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AFOR
Posted on Monday, October 06, 2003 - 04:32 pm:   

Am I alone in thinking--Jesus f---, there are too many ugly small press magazines out there. Ever since Small Beer did their admittedly endearing small press we-don't-have-money-for-production-values thing with LCRW, everybody's copying the same lousy format. It was fun when LCRW did it. But it's just lame when everybody else does it. If I see one more 11 x 17 folded over xeroxed small press mag with crappy production values, I will puke.

Anonymous for the obvious reasons
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Jeremy Lassen
Posted on Monday, October 06, 2003 - 08:42 pm:   

Come on... No reason to be anonymous. If itís worth saying, itís worth attaching your name to it. I personally don't care much for chap books (not very much value for the money, IMO) -- but they do serve a purpose... they've always been around, and always will. I donít think there has been a recent ďglutĒ of them, any more then usual.

I have a bigger problem with low production value POD trade paperbacks ($25 for a 256 page or less trade paper is even WORSE value for my money, IMO).


Never anonymous,
JL
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ellen
Posted on Monday, October 06, 2003 - 09:43 pm:   

I agree with Jeremy. The 'zines are cute, cheap, and have some good fiction in them. If you don't like 'em no one says you have to buy them. Or produce your own glossier 'zines.

Also, what's with the "anonymous" crap? If you can't criticize something under you own name then don't do it.

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John Klima
Posted on Tuesday, October 07, 2003 - 07:37 am:   

It's interesting that you feel strongly enough to speak out, but then proffer yourself as anonymous and you leave the 'zines that are offending you anonymous as well. You'd think if you decided to be anonymous about your identity before your started writing you could lob some vindictives at the particular 'zines that set you off.

Personally, I decided to start a zine because I both felt there was a market for it and I wanted to stay involved in the field. I don't expect everyone to like what I do. In fact, most of the reviews I've gotten have been anything but glowing. But the fact that I'm getting reviewed means that people know about my 'zine, and that's what matters.

I have to agree with Jeremy that I don't see a glut (i.e. too many) of 'zines out there, specifically those modeled on the LCRW vein. I can think of less than five that have made slightly more than a ripple in the publishing world: Electric Velocipede, Full Unit Hook Up, Chris Rowe's Say... series, and the Journal of Pulse-Pounding Narratives.

The big thing is, if you don't like it, ignore it. It's not big enough to be intrusive on anyone's life.

Not anonymous for obvious reasons.

John Klima
Editor
Electric Velocipede
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des
Posted on Tuesday, October 07, 2003 - 08:38 am:   

I don't think there are enough print 'zines about these days, I mean real 'zines, with joy of creation, making each penny count, launching new writers, creating a culture and community - in the nineties, I saw hundreds of these each month (well, it seemed like hundreds at the time). I loved 'em all. The internet has destroyed them, except for rare beauties such as John K's. By definition, there can logically be no 'ugly zine'. It is a contradiction in terms.

Re The 'anonymous' thread above, I agree with what has been said about *hiding* behind anonymity. There is the world of difference between that and subtly veiling yourself for a while because what you've expressed is beautiful and tantalising.
Des
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JV
Posted on Tuesday, October 07, 2003 - 08:54 am:   

I'm kind of in the middle on this one. I think it's great there're so many zines out there. And I think it's great that a lot of them are producing really cool work. But I have to say--I much prefer a Nemonymous approach to layout and design to the xeroxed zines. Or at least something inbetween. I hadn't thought about it much before, but there kind of is a crop of zines that seem to be patterned after LCRW (or maybe LCRW is patterned after something else).

Which is fine, but format decisions, to my mind, should be just an individualistic as the contents of a zine.

JeffV
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Nicholas Liu
Posted on Tuesday, October 07, 2003 - 09:35 am:   

If the content rocks, I'll read it. Format be damned.
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Neilw
Posted on Tuesday, October 07, 2003 - 09:41 am:   

Des - you know I share your nostalgia for the UK zine scene (and possibly it seemed to you there were hundreds because you were IN hundreds at the time). They were generally inexpertly designed, usually poorly illustrated and a bit grubby, but they contained some outstanding fiction. Ten years on I still look out for the work of people like Andy Darlington and Mike O'Driscoll who I first encountered in those little magazines, and I remember coming across a story in Works called The Ministry Of Butterflies by a certain Mr Vandermeer of this parish, that blew me away. And of course TTA grew out of that class of 1990-something too.

Nowadays I prefer good design and print that stays on the page, not on your fingers. But I understand where today's crop of cheaply produced zines are coming from. I think they're a bit of a reaction to the glut of webzines by folks who just don't get on with the online format, but can't afford to produce the next TTA.

Before the web, all zines were made this way. And as long as the quality of the fiction is good, it really doesn't matter.
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John Klima
Posted on Tuesday, October 07, 2003 - 09:47 am:   

I will admit that I finally decided to start a 'zine after listening to Gavin exhort about the possibilities of 'zine publishing. I thought that Gavin's 8.5" x 14" folded in half 'zine looked cooler than a 8.5" x 11" folded in half 'zine (also the standard size for chapbooks, and I wanted to differentiate myself from a one-time effort) so that was the format I chose as well. I believe Mark Rudolph of FUHU followed a similar mind-set to my own. I've changed the interior layout (and cover design) every couple issues while I try to find something I'm happy with. I don't expect to ever find it. Instead, I expect to keep changing the zine as I have new ideas.

