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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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Actually I don't think that it would be a very complicated project at all if we get help from the right folks. I have a couple or three friends who have the ability to put together any number of web site formats for us--so likely just identifying what we'd want/need, and the layout, would be the hardest part of the project. With my understanding of how the conversation is progressing, we'd want to be able to view "new reviews" since some particular date so that the user could get everything new. And this could be in a printer-friendly format so that they could just hit the print button and carry the results with them if they so desired.

James N. Dawson said:
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.
... but I think that you can help by continuing the discussion. And I suspect that one of the most important pieces to any zine-review zine puzzle is actually having written reviews ready to publish (in whatever form necessary...). Judging from the comments you've provided to this discussion, you could easily blast out a few solid reviews per week. We all could, actually--with five or six of us helping out, we could get a 12 - 20 additional reviews per week, even. (Maybe just wishful thinking here?)

I imagine that reviews can be received in any number of formats--even in email form?

James N. Dawson said:

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.)
build it and they will come

All inclusive is great, but don't let that be a hurdle. Also - there are too many definitions of what is a zine now. It used to be all physical, but now you have the online components as well... don't even get me started on blogs. What's really happening is that the D.I.Y. "BE THE MEDIA" attitude has actually permeated throughout popular culture. I live in Chicago and recently encountered a homeless man on State Street who had his own "TV station" and was uploading videos he was shooting on his phone to youtube. But I guess we can assume that we are only talking about zines in print (?) - Whats more interesting these days is whats happening with Zine Libraries. In some ways, these libraries, which have grown in number and strength have taken much of the need for "the big inclusive zine review zine" out of the equation. More and more people are participating in zine archiving and preservation. Zines are being housed and made available to the public.

All this aside, however, I can see the value in a centralized printed document (maybe that comes out annually?) that serves the zine review function, however, I do think it is totally a waste and an environmental conundrum to give print space to any and all zine reviews for zines which come down the pipes, not in 2010 and beyond. Instead, the digital version of the publication can be a place to archive ALL the reviews and the (yearly?) printed version can be a place to showcase a finite number of zines from the total received. This way everyone wins and costs are cut, space is saved, and money can go into other areas such as advertising, higher quality production, (paying people?), etc...

Oh and don't forget about MRR which always has been reviewing zines now monthly for close to almost 3 decades without stopping.
brad is right...ZINE and ZINERY and ZINESTER really in FLUX!!!!!!!!!!!!!
If you have not read "One Hundred Years of the Fossils"...Guy Miller
2951 Archer Lane, Springfield OH 45503-1209, USA...[e.g. there were
29,384 'ZINES'...by 1916]...then one does not klnow
ANYTHING about....ZINES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Sorry, but the truth hurts sometimes...even so, gotta call a
spade a spade...:):)

Bradley Adita said:
build it and they will come

All inclusive is great, but don't let that be a hurdle. Also - there are too many definitions of what is a zine now. It used to be all physical, but now you have the online components as well... don't even get me started on blogs. What's really happening is that the D.I.Y. "BE THE MEDIA" attitude has actually permeated throughout popular culture. I live in Chicago and recently encountered a homeless man on State Street who had his own "TV station" and was uploading videos he was shooting on his phone to youtube. But I guess we can assume that we are only talking about zines in print (?) - Whats more interesting these days is whats happening with Zine Libraries. In some ways, these libraries, which have grown in number and strength have taken much of the need for "the big inclusive zine review zine" out of the equation. More and more people are participating in zine archiving and preservation. Zines are being housed and made available to the public.

All this aside, however, I can see the value in a centralized printed document (maybe that comes out annually?) that serves the zine review function, however, I do think it is totally a waste and an environmental conundrum to give print space to any and all zine reviews for zines which come down the pipes, not in 2010 and beyond. Instead, the digital version of the publication can be a place to archive ALL the reviews and the (yearly?) printed version can be a place to showcase a finite number of zines from the total received. This way everyone wins and costs are cut, space is saved, and money can go into other areas such as advertising, higher quality production, (paying people?), etc...

