How to Express Yourself Through Zine-Making

Post by guest contributor Lucy Kagan.

When you walk down the Artist Alley at GeekGirl Con, if you’re looking for them, you may find a TON of different self-published or small-press books. Many of them call themselves zines, but the content, format, and presentation from one to the other might be wildly different. I know that’s part of what makes me so excited to stumble upon each new zine I find: the feeling of discovery, excitement at finding something totally unique, and the way that each creator’s individuality comes across so clearly to show me a new perspective on something I had never thought about before. 

So, how do you define a zine, and what makes it such a perfect medium for self expression? Pronounced “zeen” as it is short for “magazine,” the name gives us a clue: a zine is a small press publication, popularly thought to have less than 1,000 copies produced (it’s the low quantity that makes it small press!), but more typically having even 100 or less copies made. 

It’s hard to imagine someone from the 1940s saying the word “fanzine,” but it actually goes back at least that far! It’s worth mentioning that self-published papers have been a way for marginalized groups to share their truths since the invention of the printing press, but fast forward to the early 1900s, and amateur printing was becoming a phenomenon. The term “fanzine” arose from science fiction fan material being created, and artist groups like the Dadaists, who you may remember from art history, gave these publications the visual style they can be identified by. It’s not surprising speculative fiction has always been pioneering, even in zines!

There’s a lot more I could say about early SF fanzines, but I’ll just mention that the first TV-inspired fanzine was about Star Trek, and it was called Spockanalia. (…Okay, I can’t just leave it there, I have to say that Star Trek fans also created some of the first slash fics through zines, and if that doesn’t spark your interest in history, I don’t know what to tell you.)

Throughout the ‘70s, science fiction focused zines were also standing up to do what small press had always done before: representing voices of marginalized people. Probably the best familiarity fans might have with zine culture from this time is through the 1990s riot grrrl scene: women who continued to be marginalized found a voice in punk culture, and were able to reach a wider audience through zines and small press when larger publishing houses were gatekeepers to the means to publish traditionally. The DIY nature of punk culture gave a lot of aesthetic influence to zines at that time, identifiable by the photo-copied-and-stapled approach, and you can still see plenty of that today.

Nowadays when I go to a con, I see incoming fans and their excitement for zines, but also their confusion. “I thought a zine was when a bunch of artists each do an illustration on a theme or fandom, and compile it into a book,” or “I thought a zine was like an ashcan*, really low budget and DIY.”

*Ashcans are usually specifically comics, typically low-grade prototypes for promotional use.

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How You Can Support The #BlackLivesMatter Movement

Here is a non-exhaustive list of some of the resources our team has been relying on to educate ourselves and take action. This is a working list and will be edited as more resources are brought to our attention.

Take Action


Contact officials and representatives to demand action and accountability:

  • Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey (612-673-2100)
  • Minneapolis District Attorney (612-348-5550)
  • Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan (
  • Washington State Governor Jay Inslee (here and here)
  • Seattle Police Department/Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best (206-648-8797 or
  • File an employee complaint to the Seattle Police Department (here)
  • Senator Patty Murray (here)
  • Senator Maria Cantwell (here)


Follow Black Activists & Creators

Educate Yourselves


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In Solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter

GeekGirlCon stands with the Black community and calls for justice in the murders of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and countless others. There is nothing we can say that hasn’t been said. There is nothing we can say that hasn’t been screamed—that hasn’t been roared. But, we’re here to hold ourselves and our community accountable for showing up in the fight against police brutality and white supremacy. We’re angry, we’re grieving, and we’re not staying silent.


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4 Reasons to Make Your Own Video Game at Home

A young woman is playfully holding an Xbox controller toward the camera.

Post by guest contributor, Brooke Chaplan.

While we’re all staying at home, you may be trying to come up with a fun and engaging way to channel your creativity. One option is to make your own video game to share with friends and then distribute to a wider audience. The opportunities are endless, and the challenges can expand your knowledge. There are many advantages of making your own video game, including those mentioned below.

You Already Possess Most of the Skills

If creating a video game from home has crossed your mind, the chances are you have some knowledge. You know how to use code, you can create assets, and you are familiar with the framework you have chosen. In addition to your skills, you can find free models and art online, or you can create your own styles. One of the most significant aspects of creating a video game is learning how to work with tools and keeping things fun, which are abilities most people already possess.

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The 10 Best Manga Created by Women Writers

Post by guest contributor Hayk Saakian.

