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Proceeding from the general surveys of seven particular areas of self-publishing that I have examined here, it becomes clear that certain themes and practices are common to all of them. It is perhaps to state the obvious that all of these varied practices coalesce in shaping the physical presence of the publication, and that the magazine itself can be considered as the site or vehicle through which these themes are given expression. So in answering my initial inquiry of, what do zines do?, I want in this concluding section to pull together the threads that have given rise to this unique form of publishing activity.
Self-publishing is one way in which a variety of marginalized, special interest, sub-cultural, or other underrepresented minority groups can give an affirmative voice to their interests and concerns. Whether generated by the established media's lack of coverage, biased coverage, total exclusion, or generated in direct opposition to the established media, self-publishing offers one viable alternative to communicating a groups' ideas within and beyond their immediate milieu.
Self-published magazines play various roles within any of the above groups. One of their intrinsic roles is that of being networking agents within the group. For many of these groups, where the members are dispersed geographically, culturally and politically, they provide links in the chain of communication, channels for exchanging information, notification of projects, and documentation pertinent to each groups' needs and interests. The 'open' nature of many of these magazines also provides a space in which discussion, debate and correspondence—vital elements in furthering any groups aims and philosophies—can take place. Finally, in perhaps their most important networking role, they are one of the active agents through which the groups' identity takes shape and is given shape.
The role and the development of accessible printing technology cannot be underestimated in charting the course of self-publishing. The rapid increase in the number of zines from the mid-'70s onwards, together with the beginnings of the early Science Fiction fanzines all owe a huge debt to developments in this field. Adopted by small institutions with limited budgets and publishing runs small enough for more traditional printing methods to be uneconomical, the mimeo, the ditto machine and the photocopier (amongst other methods), all found willing hands to run off material above and beyond their circumscribed institutional uses.

These autonomous and decentralized publishing machines allowed the self-publisher to circumscribe altogether the traditional printing hierarchy and all the censorial and editorial implications of this system. Freed from these constraints, self-publishers were able to take exceptional liberties with the design, lay-out and content of their publications. The other advantage of this technology (as photocopiers demonstrate today), is that it's relatively easy for a group or individual on a limited budget, to produce a quite respectable small-run publication.
Riding tandem with the self-publishers' access to economical duplicative technology, has been the 'decentralizing' effect that this technology has had. Comprised partly of an attack on the cultural influence of the larger metropolitan areas, this 'decentralization' was also an affirmation that geographic location was now no longer a barrier to producing a publication that had international contributors, and that would have relevance in all these countries.
What these self-publications do outside of the groups that generate them is a harder question to answer. The problems of distribution are legendary, compounded by a notoriously inadequate and in many cases unreliable infrastructure. So, to the extent that any small self-publisher would ideally love to see their zines gracing the racks of thousands of stores across the country, accompanied by the subsequent exposure and increased revenues, it is a relevant question.
One approach to answering this question lies in examining the very reasons that brought them into existence in the first place, and in confronting this question, another more pressing one presents itself: are these publications published primarily for the group or milieu that generated them, or are they published more to publicize the groups' concerns to the world at large?
As I have noted in an earlier paragraph many zines are published in opposition to, or in reaction to, the established media's coverage of similar areas or from a perceived inadequate coverage, or indeed a lack of coverage. As a result these publications are generated quite self-consciously as an alternative. Even if the established distribution system for the traditionally high profile magazines were to miraculously open its arms to self-published magazines, it would necessitate examining some obvious contradictions for self-publishers.

