The Zines of Bellevue College

Seamus Allen // The Watchdog.

Last Thursday, May 9, Bellevue College librarian Elena Maans-Lorincz hosted an informational session on zines for faculty. According to the Purdue Library, “A zine (pronounced ZEEN) is short for “fanzine” and is usually a small-batch, independently published work that circulates less than 1,000 copies.” The Bellevue College library hosts a sizable collection of zines created by students, faculty, and professional zinesters (what zine creators affectionately call themselves). Typically made of paper and adorned with cutout images, colors, and fabrics, Zines originated in the 1930s in Chicago, telling sci-fi stories. They grew in popularity in the 70s when photocopying innovations democratized the creation and sharing of zines. Zines also played a significant role in the Riot Grrl and Queercore movements of the 1990s, where they were used to distribute feminist and anti-patriarchal literature. Today, zines take many different formats. The digital era has ushered in a new wave of online zines and allowed pre-existing zines to be distributed with more ease than ever before. 

One of the most significant distinctions between a zine and formally published literature is the creative freedom granted to authors. Maans-Lorincz says, “Zines are some of the most free-form types of self-publication and ways to get your voice out there. Zines are not censored: the only editor is yourself.” Not limited by the standards of a publishing house, zinesters are largely motivated by their own interests and desires rather than profit. If they are not outright free, zines (typically the mass-distributed ones) are almost always priced below $10. This creative liberty also enables zinesters to center their art around a variety of topics, proving themselves both relevant and beneficial in an academic environment.  Maans-Lorincz adds, “The focus of the event [was] to talk about how both graphic novels and zines can be used in the classroom to provide such a different experience for students that they do not get from a research article.” 

Zines are commonly used as political tools, with their accessibility in both creation and distribution, making them ideal for spreading information that may otherwise be censored or convoluted. “How to Prepare for Action: A Protest Prep Zine” by Sarah Friedman, for example, details what one can expect at a protest, especially when dealing with law enforcement and getting arrested. Some zines discuss information with the societal stigma surrounding it, like sexual education and mental health, providing support to those who come from communities where those topics are not talked about.  

To view the extensive collection of zines on campus, visit the shelf near the staircase at the BC library. The library is currently accepting new additions to the zine collection from all interested students and faculty.