Somewhere at the intersection of magazine, fandom, and ingenuity lies the zine, often defined as a small-circulation DIY print publication. The difficulty in pinning down zines is that they can be whatever the creator wants them to be. Typically self-published in every way, including printing and design, these little gems have seen life as musical documents, anarchist statements, and story books. "Zines are pretty broad," says Charleston Zine Fest organizer Leigh Sabisch. "It could just be art bound into a book form, it could be poetry, it could be prose, it could be anything that you want it to be. I like to call it a lawless form of literature."
Charleston Zine Fest tries to represent the deluge of ways zines are used with a variety of vendors present to share their publications, like Detroit-based image collectors Oral Zine and colorful cartoonist Abby Kacen.
One of Sabisch's personal favorites is biannual literary magazine Nat. Brut from Durham. "They're just a beautifully designed publication," she says. "They have an open call for submissions. People can submit their writing and their art. It's really focused on the LGBTQ community." Nat. Brut's creators, as well as the team behind Indie Grits Labs, will give a panel discussing the production and printing process involved in making a zine at the festival.
The biggest benefit to meeting the vendors in person is understanding the context behind the work. Because of the do-it-yourself ethos, authors and artists inherently put a lot of themselves into their zines. "A lot of the things people that make zines about are pretty personal, like pretty sensitive subjects for them," says Sabisch. "It's really awesome to just go around and talk to everyone and get their point-of-view."
One publication Zine Fest has promoted is "How to Talk to Your Cat About Evolution," a comedy zine created by the American Association of Patriots, who have also put out "How to Talk to Your Cat About Gun Safety" and "How to Talk to Your Cat About Abstinence." This savior for every concerned pet owner tries to protect your feline friend from the horrors of widely accepted science. Zines represent the many shades of funny out there, as well. "It's kind of a mixed bag," says Sabisch. "One of the vendors is having two zines that are making fun of the mundane, which is relatable."
This is the third annual Zine Fest and Sabisch says that the event provides something that the local area was lacking. "There was a hole in the culture that needed to be filled," she says. "There wasn't really a spot that all these people had to come to together and hang out and share what they've been making. I think that's a really important thing to grow and develop your own ideas."
Zine Fest is also a great networking opportunity for creators, artists, and authors of zines. "It's really nice to have an audience and other people to talk to and bounce your ideas off of," says Sabisch.
"I'm most excited about how it's grown." Sabisch mentions that the event will have more vendors than it has had in the past and will be more interactive. "We're branching out, bringing in more media, doing more workshops, especially toward vendors and people who want to learn how to make zines."
As Zine Fest continues to grow, Sabisch aspires to see the festival aid artists in the city. "Our network of artists and vendors and resources will grow alongside it," she says. "It will give us more opportunities to connect creatives in our community and beyond, hopefully growing and inspiring the scene and creating a new standard for artistic inclusivity in our city."