Zines: What They Are And Why They're Important as Hell

Hidden inside the margins of independent bookstores, being used as bookmarks for full-sized books, underneath library stacks, sitting on the sales floor of cons across the nation, is the zine. Taken from the word “magazine,” zines are (often) small, (usually) limited-publication booklets about any subject the creator of the zine cares to make their project about. There are zines dedicated to a never-ending list of topics from the mainstream to the niche, filled with poetry, images, phrases, or whatever mode of communication the author(s) have chosen to represent in their booklet. As I hoped my prior parenthesis would emphasize, the draw of the zine is the fact that it cannot be wholly defined—they’re an effort of love that often (but again, not always!) take on a homemade appearance because they are made by people who do not always have access to mainstream publishing options.





Zines have historically given people an opportunity to flex their creative juices and to spread ideas that might be considered too underground, radical or even incomprehensible to publishers. In a time before the internet, zines were even used as a form of communication. And even with the rise of technology, they have remained as a tactile reminder that some things are best said in written word and handiwork, not keystrokes. But even with that being said, digital zines are no less meaningful than their handmade counterparts. Archives of incredible online zines exist—and you can access a lot of of them immediately. Even vintage zines are beginning to be backed up online for internet viewing (especially with libraries acquiring larger and larger collections of them).


The only things anyone theoretically needs to create a zine is some paper and a way to make the pages to stick together (and, failing that, a scissor snip in the right place with some folding). Talent isn’t a necessary precursor—many people into zine culture say that while their first zine is probably one of their worst put-together ones, it’s also one of the most special ones that they make. It’s your first step into a wholly new creative pursuit, and one that demands exactly the amount of effort you’re willing to put into it.


After the production of a zine, some people put it into their photocopier to begin giving away or trading copies of their product in exchange for other people’s zines. Some send them to people who review zines for fun. Some just keep the zine to themselves. No matter what you choose to do with your zine, the important part is the zine’s creation—the culmination of your efforts in creating something tangible, no matter how flawed (or even ugly!) it might be perceived in the eyes of the polished press. Of course, almost all art encapsulates a basic idea of self-expression, but in many ways, the zine itself is unique because it can be the self-expression itself, not the product of it.


Whereas every art form has struggled with defining its boundaries (is a band sitting in silence considered music? Is a blue line drawn across a canvas art? Can porn be considered film?), zines intentionally exist in a lack of boundaries. This not only allows an artist to come to their own definition of what a zine is—did you know that some consider Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” to be an early zine?—but allows for anyone, from any background, with any intent, to make one. Whether used to spread political ideas, vent, or make fancomics of Garfield, zines are a wholly unique form of communication that I encourage any reader moved by this article to attempt.





If you would like to consider making your own zine, below are some helpful sources to get started.


How To Make a Zine” by Jordan Clark. It’s as good a place to start as any! Don’t be intimidated by how put-together her final product is, or the relatively high-quality of the items she’s using—she’s clearly been practicing for a while.  Besides, if it makes you feel any better, there are some zinesters who have been designing zines for years that intentionally look like someone’s first attempt!


How To Fold a Zine” by Emma Dajska. There’s multiple ways to make a zine out of a single piece of paper if you don’t have access to a stapler!


How to Make a Zine: A Kid-Friendly DIY Guide” by Celia C. Pérez. These instructions are a little simplified if you’re struggling with the first two.


Happy zining!


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