Zine (pronounced "zeen") comes from the words "magazine" and "fanzine" and describes a self-published, inexpensively produced publication with a small circulation.
Zines are usually typed or handwritten with illustrations, photocopied and stapled together into a book. Typically lo-fi in their production, zines are valued for their inclusive and accessible nature.
They’re all about reading and writing without constraint, says writer Lucy Black, who is part of the team who brings Zinefest to the capital each year.
“There’s no right way to make a zine,” she says.
“Zines don’t aim to be perfect, so they’re a great way to break down barriers otherwise associated with publishing and books. They appeal to kids, because they can be about absolutely anything.
“It’s all about the tone – zines can take something seemingly small or unimportant and elevate that idea into something meaningful.”
Zine explore an infinite range of topics – from queer politics to music, parenting stories to childhood memories. Many zines are reviews of books, cafes, films, or even other zines. Others include lists of everyday or unusual ideas, or tell a story, comic-book style.
Production values can vary. Some zines are simply a sheet of paper folded, while others are meticulously handmade, beautiful objects in their own right, closer to art books.
Lucy has been making her own zines since 2008. A former children’s librarian and now a bookseller, she has also been involved in zine workshops for children at Newtown Primary School, which now has an established Zine Club.
Wellington Zinefest, held this year in mid-November, has been running since 2007 and is now an established platform for illustrators, writers, artists and designers to share their work with an audience.
Stallholders sell their own zines and related merchandise over two market days, and the festival attracts around 1000 people interested in the art form. Over the years, the event has expanded to include related events, live music and film screenings.
The d-i-y publishing style is thought to have emerged from science fiction fandom in the 1930s, and redeveloped in the late-1970s punk scene. After a huge resurgence in the 1990’s ‘’Riot Grrl’’ 1990s, it was feared the internet might bring the end of zine making, but has only strengthened the culture, providing another place for artists to swap and promote their work.
Ultimately, zines provide a voice for minorities excluded from mainstream publishing. Lucy says the Wellington zine community works really hard to provide an inclusive and safe space for its members.
And that community is growing quickly.
“The event used to be held just once a year but now we have monthly hangouts to talk and make zines – we’ve turned an event into a wider community group.”
It’s not just students – also parents, grandparents, young professionals who are sharpening their pencils and searching out the stapler.
“When you’re working hard in a job it’s good to have a creative outlet and zines are perfect – they can be sociable or solitary, a big or a small project. Office workers can use their work photocopier and scanner!”
Lucy says her special interest is in helping parents of young children rediscover creative joy through zine-making.
“It’s an excellent way to explore your creativity, especially if you don’t have a lot of time, space and equipment – you really just need some paper, pens and maybe access to a photocopier or printer. And for the same reasons, zines really appeal to children, too.”
Zine enthusiast Keira Haig was making zines before she knew what they were. Her childhood drawings and stories were hand-written on A4 paper and folded into small books for her friends and family members.
‘’I’ve always loved magazines, and making my own zines when I was at primary school was a way to play ‘editor.’ Then I found the zine collection at the city library and realised it was a proper genre, which was really inspiring! I would sit by the zine stack in the library and work my way through a big pile of them.
“I’d also take photos on my phone of zines I really liked.”
Now 14, Keira still peruses library zine collections and is interested in reading zines about politics, feminism, poetry, memes and music especially.
“There’s nothing capitalist about zine culture really – they can be swapped, given away, or bought for just a little money. You don’t make them to make money. Just to immortalise any idea that you have and share it with anyone who is interested.
“Zines are really accessible. Anyone can write them, and anyone can read them.”
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What do zines look like? Here are some examples from the 2018 Auckland Zinefest
A zine about zines, Pantograph Punch
Wellington Zinefest Committee members Liam and Caitlin at the November 2019 Wellington Zinefest.
All photos by Amy Sullivan.