Fandom and the Internet
|See also:||Zines and the Internet, The Impact of Blogging on Fandom|
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Fandom online has been shaped by the nature of the internet, the level of access in the general population, and successive waves of both genuine newbies and old fans who are new to a particular part of the internet.
By the mid-to-late 1990s, "the internet" had become synonymous with the world wide web to most people, but it wasn't always so. Early fandom activity online happened in the private forums of service providers and on Usenet. One common description of fandom migrations online is that fandom started on Usenet in the early 90s; then moved to Yahoo Groups in the late 90s, also creating a lot of single-fandom archives; and finally transferred to Livejournal and/or Fanfiction.net for most of the 00s. However, while this does describe the shift across internet media for many people, there are other fans who continue to be active primarily on mailing lists or message boards and have never used social networking sites or multi-fandom archiving sites. Furthermore, there are still fans who are primarily active offline.
The arrival of the Internet and the spread of online communication had a profound and lasting impact on pre-internet types of fandom, from how fanzines were devalued and eventually replaced (see Zines and the Internet) to how slash fans responded to the increased visibility (see History of Slash Fandom).
Early in the development of the internet, most people got access through universities or technical jobs. Few companies provided access to the general public. Those that did operated on a very different model from today: they primarily saw themselves as content providers, selling access to information and private discussion forums or chat features, not as internet service providers, selling access to the internet in general. (In fact, they're rarely referred to as "ISPs" at all; that is merely the modern equivalent of these early companies and what many of them changed into later.)
Usenet is a style of discussion forum that functions something like a mailing list, but posts are deleted from the servers after a few weeks and often not saved by participants. In the past, posts were frequently signed with an e-mail address containing the user's real name. Users often archived posts themselves, had mailing lists they used in conjunction with groups, and developed FTP archives, and later web archives for Usenet content, including fanfiction.
Originally, Usenet was mostly accessible to university students and IT professionals. Every September, there was an influx of freshman newbies until September 1993 when AOL added news groups to its features and opened the floodgates. This is known as the Eternal September. Newbies suddenly outnumbered regulars in such numbers that it was impossible to socialize them all into the pre-existing Usenet culture. This is similar to the cultural conflicts around feral fandoms.
Fandom activity was greatest on Usenet in the mid to late 1990s, but some individual groups still get a lot of traffic today.
MUDs are a type of realtime text-based online environment. (There are several related formats like MUSHes, MUCKs, and MOOs.) Many of them include elaborate worlds and game plots that range from Collosal Cave style text adventures to role playing. Some users primarily use them to hang out and chat in real time (or to cyber). Some influential MUDs have been based on pre-existing fantasy settings like Pern, and a number of them have catered to furries and other subcultures, so while they don't necessarily have a direct connection to traditional media fandom fanfiction, they were extremely influential on early internet fandom and a big part of internet culture in general. Early writing about the internet and people taking on different identities there is often referring to MUDs, not newsgroups or the web.
A number of MUDs were active by the late 1980s. They proliferated in the 1990s. Graphical environments like Second Life, many other widely available forms of realtime chat that require fewer technical skills, and a wide variety of other online gaming and roleplaying options made them less attractive (or even visible) to the average internet user in the 2000s. Nonetheless, they continue to have many fans in the 2010s.
Early on, mailing lists were privately hosted, which required money and know-how. Most people had e-mail addresses through universities or companies (most of them containing real names).
Starting in 1998, Yahoo! Groups (and egroups and ONElist, both of which it bought) provided an easy way for the non-tech-savvy to host their own mailing lists for free. Hotmail started providing free (and potentially pseudonymous) e-mail addresses in 1996 and was followed by a number of similar web-based providers. This caused a huge proliferation of fannish mailing lists in the late 90's/early 00's.
