Q and A with Chicago Zine Fest Organizers!

We had a chance to catch up with the very busy people organizing this year’s Chicago Zine Fest, which will be held March 12th-13th at some great places all over Chicago.  Check out chicagozinefest.org for all the information.  They were nice enough to answer some questions for our Blogifesto!  Take it away folks….

So, what’s the Chicago Zine Fest all about? How did you get involved in organizing the fest? When was the last Chicago Zine Fest?


 Leslie: The Chicago Zine Fest is an opportunity for self-publishers to gather together and showcase their work.  Our goal is to make zine-making accessible, highlight the talents of self-published artists, and give independent artists a chance to interact, and swap skills through tabling, lectures, and workshops.  We tried to create a more interactive fest; including a reading, an art show, a film fest and the exhibiting. We are hoping people will talk and invest time in getting to know one another and what their zines are all about.

I got involved with organizing the Chicago Zine Fest the same way all four of us did–we just decided to make it happen!  Ramsey, Matt, Neil and I all traveled up to and tabled together at the Milwaukee Zine Fest.  On the drive back to Chicago we all collectively decided it was our calling to make this happen in Chicago.

 A fellow Chicago zinester Michelle Aiello organized a smaller DIY centered event called the Ephemera Festival, which took place from 2005-2009.  Overall though, for the huge city we live in and the amount of people making zines here, there hasn’t been a festival of this design in a very long time or possibly ever.

What’s the first zine you ever read, where did you get it?

Ramsey: The first zine I ever read was a photo zine called Worthless. I got it at a Catch 22 show, haha, in 1999 or 2000 probably. The guy who was selling merch for them was also selling his zine. I specifically remember asking him what it was and he said ‘oh, it’s just a collection of my photos put together, like a little magazine.’ I was 14, from a small town, just getting into punk and had never heard of zines at that time so I didn’t know what he was talking about, but he said it would help him buy a Pepsi. Inside was a compelling photo essay about a mom who lived in a van with her daughter in New Jersey. It wasn’t until a few years later, when I had learned about zines and started reading them, that I realized that guy, had sold me a zine a few years prior. That zine stayed with me for a long time, even though I didn’t really know what it was or why that guy put it together.

What’s so great about zines, why have a fest celebrating them, and what does the future of zines look like?

Neil: The micro-budgets most zines exist in give authors the freedom to say whatever is on their mind. If I want to say something, there’s no reason not to. For the consumer of a zine, beyond the ability to stock up on some heavy reading for cheap, the appeal is the direct connection between you and author.  You get to read their inner thoughts, having never met them, and you can write directly back to them.

Celebrations like the Chicago Zine Fest are important because it allows zinesters to increase that connection between the reader and the author.  There are very few forms of art in which the audience can interact so directly with a creator as with zines, and a major vehicle for that is sticking the author behind a table for six hours. A complete novice can walk into a fest, and not only be exposed to hundreds of different zines that range in subject matter and form, but they can put a human face to a somewhat quirky medium.

The future of zines and other DIY media looks great!  We’re currently facing two quite different trends in media, the first is the consolidation of major media among just a few companies, the second is the increased popularity of “user generated content.”   Zines have always been about publishing the ideas deemed unmarketable by those who control the reigns of publishing. With fewer companies controlling major media, the output has become more uniform, which is only going to cause more people to turn to their own form of media making. Blogs, podcasts, twitter and youtube are making the idea of self-publishing far less fringe. Locally, we’re seeing institutions such as Chicago Public Radio devoting major resources to user generated content. They’ve created Vocalo, a station broadcasting from Chesterton, Indiana that allows anyone to contribute content.  A lot of people are worried that new media is going to hurt print, but it seems like if anything, the new media is going to be supportive of the ideas behind zines, breed more zinesters, and allow folks to connect with them with greater ease.

What has the response been so far about the Chicago Zine Fest?

Leslie: The response has been overwhelming and amazing!  We never dreamed when we were sitting around saying there should be a zine fest in Chicago that just months later we would have people from all across the country and Canada coming. It has been awesome to have our dream list of sponsors all agree to support us as well as our dream list of readers and participants.  We are really thankful and humbled by the response we have gotten from everyone wanting to participate in all aspects of the fest.

What are the resources in Chicago for zinesters?

