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Expanding Horizons: Zines and Zine Culture

“Expanding Horizons: Zines and Zine Culture”

Welcome to a new thaloriginal article series, “Expanding Horizons”! These series of pick-up articles will tackle movements, ideas and revisit things that could inspire and motivate the creative in all of us. We hope you enjoy! For our first entry in this series, we will be discussing one of the longest-running forms of DIY expression and cultural phenomenon: zines and zine culture!


Wait, what’s a zine again?

The term “zine” is short for magazine or fanzine. A zine is described as an independently produced, low-copy/low-circulation publication (normally under or around 100 copies). Comprised of text and images, zines can be made using a photocopier or other affordable methods of reproduction.


Historically speaking, zines have been around since the 1930’s! The term was coined by fans and enthusiasts who would create them as a way of celebrating or contributing to a subcultures' fan base. Communities would be created around certain cultural phenomena (Sci-Fi, Horror, Music, etc.) and the zine was the first “newsletter” type of media surrounding that kind of fan-based communication.


A zine can be as simple as an eight-paged folded and cut piece of copy paper, or can be as ornate and embellished as the author wishes, giving artists and authors the ability to defy traditional conventions in presenting content.


Because of the loose conjugations of what zines are, creators can make zines that cover a multitude of topics. Poetry, Journaling, Political Discourse, Art, Design, Comics, Horror, Music, there are zines for any and every one! And if there isn’t one, there’s nothing stopping you from making one!


Fun Fact: The story “Reign of the Superman” that appeared in the zine  Science Fiction: The Advance Guard of Future Civilization in 1933 went on to become the comic book incarnation of Superman that we know today!


Why Zines?

Zines, zine culture, the zine community (and independent publications) offer a type of freedom in literature and bookmaking that is rarely seen in most mainstream media outlets.


Zines are powerful in their flexibility and malleability in serving a purpose to an author/artist. Whether sharing for the fun of it or experimenting with ideas, the zine format can fit whatever intentions a creative person has. They can be fun, serious, bleak or celebratory. The lack of rules allows zines as a medium to be universal in their applications.  


The accessibility and open nature of zines allow people to develop their own content and act as their own printers and distributors in a public forum. It is a low risk/low cost endeavor, making the act of exploring industrializing one’s work an approachable one.


Zines and zine culture have created and sustained the non-digital community tradition of fandom and personal communication through art and content in a physical way that cannot be replicated through online means.


Zines also provide a platform for people to express their views and thoughts freely in a public forum. Whether it is documenting their personal story via journaling or reporting, or showing their work in a medium that can be collectible and affordable, zines and zine culture is the accumulated components of the community that participate in it.


Then and Now, What's the Difference? 

Today, zines and the zine community have expanded from its fandom-based roots and have incorporated a more personal, DIY mindset. There is a tradition of the physical that is embraced in the scene. In a world where the digital has made content access limitless, zines have leaned towards the value of the finite, the collectible and the experience that comes with that pasttime. 


Bands use zines to promote their music and art. Authors work together to create collections of stories and writings in themed montly issues. Creators document their personal experiences with life experiences to share with others that may either learn from or relate to. Artists test run their comics and art in limited edition collections for fans and collectors alike.


The zine community and culture at large has not built walls up, but out. It's strength is in its expansion and embracing of new ideas and points of view without forgetting or ignoring where it came from. 


How do I participate?

Glad you asked! Making a zine is as simple as folding and cutting a piece of paper! There are several tutorials online on how to go about independently publishing and producing your own written content.


There are several thriving communities and events all over the world that focus on zines and zine culture that you can check out. Here is a small list of zine events and communities you can explore:


Zine Communities: There are zine communities all over the world! Whether there are makers or trading communities, you can search for ones closest to you. The best part is that if there isn’t a community near you, you can make one yourself!


Zine Fairs: Here is a small list of zine festivals across the United States, but be sure to check your local listings, as there are events across the world!


Pioneer Valley Zine Fest – @PioneerValleyZineFest - Easthampton, MA

New Zineland - @seekandfindboston – Cambridge, MA

Zine Fest Houston - @ZineFestHouston – Houston, TX

Scranton Zine Fest - @ruthlesszinescranton – Scranton, PA

Litchfield County Zine Fest - @litchfieldcountyzinefest – Kent, CT

L.A. Zine Fest - @lazinefest – Los Angeles, CA

Long Beach Zine Fest - @lbzinefest – Long Beach, CA

Chicago Zine Fest - @chicagozinefest – Chicago, IL


Zine Stores/Libraries: There are locations where zines can be viewed and read/exchanged across the country! Here are a few high profile locations.


Papercut Zine Library - @papercutzinelibrary – The Democracy Center, Cambridge MA

Fales Library and Special Collections – New York University

Little Berlin Zine Library - @littleberin – Kensington, PA






Photo Credits: Zines shown


"In the Woods" by @comic_kibble