Want some zines with your almond croissant?
Hang on, let's take a step back. Somewhere between the dawn of the printing press and Snapchat came an offbeat new art form made from hard work, determination, paper, staples, creativity and a photocopier.
The zine. As in magazine, but not quite.
Literary and decidedly lo-tech, zines are somehow still flourishing in the digital age. In fact, the eight-year-old Bend Zine Library lives on–and continues to thrive, now occupying a small display space on the second floor of Dudley's Bookshop Café. Previously living at both the Workhouse and Townshend's Teahouse, the mini library offers hundreds of zines to read and/or borrow.
So, what can you expect to find inside a typical zine? First, there's no such thing as a typical zine. To say these homemade publications take on a wide range of styles and topics is like saying Donald Trump has only occasional tantrums.
Zines come in all sizes and attitudes. They're generally printed on regular paper, usually from about 15 to 80 pages, often illustrated, with nothing off-limits. They're exceptionally personal and frequently intense. Zinesters reveal their intimate struggles with things including alcohol, drugs, depression, abuse, loneliness and sex. Soul-baring is perhaps the biggest trait they have in common. The library's categories include skateboarding, health, feminism, travel, comics/graphic novels, personal zines (or "perzines") and the always popular radical/political.
"I would say a majority of the zines have a social justice or political component," says Heather Kennedy, who recently assumed the role of librarian. It's no surprise, she adds, given the post-election furor, that "there are zines about our current political climate. It's a place for people from more marginalized groups to have their voices heard." This rings true since zines have a tradition of shaking things up. "Zines have been on the forefront of social justice movements since the '90s at least. They became especially popular during the riot grrrl movement which started in the Pacific Northwest."
And zines are still right at home in 2017, "providing a place for people to access different cultures," says Kennedy. "People need to not be isolated from other people's views. Zines can be the 'stargate' to different perspectives." That's what got her into zines in the first place: "I've always been interested in getting a glimpse of other people's lives."
Zines, much like blogging, give all of us a chance to get our point of view and opinions out there for all to read. And it doesn't take a whole lot of logistical energy to do so. "It's a do-it-yourself magazine on any topic you want," she says. "It's self-publishing. If you want to write you don't need to find a publisher. Just do it. Use a photocopier; it's like a blog in print."
While it's tempting to begin dismissing zines as another Internet casualty, Kennedy suggests the opposite is true. "The Internet's actually helping the zine movement rather than harming it because it's much easier to get the word out. There are zine fests all over the place. Libraries have started cataloguing zines all over the world. The Internet lets us trade and find zines—and it's much easier to buy them online." One such "zine fest" includes the Portland Zine Symposium, taking place July 22 and 23.
Imagine that — the digital and print stars aligning to keep this homemade, but powerful, art form alive and well.
Finally, she adds, "Zines are really authentic. I feel like they're more authentic than the Internet because zines give people a place to share about who they are and what's important to them in a way that doesn't fake anything. It's really real."
Note: Although the Bend Zine Library's located atop Dudley's tall, steep stairs, Kennedy confirms they're working on plans to make the zines accessible to those who are disabled or otherwise unable to reach it.
Inside the Zines: A Sampler
DORIS #25: "Quitting drinking was the hardest thing I've ever done." (Cindy Crabb)
WILLFUL DISOBEDIENCE, Anarchist analyses and theory: "We are at war, even if the images of daily life try to make us believe the contrary." (Unknown)
EVERYTHING.IS.FINE: "I wish I could have saved you, but wishes don't save anyone from that kind of abuse." (Nyxia Grey)
WE ARE REDMOND: "There are untold stories behind each set of eyes." (Hollie Seabury)
AMERICAN, EH?: (graphic novel zine): "I stare into space, wishing a way out of this border town." (Heather Bryant)
Bend Zine Library
at Dudley's Bookshop Café
135 NW Minnesota Ave., Bend
Portland Zine Symposium
Apano Jams, 8114 SE Division St., Portland
Table applications open through Mar. 26