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Fanzines: Fanzine History

A Brief History of Music Fanzines

Generally speaking, fanzines as a medium can be traced back to the 1930s. Science fiction fanzines became a forum for fans of the genre to continue the stories of their favorite characters after certain books or serials ceased to be published (Bartel 232). Though a multitude of fanzines exist (covering topics ranging from personal experience to politics to popular culture), music fanzines comprise the largest subgenre of fanzines in the United States (Duncombe 9). The modern music fanzine has a recent, genre-specific lineage: the aesthetics and content of most music fanzines can be traced back to punk scenes of the mid-1970s.

Punk scenes have long been known for their do-it-yourself (DIY) approach to making music. DIY punk fanzines are a key component of establishing and connecting punk scenes. They provide a voice and an outlet for scene participants-- and because they are self-published, scene members often consider fanzines to be free of what they see as the corruption that plagues mainstream media. In other words, since no one really makes money from fanzine publication, the contents are assumed to be a reflection of genuine interest, not capitalist interests.

An early, influential punk fanzine was Mark Perry's Sniffin' Glue: And Other Rock 'N' Roll Habits, which documented Britain's punk scene in 1976 and 1977. This zine was aesthetically influential: its cut-and-paste or handwritten lettering, photocopied images, and tongue-in-cheek image collages became recognizable conventions of the punk fanzine (Triggs 69).

sniffin' glue and other rock'n'roll habits for ... who cares!

Many of the fanzine titles in the ML/BSSA collection adopted the conventions of early punk fanzines. However, our collection contains zines that document many more genres and scenes-- from filk to extreme metal. Come check out our collection!


Bartel, Julie. "The Salt Lake City Public Library Zine Collection." Public Libraries 42, no. 4 (2003): 232-238

Duncombe, Stephen. Notes from Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture. London: Verso, 1997.

Triggs, Teal. "Scissors and Glue: Punk Fanzines and the Creation of a DIY Aesthetic." Journal of Design History 19, no. 1 (2006): 69-83.

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