Fandom, tradition, net

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Title: Fandom, tradition, net
Creator: [E]
Date(s): November 7, 1996
Fandom: multi
External Links:
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Fandom, tradition, net is a 1996 essay by [E] posted to Virgule-L.

Some Topics Discussed


My experience is that people in net-based cliques/communities such as mailing lists or newsgroups *may* be aware of netiquette and may try to get everyone in the group to follow it, but their attempts are rarely completely successful. I imagine it would be next to impossible to educate all the net fans out there about the complex etiquette and ethical guidelines that have evolved in non-net-based slashdom. It would be even more difficult to get people to respect and follow these guidelines, because the net is chaos, anarchy, rebellion, "just for fun," showing off, happily creating something out there without taking the time to think it through. Like the web fiction archive that I discovered recently, that contains something I posted long ago to a mailing list where no one was informed their stuff would be stuck on some idiot's web page. The list was created specifically for B5 fan fiction, as an alternative to the general fannish mailing list where fanfic might get people busted. Some bright light on that list decided to put all the scraps and stories ever posted on that list into his fiction archive, and he never bothered to contact *me* about putting *my* post on it...but there it is. I doubt he'd understand why this bothers me.

The slash community (before the advent of net fandom, anyway) seems to grow by means of personal contact among fans, whether face to face or through the mail (snail mail, that is), with its own security failsafes -- it took me *years* to locate a single zine publisher, and her ordering instructions were my first introduction to fannish etiquette. If I hadn't followed them, I wouldn't have gotten much further in the community. On the net, it's instant and total access, plus a sense that all this is just fun and not to be taken seriously. Hence the outrage and shock when some copyright owner sends a cease-and-desist notice to someone who's putting stuff on a website with a cavalier disregard for where it came from or who "owns" it. Hence the indignation or self-righteous superiority that some net fans -- such as the guy who wrote that article about slash (you know, the one who was contacting people in the slash community and asking for interviews and zines) have expressed over the perceived insularity of non-net-oriented fans. They have no conception that there are serious concerns about privacy with relation to the web -- or that each of us has the right to set her own limits about self-disclosure. Or that some people don't care about what *they* think is cool.

I confess to being extremely cautious, even paranoid about the net. I use my pseudonym at all times; it went from being "just for fun" (four years ago) to being a crucial privacy shield. Realizing that anything posted to a mailing list or newsgroup is probably being archived somewhere, I've gotten more cautious about what I post. I never post my fiction -- mainly because I want to work seriously with an editor and then have the thing published in my preferred medium, a print zine -- but also because I want to have some control over who is likely to read it. Anyone, from fan to television producer to anti-porn nazi, can get on the net and find anything you've (ever) put out there. I personally choose not to put my stuff out there. I'm not interested in sharing my B7 stories with the world at large; I couldn't care less what the world at large thinks of them. (And that's leaving out the potential legal threat of a copyright owner finding the stuff and getting mad about it.) Slash is a private thing for me, which I share with a community I feel I know fairly well and whose attitudes about slash I mostly share -- the "traditional" slash community.
Sure, there are good things about net fandom, and there are good people involved in it, and some of them may also become involved in the "traditional" slash community (which god knows is not a paradise either -- it's just very different from net fandom). The net is chaos and it can't be controlled; it can rarely even be *influenced*, even in small sub-enclaves (which tend not to stay small for very long). It's too much of a free-for-all for that, and too many people feel they have nothing to lose. Which, at worst, promotes completely mindless grabbing for instant gratification. The only recourse for "traditional" fans who want to preserve a high level of privacy is to use the same protective measures we always have, and to be aware of extra precautions that may need to be taken where the net is concerned. For myself, I am quite satisfied to use the net for e-mail to my friends and this list; the web and all the rest of it is pretty much irrelevant.