Before there were blogs, there were zines. Self-published and with limited circulation, these small-scale magazines were generally produced to cover topics that were not popular in the mainstream. Although the internet has largely replaced zine culture by providing an easier and wider-reaching platform through which marginal groups can freely publish their material, artists and activists who value print publishing or simply want to avoid internet harassment continue to publish zines even today.
Washington University Special Collections has recently acquired a small collection of contemporary zines produced by Fort Gondo artists and formerly curated by Cole Lu in the Fort Gondo Zine Library. Below are the front and back cover and a page from Richard Reilly’s Scenes from a Journal, a zine that features Reilly’s photos and collages related to the Ferguson shooting and the burgeoning Black Lives Matter movement. You can find the titles of all of the new zines housed in Special Collections here.
About Fort Gondo
Fort Gondo was a nonprofit community arts forum located on Cherokee Street in St Louis. It was founded by Galen Gondolfi in 2002 and offered a space for artists who had been overlooked by the mainstream. Up until the beginning of this year, it held art openings and exhibits and hosted punk bands, performance art, and literary readings. From 2011-2016, Fort Gondo held a poetry reading series for local writers that was named “The Best Literary Event” in St. Louis Magazine’s 2012 A-List issue. All readings were accompanied by hand-painted broadsides, which Special Collections has acquired along with the zine collection.
The History of Zines
Zines have been around since roughly the 1930s, when fans of science fiction began producing their own fan fiction and original works to be circulated through a small network of readers. Zines later became popular way of circulating other types of creative and non-fiction writing, including original artwork, short-stories, poetry, essays, and articles on obscure topics that would have a difficult time finding an audience elsewhere. Many early zines were photocopied and stapled and circulated through the mail by a single creator either for free or a minimal subscription fee.
Because they could be used to spread unpopular or underrepresented ideas that the mainstream media would not print for fear of losing sponsors or audience members, they were widely used by the counterculture and punk movements of the 1960s and 70s. Below is a reproduction of a counterculture zine from the 1960s that writers Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, and others contributed to. The title, My Own Mag Fall Out Shelter alludes to the threat of nuclear annihilation that the counterculture was reacting against during the Cold War. The second image displays a poem by Ginsberg published in the zine.
In 1982, science fiction fan Mike Gunderloy created Factsheet Five, a publication that catalogued and reviewed zines, creating a network through which potential readers could find zines that interested them. Factsheet Five continued to be published into the 1990s, when a new subgenre of zines associated with third-wave feminism emerged with the riot grrrl movement. These zines allowed women to circulate ideas about gender and sexuality that were not being discussed in mainstream publications. Below is a reproduction of Resist: The Dyke Zine, a self-published lesbian feminist zine based out of St. Louis that featured poetry, articles about gay rights, and even personal ads.
Feminists continue to publish zines even today, either to avoid some of the harassment that bloggers experience on the internet or to highlight craft making and the art of the magazine. Below is the cover and a selected page from a zine from the new Fort Gondo collection put together by Katie Yun with artwork and text that relates to the experience of Asian American women.