Sam Retton runs OtherXcore Press from a P.O. box and an Etsy page.
It’s where she markets and sell her self-published zines — an abbreviated magazine made with paper and scissors, glue and makers, always in limited numbers, dictated by her resources at the time. She’s been known to “borrow” printer codes from friends or use the one at her parent’s house.
“It’s a cheap and easy way to share your world view,” says Retton, who organized last Friday’s Zine Night, a local celebration of International Zine Month.
Generally defined, zines (short for magazine or fanzine, depending on who you ask) are noncommercial publications, usually devoted unconventional subject matter. They’ve have been around since the 1960s, at least, and were instrumental in connecting the ’80s punk and ‘90s Riot Grrrl movements. Some sources qualify any publication with a circulation under 1,000 as a zine, though the majority are produced in quantities closer to 100 (or less).
“Think less big publishing house and more copier in the back of a drugstore, or in the office after the boss has gone home,” says Kim Leonard, a local zinester, whose publication on Fresno pioneer M. Theo Kearney reads like “Tiger Beat for fangirls of raisin tycoons.”
Leonard likes doing one-page zines, folded from a single sheet of paper and layered with textures — a piece of lace, some glitter, a picture clipped from a magazine, some typewritten text.
“These take zero talent and zero budget,” she says. “There are some great templates online.”
Cory Linstrum’s “Savage Damage Digest” is on the other end of zine production.
The Bay Area music zine is done in a professional print shop, paid for with advertising. The first issues were designed by hand and laid out with X-Acto blades and glue sticks, but Linstrum got tired of erasing the random thumb prints and blobs of glue to make the pages print-ready. Now, everything is done on a computer.
The slick print job gives the zine a more legit feel. But Linstrum misses the “sloppy, homemade punk look of my previous issues,” he says.
Like many zines, “Save Damage Digest” has no set schedule for publication. Whenever Linstrum has some stories finished, he solicits other content from like-minded collaborators, then puts it all together into something readable.
The first two issues of were done in runs of 300 copies that sold for $5 each. They sold out, quickly. Linstrum printed 600 copies of the third issue. He still has about 150 left. His latest issue was published in April with 500 copies, which seems like the perfect number, he says.
“I can almost see the back of my closet!.”
You won’t make much money making zines, but there is a market.
People trade, swap and buy them at independent bookstores, through zine libraries — like the one at C.A.F.E. Infoshop in Fresno’s Chinatown — and at zine festivals and conventions. Some (like “Savage Damage Digest”) are available online. There are even zine distributors to help publishers reach different audiences.
At a zine festival, you can pick up 10-20 new zines for $20, Leonard says.
“Twenty dollars at a bookstore might get you a paperback, and you don’t even get to meet the author,” she says.
That’s only kind of a joke. The connectedness of zinesters is part of its appeal, Retton says.
Zines are snap shot of people and places you’ll never know. All of Retton’s zines are Fresno-centric. Most involve her time at the Bel-Tower, the now defunct all-ages punk-venue/art space just outside the Tower District.
Some of her favorite zines chronicle the music scene in the Bay Area in the ’80 and ’90s. Retton is too young to have experienced those scene in real life.
“But it’s cool to read about it,” she says.
Zines, she says, connect communities, especially in cities like Fresno. They’ve been important for people of color and those in the LGBT community.
For, Linstum, they are nothing less than salvation for the printed word. And we need more of them.
“So yes. Start a zine,” he says. “It’s way cooler than maintaining a blog.”
There are too many blogs in the world already and we’re five years away from printed books and magazines being totally obsolete, he says.
That’s what someone told him, anyway, and he’s doing his best to make sure that never happens.
“The world needs more printed words on paper,” he says.
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