Monthly Archives: June 2016

Bikenomics: How Bicycling Can Save the Economy

In the new, updated edition of Elly Blue’s Bikenomics, you’ll find the economic case for bicycle transportation laid out clearly and on many levels — road paving and maintenance, car ownership, jobs, health and happiness, social justice, and much more.

Am I Stealing Your Art?: An Infographic

Microcosm Chainring Heart logoWe’ve been lucky enough to have a few designs in our catalog so popular that they get rampantly bootlegged. The most-stolen designs also happen to be our most popular, including Microcosm’s logo, the chainring heart, as well as Joe Biel’s iconic bicycle designs Put the Fun Between Your Legs and, the most popular of them all, Evolution.

When someone uses these images without our permission, they don’t always realize that they’re stealing. In reality, it’s pretty much the same thing as if they came into our store and walked out with a bunch of books without paying. We spend a lot of time laying it out for folks, and so we were stoked to find Portland designer Erika Schnatz‘s infographics about the topic. She’s created the clearest visual explanation we’ve ever seen of how you know what you can use and when, and how to register your own copyrights.

Erika kindly gave us permission to post her explanation of fair use (which answers the question: “Is it ok to use this thing I didn’t design?”) here. See it below! You can also download an interactive pdf and see her other copyright flow charts as well as her diverse other design work (and hire her!) at right here at her website.
Fair Use and Copyright Infographic by Erika Schnatz

Indie Bookstore Romance: We Heart Quimby’s!

quimbys-art quimbys-comics quimbys-DevilLady quimbys-krampus quimbys-microcomicssign quimbys-mug quimbys-OutsideSign quimbys-storefront quimbys-storiey quimbys-zines quimbys-zlumberparty

Quimby’s, the most adorable bookstore in Chicago, and is about to celebrate its 25th anniversary! Microcosm has been working happily with them for many—most?—of those years to get adorable books into the hands of adorable readers like you. (Sorry, we get a little soppy about these things sometimes). When it began, it was a rare outpost of underground literature and zines. Today, it still carries that banner, and it’s impossible to go in without finding a book you absolutely must have an several more that you are very reluctant to leave behind. For our Indie Bookstore Love feature in July, we’re telling you all about them so you can go visit… and buy our books from them, along with many other fine books, zines, and print media of a less easily categorizable nature. You can find them at 1854 W. North Ave, in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago.

Quimby’s boss Liz Mason sat down and answered some of our questions for the occasion, and sent a whole ton of photos!

What’s the story of Quimby’s? How did you get involved in all this stuff to begin with?

Quimby’s is an independently owned bookstore that sells independently-published and small press books, comics, zines and ephemera. We favor the unusual, the aberrant, the saucy and the lowbrow.

On September 15th, 1991, Steven Svymbersky, the founder of Quimby’s, opened the store in Chicago on 1328 N. Damen (at Evergreen) in Wicker Park, in a 1000 sq. ft. space. Since 1985 he had published over 50 zines with his friends, and had published Quimby Magazine for five years in Boston. Steven explained the philosophy of the store with these words: “I really want to carry every cool – bizarre – strange – dope – queer – surreal – weird publication ever written and published and in time Qvimby’s will. Because I know you’re out there and you just want something else, something other, something you never even knew could exist.” (And yes, that was a V.) In 1997 Steven sold the store to Eric Kirsammer, the owner of Chicago Comics. Steven moved to Amsterdam with his family shortly thereafter. Eric purchased the store from Steven in order to continue Steven’s commitment to the First Amendment. After a few years, the rent became too expensive to keep Quimby’s at the same spot in which Steven had opened it. Eric moved it to it’s current locale, 1854 W. North Avenue, to provide it with a more permanent location. He also still owns Chicago Comics. Quimby’s and Chicago Comics have a reciprocal “sister store” relationship, where we transfer materials between each other and often collaborate on ordering, outreach and off-site events.

I got involved because I sold zines at Quimby’s in the 90s and harassed them until they hired me. I’ve been working here for 15 years.

What’s the funniest encounter or wild story that has happened in Quimby’s (or because of Quimby’s?)

I would say the craziest story is that of the nameless gentleman who donated to Quimby’s a huge storage facility compartment full of erotica and porn with the caveat that we drive a cargo van to a rural area and pick it up ourselves. He wouldn’t tell us his name or why he was getting rid of it. Nor would he accept money or store credit as thanks.

When did you start working with Microcosm? Do you have a favorite book or zine by us? What are your favorite things to read lately, generally?

