Zines are a phenomenon of extreme independent publishing. In the late 1980s, copy shops bloomed in seemingly every town, inexpensive and often open 24 hours a day. Teenagers started using them to make zines hand over fist, inspired by the weird, low-production-value fanzines made by die-hard science-fiction fans since the 1940s. Tiny handmade screeds (often in the easy-to-collate quarter-page size) on any and all subjects flowed like a mighty river out the doors of those brightly lit photocopier emporiums. The utter lack of adult, government, or school oversight gave the little pamphlets a freedom of expression unlike any other type of publication, and gave voice to groups whose opinions were often unheard in more mainstream media.
It's been a long time since that early frenzy, but because the medium is still uncontrollable and copy machines are still rampant, it's still easy for anyone to make a zine, anytime, about any subject. It's still cheap, too, unless you go nuts and screen-print everything onto fancy paper and pay your contributors and what-have-you. Plenty of people go that route, and no one can stop them.
We're happy to say that the torrent continues to rage, especially in the Bay Area. At the San Francisco Zinefest, 40-odd individuals and groups are confirmed to show up and exhibit their wares. Among them are the white-hot core of local independent publishing: zine/clothing shop Needles & Pens; Juliette Torrez, creator of the much-loved Kapow! art and poetry series; and Andrew Goldfarb, whose booklet is called Ogner Stump's One Thousand Sorrows. Classic.