Japan has always been associated with manga (漫画). Manga are graphic novels that invaded not just Japan but the entire world as well. This immensely popular art medium has been adapted into Anime, movies, live-action TV series, and plays.

Though the industry is dominated by men, women have also had their share of success. Their works are not just confined in Shoujo manga (targeted at women), but they are also excelling in Shounen (targeted at men) as well. In this list, you will find the 10 best manga created by women!

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American Girl Announces Announces Its First Disabled “Girl of the Year” Doll for 2020

Post by guest contributor Kate Harveston.

An image of American Girl’s latest doll, Joss Kendrick. Image via The Hill.

Representation matters, especially among our youth. Children with disabilities often feel isolated from their peers due to their perception of being different. Sadly, without mainstream media depictions of such individuals, their abled peers may pay more attention to those differences rather than the strengths such a friend brings. 

Now, American Girl seeks to raise awareness and denounce incorrect perceptions by introducing its first disabled “Girl of the Year” doll for 2020. Hopefully seeing this fictional character living her best life will inspire other disabled youth to reach for their dreams. It may also help to eradicate some of the stigma experienced by those who use assistive devices.

Meet Joss Kendrick

Joss Kendrick is a 10-year old surfer girl from Huntington Beach, California. Previous disabled American Girl dolls have featured McKenna, who had a learning disability, and Gabriella, who had a stutter. Joss is the first to win the prestigious girl of the year designation. 

If you read Joss’s story, you’ll learn that she was born deaf in her left ear, but has partial hearing in her right with the help of a hearing aid. The hope is that seeing the doll with an assistive device will help overcome stereotypes of the disabled community as being shy or retiring. Quite the opposite, Joss is very active! She loves playing with her two brothers and her pet bulldog—and she doesn’t let any challenges keep her from her beloved sport. 

American Girl partnered with the Hearing Loss Association of America in creating Joss’s character and will be donating $25,000 to support the HLAA. The hope is that the real-world depiction Joss will inspire other girls with disabilities to go all-in on their dreams—seeing people just like them goes a long way in this effort.

Why the Disabled Need Representation in the Media 

The disabled are among the most marginalized and invisible groups in America, and most dolls take on normative characteristics. They have functioning arms and legs, as well as eyes and ears that presumably see and hear. When you look at a character in mainstream cartoons and television shows, relatively few have visible disabilities. While some cinematic breakthroughs, such as the recent movie Joker, feature characters with emotional challenges, the majority of protagonists don’t encounter any physical impediments outside of external monsters and bad guys. 

Even though 15% of the world’s populationover a billion people—live with some form of disability, they are ignored by the media, politicians, and even doctors. Half of the disabled cannot afford needed health care. This issue is a severe problem in the US, as many individuals lack insurance coverage, meaning they can’t get the treatments they need to manage their conditions effectively. Because untreated conditions make it challenging to perform on the job, many members of this population are vulnerable to extreme poverty. 

Many young girls already feel somewhat stigmatized by a misogynistic society that establishes different norms for men and women. The addition of physical challenges can make things feel grim. However, when they see characters that resemble them happy and succeeding in life, it will give our youth hope and encouragement that they can do the same. 

Thus, increasing accurate media depictions of the disabled community is vital. Books like El Deafo and others that promote diversity and inclusion belong in every classroom and library. Parents can use films like Finding Dory to discuss neurological differences among people and how speech or memory impediments don’t mean that somebody is unintelligent or unworthy of contributing to society when they are just as brilliant as anyone else.

Writers and producers play a role as well. They can talk to members of the disabled community when designing stories and shows that depict their plight. Only when we openly and honestly discuss the unique challenges facing this population can we make strides in bringing about more meaningful inclusion. Media producers need to show the struggles these individuals face in a realistic and authentic light, while at the same time offering hope that people can and do succeed despite overwhelming odds. 

Until society makes these strides, such as American Girl in their celebration of Joss, disabled students will continue to face bullying at two to three times the rate of their abled peers. They’ll have an increased risk of suicide, both from their struggles with their condition and the subsequent poverty that often results. Can a doll fix all these problems? No, but Joss can do a significant amount to make young, deaf girls feel less alone and their friends more apt to include them in activities.

Recognizing the Contributions of the Disabled Community 

The disabled contribute a lot to society despite the unique challenges that they face, serving as beacons of hope that the human spirit can overcome any odds. It’s well past time that the media started recognizing their triumphs with more depictions like American Girl’s Joss Kendrick!

Congratulations, Joss.

