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The Big, Inclusive, Zine-Review Zine---How to Revive It?

Since reading that Jerianne had to abandon the last Zine World in progress due to the pressure of her graduate studies (not to mention major technical problems), I have been concerned about the absence of the large, inclusive, zine-review zine that was at various times filled by Factsheet 5, Zine Guide, and, of course, Zine World.

I am not blaming Jerianne at all for not being able to complete ZW's last issue. I fully realize she has some very heavy burdens. I'm not dissing distros. I just think the zine scene needs more than distros. I'm not dissing on-line zine review sites, they just don't work for me. Although those who think the issue is much ado about nothing, who think things work just fine with etsy & blogspots & all, are welcome to comment, this discussion is mainly for those old-school-oriented zinesters who DO feel a lack in the absence of a "Factsheet 5", and would like try to put in their 2 cents worth in, in getting the ball rolling toward reviving one.

Below is an e-mail exchange between Heath Row and myself. Some of it's a bit too technical for my understanding, but some of you may understand it enough to get some ideas. Maybe our many hands can make light work? Let's hope it's a start anyway.

FROM ME: I was thinking of broaching the question/challenge on We Make Zines I asked in .Zap!!omania #4 about Papernet Gazet. I tried visiting http://tinyurl/papernet-gazet, but got the message, twice, that the page couldn't be displayed. Is this just a temporary glitch with my system, or is that submission page now inactive?

FROM HEATH: You need http://tinyurl.com/papernet-gazet. The URL above misses the dotcom.

ME: I guess you read the suggestion by aelicia in Zine World #27 (Winter 2009) of a dual on-line/print-zine option. It sounded to me a lot like what you're doing with PNG. Is it? I was skeptical at first---luddite that I am---but maybe that might be the only option we have now, of have a large, comprehensive, easily-printable-paper review-zine like Zine World, Factsheet 5, and Zine Guide.

HEATH: What I'm doing with the zines and apazines I do these days is make sure that stakeholders (contributors, subscribers, traders) get the print copy first. And then I make the PDF available through whatever channels are available. It's a printzine first and then online. Papernet Gazet I intended as only online because of all the listings, time requirements, and the smaller audience for mail art.

ME: I was coming around to the idea that distros, particularly those with a paper-catalogue-via-USPS option, might be an acceptable substitute for the nearly-defunct inclusive zine-review zine, but I read a comment on WMZ that have made me doubtful again. Distros seem to filter out zines that are less "marketable", i.e. that are less visual, don't quite follow the "classic cut-n-paste" ideal of what zines "are supposed to be". Don't get me wrong. I LOVE a excellently-done classic cut-n-paste zine, but I also loved the inclusion of the obscure, crudely illustrated "shit-zine" cranked out by some "low-class marginal" youth from Louisiana, or the very plainly done text-heavy zine from some old man discoursing on some "uncool" subject that obsessed him. There are many zines like these that aren't very "marketable" even to zinesters. Zinesters who make these, need zines like FS5, Zine World and Zine Guide.

HEATH: And those avenues that exist will continue to review them. Distros need to carry zines that will sell, which tends toward more marketable zines. They can't carry inventory -- or the cost of consignment, in some cases -- for zines that won't sell (or sell as well). Having run a distro for a while, I know that first hand. You can't carry everything. You can, however, come closer to _reviewing_ everything.

ME: Now. A few questions about Papernet Gazet. Is it totally automatic? That is, does it make itself, at the date of the next projected release, just from the accumulated submissions that have been entered in the submission box? Or do you have to do something? I'm clueless about these things, so pardon my density.

HEATH: Entries drop into a spreadsheet, which I edit into a Word doc and then turn into a PDF. And I've done just the one issue.

ME: What about ailecia's suggestion? Would it be as easy as PNG (if PNG actually is easy---I've never done one). Would the time and money saved in doing it this way be a sufficient motivation for a sustained and concerted effort by those who used to produce Zine World?

Or is apathy a greater barrier than either time, or money.

HEATH: What we need is a Yelp for zines, I suppose. A Web database of zines --and zine issues. Anyone can review a zine writ large or an issue specifically. The challenge is taking the next step to PDF or print, which is what online review aggregators (of everything) don't do. Except for Zagats.

