Pronounced like "magazines", zines – for the uninitiated - are self-published materials, distributed not for profit but for creative and sometimes political self-expression. Zine creators tell their stories through words, pictures and photographs. They range from the cut, paste and copy variety to the slick, and expertly designed. Some more artistic zines are hand-bound, and are sometimes painted or illustrated.
Middle Tennessee has a burgeoning zine scene that explores topics ranging from art to feminism to Christian heavy metal, and punk music. Despite the diversity of zines, the problem of communication and distribution of these materials is profound. Many zine creators think they’re the only one, or a handful of a small few, producing this type of work. This is a common problem as zines are often born from a growing sense of frustration with the mainstream media and the need for a creative outlet. Understanding this need, some mainstream institutions are now taking it upon themselves to make this type of work more available to the public.
The zine collection at Linebaugh Public Library in Murfreesboro, TN is the first of its kind in the state of Tennessee. The collection currently hosts approximately 230 titles and was created by librarian Jerianne Thompson. Her primary motivation was her own frustration at not being able to find zines in Murfreesboro or Nashville, and not having a good way to connect with people who were similarly smitten with zines.
"There is such a vibrant music and arts community among people in their teens, twenties and thirties in Middle Tennessee, I felt sure that there were other people around who were into zines or would be, if they had a chance to read them, but I didn't know very many." In addition to bringing like minds together, Thompson's work exhibited the library's desire to connect with its young-adult audience. "A zine collection demonstrates our commitment to recognizing the interests of youth in our community, and their potential for contribution. It's also a way for us to increase the scope of our collection, as zines often include a variety of topics and subjects that were previously limited within our library collection".
Jerianne also serves as the editor and publisher of Zine World. Zine World is an extensive resource guide, providing information about zines and zine culture. She works with two dozen people throughout the US and overseas, who volunteer to help with various aspects of the zine, such as writing zine reviews. Zine World is considered by many to be the best zine review in the country.
The Linebaugh library carries a number of Tennessee-created zines including the Fifth Estate (an anarchist zine out of Liberty, TN), 11’o’clock (an anthology published in Murfreesboro), Fertile Ground(a parenting zine made in Memphis), Uprise (an independent music magazine from Nashville,), RR (a country-music inspired zine from Nashville), Bog Gob (a pop-culture zine from Chattanooga), Nashville Femme, Southern Fried and Rattletrap and several zines by Christopher Teague of Nashville including XXX. The library also feature zines published during the Southern Girls Rock & Roll Camp.
Nashville's Watkins College of Art and Design also has a zine library. The collection provides students with the similar opportunity to discover alternative media. Watkins students have had opportunities to participate in zinemaking workshops, and have distributed their own zines throughout the city. The Watkins collection mirrors an already active zine scene present in the city.
The Nashville visual arts zine (the) Rabbit, was started by a frustrated newcomer to the area. Casey Pierce hoped the zine would fill a void in the Nashville arts community. Noting that the local arts publication Nashville Arts "largely caters to the decorative art crowd and the more established scene," Casey had a different agenda for (the) Rabbit. "We’re just trying to magnetize and give a choice to all those creative people who have something interesting to say. We think we can change our environment and we’re willing to try".
(the) Rabbit has evolved from a xerox-and-staple affair to a full-color, bound publication that even has local advertisers on board. Every issue is inaugurated with a release party that goes all night, and features art and bands and booze. A cover charge gets you a copy of the zine and admission into the party. The next issue of (the) Rabbit will come out the weekend before Halloween.
The Nashville Femme zine features art, poetry, rants, music, album reviews and essays. It was created with the intention to (1) promote women’s sexual, mental, emotional & physical health, (2) get people involved in the artistic culture of Nashville and abolish the negativity surrounding the word "feminism," and (3) promote DIY/zine culture in Nashville. Nashville Femme is distributed locally in coffee shops, tattoo parlors, bars, restaurants, record stores and bookstores. According to Katie Zenger, co-editor of Nashville Femme, "Reader response has been very positive in general, but in regards to changing our generation’s perception of feminism, there is still far to go".
Zines are increasingly important in an era of immediacy. Anyone can go online and blog whereas the intention of creating a zine is more deliberate and permanent. Zines cannot be altered once distributed. Zines are not interactive. There are many steps involved in making a zine - cutting and pasting and copying and, in many cases, gathering from fellow contributors. Zines bring a voice to those unrepresented by the mainstream media. Zines allow for complete creative control by the zine maker, and their appeal lies ultimately in the simple expression of the personal.