Zines take the profit and fame motive out of artistic expression and focus on communication, expression and community for their own sake. Zines are the one truly democratic art form. Zine writers are the most important writers in the world. — Chris Landry

Zines are some of my favourite things.

Self-published and self-distributed, usually sporting a really great title, cheap or even free if you have one of your own to trade, full of art or text or cut-and-paste collage or cartoons, raw, personal, funny and/or sad, low-tech, and accessible–zines are the pinnacle of DIY deliciousness. Reading a good zine is like having a conversation with a friend: informal, engaging, direct, honest, and relevant. It really is quite a different experience from reading a regular ol’ published book. Zines are often unexpected and surprising: inside you might find a candy, a condom, a sticker or an original sketch. One zine might look like a hasty ransom note, another one beautifully designed and artful. They come in strange sizes, shapes and bindings, even with covers made of old linoleum. And another thing, some zines are stunningly bad.

Over the decades zine genres have developed: fanzines (science fiction fan magazines which are claimed by many to be be the progenitor of contemporary zines), perzines (personal zines) cook zines, mama zines, travel zines, punk zines, goth zines, grrl zines,  LGBT zines, comic zines, craft zines, anthology zines…the list goes on.

Because zines are fairly easily produced (you just need some paper and access to a photocopier)  they can provide an authentic and accessible medium for expressing the political, intellectual and cultural ideas (and ideals) of any community. The nuts and bolts of people’s lives can be recorded and shared in a way that can’t happen via regular publishing. This is why a strong zine community is so valuable. Zines can provide an important snapshot of a culture or a sub-culture at it’s roots, unfettered by the trappings of mainstream forms of cultural production and economies. What a joy to have something that isn’t about money and instant gratification but is about self-expression, communication and community.

A few of my favourite zines:

  • The Stolen Sharpie Revolution by Alex Wrekk. Actually, this isn’t a zine, but it is the best how-to-make a-zine guide out there. A classic.
  • Work, Dirt and Money by Cole Robertson. A fascinating foray into the world of treeplanting from a 2nd generation tree-planter
  • Stoked on Spokes: a community cycling resource guide edited by Juls Generic. A great compilation of stories, tips and art by people who are trying to use cycling as a form of social change as well as a way to get around town
  • Ms. Direction by Katie Cercone. An Oregon-based feminist pulls it all together in a series of themed anthology zines (issue topics include “Obsession”, “Marriage”, “Gender-bending” and more).

Local zine collections that I know about:

The Purple Thistle Centre has one of the largest zine collections in Canada. It’s a youth art and activism centre in East Van and not exactly open to the general public, but a phone call might get you in to see the collection. Lots of local zines/ters are somehow associated with the Purple Thistle Centre.

The Regional Assembly of Text’s lower case reading room is tucked under the stairs. There you will find a permanent installation of zines and self-published books to enjoy at your leisure.

Vancouver Public Library—Central Branch will soon be launching it’s fledgling zine collection. Keep your eyes open for the launch date (hopefully in the spring of 2008). For more information, email: zines@vpl.ca

Some places where I know you can buy zines in Vancouver:

Lucky’s, People’s Co-op Bookstore, Spartacus Books, Magpie Magazines, Regional Assembly of Text, Lugz, and other local shops, music and book stores I’m sure.

A small sample of zine web links:

N.B. ‘zine’ rhymes with ‘spleen’.

By Dana Putnam.

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3 Responses to “Zines!”

  1. Alex Wrekk Says:

    Aw, thanks for including my book Stolen Sharpie Revolution! I’m working on the reprint and it should be out in a few months.

    • Dana Putnam Says:

      Yay Alex! Just saw you on the DVD “$100. and a TShirt”, a documentary about zines which was awesome! You were making buttons, my other favourite thing. I look forward to the revised edition of Stolen Sharpie. Thanks for keeping at it!

  2. homio5ta5i5 Says:

    I love Zines. Please tell me when you make one~

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