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This article is about the type of fan publication. For other uses, see Zine (disambiguation).

Synonyms: fanzine, fanmag
See also: archive, doujinshi, zine piracy, Zine Art, Zine Production. See Zine Publisher for a list of fanzine publishers
A fan made button that says:"Fanzines Are Fandom." For some fans, fandom was all about the written word. It dates to a time where most fan fiction was published in fanzines.
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The word zine is short for 'magazine' (and is pronounced like that). It has been used for several types of amateur periodical from different communities. Like the word fandom, it is usually understood in context, but becomes quite ambiguous when these different communities intersect. Some major types of zines include SF fandom zines (common from the 1930s on), 1970s punk zines, riot grrrl zines (starting in the 1990s, but still commonly distributed through feminist bookstores and some music stores in the 2010s), and media fandom fanzines.

Other types of fanzines focus on comics and graphic arts, horror films, rock & roll music, personal zines, punk, mod, local music, wargaming, role-playing, and sports.

History of Print Fanzines

See also History of Media Fanzines (for the history of zines that include fan fiction).
cover of the first fanzine, "The Comet"

In the absence of any other solid medium, print fanzines are a record of what everyday people around the world were thinking and discussing before the Internet, and one way to understand trends in various fan communities until the mid-1990s when access to the computer and the internet became a given.

The practice of making fanzines originated in science fiction fandom in the 1930s, when they were called fanmags. The first printed fanzine was "The Comet," a fanzine published in 1930 by Raymond Arthur Palmer and published by the Science Correspondence Club in Chicago. [1]

The term fanzine itself dates to at least 1940, and zine may be a back formation.[2] The term and the tradition spread to the emerging media fandom in the 1960s and 70s; at the same time, punk culture seems to have acquired the activity, although not the term fanzine, via rock music fans who were familiar with sf fandom[3]. However, the content of SF zines is very different from media fanzines; SF zines are usually non-fiction, consisting of a variety of articles about fannish topics[4], whereas media fanzines often include or consist solely of fanfiction. (See Wikipedia's Fanzine article for a history of SF fanzines and some other offshoots from them.)

Zines in Media Fandom

a zine ed takes a well-deserved rest, from the zine Storms #1, Linda Stoops

In the early days, amateur fan publications carried fiction, factual articles and metadiscussions about the subject. Perhaps the first such publication was The Baker Street Journal, about Sherlock Holmes. The earliest Star Trek fanzines had a similar format. Lennon Lyrics, the official John Lennon fan club zine from 1965 to 1968, carried factual material about John's work with the Beatles and independently.

In today's media fandom, a zine or fanzine is usually either a novel or novella-length fanfic story (referred to as a "zine novel", "novel zine", or "novel"), or a collection of fanfic stories, often edited. Other zine types included adzines (like Universal Translator or GAZ), or letterzines (like Not Tonight, Spock) or oddball ones (like Cold Fish and Stale Chips). Once finished, a zine is bound together and sold at conventions, or through the mail. Prices vary: some fans strongly believe it is wrong to profit in any way from someone else's copyrighted characters. Most pay themselves at least a little for their incidental costs above the cost of production and shipping; a few others believe that women need to get paid for their work.

The majority of zines are for a single fandom, usually for stories about sexual relationships or friendships between characters, geared to a specific subgenre within that fandom (gen, het, slash), and may have a specific theme (kink, first times, AU, reviews, etc.). Others are "multimedia", which in this case means "multi media sources", or multi-fandom rather than including a CD or DVD of fan-produced music or video.

The sizes are generally either "full size" (8.5" x 11" for US publishers, A4 for European publishers), or "digest size" (5" x 8" for US publishers, A5 for European publishers). The bindings can be any type; the most common are staples for digest-sized zines, and comb bindings for full-size zines.

Production and distribution have changed with technology. Early on, typewritten submissions were mailed back and forth between contributors (or "tribbers") and editors, and then the final versions copied on mimeo machines (and later photocopiers) and physically collated into zines for binding.

