Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Vincent Judovalkis

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Vincent Judovalkis
Interviewer: Abigail De Kosnik
Interviewee: Vincent Judovalkis
Date(s): July 23, 2012
Medium: audio, print transcript
Fandom(s):
External Links: Fiction Oral History Project with Vincent Judovalkis
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

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

This interview's medium is audio (length: 34:55), and it has a written 18-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

  • founding Gossamer, writing the site from scratch, running the site from "very early '95 through December '95, January '96, something like that"
  • X-Files
  • contacting Fox Network about the site
  • hosting a personal site at a university
  • Usenet
  • Gossamer used to be an archive for both X-Files and Sliders
  • "I added pictures, I mean, the Gossamer archive logo was a JPEG that the guy in the office next to mine helped me put together. A guy named James Gaynor. Just giving credit where it's due."

Excerpts

Well, I founded Gossamer, but there was another fellow who ran a version of an archive before mine. And when he was turning his project off, I asked his permission to copy his content, and then I set up Gossamer, yeah....

You know, I wish I still had an e-mail archive from back then, because I can't remember the fellow's name for my life. [1] And almost all the written history of the archives starts with my contributions, which is unfortunate because he certainly deserves his recognition. But this would have been—I didn't look it up, I should've—1995, probably. I was working for a university—well, I was working for Ohio State, and I was heavy into the TV show, and I just—. I was reading the fan fiction. And when it was shut down, I really set it up mostly as a service to some of the authors. The Internet was not what it is today. And finding personal pages and Google searches just didn't really work the way they do now.

So having some sort of repository was really only the way people could find this sort of information. So, for me, it was an exercise in much of what I did for a living, which was IT support. It was setting up websites, which I hadn't done very much of, a little bit of programming, which I'm still not very good at, (laughs) and so—. Yeah, some other things just to keep my thumbs in it. And what started off as a small time commitment, the site took off pretty quickly, became a very large time commitment. And after about a year, things started to change—. I met the woman who was going to be my wife—she was in Akron and I was in Columbus, so that's about a two-hour drive, which isn't tremendous, but it was enough that it was eating up my weekends. Eventually came time that I didn't feel I wanted to support it anymore, and along came a whole bunch of people at that point who were interested in doing it, so I gratefully handed it off.
So what I did was, I did indexing so that—. I wish I could tell you exactly what his site had on it. I don't remember it that well. Mine, I added indexing by title, by author, by date. So you had the three basic indexes. I didn't have search functionality. Honestly, the site just didn't have that much content at the time. And I made it pretty, you know. As much as I was capable of doing.
FOX honestly didn't care [about fanfic]. I contacted them at the time, and they didn't have a clue—I mean, I didn't talk to their lawyers or anything, but just trying to get through the first line of support. They had no clue what to do with us. (laughs) They weren't concerned with us at all.... I called the—the company out in California, and I played —I probably only spent only a week on this, I mean, not a whole week—you know, I tried to make a good-faith effort to get a hold of somebody there who could say, Sure, go ahead and have fun, or We're not sure if that's a good idea. And again, I was working for the university. I didn't want to—in any way—get them in trouble. But FOX, they couldn't even figure out who I should talk to. So they weren't really—. The people I did talk to didn't really seem to have any idea what I was talking about. (laughs)
[Reading fanfic and alt.startrek.creative and alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated]: It wasn't so much that they censored the other one. They didn't, but they—the local school, for the newsgroups, just really rotated those ones out—those out. Pretty quick. Well, it was just us and any of the people who ran it—it was just a matter of disc storage space, because back then storage space was expensive. But the alt.startrek stuff had my first introduction, probably, to fan fiction. And I was the biggest Star Trek nerd ever. I read the pulp books, but they just threw out five, six, seven of them a year. I don't know how many. And so I started reading those newsgroups, and you know, that was okay for a while, but I got kind of bored with it. And then—. Oh, I don't remember the first year—I did not start watching X-Files season one. But I probably started watching late season two, early season three. And it was—a girl who introduced to me to it, and I started trying to play catch-up to figure out what she was interested in and what she was talking about, and that led me to the newsgroups and the X-Files groups and the creative group. And I didn't really mean to start reading the stuff, I just happened to go, All right, well, what's this one about? And there was—I'm not even sure who it was—just one author whose stuff I kind of liked. And I've always read constantly.
I was the UNIX systems administrator at the time, but I didn't really get into the web stuff much at all. The web—. You go back into the late '80s, you have things like Gopher, which was kind of like the web, but with no pictures. And as Gopher was getting replaced, you had Mosaic come out as a web—well, it was the first web browser I knew of, I know there were probably others before that—but Mosaic got released and you started getting pictures involved, and the web got a lot more interesting. And so, bridging that gap between the old newsgroups and the technology of the web—and I have to admit, I am one of those people who's quoted as saying, "I don't understand why you'd want to download a picture from the Internet, it takes forever! This is never going to catch on, because it just takes too long." But clearly I was wrong. The bridging between the two, and getting to set up a website of my own, in addition to the fact that I kind of liked the content. I'm not going to deny I read some of it. You know, it was —was really kind of what my motivation was at the time.

I'm amazed at all the work those people have done since I handed it off. There was one of me, and it was more work than I could do as an individual, and I handed it off to three or four—I don't remember exactly who ended up doing the work—there were three or four people at the time who were going to band together and kind of try to make this stuff go. But the thought that it survived from the end of '95 to here we are, 2012—twenty-seven years? No, that can't be right. Seventeen years. Yeah, basic math fails me. Seventeen years—I'm an engineer. (laughs) I can't do math without a calculator. So, seventeen years—it's just astounding that the site would still be up in all that time. And it—. I think it's a testament to the work that they've put in. I think, honestly, it's a real point in favor of the work that Chris Carter did with the X-Files, because it's not just that the archive is still there, it's the fact that fans are still generating content for it after the show ended and a couple of movies—whatever you think of those (laughs) and the fact that people still care enough about it to explore that universe just ... No, honestly, it just surprises me and amazes me.

I don't want to take any credit for the work that they've done. They put it into a ring, they've got it mirrored, they put a lot more architecture and infrastructure into it than I ever envisioned. The fact that it's a fairly clean site and easy to find—. Yeah, maybe they took it from my example, and maybe they just shared an aesthetic, or you know, maybe they've never had anybody who had the time to sit down and make something blink, you know? (laughs) You know, whatever the case may be, it's always ... The site that is easy to use is the one people will go back to.

References

  1. It is Martin Small.