The Thriving Culture of DIY Publishing & Fanzines

“DIY publishing is anyone who has ever taken an idea and made it a reality.” Martin Appleby shares a love of punk fanzines and independent publishing.

Guest article written by Martin Appleby. Martin is a Hastings-based poet and writer, and the founder of Paper & Ink Literary Zine: a high-quality collection of fiction and poetry. Catch Martin performing at Manchester Punk Festival at 13:00 in The Thirsty Scholar.

Fanzines are as old as punk itself, and have always been an integral part of the scene, especially in pre-Internet times: an open and unbiased resource for spreading the word about new bands, albums and gigs. A cheap and easy format to make and distribute.

You may think that the format is now obsolete and unnecessary, what with the world wide web at everybody’s fingertips, but zines and zine culture is thriving, and the internet has not hampered that.

If anything, it can act as a formidable marketing tool for zine makers, now able to reach a far wider audience than they arguably could have ‘back in the day’ when zines were only shared at shows and amongst friends in their own scenes.

Paper and Ink 14.jpg

Many punk zines have come and gone over the years, but a personal favourite of mine, Lights Go Out, has been consistently putting issues out since 2008. I recently caught up with the dude who runs it, Mr T, and asked him about his zine:

“For me it’s an important part of the scene; it’s an honest opinion. It’s a way to find new bands for people and also for me, with the amount of stuff that comes in for the team to check out, I always hope that every record is going to be my new favourite.

“I would hate to think just how many hours I put into each issue, I think it would scare the hell out of me. But the fact that people seem to keep buying the zine, and so many of those are repeat purchasers, gives me a real happy feeling, deep down inside and really does help me think the zine holds an important place.”

When asked about other punk zines and the music zine scene in general, he was less optimistic than myself, but still managed to reel off a solid list of publications that are currently on his radar:

“I’m bound to forget some but let me name check the following zines: Gadgie, Positive Creed, One Way Ticket To Cubesville, Issue, Perfect Day, Ripping Thrash, Standard Issue, Suspect Device, Total Blast, Safety Pin, Artcore and the ones I have forgotten.”

And zines are not limited to music, they can be about anything – from fanzines about TV shows and movies, to personal journals (perzines), to comics, to literature, and everything in between. I, myself, run a literary zine called Paper and Ink, a submission based zine that publishes poetry, short stories and artwork by writers and artists from all over the world. Many of which had never before seen, or had the opportunity to see, their work published on the printed page.

Paper and Ink Zine Sarah Williams.jpg
An excerpt from Shout Louder founder Sarah Williams’ contribution to Issue 14 of Paper & Ink

In a time when publishing anything in mainstream media has more gatekeepers and road blocks than ever, DIY publishing is flourishing. Much like the DIY music scene, people are taking things into their own hands and running with it, bypassing the need for publishing deals, PR agencies, middle men and bullshit corporate interference.

One such zine is Falkirk based Razur Cuts: a street literature zine that is firmly entrenched in the DIY punk ethos, which features band interviews and album reviews alongside stories and poetry. Two worlds that you may not think would go hand in hand, but editor Derek Steel makes it work, and his passion is infectious:

“We give people a chance to shine! Prising creativity from people has been enlightening, especially when you have to nudge them every so often and then they reap the rewards when they’re published! Getting to know and chat to the aforementioned people has been integral. Meeting writers, poets, artists, photographers who’ve submitted their work and now being classed as their friend has a special meaning for me, as well as interviewing bands I grew up listening to – that holds a truly special place in my heart.”

Too Many Drinks Ago.jpg

People from all walks of life coming together over a common passion is one thing that I have certainly taken from my time in the DIY publishing scene. The bonds and friendships and camaraderie and support in the community can only be paralleled by the DIY punk scene, and for me, they are one and the same. My thoughts were echoed by Marc Bruseke, who runs Analog Submission Press, a York based small press publisher which he started in September 2017 and has since published 70 handmade poetry chapbooks by poets and writers from all over the globe:

“The underground literary scene has been so supportive that it’s hard not to be enthusiastic. Just communicating with like minded individuals is it’s own reward. The more I create the more I want to create.”

Marc’s dedication and unrelenting work ethic is an inspiration, but for him, it is a case of riding the wave of momentum, and just grabbing the bull by the horns and getting on with it:

“There will never be a ‘perfect moment’ to start writing that book you’ve had on the back burner for the last 10 years. You just have to do it, no matter what the odds are. You always hear people say shit like, “Oh, once I get that shiny new laptop I’ll start writing,” or, “I really want to do X or Y but I just don’t have the time.” Bullshit. If you want something bad enough, you’ll get it done.”

If that mindset is not fucking punk, then I don’t know what punk is.

D.I.Y. publishing is not limited to music fanzines, it is not limited to a certain cross section of society or a specific subculture; it is anyone who has ever taken an idea and made it a reality. Be that a crudely stapled together collection of their favourite recipes or a even blog for punks who don’t like papercuts.

D.I.Y. or DIE.

Martin Appleby is Hastings-based poet and writer. Be sure to follow high-quality publication, Paper & Ink Literary Zine. Issue 14 also features a short story by Shout Louder’s founder, Sarah Williams – there’s still a handful of copies available.

Be sure to catch Martin performing at Manchester Punk Festival at 13:00 in The Thirsty Scholar.

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