AOL had its own version of mailing lists among the anime community. Hosts would compose large, graphic-heavy emails with attached files or a link to request something they were offering (a video, an image, an MP3 file). Some lists were small and only offered a featured image, but others were more involved and engaged the members in discussion or reviews of certain anime or manga. Due to AOL's limitations, larger files had to be split up and sent in pieces the receiver would then put back together using a file splitter. Hosts would also have to be placed on AOL's "white list" in order to send the issues, due to AOL's stringent policies against mass emailing.
AOL's mailing list culture died down in the early 2000s as people found other means of accessing fansubs or music, and Livejournal became the preferred discussion forum.
The web initially provided few ways of interacting, was difficult to search, and didn't have all that much content. As search engines developed and different free web-based services arose, it became more and more attractive as a platform for fandom.
Early free web hosts include Geocities (1995), Tripod (1995), Angelfire (1996), and FortuneCity (1997), as well as webspace provided by universities and colleges to faculty and students. The use of such webspace either requires the knowledge of HTML (Hypertext Mark-up Language) to hand code the webpages, or the use of WYSIWYG ("What You See Is What You Get") Site-Builder software that allows the creation of simple webpages by filling in blanks.
Typically, websites created on webspace provided by a university or college are short-lived, disappearing when the student graduates. Sites on free web-hosting services, however, can linger indefinitely. Indeed, provided the hosting service continues to exist, such a site can still be around today even if it has not been updated for years.
Initially, most sites were small. They often were created to provide personal information about the site owner (a sort of precursor of Facebook), but might include tribute pages to favourite fandoms and archive the owner's fan fiction. By the late 90s, however, fans with a knowledge of HTML were starting to create larger resource sites offering information about the fandom as well as assistance for newbies. In addition, before archives with automatic upload became common, fans undertook the hand coding of large fanfic archives. The content of resource sites and archives was usually restricted to a single fandom.
A fan in 1993 described "The Net" for other fans:
SF-LOVERS is available through Internet (or The Net), a world-wide web of thousands of computer networks that reaches millions of people. The Net’s original purpose was to give scientists and other researchers a fast and efficient communication tool. The Net spans over forty-five countries on all seven continents. Over 1.7 million computers are now directly linked to the Net.
This powerful research tool for scientists also became a favored mode of communication for people and groups that have common interests. Discussion lists on the Net and other computer networks range from doctors working toward a cure for AIDS (AIDSNEWS) to fans interested in the supernatural (VAMPYRES). No single network owns the Net; to get connected, all you need is a personal computer and a modem.
On SF-LOVERS and other discussion lists, a subscriber can send mail to the entire list or respond to an individual user. You must decide if your comments are of interest to the list or just to one person. The most important thing to remember is do NOT post anything that you would not want your mother to see or that you would be embarrassed to have appear in the newspaper!
The Net is an open and sharing network and is remarkably free of censorship. Only the individual owners and moderators of the discussion lists govern what can and cannot be said. The trade-off for this freedom, however, is lack of security. Anyone can subscribe to a discussion list and your individual E-mail address is easily accessible. So you can never know just how many people will read your comments and if those comments will end up somewhere else.
Another common rule that is up to the moderator’s discretion is the issue of advertising. Since the Net has the potential of reaching millions of people and discussion lists cater to a select group of users, the Net is an advertiser’s dream. However, most discussion lists will not allow any advertising. The concern is that E-mail can easily turn into E-commercials.
About 80% of the country’s colleges have access to the Internet. If you are affiliated with a university, a phone call to the computer services help desk will get you started. Military installations, government offices, and some large companies like Union Carbide also have ready access to the Net.But the true appeal of the Net is that with only a personal computer and a modem you, too, can have access to the Net and all that it offers. All you need to do is dial into a computer that is on the Internet. Because there is no one "master computer" that everyone dials into, you may end up using a university, government office, or even your public library’s computer.
Many fans identify an era of large, single-fandom archives starting with The Gossamer Project in 1995 and lasting until posting fic to Livejournal became common in the early 00's. The founding of the enormous multi-fandom FanFiction.Net in 1998 and the development of the Automated Archive software and eFiction also had a profound effect on fandom archiving practices.