Oh and don't forget about MRR which always has been reviewing zines now monthly for close to almost 3 decades without stopping.
This is Davida from XD here.

Let me explain part of XD's rational behind the reviews we run - 1) I don't have the time or energy to print hostile or negative reviews. I always found that a waste of time and money (paper and postage are too expensive) within the DIY realm. I also know of a few people who disappeared from zinedom after receiving bad reviews and I think that does the community a disservice. I am very supportive of critical reviews that provide feedback and are honest. I am also careful when I send zines out to the reviewers to try and send zines I think the reviewer might like or at least be able to review critically.

2) Duplicate reviews - yes, the same zines receive multiple reviews. Often people send zines to several reviewers and the reviewers independently decide to review that zine. When I receive all the reviews I don't want to start picking and choosing whose reviews get cut and which get run.

3) XD ran like clockwork at least three times a year for approximately 8-9 years, despite a FT job, a kid, cancer, and more. I started seeing everything drying up around issue #24 and migrated the reviews online. Joe contacted me and we came up with a way to revive XD starting with #25. We are now aiming for every 6 months and I already have the schedule set for the next two issues.

4) Managing a review zine with a large staff of reviewers is laborious and there are always problems - zines going out for review go missing, reviewers flake (taking zines with them), orders go missing, and you have to pull everything together with just volunteer support. That said, the core XD reviewers are fantastic. They have been with the zine going on a decade now. They meet the deadlines and produce the artwork to help the community. Everyone pitches in to help in his or her own way.

I just don't see something like F5 being relevant these days. Reviews were short, there was no internet to speak of, and the audience was desperate for information it couldn't find elsewhere.

There are ways to support review zines (reviews, columns, postage $, even just letting people know we are here and need fresh zines to review), but I usually only see that work being done by a few when in fact ANY zinester could help. Fact of the matter is, I started XD in 1999 because I was tired of all the bitching and decided to just do something about the void left by other review zines disappearing. ZW was actually on a bit of a hiatus back then before Jerianne took over. I didn't set out to become F5, ZG, or ZW, that was never a goal, but I decided I could help - even if just a little.

Davida
no 'hostile or negative'...reviews
hahaha...wow!!...100% love-fest.

Leeking Inc. said:
This is Davida from XD here.

Let me explain part of XD's rational behind the reviews we run - 1) I don't have the time or energy to print hostile or negative reviews. I always found that a waste of time and money (paper and postage are too expensive) within the DIY realm. I also know of a few people who disappeared from zinedom after receiving bad reviews and I think that does the community a disservice. I am very supportive of critical reviews that provide feedback and are honest. I am also careful when I send zines out to the reviewers to try and send zines I think the reviewer might like or at least be able to review critically.

2) Duplicate reviews - yes, the same zines receive multiple reviews. Often people send zines to several reviewers and the reviewers independently decide to review that zine. When I receive all the reviews I don't want to start picking and choosing whose reviews get cut and which get run.

3) XD ran like clockwork at least three times a year for approximately 8-9 years, despite a FT job, a kid, cancer, and more. I started seeing everything drying up around issue #24 and migrated the reviews online. Joe contacted me and we came up with a way to revive XD starting with #25. We are now aiming for every 6 months and I already have the schedule set for the next two issues.

4) Managing a review zine with a large staff of reviewers is laborious and there are always problems - zines going out for review go missing, reviewers flake (taking zines with them), orders go missing, and you have to pull everything together with just volunteer support. That said, the core XD reviewers are fantastic. They have been with the zine going on a decade now. They meet the deadlines and produce the artwork to help the community. Everyone pitches in to help in his or her own way.

I just don't see something like F5 being relevant these days. Reviews were short, there was no internet to speak of, and the audience was desperate for information it couldn't find elsewhere.

There are ways to support review zines (reviews, columns, postage $, even just letting people know we are here and need fresh zines to review), but I usually only see that work being done by a few when in fact ANY zinester could help. Fact of the matter is, I started XD in 1999 because I was tired of all the bitching and decided to just do something about the void left by other review zines disappearing. ZW was actually on a bit of a hiatus back then before Jerianne took over. I didn't set out to become F5, ZG, or ZW, that was never a goal, but I decided I could help - even if just a little.

