A brief history of fandom, for the teenagers on here who somehow think tumblr invented fandom

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Title: A brief history of fandom, for the teenagers on here who somehow think tumblr invented fandom
Creator: emily/ofhouseadama
Date(s): May 21, 2014
Medium: online, Tumblr
Topic: history of fandom
External Links: here, Archived version
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

A brief history of fandom, for the teenagers on here who somehow think tumblr invented fandom is a Tumblr meta post by emily/ofhouseadama, whose profile says she is 21 years old.

It is one of many posts and discussions on Tumblr about aspects of fandom history, is also an example of the perennial phenomenon of older fans complaining about younger fans not knowing their fannish history, and of course is a reaction to the phenomenon of every generation thinking they invented fandom.

As of May 6, 2016, the post had 33,820 notes.

Similar Essays/Posts

The Post

  • 1960s: with the advent of Star Trek, fandom moves into the public sphere for the first time with a television in almost every home, creating a large group of people all excited about one thing. Beforehand, fans mostly had relationships with the author, not with each other. Obviously there were groups and conventions, but Star Trek was the beginning of an independent, interactive, saturated fandom culture.
  • This means in the coming years: conventions, mailing groups (both public and private), fan magazines, and fanfiction presses.
  • Yeah this pretty much remains the deal until the internet gets put into every home in the 90s.
  • EXAMPLES OF BIG FUCKING DEAL FANDOMS, 90s EDITION: X-Files, Xena, Star Trek, Star Wars, ASoIaF, The West Wing, Buffy
  • So with the internet, this really cool thing happened: Geocities. And then Yahoo groups. Early fanfiction archives. Back in the day, fandoms had to create their own private spaces. This made fandoms on the internet smaller and less accessible than fanzine operated ones. However, since fans on the internet didn’t have to pass through an editorial board to publish their fic, it was the beginning of the democratization of fandom.
  • In 1998, fanfiction.net was launched to compete with the hundreds of independent, fandom-oriented fanfiction archives. More democratization, although fanfiction was marketed on how many reviews one had. You had to, like today, “break into the market.”
  • In 1999, Livejournal was launched. Fans created communities and their own private journals which was like woah, we have our own places to store our own fic? And can cross-post them places? However, with Livejournal came the idea of the internet-based BNF: big name fan. Since communities had moderators and posts could be friend or community locked, people could easily gain social capital.
  • See also: Cassie Claire and misscribe.
  • On the other hand, authors like George RR Martin get Livejournals.
  • Around this time was also the rise of forums. Again, moderators had a lot of power, as did certain users who would rise to the position of moderator. People rapidly gained and lost power, causing quick turnover in these parts of fandom.
  • In 2002, due to legal concerns, fanfiction.net bans NC-17 fanfiction.
  • Adultfanfiction.net is created to fill the void. For years, 13 year olds would pretend to be 18 to enter. Including myself.
  • In 2005, fanfiction.net, again due to legal concerns, bans “choose your own adventure” and songfics.
  • In 2007, Archive of Our Own is launched to further democratize fandom in response to fanfiction.net’s new stringent rules, offering writers a cleaner format, kudos, hit counters, and bookmarks. However, many older fandoms have not made the move.
  • In 2007, tumblr is launched. It would take until 2010 for it to reach saturation on the internet, meaning that most fandoms which lived and died pre-2010 exist(ed) on Geocities, Yahoo Groups, independent archives, ff.net, etc.
  • In 2009, Geocities is taken offline. Thousands mourn because they never backed up really old fic that they liked.
  • In 2012, most major broadcasting companies have caught on to the fact that tumblr has democratized fandom to a degree of anarchy and mob mentality, and utilize it, since tumblr is unmoderated.

