Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Deirdre

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Deirdre
Interviewer: Abigail De Kosnik
Interviewee: Deirdre
Date(s): July 27, 2012
Medium: audio, print transcript
Fandom(s):
External Links: Fiction Oral History Project with Deirdre
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Deirdre was conducted in 2012 by Abigail De Kosnik and archived at the University of Iowa Libraries.

This interview's medium is audio (length: 1:14:20), and it has a written 48-page transcript.

It was part of the series: Fan Fiction Oral History Project also referred to as "a Fiction and Internet Memory Research Project," "the Fiction and Internet Memory Program," and "Fan Fiction and Internet Memory."

The interviews conducted for this project were used for the book by Abigail De Kosnik called Rogue Archives: Digital Cultural Memory and Media Fandom.

Some Topics Discussed

  • their involvement in Gossamer, much much much technical info on coding and creating the site
  • standardization of the headings began in the X-Files fandom
  • ATXC and ATX
  • writing code, hand coding.... stone knives and bear skins...
  • Trekiverse
  • the year's delay from the creative peak of the show with the fan fiction peak of the show
  • the vast popularity of Babylon 5 fic/fandom, and its lost history, and lost fanworks, due to its its fiction on little, dispersed archives that are now long gone, and J. Michael Straczynski's presence online and its distinct cooling of fan creativity
  • focus on pairings in fandom today as one reason for fandoms feeling fractured
  • Babylon 5
  • X-Files
  • RPF on Gossamer
  • the value of archiving fan fiction, the beauty of community
  • Archive of Our Own
  • the Moonlighting Curse (The relationship being held as the trump card, teasing and then consummating a relationship, only to have ratings and interest fall) -- "The reality is that the showrunners hold on to the relationship until the show is already headed downhill. It's their last trump card. And it's almost always fails, because there are ... the other problems are too big."
  • feeling disappointment that some fans ask to have their fic deleting out of embarrassment, or inability to understand and accept their younger selves, to be forgiving of themselves, to see their fic as the gift it was in the time it was offered
  • Open Doors, saving archives

Excerpts

... when I went to college in 1995, I got online and I was searching around [in September 1995], and I found the original Gossamer site run by Vincent. And via that, I found ATXC, which was the associated newsgroup and the primary source of fan fiction for the site at that time. I had—that year, you know, I got involved reading and writing, and that summer when Vincent announced that he was going to be shutting down the site at Ohio State, I and Natasha —. Well, Natasha set up a project basically to move all of the stories and database them so a more easily maintainable site could be created. And I got involved with helping her do so.... I always have been the type of person that kind of gets involved in helping run things behind the scenes when I get involved in something, so what I ... I don't really recall exactly how I got involved. I just know that Natasha needed help, and I said I'd help her. (laughs) And I—. You know, she, Natasha, and I had become friends on ATXC at that point, so that was part of it. And I also had become involved with some of Chael's stuff on the X-Philes.com server at that point, so it was sort of like everything coming together. (laughs)

[snipped]

I had AOL and my parents hated me, you know, me spending time on the single phone line in the house. So I was dialing up AOL a lot, I was downloading all the stuff Natasha sent me during the day, and then working on it at night.

[snipped]

At that point, we were going through and we were taking all the stories that were on Vincent's site, and we were databasing them basically. We were going through and working on figuring out if there was anything in the story that could be used for summaries, that could be used, you know, to help generate the pages that Gossamer has now. So, you know, more beyond title, author, we were—well Natasha and ATXC and everybody kind of worked on the classification system. And so we tried to go through everything that was all the stories preexisting on Vincent's site and classify them, get them in the database. Classify them, summarize them, get, you know, key words about them in the database so that we could generate the pages.
There was ATXC and there was ATX, which was the main discussion newsgroup. And ... newsgroups tend to hit some point where about half of the people split and go somewhere else. And ATX hit that really early on in its existence —...this is before the shipper wars. The shipper wars didn't really happen until, like, a year after the main list was formed. Just general personality conflict more anything else—is my understanding. I wasn't around for most of this. But my understanding is, a group of people from ATX split off, went looking for a place to set up a mailing list, and found Chael. And he was like, Okay cool, I'll set up a mailing list for you guys. And that was the main list, and I was on and off it, but I was—the main list got off—I mean, the main list and the main newsgroup—got off into a lot of discussion I wasn't really interested in. But when a couple people from the main list said, Well, we need a fan fiction list, too. They went to Chael, and they got the fan fiction list set up, and as part of developing the list documents, which I was involved in to a point—in that I read them and made suggestions on them—the header standardization happened as part of the X-Files fan fiction list. But, it was based on what was going on fairly organically already on ATXC. So you know, it had already happened to some degree. And when they did the mailing list and worked up the documents, they're like, Well, we need... It's nice, when you're getting it in your inbox, to have these standard headers you can scan through quickly. So they thought up a header template.

