July 2, 2014

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Zine Month Special: My 10 Favorite Things about Zines

As noted yesterday, July is International Zine Month. While not all of the suggested ideas are applicable to posting here on the blog, opening up the month is listing your 10 favorite things about zines.

Here's mine, in no particular order:

  • Anyone with access to a pen, paper, and a way to make a few copies can make a zine. While some zines can be amazingly complex, the basic way to do it is just get out a paper and a pen (or pencil) and start writing. For me, that would involve illegible hand cramped scrawl, but for others it's their ideal method of communication. While blogging can also be done by anyone, it still requires access to the internet to post it. Not everyone lives with a place that has free computers.
  • Zines can be anonymous. Yes, again, you can be anonymous on the internet, but in this day and age, does anyone really think you are, knowing what we do now? While you can be outed as the writer of a particular zine, if you don't put a name or contact info on your work, then it's going to take significant effort to figure out who you are. For those writing about personal trauma or who are in danger or who fear reprisal in ANY way, zines are a safer outlet than the internet.
  • Zines don't give a damn about your gender, class, or race. Oh sure, there's portions of the community who might feel that way, but once they are identified it's made clear they aren't welcome. Those who seek to denigrate or use/abuse others may hide it for a time, but in the end, they get what they deserve: banishment. It's something I wish the rest of the communities I'm a part of would learn to do. Hate speech may be free speech, but that doesn't mean I or those I care about have to tolerate it.
  • There's a zine for just about everything. While most tend to think of zines as being either autobiographical or political (or both), if you can name the subject, there's probably a zine about it. I've encountered everything from discussing Prince to collecting at yard sales to the destruction of the Negro Leagues to fitness to a collection of images found on street corners. In my own limited zine creation, I've made a vegetarian recipe zine, a personal zine (2 issues) and even one talking about 24 board games. 
  • There's (almost) no wrong way to make a zine. Generally speaking, it's on paper, but if you found a way to reproduce it on aluminum foil--that'd be hell on the copy machine, I'd wager--it would still be a zine. Make it micro, quarter-sized, legal, even full-page--it's your zine!
  • There's no experience needed for zine-making. Some folks have been doing this for nearly two decades (Hi Alex!) or hundreds of issues (Hello there, John Porcelino!), while others are making their first zine as you read this.
  • Zines don't have production quotas or require a regular schedule. While some of my favorite zines are into double-digit issues, there's no rule saying you have to keep making a certain title if your feelings or interests change. Similarly, you can keep making your zine even if only a few others ever read it. No one but your copy budget and time make the rules here.
  • Personal connections via zines are somehow even more special than bonding in other ways. Somehow, reading about something extremely personal and realizing "I feel that way, too!" is something that feels like it can only happen in zines. I think it's the fact that when you write out a personal zine, you're exposing parts of yourself that don't come up in normal conversation, even among friends. My second issue of my own personal zine was the direct result of reading someone else dealing with similar issues.
  • Collaboration on one zine means sharing the love of a topic. Zisk zine allows baseball fans to share their stories, like trying to visit every ballpark or their detailed research on one player. Zine Crush is about having feelings for others in the zine world. And of course, fanzines like Ditkomania allow for discussion of topics and interaction in a way that again, a blog just can't, because internet culture gets in the way.
  • Zines create friendships. Though compared to others, my zine connections are not as strong, I still have three people I'd never have met otherwise who I consider to be very close personal friends that I would do anything for, something I reserve for only a select group of people. Beyond them are a wonderful network of folks who I also call friend, that all came from being a part of the zine community.

In the end, that last one may be my #1 reason for appreciating being part of the world of zines. I can't thank Erica enough for introducing me to it, and all of the great people in the wider world of zines for accepting me!

If you want to share your thoughts or did so somewhere online, please tell me in the comments! I'd love to read what others had to say!