When I heard about Tim W. Brown’s novel Walking Man, a satiric novel that depicts the life and times of the most famous zine publisher in America, I wondered “what happened to the zine?” Here’s Tim Brown’s Essay on the history and future of the zine.
Opinions differ about the origins of zines. Some trace their ancestry to colonial times, when a lively traffic in political, polemical and satirical pamphlets occurred. Others have stated that pulp magazines dating from the 1930s were the first zines. True detective magazines, titillating readers with lurid accounts of murders and sex crimes, and science fiction magazines, targeting fans of an exploding literary genre, resembled zines in how they appealed to highly selective reading tastes.
The most widely credited ancestor of the contemporary zine was the “fanzine” first appearing in the 1970s. An offshoot of the fan club newsletter, fanzines published bits of fact and rumor about favorite rock bands in pamphlets mimeographed in editions of fifty or a hundred.
Poets and comic artists soon adopted the methods of producing zines, giving them an outlet for their creative, if noncommercial, artistic energies. The final ingredient in the modern zine recipe was a revolution in office technology occurring during the 1980s: access to personal computers and inexpensive photocopying. Would-be publishers abandoned their Selectric typewriters and mimeograph machines and borrowed or stole PC and Xerox resources from their schools or jobs to produce zines of relatively high visual quality.
Essay continues after the jump.