If proof is needed that independent zine publishing is alive and kicking on the West Coast, look no further than Canzine West. Presented by Broken Pencil magazine, the one-day zine fair and celebration of alternative culture returns to Vancouver on (Saturday) November 17.
Hal Niedzviecki, founder of Canzine and publisher of Broken Pencil, said the event is all about showcasing the many funky, weird, and often lovingly made independent publications out there. Niedzviecki argues that print zines are still relevant, despite the fact people can easily turn to the Internet to self-publish their ideas.
“The big picture of zine culture is, when the web came into its own and became the predominant method of communication in our culture, a lot of people said, ‘Okay, that’s it, zines are finished,’” he told the Straight by phone from Toronto. “‘No one’s going to be doing this anymore.’ And I think that was true. We saw a dip in people making this stuff, and everyone was so busy starting blogs and all that kind of thing.
“But,” he continued, “what ended up happening was that people started to go back to zines, and back to handmade objects and publications, and that sort of backlash against the web, you might call it, or return to the handmade has been sort of ongoing, I think, and really picking up steam in the last, say, three years or so.”
For Canzine West, the partner event to the Toronto edition of Canzine, dozens of fair exhibitors have signed up. They will be displaying and selling an array of zines, books, comics, and other printed creations.
“Just as we’re starting to see artisanal clothing and people obsessed with locally roasted coffee beans and handmade chocolates, their media and cultural consumption is also undergoing that sort of 100-mile diet kind of attitude,” Niedzviecki said. “People are actually out there looking for this kind of material and really appreciating it more, saying, ‘Wow, in this age of the digital and the ephemeral, here someone has actually gone through the trouble of making something, and that actually stirs me more than I-don’t-care.com.’”
While the zine fair is the highlight of the festival, the schedule also includes a range of other activities to entertain and enlighten.
New this year for the Vancouver festival is a book-pitch event. Fledgling authors will have the chance to try and sell their book idea to a panel of judges while a crowd listens in. The judges are poet Elizabeth Bachinsky, publisher Brian Kaufman, and author John Vigna.
There will also be a panel discussion on political discourse and censorship in the arts community. Moderated by activist Derrick O’Keefe, the panellists are comedian and author Charles Demers, educator and author Ray Hsu, and journalist Mark Leiren-Young.
Attendees can also look forward to an author-reading event, featuring novelist A.G. Pasquella, graphic novelist Sarah Leavitt, novelist Teresa McWhirter, novelist and singer Jean Smith, and Niedzviecki.
Canzine West takes place at W2 Community Media Arts Centre [111 W Hastings Street] on Saturday from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is $5 and includes a copy of Broken Pencil. For more information, visit www.brokenpencil.com.