Raw Material

Mark Frauenfelder & Carla Sinclair, bOING bOING

Ages: Mark, 36; Carla, ??

Selections: "I'll Say Anything," by David Pescovitz (page 97); "Emergency Personal Broadcast TV," by Bill Barker (page 147)

Recent review (from MMM): "I love this zine! I love the noise it makes in my head, the way it looks, the articles, the attitude, the design, but mainly the way that you can say the name over and over again and not get bored."

Sample: $5 from 11288 Ventura Blvd., #818, Studio City, CA 91604 (checks: Mark Frauenfelder)

When did you launch your zine? What inspired you to do so?
Mark: We launched bOING bOING in 1988. I was a mechanical engineer designed one of about 100 parts. It took months and months to design and test your assigned part. All the engineers knew each other by what parts they were designing. I was the motor guy. The engineer next to me was the flex lead guy. On Fridays we'd go to lunch with the actuator guy and the spacer ring guy and talk about sports and imported cars. I hate sports and I hate cars built after 1960, so even the meals were unsatisfying. I needed some kind of creative outlet, so Carla and I decided to start a zine. We decided to explore the coolest, wackiest stuff we could think of, and came up with the name bOING bOING. Bouncing through our crazy world.

Why publish a zine?
Mark: I love zines because one person can be responsible for all 100 parts. There's no money in it, but it can lead to paying gigs if you're good.
boing boingCarla: We publish to get "for review" freebies like records and books in the mail. Also, if you're a publisher you don't have to kowtow to anyone. You never have to query. You can say what you want, and talk about stuff the mainstream publications avoid either out of fear or ignorance.

Have you ever published any other zines?
Mark: Before we started bOING bOING, I did two issues of a mini-comic called Toilet Devil. I read an article about a gorilla they trained to use sign language. Whenever the gorilla was mad at one of the humans, she'd call them a toilet devil.

Any general tips for aspiring zinesters?
Mark: Keep it small and you'll have more fun. Newsstand distribution is a drag. The freight is expensive, the sell-through rates are low, it is a chore doing the accounting, and distributors are famous for going out of business before they pay you. You'll probably lose money if you try it. Also, don't start a music zine. There are already ten thousand music zines out there. Nobody cares what you think about music anyway.
bOINGmanCarla: Don't get all caught up in mass-circulation and big-time advertisers. Of course if you're creating a magazine you have to play the game, but we're talking zines here. Our goal used to be to make bOING bOING slick and popular, but to do that we had to deal with tightwad distributors and write about stuff we weren't interested in to attract ads. It took all the zest out of zinemaking. It became more business than pleasure, and I was pulling out my hair. Now our goal is to just to have fun. As long as it keeps on giving me pleasure to create it, I'm in. We've cut WAY back on distribution (it's basically subscription-only now) and we throw away requests from advertisers. We went from a circulation of 100 up to 17,000, and then back down to several thousand. I guess we've come full circle.

What's your favorite part of doing a zine?
Mark: Reading a great story submission and designing the zine.
Carla: Opening a box that's just come from the printers to see how the new issue looks.

In my other life, I'm an:
Mark: freelance writer and illustrator. The stuff no one will pay me for goes into bOING bOING. And it's always the best stuff, natch.
Carla: writer and author. My books are Happy Mutant Handbook, Net Chick and my novel Signal to Noise.

Mark & Carla
David Pescovitz


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