Pertinent to this dilemma are the bitter lessons learned from the 1960s and the 70s, and that is that capital has a unique capacity to commodify and subsequently neutralize, even the most extreme cultural productions, (one has to look no further than conceptual art and punk rock for some of the more obvious examples). This situation did not pass unnoticed by self-publishers, and this dilemma and its contradictions illuminates an area that is close to the heart of self-publishing. Not only is self-publishing generated by an opposition, or a reaction to the established media, it is also generated by a refusal, and central to this refusal is the establishment of a modus operandi that exists outside of, and distinct from, the dominant ideology.
Only by adopting this position of refusal could self-publishing maintain a position that is unassailable to the forces of commodification and compromise. In this sense one can legitimately speak of an 'underground culture,' or a 'parallel culture' that exists alongside and in opposition to the dominant culture, but without the explicit aim of seeking to replace it. So I would suggest, in partial answer to the questions posed in the above paragraph, that what zines do outside of the groups that generate them is to draw sympathetic individuals into an active involvement with this underground culture in order to expand its base and further propagate its activities and philosophy.
Another aspect in answering the questions posed above is provided by the technical means by which self-publishers print their publications. Simply put, the technical process to a large extent defines the limits of their circulation and distribution, and since they are not printed in significantly large enough numbers, they are unable to acquire a high profile outside of their milieu of origin.
One consistent feature of self-publishing is the examination of the role and power of the editor. Consistent with their more general refusal, self-publishers have developed various strategies aimed at consciously questioning the role of the editor. The development of assembling publications and the adoption of an assembling-type approach, being the most obvious example. (1,2)

Perhaps the best way to describe these features of self-publishing, is that it is an 'open system.' It relies upon members of the group to generate the contents of each issue. Naturally, this approach cannot totally mitigate against editorial preference or control, but nevertheless it quite consciously seeks to create a climate in which the traditional role of the editor is continually usurped.
Finally, and in one very fundamental respect, self-publishing rests upon a system of exchange and mutual trust. With the profit motive not an issue, and no pay-offs for those with spurious motives, self-publishing becomes a collaborative activity, the site of an accessible, unmediated and independent voice. The publications that are generated and exchanged amongst these groups, act simultaneously as the link and the expression of this trust.

1. As the brief paragraph about APAzines at the end of the Assembling section details, APAs are totally dependent upon the involvement of its members in submitting material, and subsequently the APAzine is quite literally the sum of its parts.
2. The question of commissioning people to write or create visual material for a publication is largely a theoretical one, since most self-publishers do not have the resources available to make these kinds of offers. In the cases that people are specifically requested to submit material, this would depend solely on the largesse of the person requested.

Frauenfelder, Mark. Cheap Memes: Zines, Metazines, and the Virtual Press
Article about zines as underground carriers of ideas and the implications of self-produced zines devoted to a variety of subjects dear to the heart of the publisher (zinester). Mentions specifically APAs (Amateur Press Associations publications), political zines, religious zines, special interest zines and virtual zines (electronic zines). "So where, then can unpopular, hot, radical, or strange memes survive and propagate? Where can the intrepid meme-explorer find a dose of exotica? SHe needs only to dip hir brain into the zine pool, the wild ocean of self-published magazines, where fish learn to breath and salamanders sprout feathers and try to fly. It is only here, in the primordial soup, far away from the dinosaurs of the overground media, where these new ideas have a chance to test their wings. Because zine makers, also known as zinesters, are unburdened by the restraints of commercialism and public opinion, their publications can carry strange memes. And because zinesters are usually more interested in propagating ideas than they are in generating a profit, zines are a plentiful source of cheap memes."

Gunderloy, Mike. Why Publish? Rensselaer: Pretzel Press, 1989.
Book of statements from self-publishers as to why they publish their magazines. "Now that the cities have fallen to moneyed Yups, the zine-scene alone provides a true Bohemia, a place you yourself help create, ruled by the laws of play. The squabbles and the swaps, the pseudonyms and declarations of ridiculous war, all certify this the great Playground What Paris was to Hemingway and co., what North Africa was to the Beats, the zine scene is to us. Our turf."

Z, Bob. Stop Reading Zines: A Warning to Addicts. Samizine: Rayozine Studio. New York, dates unavailable, 1989.
This catalogue for the Second Annual North Brooklyn Small Press Convention's Samizine show includes this article by Bob Z., warning of the dangers of getting involved in reading and publishing zines. "Fanzines ruin America, I know. I'm an American and fanzines ruined me. I can't sleep. Ideas in and out of mind and force me to rise from bed. As meaningless as these thoughts (usually) are, their power saps my strength, drawn out of sleep, I am pulled by this powerful force that I have come to recognize: fanzine addict. Onward to the milk crates, to the milk crates filled with zines, all shapes and sizes...each cryptic, obscene from obscure people in dusty rooms with junkyard bicycle tires and non-working lamps strewn about forgotten mounds of paper."

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