[ FANZINES ]
“Fanzine” refers to independent publications that cover specific niche topics.
Originally beginning as a venue for science fiction fans to share ideas and create a community, this style of self-published writing was soon adopted by people of other unique interests.
Famously catching the imagination of music fans paying tribute to their favourite bands.
Fanzines first became popular during the Great Depression, but self-published amateur writing has been distributed since at least the 19th century. During the Victorian era amateur press associations began distributing their writing and commentary with the help of new, smaller printing presses. Very similarly to modern internet forums.
The advent of pulp fiction saw the rise of a rabid fan culture, but genres such as science fiction and fantasy weren’t taken seriously by the mainstream press or by literary magazines. Alternative culture needed a way to assert itself, and fans of these topics began making amateur publications that used the format of newspapers and magazines.
It was during this first wave of independent underground activity that Russ Chauvenet coined the term “Fanzine”. This term was born out of the science fiction community which for many years was the primary driver of self-published activity. Even today, a Google search of “fanzine” yields innumerable science-fiction and fantasy results. Music and fashion during this time were still very much the domain of the mainstream press.
1960s counterculture and the photocopier expanded the possibilities of the fanzine. There was a greater interest in self-expression and non-conformism, but the many popular magazines and newspapers couldn’t keep up with what was really of interest to the youth. These dissatisfied and adventurous young people were the first generation to refer to fanzines as “Zines”.
Other new or marginalised subcultures such as punks, feminists, and alternative lifestyle enthusiasts soon embraced the medium. What is considered the golden age of fanzine activity was heralded by the rise of punk rock ‘zines, and scattered by the opportunities afforded by the Internet.
In recent years there has been a blurring of what is a blog, a forum or a fanzine. While online communities centred around forums are the main site of fan activity in the internet age, they don’t operate the same way as ‘zines. Fanzines are often the work of a single editor with a handful of contributing writers. They are formatted like magazines, with lots of consideration given to the layout and design. Fanzines give one speaker the floor for the duration of a piece, whereas forums are largely democratic. The advantage of a magazine-format fan operation in the 21st century is that it gives a depth to the content that real fans desire and are able to contribute to.
Even the gargantuan fashion media industry, long the gatekeeper of style, is seeing its influence divided as passionate individuals use both print and digital media to express themselves. Music and fiction have been the subject of many fan publications, but fashion and style are viable territory as well. Amateur publications are produced without the intention to turn a profit, which makes them likely places to see bold and innovative designs.
Printed Fanzines, long considered on an inevitable decline, are seeing resurgence as well. Nostalgia for physical objects and collectibles, as well their old-fashioned DIY sensibility, have made the fanzine remain viable in the era of crowded Facebook walls and cluttered RSS feeds.