31 March 2011


I bought this concise history of Microcosm Publishing, an independent zine distro and publisher that originated in Portland, while shopping at Quimby's, a store in Chicago that sells only zines and indie books.  To me, it was appropriate to be walking around Quimby's with a zine about Microcosm in my hand.  I felt like I was taking in two of the best parts of the American zine scene at the same time.

You Can Work Any Hundred Hours begins with a history of the distro written by its founder, Joe Biel.  Aside from its somewhat self-deprecating tone, this history reads like an inspirational story about living your dreams and contributing to your culture.  

The zine is then taken over by a story written by Alex Wrekk and ends with short snippets by other Microcosm employees, both past and present.  The contributions from Wrekk and the other employees take away from Joe's more thoughtful and analytical style of story-telling.  Although I understand the importance of these contributors adding their own stories to this history, I think that the zine would have been better ended with interviews of these contributors by Joe himself instead of so drastically changing the style of the writing.  

Filled with the dedication of direct action d-i-y politics, this history of Microcosm is definitely worth reading.  To get your copy, go to Microcosm Publishing.

30 March 2011

SOUND MIND [by The Sound Mind Collective]

I was introduced to the Sound Mind Collective at the first Ravenswing Indie Night back in December 2006.  They performed an amazing set of music and brought with them not only a stack of zines but a ton of fans and friends.

Since then, they have been regulars at Ravenswing, more lately performing as The Uncles.  Their zine, Sound Mind, is a time capsule of Carleton-University-student mayhem.  As a zine, the formatting is full of cut-n-paste backgrounds, which are great.  Most of the articles poke fun at hipsters and are self-conscious and ironic.  Its best feature, though, are the shwarma restaurant reviews.

I collected my Sound Mind zines over the period of a couple of years.  Reading them together from issues one to five is interesting because they show how more and more people got interested and contributed to it as time went on.  The later issues provide a much richer product as they developed a larger audience and collective.

29 March 2011

LICKETY SPLIT 3 [ed. Amber Goodwyn]

Lickety Split is not for romantics.  It is essentially hipster smut with a strong slant towards heterosex and lesbians.  So, I would add, it's not for gay men either.

Much of the writing in the third issue of Lickety Split is disjointed, scattered and hard to follow.  However, one piece stands out entitled C is for Camaro by Natasha L.  What makes it unique is that it reads like a hot piece of trashy hetero 50s porn with a slick dude and a horny girl.  However, as the story unfolds and we get to the sex scene in the bathroom of a movie theatre, the slick dude is described as having a vagina and the whole thing explodes into a gender f**k.  I like subversion.

To this zine's merit, it provides quality art and photography.  And, as much as straight and lesbo hipster smut is the farthest thing from my sexual tastes, I would still quickly pick up a new issue because it is the type of zine that is trying to set a new standard amongst its peers.

28 March 2011

BROWN [by emmypantin@yahoo.ca]

When I picked up Brown, I was hoping to gain some insight into race issues.  The design of this quarter-zine is attractive and I was excited to bring it home.  However, when I read it, I was disappointed.  Its discussion of race is superficial and barely cuts at the tip of the issues it brings to the table.  At the last page, I was stunned that there wasn't more. 

In my view, Brown is a short complaint that 'life isn't fair.'  Although I understand that all of us oppressed people sometimes need to vent like this, I think that if you're going to use trees to reprint your ideas, at least make them useful and critical for your readers. 

27 March 2011


I believe that only one issue of Dyke-tionnary was ever released, which is a shame.  It is light-hearted and pokes fun at the lesbian subculture while making thoughtful comments on stereotypes.  Its design is also original, broken up into terms that are explained with mock definitions and personal stories.  The zinester who wrote this zine now lives in Paris and is leading the successful life of a talented artist.  So, I doubt that we'll see further issues or volumes of this delightful little zine.  Zut alors!

26 March 2011


I can't remember exactly how I got a copy of this zine.  I might have picked it up when I was volunteering at the Mission in my mid-twenties.  Nevertheless, it is a unique zine, written by street youth for their peers.  It covers topics from AIDS prevention to tips on getting tattoos to sexuality.

Much of the zine is written by hand by a collective of street youth and feels very personal.  It is also full of original drawings, which I like. 

Overall, it is an excellent time capsule of Ottawa's street youth and reminds me of the time in my life when I myself had nothing.  My favourite line in the zine is the last bit of one of the poems: "When we tell our story/ We can tell them every side of hell."

25 March 2011


When I tabled at zine fairs, this issue of Slightly More Than ... Soundbytes flew off the table.  I even had one young woman buy four copies for all of her friends.  What made it popular was its great cover: a woman holding an electric drill as if it was a weapon with the words "Femmes use power tools too!" written beneath it.  Classic.

