From Here to Zines and Back Again

I have always been attracted to punk music and the punk subculture in general. Although I could never describe myself as a punk in the popular sense, I was deemed a punk by my punk friends due to my conventionally-unconventional mode of dress, my eclectic taste in music, and political leanings. I guess it was my spirit of rebellion, distaste for conformity and the hyper-consumerism of popular culture that both attracted me towards punks, and conversely attracted punks towards me. It is no surprise then that it was through my group of punk friends that I was first introduced to zines and came to learn of their utility in disseminating information across a wide rage of communities. For as Rebekah Buchanan states in her essay, “Zines in the Classroom: Reading Culture,” zines have historically attracted punks due to their accessibility, their do-it-yourself roots, as well as being able to serve as alternative vehicles of communication outside of the mainstream media and culture.

As such, I was first introduced to zines by a high school friend of mine who had started writing and publishing his own anarchist punk zine during our senior year in high school. I don’t remember the name of the zine but I do remember it had something to do with the anarcho- syndicalist collective he was planning on starting and which he eventually did start a year later. At first the zine consisted mainly of his writings but as he incorporated new members to his group, each group member contributed to its content and publication. Although the primary focus of the magazine was to oppose racism, police brutality, and the exploitation of workers, the zine published music reviews, criticism, original artwork as well as some poetry and fiction. I never felt up to the task of writing political essays but I did contribute some of my poetry and original ink artwork to the zine. The zine ran for several years, but eventually my friend gave up on the endeavor due to increasing costs and lack of venues for circulation. After that zine went belly up I thought of starting my own but by then the idea of starting a paper publication in an increasing digital world seemed like a lost cause.

Years later, while away at college in Berkeley, California I ran into zines again. I was taken aback by their continued existence. I thought surely they had all died out or gone digital by then, but there I was, in a bookstores, browsing through new issues of locally published zines. I purchased several of them during that time and read them with pleasure. I thought of writing to the zine creators to offer my services as a writer but I was too busy at that point editing my school’s department journal as well as writing for the school’s newspaper. So I put the thought in the back burner and did not think of it again until this week as I read Buchanan’s essay from 2012. I thought surely by now zines must be dead but to my great surprise and pleasure they are still being published and read. I did a quick online search for places where I might find zines in Los Angeles and I came across TimeOut’s “Where to buy zines in Los Angeles” article from 2016. Of course that’s a pre-pandemic list and I don’t even want to know how many of those bookstores and zine publications have gone belly up since then, but at least I’m glad to say that my favorite bookstore in Los Angeles, Skylight Books, still carries them. Closer to the Midwest I found that Quimby’s in Chicago still sells them and that in Milwaukee The Bindery holds a yearly zine fest at the Milwaukee County Library.

I have truly found this new information heart warming and encouraging. It feels me with joy to know that both young and older adults are still invested in keeping alive this long standing literary tradition. If I did not have this website I would be tempted today to start my own zine. However, as it stands, the fact that people are continuing to create zines out of a particular need for communication makes me think of what I can do to improve this website—which in essence was inspired by my friend’s zine. Since this site is dedicated primarily to cultural critique I have for a long time thought of adding video essays to my content.

In fact, I have already tried to record several video essays, but as soon as I turn the camera on and focus the lens on myself my jaw immediately clenches and my shoulder’s go stiff. I have never posted any of those videos because while reviewing them I cannot help but crack up at my expressions that give the impression that I’m ready burst out in mournful sobs.

There are hundreds of extremely talented vloggers making video essays on topics ranging from crafts to politics. I could never compete with them. However, I recently came across a very good video essayist named James Woodall’s who does very compelling and in-depth analysis of films on YouTube. His format of delivering his analysis as a VoiceOver to the scenes that he is explicating is a format that I would somehow like to incorporate into my literary analysis. To all you new readers, expect new exciting content in the near future.

3 thoughts on “From Here to Zines and Back Again”

  1. Hey David! You have a really great blog going here with some really cool info and unique perspectives. Its kind of interesting that you were introduced to zines through an anarchist themed edition, and now you are thinking about how to use them for public education purposes. I wonder how your friend would feel about that? I also had the same thought when reading an article from 2012 about zines which was, ‘are they still relevant today?’ Even in our increasingly digital world the answer seems to be yes. Some things defy logic and this might be one of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. David, your introduction to zines through punk music is awesome. The punk community really seems like a perfect way to introduce and examine zines from an outside perspective. Additionally, I liked reading about all the spots you recommend to find zines. I remember Woodland Pattern in Milwaukee having a zine section as well. Lastly, I hope you keep trying in regards to making your video essays, and wish you luck overcoming your camera shyness some day!!


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