Friday, 12 June 2009

Zines: the basics

Zines as we know them today roughly date back to the 1970s with punk fanzines like 'Sniffin' Glue' but they also have links to the 1930s amateur science-fiction press and even political pamphlets of the 17th century. Nothing new then but they've always been a medium for minority groups to express marginalised, and frequently subversive, ideas.

Zines are self-published, d.i.y. magazines which are often produced using little more than scissors, prit stick and work's photocopying budget. Because of the use of these materials and techniques, many zines have retained the cut and paste aesthetic of many of the punk zines of the 70s. This is simply the cheapest way to produce your own publication and it reflects the anti-establishment stance taken by many zines.

Although many people think of zines as simply being linked to musical movements like Punk and Riot Grrrl, the subject matter is actually very varied. There are zines about anything: mental health issues, politics, bike maintenance, knitting and female ejaculation. Zinesters are an eclectic bunch of people.

From a feminist point of view, zinesters have created a community and network of women who support each other and reassure women around the world that they’re not insane. Many of the major zine distributors are women, supporting the women who write and produce them and friendships are often formed between readers and zinesters through letter writing. The publishing world is notoriously a boy’s club, difficult for women to infiltrate and rise to the top of especially if they retain a feminist sensibility. A sense of solidarity and a do-it-yourself spirit are ensuring that women’s ideas are being heard. It isn’t glamorous or glossy but in a world of Heat magazine and lads mags, it’s an honest and vital alternative.