The Internet is recapitulating science fiction fandom

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Title: The Internet is recapitulating science fiction fandom
Commentator: Gregory Benford
Date(s): 1992
Fandom: Meta
External Links: online here
Click here for related articles on Fanlore. The Internet is recapitulating science fiction fandom is an article about fandom's early days on the Internet. It was written by Gregory Benford in 1992. It describes how science fiction fandom influenced and shaped Internet culture. And it uses fandom's social history to predict how Internet culture will develop in the future.


"Has something like the Net appeared before?

Arguably, yes. Around 1930, a small new phenomenon arose in Depression-ridden America, spawned out of the letter columns in science fiction magazines: fandom. Though today the term means any gathering of enthusiasts, fandom evolved in the science fiction community. Strikingly, it anticipated much of Net culture. Its history can suggest how the Net will evolve.

Fandom grew first through individual correspondence. It was cheap and quick, continent -wide contact for a penny stamp. The Net, too, began as a quick exchange medium, under funding for the ARPANet from the Advanced Research Projects Administration of the Department of Defense. ARPANet was designed to be dispersed, hard to break even in a nuclear war. It linked several national laboratories, where I first used it in 1969, then swelled to include universities, and kept growing.

Just as with e-mail, sometimes fans sent continuous chains of letters, involving n letter writers, called WONWs for Wide Open N-Ways. Then came fanzines. Often odd and eccentric, sometimes devoted solely to news or club functions, these circulated nationally and flourished into the several hundreds of titles. Most of the Net's "emoticons"read sideways to convey smiles :) disapproval :( or a sardonic wink ;)had appeared in fanzines by the 1950s. "