Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 4 May 01 06:16
In the 1980s and 90s when personal computers appeared with relatively easy-to-use word processors and desktop publishing software, and copy shops were popping up all over the place, a bunch of highly creative, funny, weirdly obsessive people started printing and cutting and pasting and making small-circulation personal publications, not-quite-magazines. They called 'em zines, and there were so many of 'em that a zine of zines appeared, Factsheet Five, operated by Mike Gunderloy, who was obsessive about these independent publications as their publishers were about their own diverse fascinations. Factsheet Five asked the question "Why Publish," and it seemed there were as many answers as zinesters with a little time and savvy and something (or sometimes nothing) to say. Zines exploded as independent distributors got 'em into bookstores and newsstands: bOING bOING, Maximum Rock n Roll, Ben is Dead, Going Gaga, Fringe Ware Review, Unshaved Truths, No Drama, Blow, Fifth Man, Karma Lapel, Tail Spins, Media Diet, Zine World, Mommy and I Are One, Top Shelf, Poppin' Zits, Holy Titclamps, Beer Frame, Wrapped in Plastic, Kiss Machine, Broken Pencil, Hell's Half Acre, Fuck Science Fiction, etc. etc. Zines are created for love, not profit, and they range in style from total DIY (do-it-yo'self) to 'way professional. If you read zines instead of Time, Newsweek, and the Gnu Yorker, you begin to see a whole different-from-mainstream, realer than real, reality. Sorta like surfing the web, which brings us to another point: a lot of zinesters moved online and started creating ezines or webzines and/or weblogs (more usually called blogs) because the barriers to entry were even lower, and you could reach more people online. When we decided to do something about zines at inkwell, and set out to round up the un-usual suspects, we didn't have far to go: we had a hole pile of current and former zine publishers and bloggers who were already members of the WELL, and were more than eager to jump into the fray. So we have a rich panel of articulate, fairly garrulous experts: Cory Doctorow, inveterate blogger at http://www.boingboing.net, science fiction author, and craphound <http://www.craphound.com> extraordinaire; Gareth Branwyn, former editor of Going Gaga and bOING bOING, currently author of several books; Heath Row, publisher of several zines and currently community organizer for Fast Company magazine, a monthly periodical that focuses on leadership- and innovation- related aspects of the new economy; Jerod Pore, publisher of Poppin' Zits <http://www.well.com/user/jerod23/zits/zits.html> and former jivemeister for an electronic version of Factsheet Five; Jon Lebkowsky, former publisher of Unshaved Truths and Fringe Ware Review, and current blogger at http://www.well.com/~jonl; Mark Frauenfelder, editor/publisher of bOING bOING, former associate editor of Wired Magazine, current blogger at http://www.boingboing.net; Mitsu Hadeishi, who blogs at http://www.syntheticzero.com; and Tiffany Lee Brown, former assistant editor of Fringe Ware Review and current editor of the ezine Signum < www.signumpress.com>(Tiffany's off-WELL at the moment, so we'll be posting her comments, received via email). We also expect to be posting comments emailed by a bunch of zine publishers... and if you're reading this off the WELL, you can comment, too: just send your comment(s) to email@example.com. We'll start by asking our panelists to drop in and post a little more about themselves...
Mark Frauenfelder (mark) Fri 4 May 01 09:23
I interviewed Paul Krassner (publisher and editor of the ur-zine The Realist) on the phone a couple of years ago. I asked him why he was going to stop publishing The Realist. He said that the Web made The Realist irrelevant. The obscure stories and satire that made The Realist special were plentiful online.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 4 May 01 11:30
So does he have a web site?
