What Do You Mean? What's a Zine?



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Home >> Special Collections & University Archives >> New Notable >> What Do You Mean? What's a Zine?

There's an age old story that print culture is a dying media, when in fact, in the zine community, print is more important than ever.

July has recently been named “International Zine Month,” so zine creators everywhere are commemorating cut-n-paste and alternative media.  About 80 years ago the word “zine” came into existence as an abbreviated word from its parent term, “fanzine,” to describe fan based science-fiction pulps.   The genre, however, took off into its current form in the 1960s with radical activist movements and the punk rock music fanzines of the 1970s.  The photocopy machine replaced expensive and labor intensive mimeograph machines and propelled “printing” into a realm of accessible duplication.  Not a “magazine” or a “fanzine”, contemporary zines have become historic and personal narratives documenting people's stories and histories from all over the world.  They are used in education in many ways including: creative writing, instruction, as primary resources, community projects, and cultural awareness.  Digital technology has not killed print or zine culture, but has created online and open source spaces for zine communities to network and exchange information.

San Diego State Special Collections & University Archives has amassed a vast zine collection dating back to 1985.  The newly-titled Zines and Mini-Comics Collection contains both zines and mini-comics on a variety of topics like riot grrrl, LGBTQ issues, and various other identity politics; sexuality and reproductive rights; punk rock; anarchism; activism; alternative lifestyles; creative writing; and popular culture.  More recently, SCUA began a project to promote searching and inclusive subject description by adding tags into the finding aid that represent diverse terms applied to zines not necessarily included in standard classifications, for example, "transgender people," "anarcho-primitivism," and "guerrilla gardening."

Stay tuned for the revamped and tagged Zines and Mini-Comics Collection coming soon at San Diego State University’s Special Collections & University Archives!

Written by Kim Schwenk.


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