Davida
I didn't know Zine World was gone. *Sob*
Davida,
I didn't mean to dis your review policy or XD. Yes, I know doing any kind of review zine, maybe more than any kind of zine, is a HUGE amount of work. I probably only did a fraction of what you did in Xeens & Things, and less often, and after 10 years of that, burned out to a crisp and never want to do another review again.

Obviously you saw that it was better to have a print XD than just a blog, otherwise you wouldn't have gone through the trouble of reviving one. If you and your readers prefer or value a print XD, why is it so strange than some of us old print-junkies would prefer a print "FS5"? (Of course I'm using FS5 in quotes to signify FS5 and similar review zines.) I must differ with you that such zines have been made irrelevant by the Web. The Web, for me, is no replacement for a print zine, including a comprehensive/inclusive review zine. The having, reading, browsing and digesting of such a zine is a different and better experience FOR ME than trying to do something similar on the Web. I CANNOT explain why.

It MAY be that the zine culture, and the much greater comfort today's zinesters have with the Web than I have, may make my preference unviable, in which case I need to "get used to it", but I would hesitate to say it's "irrelevant". Hope I'm not splitting a semantic hair.

You may have noticed I ordered the latest XD & look forward to getting it, completely at your convenience.

Bradley,
Heath set up Papernet Gazet and made it so easy even an imbecile like me could, and did, enter some zines & a pen pal ad in it. He announced it on WMZ, Zine Geeks and Alt.Zines. Very, very few came. Again, quite to my surprise, nobody seemed to care less.

I don't think inclusiveness should present too much of a problem. I also think the physical address requirement is reasonable, which would screen out websites & podcasts and all that. One-shots, tapes, CD's, anything physical you can order from a physical address. Why can't we Papernetters have a little fun in the new zine scene?

One thing that might make things easier is that people could submit a 60 word (or thereabouts) ad, pay for it with their zine, and if time, energy and enthusiasm allow, somebody will review their zine. Maybe they'll run the ad with it, or maybe they'll replace it with the review. That could be worked out later.

I really like Wikipedia's printable versions. Maybe their template could be used for an on-line version. But let's minimize the buttons, links and all this tedious mouse-clicking!

I've hesitated subscribing to MRR because I'm not punk, but if it does have a good-sized zine review section, maybe I should try it.


Blake,
As you can see from my comments to Davida, I did a review zine/column for 10 years. I know it's ridiculous for me to whine about the lack of a big review zine when I won't even commit to any reviews, but even the few reviews I did totally stressed me out. I can see Davida's motivation for only doing "positive" reviews. If you have to read a zine, especially a thick one, you can't really relate to that much, and try to write an "engaged" review, that's a lot of time and effort. I like to read an honest review, but writing one, I feel "mean" and "guilty" afterward.

I think a "contact" zine, would be a good "second best" to a review zine, even a "capsule" review zine like FS5 and Zine Guide was.

Actually,
What I need to do is take some responsibility for this and start working on something I did a few small runs of (about 60) called JND Ads & Contacts and maybe just mail them out sporadically to zinesters I see here and their in the Papernet and invite them advertise. Maybe that'll start a ball rolling. I'm not expecting anything as big as Zine World was, but I would like to at least try to have some sort of inclusive paper review zine even if it's mostly or all ads. By the way, I take my hat off to Media Junky, by Jason Rodgers, a dedicated Papernetter.

Of course, anybody who sees viability or value in this objective, by all means let me know what steps you take toward it, and maybe I can at least offer some feedback, but no reviews, and certainly no technical help.

Thanks for all the input!
JND
Hi Amy,

It's not gone, but Jerianne is dealing with a few things. Here is the post from the ZW website:

I wasn’t able to get the new Zine World done before getting bogged down in the fall semester (grad school) and other things. Mostly the content is just waiting for the layout, but I haven’t had time to make that happen. 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

http://www.undergroundpress.org/zw-announcements/wheres-the-new-zin...

