The following is a conglomeration of research, edited and published as an A-Z Guide to Alternative Publishing (zine format). This zine will serve as an instructional resource for our zine collection. I first presented this information as a guest speaker for Robin Paris's Book Arts class. The class was enthusiastic about zines and learning about the history of alternative media. The next day Jerianne from Zine World brought in some interestingly designed zines and answered questions- and continued the conversation about zine culture. After her lecture the class memebers each created a zine for our collection...good times!
A: Alternative Media
Today’s alternative media include newspapers and magazines, zines, e-zines, small press publications, chapbooks, pamphlets, independent film and video, community access cable, web logs, web sites, and comics. Regardless of the medium employed, alternative media share several characteristics (Armstrong, 6).
A publisher is thought to be alternative if it meets at least one of the following:
1. The publisher has to be non-commercial, demonstrating that a basic concern for ideas, not the concern for profit, is the motivation for publication.
2. The subject matter of their publications should focus on social responsibility or creative expression, or a combination of both
3. Finally, it is enough for publishers to define themselves as alternative publishers (Alternatives in Print, 1989: vii)
• “Printing of publications outside of official commercial channels has been a phenomenon virtually since the advent of the printing press (Herrada, 79).”
• “Alternative literature has the capacity to inform, educate and set the record straight on all manner of topics, and frequently does. (1.Atton, 23).”
B: Binding Options
• Self-published printed works encompass a variety of materials and are bound in several different manners.
• Projects can be low production quality to high production quality, works might be printed on a Xerox machine and stapled, printed on a letter-press printer and hand stitched, sent off to a commercial printer and bound professionally, or produced and distributed though any number of technologies and networks.
• Self-published materials follow no set of standards, there are no rules, and therefore the quality and variety of self-published materials which circulate throughout alternative media networks are vast.
C: Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense”
• Thomas Paine was a journalist in the new American colonies; in 1776 he independently published a pamphlet, “Common Sense”.
• Paine’s pamphlet had tremendous social impact and helped ignite the American Revolution. His work is a symbol of what self-produced print media can do to spark social change; he is therefore known in the alternative press as the “Father of Alternative Media (Armstrong, 5).”
D: Dada Journals 1915-1921
• The Dadaist formed around a group of intellectuals in war neutral Zurich, 1915
• They opposed established bourgeois art and culture, which they regarded as symptomatic of a culture about to crumble with the First World War (Ball, 18).
• The group independently published journals to spread their anti-art program internationally.
• Dada journals conveyed Dadaist principles and activities through experimental language, text, performance and images.
• Consequently, the Dada movement is credited with creating several innovations in typography, language, film, and collage.
• Dadaism exploited the journal medium as a transportable, mass media site to form an alternative type of community. The Dada community was connected by their publications, which circulated internationally. (Hage, 2).
• An e-zine is simply an electronically published zine, usually ezines take the form of a serial newsletter.
• An e-zine could be distributed via e-mail as a word document attachment, as a PDF document, or as a Webpage.
• E-zine communities with common interests and affiliations network online, rather than through the postal service.
• For a comprehensive look at e-zines check out John Labowitz’s archive of web-based e-zines at http://www.e-zine-list.com/
• The science fiction magazine subculture of the 1930’s and 1940’s coined the term “fanzine” from which the more contemporary label of “zine” evolved.
• Science fiction fans circulated independently published magazines via snail mail around the globe.
• Fan fiction generally includes characteristics of original science fiction works written by fans, rather than the original work’s creators.
• Matt Gunderloy created a fanzine directory tilted “Factsheet5” which listed and reviewed fanzines. This directory created a centralized fanzine publishing community which spawned zine writings on topics beyond fan fiction, thus giving birth to the all encompassing “zine” culture.
• “Editors of zines act like curators, compiling the works and writings of people whose output excites them, and showcasing them within the pages of their publications (Gonulu, 1).”
• “Because the contributors of these zines have, in most cases, full control of the presentation of their works on the page, the context of the zine offers a more immediate and unmediated presentation of their thoughts and intentions than may be found in more mass marketed media formats (Golonu, 1).”
H: How-To Self-Publish
• DIY (do it yourself)
• Get informed: read up on what others have done, consult zine and book-making websites and books
• Wanna make a zine?
Read Matt Stovall’s “A Student’s Guide on What a Zine is and tips on how to make on Version 2.0” available at www.altgeek.net/voices/student_guide.htm
• Wanna make a comic? Start here: http://www.artbabe.com/comicsandart/diy/diy_make.html
and here: http://www.comicsreporter.com/index.php/all_about_comics/all_about/77/
• Wanna start a zine collection in your library? Check out the article “How to Start a Zine Library in Ten Easy Steps” by Miriam DesHarnais at http://www.leekinginc.com/xeroxdebt/xd18.htm
I: Information Dissemination
• “The present number of corporations controlling America’s media has dropped from fifty in 1993 to just five in 2004. The Supreme Court considers first amendment rights to belong solely to those American citizens who own the Media (Johnson, 15).”
• Alternative literature provides alternate paths for media and information to circulate, in spite of media conglomeration.