In 1991, K. Kimberly Prosser and Lisa Swope wrote a guide to Fanzine Publishing for a panel at the National Beauty and the Beast Convention, held June 1991 in Orlando, Florida. In 1999, five zine publishers participated in a Zine Publisher's Chat where they talked about the history of zines, and the submission, editing and publishing process.

These days, electronic files are emailed back and forth between tribbers and editors, and the final copy of each story is compiled into an electronic copy of the zine (using a word processor or desktop publishing software), which is printed off and sent out for copying and binding. Some zines are even distributed electronically, as downloadable PDF files, and some of those are controversially still sold, even as file version. Zines are still in production albeit in fewer numbers. One of the remaining advantages to print fanzines is the ability to print high quality art. (See "A 'zine! A 'zine! My kingdom for a 'zine!" by ljc).

Edited online story collections posted in html format and not produced for print at all are called "online zines" or "e-zines" by some fans. For instance, in Sentinel fandom, a group of fans have been producing the My Mongoose Ezines since March 2001. Also, some fen have taken to making novel zines in PDF format of their fanworks, due to newer functionality in desktop publishing software like Microsoft Office and Open Office to export PDF files. These can be printed out in full quality.

In former times, there were many ways to get a zine other than just buying it. From the '50s through to the '80s, zines might appear in your mailbox gratis, with a note included explaining just why "You are receiving this zine".

The Decline in the Number of Zines Published

The arrival and accessibility of the internet, among other things, led to a profound and lasting decline in zine production. But this decline hit different fandoms at different speeds. Older fandoms with many years of zine production, such as K/S, The Professionals and others maintained zine production longer. Different fandoms tried different strategies throughout the late 90s and early 2000s to accommodate fans who were acting out more of their fannish life online.

But even before the Internet, fans noticed a drop-off in number of new zines. See Why Fewer Zines?.

Where to Find Zines

Main article: Where to Find Zines

Zines are available for sale at many cons, on eBay, and through publishers' websites. Some academic and public libraries, as well as fannish archivists, also maintain zine collections.

Zine Production

Main article: Zine Production

Information includes "Early Zine Production," "Roles in Zine Production," "Common Parts of a Zine," "How Much Did/Does it Cost to Make a Zine?," and other topics related to creating zines.

Doujinshi and Zines

Media fanzines are similar to, or an equivalent of, doujinshi. Both practices arose similarly, both are female-dominated, and both feature quite a bit of m/m fanworks, although they developed quite separately from each other and use distinct terminology. Although they were named separately, the "shi" in doujinshi is the kanji for magazine, the same word from which "zine" is derived.

A few Japanese-speaking doujinka (doujinshi artists) have used the term "zine" for doujinshi which are based on Western source texts which have fandoms that use the term, e.g. English-speaking Supernatural fandom uses "zines" so some doujinka have called their doujinshi "zines" as well. Many fanartists in English-speaking anime/manga/game fandom have called their manga-style fancomics and published booklets doujinshi.

Doujinshi are more likely to be in a visual art style (e.g. manga or artbook) than zines, and the creation and selling of doujinshi/zines is a much more prevalent activity in Japan. The largest convention for self-published works in the world is the doujinshi convention Comiket.

See Also

Further Reading


  1. Zine Wiki, accessed 14 May 2012
  2. See fanzine and zine entries at Science Fiction Citation. (Accessed 5 June 2011) The earliest cite for "fanzine" is 1940 in Louis Russell Chauvenet's fanzine Detours. The earliest cite for "zine" is 1946 in Startling Stories.
  3. See the Wikipedia article on Who Put the Bomp and Punk zine
  4. Camille Bacon-Smith, Science Fiction Culture (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000), 112.
  5. Wayback link
  6. webcite; WayBack link.
  7. webcite; Wayback machine link.
  8. webcite; Wayback Machine link.
  9. webcite; Wayback machine link.
  10. WebCite; Wayback Machine link.
  11. WayBack Machine link; WebCite accessed 12.1.2010
  12. reference link; Wayback Machine link.
  13. reference link; WayBack link.
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