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Creating at Cline Library

Your complete how-to guide for enjoying the Cline Library's MakerLab and multimedia Studios.


Zine examples

What is a Zine?

The Cline Library MakerLab defines zines (short for "fanzines") as self-published, low budget publications with small print runs (10-5,000 copies) with a strong intent to share information or self-expression, often with a cost of $5.00 or less. We consider "published" to mean anything intended for public consumption; if you intended for it to have an audience, we want to help it find one. Zines cover a wide range of topics with many focused on politics, art, creative writing, and personal narratives. Zines are:

  • Independent or self-published, not professionally published
  • Means of self-expression, like precursors to personal blogs/vlogs
  • Often include handwritten text, art, images, cutouts, collages, etc.
  • Almost always for not for profit publication

Benefits of Zines

There are many reasons why creators may choose to express themselves via zine instead of other forms of media. With Zines:

  • Authors have full control over the content, design, and distribution of their work
  • There are no set guidelines for form; a zine's design and format are open ended
  • Authors are not beholden to publishers or platforms (circumvents corporate interests)
  • Authors are able to challenge traditional authority (social/cultural/political authority)
  • Authors can promote relationships with like-minded people (zines are more intimate)
  • Authors are more free to address niche or counter-culture topics

Historic Examples of Zines

“Common Sense” by Thomas Paine (1776) - This 70 page pamphlet was written during the early years of the American Revolution and set forth the author’s arguments in favor of American Independence. Thomas Paine, being a bankrupt and regularly out-of-work Englishman, was forced to write anonymously for fear of reprisals from the British soldiers and their loyalist allies. Thanks to its plain language, “Common Sense” became extremely popular and influential throughout the colonies and served to galvanize reluctant colonists to commit to the war of independence.

“The Comet” (1930s) - A first of its kind science fiction fanzine, published in May 1930 by the Science Correspondence Club of Chicago, Illinois. Importantly, fan contribution was crucial in the publication of “The Comet” and fans of science fiction would regularly submit art, reviews, radio episode guides, articles, etc. for publication. This is also where we begin to see the development of the typical zine style and format.

A Letter From Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King Jr (1963) - In April of 1963 MLK was arrested for leading a march through Birmingham Alabama’s business district and was put in jail; he wrote this letter in response. Much of the letter was written on the margins of a newspaper, which was the only paper available to King, with later portions written on bits of paper smuggled in to him. In the letter King says that people have a moral responsibility to break unjust laws and to take direct action rather than waiting potentially forever for justice to come through the courts. 

"Riot Grrrl" (1990s) - Riot Grrrl was an underground feminist movement that began in the Pacific Northwest in the early nineties. Riot Grrrl activism was closely tied to punk music and a DIY aesthetic and involved meetings, the creation of zines, and a nationwide network of support for women in music. Riot Grrrl zines were defiantly homemade - using cut and paste, collages, and Xerox machines – and often address issues such as rape, domestic abuse, sexuality, racism, patriarchy, classism, anarchism and  empowerment. 

Zines at Cline Library

A small portion of the Cline Library’s Zine Collection can be found in the Cline Library MakerLab; these zines are available for all to read, take, and share. We also collect zines that fall within specific topics and subjects (listed below), that are available for teaching or research purposes. Browse the collections via our catalog or check out the whole collection by visiting the library's main Ask Us! desk with your NAU ID.

The following zine collections are available to all library users:

  • Art and expression
  • Political activism
  • Environmental issues
  • Indigenous perspectives
  • Self-love & Self-care
  • Queer perspectives
  • Immigration issues
  • LGBTQ+ issues
  • Relationships
  • DIY/maker culture
  • Student life at NAU

Books on Zines

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