What’s a Zine, Anyhow?

September 11, 2011

A zine (/ˈziːn/ zeen; an abbreviation of fanzine, or magazine) 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. (via wikipedia)

What does that mean, exactly? Ask 10 zinesters what zines are all about and you’re likely to get 10 different answers. Like many somewhat underground movements, this one is best defined by what it is not. A zine doesn’t typically make the creator any money. They’re not usually on a regular schedule. They’re not generally laid out on a computer. They’re almost never in color. Did you notice all the qualifying words? typically, usually, generally, almost. For every generalization about zines, there are a hundred exceptions. That’s what makes them so individual and hard to classify.

I’m at the beginning of an experiment. I’ve never held a zine in my hands. I’ve never talked to anyone who has made one. I’m not sure what it’s even like to read one. And I intend to keep it that way until after I’ve made my own. Why? I want my zine to be my zine.

I often find myself making things that fit into the mold of what I think that genre is supposed to be like. For years I made artists books that were like the artists books I had seen in shows. I dressed like all the other 20 somethings on the streets. I have a hard time being original once I’ve seen what’s out there.

Many of the original zinesters were making zines before they even knew that’s what they were called, or even that anyone else was doing it. There wasn’t a norm, a genre, or any idea of what a “typical” zine was like. The result was a movement that began through creativity and originality.

I’m attempting to recreate that by refusing to do my homework before I produce my first zine. Of course I can’t go back in time and pretend I don’t know what a zine is, but I can create my own style before I get any ideas about what “everyone” defines as a “good” zine.

Can’t wait to show you my progress.

Image is courtesy of artnoose. She breaks the copy machine status quo and makes zines on a letterpress. Please go check her out here.


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