Reviving perzine culture
The 2023 perzine challenge
I ordered my first zines in the mail in the year 2000. I was 13 years old and had got my hands on Broken Pencil magazine. In it there were zine reviews with info on how you could order the zines. I would put 2 dollars in an envelope and walk to the end of my driveway and put it in the mailbox and move the little red sign thing into the upright position. Then I would wait for my zine. Then I made one of my own. My very first zine was called Glitterduck. Some of the zines listed in Broken Pencil said theu accepted trades so I could send my zine to a stranger and they would send me theirs in return.
I loved zines. Deeply. In zines I found writing about trauma, pain, the desire to live, queerness, sexuality, surviving. I found myself between the photocopied pages of someone else’s heartfelt scrawl or cut and pasted collage. Zines became my life line and I never stopped making them. Through every single disparate chapter of my life I have made zines. When I was a sketchy street involved youth I got cut off from using the photocopier at the drop in centre because I was making too many copies.
The internet didn’t kill zines as so many predicted it would. Despite the rise of online diaries, blogs, and then, social media, people kept writing zines and sending them to each other in the mail. I was deep in zine culture all throughout my 20s, both through the mail and at zine fairs. But in the last bunch of years I’ve felt really disconnected from zine culture. Cancel culture and “social justice” orthodoxy have stripped zines of their raw vulnerability and messy imperfection. The hypervigilant puritanical culture of call outs leaves no room for the ethic ans aesthetic of zines that always encouraged people to show up exactly as they are, to be brave, and to break rules.
For those who don’t know, “perzine” stands for personal zine and is a specific genre of zine that focuses on creative nonfiction / memoir style writing. The writer writes about her life. This is my lineage as a zinester and as a writer. So much of who I am, how I write, and what I believe comes from my love for perzines. Perzines are little windows into the worlds of other people. Perzines are brave, vulnerable, and don’t ask for permission. Perzines show us that each of our lives are important and interesting and worth recording and sharing. Each of us has a story to tell.
I’ve been longing for the brave messy boldness of the perzines I remember but I think the puritanical sanitization of cancel culture has gutted perzine culture like it has so many other things. My own writing is enlivened and inspired by reading perzines so I feel lost without them.
So, I decided to do something about it. This summer on my instagram I used a perzine challenge. I gave people one month to write a perzine and put it in the mail to me. In exchange I will be sending all the participants my new perzine, riverbed. I also told everyone that I would collect info about the submitted zines and share that info here so that people can buy each other’s zines or better yet, trade zines! I am trying to revive perzine culture (with a distinctly anti cancel culture slant).
The zines are in! Below I will list them and how to get in touch with the author so you can read the zine. I highly encourage everyone reading this to get in touch with these writers and read their zines, whether or not you participated in the challenge. If any perzine-challenge zines come in late I’ll add them here but I think this is the complete list now. If you sent your zine and it isn’t here, get in touch with me. If any of the info about your zine is incorrect also get in touch (I had to transcribe handwritten notes so there could be errors). If you tag me in any posts about your zine challenge zine I will share it to help you promote!
Here are the zines!
House bodies. Some unedited thoughts on houses as bodies from a housekeeper. Send me a zine or sticker to my address and I’ll send this zine back. Address: Smelliot P.O. Box 442 Stamford NY 12167 USA.
stained glass window. $6. Poems, musings, short stories + illustrations on overcoming religious indoctrination, being a queer child in the bible belt, traveling, love + healing. It’s my life story in 28 pages. Yes to trades. Venmo: CharlieIris. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Natural Fellowship: A Hellenic Revivalist’s Thoughts on Nature, Suffering, Faith, and Submission to It All by L. Erin Athenodora. Natural Fellowship is a perzine that intimately discusses and examines the human struggle with suffering, suffering’s relationship to bliss, the role of faith in our internal and natural worlds, and how we are supposed to survive the vast human experience when it is so heavy and beautiful. From the zine: There are seasons where the night is longer than the day, and they are difficult — but there are also seasons where the day is longer than the night. $7. Paypal to email@example.com (you can also nudge me at l.e.athendora on instagram!) Contact: l.e.athendora on instagram, firstname.lastname@example.org. Trades accepted with mutual interest.
Mammals & Exo-planets. Cost: 4$ annecelesteeitzen.bigcartel.com Email: email@example.com Trades are welcome. This zine is an intimate reflection of my ongoing journey with mental health: it explores trauma and resilience from my perspective as a therapist and as a patient. It’s a window into the work of integrating parts of myself and how I’ve had to learn to parent my inner child while preparing myself to become a parent. Content warning: this writing includes raw content on trauma which may be challenging to read, go gently and remember your own self-care.
darkness by Emma Lambiase. $5 USD. demiatrix.bandcamp.com/merch or contact firstname.lastname@example.org or emma.lambiase on instagram. I accept zine trades! What happens when we let the body live unbridled? darkness is a 16 page exploration into healing possibilities for depression and anxiety through chaotic dance, poetry, and trance states. It is a personal montage, one individual’s process for re-wilding the mind towards a more liberated experience of living.
