Zine Your Life Away
When I was a child, when I was an adolescent, books saved me from despair:
that convinced me that culture was the heighest of values.
Simone de Beauvoir
The charms of the zine
This morning I received a small package. On that package was a stamp. On the stamp was a picture of a poppy. And indeed, when I looked closer I saw the words 'Common Poppy' written on the side of the stamp. However, what really gave it away, was the stamp next to it. On that particular stamp was no poppy (or any other kind of flower) to be found. Instead it was pictured with something quite remarkable. Something that, as I stated, gave it away. You've guessed it? Not to blow my own whistle, but it was (indeed) a pound sign. You know what that means, right? Well, probably not. But at least I did. I very well did know what that meant. It made me giddy...
This morning I received a small package. Inside the package were two things. First of all a note. "Hey!", it begins. "Thanks so much for your interest in BLOOM MAGAZINE LONDON - I hope you enjoy issue 1!". I bet you now know -or can make an educated guess- what was further enclosed in the small package (and therefore can anticipate my giddyness).
This morning I received a small package. Inside that package were two things. One of the things was the first issue of BLOOM MAGAZINE LONDON. I was absolutely over the moon! (and giddy). BLOOM MAGAZINE LONDON is a new zine, founded, created and edited by Ellie Connor-Phillips (from Rose and Vintage).
This morning I received a small package. Inside that package were two things. One of the things was the first issue of BLOOM MAGAZINE LONDON. If I've counted correctly, the first issue exists out of 17 contributers (including Ellie) and explores "collections, memories, the edge of 17, fleeting moments, transience, travelling [and] contrasts". Very much up my street... It's an absolutely beautiful thing to hold and look at. The imagery speaks to the mind and the words speak to the heart. It also gave a tickle. A tickle for wonder. A head turning and fingers typing, screen lighting and books. Scrolling through and looking for.
To self-publish is a form of freedom. A way to -for instance- type these words (and read these words) without a 'middle man' or the pressure of commercial success. However 'the zine' is, to my knowledge, something a tad bit different than a self-publishing blog (although arguably a blog can be seen in many ways as an extension of the history or heritage of the zine or even the next step of the zine, say e-zine). Both however provide a platform to perform a passion, feeling or idea to those interested. Which is a very interesting thought when stating that 'the zine' (and therewith thus arguably 'the blog') has its roots in the French Revolution. To make that statement more absurd: that those self-published (political) opinions by the radical social critics during the French Rev are basically one of the first 'ziners' that we know of. When stretching this idea you could say that Thomas Paine's political pamphlet Common Sense (1776) is one of the first zines this world has ever known...
In the 19th century it became almost tradition to self-publish and amateur print political broadsheets and pamphlets. And it only takes a few more years, the 20th century, before the zine -as we know it- gets its shape together.
In 1916 the art movement Dada became a thing. The Dadaïsts were notorious for cutting out illustrations and advertisements to make, to re-present a new work (of art). They created collages or used collage techniques as an oppositional tool against the established order, the mainstream. Therewith they defined new ways of 'how to art', playing with the visual language we mainstreamers were normally used to (that what we normally were presented). Dada can be seen as a big influencer on zine aesthetic and creation (especially in later years during the punk period around 1976) as they birthed an 'aesthetic of rebellion'. A sense of DIY (and stretching the borders. Or better: trying to think outside of the borders).
In the 1930s there was a rise of establishing science fiction clubs. Some of these clubmembers would write and publish (and most importantly: share) their critique and own take on science fiction stories in small self-published 'zines'. However it took a whole decade before the actual word 'zine' became a thing.
In 1940 an American sci-fi enthusiast, zine producer and champion chess player (he was a busy guy), Louis Russell Chauvenet, (finally) came up with the word 'fanzine'. 'Fanzine' is a combination of the words 'fan' and 'magazine' and was used primarily to describe self-published 'magazines' primarily devoted to and around science fiction and superhero enthusiasts. But, as we all know, this was only the start of the wide range zine-topics that would eventually would be (self)printed...