There were multiple arguments, flame wars over that. And, the thing is, there was a very strongly opinionated group on ATXC that sat there and said, "We don't want this group to discriminate." Yeah, I mean— Natasha was part of that, I was part of that, Steph Davies a part of that, it was a strongly—there was a very strongly opinionated group that formed early on that said, "This group is welcoming to everybody, to all types of fic."

[snipped]

And I mean, the primary first split that happened was between the MSR fans and the Noromos. And, you know, ironically, the group of people who were saying, "We welcome everybody," we about equally fell on both sides of that split. (laughs)

[snipped]

... when you get into slash becoming public. Which happened basically first on ATXC. Because I remember a lot—there were a lot of people, when the first couple of slash stories appeared, and there were people who were like, We don't want this stuff! And we're like, It's part of fan fiction.
When I got online and I found fan fiction, I was actually more fascinated by the concept of fan fiction and the fannish community than just by fan fiction, if that makes any sense. I mean, it was mind-blowing to me that this collection of people had come together to share this. And, that's why I'm saying, Why should we limit what's being shared here? We're all here for a reason, which is we want to tell stories. And many of us have many different types of stories we want to tell. And I mean, going back, you know—in high school, I ran a literary magazine at my high school, and ... there's a mindset you develop, which is, you want to encourage people to create. Whatever that creation is. And, then let the community judge what ... let the community judge it. But you want to encourage, give them a place in which they can create, in which they can present it, and see if they can find an audience for it.
A lot of—like, people on AOL back then did not have access to newsgroups. So, AOL users were a strong contingent of the original list members.... that's why the X-Files-Fanfic list was developed, so that people who didn't have access could post their fic in a place where there were many members, I mean, there were a thousand members on the X-Files-Fanfic list. And also, it went to ATXC, so that everybody there could have access to it. And so, the reason for the X-Files—. I mean ... The irony is [that] some of the popular early authors on ATXC and Gossamer didn't actually have access to ATXC directly. And I mean ... I remember Sarah Stegall being one of them. She didn't get, I mean, you can look at Gossamer and see, you know, she was posting early. She didn't actually get direct access to ATXC until '97 or '98. [1]

There was a concern that there were a lot of teenagers and younger kids who started getting involved in the community around that time. And we tried, at one point—and this is why I know—this is one reason I know how—the macros functions and all—is that, for an amount of time there, I ran the G-Files site, which was a site that filtered down and only presented the G and PG stories. And so, I started that up maybe [in] October '96. So right after the summer Natasha got the macros developed, and then she came to me. And she said, "Well, we've got these—People have been talking about these concerns about kids," and how it would be nice to have a site that catered to this. And so she and I set up the G-Files site, which I ran, and it was the most underused site in the history of planet, but anyway ... (laughs)

[snipped]

It was a site set up to mollify those people who were concerned more than anything else. Because Nat always wanted to make everybody happy. And she's like, This will make some people who are complaining about the kids happy—if we say we're giving them their own site that they can use if they choose to use it.

[Some fans at the time]... just kept hammering away at various issues—and I can't really name one of them—just to try to create an "us versus them" mentality. It actually crystallized around Gossamer. And I mean, when Nat gave it up, when we took it over, there was a brewing—and it had already been brewing for several months—controversy where people, certain people were coming up with paranoid fantasies about the people who run Gossamer somehow taking over the community....

