I’ve been reading a lot of zines this summer, some older ones I rediscovered from my boxes of unread zines and plenty of brandnew ones. I acquired quite a lot of new reading materials in the past few months, mostly thanks to the zines I bought and traded in July (thanks to International Zine Month) but also in August. There were perzines, fanzines, lit zines, comic zines, and meta zines among them, zines about typewriters, road trips, relationships, the film The Craft, and much more. So read on and discover the paper treasures that I devoured recently! 🙂
[If no website or webshop is mentioned but you’re interested in checking out a particular zine, let me know and maybe I can get you in touch with the zinester.]
To make things a bit easy for myself, I’m going to group the zines I’ve read according to genre. Genre in the zine world refers to both content (perzines or personal zines, fanzines or fan-related content, …) and format/form (mini-zine, comic zine…) and obviously these can overlap. So be aware that zine genres can blend and bend and cross and mix and that each zine is unique!
Let’s start with PERZINES, as it is still the Year of the Perzine! I read some perzines about mental health and disability like Telegram #37 + 39 (text-heavy and very well-written like the previous issues I’ve read; also available from Vampire Sushi Distro) and Looking after Yourself (a one-off zine by Amber is Blue with affirmations, advice, and cartoons about mental health, made for a friend, printed in full-colour and looks lovely) and The Little Zine of Mindfulness (by the same author, a mini-zine with small things that help the author deal with their depression or dissociation). Zines, diaries, and letters are all very personal, and so are online chat conversations. What happens when such conversations about pets, witchcrafts, female power, and friendship get turned into a zine? Hope + Friendship = Love is born! This is a very original format of a zine and it really works well. The friend chemistry jumps right off the pages aiming to give you a big hug! On a similar topic but more sad: Mountains of Hurt by Ane V is about lost relationships (relationships in the broad sense of the word), written in separate stories, very nostalgic, and probably very relatable for a lot of readers. Original use of wallpaper for its cover and drawings of mountains throughout. #9 is my favourite issue of Forever Incomplete so far I think because of the tv shows and films that are discussed (Battlestar Gallactica, Angel, and Ocean’s 8 which I would like to see soon) as well as the interesting articles about body hair, friends having babys, relationships, and dating websites (including the ridiculessness of mentioning “sapiosexual” in dating profiles). Last on the perzine list: Lady Teeth by Taryn Hipp is a zine series with changing subjects but always very personal. This one is about relationships/dating/breakups, travelling, death, and Ladies Rock Camp. It’s very personal but written in an accessible way so you can really relate to the stories.
TRAVEL ZINES are one of my favourite genres, certainly when they are well-written like Clock Tower 9. #13 consists mostly of stories about road trips and tours which I enjoyed reading about a lot. Basements & Livings Rooms #2 has a similar subcultural feeling with articles and stories about going on tour.
I read a few FANZINES too. One is them is about the film The Craft, subtitled “a love letter about witchcraft, women, and teenage longing”. It’s not just singing the film’s praise but is critical about the consumerist aspects of the film and part of the witch world in general. I may have said it before but for me the best fanzines are kind of perzines too and this one is one of those. The same goes for Jade Mars’ The Ballad of Maxwell Demon. It talks about finding queerness in glamrock bands and the Rocky Horror Picture Show as a teenager before realising they were queer. It is a bit nostalgic, something I appreciate a lot in (fan)zines too. Oh and it’s a 24 hour zine which is always a plus! Finally, we have Death Becomes Her, a zine about “gender and associated politics in crime narratives”. The zine analyses crime tv series on the basis of representation of gender, race, and sexuality. As to be expected most tv series don’t do well at all, with plenty of racist/homophobic/sexist tropes and ignorance. TV producers, please read this zine!
I’ve also got my hands on some POLITICAL ZINES. For example A Handful of Librarians Dance in the Empty Caverns of Reactionary Skulls published by Nyxia Grey about the hateful reactions by trolls that trans and queer projects at her university library got and the funny ways in which she and her co-worker wish they could have responded in real life. First of all: isn’t that a cool name? And inside too, this is a zine to cherish in these time of rising extreme-rightwing tendencies and ongoing trans/queer/les/bi/homophobic bullshit. This zine is here to entertain us, to arm us, and give us much-needed hope. More theoretical but also activist: New Hearts New Bones #26 is a very thorough pamphlet-style zine about climate change. Very well researched and accessibly written, with a lot of facts that I didn’t know about yet. In Getting Rid of the Shame and the Shit you can find essays about relationships, sexuality, gender roles, and beauty standards. Even though I’ve already read a lot about these subjects, this zine offers some views and opinions I hadn’t seen or heard anywhere else yet. Very interesting and thought-provoking stuff written in a personal way. Comes with glittery star stickers on the front cover.
