Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Robin

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Robin
Interviewer: Abigail De Kosnik
Interviewee: Robin
Date(s): July 23, 2012
Medium: audio, print transcript
Fandom(s):
External Links: Fiction Oral History Project with Robin
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Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Robin was conducted in 2012 by Abigail De Kosnik and archived at the University of Iowa Libraries.

This interview's medium is audio (length: 1:55:34), 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

Excerpts

First of all I was just struck that people were using these [Anne Rice] characters. That was just so amazing to me, that they were bringing life to them beyond what the stories had done. So, to begin with, that was just amazing to me. But after that—there certainly were differences in quality, I would have to say that. But most of it was actually really good. Because, I think in order to have found your way into that type of environment, you had to be very persistent, or very much in love with what you were doing. So I think people that weren't that interested, or it wasn't a big part of their life, probably wouldn't have gone that far as to actually find a place—an electronic place— to put their work.

[...]

I was in college. And it was all very brand new at that point. I remember I had, like, a 386 computer [Intel 80386]. Very, very old. I don't know if you remember those big huge bricks—they were massive. But I think it was because I was seeing a guy who was very involved in IT, and he just happened to mention that he happened to use Usenet—I think he might have even used it for porn at that time, I am not really sure. No seriously, because they actually would have actual porn on there. Porn pictures. But they were all numbered. They were based on numbers. So you would have to have all of these numbers that was a binary code which eventually would produce a picture. So it would take, like, literally, I think, hours to produce a picture. But people did it. So, porn was alive and well then, in '96, '97, on the Internet.

I was a voracious reader. I read everything I could get my hands on, and I didn't care how bad it was. I didn't have any discerning taste whatsoever. I just know I read every single thing I could read, and when I wasn't reading, I was still making up stories in my head. But, the point of actually doing something about it never occurred to me. I never thought of actually writing because I just—it seemed—it wasn't something I thought I could do. And there was so much good stuff out there. There was bad stuff, but there was good stuff, too, and it just seemed very intimidating to me.

But I can tell you I read everything I could get my hands on. In so many different fandoms. You know, I was in Star Wars, I did Buffy, I did X-Files. It took over to the point where I was reading more fan fic then I was reading regular literature. Because I got so much more enjoyment out of it, with the familiar characters. So, I feel like ever since I found fan fiction, I've kind of like been behind—I've been trying—all along, I've tried to keep up and read other things. But fan fiction is so much more interesting, and I am not sure why that is. I think it's maybe—well, the characters become very beloved in a sense. So, there's that.

I had a conversation—I was in Texas this past week with another archivist who I met through fan fiction. And we actually discussed how, there was no—. People were not—didn't hide behind pseudonyms so much, or other identities, because you weren't scared of the Internet. It was such a small community, that there wasn't this worry of criminal activity, of people trying to steal your identity, or ... It just felt like a more safe place, if that makes sense. I mean, now, you just would never think to put your name out there. But it was not—like I said, people—not everybody even knew what the Internet was back then. It was still very secluded.

[...]


It felt very safe, actually. And now I can't imagine putting, you know—I can't imagine doing things under my real name. I use a Gmail account with a different name. But then it was—you didn't think anything of it. And that time, that innocence is really past.

There was a pairing I really liked, that was Lex and Lana. Lana Lang and Lex Luther. And I actually came into that as it was starting to die. Which was really sad. And that's what started me archiving, is because the person who was the archivist for that fandom had had a website with links to those stories. And she actually was no longer involved, and was shutting her site down. And I was just like, Oh no! That can't happen! You can't let all these stories go! And so I e- mailed her and got the files from her. And I had been familiar—I had seen other archives using a software called eFiction. It's an open source software. And I really liked that format. So what I did is, I took her files and put them into the eFiction database, and put that online.

[snipped]

Yes, it was very different. It was very much like Geo—it was not GeoCities, but it was similar to that. I'm not sure what it was. But it was free. And there was no way to review. You had to e-mail the authors directly to review. And it was a small group of writers because the fandom was always very, very small. It was not a big one like the Lana and Clark [fandom] was. So she was taking it down, and most of the writers had left. And she still had their permission to have their work up, so I didn't have to resend permissions. I just took over her files and moved it into a new system and put up my own site name. My own domain name.

I will have to say that the writing for me opened up—I was amazed at how much I enjoyed it, and how much passion I actually had for it. Because I had no idea, once I started writing, that it would become a huge part of who I am. I thought it would just be a passing thing. And it actually made me realize that I am a writer. So it was a huge eye-opener and it actually drastically changed my life.

[snipped]

I can't go more than a few days without writing now. It's become a part of my life, my personality. Writing has—most of my friendships now have come from my writing, people I've met. It's just a huge part of who I am, and it's actually where I'm thinking of going and maybe even making it a career at some point in the future. So it has— without fan fiction, I would have never found this creative part of me. I'm trying to find a good way to explain it. It's like I tapped this huge well of passion. And I never considered myself a creative person in my whole life. And it just opened me up to all these possibilities.

And I joined the RWA, which is Romance Writers of America. And with a writing critique group, I've been trying to rework "Violets" into something original. And the first thing I was told was, "Immediately take your story down. Because if you're going to write something similar, you don't want the fan fic version out there." Was the big thing. And I was told that if I wanted to publish something original, I shouldn't have the fan fic version up there, because everybody can read the fan fic version, so why read something original. And also because the publishing world looks down on fan fiction or it has. I think that's changing. But when I took it down, Fifty Shades of Grey hadn't come out yet.

And so my writing and critique group has been very, very negative about fan fiction and so it's something that I don't really talk about with them. Just in general, the publishing world and those I have dealt with, have been—actually have told me to take down all of my fan fiction, and I have not done so. But I did take "Violets" down because I was actually reworking it into something original. But like I said, I feel really guilty about it. And especially since so many people still ask for copies, or still want to read it. Like, I was talking to my friend Katie, my fellow archivist, I was asking her, "What do you think I should do with this?" And we were discussing, well, maybe just giving out copies to those who PM me, or those who really have a passion for the story, and just asking them not to circulate it, might be the way to go. But, I don't know, I'm still really torn on that, I guess. What is the right thing to do?

[snipped]

And I feel—it was very hard for me to take it down. Very hard, but if I want it to go somewhere published, published-wise I was told that, "You can't have this out here." But I don't know if that's true anymore because Fifty Shades of Grey, you can actually still find the fan fic version of it. It's not that hard to find. So I'm wondering if— that's kind of changed my thought as well, as maybe it's not such a bad thing. And I'm finding in doing the original, in reworking it as an original historical, that I'm having to make so many changes that it's almost going to be not as recognizable at all.

References