Fandom and the Underground

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See also: Privacy, Outing, Linking to Public Fan Sites, Pseuds, Fandom and Visibility
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The nature of fandom has traditionally been an underground one.

The legal status of fanworks and other fannish activities makes many fans wary of publicity.

Fans are often distrustful of publicity due to media potrayals of fans and of being a figure of derision or ridicule from non-fans.

Many fans, especially those who create and consume same sex and erotic fanworks, do not want the attention of who they consider to be outsiders.

Some Varying Definitions of Underground Fandom

Early Underground

In the beginning, there was Drawerfic.

Drawerfic sometimes led to zines.

In 1981, George Lucas also tried to curb fan activities, namely zines, something this fan vehemently opposed. She cited the underground nature of fandom and how:

I cannot be party to the idea of adult material being one on an underground level. Why? Because it is totally absurd. Fandom IS underground, folks. It is a subculture in itself... Organia will print any such material that the editors CHOOSE. And we the editors will CHOOSE stories oriented to whatever form we desire. Some of our material deals strictly with friendship, aspirations, and hopes. Some expresses a society's views on morality and concepts differing from original creations on the screen. Other stories contain explicit sex... This, of course, SCARES Papa Lucas. Fandom SCARES Lucasfilms. They want and need control and if fandom plays into their hands, they will have control by consent. [1]

Many a story slid past the Lucasfilm guidelines without repercussion. And Star Wars slash was being written, it was just underground. [2]

Slash and Underground

Ironically, it was David Gerrold who "outed" slash and zines. A fan relates to others a phone call she recently had with David Gerrold: "According to David, he didn't want to mention K/S in the revised edition of The World of Star Trek, feeling it best left 'underground,' but did so at the urging of his editor who encouraged him to write his impressions of the genre."[3] Gerrold's nod to slash zines and materials was often the very thing that alerted eager and curious fans to the very thing he'd hoped to quash.

Levels of Underground Fandom

Kept Away from TPTB

A fan writes of the underground nature of early Pros fandom:

It's difficult now for people to understand the secrecy, if not paranoia, Professionals slash fandom seems to have started in, but there was a reason for it. To a certain (but not very great) extent, it was because it was a British series with (at that time) a British-based fandom. It was one thing to write about Kirk and Spock swearing undying love and devotion and enjoying a sexual relationship; Gene Roddenberry and Paramount were on the other side of the Atlantic. But Brian Clemens was on the doorstep and could easily come knocking at the door if he found out about such material and its source. [4]

The editor assures her readers that a letterzine is underground:

Yes, I'm sure the S&S people aren't getting SSI -- I'm still on the "outside", aren't I? We're not just talking copyright infringement here, but defamation of character, as well as some other illegalities too hideous to mention. Don't worry, though, if they ever do a "sweep", I'll eat the sub list and burn the extra copies of the zines! [5]

I take the liberty of speaking for the entirely of the serious S/H fandom in saying that under no circumstances would any of us ever wish to anger, annoy, upset, or otherwise desire either of these men [the actors]…. This decision not to print was not forced on [names of three fans]. It was a concern for the actors and their families, which prompted the decision not to present temptations of such magnitude to those who feel that ‘sharing’ S/H zines would be the proper thing to do… And where, pray tell, would that leave us? Bound, gagged, and meek? Not if I know fans. It leaves us still writing whatever we please… Writing goes underground and not a word is published… I state plainly that after the publication of LA Vespers #2, you will never read my byline again in a fanzine. I can list about ten of fandom’s best writers whose last works for publication will appear by the spring of next year. After that, nothing…. But the writing will go on. More will be produced that could be printed in a dozen fanzines…but fandom at large will never read it… Damning S/H to the obscurity of private and limited circulation between trusted friends is not right, but it would appear to be fandom’s decision to thus damn. So be it. [6] someone who has been involved in K/S right from the beginning) I prefer the days when K/S was strictly underground—when K/S zines weren’t openly distributed at conventions, and when Leonard and Bill could go to those conventions and not have to be worried about answering such questions. After all, it is their faces that are being drawn in all that K/S art and if I were in their place, I would be somewhat embarrassed by that... I really don’t care what Leonard or Bill think about K/S, I don’t think any K/S fan does, and even if Leonard and Bill came right out and said they hated the whole idea of K/S and thought it was really sick or whatever, I don’t think that would stop any of us from writing, drawing or buying K/S. And since I believe this to be the case, maybe we should all do our best to be sure Bill and Leonard aren’t exposed to it anymore. written of these two men... To me, it seems we are doing ourselves a serious disservice by trying to bring K/S into the mainstream of Trek. [7]

