As soon as we heard about Zine-Scene, we were hooked and couldn’t wait for it to launch. Today, it has — a couple of weeks earlier than originally planned because the editors just couldn’t wait any longer (a feeling we know well).
Any site that describes its mission as being to “question the system that values print publication over electronic publication in the literary world today” was immediately going to get our attention. This is a subject that’s been discussed in endless comment threads in a few different places over recent months, but here’s a project that’s actually putting itself out there in a dynamic, positive way and actively talking up electronic publication.
Zine-Scene has three distinct parts to it. First, there’s the Zine Profile, and it’s the first of these that’s gone live today — focussing on decomP. The first Author Profile arrives next Monday (September 20), and then there’s “The Reprint”, which is a quarterly zine devoted to republishing content from print literary magazines. The first issue of that lands on November 1.
All good information. But we wanted to know more about Zine-Scene and hear about some of their thinking, their aims and their big ideas, so we asked Richard Mocarski, one of their editorial team, if he’d write a guest post for our blog. He kindly agreed. Here’s what he had to say:
Zine-Scene is a space to celebrate the high-quality literature published in online journals and the authors who create this literature. Zine-Scene will have bi-weekly spotlights on online journals and bi-weekly spotlights on authors who publish prolifically in online journals. These spotlights will run each Monday and will consist of an overview, a review, and an interview. Additionally, we will publish an online quarterly journal called “The Reprint,” which will publish fiction that was previously published in print.
I created Zine-Scene to break down the dominant discourse of the literati, which dictates that “the best” literature is published in print and in print only. The belief that print-is-king has deep roots due to the relative novelty of online publishing. These roots permeate through the literary elite and have the unfortunate effect of tainting writers as they enter the literary world. A glance at Speakeasy (Poets & Writers forum) reveals the perpetuation of this discourse. A glance at the resumes of writers who inhabit positions of power (faculty positions at the “top” programs) illustrates the power of this discourse and the means it uses to self-perpetuate. A glance at our slush pile reveals the reach of this discourse (submissions come in marked as “for print consideration only,” despite the fact that we only publish online).
I can understand where the print-is-king brigade is coming from. I used to be a part of it. In fact, I bet most people have been a part of it. That’s how dominant discourses work; they perpetuate themselves to the point where their values become the normative behavior.
For a long time I only read print magazines and only the big name journals whose fiction doesn’t take a lot of risks. I rarely ventured online and when I did, I found myself at my print stomping grounds, hoping to catch a glimpse into their print magazines with a free online sample. Where did this leave me? First bored, and then not reading at all.
And then my wife started publishing online. This was despite what some prominent literary folk had told her about online publishing (in a nutshell – why bother). It took one look for me to step back and re-evaluate my elitist attitude. Here was something exciting. I found where the risks were being taken: online. And to top it off – for free.
This change in reading habits came as I began my doctoral studies in Communication, where I have entrenched myself in the study of internet communication tools and discourses of power. As I immersed myself in great online writing, I continued to hear the literati decry it, and I began to read about hierarchies and hegemonic discourses — the correlations became obvious and my passion for online literature grew. So the idea for Zine-Scene was born.
It’s been about a year since I first thought of starting Zine-Scene, and in that time some of my thoughts galvanized. I realized that I wanted to make a statement as well as promote good work. This is where “Zine” came from. I know this word causes many online publishers and writers to cringe because “Zine” is traditionally associated with do-it-yourself staple-bound media and has morphed into a term with negative undertones. But I want to take this word back. Whether the writing is hand-wrought, photocopied, diagonal, smudged, upside down or on a computer screen, the work should be judged on its quality of thought and execution and not the method used to deliver it.
To further our goal of elevating the status of online writing we added an online journal, “The Reprint,” which publishes work that first appeared in print. It felt natural to add a space where the internet’s best asset (access) could be utilized to breathe fresh life into previously published (and now bookshelved) stories, and a space that should be immune to the condescension of the literati.
Things are changing. It is already possible to find authors who have literary clout, powerful positions, and online publications. We are not proclaiming the death of print, as there are many exciting and risky print journals produced today and print will never lose (nor should it) its place in the literary world. Our goal is to accelerate this new model, a model that includes online publications — to highlight the exciting literature of those people with a non-traditional kind of clout, of those magazines defining themselves outside the traditional boundaries of the literati.
— Richard Mocarski