In 1949 the word 'fanzine' was included as a formal entry in the Oxford English Dictionary.
In the 1960s fanzines became to play an important role in alternative press history. #flowerpower (although, important to add: there's a difference between underground press and (fan)zines: "The underground press, for example, often entered into the consciousness of the 'public' realm, whereas fanzines remained essentially 'private' in that they were produced by fans for fans.").
In the 1970s the word 'fanzine' gets to be abbreviated to just the word 'zine' ("describing a photocopied, stapled, non-commercial and non-professional, small-circulation publication"). Also: Punk happened (do I need to say more?)
In 1972 Fredric Wertham did a study into (fan)zines. He describes the fanzine, rather poetically, as a "novel form of communication".
In the late 1990s zines became more and more popular and quite a few took the plunge out of the mud into daylight. From underground to 'upperground'. Popular zines made the transition to actual full on magazines (also: it became a trend under zine-writers to become 'proper' writers).
In 2002 Chris Atton, a Professor of Media and Culture, stated that the 'new' wave of zines as websites, e-zines, are a cultural production that performs "the quintessence of amateur self-published journalism." Naturally you could say that about all the forms and topics of zines throughout history. A zine is what it is, arguably because it's a cultural production conveying that what's mostly outside of the mainstream or a very particular niche within (and therewith still outside). The charm of a zine is therefore perhaps, whatever the subject may be, that it gives an insight into the everydayness (the particular culture, a specific zeitgeist within the common zeitgeist) of contemporary life.
When looking at BLOOM MAGAZINE LONDON the charms of the zine are further performed right before my eyes. Not only because basically anyone can publish a zine and this publication proves it to be true. But also because, as Teal Triggs stated in her book Fanzines: The DIY Revolution*: "Zine producers choose to create rather than just consume the culture around them. (...) Meaning is constructed not only through visual images, but also through the symbiotic relationship between, image, text and the grapic form itself." Or to catchphrase it, Larry Bob (producer of queerzine Holy Titclamps 1989-2003): "Information is the reason a zine exists; everything else, down to the paper it's printed on, is there to convey information."
A zine becomes more than what it's 'about'. It's a way of communication whereby thus the information -that what it tries to communicates, its message- isn't necessarily all only in the words or the visual. It's thereby interesting to see that 'the zine' has once again risen in interest and in (self)publications. Triggs: "Through the DIY nature of their production, fanzines take on an enhanced value in how they contribute to and reflect a broader everyday cultural experience." I would like to argue that the blog has had the same tendencies but, because of its 'grown' status (and thereby mainstream appearance) can commonly be associated as something that's more trying to fit into the stream than to challenge it (although there are naturally exceptions to this idea, I think mostly found by smaller bloggers).
I'm very excited to find out the future for BLOOM MAGAZINE LONDON and perhaps I dare to take the plunge and send something in... I don't know what yet, though. Suggestions? ;) Also: what are your thoughts on the relation between blogs and zines (and whether blogs have 'selled out' its position towards the zine and therewith towards its role as a cultural component that captures, creates and shares)?
*Right, so this book is quite cool, but not as cool as I thought. When I googled it I came across multiple articles and posts, like [this] one, explaining how for instance the zines included were done so without permission (not cool) and therewith that not everyting is as rock solid as Triggs presents it to be (again: not cool. when researching I'm not there to read bullshit) and that she's actually quite a 'sell out' in respect to the topic she's tackling. I got this book very (very) cheaply on a bookmarket because I liked the look of it (I mean, it's about zines, who doesn't like that?). However these accusations has rather changed my mind about it... (although it's still a very pretty book to look at, just a shame those pictures were used without permission...).
Sources: 1 / 2 / 3 / And: The World of Fanzines: A Special Form of Communication by F. Wertham, Fanzines: The DIY Revolution by T. Triggs