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This article is about the type of fan publication. For other uses, search, see the Category:Zine Fandom, or see Zine (disambiguation).

Synonyms: fanzine, fanmag
See also: APA, archive, doujinshi, FAPAzine, Perzine, 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.
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
A fan, Pyracantha, in spring 1981 demonstrated the fine arts...[1]

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 APA#History (for the history of the amateur press before "zines").
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.

Fanzines shared origins with amateur magazines and the amateur press movement, starting in the 1860s. 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.[2]

The term fanzine itself dates to at least 1940, and zine may be a back formation.[3] The term and the tradition spread to the emerging media fandom in the 1960s and 70s.

Another branching off occurred at roughly the same time with punk culture acquiring the practice via rock music fans who were familiar with science fiction fandom.[4] Note that punk zine scholarship usually ignores the existence of media fanzines and describes a narrative of historical evolution from SF zines to punk zines to a broader zinester culture.[5]

Another inspiration cited for the rise of nonfannish zines is the underground or alternative press boom in the 1960s. (See Wikipedia's Fanzine article for a history of SF fanzines and some other offshoots from them.)

Despite the common origins, the style and content of the zines in these different offshoots are radically different. (See Collage and Zine Art.) Although some SF zines did contain amateur SF stories, by the time that media fanzines appeared, SF zines were usually non-fiction, consisting of a variety of articles about fannish topics.[6] These science fiction fanzines were mostly run by fans who themselves wished to become professional writers. Rather than giving their writing away for free, their goal was to sell it to science fiction magazines, including (and especially) John W. Campbell's prestigious Analog. in contrast, media fanzines often included or consisted solely of fanfiction. Meanwhile, although both riot grrrl zines and slash media zines were made by women, riot grrrl zines came out of punk culture and were explicitly feminist[7], while media zines were generally not intentionally political and might have featured letters and comments that sound extremely conservative to the modern fan.

Zines in Media Fandom

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

The first science fiction amateur press associations began in the 1930s. In the early days, amateur fan publications carried fiction, factual articles and metadiscussions about the subject.

Perhaps the first media fandom type publication was The Baker Street Journal, about Sherlock Holmes, which dates back to 1946. 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. The earliest Star Trek fanzines had a similar format in addition to fan fiction, poetry, art, reviews and games.

In today's media fandom, a zine or fanzine is usually either a collection of fanfic stories, often edited; or a novel or novella-length fanfic story (referred to as a "zine novel", "novel zine", or "novel"). 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 the people who put in so much time and effort into fanzines need to get paid for their work (among other reasons, because most fanzine publishers are women, who do so much unpaid work in society-at-large).

The majority of today's 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".

"Returns" were common courtesy in the early days. When you received a zine, whether you'd bought it or it simply appeared, you wrote a short thank-you note saying that you had received the zine, and a few lines (or more) about what you thought of it. These returns were often printed in future issues. They were considered helpful feedback and encouragement for zine creators.

The Appeal of the Media Fanzine

Before the internet, print zines were one of the main ways fans could share fanfiction, fanart, poetry, discussion, meta, and announcements. Many zines earned part of their money through a classified ad section where other zines and fannish paraphernalia could be advertised.

Some reasons fans create and consume fanzines:

  • for the joy and satisfaction of creating something to share, and for the fun
  • to fill in gaps in canon narratives and to fix what they consider other unsatisfactory errors or oversights in canon and characterization
  • as responses to other fanworks
  • a way to include things they wish could be included but can't be shown due to censorship or societal norms, such as sexual and other intimate relationships and gender exploration
  • to interact with other fans
  • as a "training ground" for professional writing
  • as a way of taking back power, refusing to be passive consumers[8]

A fan in 1997 wrote:

Faithful Alliance of Nostalgic Zealots Indulging in Novel Endeavors: (FANZINE).

For all of you who've been having trouble dealing with the absence of a rudely cancelled favorite TV series, we introduce the Faithful Alliance of Nostalgic Zealots Indulging in Novel Endeavors (FANZINE).

It's a satisfying alternative to syndication scheduling frustration: No more TV Guide, no more preempting for news bulletins or sports; nothing to disappoint or confuse. It's always right there when you want it.

No more racing home so you don't miss your show, and no more missing out completely if you can not make it home. Take it with you! Just pick one up wherever you are and immediately you are immersed in your favorite series.

No pesky commercials either, or lost key moments when the phone or doorbell rings. You can always start up right where you left off.

An added bonus is that you can select what material you wish to experience on any given day, instead of being a captive audience of the network program managers. Pick what YOU want - don't be a slave to someone else's scheduling whims any longer.

And finally, unlike your canceled series, the publication of FANZINE products is alive and well! There is fresh material in every one! Can you remember the excitement when you didn't already know what was going to happen next? You can experience the thrill of anticipation again and again, thanks to the primary FANZINE product component: Fictional Amateur Narratives of Fabulously Innovative Caliber.

