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ZINE Scene

Local writers and artists revive binary form to share passions and create community

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In the bathroom at the smoky Wall Street in Five Points, Lindsay Anderson scatters copies of River City Raunch. Her zine is filled with accounts of love and sex, true stories she’s collected from friends and strangers around Jacksonville. “It’s bathroom reading,” she jokes.

In the zine format, nothing is sacred. A type of self-published magazine, the zine (pronounced zeen) attracts artists of all trades due to the openness of its form—no rules, no censorship, no copyright. Anderson, however, honors Raunch’s intimate details by asking for permission to print the stories from those who shared them. As an editor with a “genuine respect” for her subjects and their feelings, she omits emotional parts to “get to the kernel” on the page. 

Anderson was initially drawn to zines through early fandom of rock-’n’-roll. When she first decided to start editing a zine of her own, a friend told her that “speaking openly about sex in the South is the most punk rock thing you can do.” Anderson printed the first issues of Raunch guerilla-style on her former employer’s copier. Those issues took on the traditional zine format—cut-and-pasted layouts on black-and-white copied pages, assembled and stapled by Anderson herself. Today, she hopes to guide her readers, both on and off the commode, through the confusing terrain of love and sex. “Intimacy has been perverted and used for agendas to sell things,” she says. “I think people are kind of lost.”

The editions were originally called “fanzines,” and some say these independent publications originated in the early punk rock scene. Others claim that zines first cropped up when science-fiction lovers self-published early fan fiction during the 1930s. Anderson notes that her fandom contained in Raunch lies in intimacy itself. She hopes future generations will be able to learn more about Jacksonville and what it was like to love in 2017 by reading her work. She cites Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, Anne Frank’s diary, and similar works representatives of larger sections of history as strong influences. Through her zine, Anderson feels that she has the capacity to create a record of history to pass on to future generations.

The Jacksonville Public Library is a strong stakeholder in the local scene. The Main Library’s zine collection is the first of its kind to exist in the Southeastern United States. This collection of thousands of zines, located in the Jax Makerspace, is a valuable asset to the city’s zine subculture as a whole. In addition to contributing her zine to the library’s collection, Anderson teaches zine-making workshops in Makerspace and was involved in the library’s inaugural Jax Book Fest in March. At her workshops, she always reminds students that their ideas matter. “Whatever’s in your head,” she tells them, “put it on the page. Find value in your participation.”

Unlike commercial magazines filled with advertisements, the humble zine invites writers and artists to create for the sake of creating. Some feel disconnected from the form and grow quite critical of its underground status. This may be the reason zinesters can’t expect to get rich from their work. “It’s hard to do a zine and be pretentious about it,” says Anderson. “It’s more of an intrinsic motivator.”

Similar to American Revolution-era political pamphlets distributed for informational purposes, some zines contain strains of propaganda. Before they opened Coniferous Café in the heart of Downtown Jacksonville, founding members Siddie Friar and Avi (who asked to have his last name withheld) produced politically stirred zines. Once their collective located a manual for their 1972 printing press, they produced materials under the name Burnpile Press. These materials included political posters and zines like Stupid Isn’t Cool, Free Ourselves, and a lexicon of medical terminology. Avi wanted to make different perspectives, “specifically political perspectives,” available to the community.

Having distributed zines at protests and events prior to opening the café, both Friar and Avi now strive to bring zines to the public at their collective’s info-shop-turned-coffee shop. Referring to zines as “literature for the masses,” Friar and the rest of the café team periodically host informal zine read-alouds, to fuel conversation among patrons.

Coniferous Café offers an array of zines for purchase, including Johnny Masiulewicz’s The Happy Tapir. Instead of gathering stories from others, Masiulewicz delves into his memories for an autobiographical “per-zine,” or personal zine. “I believe that everybody else should be as interested in my life as I am,” he says in jest.

In addition to producing a zine, Masiulewicz desires to become known as “the zine mogul of Jacksonville.” He assists fellow artists with zine production and distribution. His biggest influence as a zine maker has been the mere availability of other artists’ zines.

At “a robust 52,” Masiulewicz feels encouraged by the revival of zines because they are familiar to him. He first got involved in the culture in ’80s Chicago, where he wrote a zine that reported on mall gossip during his employment at an ice cream parlor. Later, Masiulewicz printed zines, poetry chapbooks and single-page broadsides guerrilla-style. It took him decades and moving to Jacksonville to return to the zine form; he’s currently working on the next issue of Tapir. “It’s, like, ‘Thank God I didn’t throw away those parachute pants back then, because people are wearing parachute pants.’”