Journals and Blogs
Journals and blogs took off among the general public starting in 1999 with the founding of Livejournal, blogger.com, and a number of other sites. Fans were active on a wide variety of these in the early 00's. Around 2002, a large wave of fandom migration to Livejournal started. When Livejournal eliminated invite codes and moved to open account creation on December 12, 2003, even more fans moved from mailing lists and other blog/diary sites.
It is more accurate to think of a series of many cultural shifts as different waves of internet users discovered parts of the internet or got online for the first time. One major cultural difference is between long-time zine-producers and readers and a variety of fans active online:
"Ironically, I don't think [there's] a new cultural shift or a widespread view among new fans in young, developing fandoms. The No Profit Ever view is one that was widespread in a lot of the fandom communities I joined online in the 90s. (I suppose it was that resistance to posting online that meant that the new communities that were springing up then were largely untouched by con-going, zine-producing fandom or its norms.) Hysteria over The Man coming to get us and the assumption that every fan agrees that no profit can be made ever is something I associate with old fogeys now. They might be net-only old fogeys, but even so."
In the early days of fandom online, some questioned the whether the Internet would have any impact on fandom at all:
"And back to the net. There seems to be a certain amount of fear about the net changing, the culture changing, fandom changing... Is this actually happening? Is the net changing fandom, or is it just letting us do what we've always done, just faster? "
Zines and the Internet: Visibility
Many fans had a lot of fears and hopes as their activities and creation became more visible. For more on this subject, see: Visibility.
Graphical Timeline: 1980-2010
This timeline shows major developments in internet infrastructure and some early influential fannish spaces.
"Those who ONLY use computers to communicate aren't part of fandom because they don't interact with all of fandom, just the circle on the nets. Seems to me there is a prejudice against traditional fans who aren't on the nets or do printed fanzines, like they are 'out of the loop." AND "Geeze, I never said that the printed fanzine was dead or even moribund; I said that despite all the technological innovations of the past decades, it's still extant, albeit in word process-laser printed form. I take strong exception to your comment about those who ONLY use computers, that they are not being a part of fandom. Considering that one night's load of messages on FidoNet concerning SF and Star Trek equals 10 or so issues of Comlink in content and verbiage, I think that participants are indeed part of fandom, even if they don't cling to ink/toner on paper as their primary form of communication. Fanzines are mentioned and comment upon, as are conventions attended, books read, films and TV seen. For some people, such as myself, hooking into FidoNet has enhanced my fannish endeavors in that I'm exposed to and interact with a larger circle of fans. I tend to think of the diverse SF groups on the various networks as a modern incarnation of the Round Robin letters popular in the early days of fandom. Just dependent on computer networks rather than the Post Office." 
There's this group of fans in the Baltimore area who have their own microcomputers, one of them which has been set up as an Internet node. For a modest sum, ANYONE with a terminal/computer and modem can have their very own Internet address and complete access to the diverse newsgroups/discussion groups on the Internet. They brought one of their minis to Balticon this year and set it up as an Internet node in their suite. There were VERY few times when they were 'open' that all six terminals weren't occupied with fans interfacing with the Internet.
[A fan talks of Star Trek and computer bulletin boards and makes the first mention of the word "internet" and "email" in this particular letterzine: Comlink]: "The discussions on the USENET Star Trek bulletin boards about the new series, and about the firing of Richard Arnold, have been pretty amusing. Incidentally, to those of you whom I was talking through CompuServe and GEnie - I gave up my subscriptions in favor of FREE access to all the Star Trek info I could possibly want. My university makes USENET available, and there are five bulletin boards on Star Trek alone (not to mention one on Anne McCaffrey's Pern universe and five or six on aspect of SF in general, and one for cat owners. I can be addressed through E-Mail (Bitnet or Intenet).
