I'm a fan
You might be a football supporter, love Elvis’s music, read comics, enjoy charity shop purchases or simply be an ardent fan of a local band. Whatever your interests, someone, somewhere will have made a fanzine about it. You may have not come across many fanzines as they tend not to make it onto the bookshelves and racks of the high street, but this form of amateur self-publishing by fans for fans is alive and well. Produced in small quantities and usually distributed by hand, post or most recently via the internet these publications cover anything and everything but more often than not niche sub-cultural interests such as a particular genre of music, obscure films or alternative lifestyles.
If you can be a fan of something then a fanzine becomes a do-it-yourself means in which you can publish and share your views to an audience of other likeminded fans. They are often collective affairs where groups of people contribute, edit, design and distribute their content together. Using low-tech equipment to design and produce they are often constructed with nothing more than scissors, glue, paper and access to a photocopier. It’s basic, it’s cheap and anyone can make one.
‘Fanzines have been one of the liveliest forms of self-expression for over 70 years’ says Teal Triggs (Professor of Graphic Design at the University of the Arts London) in her new book, Fanzines. Fanzines (or more commonly zines) originally developed out of science fiction genres in the 1930s. Alongside science fiction clubs, early fanzines like Comet (1930) and The Futurian (1938-40) became a forum to share stories and comment on books. Science ficition writers Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury were both involved with fanzines in the early part of their careers.
Music and popular culture is a consistent mainstay of fanzines from the 1960’s onwards. Rock & roll and punk have both been catalysts for driving renewed interests in this form of self-publishing with titles such as Crawdaddy! (1966), Sniffin’ Glue (1976-77) Vague (1979-) In the city (1977-80) and Sub Pop (1980-) The predominant focus of Teal’s book are these music fanzines as well as the later develops in the underground feminist punk movement, Riot Grrrl. There’s an emphasis on publications that are visually interesting, reference to more graphic design orientated fanzines and the development of the webzine or e-zine is covered in this book. The Internet seems a natural home for this sort of self-publishing, especially with the networking opportunities of social media. You would imagine that the growth in e-zines would mean the death of the paper fanzine, but if anything the Internet is simply providing a way to distribute and document copies with social networking sites such as http://wemakezines.ning.com/ encouraging fellow ‘zinesters – writers and readers’ to share their creative efforts.
Parallel histories could be written to include sports zines, film and film stars and comics. Teal touches upon these, but there’s only so much room for the estimated 10,000 titles produced in the 1980’s alone. It’s a fascinating document that highlights the creativity, inventiveness and sheer obsession of fans the world over and makes me want to head straight for my nearest photocopier.