W. Scott Poole: In Praise of the Obscure: 'Flying Saucers Rock 'n' Roll'

Roundup: Talking About History

Scott Poole is a writer and an associate professor of history at the College of Charleston. He is the author of Monsters in America: Our Historical Obsession with the Hideous and Haunting (October 2011), a work where he uses the monster to explore American anxieties over race, sex, gender, and religious belief.

The ‘zine had its heyday in the ‘80s and ‘90s. These cut and paste newsletters and comics grew out of the DIY ethic of punk and perhaps as a reaction against the juggernaut of the cultural mainstream. ‘Zines for sci-fi fans and horror movie nerds flourished alongside ‘zines for emerging third wave feminism. It was like scrapbooking for cool people, a pre-internet attempt at democratizing an increasingly routinized world of media and cultural expression.

Music nerds, wondering what to do after The Smiths broke up, also created their ‘zines about all the stuff that wasn’t being played on the radio, bands that would never come to their part of the country and that Rolling Stone would never tell them about. Grunge itself could be seen as an outgrowth of the ‘zine movement since Sub-Pop got its start as a little newsletter that subscribers received along with a cassette tape of new music.

One of the most long lasting of these ‘zines, and one that has kept its underground cred and mission, was Roctober. It was born in 1992 at the Rhode Island School of Design when Jake Austen needed a ‘zine to build around an interview and an exhaustive profile he had written about Sleepy LeBeef, a rockabilly cult figure Austen had seen when LeBeef did a show at a Chinese restaurant called “Chan’s Eggroll and Jazz” in Woonsocket, Rhode Island....

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