Updated: Dec 6, 2021
By: Delanee Ensley
According to Chicago Zine Fest, “a zine (an abbreviation of the word fanzine, or magazine; pronounced ‘zeen’) is most commonly a small circulation publication of original or appropriated texts and images. More broadly, the term encompasses any self-published work of minority interest usually reproduced via photocopier on a variety of colored paper stock.” Zines have been around for decades and are a form of artistic expression.
Zines date back to the 1930s and were first made popular “by the Science Correspondence Club in Chicago.” These first zines were dedicated to the growing interest in science fiction, and zines continued to grow in popularity from that point on. . In fact, during the late ‘60s, “Star Trek” was rumored to be canceled after two seasons, but fans wouldn’t let that happen. In 1968, a letter campaign organized through sci-fi zines started, and according to an article by Mental Floss, over 160,000 people wrote letters to keep “Star Trek” on the air for another year, and the rest is history!
Zines made another comeback in the ‘70s and ‘80s, but instead of sci-fi and fandoms, they were turned over to the punk scene. These new zines were different from the fun aliens gracing the cover. Instead, a dark exterior filled with punk bands and interviews with musicians were shown. With the punk scene gaining popularity, so were the zines that promoted it, and many magazines were forced to shut down. Their rebellion had become mainstream.
Zooming straight to the ‘90s, grunge, riot grrrl, and female empowerment are taking over the nation, showcasing the fact that women want to be heard. According to Mental Floss, by 1993 over 40,000 zines were being produced and sent out all over the country. Though the ‘70s and ‘80s were all about the punk scene and music, the ‘90s sang a different tune. The movement was everywhere. Teenagers and adults were creating their own magazines and sending them to their friends. It was not only a way to fight back against the patriarchy but a way to let their artistic passions flow.
Zines have become a part of history. They have been archived and searched to help us understand the communities that made them and the feelings they held. Though they aren’t as popular as they used to be, there are still people making them today. Instead of defying the norm, zines today are about more modern topics, like social media or home decor. This trend should not be forgotten, and many people out there still recommend zines as a way of artistic expression. To start your own zine, check out this how-to guide by the Creative Independent, and get your creative juices flowing!