by Josh Olsen, (he/him), Head of User Services, Mardigian Library
The first time I held a zine it was love at first sight. It was 2008, and I had a couple poems in a small zine from the UK called Gloom Cupboard, before it became a website. I had previously published poems in online and print university publications, but this was the first time my writing appeared in an independent, unaffiliated zine, and it just felt … right. The zine I held wasn’t anything special in and of itself. It was a classic, inexpensively made, photocopied zine. The prototype of all other zines. Devoid of gloss. Imperfect. Clearly, it was made by hand. The person who made the zine, folded and stapled each copy, had no claim to making a zine other than the fact that they wanted to, and nothing could stop them from doing just that. As long as they had access to a printer and some paper, and some words or images to fill the pages, they could create a zine. They didn’t need permission from anybody. That’s all you’ve ever needed to make a zine, and it’s still all you need to make a zine. Zines can be as simple or complicated as the “zinester” wants them to be. If you have the skills and the know-how, your zine can be colorful and professionally printed and reproduced, or it can be written in pencil on a single piece of folded 8.5×11” printer paper. Neither of these is any more or less of a zine than the other. Not unlike making a mixtape (or playlist) or baking a loaf of bread, zines are an act of love, because zines are made by those who make them simply for the love and enjoyment of making them. But creating a zine is also essentially a political act, because zines eschew the traditional methods of publication and often give voice to those who have been historically ignored and silenced by the publishing industry.
I’ve been reading, contributing to, and editing/making zines since 2008, and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon. Zines may have evolved beyond the standard, one-sheet folded zine, and the technical and artistic skills of zinesters may have significantly improved since I first held a zine, but the love for zines by those who create them has never waned. As long as you have a single piece of paper, and the desire to fill it with words or art, you can make a zine, and you don’t need permission from anybody to do it.