Marion Zimmer Bradley says in the introduction to Leroni of Darkover that there are things that she couldn't write about Darkover without losing her intellectual integrity - and then announces that this fan anthology specifically excludes feminist rants. I guess she covered that ground pretty thoroughly in Renunciates of Darkover, but man, I can't imagine that contemporary fandom wouldn't chafe at having what they can and can't circulate determined by the creator of the canon. I can only imagine that there must have been some underground fanzines circulating everything that Zimmer Bradley didn't allow space for in her fanon - or did the fact that there was an official fanon mean that people competed to get into it and abandoned fan-only publication? [8]

The underground as being bad for Paramount and TPTB, because above-ground fandom made them more money:

It may be that after the mailing of COH I will simply dispose of my mailing list and never accept another order from someone who doesn't come personally recommended. That would make Trek underground indeed. If everyone felt that way, and if G+W does get tough, it would put INTERSTAT, UT, and FORUM out of business. What a shame, what a waste. What a loss to Paramount if new fans couldn't plug in to the exciting world of zines and letterzines and the community of fandom. [9]

Kept Away from Everybody: Except Me and My Friends aka the "Right People"

The Black Notebook, by the way, is the big black three-ring binder, or expandable manila folder, or large cardboard box, in which are kept the early drafts, critique galleys, or complimentary copies of a fan's own or someone else's unpublished stories. The Black Notebook is an artifact of the second period of the fan literature, late 1980 to 1982, the hush-hush period. Not til The Professionals was there a fandom with as many unpublished or downright subterranean stories about. There were secret series, secret round-robins, even a secret letterzine for awhile in 1981. Most of this underground stuff was S/H, and the reason that it was so encrypted was the fear and occasional paranoia that Spelling-Goldberg would sue the writers. Hence "The Zine With No Name"; CODE 7 I. There are no editors, no artists, no writers credited in this 1981 publication. Other stories remained buried because their authors gafiated before they were finished. From time to time some incanabula surface, but sadly, most may molder away, in obscurity, forever. [10]

I also prefer, as [fan's name] said, keeping K/S quieter. Shit, I remember being bothered that K/S was mentioned in a TV Guide special magazine a few years ago, for just anybody in the supermarket line to read about. Now I don't mind the general public knowing about K/S (except with the net, the general public's knowledge-gathering ability is raised to a fine art), but I don't want distracters and those inclined to cause trouble to know where to find it. As far as that goes, and although this really isn't the issue, I feel like, who needs the general public, the philistines, to even know about K/S. I don't need or want any respectability lent to these activities. I don't mind being underground about it at all; I prefer it. [11]

Yes, I have recently read parts of Textual Poachers, along with most of Enterprising Women by Camilla Bacon-Smith. Just the idea that there, were people out there doing serious scholarly studies of fandom disturbed me. The copious footnotes in both books make it clear that this isn't a new trend, either. I haven't been a K/Ser long, but I've been a fan most of my life. It may currently be in vogue to be a Star Trek fan (neofen think "Trekkie" is a complimentary term), but I was teased and insulted for it so unmercifully during my adolescent years that I'm still sensitive about any nonfan even knowing about my affiliation. And that goes double for K/S. So I did feel quite threatened at the thought of these "ethnographers" and other scholars making our underground "culture" public. Both Jenkins and Bacon-Smith appear to be sensitive to this concern; they say it often enough, but that didn't stop them from shouting a lot of our secrets from the rooftops. Still, I take comfort from the fact that they've probably sold more of these books to us than to nonfans or other "outsiders" . . . [12]

