Interview: Atomic Books [zine store in Baltimore]


1] I don’t know much about Baltimore, but Atomic Books seems to be on every online list of where to buy/send zines that I’ve ever seen. How did you get so well known?
To learn all you need to know about Baltimore, just watch the HBO series The Wire. It’s exactly like that. Also, John Waters’ Pink Flamingos. It’s exactly like that too.
Atomic first gained notoriety after the multiple homicide, but we agreed to participate in this interview under the condition that we would not have to talk about that.
The store has been around since 1992. The store was selling books and publications online before there was an Amazon. It’s always been a place that’s been welcoming to zines, small presses and independent voices. We like weirdos with something to say.
2] What is your best-selling zine? My money’s on Cometbus…
Over the years, we’ve had a good number of great-selling zines.
Cometbus is a great guess. It as been a perennial best-seller and when a new issue comes out, it’s like a major event.
Other best-selling zines over the years have included Answer Me, Beer Frame, Ben Is Dead, Burn Collector, Chunklet, Crap Hound, Dishwasher, Doris, Found Magazine, Monozine, Murder Can Be Fun, Smile Hon You’re In Baltimore, Thrift Score, and a good number of others. But in the entire 25 year history of Atomic Books, the all-time best-selling zine we’ve carried has to be How To Talk To Your Cat About Gun Safety. It has cats. It has guns. It has solid advice. The perfect formula for a hit.
3] I live in Hong Kong so I can’t get to most zine places [actually, I can’t really get to any; HK is not famous for zines]. All I can do is send e-mails, and 8 out of 10 places never respond for various reasons. You guys did. Are you actively looking for weird sci-fi zines from HK or do you take zines from anywhere, anyone, anytime?
Hong Kong is not famous for zines, yet. YET! You’re the first step.
It can be tough. Really, the ideal is to be in a town that has a vibrant zine culture (and some times this “culture” can be comprised of one, two or several incredibly creative and prolific people. But the problem with that too is that the zine culture can come and go. Washington DC used to have a very active zine scene back in the early ’90s, now, not so much. New York has a decent zine culture. Chicago has a great zine scene. Portland has a vibrant zine scene. Right now, Australia seems to be developing an interesting zine scene.
Here in Baltimore, like most of our arts scenes in general, it ebbs and flows, which is weird because we have a number of universities and great art schools, our music scene has been pretty lively lately, we have a lot of political issues we need to work out, we have a growing publication festival in the city called the Prints and Multiples Fair and the Small Press Expo just a 45 minute hop over to Bethesda and we have a couple stores willing to support zine makers – so Baltimore has all the ingredients for a vibrant zine culture – but with a few exceptions, there’s really not a lot going on right now.

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Interview: Tankbread // Paul Mannering



Book: Tankbread

Author: Paul Mannering

Publisher: Permuted Press

Tagline: When there’s no more room in Summer Bay…the dead will rise!


Note: I was lucky enough to catch up to Paul on set in Bulgaria, where he was the second ‘zombie’ supervisor on ‘Cargo Loading District of the Dead 2: Deadlier Cargo’. The interview took place between shots. Definitely not by e-mail.

Note 2: There may be some spoilers, but nothing that goes past page 100 of the book.

Note 3: The 50 books Paul mentions at the end are just a small sample of the 49,000 he has actually written. The guy’s a machine.


Oli: Your main twist on the zombie genre is the idea of ‘Tankbread’ [cloned humans used as zombie food]. Please tell me you didn’t get inspiration from ‘The Island’?

Paul Mannering: One of the inspirations for the concept of Tankbread came from an old 2000AD comic. In the Future Shock series – back in the 1980’s. There was a story about an industry where comatose cloned bodies were grown for organ transplants. A caretaker – whose job was to feed these things baby food, had no interest in them as beings until one day – one squeezed his hand. He then concluded they were conscious and self aware – the story ended with him dousing the entire warehouse of clones in gasoline and burning the place down.

The story started with a vision that popped into my head one day, of the (at the time) “World’s Ugliest Dog” (a very elderly chihuaha) and a weird mental image of this dog cooked in some kind of orange glaze.

With that, came the opening line about the Asian across the table. The story just evolved from those key ideas.

Oli: No one is safe in this book. At one point, a baby is torn out of its mother’s womb and ripped to pieces by zombie teeth. Did you ever think of not slaughtering babies?

Paul: No. I wanted Tankbread to push boundaries of visceral horror. I wanted a story that made people uncomfortable.

Oddly enough I have had more angry responses over the use of the term ‘retard’ than I have about the violence against women, men and infants. Continue reading