ME: This is not in anyway an attack on Jack Cheiky or any on-line zine review site, but I just can't "digest" them the way I can a print-zine and for reasons too tedious and vague to go into, printing out blogs is too often problematical. (Jack's site seems to take forever to download even on high-speed.) There needs to be some sort of on-line e-zine that comes out in discrete issues and is either easily printable or requestable via physical mail. Zine Thug comes very close to this, but it's not inclusive in its reviews (no criticism intended).

HEATH: Maybe one solution is an online zine review site that publishes quarterly "unbooks" that collect content added in the last x amount of time, however it's defined. Add some framing content -- introduction, a couple of articles, essays, or reprints, and a zine title index in the back, and boom. You've got something that could be printed on demand.

ME: I might like to post this and your reply, if and when you're able to make one, to Zine Geeks, Alt.Zines and We Make Zines, to invite further discussion.

Hope everything's going well with your move & your life,

James

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Hey James, I came over here with the link you posted in another discussion. I'm very new to the zine scene and all of the references to the old print-review things like Factsheet 5, etc., are merely references to material you all used to be able to get in the past.

Can you do this for us: note, in detail, what you would like to see made available. And, for the sake of those of us that are new to the scene, try to explain with more than just references to older publications. Or, give full details about the older publications that you value highly.

I ask this because, maybe, if we can get a better definition of what you [we?] are looking for, then it is possible that one or more of us could take up the project. If we are D.I.Y. then lets D.I.Y., right?!

So what was it about these old publications that made them so great?
hey Blake...zip round and look stuff up yourself...newbies should sweat and struggle a wee bit...no need for
jim...me...or anyone to .. waste our valuable time tutoring the BASICS (pre-kiddiegarten stuff)...GOOGLE!!!!!!!!!!! and you will discover 45,788 GENERAL ZINE SUMMARIES in about 10 seconds...start w/ wikipedia...then FOSSILS....that will open up...oh..., 12, 506 sources.....:):)

Blake said:
Hey James, I came over here with the link you posted in another discussion. I'm very new to the zine scene and all of the references to the old print-review things like Factsheet 5, etc., are merely references to material you all used to be able to get in the past.

Can you do this for us: note, in detail, what you would like to see made available. And, for the sake of those of us that are new to the scene, try to explain with more than just references to older publications. Or, give full details about the older publications that you value highly.

I ask this because, maybe, if we can get a better definition of what you [we?] are looking for, then it is possible that one or more of us could take up the project. If we are D.I.Y. then lets D.I.Y., right?!

So what was it about these old publications that made them so great?
snow-jobs and LAZINESS...keep an eye out...folks!!!!

tim scannell said:
hey Blake...zip round and look stuff up yourself...newbies should sweat and struggle a wee bit...no need for
jim...me...or anyone to .. waste our valuable time tutoring the BASICS (pre-kiddiegarten stuff)...GOOGLE!!!!!!!!!!! and you will discover 45,788 GENERAL ZINE SUMMARIES in about 10 seconds...start w/ wikipedia...then FOSSILS....that will open up...oh..., 12, 506 sources.....:):)

Blake said:
Hey James, I came over here with the link you posted in another discussion. I'm very new to the zine scene and all of the references to the old print-review things like Factsheet 5, etc., are merely references to material you all used to be able to get in the past.

Can you do this for us: note, in detail, what you would like to see made available. And, for the sake of those of us that are new to the scene, try to explain with more than just references to older publications. Or, give full details about the older publications that you value highly.

I ask this because, maybe, if we can get a better definition of what you [we?] are looking for, then it is possible that one or more of us could take up the project. If we are D.I.Y. then lets D.I.Y., right?!

