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With one significant exception, this explorative study is concerned with examining the roots of the most recent surge of self-publishing activity that took place during the 1980s, more commonly known as the zine scene. The word zine gained wide currency during these years (although not the exclusive preserve of this decade), and came to embody a particular approach to self-publishing that is an amalgam of practices and influences from the more immediate past.
While not a study of '80s zines per se, this paper surveys the threads linking zines from this period with the self-publishing activities of seven different groupings during the years 1960 to 1980. One particular area of concern has been in establishing the common features of these publications, and tracing their development through these two decades.
I should state at this point that the emphasis in my research has been on publications produced primarily by artists or that, more broadly speaking, come out of a cultural and artistic milieu (as opposed to a literary or overtly political one).
All zines are magazines, but not all magazines are zines. The dropping of the 'maga' to arrive at 'zine' denotes a particular set of attitudes, economics and technological practices that are intertwined in this type of self-publishing. Non-commercial, self-published in small editions and very often photocopied, zines arise out of particular subcultural milieus united by their common needs and interests. Their circulation, predominantly within these particular environments, places them deep under the web of cultural activity. It is to this matrix of issues that this paper is addressed, with the emphasis on the question: What do zines do?
One word of caution is in order; anyone doing research on artists' self-publishing beyond the cursory level, becomes quickly aware of the danger in stating with any degree of authority hard and fast rules pertaining to this quixotic activity. However close one gets to pinning a general theory or fixed structure on this very fluid activity, an exception, or a number of exceptions will reveal themselves.
In fact the only hard and fast rule that could be applied to this kind of self-publishing is that there is always a publication that represents an exception! Publications also change over time, and one that may have started as an artists' self-publication could easily 'crossover' into the mainstream, or similarly one that started out as an 'alternative' publication, can just by the mere fact of its longevity and monopoly of a specialized area become mainstream. Examples of these two crossovers would be Artforum and High Performance respectively.

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