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There was an interesting comment by Gianni on a previous discussion thread about zines being made as far back as the 19th century.

Most discussion at this site seems to be about zines made in the 80s, 90s and 00s. I know a few ziners who started making during the 70s, possibly the 60s. Science fiction writer Michael Moorcock edited an Edgar Rice Burroughs fanzine in the 1940s, when he was a kid.

And I can think of possible earlier examples too - scrapbooks, diaries written for friends, etc. But I know little about the early-20th/late 19th century history of zines - can anyone enlighten me?

The more that I think about it, the further back you could date zines. For instance, the earliest copies of mass-circulation magazines like The Spectator or The Tatler were just small essays closely printed on a sheet of paper and sent out like letters to a small (but growing) market. Were these more of a 'zine' or a 'magazine'?

There are more recent examples of a 'zine' changing to a magazine. F'rinstance, Reason magazine was once a regular letter distributed amongst a few economics geeks. 'Rolling Stone' magazine, I think, began as a fanzine as well, in the 60s.

Anyone able to fill in some of the gaps in zine history? Is it possible, or even desirable, to make a clear distinction between magazines, newspapers, and zines?

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hy boys and girls! I'm from faraway Russia and I write my final scientist work in the university on the topic of russian zine's. I'm full of rassian "samizdat" stories and now it's time to read smth about west self-print experiense. could you give me please some links on books and articles about first zines??or may be some of you hase photocopies?
thanks from nordic bears and mr.Putin and excuse y english)
Wes White said:
Think we´ll just have to agree to differ R.John. I also agree with Nicole about trades, being selective about trading in person doesn´t make you a dick.

I didn't say it made you a dick, I just said it was a dick move. Of course there are extenuating circumstances- I wouldn't expect anyone to trade for a neo-Nazi zine, but on the whole I would say if you're at a fest just have a sign at the table saying you don't do trades. That way if you see something you're interested in you can make the offer but there won't be any obligation. I know i'd feel like a dick rejecting some poor sap's trade.

On the topic of zine history- in addition the the sci fi fans, wrestling fans were alos a big part of early fan zines. back before cable all wrestling was regional so fans would make their own newsletters telling what was going on in their region and trade with folks from other parts of the country.
beautifulbaloon said:
hy boys and girls! I'm from faraway Russia and I write my final scientist work in the university on the topic of russian zine's. I'm full of rassian "samizdat" stories and now it's time to read smth about west self-print experiense. could you give me please some links on books and articles about first zines??or may be some of you hase photocopies?
thanks from nordic bears and mr.Putin and excuse y english)

I'd probably start at: ZineWiki and Chip Rowe's website for zine history and resources, they have the most information and depth on zine history.
Ericfishlegs said:
I didn't say it made you a dick, I just said it was a dick move. Of course there are extenuating circumstances- I wouldn't expect anyone to trade for a neo-Nazi zine, but on the whole I would say if you're at a fest just have a sign at the table saying you don't do trades. That way if you see something you're interested in you can make the offer but there won't be any obligation. I know i'd feel like a dick rejecting some poor sap's trade.

Back when I did my big punk zine, I pretty much accepted every trade, but I have to say if you trade a lot by mail like did (maybe 30 issues a month) it can get expensive. My zine was fullsized and usually 80+ pages, it cost close to $2 in postage to send it first class. That's $60 a month going out in unrecovered postage costs when I was working part time and trying to pay for school. So I scammed everything I could. But still, I'd get tons of 6-page half-sized zines that people would trade to me that would cost them one stamp, but cost me way more. It wasn't exactly fair or equal. But I justified the expense as marketing... half those zines would review mine and I'd get new orders from it, so in the big picture my zine would reach more people and I'd make more money, there by being able expand my print run the next issue. It's funny, when people talk about limiting access to their zine and purposely doing small runs, I was always the exact opposite. I'd beg, borrow, steal and scam to print more copies every issue I could and try exhaustively to reach more and more people. But hey, different strokes for different folks.
TimT said:
What's OP stand for? I still haven't worked it out.

Ergh. "Original poster" or "original post". I usually do whatever I can to avoid those goofy internet acronyms but I guess I was feeling lazy.
Since Heath Row's Zinebook is already mentioned in here, it may not be necessary for me to suggest Fred Wright's The History and Characteristics of Zines, which I believe Heath's book contains. But if you haven't looked at it, I'd recommend it. It's on-line. I commented on it at length to Fred in the recently revived APA, .zap!! (info re: which should be in alt.zines somewhere). I have copies of this contrib. 4 pages, available via paper-mail, for a stamp. My POB's on my profile.

