I went to the first ever Pittsburgh Zine Fair last night at AIR (Artist Image Resource) on the Northside last night. Once again I am highly impressed with the sheer amount of great material being produced in this city and the community that supports it. The variety of topics covered in the zines represented is amazing. There were mini-comics, poetry chapbooks, art books, music zines, zines of political activism, and those that deal with all of the above and defy easy categorization.
I was intrigued by some of the conversation about the role of the internet in this sort of DIY atmosphere. It's been said that writing/producing is 3% inspiration and 97% staying the hell offline, and I think there's some truth to that. It can be a tremendous time-waster, I do see the internet as a great way of increasing the visibility of your work, finding a bigger audience for whatever you have to say, and most importantly, networking.
As my posts here indicate, I'm an old guy when it comes to this type of scene. I was putting together mini-comics by hand and selling them through the mail before a lot of the people at last night's vent were born. That is not meant to be an insult or demeaning to what they do. This is their t ime and I support the effort because I remember what it is like to want to get your work out there. I still do.
But I remember the days when it was really difficult to find an audience, or to let anyone else know what you were doing. When I was doing mini-comics and contributing to zines it was all through the mail. Today, one status update on Facebook lets more people know about your product than did in the entire time I was involved in the scene. It's easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount out there, but it's possible to get it out there!
There is also the community. There were probably lots of other people in Pittsburgh doing the sort of thing I was in the early 90's. I knew about six of them. To walk into AIR last night and see that many people involved in this was remarkable. We were far more isolated in our efforts back then, simply because there weren't as many avenues of communication.
What an awesome display of creativity and mutual support. One more reason to celebrate Pittsburgh's scene.
Here's a view from one of the show's organizer's, Nick Marino.