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Pop Culture with Aminah: The Zine Scene, Then and Now

Photo courtesy of Mental Floss

One of the most interesting forms of self expression is zines. Zine is short for “magazine,” although zines have little in common with them. Unlike major publications, zines are either self-published or published through a smaller independent publisher. Even though zines are often smaller in size than magazines, there isn’t an exact definition for the criteria of their content. Zines can be informational and cover a range of topics, including political movements, music and art.

The earliest zine publication can be traced back to 1517, when Martin Luther published his Ninety-Five Theses. Zines made their first appearance in the U.S. in the 1930s, when members of a sci-fi club began using them to create stories for each other. Zines later evolved into an intersection of artistry and activism. In the 1970s, the punk rock scene began using the medium as a way to promote bands and share their anti-authoritarian message. Feminism found its way into the zine scene through the riot grrrls, an underground feminist punk movement. Built on the idea of empowerment, bands like Bikini Kill used zine publications to implore women to venture out and try new hobbies such as music.

Zines rose to popularity in the 20th century because of how affordable and accessible they are. Creators could print their works in large quantities at a low price, which also made it easier for the public to access them. This process is what gave independent creators the ability to make their items accessible. It allowed the audience to focus more on the work than the price or status of the product.

Zines today are thriving in the digital age. The internet makes it virtually free to create and distribute publications with the use of a link. The number of consistent publications have increased, and genres are more versatile than ever. Digital zines are able to incorporate more forms of art like auditory and video mediums, which allow for more creative expression.

The great thing about zines is that they work as independent projects and collaborations. If you’re interested in learning how to make your own zine, check out this guide for information on how to get started. Below is a list of zine publications to check out as well.

Polyester: an intersectional feminist zine dedicated to connecting online feminism with the real world (print and online)

Hotdog: a literary publication of queer, female-identifying and transgender poets (print)

Yellowzine: a zine focusing African, Caribbean, Asian and Hispanic creators with the intention of increasing representation (print and online)

Doll Hospital: a mental health-focused publication (print)

By Aminah Jenkins, Staff Writer


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