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  • July 2012
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The Zine Scene

Zines are not easily defined. They can be a messy hodgepodge of personal thoughts or an expertly designed political treatise. They can fit easily into a pocket or take up an entire 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper. They can be heavily collaged or minimalist; colored or black-and-white; handwritten or typed; stapled, sewn, or loose. The unifying thread is their outside-of-the-mainstream existence as independently written, produced, and distributed media that value freedom of expression and freedom from rules above all else.

– From The Sally Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture

A zine (ZEEN), in case you don’t know, is a handmade, self-published booklet, kind of like a mini magazine. Before blogs, Twitter, and the dawn of the tumblrverse, homemade zines were the ultimate format for independent self-expression, like little paper channels of underground culture & communication. People made zines to air out their rants and raves, lay out missives and manifestos, connect with other fans of favorite artists and bands, catalog current obsessions, and share ideas about everything under the sun. Then they’d make a bunch of copies and send their creations out into the world.

Zines are still around today, and they’re still really cool. Anyone can make one– all you need is paper, scissors, a glue stick, and a little creativity, and you can fill it with whatever you want: poetry, photographs, true stories, made-up stories, angry rants, recipes, song lyrics, comics, crafts, artwork, instructions, interviews with interesting strangers—seriously, anything goes. That’s what’s so cool about self-publishing—you hold all the power.

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has a whole collection of zines at the Main library, so drop in today and take a look, and be sure to check out the CLP blog devoted totally to zines. You can also find zines in local spots around Pittsburgh, or by perusing a list of distros (aka distributors).

This Saturday, July 21 (tomorrow!) is Zine Library Day 2012. CLP is celebrating by hosting an epic zine-making event at the Main library in which everyone will work together to create the biggest zine in the world. Seriously… it’s going to be really big. Anyone can participate, so get thee to the Main library this Saturday between 12 PM and 5 PM to check it out. Even if you’re not quite ready to make a contribution as an intrepid culture creator, it’s sure to be an awesome event to behold.

In the meantime, why not check out one of these books about the marvelous world of zines? You just may get inspired.


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