Zines, Tumblr, and the Making of a Movement

Caitlynn Fairbarns is the leader of the online community FakeGeekGirlsLikeUs. In Caitlyn’s Words, “Fake Geek Girls Like Us aims to create a community space in which people who are made to feel unwelcome in geek culture because of their gender feel safe expressing themselves and sharing their artwork, thoughts and ideas.” No stranger to zines, Caitlyn recently created her newest zine, Icons and Idols, with Blurb. We caught up with her to ask about her community and what it means to create zines as a way of self-publishing.

What inspired the look and feel of your magazine?

Designing the inside of the publication was entirely based off of the art and writing submissions I received. I was glad to have cover art by Sophie Paas-Lang, and I wanted Icons & Idols to be bright, bold, and showcase all the work in the best light.

I knew that I wanted the publication to be the same size as the magazines that you would buy in the store. I wanted people to take my new publication seriously, and I wanted a size that would showcase the art. The size, paper, and printing of Icons & Idols was a very collaborative process with Blurb. I received samples to see which type of paper would hold the colors of the art in the highest quality. I was continuously in conversation with a Blurb representative to make sure I would get the most out of my choices. It would have been a totally different publication if I put it together by myself.

FakeGeekGirlsLikeUs Cover

In what ways is using Blurb in line with the spirit of the Zine?

Blurb products have a tactile quality that makes viewing work or reading stories intimate, like zines. It’s different than viewing things on your screen. Having something in your hand is personal.

You lose a certain bit of control when you’re not printing and folding the zine yourself, but you gain professionalism. Blurb products look shiny, clean and like what you would see on a magazine stand or in a book store. I still love DIY and self-published zines, but when it comes to the publications that I work on where I am representing other people’s work, I want it to be as clean and professional-looking as possible.

What is the connection between the community you gather and creating zines?

Since Star Trek fanzines in the 1970s, zines have been a way of sharing fan theories, crushes, and nerdy stories with a group of other fans. Fanzines used to be shared in the mail and created a community of nerd friends. I still do this today! People order my zines and I send them across the globe. Then we follow each other on social media and have the opportunity to be friends.

Fake Geek Girls Like Us is all about connecting people and getting to know femmes in the nerd community. I table at comic conventions and small press events to share my zines and get to know folks. I feel as if I am just continuing the tradition of the zine makers before me. The internet just works as a means to make connections stronger and gives the opportunity for me to work with more people.

How is editing a zine different from curating a Tumblr? How are they alike?

Both the zines that I make and my Tumblr are a representation of me and my business. I want both things to clearly illustrate what Fake Geek Girls Like Us is all about. If you don’t get a feeling of the brand within the first couple of pages of the zine or minutes of scrolling through the Tumblr, I have messed up. I work very hard in making both things appear curated.

Zines require a lot more time in making. Sure, there is a flow and things look nice together. The joys of a Tumblr are that you can find a free layout that does what you want and doesn’t require too much time working on the layout. Also, I can’t accept everything in a zine, but I have an unlimited amount of space to share things on my Tumblr.

FakeGeekGirlsLikeUs Spread

How did you fund your zine?

Icons & Idols was funded through IndieGoGo. I used the crowdfunding website as a way for people to pre order their copies of the zine. This helps with printing costs and making sure the contributors get paid. I found pre-ordering is an easy way to get people to donate because they know that they will be receiving something in the future and are helping to get something made.

It is always a nerve-wracking process, but so far I have been successful! I am pretty panicked putting together a campaign because you need to get the money, but you don’t want to come off as desperate.  Advice that I can give people is to send your campaign to friends, family and your immediate community before showing it to the public. This way when the campaign is being shared, it already has traction and makes people interested.

How long have you been gathering your community?

Fake Geek Girls Like Us was born from my undergraduate thesis at OCAD University in 2015. I created the Tumblr to reach and make a community of self-identified women in geek culture. My thesis aimed to demystify the idea of the ‘Fake Nerd Girl’ and exploring women within geek culture. Over the last two years, the blog has transformed in a way to showcase nerdy artists, announce events, share articles and connect nerds together.

I’ve been making zines of various sizes and themes since 2014. Feminism is something that links all of my zines together. Zine culture and feminism is strongly connected since the Riot GRRRL movement. My zines related to Fake Geek Girls Like Us started in 2016 as a way to share interviews with people working in geek culture and art work.

I feel like I am still learning so much about zines. I attend zine fairs and small press events so I can see what other people are creating and how they are using the medium to share their voice. One thing that I learned is that there is nothing wrong with experimenting and trying different ways to illustrate your idea. Experimentation is an important part of getting to your final goal. Embrace the mistakes, it might get you something cool.

Speaking of Icons and Idols, who are yours?

I have so many icons and idols, but I will try to narrow it down. When I was a kid, I was obsessed with Sailor Moon. I think the group of strong, fierce lady friends was inspiring to me. I loved that the Sailor Scouts could always rely on each other and fought bad guys together. As a pre-teen, I looked up to Willow Rosenberg from Buffy, The Vampire Slayer.

I am now watching all of Star Trek. Major Kira from Deep Space Nine is my current icon. She stands up for herself, friends, and her faith. She has gone through some hardship, but that hasn’t stopped her—it made her stronger. Kira gets stuff done!

What’s one publication you’d love to see in print?

I am in the process of putting together the next Fake Geek Girls Like Us zine. It is called Googie Girls and is about science fiction. My watching Star Trek may have been what inspired me to try to put this together. It features over 15 artists and writers from across the globe. I am very excited about it! The Indiegogo campaign will launch in early September 2017 and hopefully, the publication will launch in November 2017. After Googie Girls, I would love to do a publication on friendship and sisterhood in pop culture. I think there are so many transformative relationships in pop culture that we can talk about and look up to.

Thanks, Caitlynn for taking time to talk with us and share your zine and self-pub insights. We can’t wait to see what’s next!

Have you used Blurb to create a zine? Tell us about it in the comments below!


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