You can buy or read zines at all of these places, be sure to check out some of them if you come to town! Ask any of us with a “staff” button. We’ll be very glad to give you directions:

Quimby’s Bookstore

No Coast

Spudnik Press

Lichen Lending Library and Spiritual Archives

Chicago Comics

Third Coast Comics

Women and Children First

Comix Revolution

Chicago Underground Library

Brainstorm

Comix Revolution

Depaul University Library Zine Collection

Golden Age

Renegade Handmade

If you were stranded on an island and could only take one zine, one book, one album, and one food– what would they be?

Matt: some Anthony Marvullo joint, Robinson Crusoe, The Band by The Band, and Pizza.

Leslie: Every Single Word by Corrine Mucha would seem fitting, Nine Stories by Salinger, 9 to 5 by Dolly Parton to get me up and going every morning, and probably vegan pizza as well.

Ramsey: an Invincible Summer/Clutch split, 100 Years of Solitude, it’s a toss up between the Red Walls and Fall Out Boy (actually,that’s a silly joke. my real answer is Luiz Bonfa), and quinoa! The only way I can get a complete protein in one food, as a vegan.

Neil: Paper Cutter #5, A Child’s Christmas in Whales by Dylan Thomas, Miscellaneous T by They Might Be Giants, and grapes.

If Chicago (as a city) were stranded on an island and could only take one zine, one book, one album, and one food–what would they be?

Anything by Al Burian, DIY Boatbuilding, something by Alkaline Trio, and Chicago Pizza or Chicago style hot dogs (celery salt, peppers, tomatoes and pickles!).

INTERVIEW WITH KATE FROM THE CONSTANT RIDER ZINE‏!

Kate Lopresti is the editor and author of the Constant Rider book and zine series, a collection of stories from the world of public transportation. We caught up with Kate to see what she’s been up to lately…

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Q: There hasn’t been a new issue of Constant Rider in a while. Do you have any new projects coming up?

A: Well, the good news is that three years ago I found a job that reduced my commute considerably from the days I had to get from southeast Portland to a northwest suburb to get to work. An unintended consequence, though, was that spending less time on the bus gave me less to write about. I just don’t see as much rider-interaction in a 20-minute bus ride. I have been biking more, so there may still be a Constant Rider bike issue. I’ve also taken up gardening, which has been great, but certainly cuts into writing time.

Q: How have your feelings changed about public transportation since the book came out?

A: I was really encouraged in the summer of 2008, when gas prices hit $4 a gallon. People I knew who were adamant single car drivers began to see the value in taking the bus and biking. It was a real sea change. I’m only sad the price hike didn’t last longer. Still, it was a good experience to see there are a number of drivers out there who can be recruited to ride public transportation under certain circumstances.

Q: If you had to stick with one mode of transportation for the rest of your life what would it be?

A: I’d have to choose my bike. (Sorry, bus!) Between the self-sufficiency and the exercise, a bike makes the most sense.

Q: What’s your opinion on bike culture as a means to beat the gas crisis blues?

A: Bikes are excellent, and not just in terms of reducing our fuel costs. They help us reduce carbon emissions and get us exercising. But spelling out the benefits of biking isn’t enough to get people to ride. The problem we’re seeing in Portland is that there are many people willing to bike, but not confident that they can do it safely in their neighborhoods to get to work or school. They have no trouble taking their bikes to dedicated bike paths or recreational areas, but getting into traffic is another story. Despite Portland’s strong bike culture, its infrastructure—bike paths, signals, parking—could be improved.

Q: If you could tell the world to read one book or zine what would it be?

A: Lately I’ve really been enjoying the columns of Thomas L. Friedman in the New York Times. He continually makes the case for green technologies and reducing American dependence on foreign oil. His book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded is on my To Read list.

Bloomington Mourns the Death of Don Belton and Keeps a Critical Eye on Our Homophobic and Racist Justice System.

Don Beltont“Are you serious?!”  That’s what I said when I first learned what happened to Don.  The deep sense of bewilderment and disbelief I felt seemed to be shared by many.  It was a tragedy in the true sense of the word.

Don was an openly gay, African-American professor at Indiana University in Bloomington.  On December 28th he was found brutally stabbed to death in his home.  Police later arrested 25-year-old ex-marine Michael James Griffin for the crime.

The story of Don’s life and death has reverberated throughout our community and the nation, reaching much national news attention.

