Posts By: Elly Blue

Six Days in Cincinnati

This comics journalism classic is Dan Méndez Moore’s account of the 2001 protests that swept Cincinnati after police fatally shot an unarmed 19-year-old Black man. It’s the story of a community peacefully coming together in the face of police violence and the fraught national conversation that resulted. An all-too-timely re-issue.

How Amica’s World won us over


Microcosm is the sort of place where we have an idea, the wilder the better, and immediately implement it. This leads to some big bellyflops, but our silliest, most outlandish ideas have often led to our best successes. Whether it’s books, business formulas, or how we manage our building or alphabetize the books our store, we tend to do things differently than most. The best way for us often looks deranged and physically impossible to others—like hauling furniture by bike, doing most of the work on our building ourselves, and publishing books that go against every piece of conventional publishing wisdom out there and still end up being our bestsellers. These things not only works for us, it’s the reason that we get to keep getting up in the morning to make books that matter to us and our readers.

So when Meadow Shadowhawk got in touch to tell us that she, her husband, and their son Washo share their small home and yard outside of Portland with a six foot tall livestock bird with dangerously fragile legs who requires constant attention, hogs the remote, and causes massive everyday trouble for the whole family, we got it. A giant, loving, pain-in-the-neck bird is a great metaphor for the choices we all make that baffle friends and strangers but that for us are essential and make life worth living.

Working on making Amica’s World, the book about this bird, a reality has been personally delightful, and also made us all the more aware of the value of this sort of story in the world. “Do not do this at home” is a major message of the book, but at the same time, it’s a parable about the absolute imperative of doing what you’re best at and pursuing your life’s passions and needs. For most of us, that’s not understanding and relating to birds in the profound way that Washo Shadowhawk does. But whatever it is for you, what are you waiting for?

Back Amica’s World on Kickstarter to help us get this book out into the world, and into your own hands. The rewards are pretty special (several of them involving Amica’s feathers!), so be sure to look through the list.

Punk Rock Entrepreneur

Want to run your business without losing your values… or your shirt? Keep yourself on an even keel with Caroline Moore’s sage advice and examples drawn from the world of DIY punk. Having no money or resources can actually be an asset, Moore shows, as it forces you to be creative and resourceful and focus on the things that really matter.

The Beard Coloring Book

Gorgeous, luscious, swirling beards grace the pages of this coloring book! If you love beards—your own or others’—this dazzling coloring experience crafted by Meggyn Pomerleau will blow your mind and break down your conceptions of beardliness.

Our August Indie Bookstore Valentine: King’s Books in Tacoma

The giant mural on the wall of King's booksWe have long been fans of King’s Books in Tacoma, Washington. It’s a humongous store full of new and used books and it’s clear from the minute you walk in that it’s run by kindred spirits. I’m not going to say it’s curated, because that word implies a sort of holier-than-thou poshness that is absolutely not going on here. But like any good bookstore, the books are chosen by someone who knows what they like and cares what you’ll like. A huge bonus is that it’s in Tacoma, which is, as locals told us, the best-kept secret of the Pacific Northwest, and it really is a place we recommend visiting over Portland or Seattle. When you go there, be sure to visit King’s.

King’s owner sweet pea Flaherty answered these questions over email. He promised photos, but for now you’ll have to make due with this one I found on the Tacoma Ledger‘s website.

1. According to your website’s About page, “Originally founded by King Ludwig I as a gift to Lola Montez, King’s Books was painstakingly moved to Tacoma on April 1, 2000.” There are some major historical gaps here—do you mind filling them in a bit? What made the store proprietors choose Tacoma? Were they fleeing a scandal? What is their stance on the rational dress movement?

Right. So what had happened was, Lola Montez had an illegitimate daughter named Fanny Gilbert. Fanny was an entrepreneur who, in her early 30s, bought passage to Tacoma, shortly after its founding. She set up the leading brothel near the port, appropriately titled Fanny’s. The ensuing wealth was passed down until several times great-granddaughter Petunia Smirk brought the original bookstore over from Bavaria. I think that should clear any historical gaps.

At King’s Books, we are strongly opposed to the rational dress movement. Our clothing closest resembles that of Flo-Jo, while also mixing stripes and patterns, not to mention warm and cool colors. Plus corsets are required for all employees, including the cats.

2. What are your favorite books right now and why? What about your favorite Microcosm title?
My most recent favorite read is The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo. In modern Finland, women are raised as vapid commodities and all drugs are banned. The most easily smuggled drug is capsaisin, the component of chiles. It is a quirky, feminist, bizarre take on society.

I also love all the picture books coming out where you get to learn about little-known historical figures, like Miss Mary Reporting, The First Step, The William Hoy Story, and Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea, about one of the first female sports reporters, a school desegregation case from 1847, a deaf baseball player, and the woman who mapped the ocean floor respectively.

King’s Books does well with the biking titles, like Bikenomics and Our Bodies, Our Bikes. My most favorite title has to be Walking with Ramona. I haven’t done the tour yet, but I CANNOT WAIT! I might cry.

3. How did you get involved in bookselling? Can you share any hair-raising/funny stories?
I became a bookseller because I was always in bookstores. They are among my favorite places, so it was a natural transition. After my first bookselling convention, I knew I wanted to make it my life.

King’s Books has had a number of, um, colorful customers over the years, including a woman usually in a Marilyn wig who cut pictures of Gandalf out of books (as she thought he was God) and once bled profusely on our floor and a man who is possibly an Amish robot and/or a cannibal who has a number of interesting theories about the most random of topics.

4. What do you think the future holds for the book industry?
Independent bookstores are thriving. I think bookstores that are community centers will only increase their relevance. I love the close relationships bookstores have forged with independent publishers over the last decade. I am always excited to see the smart, innovative things independent bookstores across the country are doing.

Anything else I ought to be asking?
We have two store cats, both rescues, both named by the public. Atticus (Finch, obv) has been with us for a decade and is all black. Herbert (from Tacoma native Frank Herbert) has been with us since October and is a tuxedo cat. They are the welcomers of readers and the scourge of canines.

Visit King’s Books at 218 St Helens Ave in Tacoma, Washington every day from 11-7!

Sprouts: Live Well with Living Foods

Ian Giesbrecht’s Sprouts is a primer on the art of growing your own sprouts and microgreens at home year-round. Packed with tips, science, and recipes, this is an essential guide to healthy, nutritious eating and cooking. Simple yet thorough, with helpful illustrations and step-by-step instructions. Anyone can sprout!

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

quimbys-zlumberpartytent
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