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In Print: women publishers make the zine

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In the wee hours of November 24, 1996, Martha Bayne found herself shivering in the back of a paddy wagon on Lake Street, facing misdemeanor charges of serving alcohol without a license, serving alcohol to minors, and operating a business without a license. Earlier an army of patrolmen with flashlights had raided a loft party and fund-raiser for Maxine, the zine she publishes with Zoe Zolbrod and Anne Bruns. The police also confiscated a kitty that contained over $400 in at-the-door "donations" for the combination bake sale, raffle, beer bash, dance party, and concert. "I think they thought it was a rave or something," Bayne says. "But they didn't find any drugs."

She wasn't fingerprinted and put in the pokey, but Bayne cooled her heels on a bench in the squad room at Monroe and Racine for four hours while the arresting officers "kicked back and filled out reports and shot the shit with the other cops." At 5 AM she was finally let go. In her pocket she had three tickets, a court date, and a receipt for the seized money.

Six weeks later Bayne had her day in court--sort of. The arresting officers didn't show, the case was dismissed, and Bayne was told to visit the evidence and property room at 26th and California, where, to her surprise, she was issued a check for $420 from the Chicago Police Department.

Bayne, Zolbrod, and Bruns used the money to help finance the printing of 1,500 copies of the third issue of Maxine, a self-described "literate companion for churlish girls and rakish women." The three-year-old publication's articles, fiction, and cartoons--about subjects like postfeminism, female manual laborers, and travel gynecology--tend to be more sober, literary, and readable than the usual homegrown stuff and more cheeky and meandering than what you'll find in mainstream women's magazines. "All of these girl fanzines are basically treading the same territory--part and parcel of the girl-zeitgeist thing," says Bayne. "But I think we're trying to go in a different direction. We don't deal with a lot of pop-culture-type stuff. We have longer, more thoughtful pieces. We're not better, just different."

Indeed, the upcoming crime and punishment issue, due out ("hopefully") in May, will include an essay by Bayne that examines the pros and cons of bad-girl culture, a piece by Jennifer Reeder about violent women and the myth of innocence, and a response by Erin Hogan to the slew of letters generated by her October 1995 Reader cover story, "Jerked Around," about pressing charges against a public masturbator.

Bayne and Zolbrod roomed together at Oberlin College in the late 1980s. After graduation Bayne moved to New York and Zolbrod came to Chicago, where she hooked up with designer Bruns. Zolbrod and Bruns created the bulk of the first issue, which focused on woman-woman relationships, while Bayne was still in New York. Since Bayne moved to Chicago in 1995 they've published every nine months or so. Though the same group of writers (including Zolbrod and Bayne) appears regularly, Bayne insists they have consciously tried to avoid the clubhouse tone of other zines. "We have gotten a couple of over-the-transom submissions," she says. But, she admits, "usually it's friends or friends of friends and we know their work. In terms of being a cultural outreach program, it probably hasn't been as successful as we'd hoped."

Despite attracting ads from independent rock labels, Maxine hasn't exactly been a financial success. Indeed, Bayne says they lose money on every issue. "What makes it a zine is that we're not trying to please anybody but ourselves, ultimately. We write about what is interesting to us and try to get other people to write about what's interesting to them that's also interesting to us--and doesn't have any sort of for-profit agenda at all. We're definitely not beholden to the advertising dollar."

The publishers of Maxine will hold a legal fund-raiser for the new issue next Thursday, March 26, at 9 at the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western. Rebecca Gates, the Dishes, Dolce Volante, and "special guests" will perform; there will also be a bake sale and a raffle. Tickets are $8. Call 773-276-3600. --Cara Jepsen

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Marthy Bayne, Zoe Zolbrod, Anne Bruns photo by Nathan Mandell.

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