Kate Harveston is a young writer from Williamsport, Pennsylvania. She enjoys topics related to culture, feminism, and women’s health, and how those elements intersect and act upon each other. If you like her writing, you can follow her on Twitter or visit her blog, So Well, So Woman.

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How to Safely Recycle Old Cosplay and Props

Post by guest contributor Brooke Chaplan.

Most cosplay can be reused, but there will come a time when old costumes need to be repurposed due to size, expense, or just age. When it comes time to get rid of your old cosplay outfits and props, the trash can might not be the best option. Those props and pieces of clothing are often filled with materials that must be safely recycled, and tossing them in the trash could potentially be a health hazard. Even just regular fabric often cannot be recycled easily and ends up more often than not in the landfill. To avoid causing a strain on the environment, follow these simple steps.

Reuse What You Can

In many cases, costume parts and props can be broken down or reused for different projects if the cosplay they were originally created for is no longer viable. Old cosplay that no longer fits could also be gifted to younger cosplayers. Materials that have been ripped or broken could still have useable parts for other projects. Wire, padding, and mesh can be removed and reused. Be creative and see what you can still make use of!

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How Bullying is Portrayed in Media

A person sits on a concrete floor alone, their head is hidden in their arms. They're wearing a maroon beanie, black long-sleeve shirt, and jeans. They are barefoot.

Guest post by contributor Frankie Wallace.

Bullying has been portrayed in movies, television shows, plays, and more for years. There’s a reason for that, too. Simply put, “art reflects reality.” Bullying is such a popular topic in media because it’s so prevalent in today’s society. Just how much of a problem is it? According to the Bureau of Justice, about 160,000 teens in the United States have skipped school due to bullying. 

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Redefining What It Means to Age as a Woman in Media

Post by guest contributor, Kate Harveston.

Many societies venerate the stereotype of the crone. Wisdom pours from her ancient eyes. Her face is a roadmap of experience and understanding. 

But if you tune in to any American television station, you’ll see bevels of younger beauties and hardly a female face over 60. When shows do portray older women, they pigeonhole them as evil stepmothers or meddling mothers-in-law. We need to redefine what it means to age as a woman in media and start treating wrinkles like badges of honor, not targets for the Botox needle!

Why Are There Negative Stereotypes Against Older Women? 

Think back to the fairy tales you loved most as a child. What do Snow White and Cinderella have in common? A wicked stepmother. Even Bugs Bunny featured the crone mystique as the decidedly ditzy Witch Hazel. If early writers needed a villain, an older woman fit the bill. 

Part of the negative stereotype stems from ancient times. Before the Romans arrived, older women were seen to hold the healing wisdom of generations. They prepared everything from cold remedies to love potions. However, in the latter years of the Roman Empire, the Romans subjugated these women, fearing their teachings interfered with those of the Church. Some evidence now suggests interactions with pagans weren’t always violent. Nevertheless, it was the beginning of the end for the worship of the older female generations.

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Past Featured Contributor Banned from Future Participation in GeekGirlCon

Response to Sexual Assault Allegations against Hope Nicholson

On Nov. 20 Hope Nicholson, one of GeekGirlCon’s past featured contributors, identified herself as the assailant in an alleged sexual assault. GeekGirlCon has a zero-tolerance policy against sexual harassment and assault, therefore Nicholson is banned from any future participation in GeekGirlCon events. 

GeekGirlCon had no knowledge of Nicholson’s actions prior to Nov. 20, as all featured contributors go through a strict vetting process. This is to ensure respect for all attendees through the creation of safe spaces. Violations of these safe spaces have never and will never be tolerated by GeekGirlCon.

GeekGirlCon’s mission is to foster continued growth among the geek community by celebrating and honoring the legacies of under-represented groups in science, technology, comics, arts, literature, gameplay, and game design. GeekGirlCon representative Kristine Hassell Director of Community Engagement said “Since we learned of these allegations, we removed Nicholson from our list of Featured Contributors and will not have her back at any event hosted by GeekGirlCon. We are examining our panel selection process to look for ways to improve. Should the criteria be revised, we will announce any changes to panel processes for 2020.”

GeekGirlCon celebrates and honors the legacies of under-represented groups in science, technology, comics, arts, literature, gameplay, and game design. We do this by connecting geeks worldwide and creating an intersectional community that fosters the continued growth of women and their allies. Embrace your inner geek with us, email or visit

For more information or to set up an interview with a representative from GeekGirlCon, contact Ceilia Gutentag at 

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