Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Ellen Fremedon

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Ellen Fremedon
Interviewer: Andrea Horbinski
Interviewee: Ellen Fremedon
Date(s): July 9, 2012
Medium: audio, print transcript
Fandom(s):
External Links: Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Ellen Fremedon
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Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Ellen Fremedon was conducted in 2012 by Andrea Horbinski and archived at the University of Iowa Libraries.

This interview's medium is audio (length: 1:28:09), and it has a written 38-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 thirty-one 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

Excerpts

Well, I was a feral fan going way back. I was very fannish about Star Trek, which I discovered when Star Trek IV came out. That was the first I'd seen of any of the franchise. That was over Christmas the year I was in sixth grade. Between then and the premier of TNG the following September, I managed to watch pretty much the whole of TOS, which at the time was impressive, given that they only ran one episode a week late at [unclear, perhaps "night"].

But I managed to get hold of some secondhand novelizations, and so by the time TNG premiered when I was not quite twelve, I was already deeply enough invested in TOS that TNG sort of never really measured up.

So, summer of 2000 was the summer after my second year of grad school. I was terribly depressed and I wanted comfort reading and comfort viewing. I mean, I wanted Star Trek, which was my comfort place. But I didn't have a TV, because I was in grad school, I didn't want the distraction, I couldn't have afforded cable anyway, and you know, even if I'd had one, Voyager was still on the air, but it had never been my beautiful franchise. And I'd reread all of my Star Trek novels over and over again which I had stopped reading in high school anyway because they started sucking. And I realized that there was fanfic on the Internet and it was free. And I had the Internet. Actually, I had come across fanfic before. I'd read about it as a social phenomenon enough to know that was what I'd been writing in junior high, essays and some of those "Best of Trek" collections that use to come out in paper back. And I had actually read all of Constance Penley's NASA/Trek book of criticism because I was stuck in Prairie Lights during a rainstorm once and it had been sitting out on the table and it looked interesting.

So I'd read a little bit about fanfic, most of which was not at all favorable towards it. But I had some frame for it. And about a year, yeah — in fall of '99 I'd been looking for material about the upcoming Lord of the Rings movies online and had come across a Frodo/Sam archive. That was the first slash that I read. I came across the archive, which at that point had like two dozen stories in it. I mean, it was small. I read the whole thing in one sitting. I read the whole thing in one sitting, and then I just sort of said, Well, that was an interesting literary exercise, and went about my life. (laughs) And continued to come across Tolkien fanfic every now and then for the next year while I'd been looking for more stuff about the movies which had really been firing up my existing Tolkien fannishness. But I didn't really go seeking it out. If I found a link another archive in another web ring where I'd been looking for movie pictures and stuff, I'd go and read all the fic on it and then I'd go back about my business. I didn't start seeking fanfic out specifically for the purpose of reading fanfic because I wanted to read fanfic until that summer of 2000.

When I went looking for Star Trek fanfic and I found the old — um, I found the Trekiverse archive, which at that time was terribly — well, it was always a really horrible archive, terribly behind. But I found the ASCEM — I found the mailing list mirror of alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated and started lurking on the list. And from there I found links to enough people's personal web pages, which tended to have enough web rings and recs to have links to other people's personal — there was a big culture of everybody having like a GeoCities page or Angelfire or whatever at the time. Because there was supposed to be an official big Star Trek archive for everything that was published in any of the alt.startrek.creative hierarchy, but I think it was all being maintained by one archivist. And it was several years behind in the queue, it was not automatic. And it was also just very poorly designed, with no good search function ability. So pretty much people read on the mailing list or they read at personal websites. So I lurked for several months. I didn't want to de-lurk until I felt like I had something to offer. And at the time I was really too depressed to be creating anything. So I started — I think it was during that summer, it might have been that sprint when the school year was still going on. I don't honestly remember — I started reading and started offering some feedback just in private e-mail. And I started out — and by "started out," I mean "this lasted three or four days" just looking for Spock het romance. And then in three or four days I'd run out of that (laughs) and I was like, Okay, I could read K/S or I could read about characters who aren't Spock. This was not a difficult choice. (both laugh) I still actually, despite having read the whole Frodo/Sam archive in one sitting, and you know, continuing to trip and fall on a big pile of slash and read the whole thing, still wasn't really sure that this was something that I wanted to be reading. So I read — the first slash story that I deliberately read in Star Trek was Killa's "Bitter Glass," because it was rated PG and I was like, Well, this is slash but it's not explicit (laughs) so maybe I could read this one. And of course that's the horrible depressing novel-length — I mean, it's a really good depressing novel-length story where they just never tell each other how they feel and pine for each other their entire lives and die!

