This post actively encourages the production of vessels to contain subversive texts.
If the small presses publish short runs of larger texts and glossy magazines, then literary zines would probably come under the term micro-presses. The role of zine editor consists, in its most basic form, of collecting submissions of poetry and short stories (art work and photography too, in some cases), whacking it all together and selling it on stalls where possible and online. I say whacking it together but the styles of zines out there, even specifically literature ones, varies drastically. Some are rudimentary cut and paste (in the physical sense) followed by scanning and copying however many copies are desired, whereas others are meticulously designed and printed by a professional printers, but the ethos always stays the same. No one makes a lit-zine for profit. It’s all for the passion; the passion of seeing voices out in the world that you don’t think others would publish, the passion of physically producing something to be proud of, the passion of subverting the norm and asking ‘Why should my opinion of great writing mean anything less than yours?’ Artistic movements have always had the DIY rebels that have shaped the path of things to come and now it is the time for literature. Don’t get me wrong, lit-zines have been around for ages (the timeless Rebel Inc. as an example with how it influenced the Scottish boom in writers not too long back) but I think we are in a special time in history for zines.
The crucial man in the lit-zine evolution was called William Blake. Now, although you may know this Mr Blake, you may not be so aware of the fact that he originally etched his work on to copper plates, coloured each plate in by hand to make each copy unique and sold them to whoever wanted to buy them, self-publishing before the term was coined. Mr Blake was also a social observer who noted the injustice in his own society and damned it throughout the undercurrents of his poetry and this is still the case for lit-zines today. They all seem to harbour the same disdain for authority and tend to feature the writers who don’t necessarily fall into the nicely laid out categories that the literati can identify with.
There are lots of fantastic lit zines around (Paper and Ink, The Arsonist, Razur Cuts, Glove, C-O-N (form the editor of PUSH), Tape Hiss, I could go on) and, through our personal experience with running Hand Job Zine for a number of years, we have found that there is a real community and bond that forms between the writers who produce these and the writers that submit their work. They aren’t produced for personal gain, which directly translates to the writers that submit as they too are not submitting to chase fame, but purely for the love of writing and being a part of a no-pretence collaboration in an unspoken understanding.
I would urge everyone reading this to start their own zine. Like I told Betty Blakey when she was deciding whether to make a zine (Tape Hiss), you’re your own master; you can just do one issue, one every two years or two a month, you can’t lose anything by trying. Only by taking control of what’s being published can we, the reader, be in control of what we read. It’s that simple. Too many talents are being overlooked and this is our opportunity to give every writer a fair chance.