So what was it about these old publications that made them so great?
You've completely missed the point of my post, Tim. I'm asking James to note what he's looking for in _his_ dream publication. And I've asked that he note what _he_ believes made Factsheet 5 so valuable. Maybe we can piece something similar back together if we spend a little time defining what the goals are (and not jumping to wholly inaccurate conclusions about my intentions and/or abilities).


tim scannell said:
hey Blake...zip round and look stuff up yourself...newbies should sweat and struggle a wee bit...no need for
jim...me...or anyone to .. waste our valuable time tutoring the BASICS (pre-kiddiegarten stuff)...GOOGLE!!!!!!!!!!! and you will discover 45,788 GENERAL ZINE SUMMARIES in about 10 seconds...start w/ wikipedia...then FOSSILS....that will open up...oh..., 12, 506 sources.....:):)

Blake,

I thought I covered it pretty well in my original post, but I'll attempt to elaborate. No retort intended---I often fail to Google myself before asking---but the first thing you'd have to do to get some idea of where I'm coming from is to Google Factsheet 5. Wikipedia and ZineWiki I'm sure have substantial articles.

Maybe, copies of the Gunderloy FS5 have been archived somewhere on the Net. If you can find them, taking a look at them may give you an idea of what it looked liked. It was multi-columnular, dense and text heavy. Of course, I'm not sure if anybody can really appreciate a Gunderloy FS5 unless it's the paper version.

Factsheet 5, then Zine Guide, then Zine World, was "the kaaba" of the zine faithful, and ALL zines, one-shots, records, tapes, etc. sent to it for review WERE reviewed. It was undiscriminating and totally INCLUSIVE. That's my key point. Distros and SELECTIVE zine-review zines, rightly or wrongly, of necessity or not, DISCRIMINATE. FS5 did not. Distros needn't be considered the enemy of "FS5". They can, and did, complement each other.

Seeing the lack of interest, it seems that many or most zinesters don't share the importance I see in FS5/ZG/ZW. I'm surprised Jerriane's announcement that ZW was permanently on hold got nary a comment. I'm not mad or disgusted. I'm learning to realize this isn't 1990 anymore. I'm coming to realize that I've got to accept things have changed, but I do think all the cries of "support the scene!" and "D.I.Y.!" are more hollow than they've ever been. No bitterness here, just candour.
Mulnix said:
Where did you read the announcement that ZW is "permanently on hold"? I didn't see it here, can't find it in a search, and there's no mention of any such thing on the ZW website. Say it ain't so.

http://www.undergroundpress.org/page/2/

P.S.---Thanks for the Xmas cards. Dropped some zines in the mail for you this morning.
I see now--FS5 made space available reviews of anything submitted, thus, differentiating it from the needs/actions of today's distros. I understand how this can be a very valuable resource where all interests are given an opportunity for review.

I have tried to locate an old FS5 to see what it "looked" like--little luck there. And six weeks ago I ordered a Zine World through the web site but have not yet received it. (Now with the information you've provided about the hiatus, I suppose that it may not come at all?) I do have a copy of Xerography Debt issue 25 and I see that they explain their reviews are "selective" [their quotes] and there are only "good reviews" [their quotes] so I expect that some zines will fall through the cracks here.

Do you know if there is an opportunity to take up where Zine World has paused? Maybe they would be accepting of some help to get it back on track? Or to take it off their hands altogether? Is this something that you would be willing to work on to get something back together and available for the community? Personally, I can offer both technical help and manual labor. I'm an old-school guy myself. I may be new to zines and the zine culture, I have much to offer when it comes to consolidating information and general project work.

James N. Dawson said:

Factsheet 5, then Zine Guide, then Zine World, was "the kaaba" of the zine faithful, and ALL zines, one-shots, records, tapes, etc. sent to it for review WERE reviewed. It was undiscriminating and totally INCLUSIVE. That's my key point. Distros and SELECTIVE zine-review zines, rightly or wrongly, of necessity or not, DISCRIMINATE. FS5 did not. Distros needn't be considered the enemy of "FS5". They can, and did, complement each other.
Well, I suppose the person to contact about getting ZW up and running would be Jerianne. www.undergroundpress.org. You can also search for her in the Members section of this site.

I regret to say that I just don't have the technical skills to be of much, if any, help. I guess my contribution is just whining about it till I get some sympathy for the cause.

Problem is, and this has only been slowly dawning on me, the support or appreciation for the zine-review zine seems to have diminished to just about zero. I took a look at Etsy and it seems it, and miscellaneous other distros, mostly on-line, are the preferred vehicle for offering their zine---there are 93 cyberpages of them on Etsy, enough to fill a decent-sized issue of Zine World, which they could have submitted to, but apparently didn't. So maybe there's just not enough interest in the sort of review-zines I'd like to see?

