It’s hard to imagine now, but Portland used to be a tiny ignored little city that a lot of bands didn’t want to play and national media largely ignored. Those were sweet times. In that relative cultural isolation, a poster artist named Mike King started a music fanzine named Snipehunt to both harness and serve Portland’s small arts community. Enlarged and fully realized by editor Kathy Molloy, her volunteer team designed, edited, published, and distributed the magazine themselves. Snipehunt had a devoted following and helped launch the careers of its then-unknown freelance writers. Then in 1997, it abruptly quit publishing, and Molloy ghosted everyone and moved to British Columbia.
In an oral history for the Portland Mercury, local writer Joshua James Amberson goes on his own snipe hunt for Molloy, and he lets those who were involved with her artistically piece together the magazine’s creation and influence. One artist called Molloy “the punk mayor of Portland.” Molloy remains a mystery who, like her magazine, cannot be found online. Thanks to Amberson, Snipehunt now sort of has web presence.
The scene that inspired Snipehunt featured bands that weren’t getting media coverage and writers and artists without an outlet. The magazine soon became a breeding ground for local creators, and its contributor list is a peek at the kind of local talent and energy emerging during that time: novelist and screenwriter Jon Raymond, current Portland city commissioner Chloe Eudaly, filmmaker and installation artist Vanessa Renwick, local writer and publisher Kevin Sampsell, novelist Rene Denfeld, Crap Hound and Liar Town creator Sean Tejaratchi. For many of the contributors, Snipehunt was their first publication, their first opportunity to regularly try out their ideas on an audience.
A typical issue of Snipehunt had interviews with local and national bands, pages of comics from independent artists, scene reports from West Coast cities, oddball prose pieces, political action coverage, and pages of reviews—albums, zines, live shows, films, and books. It was a broad take on DIY culture, loosely based in the punk scene but covering artists and subjects far beyond the imposed limitations of that world.
With the magazine’s history largely absent from the internet, its name unfamiliar to the majority of current Portlanders, and physical evidence of its existence difficult to come by, I reached out to a couple dozen of its contributors to provide me—and the rest of new Portland—with a much-needed history lesson.
On the disappearance of the Wilson Quarterly:
The subject line worried me. “The Wilson Quarterly’s Final Happy Hour,” it said. Even the rosiest interpretation—that they’d decided, say, to discontinue their occasional get-togethers—was troubling. A link to an online invitation appeared below. The editors had completed the winter 2014 issue, a best-of collection drawn from “four decades of classic essays.” A few particulars followed and then the bad news, withheld for a bit, the way people do: “This will be our final quarterly issue,” they said.