Zines Matter (Still), an article from Bang Back: Print is Dead. Long Live Print!

Zines Matter (Still)

Make a zine in 2010.
Make a zine in 2010. It has been about 13 years since the zine scene was really “happening” nationwide, but the current artistic, cultural, and aesthetic landscape seems to be all about nostalgia and irony.
As a mode of participating in 2010, consider seeking out a typewriter, gluestick, sharpies, and a clip art book, putting on some floral-print Doc Martens and ripping a hole in the knee of your jeans, and then launch into making a zine.
“But now blogs are where I share and absorb knowledge,” you might be thinking. “My MacBook Pro doesn’t really go with my Floral Print Doc Martens.”
If you already write a blog but are interested in doing something different with your writing or your image-compiling abilities, consider making a cheaply producible, zine-style book anthology with visual art to compliment your writing. Or, conversely, if you make a photo blog, get a friend to write pieces to compliment your images. Bring it all to a different audience through turning it into a book.
If you spend a lot more of your time reading blogs than reading books, consider spending some time in the middle ground: zines!
The most direct way to becoming a zine appreciator– or “zinester”– is to make a zine yourself.
A simple, 5 step guide to swift zine making.

1. Ponder, then arrive at content.

Zines can be about anything, so a good way to find something interesting to write about is thinking such things as…
“What things do I know that hardly anybody else does? … “And would the world benefit from my sharing this knowledge?”
“What is is about modern writing and visual art that I don’t connect with? How do I already deal with that? How could I deal with that differently? Should I make something that I definitely would connect with, in order that a likeminded person might find and appreciate what I make?”
“Are there stories I always tell people around me, because they are just sooo entertaining and exciting that they demand repetition? Maybe I should write those down and even illustrate them!”
“Are there secrets I need to let out, but don’t know who to tell them to? Maybe I could publish them anonymously…”
“Am I frustrated that people seem like they would rather connect via profile pics and lists of favorite TV shows than by either conversing in person, by writing real letters, or by trading art directly or through the mail? Maybe its time to take a step back from the internet.”
Answers to these kinds of questions and conclusions to these kinds of thoughts can come to you through the process of making a zine!

2. Write things.

With a note book or your computer or scrap paper, just scroll down whatever starts to come out. Fiction, autobiography, biography, essays, poetry, incomprehensible stream of conciousness gobeldigook… Zines can run the whole gambit.  So just start and when you end up with plenty, edit down to the best “raw” material. Then edit that best material to make it consumable and comprehensive (or at least resemble digestable reading matter).

The typewriter battle station

3. Decide how you want it to look, then try to make it fit your vision.

Start by making a master copy, either analog or digital. Fold some pages into a booklet shape or create in InDesign document. Get it to “big white canvas” status.
Ponder what makes an amazing book in your estimation. Set your standards really high, but be okay with making a simplified version of your dream zine. Spend a moment thinking about readability and pacing.  Make some basic decisions like “every time there is new section, I’ll use this typeface and this border.”
Make your cover. Make early decisions about what paper it will be on, what information will be displayed, what image you’ll use.  If your cover is finished and looks incredible before you fill it with content, you have something to live up to, a natural precedent for quality.

4. Assemble and place images.

First thing, look around your dwelling for interesting images – find books, newspapers, photos, magazines, record covers, food packaging – you will now start building a collection of good clip art. Photocopy or scan everything interesting that you can find. Make drawings or prints of these images.
Legend has it that “copy of a copy = awful,” but often in zine-making this process is what cleans up the design and makes images more striking. Paste lines disappear, shading becomes more muted, and absolute blacks pop. Copy your black and white images, reducing them if necessary to a size that will fit the pages of your zine.
Go outside your immediate surroundings to find more. Go to the library and check out old periodicals, books with chapter heading illustrations, and photography anthologies. Almost all photo books from before 1975 contain photographs that have enough contrast that they look as good or better when photocopied, especially if they end up on nice paper. Look deeper, through your own archives or your friends’. Sometimes that picture you took for a final project in photography class in high school has a home after all.
Cut the images out into little pieces of paper and store them in a manilla envelope for use when you are putting together the master copy of your zine.
Place your images in a pleasing manner throughout your master copy. If some will be direct illustrations for text content, leave room.

Tools of the trade

5. Place text, organize, decorate, and produce.

Write your text out by hand, type it on a typewriter, or print it off the computer and cut it out. Place it attractively amongst your images. Consider beginning, middle, and end; just the way you would if you were writing a short story or a play. Pacing of the zine as a whole is extremely important.
Flip through the master copy and just contemplate at how it looks.  Don’t read the text, just see how it appears on the page. Follow the stream of images when you flip through it quickly. Imagine yourself being a stranger picking up and only giving it 30 seconds of their attention. Will they see something that will make them stop, focus their eyes, and start to read?
Read the content, in detail, as if you are already won over as a reader. Does it live up to your imagined expectations? Edit as necessary from here, and then start producing.

Editor’s note: This is post one in a series of three. This article will continue with Andrew’s next post. Topics to be addressed include: zines in the digital age, low- or no-cost methods of production, and recommendations for further reading.
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