Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Nightflier

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Nightflier ("Nightflier" is not this fan's fannish name, but the name used for this interview)
Interviewer: Lisa Cronin
Interviewee: Nightflier
Date(s): June 13, 2012
Medium: audio, print transcript
Fandom(s):
External Links: Fiction Oral History Project with Nightflier
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Nightflier was conducted in 2012 by Lisa Cronin and archived at the University of Iowa Libraries.

This interview's medium is audio (length: 1:49:27), and it has a written 43-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

  • X-Files, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Gossip Girl
  • cons as uncomfortable experiences, preferring written correspondence via letters or the internet
  • Gossamer and Ephemeral
  • at age thirteen, sending a Miami Vice parody fic called "Davy Crockett and Hot Tubbs" to Michael Mann, and receiving a letter back in return
  • fanfic fandom as predominately female
  • print zines
  • discovering slash
  • Sparky's Doghouse
  • X-Files fic by Penumbra
  • navigating LJ culture, and sometimes getting it disastrously wrong
  • using the term outing in fandom
  • linking fan-selves to real-selves
  • the "adorableness" of Tumblr fan culture
  • fannish mentoring
  • Archive of Our Own as a posting site, less as an archive, wishing for more representation
  • Another Hope, the 2005 for-profit Star Wars fic dogpile, and how self-publishing options have made a wank like that less possible
  • the Beatles RPF community John Heart Paul

