handmade works of passion: zines from the past, present and future




With dazzling artwork and prolific prose on sci-fi, hip-hop movements or serious subjects like AIDS, zines are handmade, self-published books or brochures made for “the passion, not profit, ”according to aficionado David Sandner.

A zine fan since adolescence, Sandner, a professor of English, comparative literature and linguistics, wants others to learn more about these individualistic literary gems. He is the project director of “Zines to the Future! (Re) doing SoCal Futures ”- a virtual exhibition at the Pollak Library in Cal State Fullerton. A fanzine, pronounced “zeen”, is the abbreviation of magazine or fanzine.

“Zines all have one thing in common: the celebration and exploration of science fiction and other genres,” Sandner said.

With the theme “Imagining Diverse Futures”, the exhibition in the Salz-Pollak Atrium Gallery opens practically on October 29 and runs until December. The library is not open to in-person exhibits due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The exhibition showcases the history of zines and features rare zines and original zines created by CSUF students. Students, including art, African American studies, and English, are involved in the project in a variety of ways, from creating and writing zines to creating art or setting up the physical exhibit, Sandner said.

Online activities and events include fanzine-making workshops at the Library’s Innovation Center / Makerspace, videos, a virtual panel and readings, and more. (See related story) The interdisciplinary project is supported by a $ 5,000 grant from California Humanities, funded by the Humanities for All Quick Grant program.

When did zines start and what drives people to create them?

Fanzines began as “fanzines” in the 1930s, when science fiction was barely beginning as a genre. They reflected the passion of the fans to talk about something they loved. Zines spread science fiction until it became the ubiquitous genre we know today: the source of countless streaming TV shows, movies, books, manga, comics, and more. People make them because they need to express something – and there is no better outlet for their passion.

What Are Popular Zine Topics?

While zines began in science fiction, “zinesters” brought zine creation to rock and roll music, giving rise to the first rock and roll reviews and magazines. Punk adopted zines and their DIY (do-it-yourself) aesthetic. The hip-hop and Riot grrrl movements used zines to spread the word. Zines are vital in the queer community, talking about AIDS, for example, when no one else would, and leading to the Queercore, punk + queer music movement. There are hundreds of “types” of zines, depending on how you think of it – from general zines to specialty zines of all kinds. There is no limit… and that is the point.

Why did you want to do this exhibition?

The CSUF University Archives and Special Collections are a treasure trove and have an incredible collection of science fiction, including papers from important writers like Philip K. Dick, Frank Herbert, and Ray Bradbury, among others. Zines have become a big deal with a lot of people in the maker movement wanting to create their own, including some students who have started making fanzines themselves and showing them to me.

What are the highlights of the exhibition?

The exhibition features fanzines dating back to the 1930s. These include the International Observer, published by early science fiction writers and publishers. Others are the first Star Trek zines that helped save the show from cancellation and the Philip K. Dick zines made by Paul Williams, who invented the rock-and-roll zine. The Philip K. Dick Newsletter helped promote a neglected writer, who is now considered an important American writer of the 20th century. We have the earliest zines in the rise of Tolkien’s fandom, ‘sword and witchcraft’ fandom, and Los Angeles sci-fi zines from one of the oldest and most powerful fandoms – and where are they from? released the first queer zines and magazines. There are also the first zines written by HP Lovecraft, Robert Bloch, the author of “Psycho”, and many others.

What do you hope people learn?

Zines are humble productions of love and yet they have changed our popular cultural landscape. Zines have played a role in the way so many Star Trek shows are still produced or in the release of new premium editions of the work of Philip K. Dick. They brought punk and hip-hop music into our consciousness – even for those who didn’t read them – because they provided a way for true believers to connect and speak. Science fiction invented zines and in doing so, invented a way for fans to change everything. The large-scale Star Wars fandom and big events like ComicCon or WonderCon are an extension of the early field organization of ephemeral zines made for the love of art.

Contact: Debra Cano Ramos, [email protected]



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