Regression Toward the Zine (22)
By: Joshua Glenn | Categories: Read-outs, Spectacles

PREVIOUSLY: Hermenaut‘s S.L.A.C.K.E.R. project.

In this installment: Zine books — a harbinger of doom!


research zines

The first zine book was Mike Gunderloy and Cari Goldberg Janice’s The World of Zines, published by Penguin in 1992. Its Introduction concludes on a note that, in hindsight, is ironic: “The zine field is in the middle of a boom that’s been going on at least since the Seventies, and there is no end in sight.”

By the mid-1990s, the end of the Zine Revolution was in sight. Although most of us didn’t realize it for a few more years. Present company included. I published Hermenaut until 2001, going into credit card debt in the process.


A number of zine books appeared in the mid- to late 1990s. I recommend David Greenberger’s Duplex Planet: Everybody’s Asking Who I Was (1993), the 1994 Answer Me! collection, Pagan Kennedy’s Zine: How I Spent Six Years of My Life in the Underground and Finally… Found Myself… I Think (1995), the 1996 Rollerderby collection, the 1997 Thrift SCORE book by Al Hoff, and A Girl’s Guide to Taking Over the World: Writings from the Girl Zine Revolution (1997).

friedman zine

The final efflorescence happened all at once: The Factsheet Five Zine Reader (1997) by R. Seth Friedman, Zines! vols. 1 (1996) and 2 (1997) by V. Vale, and The Book of Zines (1997), by Chip Rowe, Stephen Duncombe’s Notes From Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture (1997), Zine Scene: The Do It Yourself Guide to Zines (1998) by Francesca Lia Block. Zines, an art book by Liz Farrelly, came out in 2001.

These attractively packaged, carefully edited collections mirrored the transformation of zines — which, as I’ve pointed out, got more polished during the course of the 1994–2003 Zine Revolution. They’re great books! But rather than signaling that zines had clawed their way into the mainstream, they signaled — or so it now seems to me — the end of zines.

NEXT: Letters to Hermenaut

This is a 25-part series in which HiLobrow editor Joshua Glenn, who from 1990–93 published the zine Luvboat Earth and from 1992–2001 published the zine/journal Hermenaut, bids a fond farewell to his noteworthy collection of zines, which he recently donated to the University of Iowa Library’s zine and amateur press collection.



Joshua Glenn is an author, publisher, and semiotic analyst. He is co-author (with Mark Kingwell and the cartoonist Seth) of THE IDLER'S GLOSSARY and THE WAGE SLAVE'S GLOSSARY, co-editor of the object-oriented story collections TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY and (with Rob Walker) SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS, and co-author (with Elizabeth Foy Larsen) of the family activities guide UNBORED and three forthcoming spinoffs, including UNBORED Games. He is editor of HILOBROW and publisher of the Radium Age science fiction imprint HiLoBooks. Also: Glenn manages a secretive online community known as the Hermenautic Circle; he is founding editor of the e-book club Save the Adventure; and he's a frequent co-host of Boing Boing's podcast GWEEK. In the ’00s, Glenn was an editor, columnist, and blogger for the Boston Globe's IDEAS section, he co-founded the international semiotics website SEMIONAUT, and contributed to CABINET, SLATE, and elsewhere. In the ’90s, he published the high-lowbrow zine/journal HERMENAUT, worked as a dotcom and magazine editor, and contributed to THE BAFFLER, FEED, and elsewhere. His publishing company is King Mixer, LLC; and his semiotic analysis consultancy is Semiovox LLC. He lives in Boston with his wife and children.