Richmond Zine Fest 2012 Write-Up

Longshot of the Zine Fest
Last Saturday, Erica and I had the pleasure of driving down to Richmond for yet another edition of the Richmond Zine Fest.  We missed last year and were very sorry not to see our usual friends at this event that draws a very large crowd of regular zinesters and curious Richmondites alike.

We arrived a bit late, with I-95 traffic being its usual annoying self, but soon were seated right at the heart of the show.  This was actually our first time tabling in 2012, and that always gives us a different perspective on the show.

Our Table
For example, since we did not get a large number of zines from people we didn't already know, as a consumer the show was just a bit underwhelming for the drive.  But because we were there actually selling/trading zines (both our own series and those in Erica's Black Light Diner Distro) and did quite well, the time passed quickly and we felt like it had been worth the trip.

One of the things that's interesting to me is to see how the Richmond Zine Fest has changed over time.  When we first attended, back in 2008 (on the same trip that ended with my proposing to Erica!), there was a very large focus on text zines, mostly of a personal nature.  There were several large distros who had a  significant presence, including Microcosm and Parcell Press.  A few mini-comics were available, but they were few and far between.

Nicole and Click Clack Distro
This year's show was significantly different.  Our friend Nicole's distro, Click Clack, was the largest at the fest, and she is planning on closing her doors due to time issues.  There were a few other distros, but most of them had a theme and primarily consisted of things by those who were friends only.  Roughly 50% of the tables features comics or artwork, and another 25% of the tables had a strong anarchist theme, as those who resist the establishment take advantage of the DIY nature of zines.

I don't know what this means, really.  Zines are a strange animal, not unlike Vinyl.  The idea of putting how you feel on paper instead of creating a digital record, such as a blog or tweet is a limited appeal.  I wouldn't say the age range of zinesters is creeping upward--there were plenty of tablers who were younger, and the same goes for the audience we saw at the time.

I Love Bad Movies Table
However, I do think that over time, with Etsy and other online shops growing, distros are less necessary to get the word out, and may start seeing a slow decline.  With zines being very regional and travel getting easier, it's harder for a distro to have new work that isn't being sold by the author themselves.  I also think that mini-comics are growing because people think they are "easier" to make.

They aren't, kids.  I saw several that needed more polish before I'd consider reading them.  While self-publishing means you can easily put anything out there, that doesn't mean you should.  Show some respect for yourself and your work by taking the time to edit, look for ways to improve, and only giving copies when you feel it's ready.

Kerri of the Deafula Zine
A shining example of this is Rob Ullman.  Rob's been working in mini-comics for almost twenty years, and while I wouldn't expect anyone new to be at his level, you can see that he takes care to only offer the work he thinks is best, whether it's a small show like the Richmond Zine Fest or a larger production such as Heroes in North Carolina.

Going to conventions is often like attending mini-reunions, and this was no exception.  Erica and I were happy to get to chat with Rob, Nicole, Matt and Kseniya from I love Bad Movies, the gang from Our Friend the Atom, and other folks who we only know from sight by seeing them in Richmond every year, either as participants or visitors.

While the culture of the Richmond Zine Fest is definitely changing slowly over time, it's still a great show that has an awesome venue in the Richmond Gay Community Center (where it is planning to return in 2013), amazing support from the staff, and an open, comfortable space that is welcoming (and makes me want to play bingo).  I love going every year and looking to discover new folks, and even if this year was a little short in that regard, I'm already looking forward to attending next year.

You should be, too.

More pictures from the Richmond Zine Fest are available on my Flickr page.