Culture » Literature

Do you copy?

Zines are alive and well, and now, not so hard to find



There was technology before social media, wikis, podcasts and the blogosphere, you know. There were still photocopying machines, and really cool typewriters. People made their own little magazines using these tools, but the products weren't really big enough or slick enough, or large enough in circulation, to be called magazines. The makers of these things flaunted such limitations, and called what they made "zines."

Zines had a heyday in the '80s and '90s. Some were part of underground culture, while others were simply put together to amuse friends and family. All you needed was an idea and access to paper, a copy machine and a stapler. (A typewriter was good, but not absolutely necessary.)

Whatever the purpose or theme, they all had a couple of things in common: They were made cheaply, and for a specific audience.

They're still around, these zines. In fact, they're enjoying a bit of a resurgence. Local zine publisher Chris Davis thinks the form's comeback is a reaction by many to the temporary, often invisible nature of all things social media.

"It's a backlash to the harsh anonymity of the Internet," says the 25-year-old author-publisher of titles such as People I've Met and Hated and Creepy Craigslist. "I-stuff feels good, but there's something special in hard copy. Analog needs to exist in some form or another.

"In the '80s and '90s," he adds, "they used to be like a didactic thing. They're around as records of that time."

Today, Davis feels their conceit is more about artistic expression, but they are still largely inside narratives — that is, the people reading zines generally know of their existence because they know the authors personally.

Davis wants to change that. To help raise awareness of the existence of zines locally, and to give people a place they can go to read some examples, Davis and 10 or so others who work in the field will do a presentation and host a party at Mountain Fold Books on Saturday.

"We'll be there to celebrate the form," Davis says, "and celebrate the venue for allowing us a place to jump-start a local collection."

If people like what they see, they'll know at least one spot where several styles and issues are being curated, and they'll have a place to make contact with the publishers.

Given the nature of the product, it's hard to say how many zines are out and about along the Front Range. According to Davis, "The zine world is bigger than you'd think, but not big enough." He mentions local editions, such as Ragwater, by Jake Brownell and Hilary McCandless-Beard, which is coming out with a new issue soon, and Mamá Liberada by Katey Sleeveless.

And with at least one place where you are sure to find them, Davis says he hopes people will get inspired and encouraged to make their own.

"Mad at your parents? Are there footprints in the cement you don't like? The coolest things go into zines," he says. "What you're shooting for is something creative in the pure Id. That's a lofty goal.

"People are super good at sniffing out bullshit," he continues, "and we're surrounded by people who front. [To be successful], zines have to be sincere expressions of humanity."

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