On to COMIC ZINES. I recently went to the Cartoon Museum in Basel and visited the exhibition of Austrian comic artist Ulli Lust there. I have one of her graphic novels, Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life, but I didn’t know she made little comic zines too! Pocket Pets is one of them, with little pin-up pets. Next up is Covers, a comic zine with stories about different famous musicians and bands, from Courtney Love & Kurt Cobian to Kristin Hersch and Dinosaur Jr. The drawing style is cute and a bit naive and fits well with the often funny or strange biographical stories. (See how the comic zines genre and the fanzine genre overlaps here?). Korbi Falardeau uses photos in a comic strip way in Marriage and it works so well (is it called a photo novel in English? I don’t know…). She describes her spontenaous low-budget/no-budget wedding which looks and sounds incredibly fun, beautiful, and cute, even if it might not have fit with society’s expections. I vote for more photo comics! Fully Sick Chronically Sad (#1-5) is a zine series full of cartoons about depression and mental illness by Amber is Blue. It will for sure offer recognition, validation, and support for readers suffering from depression (with obvious trigger warnings). The cartoons are real and raw and don’t try to portray life in a cheery way. Ethical Sloth #9 was just released and it will be the one to last issue! Very sad but I also feel honoured to have a cartoon featured in this zine. The theme was “animals anonymous” which resulted in a diverse mix of strange, funny, and cute cartoons and comics.
GAME ZINES are not a genre yet as far as I know but they should be. Slowquest #2 is a “pick your own adventure” zine, like “choose your own story” or “computer games on paper”. Along with the quest zines there also exist some smaller zines like Inventories of Adventurers. All drawn in a very detailed and cute style. The zines seem curently sold out but I hope that is only temporary. Another game zine I read is Cryptogram Puzzle Post. Maybe not technically a zine as it’s not bound but I’ll count it as one. I found the puzzles very hard (there are tips and hints on their website though) but still very much enjoyed the detailed mysterious drawings and layout styles of this bundle of games, puzzles, and riddles inspired by witchcraft and alchemy.
LIT ZINES are zines focussing on literature, prose, and poetry. Usually I don’t get ahold of that many but this time I got to read a few. Bridgetown by Korbi Falardeau is a horror story zine with several stories taking place in Portland, OR, USA. I so enjoyed reading this and would love to find similar zines. I feel like a gap in my zine collection has been filled with these great scary stories! From the same author comes Other Girls, a poetry zine about depression. Very different, more personal, and best take care when you read it. The Chapess is a quite long-running zine from the UK and this is the first issue I got my hands on: #8. There’s mostly poetry, some essays, illustrations, and photography. I was mainly impressed by the first article which is damn brilliant and inspiring, calling artists to use our power and resist the right-wing politics of today.
As a zine fan, I enjoy reading zines about zines – META ZINES – a lot. Amsterdam Zine Jam is a full-colour zine made for a zine event and exhibition in the Netherlands a few years ago, talking about all the zines that were displayed there. Nice to see such great variaty of zines, in genre and country of origin. Zinedepo is something in between a zine and a brochure-in-zine-format because it explains what the Zinedepo library in Arnhem in the Netherlands is about and includes a radical zine manifesto that I liked a lot. I definitely need to visit this place! I got this zine through a swap with the library founder during (I think) the second edition of Zine Happening in 2016.
Then there are some other zines I found more difficult to categorise (not that zines are ever easy to put into one box only) though these all have some link to “writing”. I bought Blogging as a personal archive at the first edition of Zine Happening in 2015 and I can’t believe I only read it now. It’s really interesting, about blogging and journaling and trauma and recovery. It’s quite thin but contains a lot of valuable ideas. Typewriter history is discussed in Basic Paper Airplane #9. I’m kind of intrigued by typewriters but I didn’t know their history would be this interesting and political! I’m happy that my friend Kimme Tigra caught the (mini)zine virus. 🙂 (I call one-page folded zines and zines smaller than A6 mini-zines). Tine is Going Away subtitled “Writing Tips for Women” is her second mini-zine, dedicated to her writing teacher and shock-full of useful writing tips with a nice creative layout. Probably also helpful to start writing your own zine! And if you make one, do send it to me! 🙂