink!), quarter-sized, a mix of hand-written and typewriter charm, cut-and-paste images and drawings that cheer a reader on in the midst of such heavy subject matter. Underlying themes of body image, sexuality and being a women in a patriarchal society fit into to this narrative seamlessly. I’d attribute this to the way Kate is able to open up moments of her real life experiences with a reader. She is living and writing about her life rather than prescribing or listing as a qualifier, a trap many per-zines can fall into in my opinion. I am very glad to have purchased this zine direct from the author and you can do the same. That is the accessibility of the zine world. Sometimes I’ll look up my favorite poets and wonder, “Why can’t I just e-mail them!” Their work will have spoken to me so intimately that I think I should be able to say, “Hey, wanna go have a beer with me?” Apparently I have to talk their publishers first. Understandable and unfair.
On the lighter side was STORIES, a quarter-sized zine complete with a cassette tape featuring Kate’s friends telling true life stories. I rocked this one in the Delay van driving out to the distant west side of Columbus (for pizza and romance, one and the same) and found my self wholly captivated. I found… a story about a brief stint as a dead head. Another that totally convinced me aliens are real. Cops! Terrorism! Jail! Anal sex! and more.
The third Larson release I acquired was a tiny (physically small though infinitely capable, something I consider most music and art to be) collaborative work. It is a zine that features the water colored paintings of Canadian artist and songwriter, S. Ayton. The zine carries a link to MOOD-SWINGS bandcamp page and streams the musical team-up by the two.
I’ve always admired Mark Novotny’s layout on his long-running zine The Fury. It’s clean, memorable and easy to look at- not to mention his writing is insightful and witty. Pick up any of his releases. Novotny’s skill as a photographer can be found in the zine below. This will make you want to start a band or at least go to more shows and stand in the front.
Someone bought a zine from me and had a poster that was a blown up page from Cathy Hannah’s comic zine ALAS. I needed the poster. It sold out. I bought the zine. All good. Here is the page from that zine that went big.
Sara Drake has unmatched skill for simply precise, clever and beautiful work. Snake Girl is a brilliantly illustrated movie review (plus more) of The Snake King’s Child; Fai Sam Ang’s 2001 remake of Tea Lim Kun’s Pos Keng Kang (The Snake King’s Wife or The Snake Girl 1971). The work seems undoubtedly influenced by Drake’s recent Cambodian residency, teaching young girls how to make and self-publish zines at Independent Youth Driven Cultural Production in Cambodia (IYDCPC).
In Snake Girl, Drake quickly highlights the action in this Cambodian Folktale turned ‘Horror’ film. Along with celebrating a female lead and the scene in which her hair morphs into snakes, instantly killing a perpetrator, Drake accents the importance of this film, and any art for that matter, existing after the brutal atrocities enacted by the Khmer Rouge Regime and the years of civil war that followed. Screen printed covers. 5.5 X 7.
You may also see the Quickest Flip postcard I acquired below. Quickest Flip was stationed near by Sara and I (mutually) recognized the table-er from playing at her house in Arcata, CA in 2007 with Delay. Quickest Flip is a current magazine / website / musical compilation, basically a cover-all outlet for many under appreciated artists. It is based in Eugene, OR. Awesome stuff.
Sue P. & Mary C.’s high quality split photo zine. This will inspire travel and help let the simple things in your everyday landscapes speak to you. It is possible to have contradictory feelings always and this one left me calmed and restless.
Mae, A Columbus native’s per-zine. It is funny to connect with someone I have seen around a lot at basement shows over the years miles away and removed from our proclaimed ‘home.’ Sometimes it takes an after party with this girl offering shots of Tequila out of a gun-shaped glass bottle (we passed). This one hits hard right off with an entry on recognizing and surviving sexual assault. It comes back again at the end. It made a rock in my stomach, thinking of how so many people’s coming-of-age tales involve assault. It is a hard world to trust, a hard world to grow in.
This is a quick read and there is a rawness to the writing style. You get the feeling that it’s off the cuff which makes it a poignant account that is easy to get into. i was a teenaged SCUM FUCK is also a hilarious and too-crude-for-mom’s travel zine. Trains. Arrests. Shows. On The Road for kids with studded vests and CRASS back patches. It’s like finding the first forty-ounze you can stomach. I’m reading the title again, thinking about the I WAS, as in, I am no longer. A reflection. There is an interesting tension in this zine. There’s the awareness of irreverent decision-making, privilege and and how one chooses to explore the concept of freedom. Then there’s space bagging on the highway in plain sight.
I have a stack of computer paper looking at me from my bedroom floor. It’s folded and stapled. Zines are like the dirty laundry of literature. So many of us have something to say. It piles up til it cannot be ignored. Zine’s are an outlet. Zine fest’s are a forum for connection and growth. I think I made $20. I think I made more. I think I’ll make more. See you there.
CHICAGO ZINE FEST 2013