On Zines, Starting a Blog, and Making Art Accessible
In the afternoon’s moments of quiet, a stillness settles on Wonder Fair. Pieces of conversations drift up the stairwell. From our place on the second level, we’re both isolated from and connected to the street below. I sit behind the counter and scan the walls, refreshing my mental catalog of prints, cards, and written work.
Tucked in a corner of the shop is Wonder Fair’s rack of zines, with offerings from Adventures Without Gender to The Harry and the Potters Scandinavian Tour Diary. Many of the zines are stories or memoirs, written in solidarity with those in crisis. Others offer practical advice: how to identify poisonous mushrooms, or write a manifesto for your secret society. But despite the broad range of topics, aesthetics, and creators, everything on the rack is connected by the same subversive intimacy that we at Wonder Fair try to cultivate.
I am new to Lawrence and even newer to the Wonder Fair family. When Meredith and I first began searching for a place where Wonder Fair’s goals aligned with my own interests, we landed on zines and other self-published pieces. I was interested in writing, making things, and learning more about the loosely connected community of writers and artists who had decided to cut out the corporate middleman. Self-distributed works are important because their makers strive to put their ideas directly into the consumers’ hands. Zine distributors don’t ask critics to comment on whether their pieces were worth making. In a society where “high art” is distinguished from craft work and made available only to an elite few, zine culture’s strongest asset is its confidence in its own inherent worth as a form of art.
In this blog, I will review zines, comment on the issues they discuss, and explore how those issues intersect with the ideas of the people that make up Wonder Fair. I hope that each post will serve as not just a commentary but a resource that readers can use as a starting point for discovering zines, art prints, and ideas that excite them. In a word, I hope to make the zines at Wonder Fair accessible.
A few weeks ago, Wonder Fair began to pack boxes and build new spaces. Soon, it will say goodbye to its magical place at the top of the stairs and move to a street-level location. It’s a big step, and not just because our current location has housed us for five years. Our location invites customers and art viewers to actively seek us out. Transactions are deliberate and events are personal. Our intimate atmosphere is valuable: it allows the public to connect with local artists. But our quiet location is also a barrier. From a street-level storefront, we can refocus our efforts on the ideal that Wonder Fair holds so dear: making art accessible.
There has been an enormous amount of press this past week in the overlapping worlds of science fiction and the publishing industry about the Hugo Awards and “sad puppies.”
In case “Sad Puppies” weren’t the main topic of conversation on your rocket ship, this was a discussion (often quite intense) over the recent annual Hugo Awards (one of the industry’s most prestigious prizes) focusing on diversity in stories and the writers behind science fiction books. It included an intervention from George RR Martin of “Game of Thrones” fame and ended with an unprecedented amount of science fiction fans voting for a result that scorched the ballot and endorsed calls for a broader base of themes and writers.
In Lawrence, Chris McKitterick, director of the prestigious Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas, described the results as a “win for science fiction.” Writing on his personal blog, McKitterick praised the outcome for expanding the number of people who read and write science fiction. “Fresh new voices offer novel critiques of the world (and our community) and new visions of ourselves and the future, and if that isn’t what SF is all about, nothing is,” wrote McKitterick. (link below) http://mckitterick.tumblr.com/post/127419421820
Tessa Gratton, a Lawrence-based author of YA fantasy/sci-fi who was featured in our fall 2013 edition, echoed this sentiment in a written Q+A with the magazine about the vote and the future of sci-fi themes.
1) LM: Do you see the vote results as reflecting trends in the sci-fi/fantasy publications? Will they affect reading/publisher trends? Both?
Tessa Gratton: The trend toward diversity and diverse authors in SFF has been ongoing for decades, it’s just been gaining prominence and a place in public discussions lately thanks to a number of current events, scandals, trolls, and of course the ease with which we converse and argue now because of widespread internet access. SFF has always interacted with culture at the forefront, a point Mary Robinette Kowal makes very well on her blog today about why the Hugos matter: http://maryrobinettekowal.com/…/the-hugos-the-puppies-and-…/
So it makes sense to me that at a time when our (Western, US specifically) culture is invested in social change at a very intense level (the recent SCOTUS verdict on gay marriage, trans awareness making national magazine covers, and especially the #BlackLivesMatter movement for example) that the issue would be coming up in our speculative fiction, both in the texts themselves and the conversations surrounding them.