Life in the big (doctorow) Fri 4 May 01 12:41
My intro: I'm definitely the punter in this august gathering. I grew up reading most of the zines mentioned above, not publishing 'em. I've done a whack of chapbook projects and stuff, and I've contributed to loads of zines over the years, so I guess that's my cred. My most zine-like activity is blogging at boingboing.net. Mark invited me into bb a few months back while he was on vacation, and I've since become addicted to it, endlessly posting, checking feedback, tinkering with hit- stats and referrer logs. The instantaniety and trackability of blogging is fiendishly addictive: with dead-tree zines, you only know how many copies you've given away, not how far they've spread or what your readers thought of 'em. Over at bb, we get ~1000 hits/day (a steadily increasing number, too). Checking referrer logs finds tons of people re-posting the links from bb and linking back to us, and I'm getting grandiose visions of our links spreading to endless millions of people. I've done e-zine-ish stuff for a really long time. In the early 90s, I was the moderator of the Internet area on Magic, a sprawling Toronto BBS, which consisted of posting long rants and how-tos; I graduated from that to being the Internet reviewer for the late lamented Science Fiction Age for half a decade, reviewing ten links every eight weeks -- the world's slowest, most expensive blog. I'm also a pretty prolific sf writer, with a couple of novels and a short- story collection under negotiation as well as a nonfic book on peer-to-peer networking. Last year saw publication of my first book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Science Fiction (co-written with Karl Schroeder). In my spare time, I've got a full-time job as Cheif Evangelist and Co- Founder of OpenCola (www.opencola.com), a pretty kickass company. Let's see, I think that's got everything covered. I enjoy long walks on the sun, beach-sets, and moving seas.
http://www.syntheticzero.com (mitsu) Fri 4 May 01 13:23
Hi, I'm Mitsu Hadeishi, I write http://www.syntheticzero.com . As it happens, way, way back in 1981-82 I published a paper zine called Synergy for just three issues --- it was cartoons, stories, essays, photographs, and poetry from friends of mine and friends of friends. Since then I moved to the virtual realm, trying to find a place for community and communication in various modalities on the Net. Most recently, and the reason Tiffany Lee Brown suggested me for this panel, I started my weblog in September of 1999 which I've been publishing regularly since. Weblogs have turned out to be exactly the thing I'd been looking for: a way to not only talk about things of interest to me, but to connect with other people from around the world with diverse interests that intersect mine in interesting and sometimes surprising ways. In addition to writing my own blog, I communicate heavily with writers of other weblogs, and we've formed a number of informal and more formal groupings, friendships, email lists, and so forth. Like zines, webloggers read each other's work and cross-pollinate and reference each other heavily; we also sometimes do collaborative projects. Overall, my experience with reading and writing weblogs has been the most rewarding of any online experience I have had since I began playing with online communication in the 80's. Some of my fellow compadre weblogs include: http://www.lemonyellow.com http://www.alamut.com http://www.nqpaofu.com http://www.caterina.net http://www.sylloge.com http://dns123.presol.com/pub/ruthiesdouble/ http://www.geegaw.com http://hine-digital-art.com/hypogee/hypogee.html http://bovineinversus.com http://metascene.net/weblog.html http://www.calamondin.com http://dagmar_chili.pitas.com http://www.kokonino.com/ht/ http://www.invisible-city.com/weblog/ and many others, check out http://www.syntheticzero.com/deeper.html for a larger list.