...[ Bitter Glass ] had completely convinced me that if that was the alternative to them being together, then they should just fuck already, really. It didn't so much convince me that it was a good idea; it convinced me that all the other ideas were worse. I mean, I still have reservations to Kirk/Spock, but they're mostly the "I'm not sure that either of these guys can be in a romantic relationship in any stable and adult way. But they're probably better inflicting that on each other than trying to inflict it on other people, and they will probably make each other happier than anybody else could.

For all that I'd imprinted on Spock in a truly huge duckling-like way, he has not remained one of the fictional boyfriends that I would actually pursue in real life. He is one of the ones I would look wistfully at from across the street while I walked very quickly in the other direction because I know it would be a disaster.

I was aware that there was a community on LiveJournal. But I wasn't there yet. I got my LJ in March of 2002. So pretty much I got into the fandom in a big way, started hanging out mostly on — I subscribed to pretty much all of the lists that I'd been reading fic on, round about January of 2002, and went — well, I mean I always read everything through the web interface, but stopped going in on a daily basis, within a couple of months and had just gotten myself a LiveJournal and started building sort of an intentional community there.

The only list that I really stayed active on was the Snape slash list, and pretty much I made the transition from Star Trek to Harry Potter when I found the Snape slash list and realized that that was where the grownups were. It — especially at that point in the fandom it was very Balkanized, and the Snape slashers were actually renowned at that point for generally being level-headed and rational grown-ups that it was fun to be around. (laughs) Well, because they were grown-ups who'd been in other fandoms before and who'd come to this out of other fannish communities and knew the fucking social norms and were not a bunch of feral teenagers that had to be socialized. And they also were not heavily invested in shipping wars because they were Snape slashers and they knew that Snape was not going to get a boyfriend in the books. Ever. So, we were not looking for textual validation. (laughs) So, yeah, it was sort of its own little polite, well-mannered, sane — it sounds crazy saying this at this point now, but that's really, yeah, it was where the nice, polite, well-mannered rational grownups hung out when I first got into Harry Potter fandom. (both interviewer and interviewee laugh) Well, remember this was also before any of the movies, so there wasn't the Alan Rickman thing going on yet either.
...it was really Balkanized. People might really read more than one pairing, but it was really the ubiquity of LiveJournal that made people — it's not just that LiveJournal made people more poly-fannish, it's that it made people more willing to cross the streams even within a fandom. I mean, the Snape slash list was for Snape slash. If you wanted to learn about Snape/Hermione, the place to do that was on When I Kissed the Teacher, which was the Snape/Hermione list. I think that was part of what fueled everybody moving to LiveJournal was so that you could have a space where you could talk about all the different parts of the fandom and ships that you enjoyed. I mean there was also HP4GU, Harry Potter for Grown-Ups, which was a meta list, a meta discussion list. But they didn't — people would occasionally post filk there, but never — it wasn't for fic. So plenty of people hung out in multiple places, but again, it was just very, very regimented. There were places for discussing different ships and places for strictly gen discussion and places for not even mentioning fic and you just sort of had to — yeah.

...this was also the era of the secret list, and just about every fandom that I was in or know about had a couple of secret lists going at this point where somebody — and I was on a couple and heard about more, sometimes years after the fact. Again, before LiveJournal became ubiquitous, what people would do to have a multifandom discussions space is somebody would just start a private list, privately invite a bunch of people and it would be Fight Club. You wouldn't — you'd get an invitation and you weren't always supposed to mention it I mean, some of them were more secret than others. Some of them started secret and became less so. Some of them were never actually secret but you had to be sponsored. Some them didn't even have that, but they just were — deliberately set themselves up as being this are serious like — FCA, the Fanfic Critics Association, was cereta — Lucy — and a couple of other people I think, and again it was a multifandom meta discussion list, I was on that — that didn't really do anything to scare people away except set itself up as being academic.

But yeah, there were, if you — if you wanted to have a serious multifandom discussion before everybody had an LJ, you had to be on a list that was for serious multifandom discussion. And a lot of those were just basically private salons where somebody would invite their friends that they thought would play well together....

In my experience, [LiveJournal] killed [mailing lists] dead. I mean, by the end of 2002, I don't think I was regularly reading any mailing lists. I was still on a bunch of them. I'd check in from time to time, but it wasn't part of my daily routine anymore. Maybe for one of two of them, but not — (sighs) certainly not for more than that.

References