While there's an overlap in membership and interest, Fanzine-Paper Fandom and Computer BBS Fandom are two very different fandoms. Both, I think, are good and rewarding to the people who participate in them. From a non-Computerist viewpoint, though, I can see certain things lacking in Computer Fandom which I value in Fanzine Fandom (and, of course, BBS fans see lacks in Fanzine fandom). There's a much higher level of ephemerality and an absence of tradition, for one thing -- it may be possible to download and save BBS discussions but apparently, it's rarely done, and few newcomers have access to what has gone before... a sort of a background which gives people a sense of Group Identity. For another: the immediacy of a BBS is such to encourage off-the-cuff writing (and for a largely anonymous audience at that), whereas fanzine writers have at least an eye on the possibility that people ten years in the future may be reading what they're writing now... For a third: almost everyone in the literate world has access to mailboxes, whereas Computer BBS access (despite the vast numbers who have it) is really quite limited -- mostly on an economic basis -- so that a large number of potentially-valuable fans are entirely frozen out. Admittedly, all these objections also apply to some extent to paper fanac, but I do believe that the difference in degree is substantive.
I don't know why some fans insist on stating that their way of fannish communication (print vs computer) is best. Both have their pluses and minuses, and both offer fans the opportunity to converse with each other. I've heard it stated very confidently that BBSs will put an end to to fanzines in the very near future. Most fans, those with with money I guess, will use BBSs exclusively to communicate, and the few without computers will be left out in the cold. I suppose it would also be an end to conventions. I mean, why bother with the expense and time of attending cons to talk to a lot of people at once when it can be done from the comfort of your own computer?" The editor responds: "I hope you are at least a little tongue-in-cheek here. Bulletin Boards are great for communicating, but there are SOME drawbacks. Consider this: a conversation that, in Comlink, for example, spans a year, lasts only a week on the bulletin board. There's left time to actually consider the words that one leaves behind in the public arena. Have you ever seen some of the 'flame wars' that take place on bulletin boards? Feelings bruise more easily because people can't read the emotions behind the words of strangers. That's why emoticons were invented. And bulletin boards will never do away with conventions, because nothing beats a good con for one-on-one discussion and vitality. None of this, however, stops me from going in GEnie every night! 
The computer is merely a tool for communication. And that's what fandom is all about, communication... BBS conversations are just as interesting and fun as face-to-face talking. Imagine a whole year of Comlink taking place over a weekend." The editor of Comlink replies: "Perish the thought of Comlink online. I have enough trouble doing a quarterly... Imagine the prospects of having to be online every damned day lest someone say something taken wrong and have holy flame wars ablaze. No thank you. I frequent BBS and am amazed at the dedication there.
I was on a panel at Escapade called "Crossing the Line," which was conceived of as an explanation to net fans of how to find print resources, and to print fans of how to find net resources. It turned into much more than that, however, at least for me, and I've been thinking about it for days since. As I began to explain how to make connections to the print world, mundane details like the importance of SASEs, etc., the murmur began to rise of "but why should fans pay for zines when they can get stories free off the net?" Now, that's a fair question, but I wasn't very successful at answering it until Rachael Sabotini, who is fluent in both net and print fandom, explained something to me in words of few syllables. Net fandom, she said, is about the stories. It's about the stories as *product*. That's what fans want. If they can get product free, why should they go to more effort and incur costs to get it? I stared at her for a moment. Then I said, "May I have a totally gut-level and uncensored reaction to that? "*Eeeuuuw*." And suddenly I understood why there was resistance to my explanations of how to establish contact, and suddenly I began thinking about fannish activity and fannish community and fannish 'products', not quite in a new way, but from a perspective I hadn't seen before. And as part of that, I am going to try to drop the term "print fandom," which I think over-emphasizes the importance of zines, of physical products, and replace it with "in-person fandom." That isn't perfect either -- lots of the kind of thing I'm about to discuss goes on by mail and email, not face-to-face -- but it's better.
