I read a pretty huuuge amount of zines in July. Thanks to recent zine swaps, a distro order, and visits to zine fests, I was so fortunate to acquire a lot of new zines. I also somehow had more time for reading and that fit perfectly for International Zine Month. The zines I devoured are about travelling, about documenting the making of a documentary about women in punk, about youtube comments, about illness, about Harry Potter, about zines themselves…
As you can see the content in zines is very diverse! Nevertheless I tried to group them in “categories” according to topic or genre to make it easier to write my mini-reviews. Just keep in mind that zine genres rarely fit perfectly and can overlap and often zines talk about a variety of subjects at the same time. I added web links where possible but if I didn’t add anything you can mail me to ask if I can get you in touch with the zine maker (no promises). Find the zines I make myself here.
Self-care mini-zines: Autumn Things is a beautiful blue risographed mini-zine that celebrates the nice things about autumn. I usually get a bit sad and nostalgic when summer ends so I might return to this zine in a month or so. It’s made by the author of Mythologising Me. Fuck Bath Bombs – Take a Sick Day is a critical mini-zine with an anti-capitalist take on self-care. It encourages prioritising yourself and taking time off work, and criticises emphasis on productivity and unpaid labour in the workplace. I think everyone needs this. Tips for Managing Anxiety is made by the Drawn Poorly collective and lists some simple reminders and tips for dealing with anxiety. Be sure to check all of their zines for more reading materials on mental health. (For more zines about mental health and self-care, read on).
Mini-zines about body issues: PMS is made by a friend and it’s their very first minizine! It’s subtitled “or why I hate my uterus but love my friends” and it’s a cute mini-zine about pre-menstrual syndrome and what it does to the author. People suffering from PMS will certainly be able to relate to it and hopefully it can bring some solace. It has a cool poster on this inside too. Being Fat Means is a short but powerful read about disordered eating and fatphobia in this society. The same author also writes Forever Incomplete (see perzines). Colds, They Suck! yeah, I couldn’t agree more. This little booklet lists reasons why colds are so annoying, in pretty and colourful layouts.
Perzines (personal zines): I ordered some zines from Portland Button Works a little while ago including Alex Wrekk’s own Brainscan zine which I was happy to discover more of. Brainscan #19 talks about organising the Portland Zine Symposium (Alex is one of its organisers) and the local zine community (I think it’s fair to consider Portland as at least one of the zine capitals). Alex also writes about teaching zine-making at Rock Camp for Girls…. As a zine geek I enjoyed reading this a LOT. #31 talks more about Portland and making it feel like home. Forever Incomplete #10 is an alphabet zine, meaning that something is written for each letter of the alphabet. I think it’s a fun idea to use the alphabet as a guide to write a perzine and this turned out great! There’s stuff about coming out, home, quizzes, songs, and much more. Another fun approach to zine writing is used in My Life in Pictures: the Harry Potter Edition. This is not really a fanzine but it uses parts of the Harry Potter universe to talk about personal stuff such as niceness, fears, and evil – hufflepuff style (really funny!). The zine series Salutatorian talks mostly about the author’s physical illness and doing a PhD. In #5 that PhD is just handed in. There’s also pieces inside about favourite Smiths songs (recognising how problematic Morrisey is) and about how annoying it is when people call a physically disabled person “inspirational”. #8 reflects on the mental void that was left after handing in the PhD and struggling with mental health. The zine also talks about going on holiday and the Harry Potter play. I recommend reading the entire zine series as it features great and honest writing on mental and physical illness. Fault and Fracture is a UK perzine I only recently discovered (and glad I did). In #1 the author visits zine fests and looks back at their old zines and decided to start anew. This is a great re-start for sure. #2 is about ice hockey (hence the cover) and the sexism in that world, and going to see Sleater-Kinney. For #6 see travel zines. Missives from Murray Bridge (#21 and 22) by Nyx of Sea Green Zines has changed layouts and looks lovely! It’s all colourful, hand-written and super creative. It feels even more like a personal letter now and is still as interesting in content. Also written by Nyx is Don’t Call Me Cupcake #10 in an equally wonderful layout. This issue is very open about mental and health, not getting stuck in the past, physical illness and having to make difficult decisions. I wish I could just give Nyx a hug but at least here is a virtual one. There’s also a cool short fiction piece inside. Wanderer #5 is about finding a home in Olympia WA and the local zine fest (I was reading it while wearing an Olympia Zine Fest T-shirt, not kidding!), longing for close friendships, going to concerts and playing their first show, and non-binary gender. I’d love to explore more issues of this zine.