I also think that K/S does not belong on nation-wide radio & can be eternally grateful that it didn't happen in the U.S. K/S has always been underground & has been ignored by those who could cause all of us a lot of trouble so far. I simply don't think we need any further exposure to the general public than we've already received in recent months. [13]

I think there’s a balance somewhere that we’re never going to get exactly right, just teeter-totter around. I’m not concerned with fourth wall breaking in an “OMG, they know about me!” way, but I do share your concern that fourth wall breaking means fandom, or at least parts of it, dives underground and makes it harder for new people - and even for some of us who aren’t new, if we aren’t already friends with people who lock things - to participate. There just doesn’t seem to be a technically viable way to make things only visible to the right people (including new people who aren’t yet part of the community but would like to be) that doesn’t also make them potentially visible to people the posters don’t want to see it. [14]

Kept Away from Family and Non-Fan Friends

  • often referred to as being "in the closet"
…"/" fandom is messier can of worms. I couldn't write it ... I sure couldn't illo it either, not with a straight face, but, yes, I read it. I have a couple of stories that I'll treasure forever (they made it believable for me) but I really don't advertise it. Nobody I know is that tolerant. My husband knows that I have some zines that deal with the premise, but strangely enough, that doesn't bother him as much as the fact that I must be in love with Lewis Collins. My mother would faint dead away, I am sure. My best friend knows about it, but can't see past the fact that it's homosexuality. My kids are too young to know about it. [15]

It's really horrible to try to explain fandom to someone who has no sense of what you're on about. Personally, it's not something I'm ashamed of being involved in, but it's not worth the effort trying to explain it. Most of my friends, family, and co-workers know that I'm “really into” HP and that I attended a conference, but truly, they don't know what that actually means because it's not something they're familiar with. Blank stares abound when trying to explain how you can endlessly discuss a series of books. [16]

I haven't been able to bring myself to tell my friends and family, just because a)they're not sci-fi-obsessives like me and b) they really, really wouldn't get it. [17]

…my dear, sweet, intolerant husband has informed me that I cannot use his name [her last name as well] on any letters, artwork or stories/poems I may submit to the Lzine or any other zine. (He got a hold of my somewhat radical statement in last month’s Lzine.) Hence, the pseudo-moniker. So, if you have not added two and two and come up with 3.7689 squared to the nth power times pi… you know who dis is! [18]

Yup...I am a closet beastie. lol Why? Because I discovered that in general other people didn’t see the series as I did, and often you get upsetting remarks about it so I decided to keep it all for myself. [19]

Being Underground as a Precaution

The movies were then often shown in organized underground meetings, and confrontations with the police, arrests etc. were not seldom: Organizers were known to throw the video-players out of the window to get rid of the evidence. [20]

Due to Legal and Copyright Concerns

I personally can't see how the fair use provisions apply to publishing K/S at all (Anybody out there want to make a case for it. I'm listening. Obscure interpretations of the copyright law are a professional interest of mine.) The damages provision (which was designed mostly to protect libraries making copies for interlibrary loan) is a disincentive for Paramount to come after us, but it doesn't make what we're doing legal. While I don't think Paramount could actually stop slash, they could, given sufficient motivation, drive us so far underground that LA Times article will look like an alternate reality. [21]

[Regarding the crop of acafan books]:... what we are doing is definitely ILLEGAL under U.S. copyright law. No wonder we prefer to keep it underground! [22]

Due to Moral Outrage

Underground Fandom: It's Way More Fun that Way!