[A fan responded to another fan regarding the possibility of posting some her m/m on the internet]: Yeah, sure, I can just see America Online allowing me to post a slash story to the general text files for public consumption. Will you visit me in federal prison, Mickey? What does the phrase "TOS violation" do to the back of your memory? :) ... I visualize Mulder and Scully pounding on my door, demanding to know why I was posting explicit gay sex stories about men from space on the Internet! 
... a topic several people mentioned last time: net fandom. My feelings on this are ambiguous. On the one hand, I wish all of you were on line so it would be easier, faster, and cheaper to keep in touch. If the apa was online, I'd be able to illustrate my trib with color pictures (although Debbie's gorgeous trib has convinced me that my next purchase will be a color printer), no one would have to pay postage for sending tribs or receiving issues, and we could include parts of what we're responding to when doing mailing comments. The compiled web page could be safeguarded with a password so only APA members would have access. On the other hand, we wouldn't get cool things like stickers and buttons. I've been running hot and cold about mailing lists and newsgroups for a long time. I think they're great, (particularly when you first get online, for meeting new people, sometimes for getting ideas worked out (once you've been on the same group for a while the frequent repetition of topics gets tedious), and building a sense of community. Now that so many people are online, the first groups are beginning to splinter into more and more little ones, but they're still interconnected (all life is linked) so the loose community of fandom survives. The X Files thing I was working on is about that. But, now I'm starting to worry about the high profile fandom has achieved because of its visibility on the net, specifically in cease and desist orders from studios who find out about fanzines online, and the chilling effect of members of the productions teams interacting with fans on open lists. But what happens is that fans start separate small lists to get around that, like the B5 fan fic group kept separate from the newsgroup JMS haunts. It's great that fans have so much access to writers and actors and producers online, although any effect on series is negligible, but their presence can stop certain kinds of discussion as essential to fandom as chocolate and cats. Suck-up posts also seem to drive out deeper discussions, maybe no one wants to look too interested in the series (and risk being told to get a life) but many do like to curry favor. This is hardly unique to online fandom, however.
As far as the Internet is concerned, I think that it will eventually become a way of bringing fans together from all around the world and will go some way to making the sharing of fan fiction easier (being able to download only those stories you really want for a start) but I think those days are still a long way off. I don't even have the finances for a computer, never mind connection to the Internet, and that is a situation which is unlikely to change for several years. That doesn't really bother me as I work with computers all day. What does concern me, reading through LfB, is that I - and others like me - are in danger of being left behind, both in terms of information about shows, zines and conventions and in the stories themselves. As FRANNY said, this is blatant elitism. Yes, fine stick everything on the Net if you like - but please don't forget the rest of us. Those who do are in danger of creating a two-tier fandom, the connected and the unconnected if you like.
Fandom and the Internet. Well, I don't posses a computer so I don't have access, but I'm going to drop my two-pennyworth in just the same. Putting slash on the Net worries me. Children are computer literate at an early age nowadays, and there have been a number of recent reports of parents finding their kids in possession of pornographic material picked up from the Internet.
[...]Regarding what someone said about letting would-be slash fans know that it exists - well, I found it without help from the Net, each of you found it without help from the Net, and I fail to see how anyone else who truly 'wants' to find it.
Re the internet - I am totally hooked on to it... For my two penneth worth I would say that I really enjoy it - find it a very easy way to keep in touch with my friends over the waters in Australia and America and have made lots of new fan 'friends' through it. I do not wish to seem hard or unfeeling but it seems to me that the people who complain about the internet are the ones who don't have it. For this I am sorry as I would like everyone to have access to this wonderful thing - but then on the other hand I wish we all earned pots of money so we could afford to buy all the zines we wanted, or we all worked for super companies who had wonderful computers/photocopying facilities etc that we could use. There has always been inequality in fandom and I think there always will be. I feel it is up to the ones who do have access to stories etc to try our best to pass them on to people who don't. Same as how circuit stories were (and still are?) being passed around from friend to friend.
