Comically on Time
It was October 16, 2010 and the only dream I harbored in my heart for the day was this: PLEASE let me get to the Richmond 'Zine Festival early enough to claim a nice table and set up stuff before the anarchists throw up their pamphlets. (Nothing against the anarchists, of course; their literature is just threateningly omnipresent sometimes, kind of like evangelical leaflets at other venues). But sometimes even a humble wish isn't humble enough.
Though I left with ample time to swing by my boyfriend's to pick up a box of our comics magazine, comically, I had failed to listen to the news that morning. Normally, it would have taken only twenty minutes to drive from my house to his, then grab the comics and speed off to the Richmond Gay Community Center. Not today though; Virginia Union University was holding a massive, traffic-snarling homecoming parade in the belly of the city.
Of course, I had no real reason to get anxious. 'Zine fests are pretty relaxed affairs, yet I'm a victim of English Time. Everything else about them speaks to my type of personality, though. 'Zine festivals are about art, personal expression, and, more often than not, socio-political issues. Zinesters pay little to participate, rarely make a profit off of what they sell, and usually treat the events like social outings. You go to have fun, learn, and share your work. There's no clock-punching.
When I finally parked, my heart stopped pounding. I was sitting outside one of the most welcoming institutions in the city. The Richmond Gay Community Center is painted in Care Bear hues, for goodness sake. At last, I smiled. I grabbed my sign for The Greater Washington Independent Arts Festival and my box of comics magazines. Then I walked in, happy to find that a table already bore a paper with my name.
As the event unfolded, I found it was everything I expected: a celebration of words, photocopiers, and snail mail.
The Richmond 'Zine Festival reveals just a smidgeon of RVA's underground culture. As you'd guess, the event primarily celebrates 'zines and local 'zine-making communities, like Flying Brick Library and Wingnut. 'Zines are small, independently produced magazines, usually with a socio-political slant. Many 'zines feature subjects like atheism, anarchy, feminism, veganism, and environmental science. In other words, these aren't necessarily topics of conversation you'd bring up during Sunday brunch with your Grandma.
Despite stereotypes regarding the South, Richmond has its own brand of punk culture and activism. Think of Exile or Strange Matter or Slaughterama just for a start. The 'zine fest served - and will continue to serve - as a literary portal into that world.