June 14, Atlanta artists and writers will converge on Erickson Clock in Castleberry Hill in celebration of the humble, stapled-together, homemade publication known as the “zine,” short for “fanzine” or “magazine.” WABE’s Myke Johns spoke to one of the organizers of the Atlanta Zine Fest to find out what is keeping this medium of self-publishing alive.
We met with Amanda Mills at Hodge Podge Coffeehouse and Gallery in front of a book shelf stocked full of slim little volumes—most are tellingly hand-made…stapled together, photocopied onto printer paper. This is the Atlanta Zine Library, and Amanda Mills is its lone steward. Her collection covers a wide variety of subjects, from art zines, political, reference, comics, literature, poetry and per-zines—that stands for “personal zines."
"It’s kinda like diary style," explains Mills.
That’s the spirit of the medium—if you have something to share, you write it down, tape it together, get it out there. Do it yourself.
Those familiar with zines may identify them closely with the punk movement of the early 1990's, when riot grrrl groups like Bikini Kill were encouraging their young female fans to make their own voices heard.
"[Bikini Kill] went on a blackout for media," says Mills. "They were like, 'we don’t want attention for Bikini Kill necessarily, but we want to motivate girls to be involved and express themselves and start new bands.' And they thought the world would literally change if they did that."
But zines date back even further. Science fiction fans were printing and distributing their own stories through fanzines in the 1930s. Closer to the present, there are a number of magazines as well as established writers who started out self publishing through zines, such as Doris, Rad Dad, Bust Magazine, Bitch, Giant Robot, Maximum Rocknroll, Chunklet, Cometbus, and many others. And today, a wide variety of disciplines are taking advantage of the medium’s immediacy. Mills cites art schools who offer zine-making classes.
"At art shows," she says, "next to pieces that run for hundreds of dollars, there will be glossy art zines for ten dollars."
Mills herself has been making zines since she was in the fifth grade. She says her mother would take her to Criminal Records in Little 5 Points on the weekends.
"I was always an avid reader. So I was drawn, naturally, to the comic and zine selections they had there."
And reading zines quickly led to making zines.
"And my mom would photocopy them at work," Mills recalls, "And they would just be for me and my friends and my mom. But that’s how I got my feet wet in the zine realm. And I never stopped making them."
you may be asking—why go through the trouble of cobbling together a crude booklet that only a few people are going to see when websites like Tumblr and Wordpress allow you to publish on the internet for free? Mills apologizes for sounding trite, but says that zine-making is "absolutely empowering."
"And there’s this archival, collectible aspect," she explains, "because you have this tangible thing once you’re done that you can be proud of and share."
And sharing the tangible thing is the impetus behind this weekend’s Atlanta Zine Fest. Amanda, along with co-organizer Tracy Soo-Ming put together a program that features disparate aspects of the city’s arts community all under the banner of Do It Yourself. Included in that will be workshops on making your own zines.
"People are still interested in getting down with a ruler and some glue," Mills asserts.
It’s one thing to gather artists together to talk about what they do. It’s a step further to actively encourage the audience to participate and make something for themselves.
"The medium itself allows you to explore," she says, "that's what it's there for."
So as opposed to putting something on the internet, where work is going to live and be searchable for a long time, the ephemeral nature of zines—their niche appeal, their short reach—is all the more reason to take the risk of putting yourself out there. Toby Veil, drummer for the punk band Bikini Kill, called this the “Impetus of Imperfection.”
"Because it is obscure and fleeting," says Mills, "always be generating new things."
And generating new things is how you get something…an arts community, or a city, or your creativity…to grow.
The Atlanta Zine Fest takes place this Saturday at Erikson Clock in Castleberry Hill, 364 Nelson St. Southwest, Atlanta, GA, 30313. For more information, you can visit the Atlanta Zein Fest's website or Facebook page.
This story originally aired June 7 2013