I've mentioned before that my first exposure to slash was through the Internet. A few months after I started this little hobby -- okay, obsession -- I saw a few comments from older fans about how much fandom had changed with the influx of online people, and the change wasn't always for the better.
Being the sane, reasonable person I am, my immediate reaction was a calm and considered (and, fortunately, trashed before I had the poor judgement to actually send it) "Well, screw you, too." Who were these people to judge me because my only access to fandom was by keyboard?
I think the situation is now officially reversed. Recently on one of my lists, someone made a comment that she didn't believe another party was a real writer... after all, she didn't have anything posted on the Net, did she? And I winced to see the elitism going the other direction. Has fandom become primarily a cyber-phenomenon, with zines merely something that writers can send stories to when they want their fiction to have pictures?Okay, that's probably going too far. After all, go to any mailing list and you'll see ads for zines, and requests for zines, and reviews of zines. If anything, the Internet has almost certainly expanded the audience for zines. I just went to look at my checkbook, and without getting into dollar amounts, we can just say that I'm doing my part to support the zine industry.
By 1998, fans were emailing in their thoughts and feelings about fan fiction and fandom to the the Sci-Fi section of About.com. They even included fan fic recommendations and links to their recommendations, along with their names and email addresses. While About.com was not a for profit website, it was hardly a fannish forum and showed just how far fandom had come in terms of embracing the visibility that the Internet provided.
Basically, the Net got too easy.
Back when the concept of the Internet was first starting to take off as an idea that would be sold to people's homes (prior to the phrase "World Wide Web" becoming a household word) you had to first cut your teeth on technology in order to get anywhere.
One of the March 1999 issues of Entertainment Weekly had an entire section devoted to the concept of how the ease of access plus the increase in users has brought the level of discussion on the Internet down considerably. They also commented on how many of the older Net members have responded by retreating to web boards and mailing lists, which I think is something we all can relate to.Which is a shame. The lowest common demoninator [sic] shouldn't be the one to decide how things will be, yet it seems like that's the way it is. What I wish is just for a way to bring back that learning time. A method by which people could earn their stripes before being let loose on the Net.
To me, it seems the biggest loss in the metamorphosis to an online existence (which, by its ease, allows many more people to find fandom) is passion. Because it was, for starters, so difficult to even find *out* about fandom -- let alone figure out how to be a part of it -- fandom was restricted to those who were highly passionate about their particular show. There was too much an effort in being a fan to attract those who were only casually interested. Most all fans gave back to fandom, because they realized how rare and precious it was, and looked upon it as something special and unique.Now, the net allows the most casual of fans to participate, and they come into it wondering what each fandom has to offer them. They want to know what fandom is going to do for them, rather than what they're going to do for fandom. The sense of shared passion about a mutual obsession is gone. I think, for many fans, fandom is just another one of many interests -- which is why they're puzzled as to why some old-timers feel so strongly about "bashing" a story -- and there isn't that feeling of sharing something unique with others who are equally obsessed. I miss that most of all But you can't fight "progress".
Fanfic is also dangerously illegal. When the stuff was distributed the old-school way, in xeroxed pamphlets at S.F. conventions, it was harder for companies to crack down on it. Now that most fanfic is on the Web, however, bored attorneys can do a Google search and come up with 16 potential lawsuits in 10 minutes.
Sentinel fandom was born largely online. The Internet provided the connection between fans all over the world. I was already in fandom when I got into TS, and a friend pointed me in the right direction to find lists, etc. I think getting in on the ground floor of a fandom today is pretty easy. A new show comes on that you like, so you do a search on YahooGroups or the 'net in general and find the fanfic and lists, etc., and join up. I think at the birth of S&H fandom, it was a lot of word-of-mouth and circulated mail, since there was no central communication system tying it all together. Plus, once you know *any* fandom exists, it's pretty natural to seek out fandoms for your other favorite shows. If you don't know it's there, you're not likely to look for it.
