An Interview with Fan History: Laura Hale

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Interviews by Fans
Title: An Interview With Fan History
Interviewer: Kate Dandizette
Interviewee: Laura Hale
Date(s): January 7, 2010
Medium: online
Fandom(s): fandom
External Links: interview is here; reference link
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Contents

Laura Hale was interviewed for Dandizette -- "a pulp magazine for media perverts."

The topic was Fan History Wiki.

For a nearly identical interview, one which includes a section on Geocities, see Conserving Fandom: An Interview with Fan History (Laura Hale).

Some Excerpts

A long time ago, in a fandom time far, far, away… Fan History originally started as a personal project that was part of Writers University on FanFiction.Net. It migrated to several sites and in several forms, including a fanzine, before it finally ended up as a MediaWiki installed at FanHistory.Com.

Fan History ended up as a wiki using MediaWiki for two primary reasons.

First, for about eight years, from 1998 to about two years after Fan History was founded, I was the only one spending considerable time researching the history of fan fiction. Most of the academics who mentioned the history of fandom only mentioned it on the periphial and their facts often turned out to be wrong when put under a historical microscope. (Star Trek isn’t the first fandom to write fan fiction in the modern age. Wrestling and music actually beat it. Most of it was just published as part of a wider fannish culture, where it was mixed with things like reviews, fan art and more. Man from UNCLE and Doctor Who fan fiction was being distributed as drawerfic before Star Trek was being published.) Putting it out there, on one site that could become extremely visible, was intended to encourage people to do work in that area and to clear up some misconceptions that had been circulating around for several years. (And point of irony, the bigger Fan History gets, the harder it is to find those easy facts like what fan fiction was first, how did this specific term evolve, what were the earliest fandom communities on LiveJournal.)

The second reason was that after having worked on the beginning information for the better part of eight years, I knew it wasn’t a project that one person could ever hope to do successfully. The topic is just too big. One person, or even a small group of people who share similar fannish backgrounds, can’t do it. They just don’t have the perspective and the time. I knew if I wanted this history to go forward, to really begin to grasp the scope of the history of fandom, it needed to be done in a way that the widest variety of people could help with that process. MediaWiki is familiar to a wide variety of people. If you build the rules right, organize it right and create good content, it would appeal to the widest community possible to help document it all
I wanted a wiki with a format that people were comfortable with so that we could get more people involved. I love the topic. I’ve probably written more about it than anyone else in the past ten years. I just can’t do it alone and portray an accurate picture of the history of fandom.
LiveJournal is overblown in its importance in fandom. Fandom was and is alive on Geocities. A number of sites were scrambling to pull their content off and find new hosting. A lot of these fandoms were smaller or less active. That level of activity just isn’t as well known because the community that existed on Geocities post 2003 or so was tied in to communities that existed elsewhere. One such community includes people using mailing lists. Geocities was also big post 2003 for soap opera fandoms, some anime fandoms, small television fandoms, radio fandoms and some music fandoms.

A lot of the big fandoms didn’t move from Geocities to LiveJournal so much as they moved to multifandom fan fiction archives like FanFiction.Net, to mega fansites and archives like Gossamer, Trekiverse, MuggleNet, The Leaky Cauldron, AnimeNewsNetwork, to official sites 50 Cents site, Warner Brother’s message boards, Stephen King’s site, etc.

That said, I don’t know if I have a favorite site so much as a general class of sites. Geocities was home to some of the best X-Files fan fiction stories ever. Ditto for Star Trek: Voyager and Babylon 5. I’ve spent hours reading stories from those archives.
From an admin view point, we’re working on several projects. We’re hoping to have a new skin installed in the next month or so. We’re working on improving the representation of sports fandom on Fan History. At some point in the next three months, we’ll be adding about 20,000 stub articles about various sports teams. We’ve also been working at creating articles about stories and we hope to continue to add articles in that area. It is a lot of little things that should help us to provide a more comprehensive picture of the history of fandom.