Episode 238

Julia Evans and Wizard Zines


June 21st, 2024

33 mins 37 secs

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Special Guest

About this Episode


Julia Evans


Richard Littauer | Amanda Casari

Show Notes

In this episode of Sustain, host Richard Littauer and co-host Amanda Casari talk to Julia Evans, a zine artist and programmer from Montreal. The discussion delves into Julia's journey in creating educational zines about technical topics like strace, Bash, and Git. Julia shares insights into her unique approach to making complex tools more accessible, how she uses feedback and beta readers to refine her work, and the importance of writing about stable technologies. The episode also touches on Julia's balance between art and sustainability, her collaborative work with her team, and highlights the significance of community-driven knowledge sharing. Press download to hear much more!

[00:01:44] Julia explains her approach to creating zines, starting with the desire to simplify the usage of complex tools like strace.

[00:03:14] Julia discusses her background as a programmer and the thematic focus of her zines, including making technical topics like Bash scripting more approachable.

[00:04:54] Amanda praises Julia’s method of demystifying technical concepts through zines. Julia shares the challenges of creating zines on complex topics like Git, discussing how user feedback helps refine content.

[00:07:14] Julia details the iterative process of creating zines, including using beta readers and feedback tools to enhance the clarity and usefulness of her guides.

[00:11:50] The discussion shifts to how Julia selects topics for her zines, focusing on technologies with strong backward compatibility guarantees, ensuring that the content remains relevant and accurate over time.

[00:15:59] Richard questions Julia about her preference for creating zines over other formats like video tutorials or classes, despite the potential reach and educational impact of those mediums. She explains her preference for zines, highlighting her affinity for print and writing, and he challenge with video formats.

[00:19:13] Julia discusses her transformative experience at the Recurse Center, which greatly enhanced her understanding of computer systems, inspiring her to help others feel like “wizards” who fully grasp their tools.

[00:21:39] Julia mentions co-founding “bang bang con,” a conference focused on short, insightful talks about programming, and confirms the availability of these talks online.

[00:22:46] Richard asks Julia about “weird stuff” she likes to do with computers. She describes creating a DNS server that open shares queries, reflecting her passion for making the invisible aspects of computing visible.

[00:24:43] Julia reveals how she funds her zine-making and educational endeavors through sales, which has allowed her to focus full-time on this work and even hire help to manage operations, enhancing sustainability and enjoyment of her work.

[00:26:05] Julia reflects on the unpredictability of her success, expressing hesitation to offer advice on replicating her business model due to its unconventional nature.

[00:27:47] Julia shares her approach to team building and sustainability, focusing on treating and paying her collaborators well to endure ongoing successful partnerships.

[00:28:44] Find out where you can purchase Julia’s zines and find her online.


[00:02:19] “I would have all these questions, what are people using this tool for?”

[00:02:45] “I wanted to show people that this is not that big of a deal.”

[00:06:26] “This is what I wish someone told me when I started using this tool.”

[00:17:08] “I don’t usually want to learn a book’s worth of information about a topic. I’m a generalist.”

[00:17:40] “My dream when learning about something is I just want to talk to someone who’s really, really smart for two hours and they’ll tell me everything I need to know.”

[00:21:11] “You can do weird stuff!”

[00:24:07] “I just thought it would be cool to make it, so I did.”

[00:26:34] “Once I saw that I was working, I started to ask, is it sustainable? What do I need to learn about marketing to make it a sustainable business?”

[00:28:29] “I try to be the last client to get fired. That’s my dream.”


  • [00:29:43] Amanda’s spotlight is she finally got to attend csv,conf,v8.
  • [00:30:40] Richard’s spotlight is Rafik Draoui.
  • [00:31:26] Julia’s spotlight is Atuin, a really nice way to search your shell history.



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