He will be remembered as a loved friend, respected community member, and adored teacher.  It seems like everyone knew Don. When there’s a sudden loss of someone, we cope by speaking about them, in whatever capacity we can.  We tell stories and accounts of meeting them for the first time, about chatting with them in the produce section of the co-op, about listening to them speak at author readings, about learning from them.  We tell stories of this man that was warm and compassionate who will be deeply and truly missed.

Don was also a very gifted writer, often speaking of race, sexuality, and the intersection of these identities.

As grotesque as it may sound, many homophobic and racist things were written on message boards and blogs after Don’s death. There are wider concerns over how the mainstream media has covered the facts and portrayed this story.  Mis-information often fuels the fire of hatred.  Between the lines of reporting exist missed opportunities to discuss overt and subtle heterosexism prevalent in our society, and how to work against that hatred.  Homophobic and racist prejudice runs deep in corporate media, and Don’s story shows no exception.

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Don Belton (top) & candlelight vigil downtown Bloomington January 1st, 2010 (above)

In another terrifying development, Don’s identity will reportedly be at the forefront of the murderer’s defense strategy.  Though Griffin has confessed to the murder, he will reportedly be using the “gay panic defense” to plead not guilty.

Griffin alleged that Don sexually assaulted him on Christmas day.  Two days later, Griffin took his knife to Don’s house to demand an apology. Bloomington’s Herald Times reported that when Don would not accept Griffin’s accusations, Griffin stabbed him several times, “until he quit moving.”

“In the ‘gay panic’ defense, the defendant claims that he or she has been the object of romantic or sexual advances by the victim. The defendant finds the advances so offensive and frightening that it brings on a psychotic state characterized by unusual violence.” (definition from Wikipedia)

Translation:  the “gay panic” defense blames the victim, something that’s totally fucked up and an unfortunately typical theme within our society and justice system.  You’d think the “gay panic” defense should reveal to any rational individual and group as unjust victim blaming, harkening to archaic values.  Of course, our current justice system sees it otherwise.

As recent as 2009, a Chicago man Joseph Biedermann successfully used the “gay panic” defense and was acquitted for the brutal murder of his neighbor Terrance Hauser.  Biedermann stabbed Hauser 61 times after he allegedly made a sexual advance.

Rather than being exposed for the victim-blaming it is, the “gay panic defense” has become an eerily standard explanation for hate crime.  Acquittals like that of Joseph Biedermann are all too common and I cannot believe that in 2010 we not only still face such inexcusable crimes, but also terrible administering of justice for those crimes.  Let’s hope this serves as a disturbing reminder of how flawed and homophobic our justice system can be, a wake up call that structural prejudices are not just a problem of yesteryear, or perhaps a fire beneath individuals looking to fight for justice.

Throughout Bloomington and the extended community that heard of Don’s tragic death, we are reminded of the preciousness of life, of friendship, and of community.  It all just seems crazy and unimaginable.  Like this could never happen – not in this town.  But maybe, in our own humble ways, perhaps we can seek opportunity from this tragedy—a discussion among friends about homophobia, a quiet time in a classroom to reflect on our own lives, a kindled feeling of duty to speak up and take action against these injustices and never let them happen again.

Along with candlelight vigils and other activities honoring Don, many groups are keeping a critical eye on how the case is taking shape.  Please visit these sites to get more information and to do something about it.

Justice for Don Belton: http://justicefordonbelton.com/

Racialicious Article about Don Belton:

http://www.racialicious.com/2010/01/05/don-belton-and-the-gay-panic-defense/

Further reading about “Gay Panic”

http://gayrights.change.org/blog/view/why_hasnt_the_gay_panic_defense_died_a_miserable_death

National Coalition on Anti-Violence Programs

http://www.ncavp.org/


FIVE QUESTIONS WITH XEROGRAPHY DEBT EDITOR DAVIDA GYPSY BREIER!

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Xerography Debt, now in its 26th issue, is an in-depth, passion-first, all-inclusive review zine for zinesters, about zinesters, by zinesters. We recently got in touch with Xerox Debt editor Davida Gypsy Breier and asked her to talk zines, journalism, and zombies.

Q: As someone currently putting out one of the only zine reviewing publications that hasn’t fled for the blogs/’net, I think you’re a pretty good person to ask this: Is print dead or dying? If so, what can we do to shock it back to life?