I started working with Microcosm when I started working at Quimby’s, because back then Microcosm was just a few zines on consignment. My fave Microcosm title is probably Xerography Debt, but maybe that’s just because I’m a contributor. But also it’s because it’s interesting to see what other zinesters and zine enthusiasts are enjoying. Lately I’ve been enjoying reading things in all sorts of different things (There Goes Gravity by music journalist Lisa Robinson, The Vorrh by the artist B. Catling, the new graphic novel Patience from Dan Clowes). But also, I’ve had my nose buried in mini-comics I bought at CAKE (Chicago Alternative Comics Expo) recently, so I’ve been enjoying the new comic from comics collective Trubble Club, Sara Becan’s Stockholme Is Sauceome, and the new issue of John Porcellino’s long time series King-Cat. Also of note: someone consigned a zine here that cracks me up called Crunch: A Taco Bell Fanzine. How could I not love that?

You’ve been in a position to watch as independent publishing and zine culture have gone through some huge changes over the years. How would you describe those? What do you predict will happen in the next 5 years?

There are a lot more resources offered to make publishing easier than ever before, what with all the DIY-advice-offering in both print and digital. Zines about how to make zines! Zines about how to make books! Books about how to make zines! Websites on how to make zines about making zines about books! Also, the internet really has changed everything, and has in some ways, become the great normalizer in that there are no more “gatekeepers” for “cool” stuff. Zines and their brethren mini-comics and chap books are a lot easier to come by. There are a ton of websites devoted to promoting, distributing, selling, ordering and archiving them, not to mention commerce websites creators can use to get the word out about their work. Another thing that has changed is that the punk rockers that made zines when they were younger are growing up and becoming teachers, librarians and zine archivists that teach younger folks about zines, inspiring a new generation to conitnue writng about the same isolation and unhappiness as their mentors did before them.

Anything else I ought to ask?

Yes! This year Quimby’s turns 25!

If you’re in Chicago, drop by Quimby’s to say happy birthday and check out their brilliant selection of independently published reads! Thanks Quimby’s! We can’t wait to keep working with you for decades to come.

Now Kickstarting: Defensive Eating with Morrissey & Comfort Eating with Nick Cave

Update: Thanks to 560 Kickstarter backers, these books have been funded! If you missed the project, that’s okay: You can order books directly from us. Here are our permanent pages for Comfort Eating with Nick Cave: Vegan Recipes to Get Deep Inside of You and Defensive Eating with Morrissey: Vegan Recipes from the One You Left Behind

We’re extra excited about the Kickstarter project we’re running until July 14:

These books started out as zines by Automne Zingg (if you like her project video, you’ll love her video performances as Lacey Spacecake, featuring her illustrations of sad Nick Cave and bummed Morrissey using food to make themselves feel better. We asked vegan chef and queercore chanteur Joshua Ploeg to pen recipes to go with each illustration in the book. He put the back catalogs of first Nick Cave and then Morrissey on his kitchen radio and whipped up some lyrically inspired and laugh-til-you-cry delights.

The result of this magic combo? Two crass, classy, and delightful hardcover books that’ll help get you through the hardest and hungriest times of your life. They come out in October; back the Kickstarter and you’ll get them earlier. Back for a little more and you’ll get a pile of other books of music, comix, and/or vegan food — or a bit more than that, and Automne will write you a song or draw a custom portrait of YOU eating your favorite food. Or perhaps Joshua will come to your town and cook you a meal!

sad moz vegan cookbook cover sad nick cave vegan cookbook cover

Applicant by Jesse Reklaw, reviewed!

applicant zine coverWe ask every intern to write a review of one of our books. Dane chose Jesse Reklaw’s Applicant. Here’s what he made of it:

I once had a roommate who told me that he simply didn’t like me as a person. This isn’t the sort of thing people say to one another, and for good reason. That level of honesty is more than hurtful. It is existentially threatening. One really cutting opinion from a trusted source can throw you, or at least me, straight back to an adolescent tailspin. Have you ever looked into your own eyes, late at night in the bathroom mirror, and whispering, asked yourself as honestly as you know how, “What the fuck?” This is Applicant.

In Applicant, earnest portraits of students are juxtaposed with the backhanded assessments of their professors and employers, people they trusted, spent countless hours with, looked up to. “Lack of personal discipline” reads the confidential recommendation under the portrait of a beefy grad student. Me too, brother. Next to a clean cut young man: “Somewhat too concerned with himself.” Which, if you have to ask.

The savagery is disturbing in the best way. This is the perfect book to leave on the back of your toilet if you’d like to introduce your guests to the horror of the void in the middle of their business. It is like looking through other people’s medicine cabinet. It’s like walking a mile in your sad-eyed uncle’s saggy BVDs. It is engrossing and strange but you will be glad you can leave whenever you need to. Reading Applicant is not unlike watching a pack of gazelles being ripped down by tweed-clad cheetahs. Part of me wants the naively hopeful gazelle to get away unharmed. Another part of me loves the spectacle of their demise.

