You may have heard talk of zines lately and thought to yourself, "Oh, yeah, it's just a magazine, right?" No. This is a common misconception, but zines are not the same as magazines at all. Magazines are mass-produced publications gleaming with a corporate sheen, targeted at specific audiences and intent on making money.
Zines were born out of an underground, rebellious culture. One of the more well-known zines, 'Riot grrl,' was created in the 90s by a group of punk, radical ladies who wanted to enact change for feminism as a movement. The 'Riot grrl' zine eventually evolved into its own radical community, fostering a home for any girl who may have wanted to fight against the man.
However, even though zines were born out of somewhat radical and underground culture, zines do not have to be radical or political at all. They can be essentially anything that you want them to be. I have seen zines at UNC-Chapel Hill that are a little more radical, trying to address issues like the Silent Sam debacle or issues like sexual assault. But, I have also seen zines that are just drawings of lady-bug hybrids and ones about the worst things this specific person could get for their birthday.
I myself created a zine detailing a story set in an alternate world where humans are in the roles of cows and cows are in the roles of humans. Many people view this zine as a political statement against eating meat and supporting vegetarianism, but I had no goal of relaying any political message. I just wanted to create this story that popped into my head because I thought it was interesting and weird and I wanted to share it.
This level of broadness may not have made the definition of what a zine is any clearer.
But that's what zines are: broad, or at least, the topics of zines are broad. However, zines are also very specific and niche. They can be about anything, but whatever they are about is usually super specific, like a zine on how to make soap or one on how to take care of your teeth using ancient methods.
That is the beauty of zines. They have a very specific audience that can help someone who may not fit into any standard norms find their people. May all the soap-makers of the world unite!
Another great thing about zines is that they are hand-crafted labors of love. What that means is that zines are usually, if not always, in some way made with your hands. They are labors of love because you are not likely to gain any monetary value from making a zine, so if you are making one it's because you really love the topic or idea of the zine.
Zines can be made online and printed out and pieced together, but they are not shared online. A lot of what makes up zine culture is the process of copying and distributing a physical form of your zine. That physicality is what makes a zine a zine.
You may wonder why zines even still exist with the over-looming internet being so ever-present.
Part of it is because zines, like their subject-matters, are a niche art. There is nothing really like making a zine, especially not on the internet. If anything, the internet has actually made the distribution and sharing of zines easier, perpetuating the culture.
Zines are appealing to create because there is something cathartic about expounding this specific idea or topic so dear to you in a physical form. Zines are a means of expression. There is also something appealing about physically giving your zine to someone and watching them enjoy it or hate, reacting in some way.
So, thankfully the internet has not killed zines. These quirky little books of passion and artistry are still around and may always be around.
Check out some of these zines from Etsy
Also, stay tuned for information on the Zine Club at UNC-Chapel Hill!