During the ’80s, two types of fanzines predominantly circulated in the Jacksonville area—music zines and skateboarding zines. “For reasons that are too complicated to explain,” says former zinester Mic Walker, “punk rock and skateboarding went hand-in-hand.” At age 14, Walker and his friend Todd Johnson started producing Rawhyde, a fanzine covering the local skating scene. The two friends skated together at Kona Skate Park regularly, and felt heavily influenced by big-name skateboarding magazines like Thrasher and TransWorld. Johnson was first attracted to the form as a way to engage with skating when he wasn’t able to skate. “At night or if it’s raining or if you’re at work, you always have skating with you,” he says.

Aside from Skateboard, Kona’s own zine, Rawhyde was perhaps the only other skate zine produced in the area at the time. Johnson and Walker would often trade zines with readers through the mail. In 2010, Johnson published an anthology of every issue of Rawhyde in the form of a book. He feels that the material holds up in this digital age. “I don’t look at Rawhyde like a yearbook of when we were 15,” he says. “I look at it as who we are. I still skate, and the zine reminds me that I need to do it more.”

Jordan Hoover, editor of motocross zine Document, also finds a similarity between zine-making and engaging in extreme sports. “Skateboarding, surfing, motocross—they’re all feelings,” he says. “Making a zine gives me the same good, serious feeling of accomplishment.” 

Hoover started printing Document in March to share his passion for international motocross. Though he achieved pro status as a motocross rider at age 20, he never competed on that level. “I started to realize that the racing was killing my love for the sport,” he says. Producing his zine quickly revived his adoration for motocross.

Even with three printed issues under his belt, Hoover still feels that he’s an outsider in the local zine scene. The idea of any type of “scene” in Jacksonville is often overshadowed by the spread-out nature of the city. When she first started editing River City Raunch, Anderson found positivity in this challenge. “Some people come to a place and want something established already,” she says. She’s found that Jacksonville’s scene, or lack thereof, presented the opportunity for her to start from scratch. In turn, her work is more original. Anderson feels encouraged by the potential to make the subculture whatever she wants it to be.

Mic Walker took a similar approach to the openness of local zines when he started making Rawhyde in 1985. “If you wanted to see a punk rock show, you put it on yourself,” he says. “If you wanted to be part of a skate contest, you organized one yourself. If you wanted to document your scene, you made your own zine.”

Masiulewicz finds that his writing opens up the more he’s around likeminded artists. “The best art feeds upon other artwork,” he says.

According to Kevin Calloway, co-founder of gallery SPACE 42, some early Jacksonville punk-rockers produced zines. Since most were limited by expensive printing costs, though, zines that weren’t available at Einstein a Go Go’s, The Theory Shop or Kona Skate Park were difficult to track down. “You either had to know the zine writer,” says Calloway, “or know someone who knew them.”

Today, Calloway makes zines available for purchase in the pop-up shop at SPACE 42, in Riverside’s growing arts district. “Zines are the best independent magazines,” says Calloway. “I hope everybody brings their zines here and puts them up for sale. If we have 40 bookshelves filled with zines, that means a lot of cool shit is happening in Jacksonville.”

But can a zine hold up in the age of the blog? “Anybody can blog,” says Calloway. “Anybody can turn on a computer and spout off bullshit and post it. But people who make zines are true fans of whatever they’re making a zine about. You get passion and actual research when you read a zine. You get journalism.” He feels that printing and selling physical issues keeps zinesters from “pushing crap on people.”

Even though flimsy paper zines can crumple and wither away, the form remains popular among a wide array of artists. Masiulewicz finds that the spirit of the zine sticks around longer than any blog. “Even though the blog is eternal,” he says, “people see it for a few days, and it disappears. You can do a deep search for it eventually, but in three weeks, no one’s going to remember it.”

As mortal as they are, zines somehow withstand the test of time. “The one I passed to Joe Blow at Art Walk last week is sitting on his shelf somewhere,” says Masiulewicz. “Five years from now, when he moves, he’s gonna be packing up his books and he’s gonna see it. This tangible thing is eternal in our lifetime. It’s concrete.”
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Winkler co-writes the zine, Nickname, with Aysha Miskin.

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