Before the rise of the internet, people got their fannish content from fanzines—amateur, small magazines printed in small batches and distributed by post or in person, often at fan conventions (and sometimes, secretly!) You can check out the Fanlore entry for fanzines if you’re curious about the history of the practice, but in short, fanzines are the direct modern precursor to the forums, tumblr accounts, and fanfic archives of today.
As fans, we owe a lot to zines. However, zines are not merely a medium of the past—people still make zines today, and I think it’s time fandom got back in on the act. After all, we were there in the beginning!
In a day and age where pretty much everything is digital, being able to hold a piece of fandom in your hands has renewed value. Of course, some people still produce fanzines, but there’s plenty of room for more! Whether you want to make a solo zine containing all your feelings about Doctor Who or a huge multi-fandom, multi-contributor effort, zines are an excellent medium for free expression. Besides, there’s something that’s just so cool about them. (If you’d like to know a little more about zine culture in general, Zine Wiki is a great place to start your journey.)
But how do you go about making them? Fear not, FAN/FIC is here to provide answers to this burning question.
Firstly, you can check out this how-to on the mechanics of putting together a basic zine from Rookie Mag. TL;DR: paper, scissors, glue, staples. You’re smart, you can make a booklet. I believe in you.
Secondly, just for you guys, I’ve tracked down the editors of the award-winning Concrete Queers zine (who, though not a fanzine, take submissions from queer-identifying individuals all over the world and will even pay you if your piece appears in the zine) to tell us how they do what they do, and give you some ideas about how you can do it, too!
Please make editors Kat and Alison welcome, and don’t worry, they’re nerds too.
We’ll start with an easy one: what are your fandoms?
We’re both super into Harry Potter, X-Files, The Hunger Games, and LOTR. Kat loves Discworld and Star Trek; Alison is in love with Mass Effect.
How do you go about finding contributors for a collaborative zine?
We have a lot of incredibly talented friends so for the first issue we put the call out to them and gathered together an amazing collection of pieces. Since then we have advertised on our social media (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr), in university publications, Melbourne’s zine shop Sticky Institute, and in the issues themselves. For the latest issues we’ve received submissions from as far as Spain!
Once you start getting submissions, how do you organize them?
We generally read submissions as they come in to get familiar with them. Once the submissions deadline has passed, we take another two or so weeks to re-read them again and discuss which ones would suit this issue of the zine. Once we know which ones we know we want to include, we’ll let contributors know and start the editing process from there. As for organizing, email folders and spreadsheets are your friend!
How did you come up with your guidelines? Do you have any tips about important things to include?
We wanted Concrete Queers to be as inclusive as we can possibly make it. Our submissions are open to anyone who identifies as queer but also to all people who are questioning as well. We’re also happy to publish submissions anonymously or under a pseudonym and will keep your identity secret! However, we have a strict no bigotry policy, and any racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise offensive submissions are rejected outright (not that we’ve received any of these yet!)
How do you decide on the size of an issue? What factors influence which submissions you choose to print?
Because we wanted to publish longer pieces, we decided that A5 would be the best size for this while still being really cute (and cheap to print). When choosing submissions we try to choose as diverse a range of submissions as possible. For example, in the upcoming horror issue we have received a wide range of submissions that demonstrate a bunch of different ideas of what horror is, and we’ve tried to incorporate as many of these as we can. We also received submissions that aren’t the best fit for the next issue but would work well in future themes, so we try to work with the artists and build a relationship there.
How do you distribute your zine? Is there anything you’d like to do that you haven’t done yet?
We have our big cartel for online orders, and we’re stocked in a few shops in Melbourne: Sticky Institute, Polyester Books, and Hares and Hyenas. We also try to go to zine fairs and sell zines out of backpacks. We’d like to eventually be stocked in shops outside of Melbourne, and we’re hoping to go to the Auckland zinefest next year.
By what mechanism are you so cool? This is the important question.
I guess we just have the coolest friends tbh.
The thing to take away from this article is this: anyone can make a fanzine. If you know how to use scissors and glue (or the less messy alternative, print design software) and you have fannish feelings and a local library or printing store, you can make a fanzine. If you’ve got some cool fandom friends and you can all come up with something to say, you can make a collaborative fanzine.
If you want to put out a call to your fandom to help fill a zine with stuff, you can make a fanzine. They’re for everyone! And they’re so reflective of the culture of fandom—they’re about getting to express yourself without needing an okay from commercial media, and that’s what fandom is all about.
So go forth! Make zines! Distribute them at fan conventions, mail them to people, check to see if you have any local zine distros who’ll carry them for you.
Tell me what kind of zine you’re going to make in the comments!