Fan-made zines have been made and distributed since some of the first inceptions of fandom culture. In a way, zine culture is fandom
culture, and it’s almost impossible to separate zines like Spockanalia from Star Trek itself. Zines were the place where fans could show off and explore the parts of media they loved and wanted to see more of. While modern zines have roots in the commonplace books young girls kept in the late 1700s and early 1800s, fanzines and pamphlets existed in the Sherlock fandom in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Zines in their modern form truly emerged around the science fiction fandom.
While the Star Trek zines weren’t the first to be published and distributed at cons, they are certainly some of the most well known. Other fandoms that had a large zine subculture in the mid century include Sherlock, Dr. Who, and the Professionals.
This is the way that zines worked. Dedicated fans would get together and write fanfic, commission artists, and network with other writers via traditionally published science fiction magazines. Zines would be compiled, copied, and collated. Zines would be sold at cons, or traded with other zine publishers. Often zines would be ordered, and publishers and authors would keep dedicated mailing lists so that they could take preorders, network with new authors, and create a postal community of fans and zinesters.
In the 1970s and 80s, zines were usually black and white, with some illustrations and lots of stories. In the 90s, with more graphic design tools available and digital art libraries expanding, zines tended to look more and more professional, imitating traditional publishing. There were even publishing houses that would produce and distribute fan novels, sometimes for profit, sometimes with all proceeds going to charity.
Zines were still underground until the 90s, passed around at cons and traded for other pieces. Since zines were the place where early fanfic writers distributed the majority of their slashfic, they tended to be secretive, subvert things. Some people used their real names, some used fake names or chosen sobriquets such as ‘Artemis’ or ‘Red Noun,’ rather than any kind of traditional pseudonym.
When the internet became more prolific, many authors and slashfic publishers turned to blog sites to host their work independently. The audience for fic expanded as dissemination became free for consumers. Zines were still being produced, but it was not considered cost effective, and it was no longer the only means of sharing fic and developing fandom communities.
Zines have begun to rise in popularity within the last ten years. Using social media, people are getting in touch, organizing, and creating more zines than ever! Platforms like Tumblr and Twitter are allowing artists, organizers, and writers to get in touch and organize.
Older zines are not forgotten, and in fact, there are multiple places that catalog and record zines published in the 70s-90s. Zinedom is working to catalog and archive stories published during this time, and has a lot of recommendations for where you can send your old zines so that universities and other organizations can archive and catalog fanwork.
If you’re interested in modern zines, check out ZineSubmissions, Zine-Scene, ZineHunter, and FandomZines, all of which periodically post calls for submissions and updates on zines that are being organized.
So join in the fun! Draw, write, and purchase more zines! And don’t forget to share.