Travel zines: Somnambulist #19 talks about a walking trip that sounded quite nightmarish to me but it makes a great story. There’s also stuff about physical illness, some photography, and poetry. Fault and Fracture #6/Opinionated Nobody #12 is a split zine. Both sides talk about the same trip to France. Nice and original to hear two viewpoints of the same holiday. (Also makes me want to do another split zine… it’s so much fun). Another collaborative zine is Zinester’s Retreat: Indietracks 2014 which was written by a group of friends who volunteered and camped at the Indietracks festival. You can see from the different fonts/writing style who is writing what. Reading this, it sounds like a festival worth checking out!
Queer zines: Queer Women in History by Aj Smith compiles short biographies of cool queer women from the past. There is a lot of variety and the interesting stories will help to remember and celebrate these women. Most of them were unknown to me before I read this so I’m happy to get to know them thanks to this zine. Out Loud Zine #4 is a compzine edited by the queer collective of the same name based in Ghent. This issue collects texts and artwork about self-care including stuff about burn-out, tips, and a piece about being on tour and mental health that found very interesting. Let’s get something straight by Jessica of ESCzine is a critical and humourous zine confronting some of the biphobic shit she has had to face but also shedding a light on the benefits of being bi. The zine was actually made during a zine workshop I did at Mothers & Daughters in Brussels last year and I love the result! She also has an eye for collages and hand-written fonts.
Grrrl punk zines: I Wanna Be Yr Grrrl Weekly #1 (in Portugese!) and #2 and I Wanna Be Yr Grrrl #1 by Larissa Oliveira are oldschool riot grrrl-style zines from Brazil. Who says riot grrrl is only a thing of the past? These are short manifesto-style zines but Larissa has some newer bigger issues as well that I still have to read. So, Which Band is Your Boyfriend in? #1 is the first issue of the accompanying documentary with the same title about women in music. The zine tells the story of the film maker joining bands as a female musician, how the idea of the documentary started, the first interviews she did, and her inspirations. I found a lot of what she wrote about so relatable, about academic research being so restricting, about needing to focus on a project(s) to be able to feel ok, and of course all the prejudice that women have to deal with in any music scene. It got me so curious about the documentary and also about the next issues of the zine.
Comic/illustrationzines: These are not just some artsy or designy zines but they use the format of comics and drawings in their own original way. Zine in 20 min was as the title says made in a very short time span. I assume it’s made by pupils at a school? From the same author/editor is Manchester Punk Festival 2019 and Revenge of the Psychotronic Man – Lst gig cartoons which feature live drawings of concerts! What a great way to document a music scene and the result is punk and wild, so you’re able to imagine what the shows were like. Diary Comics: October-November 2019 is a lovely detailed diary comic full of little drawings and notes. I love the style and feel very inspired by it. Content-wise there is a lot there such as buying crafty materials, making playlists, food, tiredness, migraine, halloween, and tv series. I was happy to participate in and send a postcard for the ESCzine: The Postcard Project zine. It turned out to be a beautiful full-colour zine with some lovely and some curious postcardsand it includes the writing on the back of those who sent them in.
Metazines (zines about zines): I’m always excited (and relieved?) to find out that there are other people who are as obsessed about zines as I am. The contributors of Behind The Zines #7 are some of those people. They write about keeping zines punk, making spreadsheets to keep an overview of where your zines go (zine fests, which friend has which zines, etc), calculating zine expenses at zine fests (it’s really a non-profit thing), and much more geeky zine stuff. Psst… Wanna Trade Zines? explains the ethics and workings of zine trades or zine swaps. Especially interesting if you’re new to zines or unsure about how to approach other zinesters to suggest a trade.
Other: I read some zines that were even harder to categorise, so here they are. YouTube Hell includes a collection of silly comments on YouTube. I bet this could become a series! Sometimes the content is not very clear for me though but some of it seem to be reactions to music videos. The Joys of Being a F*ck Up explains how fucking things up doesn’t need to be that bad and that it’s important to own your fuck-ups. At first sight this may seem like a silly little booklet, but it contains really valid advice. Each cover is hand-drawn and unique. I read one witchy zine last month called Don’t Willow it, starring Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s very own teenage witch Willow. The zine starts from situations that the character ended up in through magic in order to learn life lessons (and magic lessons) from it. Cool concept and approach. Which 90s Teen Heartthrob Are You? is a funny little booklet with a quiz to find out which popular 90s star you are most like: Elijah Wood, River Phoenix, Devon Sawa or Jonathan Taylor Thomas. It’s all queerified, described the actors as hot dykes, making it even more fun. Zinosaurus is a cute zine by Catherine Elms about her love for dinosaurs, listing her favourites, fun facts, films, and more. I’m not even a dinosaur fan but I thought this was a really enjoyable and funny read. Bradical is a mini-zine that throws some of the horribly racist things that white people say at the reader. It’s made by the Bradical collective from Bradford (hence the name) and I got it at North West Zine Fest along with some other of their cool zines. And finally I read Reasons I am begrudgingly thankful to hipsters by Morgan who also made the mini-zine about colds. Very true stuff inside here and a bit embarassed to admit it myself…
More zine reviews here.