For me, this issue of Jess's zine is my favourite.  Its content changes from the style in her earlier issues of random snippets into a series of thoughtful stories.  The zine begins with an amazing tale of her experiences at summer camp and the sexy camp counselor who led her to salvation.  Mixed into the story is the confusion of a young girl's sexuality as her same-sex attractions contradict the expectations of her gender and society. 

In addition to a tribute to Janis Joplin (who is also one of my idols), this issue includes a critical and important discussion of women reclaiming anger.  I love this article.  It hits on every key point on this issue and makes you feel empowered to fight back instead of crawling under a rock, whimpering.

All in all, definitely judge this zine by its cover.  It rocks!

24 March 2011

SNAKEPIT 13 [by Ben]

Snakepit is one of my all-time favourite zines.  It is made up of 3-panelled comic strips that describe each day of the life of Ben, a punk-rock stoner.  His drawings are hilarious and his life is a series of playing punk shows, dating cute girls, working at a video store, and alternating between getting really drunk or really high while watching movies and hanging out with friends.

What makes Snakepit amazing is Ben's imagery.  When he's 'chilling out,' he draws himself in a parka.  Sometimes his face is a vacuum when he's eating food and other times his guitar is blowing him a raspberry because he's not playing very well.  I also love when he draws himself at parties.  He fills the background with monsters and aliens as his fellow party-goers.  Here is an example:

For anthologies of Snakepit - which I own and are totally worth reading - go to Microcosm.

23 March 2011


Beautiful Mess 3 is a quarter-size, colour zine.  It is filled with polaroids, commentaries, song lyrics and a handy recipe for cilantro pesto.

For me, this zine felt like a zinester's scrapbook of a time in her life.  It honours her friends and the places where she transitioned in her life.  One of my favourite aspects of this zine are the lyrics scattered through it, making it feel like a mixed tape as well as a zine.

For your own copy of Beautiful Mess 3, visit AF's etsy page.

22 March 2011


Reading Slightly More Than Soundbites is like listening to a favourite Le Tigre song.  It's empowering, intelligent and packed with feminist fury.  In my zine collection, J's zines are the ones I look for when I need a healthy dose of riot grrrl.

In her first installment of Slightly More Than Soundbites, J discusses teenage depression, raging back at misogynist assholes, alternative feminine self-care and American politics.

21 March 2011

BLACK CARROT #1-4 [by Dave]

Reading issues one to four of Black Carrot all at once was a fun experience.  Originally, I had read them over the span of a few years.  They were little gems written by a hyper boy whose thoughts jumped from sentence to sentence through personal histories, punk reviews and reflections on gender and sexuality.

Together, these zines tell the romantic story of a single guy exploding into self-awareness of his sexuality who then meets another guy, who his touring in a band, and they both fall madly in love.  As much as I adore songs about how much a singer loves her boyfriend, I adore a zine about how much a writer loves his boyfriend.  And, this zinester is adorable.  Whenever he describes his boyfriend, he always follows it with, "This guy's so awesome!"  This type of sincere boy-lovin' is rare in both the zine world (where many queer zines tend to celebrate cruising and promiscuity) and the gay subculture (which basically defines itself by cruising and promiscuity).

Re-reading Black Carrot was a healthy reminder of how important zines have been to me in my formulation of an alternative to not only the mainstream dominant culture, but to the mainstream gay subculture.  Thanks, Dave!

To find get your hands on copies of Black Carrot, visit Microcosm or try emailing Dave.

20 March 2011


For over twenty years, I belonged to organized social circles and the number one key rule was do not gossip.  In every activist and community group I have belonged to since, I have always followed this essential rule.  In Security Culture, the message is the same.  This zine educates activists in the importance of maintaining mutual respect and privacy as a means to protect each other from informants and infiltrators. 

One main feature of Security Culture that I really appreciated is that it covers Canadian politics.  I find that too many zines on politics and activism are American, as if the United States are the centre of the world.  Security Culture not only refers to Canadian protests and the FLQ, but it also discusses Canadian state-security agencies and the types of dirty business that they drop on today's ground-level activists. 

I recommend Security Culture to every Canadian activist, from the teenager who volunteers at the Humane Society to the adult who organizes anti-globalization protests.  For more information on security for activists, go to http://security.resist.ca/.

19 March 2011


Sleeps With Ghosts 1 is an honest exploration of one young woman's sexuality.  With a confessional style, this zine moves between stories about emotional attachments, sexual experiences, and experimentations with more marginal sexual expressions.

As I read Sleeps With Ghosts 1, I felt like I was sitting in a quiet setting being told secrets.  Throughout the zine, the zinester shows an awareness of the reader, a certain sensitivity that the reader might be offended or shocked.  This apprehension creates a very timid voice, which works in her favour.  In fact, for me, what makes this zine so special is that the bold content is in stark contrast to the delicate voice of the writer.