But Applicant is more than absurdist-horror. The glimpses into the inner sanctum of 70s old-boy academia elevate this little pamphlet into read-out-loud-at-parties hilarity. Women are revealed to be on the brink of hysteria, if not childbirth. “Miss M___ is a black woman,” begins one assessment so fraught that, like fine art, it defies true analysis. I find myself wondering whether it is unbecoming to enjoy this as much as I do. Certainly to the people involved, there is nothing funny here, least of all to the hysteric young grad students apparently strewn about the Ivy League. I hope they never come across this book. One can only speculate what condition their nerves are in after all those children.

Fortunately, time and anonymity declaw the savagery. Whatever happened to these students has happened and they have made it or not, and the professors are all dead or retired and their prejudices are on the way out. The hope and pain and potential devastation are all safely in the past. Does that make it better to laugh at these people? But then I’m not laughing, at least not anymore. Instead I lean in, look each of them deep in the eyes and whisper, “What the fuck? What the fuck?”

On Grief

Dr Faith Grief zine coverThis week, in the midst of national grieving, I happened to be editing a new zine by Dr. Faith… about grief. When I sent back the edits, I asked if she had any thoughts to share for folks coping with the tragedy in Orlando. She sent along the thoughts on Intimacy in Times of Fear she’d posted on her own blog, and suggested we blog an excerpt from her zine: The Griever’s Bill of Rights. Here it is:

“June Cerza Kolf created a Bill of Rights for the Bereaved, published in her book How Can I Help?. Her bill of rights, with my slight alterations and suggestions are as follows:

Grievers Bill of Rights
1) Do not make me do anything I do not wish to do.
Unless you are in literal danger, you have the right to not have someone’s will forced upon you. Even if it is for your own good. Even if they are dead right and have all the best intentions. At least not in those first days and weeks when you are absolutely shattered. Keep breathing in and out. It can wait.
2) Let me cry.
Fuck, yes. Cry. Be angry. Be numb. Be hysterical as all fuck. Whatever you are feeling is what you are feeling. Don’t hurt yourself, don’t hurt others. But get whatever you need to get out OUT.
3) Allow me to talk about the loss.
Kolf’s original said “the deceased.” But I’m opening this up to any grief experience. You get to talk about it. If you don’t have people who can be with you in that process, find a good counselor or join a support group. Find closure. Don’t hold in your story. Telling our story helps us find meaning and helps us heal.
4) Do not force me to make quick decisions.
If decisions need to be made quickly, pick someone you trust to be your point person. Everything that isn’t pressing can fucking wait. You don’t have to make decisions when you are reeling. In fact, making BIG decisions right after a huge loss often leads to regret and damaging fall-out in the end.
5) Let me act strange sometimes.
You may be fine for long periods of time and then something may trigger you. You may not even know what. But you may weird out. You’re allowed. You’re allowed to act strange. You are allowed to not even know why. With time you will start to recognize these triggers and be prepared for their eventuality.
6) Let me see that you are grieving, too.
It can be very healing to share your grief, whether with someone who is hurting along with you or for your pain. Human connection is vital.
7) When I am angry, do not discount it.
Anger is a secondary emotion. It’s coming from a place of pain and makes sense. You’re allowed anger as part of your experience. It’s a healthy part of the process and can be extraordinarily healing if you attend to it.
8) Do not speak to me in platitudes.
This goes back to what to say/what not to say. Platitudes are far worse than silence. They are a tiny Snoopy band-aid on an enormous wound. They don’t help, they don’t heal.
9) Listen to me, please!
You have the right to be heard. Not just listened to enough to respond to, but deeply heard in your experience. If you aren’t getting that from the people around you, ask for it. Or find it in a more formal support experience (therapy, self-help group, etc.)
10) Forgive me my trespasses, my rudeness, and my thoughtlessness.
Ok. Don’t intentionally be a dick because you can get away with it. But you do have leeway in this regard. You are not responsible for the care and feelings of others. You need to try to not actively be awful, but you get space to be spaced. Keep breathing. Apologize if you do or say something un-fabulous. But don’t beat yourself up for being in the muck if that’s where you are.”


In case you haven’t discovered her work yet, Dr. Faith G. Harper is one of our most prolific authors whose book hasn’t even come out yet. Her forthcoming book Unfuck Your Brain will be available in fall 2017; meanwhile, her constantly growing collection of zines combine science, compassion, and a lot of wonderfully hilarious swearing to tackle topics from Anger and Anxiety to healthy Relationshipping. The Grief zine comes out as soon as it’s back from the photocopier.