Let’s Talk About Zines

Zines, short for ‘fan magazines’, were first created in the 1930s science fiction fandoms. The first ever zine is often traced back to the Science Correspondence Club in Chicago. It was called The Comet and was the start of what would become a revolution for independent publishing.

Long before the advent of the Internet, fanzines, alluding to the fans creating them, were a way for people to connect, share thoughts and ideas, write, and create collaborative art outside the scope of mainstream media. The connection between zines and science fiction can be traced back to the 1955 Worldcon, which saw the first ever Hugo award for ‘Best Fanzine’, a category which exists to this day.

As zines developed through the counterculture movements of the 1950s and 1960s, the growth of underground press, and the technological innovations of the 1970s, which made zines easier to produce than ever, the range of topics zines covered widened to include practically anything and the term ‘fanzine’ was naturally shortened to just ‘zine’.  

The 30s and 40s

  •  Fist zine: The Comet by The Science Correspondence Club.
  • Zines were being produced using mimeographs, which push ink through a stencil to make multiple prints. This process was impractical for large-scale production. 
  •  Oct 1940, Russ Chauvenet coins the term ‘fanzine’ in his sci-fi publication Detours.
  • June 1947, First ever queer fanzine by Edythe eyed called Vice Versa.
  • 1949, The Xerox Corporation introduces the first xerographic copier, marking the biggest change in the production of zines.
  • 1949, The word zine enters the Oxford English Dictionary.

The 50s and 60s

  • The counter-culture movement inspired by the Beat Generation was in full swing, which saw the rise of activist artists’ magazines.
  • The 50s saw the rise of folk zines, such as Bad Day at Lime Rock, Caravan, and Quandry.
  • In the 60s rock and roll zines take the spotlight. Paul Williams’s zine Crawdaddy!’s popularity soared, and it became a full-on magazine.
  • 1962, Ed Sanders creates Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts, breaking taboos about drugs and sex. Sanders’ credo is ‘I’ll print anything’.
  • 1967, The first media fanzine is a ‘Star Trek’ fan publication, Spockanalia.

The 70s and 80s 

  • Copy shops are widely available, meaning anyone can print zines quickly and cheaply.
  • The punk scene became the main hub of zine culture.
  • Punk zines come to represent the aesthetic and ideals of the cultural revolt against authoritarianism.
  • Zines redefine what magazines should be, many of them combining art, politics, culture, and activism into a single eclectic publication.

The 90s and 00s

  • The rise of Riot Grrrl, an underground feminist punk movement, which countered the male-driven punk world of the past. 
  • Political zines spread the feminist manifesto. 
  • Queercore was born, a punk sub-culture, aimed at critiquing homophobia in the genre and society. 
  • 2003, QZAP (Queer Zine Archive Project) launches to preserve queer zines. 

Zines matter

The importance of zines as historical documents has been recognized for years now and most university libraries have a zine collection of their own. Zines are artefacts of several cultural and political movements and remain an important part of socio-political movements and an underground press for marginalized voices.

Today, zines are more diverse than ever, and the rise of the internet has made their production close to zero, with online zines inviting artist across the world to collaborate together. We love zines because they provide a vehicle for ideas, expression, and art, and their sole purpose is to build connections. Zines are symbol of independent and self-publishing, providing an alternative to the commodified mainstream media and a platform for underground artists or lesser-known writers, without having to worry about sales and profits.

International Zine Month is celebrated in July around the world as a way of commemorating zines and promoting the independent publishing business. 

The London College of Communication has a Zine Collection, featuring over 200 punk, music and politic zines dating from the 1970s onwards, as well as many contemporary zines on art, politics, gender and sexuality.

You can follow the library’s zines dedicated group for more information about the archive and the special zine events they organize. You can find them on Facebook here.

You can also follow @ual.amaZINES on Instagram to keep up with the amazing zines that are being produced by students and staff at UAL.