A fan comments on NASA/Trek and naughtiness:

I have just finished reading Constance Penley’s book NASA/TREK, the second half of which is devoted to the writings we so indulge in. She refers to it so often as “pornography” that I was beginning to feel uncomfortable. Her study does not reveal anything new about the genre, just puts it more into the mainstream. One thing that made me react in Penley’s book was her statement, and admission, that some fans get a kick out of simply receiving a plain wrapped package that has passed unknowingly through so many public hands. At first I laughed and scoffed, then I realised that this was in fact the case for me on some occasions, the feeling that I was doing something “naughty” and getting away with it. [23]

The thing is, most fans like K/S being underground. They like the fact that they can interact with other K/Sers only, unchallenged by the outside world. Promoting it too publically scares people. Finding people to run [K/S or slash] panels at sf conventions would be difficult... Most people don't even want K/S talked about in scholarly circles (though that hasn't stopped the scholars from studying it thoroughly in excellent books such as Textual Poachers by Henry Jenkins or Enterprise Women by Camille Bacon-Smith.) [24]

A fan comments on the frog brooch and how it

"[It] gave others the signal and allowed them to broach the alternative topic with you. The 'secret club' idea continues to appeal (to me) so much more than the modern let's-tell-the-whole-world openness of today. Even in the five... no six... no, has to be seven years since I found my way 'in', there has been a noticeable change in attitude, but I'll always be of the opinion that restricting the knowledge adds an extra layer of intrigue and excitement. [25]

There was a drawback to the movies, though. ST fandom started coming out of the closet, becoming a bit too mainstream for my taste. I like my fandoms underground. Now, with the web, worrying about that little bit of light shone on it seems silly, of course, but I remember being bothered by it while I was thrilled with getting more ST. [26]

Slash is not just a new kind of women's literature. It is a means whereby we may defy a wide variety of social conventions and taboos, a communal body of work with which we can epater la bourgeoisie. Slash is an underground sisterhood with several thousand members, whose adherents share a semi-secret clandestine pleasure. (Pleasures are always sweeter, of course, when they are clandestine.) [27]

Underground Fandom as a Private Club

For some fans, fandom being underground is a way to be exclusionary, and/or a reward for those who are truly deserving.


Shared interests and experiences make a fandom – cons, zines, letters indulged together. New people are always coming in, and generally they catch on, blend in within a short time. However, after two or three years, there are simply some many in-jokes, so much underground gossip, so many secrets, and so many unsharable experiences, that the newcomers can’t make sense of the older fans – so they surge off together in a new direction , to share their own cons, zines, letters, jokes, secrets, and experiences. And the next fandom comes into being. …We can’t go back to the early days of S&H, to the Eden we think it was… [28]


Please don't write letters to CREATION, for a variety of reasons. Essentially, we don't want to stir up a war. K/S has always been and shall always remain an underground pleasure for those of us who had the good luck to find it, and rather than fight with the CREATION folks, who don't want K/S at their convention; we would much rather let sleeping dogs lie, so to speak. In other words, CREATION is meant to be a commercial event, with commercial prices and controlled events. And rather than stir up the proverbial hornet's nest and bring Paramount crashing down on everything, it is our decision to either not attend CREATIONS or to keep everything hidden under the table, as we have been requested to do. [29]


Many of the most active members of the current K/S printzine community became active in K/S in the early 1990s, a period when K/S was in a state of contraction following the Great K/S Expansion of the 1980s. The average K/S zine circulation had fallen from up to 1,000 to slightly more than 100. So, the "typical" member of the current crop of printfen began writing at a time when K/S fandom consisted of a small number of women, mostly in the US, mostly straight and married, who all knew one another and read and reacted to one another's stories...*Current* K/S print fandom has become so respectable and bourgeoisified that it seems to have little edge left. K/S printfen are not the underground any more, they are the mainstream, the nice straight housewives. So the freewheeling diversity and gender-bending of the net culture is not necessarily the printfan's cup of tranya. [30]


