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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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Yeah, that's true. I sort of glossed over that bit when I first read it...

Thread titles can be edited, can't they? I can't remember.
Hey, whaddayaknow, you can change it! Just gave it a different title to make it even more obscure. Good suggestion Rick. What's OP stand for? I still haven't worked it out.
What P J O'Rourke is talking about here doesn't exactly fit into the zine categorisation, but I love this story anyway:

This place of (my) first employment was in Baltimore at a newspaper called Harry... Harry had a circulation of six or eight thousand and came out every so often. Our publication schedule was determined by marijuana. Either we printed an issue whenever we had marijuana (looking at old copies of Harry tends to confirm this) or we printed an issue whenever we ran out of marijuana and hence got bored with the peanut butter sandwiches and mattress space. I don't remember which. The odd moniker was chosen by a two-year-old. In the spirit of the times, he was asked to name the newspaper. His grandfather was Harry, and the kid was calling everything "Harry" just then, and Harry it became. Oh, we were wild, creative, and free.
Hi Lousie, I am not sure how many of those points were directly directed at me, but I think there is some misunderstanding and disagreement in our experiences.

When I suggested the per-zine's rise as a defining point in the decline of the zine networks, I was specifically targeting the sort of per-zinester that attempts to inflate its photocopied prose into something meaningful. In other words, among a frightening number of zinesters I have encountered in the last few years (say from 2000 on), the zine is seen as a stepping stone to something else. It is written and produced with a sort of careerist conflation. An oddity, to be sure.

But I fear we have become a group of writers who have willfully forgotten the reader side component of each other's endeavors. Reading zines inspires me to make them and making them inspires me to read them! I suspect from the content and tone of some of the zines I have read or been refused a trade with that the attention-seeking exhibition or resume-boosting professionalism seems to have begun to supplant that.

and You are correct. The network is amazingly important, inspiring and one of the main reasons why i continue to make and read zines after 21 years of near constant production! But again, the zine is an end in and of itself for me. Which is why I have always given my zines away for trade or postage - or simply handed them out. I can not fathom charging for it. But then my anti-capitalist consumerism is pretty silly - i will trade you a copy of a paperback I published for a four page zine of scribbles if you sent it to me!

As for the zine conferences. I have attended numerous around the states. A few have been friendly. Most have been suspicious and refuse to take everything I have on the table - mostly because I refused to charge for it all. But then I was tabled next to some zine guy who was selling a 28 page rant about his road trip with an ex girlfriend for four dollars. And he refused to trade with me! That is not to say that this is everyone. But it was a shockingly high number of participants.

I can deal with disagreeing points of views, just some are more disappointing than others.

lousie said:
wow dude, way to turn a personal gripe into a weird generalisation based on selective data!
my involvement with zines has always been based around what i think you'd call perzines - and i can tell you that the trading networks that developed around them, and the conversations that happen across/between zines & the mail networks & friendships that develop are central to the medium.
in my experience at zine fairs etc., i've had far more experience of people making literary/music/pop-culture 'impersonal' whatever zines who are more likely to seem to be aspiring to some kind of professional proper magazine status that precludes trading with the scruffies. but i wouldn't claim that as an irrefutable sample i can make glorious generalisations from.

and i don't know about your theory that 'historically there's never been a problem with the onselling of zines' either. for example, there's been a pretty strong link between zines and punk culture since the 1970s, and i know that elements of punk have long been opposed to profit and commodification.

Maybe you can just deal with the fact that some people see things differently to you?

R.John Xerxes said:
Someone should document the rise of the per-zine or -ist based zine as they seem to mark a sort of decline in the medium and also the rise of the self-entitlement and importance that precludes trading, worries about copyrights, and frowns on bartering networks of found and uncredited information. Clutter and gossip used to keep the "scenes" alive and generate issued discussions that rippled influence across the small venues and basement shows of inconsequential bands.
The reason a lot of zine histories date from the 70s is because of the explosion of DIY culture that punk represented. I think that the term is older than that though, and the practice of independent publication is arguably as old as writing itself.

I'm not sure I understand what's wrong with a zinester wanting to have a career in writing/journalism/publishing/the arts. I don't see that as odd at all. I think a whole lot of things tend to get conflated in this debate. I've tabled at four zine conferences in the last year and found nearly everyone friendly - I always thought it had barely anything to do with what I had on the table, or what I was asking for it, and nearly everything to do with my being friendly to them and the pervading environment of mutual support.

