As Displaced Snail Publications, writer Joseph Carlough crafts handmade books, zines, and a few records. His new works include a fresh issue of Record Collecting and an educational series on Latin roots called Tiny Robot.
Displaced Snail’s publications are carefully designed and produced. How do you use good design to help tell your stories?
Design sometimes ends up dictating what I make. At a thrift, I came across this ultra strange ream of microperforated paper, that could go through a printer seamlessly, but was perforated into thirds for easy tear apart. So I started thinking of zines in a smaller format, and it hit me one morning: I haven’t been able to make an educational zine because it would have to be huge, I’ve been studying too long to make something condensed. But if I do a serial of small zines with the same design? Radical.
I also found a package of 500,000+ clipart images, many of which were block prints and Victorian book illustrations. So sometimes now I write for the sole purpose of using a cool scene or print I’ve found. I have a lot of ideas, and a lot of discipline. The design of a book helps me focus, and I find that making something visually stimulating keeps me interested.
Your zine Tiny Robot focuses on Greek and Latin root words. With all of your research, what have you discovered about language?
That English is much more complicated than I once thought. And much less official. In the 1800s, English speakers went through kind of a neoclassical phase, and began to construct new words in the same style as they were constructed hundreds of years ago. Take the word “atheist.” Breaks down easily, to a roughly translated “One with no god.” Started being used in the late 1500s, but the word it was derived from, atheos, was an original Greek word. Now take “agnostic.” Breaks down just as easily, to a rough “unknowing.” This word was made up in the 1870s. Fabricated! They slapped an “a” in front of gnostic and made their own word, the bastards.
What are you working on now?
I’m waist deep in my second issue of record collecting. This one’s about Matt Pond, and will be debuted at BZF. It details what point of my life I was at when I got each of his records, and ends with an interview with him. It’s a great issue, it’s going to be a beast. It’ll probably hit around 30 pages, with a LOT of design work in it. I’m even thinking page borders. We’ll see! Aside from that, I’d like to get a few more Tiny Robots into the world, and I’ve got a bedtime story that I would really like to get written, recorded, and pressed on vinyl. Vinyl is so expensive, I have to make sure it’s perfect before I go through with it!
According to Google Maps, your home of Frenchtown, NJ is small and adorable. Tell us about it.
It is both of those things. I’m a new transplant, just moved here three months ago. I’m taking a sabbatical from my jobs, doing a lot of writing and printing, a little freelancing to defray the costs of living. I moved from a town of 130,000 to a town of 1,300, and I’d say about 400 of them are artists in some way or another, so the creative energy here is just astounding. Something about the Delaware River, having such an enormous body of water constantly flowing by puts kind of a charge in the air. I live atop a bike shop right on the main drag, and if I want to take a two or three minute walk, I’m in Pennsylvania! I absolutely love it here, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to stay past my lease – as you can imagine, the jobs are pretty sparse! I would love to, though.
What are you excited to see or do at the Brooklyn Zine Fest?
Everything. For the past three years I’ve been working every weekend of the year, so I finally can start making it to zine fests again without fighting tooth and nail with my bosses. I’m most excited to talk to the people shopping. You hear the best stories in those little conversations, and zine fests in NYC are great because there are so many people from so many places.
One in a series of Q&As with Brooklyn Zine Fest 2013 Exhibitors. Meet Joseph at Public Assembly in Williamsburg on Sunday, April 21st!