By Jessica Suarez
DEREKH FROUDE/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Lane Van Ham, comparative cultural and literary studies grad student, types away in his studio apartment for his self-published magazine, Straint, yesterday afternoon. Van Ham made his first zine as a sophomore in high school, and is now on the fifth issue of Straint.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday October 22, 2002
If you have something to say ÷ whether personal or political, serious or silly ÷ getting your voice heard can be as easy as publishing it yourself.
Or it can be as hard as publishing it yourself.
Welcome to the world of zine (from "magazine") publishing, where anyone with something to say and access to a photocopier can create and distribute their thoughts on paper. While it sounds simple, the work it takes to get from ideas in your head to seeing your zine in someone's hands can be daunting. However, the results, according to the independent publishers we talked to, make the time worthwhile.
Even deciding on the focus of your zine can be challenging. People have published zines on every topic imaginable, from Applebee's restaurants to how to take down major corporations. They can be made of journal entry-type stories, comics, photographs, reviews, political rants or any mix of these and more. In fact, there are probably as many types of zines as there are publishers of zines, making it hard to see how they all fit under the category, "zine."
In fact, the label may not even be appropriate at all, said Travis Klein, who publishes the personal zine Sunshine Capital.
"It implies that what we do is minor and cute when compared to the Īreal' media. The media seems to love the term, but I do not understand its use," said Klein, who graduated from the UA last year with a degree in business economics.
"Very few zines are of the quality of a magazine like Time and so there does need to be a term to describe what we do. But "zine" doesn't quite cut it."
Who and Where
Want to see what we're talking about for yourself?
Contact the writers below for copies of their zines.
29 W. Kennedy,
Tucson, AZ 85701
708 North 35th St., Apt. 201,
Seattle, WA 98103
PO Box 12171,
Tucson, AZ 85732
Lane Van Ham
Also available at Toxic Ranch Records.
Though "zine" is the term most commonly used to describe these publications, it is difficult to see the similarities between them all. Perhaps the one thing that most zines seem to have in common is that they feature opinions that are often left out of mainstream media.
Lane Van Ham, a longtime zine publisher and doctoral student in comparative cultural and literary studies, finds this to be the primary reason for self-publishing.
"I started doing them and have kept doing them because I'm committed to the idea of maintaining a lively and viable cultural underground that puts pressure on the mainstream, be it aesthetic, economic or whatever," he said.
Van Ham, who is 32 and did his first zine as a sophomore in high school, is on the fifth issue of his zine, Straint.
Jenna Duncan, a graduate in journalism, has attended zine conventions and put out several zines herself. She also used the publishing medium as a way to present her ideas to others.
"Basically, I wanted an outlet to publish my ideas that I knew weren't going to get support from my school newspapers or the local weekly entertainment guide," she said. "When you're just starting out, it's hard to get your name and byline out there at times."
While technical difficulties can sidetrack a zine's trip
to publication, the biggest problem for the writers seemed to be finding a specific focus.
"For me, the biggest hindrance to getting anything accomplished is confidence in the project's concept," said Kim Adams, a fine arts senior who is working on various visual projects. She is also working on the first issue of her zine, Analog Lifeline.
"I spend a great deal of time in this head space where I refer to my catalogue of thoughts and experiences, and then
question why it is valid to even project them outside of my personal space."
Larson, who has published several zines, thought her first zine was a challenge.
"The first time I helped to create a zine, my friend and I wanted it to be such a grand event. We spent so much time on the design; we even bought expensive hot pink paper and printed the entire thing on it. Unfortunately, we didn't spend enough time on the actual content," she said.
But Van Ham thinks keeping up more motivation to keep on publishing may be even more challenging than getting that first issue out in print.
"Sometimes a first issue happens through the sheer adrenaline of novelty, which wears off after a while," he said.
"You don't have to be a guitar musical virtuoso or a professional journalist – just do it!."
- Lane Van Ham
Writer of Straint
Klein had some advice for writers who are ready to try publishing themselves.
"Be sure to have fun and read others' work to see what works and what doesn't. Also, don't get discouraged by other people's bad remarks. Let your creative ideas flow and do what you want. And of course, send a copy to me."
The rewards for getting over technical and creative difficulties are worth the work, according to these writers.
Davida Larson, a women's studies junior, is working on the first issue of her zine, called Pretty Kitty. It draws on material from her journal entries, among other things. Larson says she first started publishing zines when she began learning about the feminist movement.
"I had just discovered feminism, more specifically, punk rock feminism, and Īriot grrrl,' and was totally infused with passion and inspiration," she said.
"Since zines are such a staple of the punk community and I've always loved to write, creating a zine seemed like the ideal expression for my newfound feminist consciousness."
Klein has been working on two different zines, one personal, and one political that he collaborates on with others.
"The Desert Leafy Green is a parody of The Desert Leaf, where we talk about the drug war and war in general. Motivations there are political," he said. "With Sunshine Capital, I was having a rough summer and felt like a personal project would help me. And it did. It's a lot of fun."
Most writers who publish zines are people with ideas about political and world issues that are a major part of their personal lives. Their work often makes complex issues like corporate responsibility, feminism or environmentalism more approachable, because the reader can view these issues through the filter of one person's personal perspective.
"It feels good to read or hear something you identify with. I love a zine that has wit and satire about the world we live in." Lane, who puts out Straint, did an interview with Wynn from Tracy and the Plastics, included a round table discussion on the subject of men and body hair and recounted an experience abroad.
"It was great to read pieces that at times I identified with, or simply cracked up in laughter. There are zines for all types, about everything."
Being able to identify with the author is perhaps the best reason to read a zine. It's also the best reason to write one. After all, if they can do it, so can you.
"My interest in zines in particular is an extension of the punk rock ethic that if you have something to say, technical proficiency isn't required in order to say it," said Van Ham.
"You don't have to be a guitar musical virtuoso or a professional journalist÷just do it!"