Zine Corner is an occasional series in which I talk about individual issues of zines I have come across on my travels. Some of these will be about RPGs, some of them will be about horror, some of them will be about folklore, and some of them will just be weird and cool. The rest of the series can be found here.
It is fascinating to me (as someone who has long had an interest in the worlds of science-fiction, horror, RPGs, punk rock, and photography) to see how the world ‘zine’ is used in different sub-cultures.
For example, the annual Hugo awards have long had a category honouring the year’s best fanzine and this category has long been a site of conflict: Nowadays, fans get unhappy when professionals use their clout to get nominated in fan-related categories. Before that people who published amateur digital magazines with distinct issues got unhappy when people started getting nominated for their blogs. I suspect before that there was an issue regarding whether or not your amateur magazine had be available in the form of a physical copy.
In the worlds of roleplaying games and photography, people have been quick to reach for the term ‘zine’ to describe self-published work because ‘zine’ has counter-cultural credibility but the steep prices of these zines combined with their larger print runs, expensive papers, and upscale production values suggest that when people in RPGs and photography talk about publishing a zine, they are actually talking about putting out a chapbook. The TNHC zine is named for The Nottingham Horror Collective and while it is printed on nice paper and has really quite incredibly high production values, the brevity, casualness, and personal nature of the articles all speak to a zine-making tradition that is a lot closer to what the worlds of punk and SFF used to call a fanzine.
TNHC is written and edited by Rose Malone and its graphics, illustration, and layout design are all handled by Ruth Skrytek. This division of labour is presented throughout in quite egalitarian terms and this strikes me as entirely appropriate given that the look of TNHC is as much a source of pleasure as the words and ideas it contains.
Issue I (named The Tower) is only 12 pages-long including the covers. It is printed in black and white on matte paper. I use the term ‘black and white’ advisedly as half the pages are printed white on black and the other half are black on white. Each page is different and a visual feast that extends beyond the simple inclusion of artwork and into a variety of complex layouts including a piece about Danielewski’s House of Leaves that will have you rotating the magazine back and forth in an effort to follow the thread of the review. There are also short reviews of horror films and a page-long review of Epidiah Ravachol’s RPG Dread (the game that uses a Jenga tower rather than dice to resolve conflicts). Also included is a short interview with a local alternative jewellery maker because The Nottingham Horror Collective aren’t just based in Nottingham, they’re also interested in all of the other horror-adjacent stuff that is happening in their local area.
This deliberate localism is also manifest in Issue II (named The Lovers). This issue is 16 pages-long including the covers and it comes not only with a glossy cover but also with the addition of the colour red because if you are making a horror zine and are given the chance to add one colour then it is obviously going to be red. The zine’s localism is evident from the inclusion of work from local artists, authors, and a piece of gnarly non-fiction provided by Nottingham’s National Justice Museum and a page-long piece about the game Speed Dating for Ghosts that is either a piece of New Games Journalism produced by the game’s creator or a piece written from the point of view of one of the game’s characters. Also included are some lovely film reviews by Rose and a longer piece about the way that the myth of the vampire has evolved from being a place-holder for fear of disease to a metaphorical representation of sexuality.
I found TNHC on one of my periodic trawls around Etsy looking for odd-ball bits of photography. I took a bit of a punt on a bundle containing the first five issues (issue VI is apparently imminent) and I’m very glad I did as the zines are beautiful objects and there’s something really quite charming about the desire to connect up the various horror-adjacent creatives operating in the Nottingham area and create a zine that speaks to that very specific scene. In an age where most cultural decisions are made by the chief executives of multinational corporations headquartered thousands of miles and millions of dollars away from normal people, it’s really lovely to find something that is trying to create a proper local scene. This is DIY Culture done right and done with style.