Fan Comments and Reactions

Many rebloggers expressed interest, agreement, and additions. Several people commented that parts of fandom history were missing or inaccurate,[1] and one fan took issue with the OP's annoyance over teenagers' ignorance:

there is no reason...for people new to fandom...to know this stuff already? Especially younger people as they are less likely to have had friends involved in previous stages of fandom? So the only way that people learn fandom history is through posts like this since all the books I’ve ever found about fandom are academic and specific in really odd ways.[2]

Fanvids? People did those with VCRs too. Rig a tape deck or phonograph to the audio, rig the video to the second VCR, put a blank tape in the first and do it all in linear fashion, using stop, pause, and knowing how far your VCRs “rolled back” when stop was hit.

2. Fanfic and fanzines sent in plain brown wrappers through the post. You might get 1-2 a year. Many fanfic readers became fan artists or writers to support the habit, as printing the fuckers was expensive (remember, this was when we were dealing with typewriters, mimeos, and Xerox machines), and contributors got a free copy. All others were paying about $20 or more for a single novel-length fic. Fanfic and fanzines were handled by a small number of “circuits” and you had to know someone who knew someone to even find out the stuff existed. Fanfic was not something you saw openly; it was kept VERY quiet, and passed around in private room parties at conventions with a bottle of red wine. (And I was lucky no one gave a shit about ID in those days)

3. All this meant that a single C&D from the producers or writers could shut down entire fandoms! Blake’s 7 fandom in the US imploded when one of the actors (who had a homophobic streak) got wind of all the slash written about his character and started handing out lawsuits. George Lucas trashed most unofficial Star Wars fan output because he went absolutely ballistic over the slash and adult content stories. Hell, he tried to do it again in the 90’s, only to find it was like playing whack a mole. That’s why BioWare slipping Juhani under the radar in 2003 demonstrated a set of balls Krogans would envy - Lucas and his company had been actively censoring any mention of homosexuality in the GFFA for over twenty years! This is why old-school fans like me are VERY careful around writers, actors, and the like. We still remember the days when one misplaced fanzine and one upset actor could destroy it for everyone.[3]

1) The first real “fandom” as we think of it today was probably the Conan Doyle fandom back in the 1900s through 1920s - which mainly consisted of people sending newsletters through the post. Essentially, one person would host the newsletter, and everyone associated would send letters to them containing their work, or their thoughts. These would be typed up and mimeographed, then the completed newsletter would be mailed out to the subscribers. Most newsletters cost a certain amount to participate in - usually barely enough to cover postage costs for the host.

2) Organised science fiction and fantasy fandom in the USA has been around since approximately the end of the second world war, if not before. It also largely subsisted through sending fan newsletters through the post, and also broadened out into telephone calls and similar. If you want to know where the current convention scene had its origins, well, that’s where. The main convention of the organised science fiction and fantasy fandoms, Worldcon, is still going strong today. 3) Fandom has been on the internet since the internet first was invented back in the 1960s. While the first bulletin boards and mailing lists (email mailing lists, yeah, that was a big thing back in the 1980s and 1990s) were largely for programming related topics, they generally had a thick undercurrent of science fiction and fantasy references running through things, because a lot of programmers were fans of science fiction and fantasy novels. 4) The big places on the internet for fandom prior to the popularisation of the world wide web were: newsgroups (NNTP - a series of text-only groups which basically existed as a massive form of online pass-the-parcel between news servers around the world); message boards; IRC channels; and email mailing lists. I know I got my start in online fandom on alt.fan.pratchett; and the first organised bit of Lord of the Rings fandom I drifted into was a mailing list (Henneth Annun).

5) Web sites and web servers for fandoms were often originally hosted by stealth - if the system administrator for a particular company had a bit of spare capacity, they might sneak another machine into the data centre and hook it up to the internet connection, provided the overall load on the system was low enough to go unnoticed. This is why a lot of the earlier sites were rather transient - steady web hosting in those early years was rather expensive. Often a fan site would pop up on an academic server (universities being the original focus of the internet) and be hosted there for as long as the site admin was still a student, and then lapse into neglect once the site admin graduated and couldn’t find the necessary hosting facilities.[4]

Actually, fandom existed long before Star Trek. In 1926, a science-fiction fan magazine called Amazing Stories began to include a letters page that published the addresses of contributors to the magazine. This allowed for fans to contact each other directly, outside of magazines that only popped up every month/quarter/whatever.

