Ever heard of a zine?
A zine is a cheaply-made and cheaply priced self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images, usually reproduced with a photocopier. Zines can be a collaborative effort by a small group of people or a single person. They’re often in black and white to keep mass-reproduction costs low and are bound with staples.
Most zines revolve around a music scene of some sort, but others are dedicated to artwork, poetry, cartoons, editorials and short stories. Because zines do not have any sort of corporate backing, they are very rugged, individualized, and much more charismatic than larger, more popular magazines whose content is often dictated by their advertisers.
It’s another form of creative expression – artists speaking their minds, getting their voices heard.
And like nearly every form of creative medium, there does happen to be an annual festival dedicated to it. And it’s coming up next Sunday, May 28th.
The L.A. Zine Fest is organized by a collective of zine-enthusiasts dedicated to promoting zine culture as a means of uniting different communities throughout Los Angeles. And not only does the festival provide an opportunity for “zinesters” across Southern California to come together, it also fosters a healthy and inclusive environment for people – artists or not – to share their ideas and engage in self expression.
According to the L.A. Zine Fest’s official website, the first L.A. Zine Fest took place “in a series of low-slung hallways above the Last Bookstore in downtown L.A. on Valentine’s Day in 2012.” More than 1,500 people crowded the Last Bookstore’s halls in attendance for the Fest, much to the pleasant surprise of over 100 self-publishers — many of whom had never publicly showcased their projects. From handmade chapbooks to graphic novels to social-justice pamphlets, most of the items on display were produced by amateur artists with nothing but scissors, a pen, a glue stick and a photocopy machine.
In the last four years, the Greater Los Angeles’ community of zinesters has seen tremendous growth in the form of workshops, classes, and more festivals all dedicated to the art of self-publishing. As of this year, there are quite a few local events where you can attend panels, participate in workshops, and browse and purchase the latest content from zine-makers, including IE Zine Fest, OC Zine Fest, L.A. Art Book Fair, Blk Grrrl Book Fair, OC Anarchist Book Fair and Long Beach Zine Fest.
The increasing popularity of zines stems from their response to the impersonality of digital era, their versatility, and their use as a voice for underrepresented communities. Over the years, zines have been utilized by people of a multitude of identities and backgrounds – whether it be sexual, political, racial, etc. The zines can be a form of art as well, as many zinesters use specialty paper or unique printing methods to showcase their work.
“Whether they cost $1 or $10, are about food or identity, are being made in Cuba or in Inglewood, zines embody a DIY spirit that unites all who make them” says a self-published zinester and ardent L.A. Zine Fest attendee, Sarah Bennett.
This year, the all-day event will showcase over 175 exhibitors of zines, small press publications, and comics from across the country. There’ll also be free readings and nifty workshops – like “how to run your own DIY music venue.”
The Fest will take place at the California Market Center at 110 East 9th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90079 starting at 10am. If you’re planning on taking public transportation, take the 20 bus to 7th/Main – from there, the Market is only a 6 minute walk away.
If you’re interested in learning more about zines, here’s a fun article about how to make one yourself. Better yet, if you’re interested in publishing work in a zine without having to go through the hassle of making it, UCLA’s literary arts journal, Westwind, actually publishes its own zine once a year. If you’re interested in submitting work to Westwind’s zine, check out their website.