‘Zines of Racine series: an introductory post

While pursuing my writing career during these  past few years, I have befriended many artists and poets who publish their material independently whether through small presses or self published books. A few of these writers have released their work through the medium of ‘Zines, small traditionally photocopied periodicals. I went to the annual Racine ‘Zine fest in November and became inspired to cover the ‘zines of   Racine.

As an introduction to the series, however, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about what a ”Zine” is. ‘Zines  started out  in the 1930s with a community of science fiction fans who sent each other their own independent fanzines featuring stories, reviews, and letters. Over the next two decades, comic and horror fans were inspired to start up their own publications such as Famous Monsters of Filmland and Cinefantastique.  

During the 60s, the ‘Zine market expanded into focusing on music with magazines such as Crawdaddy which hosted writing by prominent rock critics like Lester Bangs and Greil Marcus. The decade also saw the first media related fan ‘zine with a Star Trek focused publication called  Spockanalia which pioneered the concept of fan fiction, fan written stories featuring existing properties.

‘Zines really came into their form, however, during the punk movement of the 1970s.  The first ‘zine to  cover the punk scene in New York City was aptly titled PUNK with text by Legs Mcneil and illustrations by John Holstrom. It lasted from 1976 to 1979 and covered bands such as The Ramones, Blondie, and The Dictators.  The development of punk ‘zines basically  follows the evolution of punk. The first punk ‘zine in the U.K. was titled Sniffin’ Glue. Written by future punk musician, Mark Perry, it debuted the month of July 1976, the very same month that The Ramones began a tour of England. The publication lasted for a year before ending in August of 1977 with Perry encouraging other punk fans to start their own ‘zines. Many young people followed this advice, including future lead singer of The Pogues, Shane Macgowan whose fanzine was entitled Bondage.

During these two years, a punk scene in Los Angeles was also emerging with bands such as The Germs and X.  The first two ‘zines of the scene, Flipside and Search and Destroy were released in 1977. Flipside eventually expanded into the record label industry and even hosted a music festival during the late 90s.   Search and Destroy, meanwhile folded in 1979 and was reborn as Re/Search, a  magazine and book publishing company.

The punk ‘zine boom continued into the 80s and 90s with the debut of more politically focused magazine such as the anarchist Profane Existence and most notably, Maximum Rock and Roll. This ‘zine was devoted to  anti capitalist politics and a D.I.Y. philosophy.  Its owner, Tim Yohannan, refused to review any album on a major label and decried any band that pursued mainstream success.  As time went on, this ideology would cause many feuds between the publication and members of the punk scenes. Despite it’s dogmatic stance, Maximum Rock n Roll inspired many other political  punk zines that were prevalent in the 90s.

The 90s were perhaps the most popular decade for ‘zines, what with the rise of the Riot GRRL movement. This feminist punk movement was very dependent on zines to communicate ideas, promote activists movements, and spread music news. They even ventured into talking about personal topics such as   abuse and body image. A few ‘zine creators  also began music careers. Two of the most notable editors on the scene were Allison Wolfe and Molly Neuman who edited the publication, Girl Germs and went on to form the band, Bratmobile.

The long nearly 80 year history of ‘zines has inspired many other artists and writers to start their own publications. Racine has  no shortage of creative types who have been influenced by this history and the D.I.Y. philosophy. The ‘Zines of Racine project will cover writers who use the medium to display their poetry, art, and various writing. The first entry will cover John Bloner Jr’s group Krayzines and their monthly publication, Moss Piglet.   Further coverage will focus on poets like Jessie Lyn McMains and Dan Nielsen. I am very excited to share the lives of these talented writers with Racine citizens.  Look for the piece of John Bloner Jr on Tuesday!


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