I began making zines when I was a student in Manchester. I moved to Manchester aged 20 as a feckless Welsh lump with no discernable skills and underwent a four year larval process that produced a half-decent laboratory scientist and a reasonably capable self-publisher. Here’s how I did the second of those two things.
In my rookie year at the university I fell into a gig as a writer for the student union publication, PULP Magazine, with Paul Capewell, certified best bud and fellow small press pioneer (I’m not sure what happened to PULP in the end but I hope it’s still going). If nothing else, PULP Magazine taught me:
- If you don’t do it, nobody else will.
- You don’t need permission off anybody to do this stuff.
That last one is probably the key, and something I hadn't really appreciated coming from a sleepy village outside Cardiff. This attitude was prevalent throughout Manchester (and its neighbouring Leeds); each of its arty little bars, record shops, and cafes (notable favourites included Common, even though it appears to have changed drastically since my heyday, The Soup Kitchen, Piccadilly Records, and the two Trof establishments) had windowsills stuffed with hand-made little publications. I have very clear memories of Pull Yourself Together and Project TBA (the latter made by my former PULP editor Holly Dicker), incredibly well-crafted singularities that existed outside the literature that typically surrounded it (clubnight-sponsored event guides, ad-supported middle-class-outrage engine Vice etc.). Who had willed these things into existence? The creators. There were no publishing houses or sales departments propping these things up, much as PULP Magazine existed in a vacuum, free from interference from “interested parties”. Somebody decided this was a good idea, and acted as vanguards for their own interests. Cool.
So as I arrogantly do with most interesting things I see, I thought “pfft, I can do that”. So I set about doing it. I discovered that every stage of putting something out to print is a disaster, and the linear plan in your mind – “draw it, print it, distribute it” – is at least twenty steps short of an actual plan. I’m four publications deep now with a fifth on the way, and have employed three very different techniques for publishing and distribution. It has never gotten any easier, and the timeframes have all been roughly the same (about a month to finish the art, another month on pre-production and publication), the challenges have just been different.
Magnificent Adventures I & II