• “In the case of ephemeral artistic practices such as performance or more idea-based projects, printed publications can also act as documentation of fleeting events and specific cultural moments witnessed by only a small group of people at a given moment (Golonu, 2).”
• “Zine making has provided an effective way of sharing ideas with networks of friends, colleagues, and collaborators (Golonu, 1).”
• “With the help of the postal service, artists and writers have overcome geographic breaches and disseminate their ideas, artworks and collaged graphics to expanding networks of attentive individuals and communities (Golonu, 2).”
• “As popular library materials and library media becomes more homogenous, librarians are looking to zines as a powerful printed medium that could help balance the skewed ‘spectrum of thought’ that has threatened the democratic nature of materials collected in libraries (Zobel,1).”
• Three functions of an alternative media library collection:
1. To serve as local history, community news, and networking
2. To supplement subject collections
3. To serve as a primary source for popular culture research (Zobel, 3).
M: Mail and Correspondence Art 1970-1980
• Mail art came into vogue in the early seventies. Mail artists used the postal system as a forum for spreading art and developing communities of ideas without exchanging money.
• “An important goal in mail art was to participate in art commerce-free; mail art attempted to bypass galleries and elitism. They exchanged ephemera in the form of illustrated letters, newsletters, zines, decorated envelopes, postcards, and mail interviews (Perkins, zinebook.com).”
• Alternative Media in the United States has and will survive through communication networks. Alternative media networking has typically occurred through the post office, and now, the internet. These systems keep sub culture social/ political groups in contact. Small networks which disseminate alternative media influence our culture at large.
• “The use of the World Wide Web has created farther stretching networks of people working within the same medium as well as providing publishers a virtual retail area, increasing reader access to remote locations and allowing more people to see content than the self publisher could afford to non-virtually print (Stoval, 2).”
• Self-published items fall under a very large scope of media from simple pamphlets to elaborate works of art. Because alternative publications are not mass produced for a profit, they take creative advantage to include oddities within their format as well as their content. Alternative publications range in size and shape and might be printed on recycled or non-traditional materials rather than paper. Oddities included within these publications might be stickers, photographs, gum, book marks, press on tattoos…you name it.
• The punk subculture of the 1980’s created a thriving underground press; spawning journalists and critics within the Punk scene itself. Punk zines were compiled with collage and Xeroxes, the zine culture surpassed the punk scene and entered into high visibility in the 1990’s (Wright, 30).
Q: Quick, Speedy, Presto!
• One of the foremost products of alternative literature are zines, this is because the zine format provides endless room for creativity and is relatively easy to make and circulate on a small budget.
• “Anyone with access to a photo copier can be a writer, publisher, and printer. The quickest method for getting an idea printed is to self-publish, (Stovall, 1).”
• Zines are typically photocopied; however, some choose to utilize other technologies such as offset printing methods, digital photography, silkscreen, and lithography. The content of zines could generally fit into the following categories: creative writing, comics, personal writings, fan based writings, science fiction, literature, art, music, reviews (Stoval, 4).
• Alternative literature is part of an open publishing system that allows for a freedom not permitted in mainstream media, as commercial success is not the primary goal of most alternative media output.
• There are times when inaccurate or slanderous materials are circulated, thus independent media has credibility problems. Therefore, publish responsibly.
S: Small Press
• Small Press publications are those that are published independently of large multinational corporations.
• Many small presses focus on a specific genre such as fiction, poetry, limited edition journals and books, chapbooks, or art books.
• Small presses tend to fill the niches that larger publishers neglect; their profit margins are significantly lower than large publishers.
• Small presses tend to have motives beyond profit such as disseminating literature with appeal to a small market, often their goal is to break even (Herman, 131).
• Small Press Resources:
o Small Press Distribution Website
o The Small Press Exchange
o Small Press News Room
T: Traditional Comics vs Underground Comix
• During the Cold War era and post war climate, a scapegoat mentality gained prevalence in the US, comics were increasingly blamed for the increase in juvenile delinquency.
• This anti-comic sentiment manifested itself in the form of inflammatory articles in magazines and newspapers, community meetings, and even occasional book burnings (Hatfield, 11).
• In order to save them selves, the comic book industry formed the Comics Code Authority in 1954 to review the editorial content of comic books.
• The comics industry wanted to ensure consumers that their comics abide by the provisions of the Comics Code, and were thereby safe to purchase. The Comics Code authority self-proclaimed themselves as the “most stringent code in existence for any communications media (Hatfield,11)”
• The final effect of the Comics code was to force comic books to “depict a world that was a denatured view of American social reality. (Witek, 51).”
• The sixties movement saw the rise of independent comic presses and publishing houses that delved into issues of sex, drugs, and rocking roll disregarding the comics code, they were labeled comix (Hatfield, 13).
• These alternative comics became the voice of popular culture identity in post war America.
• “Comix writers created works in the sequential art medium of unparalleled vigor, virtuosity, and spontaneity-after the underground comics, the Comics Code would never be the same (Witek, 51).”