R.John, if people really are treating your stuff with suspicion simply because you're not asking for money, then that's a sad state of affairs. I just don't understand why we have to gripe at each other for the prices we are (or aren't) asking for them, though. I have no problem either with a trades-only position or with zinesters looking to make a profit on one issue that they can plough back into the next. I do have a problem with people seeing other zinesters in one position or other as the enemy. If you believe in an economic philosophy you think other people should adopt, then you have every right to practice it, and not just a right but a responsibility to argue its case. But you have no right to expect other people to adopt it too or to make personal judgements on them for it. I would think it was a great shame if people were disparaging of your table because you're not asking for cash, but I also think it's a shame to be disparaging of that guy or his stuff just because he's asking for $4 for it. If no-one thinks it's worth $4 you can be pretty damn sure no-one's going to pay it!
Ever stop to think that his refusal of trade had NOTHING to do with money... and EVERYTHING to do with your zine content not being something he was interested in? I don't trade with everyone either. I trade for zines that I have interest in reading.

Have you asked or are you assuming that people don't take things for free? Being an organizer of a zine fest and seeing the free table picked over at the end of the day... i know people love free shit! :) The only things being left behind are some flyers.

R.John Xerxes said:
As for the zine conferences. I have attended numerous around the states. A few have been friendly. Most have been suspicious and refuse to take everything I have on the table - mostly because I refused to charge for it all. But then I was tabled next to some zine guy who was selling a 28 page rant about his road trip with an ex girlfriend for four dollars. And he refused to trade with me! That is not to say that this is everyone. But it was a shockingly high number of participantsDIV>
You might be right, but refusing a trade in person is kind of a dick move no matter what, assuming he was accepting trades at all. Selective trades work fine via mail, but not so well in person. So maybe at the end of the day you end up with some zines you aren't that interested in. Big fucking deal. The positives of possibly getting your zine out there to new readers outweigh the negatives. Then again I'll trade with anyone so what do I know?

NicoleIntrovert said:
Ever stop to think that his refusal of trade had NOTHING to do with money... and EVERYTHING to do with your zine content not being something he was interested in? I don't trade with everyone either. I trade for zines that I have interest in reading.

Have you asked or are you assuming that people don't take things for free? Being an organizer of a zine fest and seeing the free table picked over at the end of the day... i know people love free shit! :) The only things being left behind are some flyers.

R.John Xerxes said:
As for the zine conferences. I have attended numerous around the states. A few have been friendly. Most have been suspicious and refuse to take everything I have on the table - mostly because I refused to charge for it all. But then I was tabled next to some zine guy who was selling a 28 page rant about his road trip with an ex girlfriend for four dollars. And he refused to trade with me! That is not to say that this is everyone. But it was a shockingly high number of participantsDIV>
R.John Xerxes said:
When I suggested the per-zine's rise as a defining point in the decline of the zine networks, I was specifically targeting the sort of per-zinester that attempts to inflate its photocopied prose into something meaningful.

I dunno dude, perzines like that have been around since the '70s at least, and quite a few of the the sci-fi fanzines from the '50s were pretty self-indulgent. The decline of zines/zine networks, imho, happened when they broke into the mainstream in the mid-90s. That was the price of fame. Once you could buy a zine in Hot Topic or at Barnes and Noble and they were talking about them on MTV, everyone in the world started doing zines, even if they had nothing to say. The percentage of crappy zines went way way up, every dumbass kid was publishing a zine for a while, it wasn't just the punk, feminists, freaks, collectors, ultrafans, music geeks and other outcasts. Look how many people got burnt out when that happened? Some of the best zines of the 90s died after that 15 minutes of fame window ended. Seth, Darby, Aaron Probe and dozens more of the people that were so vital to zining then. I swear we've only fully recovered in the past 3 or 4 years thanks to a newer generation of really enthusiastic and talented small publishers. I love perzines and always have, since long before the term was used. They are some of the most entertaining zines to read and where in many cases I see real fucking writers that have both the gift of language and story telling... the kind of person you know will be writing books in a few years if they stick with it and keep honing their craft.
NicoleIntrovert said:
Ever stop to think that his refusal of trade had NOTHING to do with money... and EVERYTHING to do with your zine content not being something he was interested in? I don't trade with everyone either. I trade for zines that I have interest in reading.
Have you asked or are you assuming that people don't take things for free? Being an organizer of a zine fest and seeing the free table picked over at the end of the day... i know people love free shit! :) The only things being left behind are some flyers.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Of course.
Everything for free - and love bunni prints up everything from per-zines, comics, poetry comps, to political rants.
So yes. I have thought that on a table with ten to fifteen titles, there would be nothing to interest you.

