As the underrepresented raised their voices, specifically women among them, the activity was deemed a movement and it was named Riot Grrrl. Here women redefined feminism for the 1990s and recognized each other as manufacturers of culture as opposed to mere participants in the culture that is given to them. Ericka Bailie’s zine distribution business, Pander Zine Distro, raises the Riot Grrrl battle cry in its absolute effectiveness, representation, and style. It also raises the bar for distributors of independent media to consider more carefully the quality and kind of works they represent.
Furthering the connection between dissidence and music, students from the school of visual arts in NY founded Punk in 1976 and chronicled CBGBs. Also Sniffin’ Glue made a name in the UK around the same time. These days, a biography of a band from the UK in the late 70s cannot be published without images, interviews, and information credited to Sniffin’ Glue.
The intellectual history of zines, however, is not the whole story. Chester Carlson scored a patent for Xerox in 1939 and began the love affair between the zinester and the tool of the trade. One zinester mentioned that the most romantic thing anyone has ever done for her was to buy her a photocopier. It wasn’t until the 1970s that most of us had access to them. But now that there is a Kinko’s on every corner, a copier at every temp job, and a disgruntled temp worker at every temp job, it is unlikely that the number of zines in circulation will see an end. The copier brought speed and accessibility to a cultural history of resistance and self-reliance. What naturally followed was a rise of control over the written word and published material. Zines are proof that the means of production and distribution can exist in the hands of the people and that we now have more resources and power to make our culture than ever before.
Zine culture is changing. With the rapid growth of digital culture, zines have made a curious transition to the web, which has perhaps breathed new life into a very old idea. Currently, one heated debate among zinesters is whether a zine has the same impact once it appears on the glowing screen. Other zines have reached a level of popularity to garner a large following, most notably Clamor and Punk Planet. But while these magazines make their way to the racks of Barnes and Noble, it seems there will always be the teenage girl cutting and pasting, copying and distributing, finding her niche in the colorful underground publishing world.