Readers want diversity – some just don’t know they do, or they can’t find it easily, or the books being highlighted to them and pushed with big money aren’t diverse. Readers ARE diverse, and getting more so because of how access to books and information is shifting. I think the Sad Puppies (et al) campaigns are reflective of the same cultural pushback that always happens when old-guard, bigoted minorities are losing the power they’ve been used to having.
As for publisher trends, I hope this Hugo list will be seen as evidence that publishers should want and in fact need to be on the side of diversity. Publishing is a business, and so they are on the side of making money. They make more money on award winners, and so having this proof that awards will go to diverse titles and authors over the loud, self-righteous fear of the Sad Puppies and their ilk should help publishers realize that there is money to be had in diverse SFF.
2) LM: Why is diversity in sci-fi/fantasy important for young readers? And young Kansas readers in particular?
Tessa Gratton: Diversity is important because people are diverse. As Daniel Jose Older said on twitter today (https://storify.com/djolder/we-need-honest-books) diverse literature is really just honest literature. Our world is diverse and our literature should be exploring our world – even and especially SFF. Young readers are still in the process of developing their first understandings of the world outside themselves and their families, still developing an understanding of politics and discourse – they MUST be exposed to people of all kinds. White kids need stories that help them face and unlearn the racisms they benefit from, and kids of color need to see themselves reflected in the stories they read. They need to see Black princesses and Hispanic astronauts and Asian inspired high fantasy worlds and alien worlds where all the future humans are not straight, white dudes.
In a place like Kansas that is very whitewashed and politically conservative, it matters just as much. When I was 11 years old I read a fantasy series by Mercedes Lackey that had everything I loved: magic, romance, talking horses, epic adventures… and one of the most cool wizards was gay. I didn’t know any gay people – I barely knew what being gay was – and this series ingrained in me that some amazing heroes are also gay. Instead of my first introduction to non-heterosexuality being surrounded by arguing and politics, or worse, sex talk with teachers, it was a beloved novel and so it made me think and feel instead of resist, and “gayness” just became a part of my young world-view.
3) LM: What is your pick for 3 examples of authors/books doing it right in terms of sci-fi/fantasy diversity? (Particularly for YA readers)
Tessa Gratton: JUST THREE??? Focusing on YA helps, though:
Alaya Dawn Johnson has adult and YA award winners that are fantastic, and really explore racism and sexuality in various incredible settings.
Kate Elliot has been publishing books with diversity for at least 20 years (it’s really NOT a new trend!), and just published her first officially YA fantasy.
Malinda Lo does both diverse YA fairy tale re-tellings and great YA SF.
[Photo Image: Tessa Gratton, 2013; copyright Lawrence Magazine]
The Universe is a Big Place To Lose a Balloon. But NuPenny is Right Here!
This composite is made from a merged, 3 exposure shot of an art exhibit, installed on a dead end road, and a star vortex (AD Wheeler photoshop action) created from a Milky Way shot I recently took.
Body: Sony ILCE-6000
Lens: Sony E 55-210mm F4.5-6.3 OSS
Exposure: 1/25 sec
Focal Length: 41mm
Be quick! It’ll only be in Lawrence, KS, for a little while longer.
Venture to the eastern end of 19th Street, out past the Douglas County Fairgrounds, and you’ll be treated to this Space Age kiosk filled with chrome-colored objects - UFOs, rocket ships, cars, and more, planted on an unused stretch of concrete and powered by the Sun.
It’s unclear how many NuPenny Toystores there actually were in the United States, or if in fact there ever were more than one. Whatever is the case, one yet exists - this particular NuPenny Toystore.
Conceived as a nomadic version of the traditional store model, the NuPenny Toystore is a traveling art installation that its creator, Wichita artist Randy Regier, calls “NuPenny’s Last Stand."
Since the beginning of the 21st century, there have been documented sightings of a NuPenny Toystore in Maine, Florida, Illinois, Arkansas, and Kansas. Only one is known to still exist. Lawrence, Kansas, may indeed be NuPenny’s Last Stand.
It’s best encountered at night, when the thing lights up like a radioactive
UFO. Don’t miss the newest weirdness of LFK!
I was so blessed to get the opportunity to travel with some fellow #LFK crew up to @summersetfest to experience a #musicfestival from the working aspect! Had a blast, learned a ton and saw @deadmau5! This chica is happy and ready for her bed though! The shop is now off vacation and ready to roll! Vivian I will be headed crystal hunting for your custom #Scorpio dabber ♏️