It's ONE dream come true! [9]

Another fan in 2014 wistfully recalled the days of hard copy fanzines:

I love fan fiction, though not so much what I've read in recent years. Many of my high school students are regular readers of fan fiction online and some write their own. It's nice to know the old, old tradition is continuing and wonderful how much more you can read now, in any universe you like, but it's just not the same. I'm sorry, it's not. I loved the entire process of putting together a fanzine or picking up one at SF events or even from overseas. It was a community thing in a way it isn't now. I'd receive my contributor's copy fanzine and curl up in bed with it to read the latest adventures of whoever the characters were. I think these days the equivalent - at least here in Australia - is the small press stalls you see at every con. [10]

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

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.

Or you could get lucky and stumble across a plea like this from a fan who had to clean out her storage locker: "...my muggle sister and her lovely minimalist Buddhist husband [now] have 15 boxes of ‘zines in their living room that are PERIOUSLY [sic] CLOSE TO BEING PUT IN DUMPSTER." [11]

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.

Art Zines

Eälindalë, a Tolkien art zine by wavesheep[12]

Art zines are alive and well in the internet era of fandom. The advance of digital art and affordable high quality printing led to more and more artists taking on independent projects of their own or banding together to create professional quality artbooks and anthologies.

The professional level of production means many of these zines have rigorous application processes, often with hundreds of artists competing for a few dozen spots in the finished booklet. With the growing acceptance of fandom activities in the mainstream, art zine curators and contributors often view their participation in zine creation as something to include on resumes and portfolios for future jobs.

The evolution of the word "zine" to refer to these high-production-value, competitive art anthology books intended to make a profit as well as cheap do-it-yourself booklets causes occasional misunderstandings and arguments on social media.

Art zines can be either digital or printed, for-profit or with proceeds donated to charity, and can include fic, or not. Common printing options include "perfect-bound" zines and "spiral-bound" zines, often bundled together with extra merchandise like charms or standees.

Examples of artist anthologies include Banquet: A Hannibal Artbook, Meat Popsicle, and the Supernatural Artbook. Solo efforts such as Eälindalë or Shooting Stars are also fairly common in the fanartist community.

See also

Further Reading/Meta

Unknown Date

















ZineWiki online and open-source zine database.


  1. ^ Artist's 2017 commentary: "In those ancient days of paper media, young people and a few older veterans published "fanzines," i.e. homemade fan magazines. You would put the art and graphics and writing together and publish it by using the wonderful invention of the day, the copy machine. Since there are magazines about everything and every interest, there were zines about zines - making, publishing, promoting. This is an image from one of those, an article about creating a fanzine. There is just a bit of satire in it. The original copy, on the left, looks like crap, grubby and taped together. The fan artist next one over (looked like me) was trying to find something that would work for the issue. The publisher is faced with a big box of copied material to sort out, and the editor at right does not realize that his zine has been mistakenly stapled together on the wrong side. I used to edit a fanzine so I know all of this has happened at one time or another. Original drawing black ink on illustration board, 7 1/2" x 2 1/2", spring 1981" -- Making a FanZine (March 23, 2017)
  2. ^ Zine Wiki, accessed 14 May 2012
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ See the Wikipedia article on Who Put the Bomp and Punk zine
  5. ^ From Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism by Allison Piepmeier, page 25: "Most studies of zines identify them as resistant media originating in male-dominated spaces. They are positioned as descendants of the pamphlets of the American Revolution and Dadaist and Samizdat publishing, emerging from the fanzines of the 1930s and the punk community of the 1970s." Piepmeier's complaint about the official history of zines inevitably classing grrrl zines as an "aberration" could also apply to media fanzines. For example, Stephen Duncombe's study of zines, Notes from Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture (Verso, 1997), does briefly mention slash zines and the women who make them as a footnote to his main project of discussing zines as a (failed) radical leftist political movement. Since slash zines don't fit his vision of the purpose of zines, they only get a paragraph. This wouldn't be a problem if Notes from Underground doesn't appear to be (still, as of 2023) the only book-length academic treatment of zines that aims to be comprehensive.
  6. ^ Camille Bacon-Smith, Science Fiction Culture (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000), 112.
  7. ^ Alison Piepmeier argues in Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism that grrrl zines had an additional antecedent in earlier feminist publications and traces a print lineage back through health pamphlets and 19th-century scrapbooking.
  8. ^ Metaphysical theses have been written about the universal human practice of rewriting/improving on/adding to existing stories and songs and the difficulty of continuing this tradition under increasingly draconian copyright laws. See Joseph P. Lin, Copyright Law's Theory of the Consumer and the book/CD Fair Use: The Story of the Letter U and the Numeral 2 by members of the experimental sound collage group Negativland.
  9. ^ It's ONE dream come true! - comment by Clairyce A. Dolson at FANZINE [was BOOK], in a the group alt.tv.beauty+beast, posted June 5, 1997, retrieved 2016-12-21
  10. ^ Sue Bursztynski, "Browsing My Old Trek Fanzines", [https://suebursztynski.blogspot.com/2014/08/browsing-my-old-trek-fanzines.html The Great Raven blog, 16 August 2014.
  11. ^ post by a fan at MediaWest*Con's blog, April 30, 2015
  12. ^ My Tolkien fanbook is ready for sale on Lulu.com now! post by wavesheep on Tumblr. Posted 2016. Accessed 2022. Archive.org backup from 2017
  13. ^ reference link; WayBack link.
  14. ^ Wayback Machine link.