And Nat—it exhausted Nat. Because she was getting accused of things she never did and never planned to do. She just wanted to run her site. And I thought—well, I and Chael both thought it was all BS and figured that if we rode it out, it would eventually go away. And, I mean, when we took over the site we got a lot—especially since Chael also ran the X-Philes server and ran a bunch of the mailing lists, you know, people were saying, Look at that, they're taking over the community. It's like, Okay. And this is the point when the Internet was really starting to open up. You can go, and you can create a Yahoo! Group, if you don't like X-Files-Fanfic. Go create a Yahoo! Group. And that's what XF Creative was. The Yahoo! Group created—and it was another mailing list, almost exactly the same as X-Files- Fanfic—it was created in May 1997, and it was created in response to the accusations that we were trying to take over the community.

By 2001, there was—if you looked at stories posted in a graph of stories posted, there's this extreme upswing. This short, extreme high, and then everything plummeted again. And that happened around 2001. And, I mean, that was when X-Files itself was burning out, you know?

[snipped]

I think because a lot of people came in. I personally, I would call season five the creative peak of the show, kind of. I mean, it was enjoyable after that, but I think a lot of people came in—in fandom—and I don't remember what year season five was, but.... '98, yeah, I'd have to check on that. Basically, I think, there was that.... And you can see it even in ratings. The X-Files went up and then season five, and season six, and season six wasn't quite as good, and then there was season seven, and then there was season eight. And I think in season six, there were a lot of people who had been drawn into the show, and there was a lot of fannish activity and there was a lot of creativity going on. But then the other thing is, there were so ... Back when I got online, there were like three fandoms. You know, there was Star Trek—well, no, there were four fandoms. There was Star Trek, X-Files, Babylon 5, and Forever Knight.

Babylon 5 went off the air just before the explosion of the Internet. But in—I'd say—'95 through '97, Babylon 5 was generating as much fiction as X-Files was. There were authors in Babylon 5 with as much popularity as authors in X-Files had. The thing is, it was kept off the newsgroups because JMS was there. It was kept on private mailing lists. It was kept on private websites. Because they didn't want the exposure. And everything is gone.

[snipped]

No there wasn't [ever a major Babylon 5 fic archive]. There were a bunch of little ones. And it was a very divided community. So there was Dia's old archive, there was the general archive, which didn't archive adult stuff, there was the John/Delenn archive, there were a couple other archives. So it started as a very divided fandom. And possibly because so many people formed private little lists— and the thing is—I just sometimes look at this, and I'm like, I know there was as much fiction being generated in that fandom, and it is all gone. And I saw some things—and one of the things that has always prompted me to keep on with Gossamer, and to try to keep it going and to try to keep it going the best you can, is because I watched a fandom disappear.... By 2000, Babylon 5 was gone.
I still read, and I still write fan fiction in other ... I mean, I've been in various communities in the past couple of years. And they just all seem ... I get so frustrated because it's all so limited. And I think the Archive of Our Own was trying to create a place of centralization, and Dreamwidth was trying to create a place of centralization separate from that. But the reality is, they're not getting the younger crowd into it. I know almost everybody who got together to create Archive of Our Own. These are people I have known for more than a decade. Most of them date back to the late 1990s and to some degree, I sometimes wonder if they've ever really admitted to themselves that what they're trying to recreate is the late 1990s.
Real Person Fic. We stopped archiving it in 1999. That doesn't mean we don't have some of it. Because it was archived before, and I'm not going to go back and purge that stuff because it's part of our history—that before '99, we did archive it. If the lawyer for an actor sent us a letter saying, "Remove this, please," it would come down. I personally have issues with real person fic, but I don't feel like I can apply my personal issues to the archive in that I should go purge it. And, you know, I trust Archive of Our Own not to go back and revise history by purging stuff after the fact. I don't trust Fanfiction.net, because they've done it.

References

  1. Deirdre may be mistaken in with this date. Sarah Stegall commented at alt.tv.x-files.creative: What was the first story you read? in September 1996. Perhaps Deirdre was referring to a different reiteration?