A: Personally, I am less concerned with print “dying” and more concerned with independent voices and how those voices are discovered and connect. Waves of technology have affected independent publishers from the very beginning. In many respects modern paper zines exist because of inexpensive photocopy technologies. The proliferation of zines in the ’90s also coincided with PCs gaining popularity and desktop publishing becoming available to the masses. In the pre-‘net era we relied on postal mail and reading about zines in other zines. It kept people and ideas rather underground, for better or worse. Now a three-second search could turn up hundreds of zines and I can get immediate recommendations from contacts online. Blogs and the internet could actually help zines, but zine publishers need to stop seeing it as an either or proposition. I have two active paper zines, two blogs, and a website. Each has its own purpose and the online components support the paper.

I think that paper zines are something tangible and there is no way a digital replica can replace all the chaos contained in the average zine.

Q: What was the first zine you read? What kind of impression did it make on you? What about the last zine?

A friend gave me a copy of Reptiles of the Mind (and also Factsheet 5). RotM was a perzine written by a young woman in Tennessee. It gave me the idea that I could create a zine. She included reviews in the back of her zine and I sent away for copies. Within a few months I was doing a zine and one of those people I first wrote to is still among my closest friends. That was in 1994.

I think the last one I read was The Ken Chronicles #13, by a retired auto industry worker.

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Q: How do you feel about the future of zines?

I fear that zines may become a lost art among the younger generations. They have never known anything other than the internet and often that is the go-to source for knowledge instead of considering a book or zine. If that is the case, I think that zines will need to be more than just paper and ink to survive long-term. I am all too familiar with similar issues facing mainstream publishing, but in many cases zines are more apt to survive because they can adapt. I think that a lot of the piss and vinegar of self-publishing has migrated to the ‘net and that zines really need an infusion of that. I see very few outraged or political zines these days.

Q: As someone who reviews zines, do you consider yourself a journalist? Do you think journalism gives much thought to zines as a modern, relevant, culture?

I think I am more an accidental historian than journalist. I don’t think journalism thinks zines are any more relevant than zines think journalism is relevant.

Q: What kind of projects do you have coming up?

I am currently working on Rigor Mortis #3, a horror zine I started in 2008. Zombies are usually the main focus, but we are branching out into other genres. Xerography Debt #27 should be out in the summer and we are working on that now. I also contributed to a book, Ninety-Five: Meeting America’s Farmed Animals in Stories and Photographs, that will be out in June. I was able to visit animal sanctuaries in three states and take portraits of the animals there. All three projects are keeping me very busy at the moment.

(Davida Gypsy Beier photo by Uli Loskot)

Five Questions with Bill Brown of the Dreamwhip Zine!

Bill Brown is the man behind the wonderful Dreamwhip zine, a tender, funny, truth-telling look at American living. His adventures show an America snow-capped and heat-exhausted, half-asleep on highways and dreaming out diner windows. We caught up with him and this is what he had to say.

Q: If the President of the United States asked to you describe “the soul of Dreamwhip” in under 100 words, what would you say?

 
Alt text[Recording made by secret tape recorder in the Oval Office]. Nice place, Mr. President! And look at all these couches! Would you mind if I crashed on one tonight? [Inaudible]. Hah. I’m just kidding. Anyway, I know you’re busy, but I wonder if you’d like to check out my zine? [Inaudible]. Well, it’s sort of a book. [Inaudible]. Yes, I wrote it myself. [Inaudible]. Thanks, I try to write neatly. [Inaudible]. It’s mostly about wandering around and getting lost and feeling all the stuff you feel when you’re on the road. [Inaudible]. No, those aren’t kindergarten drawings. [Inaudible]. I drew them. [Inaudible]. Yes, I’m serious. [Tape ends].

Q: When’s the next Dreamwhip coming out?

 
I’m hoping to finish #15 in a couple months. It’s about a bike trip I took a couple years ago. For some reason, it’s taking me longer and longer to finish these things.
 
Q: What was the last book or zine you read? How’d you like it?
 
I’ve been reading the Chainbreaker Bike Book, which is amazing. I bought it after my rear axle broke and I wanted to fix my bike myself and not have to deal with the jerky mechanic at the bike shop near my house. Yes, it explains how to fix your bike, but it’s also about the joy of being self-sufficient, and the poetry of ball bearings and coaster brakes.

Q: Is print dead?

 
No way! The more everything goes online, the more I love printed things. I like holding them, and cramming them in my backpack. I like rifling through pages. I like the way printed stuff ages, or shows its age. Pages wrinkle and tear. Colors fade. That blog from 2000 looks exactly the same today as it did in 2000. But the zine you bought in 2000 is marked by the last 10 years of slow buses and black coffee.