Even as more fans realized that Internet visibility was here to stay, small pockets of fandom continued to fret over the Internet. In 2005, one fan proposed the following panel for Zebracon: "Securing online fandom....now that many of us are online, how can we sufficiently hide ourselves so that we all don't get slapped with cease and desist letters? With subtopics of web of trust issues, open media (mailing list servers, websites, blogs, etc.), encryption techniques, anonymity and the 'net, etc." Let's face it -- the same things that make it easy to find each other make it easy for TPTB to find us. Does anybody have a plan?" To which one reader commented: "Do we actually need [a plan]? I mean, can we really hide? I think that if we try and fly under their radar, as in don't shove it in their faces, we will be ignored. As we have been since fandom proper started in the ST days.
I am amazed at how...er...playful fans have become, now that they are online. I suspect many of these stories would never have seen the light of day in the era of dead-tree fandom. (There's at least three Due South stories where Benny is romantically involved with his dog.) I remember how controversial it was when fans started exploring pairings other than K/S. People acted like you were breaking up a marriage if you paired Spock with, say, McCoy instead of (or in addition to) Kirk. Now, anything goes.
Being on the net early on, I got to watch fandoms use of it evolve. The newsgroups had their run (and got filled with spam). The web grew more and more important. More chat programs. More EVERYTHING.... The internet obviously changed everything. I think some people assumed fandom just "migrated" there, but I think they're wrong. Some fandoms used it more than others. Others evolved ON it. Some fandoms evolved in parallel on and off net, producing odd conflicts. The "more of everything" factor plays a role.
I think fandom grew and splintered as it got online - there's a lot more people now following various fannish pursuits, but there's also a lot more specialization. Used to be, if you were a fan, you were just 'in fandom' - usually referring to convention and APA/zine publishing fandom, and you could be reasonably sure that a fan in Seattle had a similar outlook and experience as a fan in Tampa. Now, you'll get people who focus their fan energies onto, say, just vidding, or Fullmetal Alchemist fanfic, of Harry Potter roleplay, and who may not have much in common with each other - the Lord of the Rings fanfic BNF in Seattle may not have any connection with the Gundam model maker in Tampa.
I always harp on how the meaning of 'fandom' has changed - used to be the concept of using it in plural was just ... unthinkable. If you were a fan, you were in fandom, and exactly /what/ you were a fan of wasn't that important. It started to change a little bit with the splintering off of media fandom with Trek in the 1970s, but didn't hit its stride until a few years ago online.Mind you, I find that many people still in traditional fandom and many people in the new versions of fandom have no real clue about the true size of the other's version of fandom. I run into people all the time who think that 'fandom' means fanfic, period, and there are many Old-Tyme Fans who don't really pay attention to fanfic and don't realize how big and elaborate a culture it is.
...I think that the instant availability of fannish material has devalued it to some extent. Once upon a time, to find a person of like mind and interest to oneself was a rare and precious event and they became a friend to be treasured. Online, there are people of at least similar minds and interests just a click of a mouse away: all of them nameless and faceless, hidden behind user names and netspeak, their identities often indiscernible one from the other. This applies perhaps even more strongly to fiction - now 'fanfic', not 'fan fiction', and 'beta read', not 'proofread' or 'edited'. The sheer bulk of it, and its ready availability - for free! You don't even have to pay the $10 for a zine any more! - leads, in the way of familiarity, to near-contempt; one can click on a story, skim through it and go on to the next one, and the next, with barely any effort at all. Never mind that the writer has put as much time and thought and passion into the writing as s/he (usually she, let's face it) would have had to do no matter in what medium she was being published; the finished product is all that matters, and the writer herself is often overlooked, taken for granted, or forgotten altogether.
The different fanfic eras explained as lunch:
Pre-internet era: You walk into a room and sit down at a table. Someone brings you a turkey sandwich, a bag of potato chips, and a soda. Perhaps you are a vegetarian, or gluten-free. Doesn’t matter; you get a turkey sandwich, a bag of potato chips, and a soda.