The Bathhouse Philosopher. The Bathhouse Philosopher is a new periodical zine about pleasure, sex and showing up in the world. Material is explicit prose and gay boy filth including deep desire and transcendence; orgies and leather; trans joy and orgasm. Some existentialism, lots of cum. First issue open to trades. Buy the zine: thebathhousephilosopher.bigcartel.com. $5 CAD + approx. $2.00 shipping in Canada/$3.00 US Contact: email@example.com Insta: bathhousephilosopher.
To The End by Vincent Stephen. $1. Paypal but please contact me first. Will happily accept zine trades! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Insta: slimagnostic. A zine about nostalgia, mortality, friendship, and the English rock band, Blur.
L’Anemnyme, Les Cygnes III. Free + shipping cost from Belgium to you. Paypal: Caso.email@example.com. Contact: Caso.firstname.lastname@example.org or lautre.champ.deau on ig. I accept trades! Les Cygnes is a fanzine serie I created to motivate myself to write really short texts about words, writings, symbols, and signs around me. This 3rd issue is about how I decided to change the way I’ve used my family name and how I needed a new word for it as they are absent in my life. Written first in French, it explores our way of creating new words with the ancient Latin and Greek roots of our language.
Savage and Untethered. $5 AUD + p+h. Within Aus: #3 AUD p+h. International: $12 AUD p+h. Paypal: sarahsargan. Trades accepted! S + U explores identity through poems, personal essays, sketches + photos from the past ten years. Themes: parenthood, sexuality, neurotype, race + mental health. Send zines for trade: Sarah Sargan c/o Golden Rivers Theatre Group, PO Box 335, Barham NSW, Australia.
Inner Lover. $5. If ro trade or purchase reach out to me on email email@example.com. I have venmo: elise-dole and paypal: elise-dole
A cabin of my own own by Cecilia Cheshire. Buy it using Ko-fi: https://ko-fi.com/ceciliacheshire. A cabin of my own is about feeling uprooted when you move often, the yearning for a cottage in the countryside, and how to balance cultivating your relationships and keeping time alone. I explore what it means for me to grow and to settle in a home while being burned out. The physical copy costs 1,5 euro (plus shipping from France) and the digital one is 0,5 euro. People can join me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I accept trades.
Old enough to know better: A pro-choice zine from an anti-abortion childhood. rufflejax.itch.io. Open to trades.
Ahneforschig / Geneaology. Follow me into the steep dark needle woods of the Swiss Alps. Where the rich of the earth go to ski is where my family is from. This perzine contains six short stories about my experiences growing up with an alcoholic mom and bipolar dad, Americans being intense about their ancestors on the internet, teen Nazis turned communist spies and feral sisterhood under melting glaciers. Free. I appreciate if you help with the cost of postage, which depends on your location, but if PayPal fees make it too much of a hassle, that’s fine. I accept trades. Contact me at email@example.com or the.philoser on instagram.
Bug Theory 2.0. $10 - $15. Ig: bug.theory.arts. DM to order. Venmo: EmetAron. Trades accepted. Bug Theory is part transition story, part love letter to insects + arachnids. This comic memoir takes an emphatic view of Emet’s struggle to metamorphose in their early 30’s, and looks back into their childhood as an ‘amateur bug-ologist’ for clues about who they will becomes.
Fat: On rejecting beauty standards and embracing fat liberation. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Asexuality and the End of the World by Isobel. 1.75 GBP for UK. 3.50 GBP for international. Paypal: asexualendoftheworld. Email for more info: email@example.com. Asexuality at the end of the world is an approximately 2500 word rant about asexual experience in 2023. It raises questions, makes bold statements, and tries to define why asexuality is so queer and so boring at the same time.
CUNTY HEXAPOD. $10 ppd. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org to order (venmo, cash app, cash in mail accepted) or for more info. All requests for zine trades longer than 8 pages accepted! Cunty Hexapod is a memoir personal zine from a messy transfemme performance artist who has spent years touring thru DIY subcultural scenes, getting loaded on drugs, and yearning to fill the void.
No-Talking Girl Speaks #1. $3 CAD // open to trades. To order / for more info: email email@example.com. Paypal.me/kittywych. When No-Talking Girl Speaks, hearts break and worlds are woven back together. This is the secret origin story of a sensitive, weirds 90s kid who couldn’t stop slipping through the cracks, how she survived, and how she’s healing her structural dissociation.
There is No Map for This. Touch uncertainty and navigate not-knowing with this pocket-sized, interactive artist book meets perzine. It poetically contrasts internal and external experience. Includes writing prompts so you can make your own map. £5.00 +postage. (approx 10 USD including postage to the USA.) Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your order, payment can be made via paypal to email@example.com. Yes to zine trades. Instagram: maijaliepins or maija_writes.
Wastewater Woes. A mini perzine expressing some thoughts about my chosen trades industry / career after 1.5 weeks working my first job in this industry! I want to trade zines! Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. Not for sale but if you want a copy I will send you a free email pdf.