In 1939 in New York City, fans organized the first ever con - the World Science Fiction Convention. This is still a thing, but people call it Worldcon these days.

Star Trek wasn’t even the first TV show to garner a big fandom. That honor belongs to a show called The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Trek definitely had a bigger fandom, though, and a longer-lasting one - because, you know, TNG, Voyager, all those less-good generations, and all the movies happened. Interestingly enough, Star Trek fans received a lot of derision and contempt from the Worldcon-type, professionally-written-sci-fi fans. These midcentury snobs dismissed Trek as “science fiction for non-readers.” It took a long time for written sci-fi fans to accept that media sci-fi fans were a legit thing who they could maybe consider hanging out with. Judgment of fandoms by other fandoms has existed for a long time. Let’s try and learn from past nerds’ mistakes and be better nerds from now on.[5]

This is hella cool but also Shakespeare fandom in the corner like *cough* victorian bardolatry *cough* It’s stuff like this that makes me realize all over again why I love the internet. Like we live in a shitty world that doesn’t seem to be getting less shitty but the fact that the events of human existence have coalesced so that I can write about which two four hundred year old fictional characters were blowing each other is both gratifying and astounding.[6]

I’m pretty sure Star Wars fandom existed way before the 90. As did Doctor Who fandom. Tolkien fandom, don’t even get me started on them. Also, we’re completely forgetting about SF and fantasy fandoms, the two massive fandom entities existing for decades on their own, way before 1960, with their epic quarrel about who is inferior. So, yeah, first two points are kind of bullshit.[7]


Psst- the first Worldcon was in 1939, complete with fanzines, cosplay, silly smushnames, and drama. LiveJournal, Yahoo! Groups, FF.net and all that wonderful stuff was itself a bright new chapter in a very, very long tradition of nerdery.[9]

Wow, this takes me back. The Harry Potter fandom was my first introduction to fandom wank. And my first big fandom (one of the early BFNs) as well! I remember my X-Phile days fondly.[10]

I lived through most of this, and I was heavily involved in fandom during it. It was fascinating to watch, and this summation is likewise interesting.[11]

I miss the 2005-2010 era so much. That was the time when you had your own site to showcase your fics and drawings and so did the other people in the fandom, so you spent your day stalking their sites and/or blogs but at the same time you lj-ed your fics to other sites and used ff.net 24/7. (The fact that Cassie Claire today is a published author is a disgrace by the way.) [12]

I remember, vividly, the day I logged on fanfiction.net to read Backstreet Boys fanfiction, only to discover that ff.net had deleted and banned all RPF, and the BSB fandom had risen up to make hundreds of outraged posts on geocities sites.[13]

You missed the MSN groups where you would roleplay and often times people would ask for other people to put in their “application” based on different criteria with a picture of themselves or a famous star with similar features and the author would write a full length RPF story. I was heavily involved in the DreamStreet fandom on there until the MSN groups were shut down and I didn’t save the best story that had me as the main character called Heels over Head. Tragic times.[14]

God I feel so old. I remember most living through most of the Internet dramas.

Thank god for AO3.

Also. Some of the best pre-2007 fandoms’ fics are still not on AO3. You can still find so much good fic floating around the shadowy corners of ff.net and Lj [15]

I took a course in university where we had whole classes on the Star Trek fandom and how it influenced so much of today. That was a great class. In other news, I def belonged to an elite fandom LJ community in the day and then belonged to an even more secret/elite fandom. Those were the days, man. Those were the days.[16]

RIP our best fandom years 2006-2010 [17]

YEP. I didn’t join Tumblr until 2011, but I jumped into the world of fandom when I was thirteen in 2005 (when Hurricane Katrina hit my hometown). Ah, the days when I would have to log out of live journal just to access NC-17 fanfics[18]

getting nostalgic here…

X files, Buffy, Star Trek TNG and Star Wars on usenet started it for me :) and the democratization was wonderful - a lot like the jsamn kinkmeme in spirit.

