When I was 17 and looking for people to relate to, Broken Pencil was my enlightenment. The first copy of Broken Pencil I bought was issue number four. With its bright orange cover and purple cut and paste images and text, it sat on the top of the desk in my bedroom for months. I flipped through it repeatedly, reading about the likes of Germain Koh and Pas de Chance, Chicks United for Non-Noxious Transportation and Rivet. It showed me a world of zine-making larger than I ever could have imagined. Eventually, BP introduced me to many other creators (including Ryan Bigge, Teri Vlassopoulos and skot deeming), people I came to know both through their zines and through their presence at BP’s long running zine fair, Canzine.
Now, 13 years and 46 issues after I picked up issue four, Broken Pencil is using its 50th issue to honor some of the alumni of that issue — Koh, Ian Phillips of Pas de Chance, Sally McKay of C.U.N.T. and the man behind Rivet, Stacey Case — in our countdown of the 50 people we love (page 18). This isn’t about nostalgia. It’s about showing how vital and important the ideas behind zine culture — independence, spontaneity, community — remain. It’s about saluting those who inspired and continue to inspire us, and connecting people just coming to zine culture to some of the greats and their achievements.
Today zinemakers may feel like they are spoiled for choice when it comes to finding ways to connect with other writers and creators, but in many ways Broken Pencil is more important than ever. As Liz Worth notes in her piece on why zines still matter (page 14) the era when zines were beloved by the mainstream is over. When I was 17, I connected to zines through Broken Pencil, but I might have heard of zines in some other way, a curious article in the Lifestyle section of a daily newspaper, or a random cluster of zine-makers invited on to a CBC radio morning show. Mainstream interest has dried up and, for better or worse, we’re pretty much on our own. Whether online or in print, whole new generations of potential zinesters and zine readers are discovering the possibilities of independent creative action through Broken Pencil. Looking back at issue four, I find it hard to believe that I’m editing the 50th issue and that it’s still here and still as vibrant and important as ever. Now let’s see if we can make it to 100….