Al Burian is on fire. Well, figuratively at least.
The established musician and author of zines (short for magazine or fanzine), such as Burn Collector, is going to be featured in an ongoing series that brings different authors to Rider though Writer’s Block.
Writer’s Block is yet another avenue students can take if they want to get involved with writing. Dr. Mickey Hess, professor of English and adviser to Writer’s Block, describes the club as an outlet for writers on campus.
“We’re dedicated to enhancing Rider’s literary life by hosting readings and workshops and bringing authors to campus,” Hess said.
Although he is also a successful musician, Burian is most well-known for his zines Burn Collector and Natural Disasters.
Zines, usually self-published and not for profit, are normally about personal interests or passions.
“I do an autobiographical zine,” Burian said. “It’s like a narrative of my life; I try to put an engaging slant on certain circumstances.”
Burian’s original zine, Burn Collector, has been circulating since the early ’90s. As a self-published author, his zine is referred to as “underground.” Junior Andrew Kaspereen, president of Writer’s Block, explained Burian’s process.
“He would go to copy places and mass produce these independent magazines,” Kaspereen said. “Eventually a publishing company decided to bind the first nine issues as a book and sell it.”
Burian’s story contradicts the conventional route most authors take: first, finding an agent and then signing with a publishing house. Some would consider it far more precarious to do what he did.
“In some ways it is taking a risk when you self-publish,” Burian said. “I was touring with some bands at the time and just distributed my zine at shows.”
Which way is better? Should a young writer opt for self-publishing or try to get an agent? According to Burian, there isn’t a “better” way.
“I think that either way is fine; nothing is more legitimate than anything else,” he said. “The important thing is to feel as though you have an outlet.”
Although either route is fine, students may find it reassuring to know that they can write and circulate their product on their own.
“He’s out there doing it all himself and making a career out of it,” Kaspereen said. “He inspires people not only to write, but to think.”
Burian has established a huge fan base and has escaped the stigma associated with self-publishing, Hess said.
The stories he writes are mainly anecdotes of traveling or autobiographical sketches with a focus on music.
“Burn Collector documents rough situations or things that might make an impression on you; I try to find that silver lining,” Burian said. “Natural Disasters has a reoccurring theme of circumstances beyond your control holding you up.”
Burian will be performing excerpts from his zines and discussing the trials and tribulations of the writing world. A big part of Burian’s writing is performance. He travels nationally to read passages from his zines.
“As a musician and natural showman, Al really knows how to turn reading into a performance,” Hess said. “The last time I saw him read, he dressed up in a wizard’s costume.”
What does Burian think of his extreme performances?
“I definitely have a background as a performer,” he said. “You’ve just got to be interesting.”