U: Underground Media in the 1960’s
• The New American Poetry, 1945-1960 Anthology was published in 1960 by Donald M. Allen and Grove press. This historical publication was prophetic in its inclusion of young marginalized writers. For the first time, popular culture literature pushed forward through
(what appeared to be) a stale state of literature for the times.
• Until Allen’s publication, mainstream presses were largely ignoring talented discursive young writers in the United States. However, young writers had managed to create a thriving world of avant-garde literature through navigating publications on the small press circuit.
• “Of necessity, these writers invented their own communities and audiences with a small press or little magazine often serving as the nucleus of both (Clay, 13).” These writers created a fringe community sharing their writings on mailing lists “produced for a community of kindred spirits as a literary newsletter-a quick way to get work out.” The 1960’s underground publications were also venues whereby artists could explore and experiment with language much like the Dadaist in their small press publications.
• Because of their grass roots organization, underground publications are often the first format to circulate new ideas and news into the public forum (Armstrong, 2).
W: Where can you find Self-Published Media?
• Most self published materials are not found through Amazon.com, so where do you find them? The following publications are a good start, these zine review zines review zines and alternative media:
• Zine World http://www.undergroundpress.org/
• Best Zine Ever http://www.tugboatpress.com/
• Broken Pencil http://www.brokenpencil.com/
• Xerography Debt www.leekinginc.com/xeroxdebt
• Self-published media can also be found in non-traditional bookstores, and “distros” or distribution centers. Here are a few places to start:
• Parcel Press http://www.parcellpress.com/shopfront/zineshop.htm
• Fall of Autumn http://www.fallofautumn.com/
• Microcosm http://www.microcosmpublishing.com/
• Atomic Books: http://www.atomicbooks.com/
• Quimby’s http://www.quimbys.com/
• Printed Matter http://printedmatter.org/
X: Xeinal guidence
• ZineWiki.com is an open-source encyclopedia devoted to zines and independent media. It covers the history, production, distribution and culture of the small press.
• Add your project, contribute additional information to already existing pages, or to edit what’s already published. Subjects should be explained in terms of their relevance to zines and independent media. ZineWiki was created by Alan Lastufka and Kate Sandler in June 2006.
Y: Yahoo Groups
• Zine Geeks: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/zinegeeks/
• Zinesters: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/zinesters/
Z: Zines and Zinesters
• Small handmade publication done purely out of passion, rarely making a profit or breaking even. Self-edited, self-financed, self-published serials.
• Topics, positions, and expressions are usually outside the “mainstream”.
• Usually edited and published by one or two persons independently and are usually produced using desktop publishing and photocopiers.
• Those who create zines are referred to as “zinesters”
Alternatives in Print: an International Catalog of Books, Pamphlets, Periodicals, and Audiovisual Materials. Compiled by the Task Force on Alternatives in Print, Social Responsibilities round Table, American Library Assosiation, 6th edn, NewYork, NY: Neal-Shuman and London: Mansell 1980.
Armstrong, David. A Trumpet to Arms: Alternative Media in America Boston: South End Pressk, 1881
Atton, Chris. Alternative Media. Sage Publications, 2001.
Ball, Hugo. Flight Out of Time. The Viking Press: New York, 1974.
Foster, Stephen C. Dada/Dimensions. UMI Research Press: Ann Arbor, Michigan. 1985.
Chepesiuk, Ron. “Libraries Preserve the Latest Trends in Publishing.” American Libraries. February 1997.
Clay, Steve and Rodney Phillips. A Secret Location on the Lower East Side. NY: Granary Books, 1998.
Golonu, Berlin. “They Look Good on Paper” Printed Matter, Inc, 2007.
Hatfield, Charles. Alternative Comics: An Emerging Literature. University Press of Mississippi: Jackson, 2005.
Herman, Jeff. Jeff Herman’s Guide To Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents. Stockbridge, MA: Three Dog Press, 2006
Herrada, Julie and Billie Aul. Zines in Libraries: A Culture Preserved. Serials Review; Summer 95, Vol. 21 Issue 2, p. 79
Hage, Emily. New York and European Dada Art Journals, 1916-1926: International Venus of Exchange. Dissertation under Christine Poggi, Associate Professor, University of Iowa.
Hsu, Hua. “File Under Other…” The Boston Globe. May 6, 2007.
Johnson, Nicholas and Nancy Kranich. “Take this Media…Please!” The Nation, January
7, 2002. http://www.thenation.com/doc/20020107/replies
John Labowitz’s archive of web-based e-zines: http://www.e-zine-list.com/
Perkins. Stephen “Mail Art and Networking Magazines, 1970-1980” The Zine and
E-Zine Resource Guide http://www.zinebook.com/resource/perkins/perkins8.html
Stovall, Matt. “A Students Guide on What a Zine is and Tips on How to make One Version 2.0” http://www.altgeek.net/voices/student_guide.htm
The University of Iowa’s International Dada Digital Library: http://sdrc.lib.uiowa.edu/dada/collection.htm
Witek, Joseph. Comic Books as History. University Press of Missippi: Jackson, 1989.
Wright, Fred. From Zines to Ezines: Electronic Publishing and the Literary Underground. Dissertation. Kent State, 2001.