Amy said:
I didn't know Zine World was gone. *Sob*
I like Xerography Debt, can't wait for the next Zine World, and (sometimes) pine for the days of Factsheet 5. And like James and others, I'd like to see more zine-review-zines.

But there's something else I miss that I feel should come back is including reviews and plugs of other zines IN YOUR OWN zine. This was standard practice "back in the day". Basically, it would be anywhere from a couple to a dozen reviews or plugs of other zines. That's how I found out about a lot of cool zines, and it was quite effective (along with little flyers/ads that you stuffed into envelopes) for getting the word out before the interwebs dominated. I used to do one in every issue of TEN FOOT RULE for years until I stopped for some reason. So with the latest issue I decided to "bring back" a plug section, and I hope to keep on doing it.

On a side tangent: does anybody feel that Factsheet 5 might still be around (or at least live somewhat longer) if Seth Friedman didn't ask for such a high price when he was selling it back in '98-'99?
Hi James,

I didn't mean to come off as attacking. Let me explain what I meant by irrelevant. F5 sets a standard that was created going on 20 years ago. And at the end it was much closer to a magazine than a zine. I don't know if the original Gunderloy version would be seen as THAT much different than ZW or XD.

At F5's heyday it was the go-to source for zines, but the networks were fairly basic and communication was done via postal mail. I think that the networks are far more complex these days because we are communicating in different ways. Just look at how many sub-groups there are on We Make Zines to help people find like-minded souls. Back then sending a zine out for trade was like sending out a message in a bottle. Now I can read a person's blog, profile, and website before I send a zine out. I met two of my best friends via postal mail and it took years of letters to achieve that level of closeness. Now, despite the distances (one is 7,000 miles away and the other 3,000), I am able to talk to them almost daily. I don't see how a paper-only option can compete with the technological changes.

I also don't like reading on a computer monitor. In fact, I am giving myself a headache right now because I need to go find my reading glasses. I do think that digital reading is reaching a tipping point as a viable media. If a zine is released as a PDF does it cease being a zine? I currently publish two paper zines, but I also use a digital reader. Smashwords was first aimed at writers and self-publishers. How would zines fit into something like that? How would they be reviewed and cataloged? I'm not trying to muddy the waters, but look at how zines might continue to change in the coming years. Are zines only about how they are produced or are the ideas what is important?

One of the big problems then, which is still a problem for paper review zines, is that people move. I think that the generalized demographic of many zinesters makes for more frequent moves too. I get at least one request for an address change per issue. I can't change the paper copies, unless I do a reprint, but I can update the website. In that respect, I think the web has one up on paper.

It sounds like you'd at least like an ongoing listing of active zinesters and what they are doing. Of course, trying get zinesters to participate regularly would be like trying to herd manic kittens. I like what We Make Zines is doing here and also think there is merit in Zine Wiki (http://zinewiki.com/).

I don't know if there is a way to create a unified source for zines, but if you come up with an idea let me know and we can run an announcement on the XD blog and in the zine.

Sorry of this is rambling - my ideas made more sense while I was washing dishes and since I sat down to type I've had two phone calls and a hungry kid to deal with.

Davida
"reviews that aren't so positive seems like a big editorial quandry but seems mostly dependent on people submitting those kinds of reviews."

Speaking as a reviewer for XD (and it seriously shocked me to read here that it's been around for almost 10 years and I've been part of it almost from the start. Doesn't seem that long at all) I'm free to review whatever I want, but I know the original intention was to be positive and I decided to honor that. It honestly never occured to me to start writing negative reviews. I've got better things to do with my free time than read zines I don't like and write about them. As fun as it can be to read zine reviews where a zine gets completely trashed does it really do anybody any good? XD was never intended nor designed to be THE review zine like ZW or F5, it was meant to be A review zine. You can't complain when a trumpet doesn't sound like a guitar. An all inclusive review zine would be great, but you can't demand that the existing review zines become something they're not or maybe don't want to be.

But fuck, you want your zine reviewed you can send it to Eric Lyden 224 Moriane St, Brockton MA 02301-3664. Not sending in your zine is a sure way to ensure you're zne won't get reviewed.

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