Aside from wanting to make a larger sized product than your typical chapbook, economy played the #1 role in deciding to go with photocopying over printing. #2 role was creative control. #3 was time. The quickest, cheapest way to make my zine with as few screw-ups as possible was to make photocopies and assemble it myself. I don't need somebody fixing margins or spelling as a way of being helpful.

I'm sure I could find a printer who could make my zine for the same cost as what I pay now for photocopies. Maybe someday I will, maybe I won't. It's up to me. Not you.

As JV said, it should be individualistic. I think Nemonymous (or Century, or CRANK!, or JPPN, and so on) is a beautiful product. I was stunned when I got Nemonymous in the mail. For me, that approach to layout is more than I'm willing to invest.

I made a deal with myself for the zine to become self-sufficient by a certain amount of time. The caveat being if I was having fun and it wasn't preventing me from paying bills it could continue indefinitely. Well, I'm ahead of schedule. As the zine becomes more self-sufficient (and maybe some day makes money), the production value and the authors will be the first to see the benefits of it. Until then, expect to occasionally find interior pages stapled in upside down from the cover.

JK
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Nick Mamatas
Posted on Tuesday, October 07, 2003 - 12:45 pm:   

LCRW is hardly the first to fold over xeroxed pages. It is clearly and explictly part of the not-necessarily-fanzine zine scene, as can be seen by its reviews of non-genre zines, and by the fact that Gavin reviews zines for Xerography Debt, a non-genre review organ that is attempting to fill the gap left by Factsheet 5. Are the post-LCRW genre zines in this same tradition? Probably not directly. SF is notoriously clannish and oblivious to other pop countercultures. Thus the notion that LCRW actually started something rather than deciding to do something very well, and with a teensy bit of money behind it.

Zines like this usually aren't even meant to do anything like create ripples in the publishing industry, they're meant to delight and entertain. If you need gloss to be delighted, I might recommend stopping by any bank and picking up tri-fold brochures about home equity loans.

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ellen
Posted on Tuesday, October 07, 2003 - 01:23 pm:   

As John Klima points out (although obliquely) by his own example, the recent proliferation of sf/f 'zines is a direct result of Gavin Grant's panel on 'zines a few years ago (I did not attend nor do I recall at which convention it was held ). But I heard about it and soon after all the zines mentioned above started coming out.

And LCRW is a descendant of Crank and Century, which in turn descended from The Little Magazine and Shayol. Although, obviously, for whatever reason, LCRW devolved to the basics rather than go for the gorgeous covers and excellent production values of Shayol, Crank, and Century.
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JV
Posted on Tuesday, October 07, 2003 - 03:19 pm:   

Nick, I remember Factsheet Five--subscribed to it, was reviewed in it and reviewed for it--and I'm aware of the entire zine tradition. I meant LCRW starting a trend within a certain subgenre.

LCRW staked out a look, and they made it work, and I enjoy the mag. It is, however, only one approach to the problem of producing something on a shoestring. The Rat Bastards approach is another, for example.

More importantly, cheap starting materials do not have to mean crap layout. The punk approach to magazines is fine, but, again, it's only one approach. You can do shoestring and look elegant--if you want to look elegant.

I'm not criticizing--but, you know, some of mags using the zine model exemplified by LCRW are hard to read. And in part because it is actually harder to make that format palatable from a layout and design point of view.

Nicholas--if you'd read something in any format, then you must not give a shit about readability. Or just don't know anything about readability. Being able to read something easily, presenting stories in a format that makes them more pleasing to the reader, is very important. It's a service to the writers whose work you're presenting.

That said, I do enjoy these mags. I just wish I could read more of them without eye strain, etc.

Jeff

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Nicholas Liu
Posted on Wednesday, October 08, 2003 - 12:00 am:   

Jeff, if I can read something and enjoy it, clearly it means that its readability is quite good enough for me, no?

I'm not speaking for any reader other than myself. Just one click of the mouse should make it plain that I do care about presentation when it's me inflicting it on other people, as I cannot assume that they're as tolerant of eyesores as I am.
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Gavin Smith
Posted on Wednesday, October 08, 2003 - 04:12 am:   

Hmm, should amateur fanzines necessarily be ugly? Economy usually insures that they will be. But industry and creativity will guarantee that no one really minds about that. But to have "real" publications of "real" value from basically established small presses issued in "chapbook" form is another matter. Consider Necronomicon Press: wonderful work, extremely collectible, vital material issued in such careless format that they are not only an eyesore on the shelf, they present severe storage problems. They bulge in awkward places, they don't stand up straight, they fall over and when they do they slide about most annoyingly. And yet, real money went into the making, distributing and collecting of them. What is there to show for that investment? A fine reputation for writing and editing, but in the physical shape of embarrassingly awkward pamphlets. I think that beautiful books are a good thing - make them and buy them if you possibly can.
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John Klima
Posted on Wednesday, October 08, 2003 - 05:57 am:   

I'm with JeffV, and I guess this is a rare moment of patting myself on the back. When I started putting together this zine, I brought in the layout sensibilities I took from Analog/Asmiov's (where once upon a time I created their Quark templates when they changed trim sizes), Facts On File News Services, and Tor Books. I made my first issue with PageMaker and hated it, so I switched to Quark. Even though my zine is cheaply made, I think it looks good on the inside.

