Via the internet, anyone can share rants, thoughts, pictures, and drawings instantaneously and electronically. Before blogs existed, zines were the do-it-yourself (DIY) self-published means to express ideas, spread information and share resources. Low budget is key in publishing zines because the creators are not doing it for the glitz or glamour. A zine is much more of a labor of love, a means to express yourself and get feedback from your community. There are no rules in creating a zine. Since the creator is the owner and publisher, anything goes as content. Zines can be narratives, how-to guides, comics, or anything the "zinester" chooses to publish.
The first time I picked up a zine was at a punk show in the early 90s. There were several different zines spread out on a merchandise table amongst band tee shirts and hand-designed buttons. The content between the photocopied pages ranged from activism, feminism, anarchism, and poetry and sometimes rants. When I was 15 I experienced a consciousness-click, whereas I realized I was not the center of the world. With two other friends in the local punk community I created a zine dedicated to vegetarianism. Although the zine was never distributed, I remember feeling connected to my friends and to something larger than my teen self.
It is important to note that zines existed long before I discovered the black and white, cut and paste stapled, versions in the 90s. Originally titled, "fan magazine," later became fanzine (eventually shortened to zine) these publications contained science fiction and first appeared in the 1930s. Whether in an underground setting or smaller community, zines have morphed and survived while remaining accessible, ensuring creators a voice and an opportunity to share it. Time magazine published "Anatomy of a Zine" last year about the resurgence of zines.
Zines are usually found at small, independent bookstores, but zinefests are a popular way for creators and those interested to sell, swap and share resources. Such events happen all over the country and the world. The site, "Zine World" keeps an updated list of zinefest happenings. Though zinefests occur in New York City and even Brooklyn, this will be the first Feminist Zinefest in Brooklyn.
Local Brooklyn zinesters Elvis Bakaitis and Kate Angell orchestrated the New York City Feminist Zinefest. Kate Angell is an academic reference librarian in New York, editor of the zine "My Feminist Friends" and blogs about free resources for feminists and activists at "Somebody's Autobiography". Elvis Bakaitis is a cartoonist, creator of the series "Homos in Herstory," and keeps an illustrated blog. Each edition of Elvis' zines contains one decade of 20th-century illustrated queer history. I chatted with co-organizer Elvis Bakaitis to find out more about the Feminist Zinefest.
Jenna Henry Hansen: Why did you and Kate (Angell) decide to put this event together?
Elvis Bakaitis: "I love zinefests, and we wanted to have one with a more political focus. Kate [Angell] and I organized an event at Bluestockings [bookstore] in September about feminist zines that was really popular. So we knew there was a lot of energy out there for a feminist zinefest. And it's a way to build feminist community among people who make art, bringing them together around a wide variety of feminist issues."
JHH: So, what makes this particular zine festival different? What makes it feminist?
EB: "We invited people to come and give us work that reflects their own interpretations of the word "feminist." So, whether that's a zine about how to find abortion providers in a heavily anti-abortion state, or about female-bodied people in the punk rock scene, different visions are welcomed and celebrated at the zinefest."
JHH: For some people, zines are synonymous with teens or something that kids might do... How would you explain zines or the idea around zines to somebody who does not know anything about them?
EB: "Hehe -- well, there's actually a huge zine culture that extends far beyond the teen/kid age range. Zines are sort of like comic books in a way: there's a ton of minicomics that are self-published. In the same way, zines are a totally democratic way for anyone to make art and distribute it to others: and it can be text-based, or have illustrations, or anything you want! In that way it's a very freeing form of media, and very accessible."
It is refreshing to know that in highly technological world where something could go viral via the web, the DIY world has kept the zine tradition alive.
NYC Feminist Zinefest 2012 is on Saturday February 25th from 1-6 at The Brooklyn Commons.