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Good places to put zines in Portland [No.1] – Microcosm Publishing

February 12, 2014


Note: Usually we do these ourselves, but this one is different as we’ve only ever sent zines to Microcosm, we’ve never actually been there…that’s why we let Joe from Microcosm fill in most of the details himself…I guess you could’ve figured this out yourself when the answers start using ‘we’…


Name of place: Microcosm Publishing

Where? Portland

Known for:  Make Your Place, Henry & Glenn Forever, Grow, Making Stuff & Doing Things, Homesweet Homegrown, having a lot of fun, and being happy to help out a person who needs advice.

Is there a signed photo of Peter Falk above the door? Sadly, no, but we do have a “Stairway to Henry” with a shirtless photo of Henry Rollins from 1984 at the top.


A small, charming, and innovative publishing house, Microcosm Publishing specializes in work designed to make the reader feel good about being alive, take an active role in bettering their life, and impact the world around them. Microcosm has developed a reputation for teaching self-empowerment, showing hidden histories, and fostering creativity with topics like DIY skills, food, zines (yes, zines about zines, that’s meta people!), and art.

Do they actually publish zines or just collect them and stick them around their base?

Both! We have distributed about 3,000 different zine titles in the last eighteen years and have published about 350 more.

Aren’t physical zines pointless now?

A friend told me a story about their teenage children and how they don’t have the same natural interest to read that we did growing up. They were much more interested in the confessional nature of social media, but without any of the depth of meaningful human interaction. Being vague about their emotions or expressive about new slippers or expressive in ways that other kids could relate to but without creating a connection that lasts more than a few minutes, even if it is a raw, emotional one. If there ever has been one, the real value of zines is finding that substantial interaction in a safe place. That won’t change. That’s what attracted me to it twenty years ago, as well as the freedom to be interesting. If a person believes that self-expression of any substantial depth is pointless, then I suppose you have a point here. But as long as there are people and emotions, I think they need to work through them in a place that feels safe and where other people can relate and build upon that expression, creating something more than thirty edifying seconds.

They’ve published things you wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off Tanhauser…

We have done a lot of things that I’m really proud of, like The Simple History Series, which is just what it sounds like, zines you can read about major world events in 20-30 minutes and have a grasping understanding of the issues and how they affect the present. We publish Xerography Debt, the only zine about zines that’s still in print and comes out several times per year. We have put out lots of one offs, like a comic about Food Not Bombs, Nine Gallons or Bikenomics, the economic/politically conservative case for bicycling. And it’s still a ton of fun!

Portland is the new Cluj [place where everyone wants to live and write and sing and make zines]

If it still is, it has been for too long and we need to share that glory with somewhere else. I think it’s Houston, TX’s turn to be the hip place. They are getting hundreds of off-street bike paths that connect all of their urban neighborhoods. I want that to be the cool trend all over the world. People have been saying that about Portland for over fifteen years now. When I moved here in 1998, I heard about that left and right, that I had moved to the “cool” city where “Everybody” was moving. I suppose it implies that we are on the correct end of the continuum but this kind of stuff barely affects my daily life. Except perhaps that it does draw people who are attracted to Portland’s myth. Did they make the myth true or was it always there? Our city is mysteriously good at public relations.

No one in Portland is actually from Portland.

Not false! The ones from here move away because they only see the problems while everyone from all parts of the U.S. only see the joy and cling to this place like it’s the fountain of youth (spoiler alert: It is, for better or worse).

They’re not making Robocops or UFOs, but the future is theirs. [i.e. what are your plans for the next few years?]

Please don’t tell anyone but we are making Robocops. Murphy is an excellent writer and has much zine dirt to dish on Detroit’s law enforcement past. But telling truth to power aside, we are hard at work on a new zine series called “Scene History” where we have open submissions to research, interview, and write the history of one or all of your town’s scenes. We’ve never done anything like that before. We’ve also got a mobile zine trike that we use for events, plans for lots of travel out of town to spread the good word, and we are publishing about 20 new titles this year. We also just moved our store into a better and larger location. Come visit!

How to get there:

Get on your bicycle, look for the pie in the sky, Keep pedalling. Our building is an orangish brown slightly north and east of downtown, in North Portland, United States.

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