Back in the dim and distant past, that strange dark age we now call the 1980s, fanzines were a rather big thing. Or rather they weren't a big thing, and that was sort of the point. For in those now near mythical days, the media landscape was dominated by a handful of TV stations, a clutch of publishers and a small cartel of magazine makers. Hence everything was very mainstream, and if you wanted anything that was considered niche, that was too bad.
But that was where the fanzines came in - covering all manner of diverse subjects, from punk to RPGs, from football to the occult, these little self-published pamphlets and magazines connected enthusiasts of all stripes across the land, and indeed across the world. But then came the modern digital age, and while the modern PC brought us wonders such as desktop publishing, a dream come true for all those self-publishers and editors slaving away in bedrooms and garages, at the same time it brought the internet, which pretty much stole the fanzines' thunder.
However it would seem that the great wheel of fate is turning once again. While once websites, forums and web rings (remember them?) had successfully eclipsed the old small presses and fanzine factories, these days we see the interweb mostly often through the smaller lens of a phone screen, and consequently few now can be bothered with bulletin boards or reading reviews that like this one that dares to run to several paragraphs and consists of more just a few lines of lazy snarking. However, there is still an audience for people who want more than knee-jerk ranting or pictures of cats in funny hats - after all you've read this far haven't you - and it would seem that the humble fanzine is being reborn!
All of which meandering across the cultural landscape brings me, in a somewhat fitting fashion, to Weird Walk, a brand new fanzine with a very old school sensibility but produced with all the magic of the digital age. It's a proper old fashioned print publication filled with articles of a highly individual and idiosyncratic nature, and takes a stroll through folklore, geography and history in search of the intriguing and the unusual.
Firstly let me say that this little magazine is truly a thing of beauty, boasting production values we could only dream of back the days of '80s fanzines. There's no blurry type or wonky scissors and cow gum layouts here. The pages are bright and colourful with photographs a-plenty, and even some gorgeous endpapers. But while the digital wizardry of the 21st century undoubtedly played an important part of the making of 'zine, the first issue of Weird Walk feels like it hss beamed in from another age, where the whole look of a publication conjured up an atmosphere and a world to dive into; an age where you would take time out to sit down and savour a little publication like this rather than scroll quickly through some clickbait tat.
And indeed, what a delight it is to sit down with a copy of Weird Walk. The theme and uniting principle of the mag is basically exploring the various unusual and strange things that one can encounter when one starts gadding about in the local landscape, and as you can see on the cover, we have a wide and intriguing array of contents. The articles within are a perfect illustration of what good magazines to deliver - they are engaging and informative, and pull off the neat trick of being concise, and hence ideal bite-size reading, and yet are so are packed with detail on their chosen subjects, you never feel things have been given short shrift.
Now while the promises of chatting about standing stones and folklore obviously caught my eye initially, Weird Walk isn't content to just play to the gallery. And hence while articles on dolmens have a clear appeal, one of the joys of Weird Walk is discovering fascinating articles on things outside your usual radar. For example, most of us only know of Tudor comedian Will Kempe from his appearances as a character in the BBC Shakespearean sitcom Upstart Crow, but Weird Walk gives us an engaging account of the life and times of the real man. Likewise, while you may heard of something called dungeon synth, Weird Walk has the perfect introduction to this eccentric musical genre.
Meanwhile if you have the slightest interest in history, the article on medieval graffiti is a revelation. For here we have a complete starter guide to this area of historical research, and what's more, the article tell you how with some very basic equipment - a small LED torch - it's one that you yourself that join in with. If you, like me, love visiting old building and sites, then this article alone is worth the price of admission.
All in all, Weird Walk is a wonderful little publication, which I can highly recommend to all lovers of the weird and the wonderful, the historic and the folkloric! And I hope there will be many more future issues!