This discussion seems to be somewhat in response to the one on "Is there a Market for Selling Old Zines?", and looks to zine history to shed light on the question of whether selling old zines for E-Bay or elsewhere is against the spirit of zine ethics. The further question it raises is "What's a zine?"

Personally, I doubt that question is answerable, though I'm certain we zinesters get much intellectual enjoyment out of pondering and debating it, and I don't begrudge that to any of us. I liked Mike Gunderloys' answer to that---I wish I had the exact quote---that he couldn't define a zine, but could recognize one when he saw it.

I don't mean this with any bitterness or offense, but I don't terribly care whether my "self-publication" is strictly a "zine" or not, or whether I'm a "true" zinester. Not to disparage any sort of esprit du corps among us all, I'm not trying to gain entrance or maintain membership in any sort of exclusive club. I feel as much, if not more, a bond with the old "proto-zinesters"---the pamphleteers, the broadsheeters, the fanzine publishers, the APAers etc.---as the bona fide zine makers of today. My self-publications may have more in common with these proto-zines than "post-fanzine zines". I like to read about and discuss movies, books, music and ideas, and doing this on print and paper is much easier and more comfortable than on the internet (though I can hobble around the net, and I'm grateful for the friends, contacts, info and communications I've gotten from it). I also just like getting good things to read and look at in my POB for some reason that may be totally irrational and bizarre!

I think zinedom is a fascinating phenomenon to study and read about, and I'm glad people like Fred are doing it, but I think it's much too wild and anarchic to really nail down---which doesn't mean I object to anybody trying.

JND
I don't want to seem like too much of a nitpicker but since it's been mentioned a couple times...

Heath Row's a great guy who's contributed a lot to zinedom but The Book of Zines and the corresponding site were produced by Chip Rowe.

Now, back to the discussion!
Oops! My apologies to Heath for the gaff. This is where I'm bad on the internet. I'm afraid to go back and check if I've gotten a title, spelling, or some other piece of info correct when I'm in the middle of a post, because half the times I've tried do that, I've lost everything. Yes, I know there are ways of doing it, and I could try to learn and master them, but I haven't. Maybe someday.

Rick Bradford said:
I don't want to seem like too much of a nitpicker but since it's been mentioned a couple times...

Heath Row's a great guy who's contributed a lot to zinedom but The Book of Zines and the corresponding site were produced by Chip Rowe.

Now, back to the discussion!
Notes from Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture, London and New York: Verso, 1997.
by Stephen Duncombe

Is it possible, or even desirable, to make a clear distinction between magazines, newspapers, and zines?

Yes. Because all three of them are completely different things.
Hannah Neurotica said:
Is it possible, or even desirable, to make a clear distinction between magazines, newspapers, and zines?

Yes. Because all three of them are completely different things.

I don't think it's all that clear. What made MaximumRock'n'Roll, Rollerderby and The Probe zines and Punk Planet and Rockergrrl magazines? Better layout? Content-wise they all featured the same wealth of contributors and advertising, and had similar print runs and distribution. It was more what the publishers chose to call them. And some people argue Bitch was a zine that became a magazine, when was the defining moment? I think far too much the zine community gets weighed down in petty battles about what is or isn't a zine, where you can sell zines, etc. that really have little to do with what we should be focusing on: how to keep self-publishing viable and vibrant and how to expand both our readership and the number of people self-publishing zines.
Yeah, there are obvious distinctions between magazines, newspapers and zines -- but only for some of them. We all know each zinester has their own definitions for these and we also know that those definitions vary widely among zinedom as a whole.

So while it's probably desirable to many to make clear distinctions between those labels (which is really all they are) it's not 100% possible.
Rick Bradford said:
So while it's probably desirable to many to make clear distinctions between those labels (which is really all they are) it's not 100% possible.

Eh, I'm not sure it's all that desirable... for the most part I lean on the side of publishers having the freedom to call their publications whatever they want, write about whatever they want, to do it their own way, and to sell it and distribute it however they want. How you choose to do it is none of my business. I know some people like rules, labels, and clear lines, but that runs contrary to the whole idea of underground publishing, where we make our own rules. Zinesters so often pour hundreds of hours of work into putting out a single issue without ever seeing a dime, they should be able to publish it and call it whatever they want. The whole idea of standards or rules runs contrary to DIY publishing and to my punk ethics. We have so much more positive stuff to do than to get bogged down in arguments on what is or isn't a zine. Although when I was 20, I'm sure I would have argued it ad nauseum :)

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