Having just come from Escapade... I'm going to address a touchy topic: the generation gap in slash fandom. While age is not the only factor, because of the tendency for the young in years to be netfen, it does play a crucial role. I've never considered myself an elderfan, yet after attending the con and particularly the panel dealing with the gen gap, I now accept the label even though I've been in slash random less than a decade. Actual age and years in fandom seem to be far less important, than the way fandom manifests itself in the fan's life. Old fen are primarily (though not exclusively) con-and-printzine fen, whereas young fen tend to be solitary netslash fen. Many youngfen see no real point in cons, look blank when you mention mentoring, have no sense of community and think that the idea of fan ethics is laughable. They will not consider paying money for a zine when they can read all the slash they want "free" online. When challenged about the expenses of maintaining a computer and accessing the Internet, they rarely accept that those financial drains are part of the payment they make for the "free" slash. Many are militant about the overall freedom of the Net and have blinders on regarding potential legal dangers from copyright holders, governments and individuals who take issue with the concept of fanfiction and/or slash. They show little or no interest in the "history of fandom" and the traditions of our underground, outaw community. [31]


I don't like the mainstreaming of fandom, but it's not because of embarrassment. I've always been kind of an elitist nerd, if you know what I mean. I used to hate hearing people at school discussing Harry Potter, like "this bunch of newbs shouldn't be talking about something they don't understand". I'm a lot more tolerant and less haughty now, but I still get that feeling when I see how common knowledge fandom is becoming. I don't want the average Joe knowing what fanfiction is. I don't want dumbasses on facebook using memes and talking about shipping. I don't like this stupid trend of portmanteau-ing every pairing like it's not a fucking ship if you don't call it by a ridiculous smush name. To be honest, at the end of the day, being in fandom makes me feel like part of something special and cool and I want it to stay that way.

However, I don't think fandom is "becoming younger". Young people have always been in fandom, it's just that it used to be the norm that we would pretend to be older and not flaunt our underageness around on the internet. I started reading fic and RPing and stuff like that when I only had one digit of age. But I always pretended I was over 18, and so did everyone else. These days the difference is people go around talking about being in school, about their lives and real names and shit, all on the open, and that does annoy me because I hate this trend in the last few years of internet and Real Life coming together. It's the fault of the social networks. Now we have a bunch of fuckers going on the internet, using their real names and shit, and it's become unavoidable, at least in my country. You can't not have a facebook. It pisses me off and that's not the direction I wanted the internet to take, but what can I do, other than sneer and generally be unpleasant about it? Not much.

Subject: Re: I like fandom/fanfic/shipping better as an underground movement: Yes, that's also pretty much my reasoning as to why the mainstreaming of fandom makes me feel uncomfortable. I'd like to be able to say I'm just embarrassed or that I'd like all these young'uns to get offa ma lawn *shakes cane* but in truth I've always viewed fandom as being kind of an exclusive thing that only certain people will ever be able to interact with. Quite possibly I just have a severe case of ~*special snowflake*~ syndrome about the whole topic, but there you go. [32]

The Underground as a Way to Disperse Information Within Fandom

  • underground as a way to disperse previously published works (Maya, RPS, piracy, circuit stories, scantlation)

"There is an underground trade in her stories via email, and the pdf had been available on Megaupload before the site was shut down." [33]

From History of Scanlation: Some fans are worried, seeing this as the first step towards the closing of database or release-tracking sites such as MangaUpdates that have not yet been contacted by publishers. Others see this as a call for the scanlation community to self police and return to its earlier stance on licensed series. Fans outside of the US who rely on English language scanlations but who do not have access to commercial US releases have been particularly vocal about their disappointment.

It is widely speculated that this crackdown may drive scanlators underground--back to IRC or to locked forums and livejournal communities.

Now You See Us, Now You Don't

Underground Fandom: the open secret, and how do fans find each other?

Some fan comments:


There are a lot of underground stories circulating right now (even in Alaska I’ve seen some!) attempting to deal with this question. [34]


There is currently being disseminated within Fandom a raunchy attempt at parody entitled, 'When Universes Collide,' written by someone with no talent and even less imagination. It makes no effort to be literature, but is an out-and-out slam... The humor is extremely low level (one needs a Retch Bag handy when reading) and panders to an extremely jaded sense of humor. What makes this so bad is the author doesn't even have the courage to claim it, but uses the name 'Louisa M. Alcott.' I do not know who the gutless wonder is who perpetrated this, but I do know that the editors of the zines this story slams are courageous enough to attach their names to any derogatory statements or criticism they make. They do not anonymously circulate such a piece of garbage. The story is nothing but a cheap shot by a very jealous person, and I think it's a real shame that a fan could sink so low. Perhaps it is intended as a joke, but it isn't funny. It's sick. It's pathetic, and so is the author. If any of you would like to judge this piece of smut for yourselves, send me an SASE with two stamps, and I'll be happy to send you a Xerox copy. [35]

