Organized by Canadian independent arts magazine, Broken Pencil, this year’s 16th annual Canzine Festival was the biggest yet. With over 190 vendors, it had all the appearances of an underground community come to life. “Toronto is a hub for this kind of thing,” said Lindsay Gibb, editor of Broken Pencil.
“People who are making zines don’t generally have an intention of making money off their enterprise, they just want a way to express themselves,” said Gibb. And express themselves they do. Zinesters engage in one of the few remaining outlets of genuine self-expression and unregulated, uncensored creativity, and are generally uninterested in making their creations “mainstream.”
As Jacob Railnger of Ampersand Publications, puts it, “When you open a zine, it’s kind of like talking to that crazed madman on the TTC; you’re just exposed to all these thoughts that maybe people shouldn’t be putting into a twelve page chap book, but they are, and it’s a fascinating window into society.”
The Canzine festival, unsurprisingly, places heavy emphasis on art zines and independent artists, with the politically subversive and more outwardly counterculture publications (such as Shameless or Mass Ornament) scattered throughout. Dan Barclay, a comic book artist, has been attending Canzine as a vendor for about ten years. He notes that the “People producing the material have really diversified,” not only in the range of publications, but in the surprising amount of non-zine merchandise for sale, including clothing items and hand-crafted knick-knacks.
Despite the strong sense of community, adamant counterculture and DIY attitudes, zinesters are avowedly not a cult. And, while most are dedicated and passionate about the power of the zine, some express a sense of humility and realism about their endeavours. Railinger, who also works with the podcast NerdHurdles, had a candid approach to the scene. “I started as a way to meet people, which worked disastrously. It’s a good way to really isolate yourself from society, and then sit at a table at a zine fair for eight hours.” So why do it? “I recognize how ridiculous it is, but at the same time, I think that it’s really important to do, and really important for everyone in this room to be doing it,” he explained.
The Canzine festival atmosphere was one of community: the friendly and talented vendors, organizers, and attendees represent people from all walks of life who together and in their own right, have created a form of media that truly expresses themselves and their values. No matter your particular interest, there is most likely a zine, chapbook, journal, or alternate alternative media form for you. And if there isn’t, zine philosophy says it’s up to you to make your own. Certainly, if the success of Canzine is any indication, you’ll have a community of fellow zinseters and a strong consumer base to support you.