For me, it happened in late winter while living in a coat closet in Indiana, pouring over comics about raising chickens and bad breakups on a cold linoleum floor. For others, the transformative experience of accessing new ideas through the unique medium of the zine has come in the shape of communiqués from the local anarchist infoshop, photography collected and printed by a friend, or often, via the gathering of creatives at a zine fest. Zines are self-created, self-defined and self-printed works, usually produced in limited quantities on a photocopier and bound with staples. In its fifth incarnation this year, ABQ Zine Fest hits the Tannex (1417 Fourth Street SW) in the Barelas neighborhood on Saturday, Oct. 10. The one day only affair provides an opportunity for visitors to engage with zinesters from near and far, trade and buy works and perhaps walk away feeling empowered to sit down at their desk, computer or typewriter and create a zine of their own.
With origins in revolutionary pamphleteering, sci-fi fan fiction and punk subculture, zines span a number of genres and serve as an outlet that provides total creative control for their makers. “Authors of zines are not bound by traditional publishing constraints,” said Liza Bley, who along with the event’s founder, Marya Errin Jones, organized this year’s fest, “they can put anything on the page.” ABQ Zine Fest Five will celebrate the freedom of self-publishing by hosting dozens of first-time and seasoned zine makers, as well as presentations from the likes of the organizers of the LA Zine Fest. Bley will premiere the second edition of her zine, Can you have Sex with Objects, Like Couches? And Other Questions from the Sex Ed Field. Jones will table at the event, too, but if you want to know what wares she'll have on hand, well, “you'll have to come to Zine Fest to find out,” she said.
The ABQ Zine Fest has happened every October since 2011. That first year, only 7 individuals exhibited at the event; this year the fest is on track to have more than 30. The event has grown considerably thanks to the tireless efforts of Jones, who until this year, was the sole organizer of the event. Jones grew up around people creating and sharing zines, but it wasn't until she started attending readings at the now defunct Cellar Door that she realized that there were so many avid zinesters in the city. “I was amazed by the number of people writing zines and felt that Albuquerque should have its own zine fest,” she said.
There is undeniable power in spaces created to celebrate art at the most direct, interactive and accessible level. The slow grind of zine creation is both the precursor to personal, digital mediums like blogs, and an alternative to them and various mainstream media. They exist as another avenue for expression within the broader scope of things for Jones. “Reading a zine is not the same as following someone on Tumblr. Zines are physical manifestations of ideas, tactile materials made to degenerate,” she said. The physicality of zines—the printing, folding, stapling—creates a deliberate and slow discussion, according to Bley, while simultaneously creating an archive. It comes as no surprise that in a world of social media over-sharing and overflowing email inboxes, that physical work, held in the hand by both creator and recipient, is romanticized. But, to Jones and Bley, the two mediums are not opposed. “I don't hate the internet,” said Bley, “in fact, I fucking love it.” Jones notes, “I use computers, typewriters, pen and pencils. Zines are one delivery system that I use to express aspects of me, my writing and my interests.”
Generally speaking, we all like screens, but most of us can appreciate the preciousness of something someone used their hands to create. The singularity and uniqueness of zines add to their charm. “There is something absolutely special in thinking there is only a finite number of copies of a particular text,” said Bley, “we can share articles online with literally everyone, but I would never give all my Facebook friends my most sentimental zines.” For many, zines are capable of forging an intimate connection between writers and readers, and at ABQ Zine Fest, a space is created for the two to interact.
The tangible power of art and the written word is augmented when so many people come together to celebrate and share it. Bear witness yourself by stopping by the Tannex on Saturday between 11am and 6pm. Admission to ABQ Zine Fest Five is free, but you're sure to find a zine amongst the tables—lovingly copied, folded and bound—that seems as if it was made just for you, so have cash on hand or a zine of your own to trade. Haven't authored a zine yet? The people you meet and the zines you score could provide just the inspiration you need to put pen to paper. “When we read a zine, we gain access to a story we've never heard before,” said Bley, “that's important.” For those of us who still love the sensation of turning a page, it's among the most important experiences.