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What is a zine?

Zine event

Image courtesy of the AGO.

Now that Collection X has its own zine, you might be wondering what is a zine?

A zine is usually a non – commercial, non professional publication, kind of like a magazine but with a twist. The main difference between a magazine and a zine is that zines are not out there to make a profit but, rather, to add other, often unheard voices into the mix. Zines are usually made out of interest and passion and are often self-published by the writer/artist/creator. Typically zines are made using collage techniques and are then photocopied since these are means available to almost everyone.

What I like best about zines is that they provide a voice for all; outside of the mainstream, of alternative, from the underground, the margins of society. I first started making zines as a way to share my personal collections of found paper and my drawings, but quickly saw potential for much more. The majority of the current publications out there offer only a narrow perspective, and zines are the natural antidote to that, especially since anyone can make them.A Collection X zine makes sense because it connects something which has many zine-qualities: Collection X (openness, anyone can use it etc) with a tangible item (the zine itself) and provide a real-world link for Collection X. The AGO Youth Council also uses zines as a medium of expression to communicate on its projects. It appeals to youth because it is much more honest in its intentions.

Before zines became what they are today there was an amateur press movement in which publications were created by people who then distributed them to a larger group of people through mail. Many of the first zines were science fiction fanzines created in the 1920s and 1930s through which science fiction fans would speculate and discuss various topics. Later on, in the 1950s with the Beatnik era, poets and other artists would make small leaflets with their poems as means of self promotion. Many avant-garde movements, including the Dadaists and the Situationists, also self-published pamphlets and manifestos. The 70s saw punk zines being created as part of the punk movement and in the spirit of the DIY (do it yourself) culture that came along with it. In the 80s, a zine called Factsheet 5 began reviewing zines, thus creating a somewhat more formal zine scene. In the 90s, many zines were made as part of the Riot Grrl movement.

Today, zines are still being made, by all sorts of people on all sorts of topics, ranging for comics to radical politics to stories for children to personal zines to literary reviews to teapot collections. Many of these zines are sold in alternative stores but many are also distributed through distribution centres that stock a bunch of zines you can order. There are even a few zine libraries as well; in Toronto this includes the Toronto Zine Library located in the Tranzac at Bloor and Brunswick, and the OCAD zine library located in OCAD.

Toronto Zine Library Website:

OCAD Zine Library Website:

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