In her introduction, the zinester does advise that the content is explicit and warns that, with topics like self harm, rape and sexual preferences, it could trigger some readers.  However, if you are able to read and learn more about these topics, I definitely recommend that you seek out a copy of this zine.

For copies of zines by AF, please see her shopping page on Etsy.

18 March 2011

I HATE THIS PART OF TEXAS 5 [by John Gerken]

In the introduction to I Hate This Part of Texas 5, John refers to the flood in New Orleans, but the zine itself is not about that disaster.  However, it is very much about New Orleans, its culture and the distinct people who live there.  In one article, though, the city is described as a war zone.  John describes drive-by shootings and attacks.  He expresses his self-awareness of mortality in the face of these every-day types of violence; he calls it 'fragility.' 

The rest of this issue covers topics from the state of American health care to gender politics to bike politics.  I like John's poetic writing.  He makes any topic more inviting by his sensitive style.  In addition, some of John's friends contribute articles and drawings and they definitely add to the zine's charm.

I will finally mention that John is a self-identified queer zinester.  I only note this because it makes me beyond happy to include him among my team of queer heroes and crushes.  A queer zinester who writes about fixing bikes, hanging out with punks at drag shows, teaching kids, and doing yoga ... swoon.

17 March 2011

DORIS 24 [by Cindy Crabb]

Doris 24 is one of my cherished possessions.  What makes a zine by Cindy Crabb stand out is its combination of empowerment, intelligence, information and emotional insecurities.  While reading Doris 24, I wavered between wanting to shout 'Hoorah!' in agreement with her d-i-y politics and wanting to cry for sympathy of her deep pain and heroic action toward healing it. 

My copy of this zine is highlighted, ear-marked and flagged with little coloured sticky post-its.  I want to quote from several parts of it, but I will only provide you with one quotation - one that will show you the power of Cindy's writing and convictions:

"I don't think that tearing up the hillsides with an off-road-vehicle means that you don't care about the land.  I don't think eating road kill makes you pure.  I don't think my energy conservation measures matter at all.  I don't think our lifestyle choices are in and of themselves political.  The political part is whether our lifestyle choices help us to become more human.  If they help us feel a sense of personal integrity, and if that integrity gives us the power to fight further, to imagine deeper, to want more.

I want to live in a world where kids aren't raped, where no one is.  I want there to be about one car for every one-thousand people, for the streets to be torn up and turned into gardens, and for people to form social structures that are not based on domination or manipulation, and where everyone sees that we are part of nature, and that nature isn't something separate, not a resource to be used."

Doris 24 also includes discussions and tips for grassroots and political organizing, which are well written and practical. 

To get your hands on Doris zines, check out Cindy's website

16 March 2011


The main unique feature of The Johann Liberation Army is that it is a short screenplay.  Its other unique features are its play with the idea of an emotional suicide bombing; its experimentation with form; and its commentary on sex and love in society, especially as it affects a man.

When you buy this zine, it comes in a manila envelope with a script and two photos inside.  The photos are snapshots from the script, which I found delightful -- like a prize in a cereal box.  The script follows the dialogue and stories of two men as they struggle with the ends of their romantic relationships.  The stories are very focused on these two men, with an almost too narrow emphasis on their angst.  As the kind of reader who revels in the complexities of women's lives in fiction, I missed seeing more of the drama of the lesbian secondary character, of her angst with falling out of love with the main character for another woman.

However, that said, I did appreciate that the script's narrow focus on the two men allowed for a study of clear themes along with a tight narrative.  One of the aspects of Adam's fiction that I always like is that he depicts emotional men who have these sensitive, bleeding hearts.  If you're sick of reading about careless, cruel men, definitely seek out some of Adam's writings, such as his self-published collection of short stories We Were Writers for Disastrous Love Affairs Magazine.

For copies of Adam's zine or book, contact him at mail@40wattspotlight.com.

15 March 2011

STRIKING DISTANCE #1 [by Chris Landry]

Like a good book, a good zine gets better on the second and third read.  Striking Distance is that kind of zine.  Upon the first read, I enjoyed Chris' thoughtful style and his descriptions that immediately pull you into his mood.  Upon further reads, I was able to appreciate the way he carefully presents his stories, crafts them so that they tell a larger story about a young man on the edge of transition, challenged by loneliness, and surrounded by his peers who both alienate and embrace him.

I look forward to more editions of Striking Distance.  In addition to its rewarding content, its style is everything I love in a zine: typewriter font, cut-and-paste images and backgrounds, and drawings.

If you also like Striking Distance, be sure to read Chris' earlier punk fanzine, Kiss Off.