Most years when we put out the fall issue of Broken Pencil we give it a theme. That theme in turn coincides with the theme we present at Canzine, our annual festival of zines and underground culture, held in Toronto and, this year, in Vancouver too. For a while, in fact, all of our issues revolved around a central topic. About a year ago we loosened up and decided to stray from theme issues and write about whatever seemed interesting at the time.
This year, we undid the shackles even more and released Canzine, and the corresponding issue of the magazine (this one here, in your hands), from theme-land as well. But still, somehow, at least three of the articles in this issue do seem tied together. Not just in their focus on independent culture, but in their examples of how independent culture is coming out on top.
It all starts with Ryan Bigge and his article exploring how to recognize acts of independent culture now that “indie” has, in many ways, taken over the mainstream. Using examples such as the growing success of handmade and the downfall of major labels and network TV, authors and bloggers alike have suggested that a revamp of what it means to be “indie” is coming, and Bigge paints us a picture of what he thinks that should look like.
In part, “indie” is going to focus more and more on economics. It’s going to look like creators using crowd funding methods to undertake ambitious projects with the help of supportive communities, as Alex Gurnham explains in his article on online funding platforms.
Indie, as Bigge tells us, is also always going to be about intention and authenticity (however problematic those two things may be). Which brings me to puppets.
In this issue, I wrote a feature about puppets and their increasing predominance in certain alt-performance circles. I faced resistance from the rest of the BP team. They argued that puppets — best known for slaying dragons at four-year-old birthday parties — had long since been colonized by the mainstream, perennial favorites to appear on Broadway or cable TV as drug-addled porn addicted murderers. I argue that puppets are interesting for precisely that reason — in the small space between lamely familiar and lamely shocking, there’s a whole bunch of people repurposing puppets in a way that is utterly authentic. Read the article on page 18 and see if you agree.
Just before we wrapped up this issue, Broken Pencil and the Toronto Reference Library held a panel discussion on the future of zines. Zinester and graphic novelist Megan Speers, zine maker and collector Chris Landry, and BP’s own Ian Sullivan Cant joined me and a group of around 30 spectators to talk about why zines aren’t dying out despite the growing mainstream perception that they already have. Amongst the many pieces of the conversation, one salient point kept emerging, a point that neatly echoed Ryan Bigge’s take on “indie” today. That point, was, again, economic. While zines come with little potential to make money or lead their creator to a book deal and a TV sitcom, the fact is creators generally don’t care about the money. In fact, it’s this shared lack of interest in creating something for profit that ties this community of makers together. Maybe that means they’re more authentic than ever.