'Dust to Dust' by Downes is the only piece in the Mahko Root that hits at the K/S 'relationship' so famous in underground fandom at present. Actually, the incident detailed has no connection with the remainder of the story, and while I enjoyed it for what it was, to me it appeared to be simply added as an afterthought to an otherwise action-adventure story in the ST manner. MR will probably quickly sell out and become a collector's item. [36]


An "underground" is hard to define really. To the whole of the actual fans of Star Wars who exist throughout the world, Star Wars fandom in general might appear to be an underground of sorts. But within SW fandom there is an underground. It is a nebulous thing at best and you may be a part of it and not know it. As I define the underground in fandom, it is any information or activity that could not be discussed or exchanged except between a select few people. The underground goes about its secretive ways through phone conversations, letters and face-to-face meetings between fans. Oddly enough, it was this underground fandom which sprung up almost immediately after Star Wars was released before any of the formal lines of communication could be set up for the "real" fandom. I had always assumed that the underground took longer to get started. Not so. Scarcely had the applause died down from the first screening of the film in some cities when fans were on their phones talking about trading cassette recordings of the film, or doing X-rated Han pictures. And within a month anyone who had kept their ears open knew somebody who had a friend, who knew somebody with contacts with those people who stole those 6,000 slides... And there was talk of someone who purloined a whole 70-mm copy of the film somewhere, and someone else was selling videotapes in Betamax format for $200 a copy. Of course, much of this was unsubstantiated or bloated rumor, but by the time the first major Star Wars fanzine hit town the fans were knee-deep in more fannish activity than I could list here. The speed the underground had getting started can be attributed to the fact that the people who started SW fandom were already members of other fandoms. The lines of communication between the fans were already established. It took as long for that first underground communication as it takes to dial a phone or send a letter in the mail. Officially, Star Wars fandom could not be said to exist until the first major zine appeared, bringing together the works of a number of fans for a larger audience." [37]


I was right in the middle of the forming of SW fandom. I was right in the middle of the underground too, writing as I did a couple of X-rated stories. I love those midnight phone calls to Pittsburgh and Chicago and the sharing of all that information that not everyone is supposed to know, but does anyway. Watching a fandom evolve from nothing more than a two hour movie has been one of the better experiences of my life and being involved in it is a hell of a lot of fun. [38]


Well, the word is out: The Paramount Pinheads are planning to kill off Spock in the revived version of ST. They wanted it kept secret, but fandom has an underground that outdoes the CIA. [39]


I’ve been involved with K/S since 1976, so the idea of this type of relationship was not new to me. Secondly, I knew of the S/H underground even though I had not read any printed material. So when I first started watching S&H it just seem natural to assume the relationship already existed. [40]

My own sympathies lie with the fan fiction tradition group, and I strongly hope Lucasfilm can be persuaded to back down in the area of other specific no-nos, as it did in the case of my specifically prohibited no-no. (For the sake of the five or ten people out there who didn't hear about it through the underground grapevine, that specific no-no was the use of homosexual characters -- non-explicit -- in SWARS fiction, including one very minor Imperial from the movies.) [41]


…I was familiar with a number of underground stories, and a large number of writers who had good ideas but nowhere to share them. Thrust seemed an answer—if I had the balls to do it. [42]


E.D. Productions were the first people to actually publish UNCLE slash material. There is quite an underground of N/I, some of it much better that was actually published, but this could be true to the fact that E.D. Productions simply didn't know how to get in touch with the proper sources. [43]