Paper - The Undead Medium (jerod23) Fri 4 May 01 13:39
Jerod here. I started publishing in '81 on material retrieved from dumpster dives. I would barter the publications for admission to punkrock entertainments, or sell them outside when filthy lucre was required for said entertainments. One such title, _Burning Knives_ really struck a chord with some people, and I get the odd comment about it 20 years later. I also typed amphetamine-fueled micro-rants on the back of legal tender, examples of which were reproduced in _.zap!!_, the apa for alt.zines that Heath Rowe put together. I'm still publishing _Poppin' Zits!_, the content of some back issues is available at <http://www.well.com/user/jerod23/zits/zits.html>. I swear a new issue will be out. Real Soon Now. It will have articles on the cult of Franklin Covey time management, the curse of the Simpsons, Rabid Fear - Rabies and local public health agencies and whatever else I get around to writing. And I will finish putting up the back issues any day. I was there are the beginning of the zine _MRR_ (which spun off from the radio show) and at the first and second resurrections of _Factsheet Five_, along with its second and third deaths. Between death #2 and resurrection #3 I kept the corpse embalmed with the pre-web gopher & e-mail only version _Factsheet Five - Electric_. I'm compelled to make a few historical nit-picks about Jon's intro. Zines as we know them began in the 1930s. An argument was published in one issue of the Seth Friedman version of _Factsheet Five_ that pegged the origin of fan publications to the early 19th century with short-lived semi-literate publications that were the genesis of much of the mythos associated with Daniel Boone, Davey Crockett and other frontiersmen admired by the not-quite-as-daring semi-literate publishers. Regardless, the modern zine started with the science fiction fans of the golden age of pulps. The word "zine" was coined in the late '30s or early '40s as a space, time and resource saving contraction of "fanzine" that itself came from "fan magazine." Much of the argot of those early publications is peppered with similar terms: fen, fanac, f2f, 4E, gafia, etc. Just as in the early '80s, the zines of the '30s were helped by widespread introduction of cheaper publishing technology, and rampant un- and under-employment of overeducated protopublishers. A similar explosion happened in the '50s and '60s with the addition of political and cultural rebels to SF fandom's almost exclusive world of self publishing. In the '70s the music fans of all stripes broke away en masse from corporate approved and sponsored "fan" publications, helped in part by punk rock. That mix was wonderfully synthesized by Candi Strecker (who publishes _Sidney Suppley's Quartlery and Confused Pet Monthly_) in a cartoon for _F5_. She drew the Factsheet Five as superheros, representing the big five of self publishing: The SF (and other) fanboys, the political proselytizers, the punkrocks and other music aficionados, the Dicordians and associated religious weirdos, and the SubGenii and their allied cultural rebels. So zines were a rich and vital part of various parallel cultures for over sixty years prior to massive media's official pronouncement of 1993 as the year of the zine. Oh, and I think _MRR_ published a couple of issues before Mike Gunderloy literally cranked out that first mimeographed edition of _Factsheet Five_. Though it could have been the other way around. I remember their respective genesis being within months of each other.
Mark Frauenfelder (mark) Fri 4 May 01 15:22
I learned about zines from an issue of the WHOLE EARTH REVIEW from the mid-80s that had a review of FACTSHEET FIVE in it. It was a life changer for me. I was an engineer at Memorex in Santa Clara at the time, about 25 years old, and I couldn't wait to get home everyday to work on my mini-comic, TOILET DEVIL (named after the sign language term that that famous talking chimp used when it was mad at somebody). Between drawing my mini-comic and logging onto BBSes with my Apple 2, I was in self-publishing heaven. Next, I put together an issue of a zine with a friend called IMPORTANT SCIENCE JOURNAL. My friend was a big fan of Alistair Crowley, and I wasn't, so the zine was pretty schizo. I'm glad that we only printed like 3 or 4 copies. I hope that they're all decomposing at the dump. Right before we moved from LA to Colorado, Carla and I started BOING BOING. We did it because we thought it would be fun to write and draw and send it out to people and see what bounced back. We met so many great people through Boing Boing, including Gareth, who soon became our senior editor (Gareth had a fantastic zine called GOING GAGA, which he sort of stopped making when he came ot Boing Boing), and Jon Lebkowsky, who added a healthy dose of Austin high-weirdness to the mix. More and more people started getting BOING BOING. Our 14th issue had a print run of 17,500. Then our distributor went bust owing us over $20,000. We stopped newstand sales, did one more issue, then the Web sort of made paper zines a waste, unless the fetishist aspects of paper were important (like CRAPHOUND, which would suck as a webzine). Now, David Pescovitz, Cory, and I are doing the BOINGBOING.NET blog. (Naturally, Cory blogged this topic on BOINGBOING.NET) Doing a blog is a lot different than doing a zine, but very satisfying all the same.
