DIY publishing is as old as the printing press and with the inventions of the table top press, the mimeograph machine and the Xerox copier, mass publishing became easier and more affordable for the working person, eventually leading to a full scale, underground marketplace of ideas. Dubbed “zines,” these pamphlets have taken on many forms and topics over the years and have been adapted any number of times to fit the demands of authors and society.
Fanzines go as far back as the 1930s, when science fiction fans would print and trade their own stories and reviews. After that, the Beat poets adapted the medium into chap books and literary zines, followed closely by hippies printing fistfuls of newspapers and underground comix. The 70s, 80s and 90s saw an influx of music fanzines, most notably with punks and riot grrls leading the charge.
All of these traditions continue today in the zine world, along with new contributions in the areas of bike culture, environmentalism and indie comics. With diversity like that, checking out what DIY publishing has to offer can be an enlightening endeavor. So without further ado, I offer up a few zines from a variety of genres I think are worthy of attention.
Seven Inches to Freedom
Seven Inches to Freedom is a throwback to a time before blogs and wikis, when cut-and-paste zines were a medium of necessity for those looking to reach out to like-minded people who shared a passion over a given topic. In this case, the Florida based SITF is devoted to hardcore and punk music, with a strong emphasis on DIY culture in the underground scene. Editor Joe Lachut and fellow contributors also relish the chance to revisit influential albums by major artists and trade tips on record collecting. Seven Inches to Freedom is an honest to goodness music love-fest and the enthusiasm it contains is contagious. Pick one up if you can.
You Don’t Get There From Here
Carrie McNinch has been producing zines and mini-comics for well over a decade and her most recent project has been a mainstay for me during the past year or so. You Don’t Get There From Here takes the form of a daily mini-comic (published quarterly) in which all aspects of her life are fair game, from her mental and physical health to her struggles with alcoholism and loneliness. McNinch approaches her comics as a form of therapy and her honesty and creativity are to be commended as readers are allowed to share in her joys and set backs. Usually quiet and even meditative in tone, McNinch’s comics convey a very human story.
Dames on Frames
Dames on Frames mixes Riot Grrl feminism with contemporary bike culture. As hardcore bike enthusiasts, these women know the pain and joy of 1000 mile bike tours as well as the potential dangers of daily commuting and Critical Mass rides. Though this zine is primarily written to empower and encourage women bicyclists, men can get a lot out of it too. It’s packed with tons of resources, including tips on bike maintenance and how to organize group rides.
So there you have it. You should be able to buy any of these easily off the Internet or check with your local public library as zine collections have been popping up around the country. Be sure to check back here as I plan (with fingers crossed) to dig a little deeper into the history of zines and reveal more gems (with varying degrees of scarcity) for your reading pleasure.
Andrew Coulon is a founding member of the Jacksonville Public Library Zine Collection, an avid zine and comic collector and a music junkie.