"What, have they never heard of blogs?" Every time the Portland Zine Symposium (PZS) comes up in conversation, some variation of this snarky question is put forth. The assumption is that anything zines can do, blogs can do flashier and cheaper.
The hundreds of zinesters set to descend upon Portland State University campus for this weekend's Sixth Annual PZS—three days of zine-related workshops, social events, and networking—would probably disagree with you, and so would I.
In his 1986 book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman argues that every time a technological "advance" in communication is made, there is a rush to fill the medium up. Newspapers, for instance, were immediately filled with useless information irrelevant to the lives of readers. Cell phones are the most obvious example of this phenomenon: Ten years ago, nobody would have argued that they "had" to compulsively "check in" with somebody from the grocery line. With the advent of new forms of communication comes the impulse to flood the airwaves with insipid chatter. Does this sound like blogging to anyone else? Now that everyone has a self-publishing kit at their fingertips, they feel compelled to blog about their trips to Target or to post photos of their cat's snazzy new haircut.
Zines require a modicum of personal investment (expense, time, and craftsmanship) that bloggers don't have to contend with. Since zines are a slower, more hands-on medium, it only makes sense that more care would be afforded them than an inherently ephemeral blog post.
Also, zines create a sense of community that will be on display all weekend at events like the Zinester Prom ("Hey, they're playing Yo La Tengo again!"). In 1993 when I wore a Killdozer T-shirt in Lafayette, LA, I wasn't just saying that I liked grunge covers of Steve Miller songs. I was also saying that I was the kind of guy who liked ironic versions of "Take the Money and Run." Being part of the zine community works the same way. It's a way of saying, "I love people who take the time to handcraft semi-precious, semi-literary twee publications, and I also probably love undersized bicycles and grilled cheese and kickball." Once that's out in the open, it's 900 times easier to make friends with similar interests. So if hanging out with hundreds of kids who make their own little books and get together to talk about how to do it better sounds like fun, take your miniature bike and Killdozer T-shirt to PSU this weekend. Making friends couldn't be easier.