"No Way In" by Catocala (sp?) was the first slash I ever read. Even though it was A/V, I loved it. That was in December of 1991...I'm a late bloomer. The first time I read _about_ slash was quite awhile before that, in an old New Yorker article about Roberta Rogow. It briefly mentioned slash and the possibilities for B7 (the reigning passion of my life then as now) immediately leapt to mind. But I was so...innocent...ignorant...that the idea of fanzines for B7 didn't. I had no idea there were so many other people hooked on this obscure (so I thought) series. Then, in rapid succession, I read Bacon-Smith's article in the New York Times (by then several years old), and one of Penley's essays, and e-mail entered my life (a white knight in armor fashioned of e-shaped links. Never mind). I signed onto Strek-L. Somebody mentioned K/S...and B/A. When I regained consciousness, I posted a request for addresses (I'd already written to Datazine because of Penley's bibliography but received no answer). Several people answered. I mailed out my weight in SASEs. The first shipments of contraband arrived in December: Fire and Ice, Before and After, a few Resistances. I almost called into work the next day. I couldn't walk for a week.

So, I owe it all to e-mail, academics, and people who were willing to share information with me although we'd never met. I would never have found fandom, let alone

slash, without them. Of course...I'd have a lot more money now if it wasn't for them... [44]


... a Trek fan friend once chuckled repeatedly about how, "You have a letter in every single letterzine." Today, that would be the equivalent of saying I post on every topic on every applicable discussion list and LJ, though it was actually only a few print publications every few months, back then. It wasn't even so much that I liked to hear myself talk (which is my motivation now), but that I believed strongly that something as underground as fandom couldn't exist, without the willingness of its members to participate. [45]

Underground Yesterday, Above Ground Today

The Internet as a Game Changer

Trek zine fandom had faced a decade of steadily dwindling numbers, and many years of being forced to remain underground, in fear of censure from any number of sources. One can easily imagine an ever-smaller core group of fans pulling together, developing certain ideas and "truths" about their common obsession, bonding with one another in their shared views. But though this might, of necessity, lead to a certain incestuousness of ideas and themes, it also created some truly passionate, well-developed and beautifully expressed work in the form of stories and artwork. The first K/S I ever read was in zines, and I can honestly say reading a story on the net will never touch that first experience of opening a zine and having stories and artwork printed in my hands. It's not that I think the zine fic was better, but when that's your first experience, it means something. It has value. To those who lived in that world for ten years or more, it has *great* value. The development of complex ideas, the individuality of each zine, the whole tradition of this small group of passionate fans. Along comes internet fandom. Suddenly, this carefully guarded secret is anything but. These traditions and common "truths" are anything but. New ideas are valued - and the more radical the better. Many long-time fans have no computer experience, and are wary of the internet in general, and don't have the perspective to perceive that there is a value of a different kind in *not* staying underground, in reaching new fans, in shaking up those assumptions about what K/S should be. And worse, net fans don't care about that years-deep tradition, and their first experience of fandom was reading it on their computer screen, so what do they care about zines? [46]

"There has been some recent discussion in The K/S Press about K/S stories on the Internet. Well, due to a recent job change, I was required to purchase a personal computer. I’m not on the net and of course the first thing I did was to go to the Star Trek sites. I was very amazed and shocked to find out how easy it was to locate “slash” and K/S pages on the web. I did not realize how easy it was for anyone, and I mean anyone, to find out about K/S by simply typing in Star Trek on the search page and going to all the sites. And while I admit that it was a benefit to me, since I downloaded many of the stories to my PC, I was more than a bit dismayed that it was on the web so openly. It left a rather bad taste in my mouth...fact that it is now so openly displayed on the web, for anyone to see, will only add fuel to their fire and perhaps threaten our special fandom....I think that if K/S is to survive, it must remain underground...We don’t need any more nails in the coffin. K/S is not for everyone, so it shouldn’t be available to everyone. But it is and I think that is cause for worry."[47]

