Zine readings

Everything I read about zines

I started reading academic papers about zines because I was working on a zine generator in the style of a casual creator. I’ve been interested in casual creators for a long time, so of course I shoehorned my interest in zines into (yet) another casual creator project. However, the more I read about zines, the more I started to think that zine-making might exist in opposition to all the goals of a casual creator. My zine-generator / casual-creator project is on hiatus.

The author of Value and Validity of Art Zines as an Art Form explains that “zine makers choose to take part in a process that is messy, inefficient, and labor intensive in a culture that celebrates ease and immediacy - an art process.” In Notes From Underground, Stephen Duncombe explains how “wielding complete control” over the creative process defines zine-making. An automated zine generator seems antithetical to the values held by zine-makers.

For some time, I thought I could save my digital zine maker because it, like Glitch, would have a remix button that would help zine readers to become writers. Seeing as the message of a zine is to “do your own zine” (Duncombe), I thought that defining a zine by its ease of reproduction would be enough.

However, I ran into more obstacles. Again and again, I found papers like Choosing Zines that described zines as being defined by “the aesthetics of the photocopier” or papers like Scissors and Glue that described the aesthetic of zines in terms of “photocopied” images and “hand-scrawled” words.

The author of Value and Validity of Art Zines as an Art Form claims that “the hand of the creator” shows up in a zine as a signature, illustration, hole punch, or stamp. Similarly, the author of Choosing Zines discusses zine-making techniques like “hand coloring” that show the “touch of the maker.”

After reading these papers, it seems to me that the entire point of the analog zine is that it has been physically touched by the creator. The zine is a vessel for touch, and this touch is a vessel for connection. Perhaps this is what zines provide that other forms of art cannot.

I still enjoy making zines, even though my zine-maker might never take off. I found Notes from Underground to be a life-sustaining affirmation of my zine-making practice. Whether it is digital or analog or makes money or barely breaks even, zines enable me to ’scream out “I exist.”’

I do feel, as Duncombe wrote, that the zine community “foster[s] a community of losers within a society that celebrates winners.”

To end, I’m just going to quote this large block of text in full. I really love this quote because, basically - when I was younger, I thought my life would have meaning from being a special person. I thought I would grow up to be famous or at least recognized as better than others with regard to some skill or category.

I recently realized I am not special and it was quite a revelation. Of course, I am at fault for thinking that I am better than others (entitled much?) but celebrity culture also trains us to think that fame gives life meaning. When that fame did not come, I was confused.

Here’s the quote.

Most people in the US will 'never amount to anything.' They won't be the best and the brightest because what they excel at doesn't fit the elite criteria of merit, because the traditional ladders of education and social services are being dismantled, because they consciously reject the paucity of a life spent in competition, or because they are just regular people, nothing special. But by celebrating the fact that "we'd never amount to anything," the zine world does amount to something. It becomes a place where losers who have found their way into the underground can have a voice, a home, and others to talk to. As individuals, zinesters may be losers in the game of American meritocracy, but together they give the word "loser" a new meaning, changing it from insult to accolade, and transforming personal failure into an indictment of the alienating aspects of our society.

Readings mentioned: