Zines and Small Press Publishing

3 Meat_Raffle_Zines
PICTURED: “Meat Raffle” zine by Erik Farseth (2013)


I first discovered zines in the late 1980s.

One of the first zines that I ever encountered was Art Police, a long-running collection of drawings and alternative comics edited by the painter Frank Gaard. As a 14-year-old who had grown up reading Marvel comics, it was unlike anything that I had ever seen before.

Local poets were printing chapbooks at Kinko’s copies and selling them for a couple of bucks. Punk bands were running off booklets and flyers, and handing them out at shows. All it took to create a zine was access to a photocopier: simply collate the pages, fold it in half, and staple in the middle.

Seeing how other people were assembling their own little magazines helped to demystify the process.

It wasn’t long before I had started contributing articles to several underground newspapers.

As a member of Youth Against Militarism (YAM), I was part of the editorial collective behind Free Association, a quarterly political zine written and edited by high school students. I was also contributing to my friends’ xeroxed fanzine Renegade Press.

Free Association lasted for roughly five years (1990-1995). By the time that it folded, most of the original writers had already graduated and moved on to other projects.

Two-page spread from “Wipe Away My Eyes” (2001)

In 1992, I began publishing a zine called the J. Cruelty Catalog, together with a small group of friends.

J. Cruelty lasted for a dozen issues, and was even featured in the Alt.Youth.Media exhibition at the New Museum of Contemporary Art (NYC).

It was around this same time that I discovered Factsheet 5, a comprehensive review zine and social networking tool that predated (and prefigured) the advent of the World Wide Web. Through Factsheet 5, I was introduced to a global network of independent publishers who were trading zines back-and-forth through the mail.

J Cruelty was followed by Paper, Scissors, Clocks —a much larger zine (136 pages!)– which was printed in an edition of 1,000 copies on newsprint. Between 1997 and 2001 I published three issues of Paper, Scissors, Clocks, copies of which were distributed in Europe, the Americas, and New Zealand.

In the year 2000, I received a grant which enabled me to publish Wipe Away My Eyes, a book-length zine “…about the size of a small phone book,” followed by a special 10th anniversary edition of the J. Cruelty Catalog.

By that time, I was also contributing articles to other zines, including: Punk Planet, The Zine Yearbook, and Maximum RocknRoll.

In 2004, I co-founded the annual Twin Cities Zine Fest with Gerald Prokop as a way of giving back to the community. Thirteen years later, the festival is still going strong.

In 2005, I left town to go to graduate school, where my thesis project included interviews with zine editors and other cultural activists.

In 2013 –after an 11-year hiatus– I returned to zine-making with the art zine Meat Raffle. Three years later, I published another collection called Some Assembly Required.


For many years, I was actively trading zines with people from all over the world.

It wasn’t long before I had amassed a collection of zines big enough to fill an entire storage unit.

Many of these publications were produced in extremely limited quantities. I realized that this could be an important resource for researchers and scholars.

In 2014, I donated a collection of 1,052 zines to the University of Iowa Libraries. The Erik Farseth Zine Collection features small press publications from 20 countries, spanning the years 1970-2013.

GALLERY: 30 Years of Zine-making by Erik Farseth