judith (jonl) Fri 4 May 01 15:32
Email from judith: (chiming in from the g-pack, hi Mitsu!) we'd be remiss if we didn't point out that Mike Gunderloy, of F5 fame, is blogging at http://www.larkfarm.com other zine/weblog crossover: http://www.invisible-city.com/zines/index.htm interesting topic. can't wait to see what develops.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 4 May 01 15:37
Welcome, Mark, Cory, Mitsu, and Jerod... and thanks for chiming in, judith. Google answered my question about Paul Krassner on the web... there's a 'Virtual Realist' page at http://www.nancysnetwork.com/pkpage.htm
Gareth Branwyn (gareth) Fri 4 May 01 16:26
I, Gareth Branwyn, being of chemically-addled mind and crippled body, was editor of the zine Going Gaga in the early '90s. I produced eight issues which took various physical forms (bagazine, cassette zine, insta-zine (whatever got sent in, got laid into the issue)). Through Gaga, I hooked up with Mark and Carla of bOING bOING. Since our zines were so similar, and M&C were so much fun to work with, I threw in with them, Going Gaga become a column within bb, and I became Senior Editor. In the early '90s, Mark, Peter Sugarman, Jim Leftwich and a bunch of other too-cool-for-their-shoes characters and I created Beyond Cyberpunk, which was one of the early hypermedia zines. In 1996, I published the book _Jamming the Media_ which was sort of a "my weird and wonderful adventures in fringe media" memoir with how-to articles. The book was a tremendous failure and I haven't had the nerve to write another one since. Since then, I've been running http://www.streettech.com, the "sucks-less hardware review site," doing my Jargon Watch column in Wired, and otherwise selling my soul to the highest bidder.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 4 May 01 16:29
Hey, Gareth, welcome. Did you bring the champagne and truffles?
Rafe Colburn (rafeco) Fri 4 May 01 18:11
I wanted to step in uninvited and introduce myself as well. I'm Rafe Colburn. I have been running a blog over at rc3.org since 1998, which some people seem to like. It's a little known fact that a friend of mine and I published an obscure online hacker zine called Informatik in 1991 and 1992. The archives are here: http://rc3.org/archive/inform/
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 4 May 01 18:44
Yep, we didn't include him in the credits, but Rafe's popped up as an 8th panelist.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 5 May 01 07:17
Are there some great paper zines around? Or did everybody move to the web? I know that a lot of zine publishers lost distribution when Fine Print went away, but I see that Desert Moon still exists: http://www.dmoon.com/ Did anybody ever make any money publishing zines?
Paul Bissex (biscuit) Sat 5 May 01 08:29
(IJWTS -- great panel assembled here.)
Life in the big (doctorow) Sat 5 May 01 10:57
Here's a crazy webzine-related piece: The editor of a blog asked Apple's PR people for some info on internationalization in OS X. Apple's PR agency blew him off because he wasn't "credentialled," so he posted the news to his site. Now the PR agency is threatening him with legal action.
Life in the big (doctorow) Sat 5 May 01 10:57
Here's the link, BTW: http://www.contenu.nu/article.htm?id=1145
Paul Bissex (biscuit) Sat 5 May 01 11:19
Interesting. Deborah Branscum's take (at http://buzz.weblogs.com/) is the same as mine -- Edelman is putting their foot in it with their heavy-handed credentialism, but the NUBlog fellow was being a snot. The way he handled the exchange surely reinforced the very prejudices he decries.
Life in the big (doctorow) Sat 5 May 01 12:00
I've corresponded with Joe from NUBlog before and he can be blunt to the point of abrasiveness, but Edelman's flamethrower legal threats are way, way out of line.
Rafe Colburn (rafeco) Sat 5 May 01 12:32
The legal threats are idiotic. But Joe is as big an asshole as you'll find.