But that's my crazy opinion, and I'm not objective.

JK
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Cheryl
Posted on Wednesday, October 08, 2003 - 08:51 am:   

Time for the resident fanzine editor to chime in, I think.

There are all sorts of trade-offs involved here. The layout standards of the printable versions of Emerald City are close to rock bottom, the reasons for this being:

1. I have absolutely zero artistic talent.

2. Layout takes a lot of time, and I'm more concerned about meeting deadlines than looking pretty.

3. The zine is distributed electronically and many of my readers are fanatical about my keeping the byte count down.

With modern xerox machines decent layout is much easier to do, but I remember back in the early 80's when photocopied zines started to become common. There was this huge debate about whether the ability to do good layout would detract from content - i.e. zines would be judged on how they looked rather than how they read. Well, now we are there, and some people care whereas others don't. We have market segmentation. Is this a problem?

I don't see that it is. Readers are able to make a choice of the type of zine they want. If zines with bad layout survive that says to me that readers don't care too much about the layout because the content is good.

Alternatively, of course, they may be making a deliberate choice of layout-poor zines because they suspect that they are more likely to get published often and less likely to bankrupt their editors after a few issues. The history of fanzines is littered with examples of failed over-ambition.

When it comes down it it, all of these zines are partly, if not wholly, subsidized by their editors. In that sort of economy, demanding higher quality is just as likely to result in the editor getting fed up and folding as it is in you getting what you want.

P.S. I my experience anonymous complaints about lack of quality in zines generally come from editors who put way too much effort into what they are doing and are pissed off that the public is happy with something of apparent lesser quality. If this is you, Mr. Anonymous, it is time to fold.

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des
Posted on Wednesday, October 08, 2003 - 08:59 am:   

Your Electric Velocipede, for me, John, is vintage 'small press' in the best possible sense.
For those interested in the 'small press' of the eighties and nineties -- (and perhaps this 'ugly zines' thread will be an apt way to face out the existentialist Absurd with some indulgent nostalgia coupled with a positive drive into the future) -- I have today - coincidentally - received from Chris Reed of BBR the message below. Des
**************

I was interested to read the first of the "Golden Age of the Small Press" columns in Roadworks #16.

In case it's of interest to readers of future columns, one of the benefits of the NSFA having been going so long is that we've got many of these magazines going back to the late '80s -- Auguries, Flickers'n'Frames, Works, Nasty Piece of Work, The Scanner, Threads, Dream/New Moon, and Exuberance to name but a few.

So whether someone's interested in finding out more about these 'golden oldies', or whether they're collectors or completists picking up the 'before-they-were-famous' small press appearances of their now best-selling favourite authors, the BBR/NSFA Catalogue's bound to be worth a rummage!

http://www.bbr-online.com/catalogue
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unohoo
Posted on Wednesday, October 08, 2003 - 11:48 am:   

JK wrote:
"Until then, expect to occasionally find interior pages stapled in upside down from the cover."


Excuse me for butting in, but you seem to be implying that it was an unfortunate accident that a few issues of EV#5 wound up with the upside-down pages, as opposed to the deliberate attempt of a misguided helper to create special rare editions. (hey, it could be true)

Only sorta anonymously yours . . .
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anonymous cat
Posted on Wednesday, October 08, 2003 - 11:49 am:   

JV wrote:
"if you'd read something in any format, then you must not give a shit about readability."

White Wolf's gotta be selling books to somebody . . .
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Neal Stanifer
Posted on Wednesday, October 08, 2003 - 03:52 pm:   

Chiming in late, I know, but here goes...

AFOR: "It was fun when LCRW did it. But it's just lame when everybody else does it."

From what I've seen of LCRW, it is modeled (superficially) on 19th-c. chapbooks, so it is hardly carving out a new format. For this reason, while you might find the look "admittedly endearing," I might find it affected, merely clever, or nauseatingly cute. But at the end of the day, one fistful of photocopies is as good as another, if the content doesn't differ.

That said, Jeff's comments about production quality and readability make sense, but only if we don't take them to the point where we forget about content. Then we're like those audiophiles who will buy any kind of crap music so long as the recording is appropriately high-fidelity or has lots of "bottom."
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JV
Posted on Thursday, October 09, 2003 - 06:48 am:   

LOL! This is an interesting discussion.

Cheryl--you're primarily a Web publication, so no one expects the hardcopy print out to do anything other than convey info. Nothing wrong with that.

Re forgetting about content because you're focusing on design--I'm sorry, but you qualify for a big fat "duh". Of course not.

The idea, however, that you can't have both good content and good layout would, of course, be a fallacy (and one you're not promoting, I know).

Jeff

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