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A Short History of Fanzines
by Chip Rowe

3500 B.C.: Zinesters in Sumer create pictographs on clay tablets.

105 A.D.: Paper invented, followed by folding.

1451: Gutenberg invents the printing press.

1776: Thomas Paine publishes Common Sense.

1875: Edison invents the mimeograph.

1930: Science fiction fans—including the two guys who created Superman—publish the first modern fanzines.

1938: Chester Carlson invents the photocopier.

1970: First Kinko's opens near University of California at Santa Barbara.

1970s: Punk rock spreads do-it-yourself spirit.

1982: Mike Gunderloy launches Factsheet Five, a zine of zine reviews, as a two-page typed letter to friends. He names it after a science fiction story by John Brunner.

1984: Apple introduces the Macintosh, which soon revolutionizes desktop publishing.

1986: John Marr publishes the first issue of Murder Can Be Fun, his zine of mayhem and absurdity. It will influence countless zine editors.

1989: Gunderloy estimates that 6000 zines exist.

1991: Gunderloy calls it quits after 44th issue of Factsheet Five.

1993: John Labovitz launches his online E-Zine List with 25 entries. By 1999, it contains more than 4000.

1994: Darby Romeo publishes the I Hate Brenda Newsletter, which lambasts the "Beverly Hills 90210" character. The one-shot gets huge, unexpected media coverage.

1995: The Wall Street Journal runs a front-page story on the "zine revolution" ... Seth Friedman, the new editor of Factsheet Five, estimates 20,000 to 50,000 titles.

1996: Dishwasher Pete becomes the first zine editor to be invited to appear on Letterman; Pete instead sends an imposter who lights his hand on fire.

1997: Folio: The Magazine for Magazine Management runs an article entitled Zinesters grapple with the ad thing ... Major publishers publish three zine anthologies, along with a half-dozen books by zinesters adapting material from their publications.

1998: MTV launches "Zined Out" ... NBC airs made-for-TV movie about a zinester who writes about her friends even when they tell her not to. Shannen Doherty stars.

1999: Doug Holland of the zine Pathetic Life: Diary of a Fat Slob admits he is actually a surfer from Malibu ... First zine sued for libel. Judge throws case out because he can't read the handwriting in the article ... Keffo of Temp Slave! finds full-time work.

2000: Jesus returns. Knows some Christians at Kinko's, gets free copies ... Courtney Love attends Oscars in dress made of zines, including two strategically placed copies of Bust ... McDonald's launches "You Want a Zine With That?" campaign.

2001: Bill Brent, author of Make a Zine!, introduces Zinemaker software. Sells it to Microsoft within hours; net worth rises from $1.64 to $417 million.

2002: M&M/Mars introduces Zinelets. They are individually wrapped and bitter.

2003: False radio report announcing office-supply shortage causes widespread panic.

2004: Dan Quayle becomes first presidential candidate to publish a zine, Republican Party Animal. It is riddled with spelling errors. No one notices ... Big Blue creates first computer-generated zine in .0000008 seconds.

2006: O.J.'s third wife dies after suffering massive paper cuts while collating his zine—or so he says.

2010: Seth Friedman of Factsheet Five reviews his one millionth zine; collapses.

2012: Bored teenagers, in an effort to rebel, start publishing glossy celebrity magazines.

2015: Zine exhibit at Museum of Modern Art. Dadaists put in storage ... Mike Diana of Boiled Angel elected Dade County prosecutor.

2020: Staple shortage sends Zineco stock plummeting.

2042: David Greenberger, who has interviewed elderly people for his zine The Duplex Planet since 1979, enters a retirement home to research his next issue but now has his own room.

2076: In an experiment at M.I.T., 99 monkeys placed in front of typewriters produce 98 zines. The remaining monkey types a contract and says he is a distributor. He then takes the other monkeys' bananas and disappears into the bushes.

This article first appeared on Copyright 1997 Chip Rowe. All rights reserved.

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