Jeff Potter (jonl) Sat 5 May 01 13:19
Email from Jeff Potter (taking the bait): Hi all...Zinester here. I heard about this panel and thought I'd stop by. Jon L just baited the hook nicely, eh? : ) "Are there some great paper zines around?" Ha! I'll bite! I've been doing my "Out Your Backdoor" since 1991. It's a zine that covers the topics of a mag like "Outside" only it takes out the fantasy consumerism and gives these cool activities and gadgets back to the folks who really do em. At the same time, it takes the theory in a mag like "Anarchy" and applies it in everyday life. And it's delivered in plain old stories about crazy everyday stuff. Oh, one last thing: it doesn't pander to anyone or preach to any converted. It's an All Ages zine---so that we have leftwing, rightwing, old and young all having a blast together. I say it's about Modern Folkways. I put out my last issue a couple months ago and just went nuts. It's the hugest ever and this time I wrote it all. So it's a perzine. Yet it's all nonfiction how-to. It almost LOOKS like Outside mag...with a dash of Harper's, say. THAT WAS FUN, I TELL YOU! And I had a huge array of diverse ads. That's another cool thing about me. (Oops, this is getting bad.) No indy label ads. I think that's kinda cool. I have ads from dozens of real businesses who don't advertise in other zines, basically. So, to answer another of Jon L's questions: My zine has always run in the black! It's always threatening to take off, but I only publish once a year, so my momentum dies every time. Paper is great. You play with stock, ink, typography, binding, size. I have had the BEST graphic artists do issues for me. I get to see these gorgeous spreads. Sure, some websites are "neato," but paper can be several steps up. I have a huge website. http://outyourbackdoor.com ....with 500 stories, forum, store, PayPal. I love doing wide-ranging fancy things there. It's just a simple text site. I need to cover the web bases better. I'm gonna rig up a shopping cart. But even at its best, the web is narrower than print, less diverse. Responsible job-having family folk can't be as candid online as they'd like. They'd lose their jobs. The better they wrote the less attention they'd get for losing that job. Only a few martyrs ever get any press, ya know. Just the popular kids. Paper zining can build up more strongly on an in-crowd basis before painful leaks occur. I like the crowd paper runs with. At one point I had national distro plus these 3 statewide distro's putting my zine out to grocery stores and gas stations. It sold just fine! I like sneaking my zine into the dentist office, the barber shop. The local Barnes&Noble gave me the bureaucratic runaround and said they wouldn't stock it...so I gave em a few issues anyway, on the sly. You know you got a good book when you have to steal it INTO bookstores! I've also done readings, events, postering, travel. I want to start doing more booths someday. You don't get that social action with websites. Speaking of books, I've been branching into bookzines. I'm really proud of them. All my 23 titles are unique and fit niches in need. (Like, there are no books of firsthand mtbike culture...so I published a superkiller one.) However, the bookzines have sunk like a rock. Well, I do have one hit. It really surprised me how after I excerpted all the books in my last zine that hardly any of my readers ordered any. My webvisitors rave about my site but they don't order books. Actually, the books are in the black, too, but not as much as I thought. I've heard that Americans read mags, Euros read books. About blogs...I know a guy who surfed several of the hot ones for a year. He said they were all about everyone's mood-swings, medications, cat, cubicle job, car, commute, hair-do, sucky boyfriends. Water-cooler chat. Woe to him who rocked that boat. That's my overweight two bits... Aren't those pithy one-line replies great? : ) Rock on, dudes! --Jeff Potter (firstname.lastname@example.org) Jeff Potter **** *Great Lakes Press * http://www.glpbooks.com (#1 publisher of engineering license reviews & discounts on techbooks) *Out Your Backdoor * http://www.outyourbackdoor.com (friendly zine of modern folkways and cultural rescue...with bikes)
Rafe Colburn (rafeco) Sun 6 May 01 09:04