I think tumblr is great though: don’t knock tumblrs!

~my fandom history~

My intro to fandom was circa 1997, when I was a high school freshman. The platforms were series-specific website archives where you would email your fic as a txt document to the administrator, and mailing lists on egroups (which this timeline forgot about!). My first fandoms were Sailor Moon, Gundam Wing, and FFVII.

Later ffn became a big thing, and yahoogroups bought egroups (causing lots of drama), and Harry Potter became my fandom. I was by and large out of fandom when the big exodus to LJ happened, and when I came back to it, it really took some getting used to! Same thing happened when we moved to tumblr and AO3.

Tumblr is awesome and I love you guys. I miss some things about LJ but there’s great stuff you can do on tumblr you could never do on that platform. Fandom evolves and we have to evolve with it, or just be a fandom of one.[19]

I wonder what will be next for fandom. I’m in no rush; I just recently made the switch from LJ and I’m still not used to the change.[20]

In 2011, a person who had geocities page, livejournal blog and went to forums and pages like JuPiter Station (r.i.p.) or Janewayseven.com (r.i.p. as well) and VAMB (that one is still alive, like dafuq) and has been around on the internet in The X-Files and Star Trek fandom since 1998 creates a tumblr blog. Promptly fails to understand WTF is this about. After three months of trying to understand it just gives up and gives in.[21]

But what about forums and Deviantart? Before I knew what the word “Fandom” was, I was exploring the Through the Looking Glass forums for theories and troubleshooting of the Thief games, and it was certainly a concentrated groups of folks interested in a shared topic. Deviantart did that too with its “Groups” and even simply searching for certain topics. There was also a chat feature there but I never really used it much. Both of these were pre-tumblr.[22]

when people say that tumblr invented fandom i always thought they meant the word cause that’s where I found the word first but wow the history behind that word has been around before i was even conceived [23]


  1. ^ For example, see October 7, 2014 reblog, October 9, 2014 reblog, October 13, 2014 reblog, December 7, 2014 reblog.
  2. ^ thishedgehog. "reblog". Archived from the original on 2015-04-27.
  3. ^ read more at Allronix's Fandom Corner: This is missing a lot of chapters., Archived version, October 7, 2014
  4. ^ megpie17: Plot Bunnies, Head Canon and other Ramblings, Archived version, October 9, 2014
  5. ^ textpoacher: (a non-fic about fic), Archived version, October 13, 2014
  6. ^ reblogged by Fallynleaf from Erotic Punning, ofhouseadama: A brief history of fandom, for the..., Archived version, October 2014
  7. ^ I don't feel corrupt - pimpmizziriam: motherfuckingshakespeare:..., Archived version, December 7, 2014
  9. ^ erebus, Archived version
  10. ^ wolviesgal.tumblr, Archived version
  11. ^ lateoctobermoon.tumblr, Archived version
  12. ^ viergefolle.tumblr, Archived version
  13. ^ racethewind10: ofhouseadama: A brief history..., Archived version
  14. ^ alessandriana: schweinsty: racethewind10:..., Archived version
  15. ^ cannon-fannon.tumblr, Archived version
  16. ^ girl-wonderful.tumblr, Archived version
  17. ^ I stay down with my demons, Archived version
  18. ^ So Listen to my Declaration, racethewind10: ofhouseadama: A brief history..., Archived version
  19. ^ alvitr : etave: einszweins: ofhouseadama: A brief..., Archived version
  20. ^ higglety.tumblr, Archived version
  21. ^ Happiness Is Not An Illusion (racethewind10: ofhouseadama: A brief history...), Archived version
  22. ^ Rambles, Archived version
  23. ^ secondsipoftea.tumblr, Archived version