Zines of Racine 4: Jessie Lynn Mcmains

Heart Shaped Box is  a short, but powerful ‘zine booklet that uses Courtney love and Kurt Cobain’s relationship to explore gender roles and deep female friendships. The author, Jessie Lynn Mcmains, continues to publish zines and poetry with the release of her most recent book  The Lowest Show on Earth.   Her influences include punk rock, Francesca Lia Block’s Weetzie Bat series, and Patti Smith. She offers her views on Zine and the self publishing community in the following email interview.


1) How would philosophically describe a zine?

A zine is a publication made outside the bounds of the ‘official’ publishing industry. It can be one page folded in half, it can look more like a book (length or format-wise), or anything in between. The only hard-fast ‘rule’ is that you do it yourself or with friends, and it doesn’t require any special training, backing, or blessing from any authority. All you really need is something to say, and access to paper, a pen or typewriter or computer, and some way to make copies of it.

It’s like the infamous image, often attributed to Mark Perry and Sniffin’ Glue fanzine, but which was actually from Sideburns by Tony Moon, another ‘70s punk fanzine:

Except with zines it’s like: This is a paragraph. This is another. This is a third. Now make a zine.

2) What inspired you to put your prose into the form  of a zine?

I’ve been making zines for 26 years so it’s hard to remember exactly what first inspired me. Probably a combination of things: 1. Zines were cool. It was the ‘90s, and it seemed like everyone and their hip uncle did a zine. 2. I had things to say that I couldn’t find a space for in more official publications, or that I didn’t feel comfortable publishing in said publications.

3) What’s the process for making your zines?

It really depends. Sometimes I have a specific theme and write a zine about it, other times I just collect random pieces I’ve written until I have enough for a zine. Usually in the latter case a theme emerges as I’m putting the zine together, and then I throw out the pieces that don’t fit and maybe write a few brand-new ones to flesh it out.

4) How has the zine culture changed over the years? Where do you see it going?

Zines arguably had their heyday in the ‘90s, when record shops had zine racks and people left free copies of their zines at coffee shops and you could send a complete stranger your zine or a buck + a stamp and get theirs in return. They never went away completely, I never quit them and I had a lot of friends who still made them, but between approx. 2005-2012-ish, they seemed to go even further underground for a while. During that time, I heard a lot of people who lost track of zine culture during the early ‘00s declaim that zines were dead, that everyone had made the move to blogs. (Which was either a good or bad thing, depending on their mindset.) Then, around 2012, you saw an explosion of zine fests, and more people selling their zines via online storefronts. And now, zine fests themselves have gotten weird, and seem to be largely filled with people selling art prints and stickers and few actual zines at all. Zines definitely aren’t dead, but I’m not sure where the scene, such as it is, will go from here.

5) What do you hope to accomplish in the future?

Zine-wise, or like, life in general? Haha. At this point, my zine goal is to just keep making zines. I’ve definitely slowed down with the number of zines I produce over the past few years. Partly because I have two kids, partly because I run my own small press so I’m busy publishing other people’s stuff. But also because when I decided to try my hand at being a Professional Writer, I thought I had to choose between more traditional publication routes and zines. I’m trying to remember that I can do both, and I hope to publish more zines again in the near future.

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