Excerpts

[The first fan fic site I ever saw was] called Gossamer. And later, I was able to figure out from the protocols of Gossamer that actually there was a separate posting site that was called Ephemeral—and I love those names, because they're both about impermanence—the posting site would update all the time. It was an auto-archive site, where if you formatted the story correctly and sent it to that e-mail address, it would list. And it was basically a listserv that you didn't have to have it feed to your inbox in your e-mail. You would just go to this website and it would be constantly, constantly updating. So today, we would—I mean, most websites work like that, but that was like a miracle. (laughs) It was just like, Ooh, this one updates all the time! (laughs) The Gossamer site updated probably every two weeks at the time. But then I realized, Oh, there's this other place, where in between every two weeks, people are posting every hour of every day. So that became where I was hanging out most of the time.
Maybe the thing that I really like when I meet fans is their fan identity. And if you meet them in person, it's too many other identities. (laughs) That maybe sometimes people's real-person identity is just a lot different. And I like meeting their fan identity. I like the performance they give, my fan-self and their fan-self have a lot in common, so our fan-selves get along great. And maybe that's what I like, yeah.
I did learn about zines before I got onto the Internet. So in college, I took one class ... The only popular media class that was ever offered was the last quarter of my senior year, nine a.m. on Friday mornings for three hours, by a visiting lecturer who was British. A wonderful British woman. ... And she assigned Constance Penley's piece on psychoanalysis and fandom; it doesn't have fandom in it. I think the piece has psychoanalysis and feminism in the title. But it was in the Grossberg Cultural Studies collection. A thick collection of a million essays. I flipped to the assigned page and saw a beautiful piece of erotic fan artKirk behind Spock, laying down, both of them naked. I mean, it's just a line drawing, but immediately, I completely got it. And I had never even thought slash in my life. Never even for a moment, and I had been a huge Sherlock Holmes fan— of the stories, huge Wild Wild West fan —which also is quite slashy, huge Trek fan—super slashy. (laughs) I had been an enormous fan of these texts and I had never heard of fan fiction or slash fiction, but I just had to glimpse at that fan art and I just said, Oh yeah, of course! (laughs) Yeah, I get it; Kirk does Spock, yep. And even though I still don't read that genre of Trek fiction, that was the first time that I had, that it was about zines, the scholarship was about the zine world.
I will say, there was a really horrible experience that happened with BSG fandom though. With BSG fanfic, with the LiveJournal fanfic comm and me. And looking back on it, I can see the reason why it happened, but at the time, I was devastated. What happened was, since I had dwelled only in really custom sites, I was really—I mean, those were not small fandoms. I mean, Buffy wasn't a small fandom, but it just felt not big. Or there was something about the way that fandoms used to be before LJ where I did not see a ton of flaming. I didn't see a ton of dog-piling, you know? I didn't see fights between fans. There were definitely strange moments that would happen between camps of mods, of admins, but I— Fandom was such a positive experience for me for a long time. Also, I will say though, not a totally immersive experience. Except for the X-Files archive, which was so enormous it would take anyone ten years of their life to read it all, that community was still—it is still for me, the most amazing fic community I've ever seen... I was very immersed in that. But all of the other communities—Buffy, Angel, soap operas, at that time—and the beginning of X-Men—were not very immersive for me and so seemed very positive, only positive for me. As soon as I got to LJ, I got into trouble. I posted a few stories as an author. I posted, you know, a handful of BSG stories that were rated less than NC-17. So we're talking PG, PG-13 stories. One of the first NC-17 stories I ever wrote was very hardcore. Now, I had written hardcore—Actually, I'm not sure when this—There was another— There was something else happening in soap opera fandom where there was a bit of a flame war, a fan war, a board war that happened in a soap opera fandom. And actually, that resulted in a small group of us breaking off and forming our own community just for smut fic. And that was the only purpose for the community. It was pure pornography. We didn't want any restrictions or backlash from people that weren't into that on the main board. We broke off. It was so invite-only that most people didn't know it existed. I mean, the mod had to e-mail you personally. She had to know your e-mail and reach out to you personally. So probably a dozen people at the most that were in this com. I mean, maybe twenty, but probably a dozen that ever posted, and eight that ever wrote. So I was in a super micro smut community, right before LJ. That was wonderful in a sense that you could really go all the way down the rabbit hole and people were really into that and supportive of that and really there for each other as people, as well as, you know, readers of your stuff. And everyone was a writer and everyone that was posting a lot was a writer, so that was all good. So then I got into LJ and I tried posting a fic that was basically about the same register of the degree of adult erotica writing that I—the same intensity of the kind of stories that I was posting in my super small micro fandom board. And right away got into trouble. I didn't observe the protocols of the board well enough. I didn't know LJ well enough to understand what locking or not locking stuff meant, and I locked the fic because I thought, Not everyone wants to read this. That was just my experience with fandom elsewhere, was that mostly, in the late 19— ... From '99 to 2002, in those three years, my experience with fandom was that most people didn't want to read the hardcore stuff. I locked it as a way to prevent drama. What that caused was enormous drama. "The gall of an author to lock away a hardcore smut fic." "How dare you?" "What the hell do you think you are doing!" "You know, this is all public fic and it has got to be public!" "How dare you try to hide stuff." And "You're just whoring for friends." That was the accusation made, was that it was a way—the accusation was that I was using the flocking as a way to get people to ask to be my friend. But I didn't understand enough of the LJ platform to really understand that it might even be perceived that way. But it made it onto Fandom Wank. It was so—ugh, just terrible. And to me it was just a nightmare. Like your worst nightmare comes true, where you try to go play in a new sandbox and you try to do something in a way that you think is the thing to do for the sandbox and it just ends up with you being, you know, whatever. Buried in the sand, face-down.
There was a rec site in the X-Files fandom called Sparky's Doghouse that was—Even if I didn't love everything on there, it was such a service. It was such a fan service and I miss it every day, you know? Sparky's Doghouse would update, I think, every Friday or it updated once a week, I think. I just would never have read those stories—some of those stories. I don't know who the ... Maybe they were named Sparky, but I don't know who the fan was that ran the Doghouse, but that fan made sure to list exemplars in every category. Every genre, every rating class. So her list of recommendations every week were very diverse, and her write-ups of each story were really compelling. I mean, she did a good job of selling you on why she was recommending this. And she would even say, "You know what, I'm not big into this, like I don't love this—I don't love AU or I don't really read a lot of this kind of this rating of fic, but let me tell you why I included this one." And it was really special, and I would get into the stories because of that. When that closed down, you know, terrible. It felt like my heart was dropping out of me, like Oh, no more of that. It was like your favorite show got canceled... I think it was around 2001? Maybe? I think the show ended around 2002. I think maybe the Doghouse might've closed before then. But I remember finding it, you know? I remember the joy, the thrill of finding the Doghouse, like "What an amazingly great and wonderful thing this fan has done—is doing for us."
And I also just want to say quickly, even though I haven't experienced the worst of the shaming of coming out as a fan. Of course, there've been many, many times. Many times, I've experienced it at a very small level. So, a close friend telling me, "Why would you write that trash? Why would anyone write that garbage?" And that being the first thing out of their mouths, after telling them. People in a public audience after a lecture, after I give a lecture or talk about something, saying, "What's fandom? What's that word 'fandom'?" And just being so incredulous about it, like, "What is that?" with this look on their face that's like, "I can't even believe that exists," you know? I feel that the small bits of shaming are absolutely there. If you come out, that'll happen. (laughs) That happens, it's happened to me a lot. It's still going to happen. For sure. So it's not— That's why I think it's okay to use, to deploy queer terms, queer terminology, because—not because it maps on exactly at all. Just because some of those same moments that a person finds themselves in when it's about identity disclosure. Yeah, you know? Many people experience those— the downside of that, the downside of making that identity public.
I want to just say quickly about is the Internet as a technology for memory. The Internet's taught me almost everything about technology that I know. Because a long time ago, I realized, if I want to learn something techy, I just have to go to fandom. Fandom's already doing that stuff. And I realized that I learn it better when it's from fans. Because we're both interested in what we're trying to do. It's like that thing I said about no older female fan took me aside and showed me zines and said, "This is what's going on." Well, the first time I posted to LJ, a Big Name Fan PM-ed me and said, "Would you like me to just give you a quick orientation?" And she did.
Fandom is a good way to get people off of their asses. I'm lazy. Fandom's one of the few things that actually gets me to do anything, you know? I mean, I will only move my butt for love. I'll only do something if I don't just like it a little bit, but if I love it. If I love it, I'll do it. If I don't love it, I don't know. I could be made to—I could be made to do stuff. But I think that there's something about fandom that's good at getting people to be energized and to want to pour their energy into something outside of themselves. And I'm speaking as somebody who's—for whom that's very hard. I don't love—. I'm not naturally a person that loves to pour myself into all kinds of things outside of myself. Like, if left alone, I could spend a couple of days by myself in a room easily—well, with books and fan fiction, and that kind of thing, and TV. But I think that fandom is one of those few things that's like, "Come play out here. Be with others. Do things. Don't ... You don't have to do things for others, but do a little, and maybe someone else will pick up. Just put up a comment and somebody will say something back."

References