I never turn down trades. Its a great way to find out new things to be interested in.
Dan 10things said:
R.John Xerxes said:
When I suggested the per-zine's rise as a defining point in the decline of the zine networks, I was specifically targeting the sort of per-zinester that attempts to inflate its photocopied prose into something meaningful.

I dunno dude, perzines like that have been around since the '70s at least, and quite a few of the the sci-fi fanzines from the '50s were pretty self-indulgent. The decline of zines/zine networks, imho, happened when they broke into the mainstream in the mid-90s. That was the price of fame. Once you could buy a zine in Hot Topic or at Barnes and Noble and they were talking about them on MTV, everyone in the world started doing zines, even if they had nothing to say. The percentage of crappy zines went way way up, every dumbass kid was publishing a zine for a while, it wasn't just the punk, feminists, freaks, collectors, ultrafans, music geeks and other outcasts. Look how many people got burnt out when that happened? Some of the best zines of the 90s died after that 15 minutes of fame window ended. Seth, Darby, Aaron Probe and dozens more of the people that were so vital to zining then. I swear we've only fully recovered in the past 3 or 4 years thanks to a newer generation of really enthusiastic and talented small publishers. I love perzines and always have, since long before the term was used. They are some of the most entertaining zines to read and where in many cases I see real fucking writers that have both the gift of language and story telling... the kind of person you know will be writing books in a few years if they stick with it and keep honing their craft.

________________________________________________________________________________________________

I agree with most of your point, but really, the whole lamenting the influx of crappy zines by kids with nothing to say, mainstreaming lament was vital and urgent in the mid-80s when I started reading zines. The blame is always somewhere - kinkos starting the card over the counter system, the internets, straightedge/metalcore, sellouts.

I like perzines too. Unless they are bad. In which case, I don't. But I will still trade with ya.

I do think there is a distinct conflation of egotistical careerism to the perzine though. I cringe every time I see some first novel by some former "zinester." Mostly because, well, really? Everyone should make a zine. That way it will become a meaningless hobby and we can get back to the important work of dismantling this and producing that. I really just think that homogeneity is the culprit.

As to the fanzines of the 50s onward, when they are not lathered celebrity pieces on par with our current TMZ or US WEEKLY, then they were galleries for fans to contribute to their favorite genre, right? So, whatever criticism existed, was marginalized by the next soaring space station or tentacled bug eye commie stand-in that just landed in Jasper's backyard. These publications might be a precursor to zines, and lend us their names, but I think most contemporary zines have more in common with art manifestos, wildfire journals, and the fine art of political pamphleteering. But again, we agree with the origins more than we disagree, I suspect.
Wes White said:

I'm not sure I understand what's wrong with a zinester wanting to have a career in writing/journalism/publishing/the arts. I don't see that as odd at all. I think a whole lot of things tend to get conflated in this debate. I've tabled at four zine conferences in the last year and found nearly everyone friendly - I always thought it had barely anything to do with what I had on the table, or what I was asking for it, and nearly everything to do with my being friendly to them and the pervading environment of mutual support.

R.John, if people really are treating your stuff with suspicion simply because you're not asking for money, then that's a sad state of affairs. I just don't understand why we have to gripe at each other for the prices we are (or aren't) asking for them, though. I have no problem either with a trades-only position or with zinesters looking to make a profit on one issue that they can plough back into the next. I do have a problem with people seeing other zinesters in one position or other as the enemy. If you believe in an economic philosophy you think other people should adopt, then you have every right to practice it, and not just a right but a responsibility to argue its case. But you have no right to expect other people to adopt it too or to make personal judgements on them for it. I would think it was a great shame if people were disparaging of your table because you're not asking for cash, but I also think it's a shame to be disparaging of that guy or his stuff just because he's asking for $4 for it. If no-one thinks it's worth $4 you can be pretty damn sure no-one's going to pay it!

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

I would like to address two things here, Wes.

First, I believe that if you want a career in something, it changes the way you look at that something. Not that there is any less passion, skill, ability, etc. Only that it is done with a different end in mind, an end that, in my estimation, compromises the limits of freakdom that can be explored, challenges that will be engaged, political thinking curtailed. Its a feeling of restraint, crafted to appeal to the largest market, or the most wealthy minority. It turns a hobby into a job. And somehow, I can just feel the difference. A difference that is less interesting to me. If one wants to write for the New York Times, then one is networking the wrong audience, because I got NO CONNECTIONS there...

Second, I agree and disagree with your points about zine economics - but that is probably a longer and more indepth conversation than should be had here. All I will say is that, I think that the commodification of the zine occurs when a profit is alluded to or the price is there to rarefy the object. In short, see above.
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.

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