As long as there have been copiers, there have been Zines. It’s amazing but, despite the overwhelmingly digital world we live in, this late 20th century medium is still quite vibrant and alive. Look at small bookstores or even on-line and you will find little publications that express each publisher’s vision of music, art, literature, photography, or anything you could possibly imagine. This weekend, Zinefest Houston will bring over 20 artists, writers, small presses, and small distribution companies to the Khon’s rooftop where there will be booths, discussions, workshops and even music by Rotten Piece, Infant Mortality Rate, Organ Failure, Carlos Pozo, The Grass Skirts, and Muzak John. We contacted the DIYfest’s organizer, Lindsey Simard to talk about the festival and Zines.
FPH – Tell us about zine fest. When did it start, who started it, and why?
Simard – Zine Fest Houston bridges the gap between the Indie Book Fest and the Houston Anarchist Book Fair. It celebrates DIY (do-it-yourself) publishing and promotes zines (small pamphlet-like magazines), minicomics, and other forms of small press, alternative, and underground media and art. Shane Patrick Boyle started the fest around 2004 so the creators of zines and minicomics would have a forum in Houston to meet each other, sell their work, and otherwise support each other.
FPH – Tell us about some of the zines that will be featured and give us a few personal favorites and also are these just zines from Houston or are there people from other cities coming to this?
Simard – A wide variety of zines will be featured at Zine Fest Houston; personal zines, political zines, art zines, short fiction, poetry, and comics will all be well represented. I am really excited to see everyone’s work this year, but if I had to choose a few favorites, I’d go with Calico Grounds, Robbie & Bobby, and Gingham Ghost. Calico Grounds is an independent art press and Robbie & Bobby and Gingham Ghost are both minicomics. I’m also excited to see what Eigengrau Press & Future Husband display since both are new ventures by close (and talented) friends. Oh, and I’m looking forward to Edwin Johnston’s Studio X zines. He recently gave me one that took panels without words from old newspaper comics, rearranged them, and changed the context, resulting in something completely different and a little surreal that still told a story.
The majority of exhibitors this year are from Houston and the surrounding smaller communities. We have a few people from Austin exhibiting, including Buttersword.
FPH – You’ll have bands playing on the rooftop. Who is playing and how do you think they compliment the zines being showcased?
Simard – We have The Grass Skirts, Organ Failure, Muzak John, Infant Mortality Rate, Carlos Pozo, and Rotten Piece playing. The bands all share the DIY ethics of Zine Fest Houston; most self-release their music. Also, they are all true to their sounds instead of being limited by outside restrictions or the drive to have mass appeal. I see a similar rejection of convention in the zines.
FPH – Tell us about the Houston Zine community and about some of the people and things you guys do to encourage, inspire, and support each other.
Simard - The Houston Zine community is an extension of the Houston DIY community and artist community; Zine Fest Houston is our yearly gathering. Most zine authors are rather introverted, but we try to meet each other at the fest, trade zines, and give each other feedback on our work. I think this is the biggest way we encourage, inspire, and support each other. We also tell others outside of the Houston Zine community about the zines in Houston and try to help each other find places to sell on consignment. As far as players in the zine scene in Houston, I’d have to point to Shane Patrick Boyle because he founded Zine Fest and knows everyone, and Sedition and Domy, two places where you can find zines year round in Houston. Also, Super Happy Funland is a big & loud supporter of DIY in Houston.
FPH – Why do you think people devote so much time and effort into making these zines?
Simard - I think the reasons vary from person to person, but ultimately people make these zines because they are compelled to do something creative and find more value in sharing their efforts than not. Also, zines usually have a small format and almost all have extremely limited runs, which makes them a little bit precious and kind of rare. This almost fleeting nature appeals to zine creators and zine readers. Another part of the appeal of zines is that the format allows for experimentation without costing much, making zines realistic and approachable as projects.
FPH – Using a broad meaning of success (i.e. commercial, artistic, therapeutic, et al.), what do you think best defines a successful zine?
Simard – A successful zine has a creative spark. It is one that the creator finds value in creating (the work being its own reward) and the reader finds value in reading (it is thought provoking, funny, visually pleasing, etc). It should feel unique, sincere, unfettered, and not nearly as pretentious as this answer.
FPH – Lastly, what do you hope people come out with after having attended the festival on Saturday?
Simard – The goal for Zine Fest Houston is for attendees to be inspired to create their own projects. We want everyone to feel empowered creatively, to leave the fest and think, hey, I have some ideas or personal experiences to get out there, and I will. Why let anything stop you when you can write or draw and make a bunch of copies? Also, I hope they come out with a bunch of zines!
Saturday May 21st 4pm -10pm Zine Fest Houston 2011 @ The Khon’s Rooftop (2808 Milam) all ages, free