Through the white noise of twitter popped a submission request. A Fanzine! The scrolling brakes took hold. A week later, a brown package is slipped under my door. Paper and Ink, bright white and dangerous with it’s threat of stained fingers and paper cuts. Now, in its third issue, I’m pleased I took a chance to see just what kind of writers, a nerdy punk boxing fan from England had fused.
I do, it’s actually bordering on obsession. I end up buying so many that it’s difficult to find the time to read them all, not to mention a place to store them all. I keep telling my girlfriend that we need to get a bigger place so that I can have my own dedicated zine library, but she’s not so keen on the idea.
Can you remember which fanzine first gave you the paperlust?
I can, and oddly it wasn’t a fanzine but a novel – Tales of a Punk Rock Nothing by Abram Shalom Himelstein and Jamie Schweser. It is about a kid from Tennessee who moves to DC in the early 90’s and hangs out with punks and feminists etc. The story is told through letters, journal entries and fanzines. It’s a brilliant read and inspired me to see if there were any punk zines being produced in the city I lived in at the time. It all escalated from there really.
As a lover of the fanzine as well, I understand the addiction. It was early punk zines that got me hooked. Wish I still had my old boyfriends 48 Thrills and Sniffin Glue, loved them. We had a real zine scene here in Australia. Some are a little too professional looking these days, though, is it my imagination, or does there seem to be a resurgence of them?
(… or maybe they have never gone away and I’m just suddenly noticing the world around me again, ha!)
It’s hard to say really, I tend to lean towards lit zines myself and there seem to be new ones popping up all the time, which is really great. But like you say, I don’t know if that is due to a resurgence or if I just wasn’t paying attention before.
Having dabbled in fanzine culture myself, I understand the thrill of it. The content control, the images and where to distribute. First fanzine, I was involved in was to do with music. We couldn’t afford a computer, we bashed old typewriters and cut out words and images like serial killers from newspapers and made them fit. The layout of fanzines and the finished product felt like a work of art. Something so tactile, when you picked them up they had the most amazing energy. Editorial, music reviews, sweaty frontline descriptions of live gigs, just stupid irreverence. We didn’t care about copyright, or if anyone would like it. Fuck was a punctuation mark and we’d tell it like it is, share the obscure. We also gave them out for free, left them on park benches, buses, libraries, after gigs. It’s a great feeling when punters started to look out for you to make sure they got the next edition. Fanzines have a rich history and rebellious backbone don’t you think?
Oh, absolutely. That’s what I love about them – the complete creative control, you can say what you want, about whatever subject you want. Zines are not sales driven, it’s not about numbers or profit margins, they’re all about the love- about exposing people to new or different ideas and to artists or writers they may otherwise never come across. They are the antithesis of government controlled media and publishing houses that will only ever play it safe.
You’ll find more truth, wisdom and originality in an A5 stapled hand job than anything mainstream media are dishing us, that’s been a constant. We need to be reminded cause they’ll seduce, brainwash and guide your life in a blink.
So pleased I discovered your little literary empire. Your Paper and Ink fanzines have been living in my bag this past week, pulled out at all hours and devoured. They have that do-it-yourself edge, hand drawn original cover art and great fonts to differentiate the stories and brighten the eyes.
It is really important to me that each piece has a unique look to it. I think that is what separates us from most other lit zines that I have encountered. They tend to all follow a uniform format, which is fine, but I like to give each piece a different feel. The only downside to doing that is that it takes quite a while to put the whole thing together- lots of time spent trawling through fonts, trying to find one that fits. It’s all worth it in the end though.
How do you distribute your zine? Are you finding more interest out in specialist shops willing to stock your passion?
Currently I mainly distribute it only through websites such as Etsy and Big Cartel. However I am in the process of building my own website so I can sell it completely independently through that. As for specialist shops, I have never really contacted any shops about selling it. I wanted to build up a bit of a back catalogue before I do that. Although I know from speaking to other lit zine editors that getting shops to stock zines is easier said than done, but I’ll give it a go.
You say you also started your zine because of your dislike of e readers. Us page turners and lovers of the physical may very well be a dying breed. Like vinyl, the printed word is a niche market, full of childhood memories, leafing through watching words on a page. Is it purely romanticising, the notion of paper and ink and the aesthetic qualities of it? Why are words on physical paper so important to you?
I think in most cases of digital formats replacing physical formats there is an obvious improvement of quality or accessibility – Sound quality on a digital music file (can be) better than that of vinyl, streaming a film in HD is essentially the exact same experience as watching a blu-ray but without the need for a physical item – however with e-readers, where is the improvement? Okay, you can carry 100s of books around with you at any time, but who actually needs that many books with them at all times?! I think it just leads to people starting multiple books and never finishing any of them.