The Good People Will Destroy Us: Social Incarceration, Trauma, and Moral Hierarchy. This zine is an account of what led me to cancel / socially incercerate a friend of mine several years ago who I’ve recently reconnected with and apologized to. I write about the reasons why punishment, demanding accountability, and categorizing people as either good or bad are in conflict with my anti-oppressive values now. It’s also about the ways that our trauma responses can become abusive to other people, the polarizing effect of social justice culture, and how shadow work (and specifically parts work) is a means of healing and relating to one another in our complexity. $5 or trade for your zine. Email email@example.com to request a copy. Payment: venmo to juno-huxley or cash or money order in the mail. Email for address.
FUCK. Fuck is an 8 page perzine by honor ash folded from an A4 piece of green card. It’s a little autobiographical zine from an artist who doesn’t draw that often. http://store.ambition.rip/product/fuck Ambition’s Graveyard Unit 6C ABC Wharf Norwich Norfolk England NR1 1QH. firstname.lastname@example.org. http://hnr.fyi
Being Jeremy. 10€. Order: Paypal. A perzine celebrating my life. A scary bold mirror, possibly inspiring others. email@example.com. Accepts trades.
Dolphin Love Forever. A zine about moving through grief and being moved by grief. It is about a loved one becoming an ancestor. Donation + shipping (paypal) or zine trade. Contact: glitterrspitterr (ig). firstname.lastname@example.org.
Write. Issue number 1 of a personal zine, inspiring you to keep on writing, from a window of my own journals. Cost: free. Accepting trades. Instagram: mercedes_cash. Email: email@example.com.
Pirate Grrrl #7: Love Shanty. $3 / trade. firstname.lastname@example.org. Venmo: kaeti-gugiu. A triumphant return to my perzine of the 90s celebrating my also triumphant return to gayness. Reflections on the power of visibility + love letters + pirates. Also a lowkey OFMD fanzine.
LIMINAL SPACE. $10 shipping included. Order: paypal email@example.com. Liminal Space is an exploration of the gray areas that reveal themselves after exiting 13 years of existence in the black and white trauma brain. It dives into the inextricable links between love, loss, pain, and magic. It’s a sigh of relief. Cuban Lynx P.O Box 66352 Houston, TX 77266 USA. Trades encouraged.
Bottled Sunshine. A recipe for an antidepressant tincture of St. John’s Wort herb, and ruminations on also being an invasive from Europe in North America. $4. Cashapp: vanshar. Venmo: vanshar. Trades welcome. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
That’s How Strong My Love Is. $6 to cover printing and shipping. I will give a free copy if a donation is made to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine — The Les and Irene Good Samaritan Fund. Email me a screenshot of proof of donation. This is a perzine about pet grief. Pet grief is a difficult path to navigate and one that people are expected to move beyond at an unreasonable fast pace. The writing in nonlinear and encompasses thoughts about grieving the loss of a soulmate in pet form over the course of 500+ days. To order a copy email email@example.com
Chrysanthemum. Venmo: snow-silas. Cashapp: sailorstarstuffs. $4 or trade. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. This poetry zine is on life, love (of the queer persuasion) and heartbreak.
Dreamworld. $2 USD, trades accepted. Please email to order and I will reply with a paypal address if you are paying rather than trading for it. email@example.com. This zine is about being super punk rock when I was a kid, studying natural sciences, feeling alienated from other girls, and (hopefully) working through some shit.
The Garden of Fucking Delight. 10 EUR / 11 USD / 15 CAD / 9 GBP. Order via instagram dm: fannylander. Or viapaypal: tiffanyglenn1406. The Garden of Fucking Delight is a zine where I use handmade paper collage art and personal essay to parse my thoughts on how my personal experiences relate to the structure of the society I’m from. I don’t use trigger warnings, but it does deal with some heavy topics and themes and, where possible, deals with them with candor and humor. For more info email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
My notebooks are containers by Anna W. $4 / 3€. Order via email: email@example.com. Paypal information will be provided by email. This zine is about my experience of reading The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction by Ursula K. Le Guin in a garden with a friend, and about how my notebooks, which I use for drawing and writing, sustained me in a period in which I was struggling and living a nomadic life. It is also about creating space for complexity and opening up again. I would love trades.
Three Thoughts. $5. Paypal. DM: stellan.tobias on instagram. Trades accepted. This zine is exactly what it sounds like. Three short pieces on 1) the inevitable decay of my body seen through the lens of an aging grandparent and my love of travel, 2) "man made" objects and their origins in the earth, and 3) the dissonance between the insularity of online queer spaces and the expansive reality of cis and straight friendships where I find support in my waking life.
Enjoy these zines and I hope this inspires you to make a zine of your own! I may do another zine challenge in the future, so stay tuned!
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Clementine Morrigan is a writer and public intellectual based in Montréal, Canada. She writes popular and controversial essays about culture, politics, ethics, relationships, sexuality, and trauma. A passionate believer in independent media, she’s been making zines since the year 2000 and is the author of several books. She’s known for her iconic white-text-on-a-black-background mini-essays on Instagram. One of the leading voices on the Canadian Left and one half of the Fucking Cancelled podcast, Clementine is an outspoken critic of cancel culture and a proponent of building solidarity across difference. She is a socialist, a feminist, and a vegan for the animals and the earth.