I've got something in mind myself---it'd be more of an "ad zine", offering 60 word ads for a dollar or zine trade. I'm not even sure if there's enough interest for a thin issue of that, but hopefully in a month or 2, I'm going to give it a try.
Okay. I'll see if I can get some information from Jerianne about helping her out.

As for contributing--could you do some of the reviews? Thinking naively, it would seem to be one of the most important needs for a review publication, having the actual review work done. And I imagine that reviews can be done via simple emails or written out on paper, even.

Maybe there is too little demand now to keep a project like this afloat. We can try to get Jerianne could comment.

I'd certainly be interested in an "ad zine." It would be worth giving it a try.
Technically I don't understand why the whole thing needs to be so complicated. Marc Parker's already doing Zine Thug on-line and although I'd like to see it a little more space-economical in it's printable version, lay-out-wise it'd be perfectly satisfactory. I might consider having Zine World's rule of requiring physical addresses for all zines & other items (tapes, etc.), but I've sort of been pounded into submission about not being such an old-school fuss-budget about that. Further, just make it INCLUSIVE, and voila, that's all I'm asking. (I used to think it was fun ordering the zines with terrible reviews). Maybe some distro run by somebody with good printer skills could offer it via physical mail and just print it out as requested, or a few copies at a time.

Xerography Debt's a good zine. I have nothing personally against it, but I would prefer honest reviews of a greater variety of zines than "positive" reviews of fewer. Last issue, the same zine was reviewed 2, 3, (4???) times. I'm sorry, but that's cliquish.

Papernet Gazet already exists, and it has a zine section, and the zinester even helps out by typing in his or her own entry. I guess the second issue is late because Heath's been busy, but maybe if he had a little help? (Don't ask me for that, I'm an internet-imbecile.)

I think what it mostly may boil down to is that very few zinesters today share my preference for paper and are absolutely fine with screen browsing and reading, which I definitely am not. (I had a hell of a time this morning trying to close an obnoxious "Verizon tutorial offer" that was blocking half my screen.) If almost nobody really cares about consolidating as many zines as possible in a paper or printable site, IN A TRADITIONAL PRINT FORMAT, with minimal OR NO "button clicking", then maybe I just have to accept that and move on. I thought I'd just see if there was any interest, and we might move a little closer to the way things were, and the way I loved them. I guess we'll see how it goes, and try not to get too hopeful or worked up about it.
Mulnix said:
James....you said ZW is permanently on hold, but what it says on the site is this:

Will do it when I can (unless some volunteer with inDesign skills drops out of the sky offering to do it for me). The good news is I’ll be done with grad school in the Spring, so maybe we can get ZW back on track next year! –Jerianne

That's a hell of a long hiatus, but not "permanent". I mean, you're giving the impression that ZW is defunct, which it doesn't seem to be, unless you're privy to other info I'm not.

Regardless, I think we agree that we'd love to see ZW back up and running again.



ZW *was* due out in August, and I believe that *may* have even been moved up from an earlier date. Since there seems to have been no comments, or offers of help, to Jerianne's announcement, it looks pretty close to "permanent" to me. Also, will the "datedness" of the reviews be an issue, requiring a complete re-write? (They wouldn't be that much for me, but it seems a lot of people are concerned about "old reviews" and maybe inaccurate contact addresses.)

Maybe I'm painting it more dire than I should, but the situation doesn't look too hopeful.
Thanks Joe for adding to the discussion. You mention Xerography Debt and the support that Microcosm is putting behind that publication. In response to James's ideas on publication frequency, have there been discussions about getting XD out on a more regular basis like quarterly or every two months? Or maybe they just don't have enough reviews "in the can" to warrant that type of frequency?

... and what about the inclusion of reviews that aren't so "positive"?

Joe Biel said:

eventually i decided that it would be better to support xerography debt than it would be to invest the energy in a new publication. but the idea was certainly tantalizing. it seems like an editorial board would be most appropriate with a wide smattering of reviewers and on-again/off-again writers.

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