Back in October, The Zine Collection at Central Library officially opened its shelves to St. Louis. There was a Grand Opening with all the right ingredients: snacks, a ribbon-cutting ceremony, a zine-making session, and plenty of time for zinesters to get their hands on the fresh, newly cataloged selection of zines. For those already familiar with the format, seeing these zines on the shelves was quite validating.
But what about folks who aren’t so familiar with zines? For those patrons wondering what a zine is and why it might be of interest, here’s a beginner’s guide to the world of zines through the Library’s shelves.
Some say the very first zine might have been Thomas Paine’s 1776 pamphlet Common Sense, but zines as they’re known today have roots in science fiction fandom of the mid-20th century. Sci-fi fans, eager to discuss the genre in depth, began circulating homemade publications among one another. These fan-made magazines, or fanzines, enabled people to connect in new ways and set the course for the rest of zine history. Sarah May’s Firefly fanzine keeps the tradition alive in 2013 with personal essays, music lessons, and recipes about why the TV show is personally important.
After sci-fi, two major stepping stones in zine history are punk rock and feminism. Beginning in the late 1970s, punk fans began photocopying zines to spread amongst each other. In the 90s, zines authored as a part of the riot grrrl movement brought feminism, punk rock, and zines to national attention. In jen(ny) ambular #2, both subjects are on display. Written in 2010 as a tour diary, the only woman in the punk band The Ambulars lays out her unique experiences on the road. They even make a stop in St. Louis.
Zine culture is known for its very supportive, connected community. Perhaps one of the best examples of how that plays out is the split zine, one zine made by two (or more) zinesters. Aside from that stipulation, there aren’t any other rules dictating what a split zine is or isn’t. It’s worth noting, though, that the visual style of this zine, as well as the previous two, pulls from the look established by punk zines and reinforced by riot grrrl: cut and paste. It’s a classic look for zines and for good reason. It speaks to the personal, inexpensive, and crafty nature of zines.
Taking a step back from the cut and paste look, Trevor Grabill’s zine of drawings offers little context for its content. Unlike what we’ve seen above, the content here is simple and sparse.
5) Rasavada #15
Even farther away from the dense punk zine look, Rasavada offers up visual art without context. Cryptic and mysterious, Rasavada is an art zine open to interpretation.
Here’s the first minicomic on the list! Comics has a big presence in the zine world and some comics artists get their start self-publishing before moving on to more commercial methods. Leila Abdelrazaq’s beautiful, wordless comic depicts customs of Ramadan.
7) o O Vengeance!
As a comic about revenge created entirely from internet stock photos and crude drawings of masks that may very well have been made in Microsoft Paint, O Vengeance! demonstrates the freedom from convention zines allow.
8) Blurry Mary
The photozine, which is exactly what it sounds like, is another staple zine genre. This collection of photos by French photographer Maycec is printed in full color and holds true to its name.
9) Summer Jams
Summer Jams is great example of a compilation zine, which compiles works, written or visual, that all fit within a certain theme. This zine, curated by The Puro Chingón Collective, highlights work from latino/a artists.
After digging through this list, maybe you’ve decided zine life is the life for you. If so, here’s your first metazine. That is, a zine about zines or zine culture. Zine trading plays a big part in the zine community and this one-page zine is your start to a fruitful trading career. Happy trading!
This blog post was written by Wes Harbison, SLPL staff member and one of the heads behind The Moon Zine series. Wes helped bring Central Library's zine collection to fruition.