You sound like the hardest working guy in the 'zine business! Your friend seems to have missed a lot of blogs if that's the impression he got. There are plenty of blogs out there that are extremely topical and interesting and have almost zero meta crap about the author (not that meta crap is a bad thing). For example, check out Ethel the Blog. It's mainly political stuff, but he also covers music, literature, and a bit of tech stuff, too: http://stommel.tamu.edu/~baum/ethel/blogger.html It's probably my favorite, in terms of posting stuff that either gets me riled up or making me think. The maintainer (Steve Baum) is wickedly hilarious, too.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 6 May 01 09:27
The blog Mark, Cory and David are maintaining at http://www.boingboing.net focuses, not on personalities, but on the kind of neurotica and technophiliac weirdness that the bOING bOING zine was about. The personal journal stuff is still appealing, I think, if the person who's journaling has something to say or a life that's interesting in some quirky way. Though I'd done blogs of a sort in the past (such as the TAZmedia webzine at the fringeware.com), it wasn't til I ran across filmmaker Doug Block (tempted to type "Doug Blog"!), who was finishing work on his documentary "Home Page," that the concept came together for me... and Doug was focusing more on personal bloggers like Justin Hall. I think the more personal blogs were a big deal around '97-'98, when "Home Page" was finished and released, and there was other stuff going on, like the Digital Storytelling festival that the late Dana Atchley put together. I know there were zines that were more personal, but I was never as interested in them as in zines that were about culture, literature, technology... and were more diverse.
Jim Leftwich (jleft) Sun 6 May 01 23:42
I'd like to hear the panelists' thoughts on the differences, and maybe synergies between, zines and the net. It was through the pre-web internet in the late 1980s and early 1990s that I became familiar with and connected to the world of zines beyond my own local scene. What are the panelists thoughts on the influence of the net on the zine explosion. Or maybe a more accurate phrasing would be "explosion of recognition by the wider media." Also, though surfing blogdom is my favorite net activity to date, I miss the sheer tactile, hugging joy, no - ECSTASY, of finding a new copy of a favorite zine in the mailbox. And what are the panelists' thoughts on link-copying, not slagging it as lazy, but rather as an interesting and distributed way to tell "what's hot" and "what's popular" as one surfs around blogdom. Can blogging be seen as a modern cultural radar of sorts? I'm amazed to find how the major magazines will often print items regarding both news and pop culture that seem OLD by blog time.
http://www.syntheticzero.com (mitsu) Mon 7 May 01 04:59
>surfed several of the hot ones for a year. He said they were all about >everyone's mood swings, medications, cat, cubicle job, car... Actually it sounds like your friend wasn't surfing weblogs, but was rather surfing web diaries, a phenomenon that preceded weblogs by a couple of years. Web diaries or web journals are entirely personal sites, and many of them are very popular, but they tend to be quite different from weblogs. Most weblogs, in fact, contain little personal information; a lot of them are just annotated link lists (this is the "canonical" format for weblogs). The ones more interesting to me, however, are those that contain not only lists of links with brief comments, but also contain the author's personal thoughts and insights, sprinkled with some tidbits from their personal life to give them a more concrete and embodied flavor. My favorite weblogs (some of which I listed in my introductory post, above) are of this style; a combination of personal journal, personal commentary and thoughts, and references to interesting developments in art, science, technology, and other things. Link copying I think is great --- a good way to propagate memes and there's nothing wrong with it at all, I believe. Although I try to provide original content and research on my site, I also copy interesting links I come across on other sites --- why not? Heather Anne (http://www.lemonyellow.com) tells me that she really loves the tactile and other properties of the printed page, though she was talking mostly about books in her case.
Life in the big (doctorow) Mon 7 May 01 07:15
I think one of the interesting differences between blogs and zines is that blogs are essentially a collection of pointers *away* from themselves, while a zine is, itself, the place you wanna finish up. There are exceptions, of course. Most of the zines I read/have read have some zine reviews, but with the exception of FS5, I never picked up a zine to find out about other zines.
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