Chicago Zine Fest is back and bigger than ever, and we had the privilege of chatting with one of the organizers Johnny Misfit. This two day event starts this Friday with a Silver Tongue reading at Conway Center (Columbia College) which features the legendary Aaron Cometbus. Visit the CZF site for all of the details.
Chicago Subtext (CS): Zine Culture in Chicago... Do you think Chicago plays an important part in Zine culture?
Johnny Misfit (JM): I think it does now. CZF is a lot bigger than most of zine fests in the nation and it's our 2nd year. PDX (Portland) zine fest is the mega zine fest in the nation and we can hopefully be the Midwest's counterpart. as for zines in Chicago, we have a wealth of talent. This winter at the MCA, there was that indie comic's exhibit w/ Paul Hornshriber and Jeffry Brown among others. We have the power here and it needs to be broadcasted. Quimby's also is a beacon for echoing that. It's like Atomic in Baltimore, it stands alone as the Midwest equivalent. Remember that part in Lord of the Rings Two Towers when they light the beacons. It's like that. We are a link in that chain. Light it up.
CS: What originally inspired Zine Fest?
JM: The Milwaukee Zine fest 09. Four of the original organizers went together and got the idea they would like to do something similar in CHI. I was there and went up to their table, joking around with them and offering my services as I work at Columbia. All I did last year was facilitate booking the fest through Columbia. This year, I showed more interest and become more involved. We all went back to MKE zine fest 2010 and on the way home we had a zine fest meeting. It was joked that the rides back from MKE zine fest are traditional zine fest meetings.
CS: How important is Quimby's in the scene?
JM: Locally, it's the HQ for zines. It gives first time zinesters a place to find out what the scene is all about. It livens oldskool zinesters by giving them a place to hold readings or sell work. If Quimby's wasn't here, the local zine scene wouldn't have as much cohesion.
CS: What does a zine reading look like?
JM: I curate the reading series Two Cookie Minimum. We do it at Fritz's Bakery. That is a 'lil nutty. We have readers on the mic while the coffee machine is brewing. I like to keep my readings going by focusing on the writing. Some zine readings mix it up more. Zinesters have all sorts of talents. I've seen readers play music or do performance pieces. It all depends on the reading. It's great to go to a zine reading over a lit reading too, because the audience, normally filled w/ fellow zinesters, is energetic and lively. Zinesters give it up for fellow zinesters. It's a good community.
CS: You will be having a Youth Reading... do you see the zine playing a big role in youth culture?
JM: For this reading, we have young readers from 826 after school programs and participants in Girls Rock Chicago. It's going to be great to see what these young writers have to offer. I wish I knew about zines when I was that young. In this day, when kids are texting and living on facebook, its killer to see kids getting hands on and learning how to do tactile things. It will definitely be a skill they can carry with them into adulthood.
CS: Some people worry about the future of books in a digital era is there any concern with zines losing ground to digital media?
JM: People like to touch things, to see things in person. There will always be a need for something legit. Even if zines and the printed word diminish, a small fraction will remain for the purpose of providing a living history. Plus, look at blogging and twitter. That's writing too. Personal opinions and thoughts online are writing on par with what most put into their zines. So no,zines are here, they've been around since Guttenberg invented the press and they will be around after the last Xerox machine dies.
CS: What is the major highlight of this year's fest?
JM: I'm not sure what the major highlight is, but I am stoked on seeing Aaron Cometbus read and sit on a panel. He is one the zinesters I've read and associated with ever since I began reading zines and got into punk. Plus, we invited him, the illusive and mysterious persona he is, and he said yes. That's crazy. He's like the JD Salinger of zines. It's gonna rule.