Q: What sort of stuff (writing-wise, film-wise, travel-wise, life-wise, whatever-wise) do you have coming up in the future?

[Inaudible].


2010 MICROCOSM CATALOG JUST AROUND THE CORNER!

CATALOG COVER BY Alec Longstreth. Yeah, it’s nerdy.

We’re got our 2010 Publishing and Distribution Catalog printing! It’s  filled with published and distributed books, zines, videos, tshirts, patches, stickers, buttons, tshirts, posters, postcards–and everything else we do.

There will be tons of new stuff from Microcosm in 2010 and this is the first chance to get a glimpse of what we have planned. Right now we’re concerned with getting 2010 Catalogs in as many hands and places as possible. This is where we need your help!

Unlike major book publishers, we do not have a large budget for promotions and advertising. In fact, we don’t pay for many ads anywhere, even in publications or on websites we whole-heartedly support. In keeping our books cheap, we forgo the luxury of having a promotions department almost entirely.

So how do we get the word out about our books? Our existence is owed almost entirely to people like you telling your friends and spreading the Microcosm word.

If you’d like to help, please email your full name and full address and how many catalogs you think you can distribute.  catalogs@microcosmpublishing.com

Typically folks ask for 25, 50, or 100. It’s super easy to drop a stack of 50 each at your cool local coffeeshop and record store! Please don’t ask for more than you think you could pass out.

So…
1. Full Name
2. Full Address
3. How Many?

Thank you so much in advance for your help. We couldn’t do this without you, for real.

Get in touch with any questions and thanks again!

-Steven
steven@microcosmpublishing.com

Make Your Place Author Raleigh Briggs to Teach a Class This Weekend!

Raleigh Briggs, author of Make Your Place and other fine DIY publications, will be teaching a class on herbal home Alt textand body care at this weekend’s Portland Plant Medicine Gathering. The event, which takes place November 21st and 22nd at The Bamboo Grove on 134 SE Taylor Street, is billed as celebrating “the wealth of herbal and plant knowledge of our finest local Portland Plant People.”

Says Raleigh, her class, which takes place on Sunday from 5-6:15pm, will teach people to “use plant medicine to make a strong, clean, happy home and body.” She continues, “In this class, we’ll learn some basic preparations for herbal cleansers for your house and your body. I’ll provide some recipes, but we’ll also talk more broadly about how you can create your own formulas at home. This class is for folks who haven’t worked with DIY products before, and will probably be too basic for advanced and intermediate practitioners.”

Registration for the Portland Plant Medicine Gathering is $100 for both days, $60 for one. Other classes will include Colette Gardiner’s Magical Herbs for Healing and Protection, Women’s Health and Herbal Medicine by Dr. JJ Pursell, and Ben Pixie’s How To Raise Honeybees.

Go to PDX Plant Medicine.org for more info and to see the full schedule.

To read more about Make Your Place check out Amy Karol’s excellent blog right here. Raleigh’s book and zines can be found here.

The event runs from 10am-6:30pm daily.

Thanks Academia! Awesome Props for Zines in New Women’s Studies Journal!

The zine world got some awesome props recently in Signs: A Journal of Women in Culture and Society (Autumn 2009, issue 1, vol. 35). Published by the University of Chicago Press, Signs‘ Jenna Freedman, a zine librarian at Barnard College, writes how if it weren’t for zines, notably Krissy Durden’s excellent fat positive publication Figure 8, she would’ve never thought to question fat prejudice and body image.

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Says Freedman, “Although some of the resources Durden quotes are online … since I had never done any research on fat power, I had never encountered them. I somewhat unquestionably believed that fat equals unhealthy until reading this zine.”

Freedman goes on to say that Figure 8, “[E]xpands the zine canon on oppression, making strong arguments against sizeism, something many young, skinny punks may not have thought much about previously.”

Durden writes about the issue, which focuses on feminist zines, on her blog, saying it is “good inspiration for anyone making a zine. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that zines can have an affect, especially when you can find anything on the internet in a second. But, there is nothing like having a zine to hold and read anywhere you are. It’s less distracting than the internet and a much more intimate experience between you and the writer. And, like with Jenna, it can get into someone’s hands who would have never sought out information on that subject.

See more info on Signs right here.