Usenet era: You walk into a room and sit down to your turkey sandwich, a bag of potato chips, and a soda. Someone tells you that over at the University they are also serving BLTs, pizza, coffee, and beer.
Web 1.0 (aka The Great Schism): You walk into a room. The room is lined with 50 unmarked doors. Someone tells you, “We have enough food to feed you and a hundred more…but we’ve scattered it behind these fifty doors. Good luck!”Web 2.0 (present): You walk into a room. Someone points at the buffet and says, “Enjoy!” You turn to see a 100-foot-long buffet table, piled high with every kind of food imaginable. To be fair, some of the food is durian, head cheese, and chilled monkey brains, but that’s cool, some people are into those…and trust me, they are even more psyched to be here than you are.
- Why Internet Manners Changed, Archived version, by The Brat Queen (unknown date)
- Coming Soon To A City Near You (1996)
- Sandy Herrold's 1996 Slash Fandom Survey
- Internet Fans Controversy Du Jour (Sandy Herrold) (1997)
- Sci-fi fans who are users of the Internet: take a stab at rewriting your favorite shows by Melissa Perenson (February 1998)
- Censored ("an essay on Net vs Print K/S Fans") by Judith Gran (1999)
- Here Today, Zined Forever (January 2001)
- How The Internet Can Save Us, And Why It Won't Last by Mie Tsukikoushi (2001)
- Fanfiction.net: The Worst Thing That's Ever Happened to Fanfiction? (2002)
- Other Web Services Assisting Fandom - Fanthropology - The Study of Fandom, Archived version (2005)
- Internet and Fandom, discussion at Fanthropology (February 2006)
- Fandom 1994-2000-ish, arduinna's 4-part essay about Western Media Fandom during the early Internet years (2012)
- Was Fanfic Any Different in the Olden Days? (2015)
- What was the first Internet community you were part of? Bonus points if you can pin down the year., Archived version (January 2021)
- "Does anyone have any information about Star Trek slash fanzines, or Trekkie fanzines in general?" is an extremely early mention of this genre on soc.motss, posted 1 January 1991, accessed 18 November 2012
- Free hosting services do not charge the website owners. Instead, they earn revenue from advertisers who pay to place commercial banners on the site, usually at the top of each page.
- [email protected], Archived version by Karen Yost (June/July 1993)
- Franzeska in “Re: Sharing and Preserving Printed FanFic” from Zine List, quoted by permission, 6.1.2011
- Janice A.'s post to Lysator on March 24, 1994.
- comments from Comlink #52 and 53
- from Comlink #51
- from Comlink #50
- from Comlink #54
- from Comlink #55
- from Comlink #55?
- Crossing the Line, Escapade 1998 panel report
- a fan on Lysator (April 18, 1996)
- from Rallying Call #18
- from Late for Breakfast #28
- from Late for Breakfast #28
- from Late for Breakfast #30
- My God, what a concept! by The Divine Adoratrice, October 27, 1997
- A single page from the Weekly Fan Fiction forum survives and can be read here
- Why Internet Manners Changed, Archived version, by The Brat Queen
- a 2001 post at VenicePlace, quoted anonymously, August 15, 2001
- Fanfic of the Damned: I like to play a little game when online to avoid working; it's called "find the weirdest fanfic.", Archived version, by Annalee Newitz, June 4, 2002
- from The Pits Mailing List, quoted anonymously (Apr 14, 2003)
- Post The Technology of Fandom. - Surety? at fandom-tech dated April 18, 2005.
- Leigh at 'Slash' Fiction - In Search of a Definition from [simegen-L] - June 2005, Archived version
- comment by dragonscholar at Fanthropology: Fandom: Evolution, Archived version, January 31, 2005
- comment by telophase at Fanthropology: Fandom: Evolution, Archived version, February 1, 2005
- comment by phoebesmum at Fanthropology: Fandom: Evolution, Archived version, February 2, 2005
- berlynn-wohl.tumblr, February 29, 2016