zines, zines good for their art

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The first time I heard the word “zine” about a year ago, it had to be explained to me. Had never heard of a zine, had never seen a zine, could not tell you why someone would want to make a zine. But when I did learn what a zine was (for all those in my former position, I will leave the definition here), I wanted to get my hands on one. But the problem was, I was nowhere near un-cool-cool enough. Think Bender in The Breakfast Club. Un-cool-cool. Suburbia (at least the suburbia I know, spliced open by crisscrossing highways) simply does not have zines. Urban punk art crazes do not occur in suburbia, not even the non-gated sort of sad commercial parking lot suburbia around me. You have to get into the guts of the city for that. Still, I was determined to figure this whole zine thing out.

Recently, I went on a quest to Boston Zine Fest in order to hang out with the uncool-cool kids. I wore an oversized denim jacket and stuffed the deep pockets with petty cash, because I figured even a credit card swipe machine would be too official for the laid back zine scene (which was all hype; lots of people took cards). And while I had to painfully introduce myself to multiple zinesters as “new at this” in order for them to explain to me what was happening in their scattered stacks of colorful booklets, I was living the dream. I was picking up zines and looking at them in a room full of people who probably read zines all the time. They were un-cool-cool enough to simply know where the zines lived in real life.

I think the best way to learn about something is to force yourself to write a paper about it. So there I was collecting zines to take home and examine for my paper. I gravitated most towards the grrrl and grrrl swirl zines because I am not particularly satisfied with Johnson’s coverage of “Women’s Magazines” or women’s magazines on the newsstand. I looked in the index and did not find the word zine, which struck me as odd. But I think things are beginning to look different. I know Ms. has been around since the 1970s, but Bust and Bitch arrived on the scene in the 90s just as zines were hitting the streets. Both of these magazines along with the zine scene (although less prominent now) have survived into the present day. I wonder what their relationship is, if there is a relationship at all? I am curious about their aesthetic relationship, because from just surface level observation I have noticed similar color schemes and image-collages that appear to be in a meaningful dialogue to different audiences looking for similar content. These are the sorts of questions I am looking to answer in my Midterm Paper (stay tuned). But I could very well also just write about zines for my 6-8 pages if there proves to be no correlation at all. Either way, I got some cool new art and even two buttons for a dollar. Maybe after writing this paper I will be ushered officially into the un-cool-cool world. Or just be a really knowledgeable outsider who fan-girls at zine fests.

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