Zine Scene

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1. Ahh, zines. Of course the zine scene is still alive (it's been ingested into and mostly absorbed by the blog scene), but we used to print them on paper -- typing paper, computer paper, newsprint -- and try to distribute them in book and record stores. We didn't have blogads.com around then either, but you could usually find someone with a band or a poetry chapbook to pay $20 for a quarter page.

As you've probably guessed, I once ran a zine. This was a long time ago, back when I was in high school, and I founded Head Express with my stepsister Kelly (who is now a librarian in Florida and occasionally pops up on LitKicks). Head Express was a parody of a rock music magazine, with articles like "Rate Your Rogers" (stacking up Roger Waters vs. Roger Daltrey vs. a Roy Rogers Roast Beef Sandwich) and terrible Rolling Stone-style flower child poetry from a fake contributor named Ann T. Lope. We ran for a couple of issues and then forget to keep doing it. Years later, I looked at LitKicks.com and realized it wasn't very different from Head Express at all. But here the flower child poetry is real, and hopefully the jokes are better.

The zine scene gets a good workout in a new novel by Tim W. Brown, Walking Man, which sends up the intense 80s/90s "Factsheet Five" era when zinesters started taking themselves seriously and pushing at the limits of creative possibility that would eventually blow up into the internet age. Published by Bronx River Press, this paperback original tells of the hardworking obsessive Brian Walker's brief rise to the peak of "zine fame", and where it left him. A breezy look back at a faraway literary age from not very long ago

2. I didn't realize the Iowa floods had reached the library at the University of Iowa, a renowned literary spot.

3. Franz Kafka's office writings (he was a lawyer in a Prague insurance firm) are being published. I'm excited about this book, though the unfortunate $45.00 price tag dampens the thrill.

4. The Diary Junction is a blog devoted to the literary form known as the diary.

5. And I Dream of Analysis is devoted to the study of one particular kind of dream.

6. Denis Johnson's latest fiction is appearing in Playboy.

7. This is one way of looking at it.

8. I was at the same Brooklyn Litfest cheese-cube party that didn't impress Ed Champion, though I was satisfied enough and don't mind that the Brooklyn book fest is reaching to Manhattan for talent. But I was at the PEN World Voices Gilligan's Island cruise party a couple of months ago, so I know what it's like when bad book parties happen to good lit fests.

9. If you're going to do a literary project called Here Ends The Beginning and bill yourself as "a multimedia storytelling experience, part screenplay, part graphic novel, part audio book and part movie, the newest chapter in publishing" (via Joe Wikert) ... you shouldn't put a talking video on your main landing page, and you shouldn't compose your final design in Microsoft Powerpoint.

10. Pratalipi is a bilingual monthly magazine -- an idea that seems obvious, but I don't think I've seen it done before.
8 Responses to "Zine Scene"

by Dan on

My ignorance is vast - are 'zines' the same as literary magazines? I hope literary mags are not giving way to blogs.

I, also, go back to the print days of the 70s and 80s; getting published in a print mag was a thrill I don't have when, today, I get a poem into an online literary mag (of which there still seem to be many - decomP, Cherry Bleeds, the venerable Evergreen Review, for example).

by TKG on

Hi Levi,

As far as Zines, there's a long standing zine that isn't necessarily literary, but has been part of the underground music scene now for decades.

I was feature way back in the first two issues and just recently I did a retrospective interview with them that was in an issue a couple months back.

It's on the web here and if anyone wants to read it, take a look.

This zine doesn't have a web site -- it is old school, on purpsoe I think. The interviewer put this up and I like how he linked out from the things we said.

by bud on

Hey I didn't realize you don't need that funky password thing here now. I'll be commenting more now - so look out.

It's no surprise to me that you had a zine because it just seems like something you would have done.

Kafka's office writing? I can't imagine why that would be interesting, something on the order of Wallace Stevens' insurance company memos.

#8 The party would have been better had Markowitz bother to look at the speech beforehand. He is either a really bad speechmaker or just didn't care to know the material at all. For me though, grabbing a few moments with friends (and admittedly as much beer as I can drink in those moments) priceless.

#9. Could they have not gotten Sally Struthers to do that video?

#10. 400 Windmills was to be bilingual - I'll show you the nifty javascript I used to show both languages or either side-by-side. Alas, the site is hanging in the wind waiting for me to get my priorities straight.

by jennifer cuddy on

The zine idea is great for self fulfillment, but I fear it is hurting the salaries of writers. In other words, "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?" I think that even though more writers are being recognized across the globe via the internet, rather than through traditional marketing techniques; I'm not so sure that it is also increasing book sales. In a large way, it is a bit like music downloading.

by Levi Asher on

Dan, I believe zines are distinct from journals. A zine is usually a DIY production, and almost never (as far as I know) has an organization such as a college or a publishing company behind it. Stylistically, they're much more free-form and often tend to be oriented towards music or pop-culture in one way or another.

Bud, I'm glad you enjoyed the Brooklyn party too. What can I say? -- I like Marty Markowitz and I hope he runs for Mayor. But then I seem to be the only liberal hipster in New York City who thinks a Frank Gehry skyscraper in downtown Brooklyn (Atlantic Yards) is a great idea.

by Richard on

I'm neither liberal nor a hipster, but a Brooklyn native who's worked in downtown Brooklyn since the 1960s and 1970s who agrees with you about Gehry.

Also, Marty is an old friend whom I first knew when he was a grad student politician (president of the Graduate Student Organization) at Brooklyn College, and he would make a great mayor.

We haven't had a Brooklyn mayor since Abe Beame's short tenure!

by Levi Asher on

Glad to hear that, Richard, and you are too a hipster.

Yeah, I was involved with a zine or two during my years in uni.

The only major problem I have with zines