Yes, totally agree. At least with a physical book you know exactly how much devotion you need to complete it. Digital approximations are frustrating and too much temptation to give up when your attention is waning.
For me personally, so much of my time is spent staring at screens, I don’t feel that my life would benefit from another one. There is a fantastic photograph circling the internet that shows somebody using a kindle as a bookmark, and in my opinion, that is all those grey slabs of plastic are good for. And just as an aside, the smell of brand new books is my favourite smell in the world. All the different types of paper and inks, I love it- sometimes I go into book shops just to have a sniff. Ha!
Equally snortable the dust of years and the freshly pressed. My copies of Paper and Ink are already dog-eared and beaten.
Paper and Ink will NEVER go digital.
Your first issue was over a year ago and centered on Heartbreak – Broken Hearts and Broken Bottles, how did you rally your first batch of writers?
A couple of the writers featured in that first issue are friends of mine (Anthony Macina and Paul Martin) and the rest were just writers that I knew of and liked. I e-mailed them and asked if I could use some of their work and they kindly agreed. With the most recent issues there has been a little bit of reaching out to writers, but it is more a case of putting out the call for submissions on social media and waiting for responses. I am really excited about the next couple of issues actually, I’m getting some really great stuff landing in my inbox.
What triggered your first topic choice?
I have always been a sucker for stories of lost love and crushing heartbreak and the strongest emotions I have experienced in my life have come as a direct result of my heart being crushed. Also, at the time that I decided to create the zine I had just been broken up with so it seemed fitting.
Chris Eng’s Questioningly is a perfect start, completely real, I loved its awkwardness and gestures. Asking when do you start believing that love is real, but even better was where this short story ended, it perfectly answered it’s own title.
Man, I love that story. Chris is such a great writer. That ending hits me like a sledge hammer every single time I read it. I’m not usually one to well up or get teary but that story brings me close.
Akua Mercy is exceptional and beautifully bitter. You’ve chosen writers that have doses of romantic cynicism they seem to have been battered, tormented and burnt by love. I think all of these pieces hurt. William James’ Kids Like Us Will Be Alone Forever and Anthony Macina’s The Breeze was the closest I came to tearing up. These are wonderful writers to get to know.
I am really proud of that first issue, all the writers are fantastic. I always think back on issue #1 as testing the water, so to speak, and that issues #2 and 3 are much better, but then when I actually re-read issue #1 I realise that it was pretty damn good. Kids Like Us Will Be Alone Forever is one of my favourite poems of all time.
You also use different cover designers, do you look for submissions in cover illustrations as well as words?
I am always on the lookout for submissions of all kinds, the next issue (#4) will even feature some photography which is a first for Paper and Ink. I am lucky enough that I happen to know a lot of very talented artists and illustrators and so far, all but one of the cover illustrations have come from people I know that I have reached out to.
As a fan of the fanzine, what are some of the best literary ones out there, (besides your own of course). That you regularly follow?
There are some really fantastic lit zines out there. Just in the UK alone you have PUSH which actually launched in the same month as Paper and Ink, however they just put out their 13th issue. The work ethic of editor Joe England is incredible. He sells the zines outside football matches, and shifts a bucket load of them! Then there is Hand Job which launched last year as well. It is a real old school cut and paste zine which features some fantastic writers. There is a lot of crossover in the contributors between our three zines and a real community spirit between us. I don’t think it is a coincidence that we all appeared at around the same time- we’re all fighting the same fight.
The second and third issues Home and Destination Unknown are exponentially gaining thickness.
Like I said earlier, I always saw issue #1 as just ‘testing the water’. I knew that if it went well and people responded to it I would go bigger and better, and that philosophy will continue with future issues. Issue #4 is going to be a bumper one! The theme of which is ‘identity’ and I have had some fantastic submissions so far.
So you’re getting some good feedback and interest in your zine?
The feedback has been incredible. When I released the first issue I was worried that no one would be interested and I’d be stuck with piles of zines that I couldn’t shift but that wasn’t a problem at all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly about to give up my day job, but the response has been great. I’m just happy that I can give unknown and up and coming writers a platform to showcase their work, that’s the best feeling in the world.
What is the next submission topic and how does one get involved?
The theme of the next issue is ‘identity’ and the deadline for submissions is 1st December so there is still plenty of time for people to get involved. I’m looking for short stories, flash fiction and poetry of no longer than 1500 words and illustrations in black and white only.
Just send them along to email@example.com