I would always like to have K/S kept "underground"—but NOT inaccessible to those who would search it out. Underground to me means not for public consumption—no articles in magazines and newspapers; no stories on TV about it; no common knowledge of it at all. But still available to people who are into fandom. And actually this is how it's been for many, many years—until now. I believe that "outing" K/S completely will prove to be a big mistake. And here's the most important point I would like to make; I am NOT, and I repeat, NOT inferring or referring or implying or saying or meaning or even thinking about wanting K/S off the Net. I hear and understand those who have absolutely no access to K/S or zines except via the Net. I am very glad (and I know you are too) to have found this divine obsession. And I completely understand and accept the role that the Net has had in bringing in more K/S fans—I applaud it for doing so. What I am saying is that full exposure leads to all kinds of trouble, I believe, because it brings in unwanted elements, prying eyes, and people for whom K/S is dirty, disgusting and must be squashed. For those of you who have never encountered difficulties or prejudice of K/S—that's wonderful, but it's out there in force. Even I, who live in Los Angeles, an extremely progressive city, have experienced fear and loathing of K/S...Pre-Net days, one of the biggest worries was if the zine covers were too explicit to display on your zine table. Even though TPTB were lurking everywhere, K/S was firmly underground.[48]

... recipe for which I have recently acquired a definite taste. The main ingredient of this delectable entree is CROW. Sprinkled generously with embarrassment and just a touch of humility, I find it tastes a lot like chicken... You see, having been a prime and rather outspoken opponent to internet K/S, I had an opportunity recently on a borrowed laptop to see just a sampling of what is out there. I am nothing short of astonished and nothing less than profoundly apologetic fro my earlier tunnel vision. I had simply no idea the quantity and quality of material and the pure pleasure of being able to pull these touches of K/S literally out of thin air. I am sure with the limited access I have to the internet, I have barely skimmed the surface. And I readily admit it has created much the same thirst for more than my first taste of zines in the early '80s. Would I give up zines? Not on your life. They are my bread and butter. I can hold them in my hand and know they aren't going to vanish into thin air. I can drool over the artwork for hours. I can stand and look at the rows of carefully labeled (in code) boxes and gloat over the millions of words of glorious love and devotion they contain.... Yes, my concern was and remains to some extent, that the openness of al this will force issues that might have been carefully ignored while we were underground. It may be an understatement of the century to say we are no longer underground. But I absolutely have had an eye-opening experience about the impact of instant-access K/S gratification. [49]

There will always be a few people who think K/S is wrong and who will complain loudly about it, but this has always been the case. Surely most Star Trek fans know of the issue of K/S, after all long before the Internet it was mentioned in books about Star Trek and Fan fiction…. I would just like to add that I think it’s sad that anyone should feel their privacy is threatened by the Internet, but unless you actually put something on the net, your K/S secret remains just that—a secret known only to you, your zine collection and perhaps your PC. [50]

I think it's important to distinguish between the protection of personal privacy, on the one hand, and the "underground" status of K/S fandom generally, on the other. As Greywolf pointed out, privacy is a very powerful value in the net community. In twenty-one years in K/S fandom, all the violations of K/S fans' privacy that I have witnessed have come, without exception, from within the print community. Some netfen have very specific and valid reasons not to use their real life (RL) identities when they post explicit K/S fiction, and other netfen respect that without question. The majority of net writers do not post under their "real" names or their customary e-mail addresses. It is very easy to get a free, anonymous e-mail account--consult any net fan for the particulars. Ironically, some excellent K/S writers prefer to publish on the net rather than in zines because they feel they have more privacy on the net... [51]

Underground, even on the internet: Scuttlebutts is a Scully/Skinner archive. It's the site of the Scuttlebutts mailing list that was founded in 1999.[52]

The site understood itself as a place for "underground fiction" and as a private archive for the dark side of X-Files fanfic - Skinner/Scully romance.[53]

Getting What Some of Us Wished For...Having is Not the Same as Wanting

Some fans don't enjoy canon homosexual relationships in media as it brings attention to what they feel should remain underground and subversive:

Should I be annoyed, a the fact that we are finally getting what we want undermines the original point of slash, namely a subversive re-reading of the original text by the fandom, a way for the female (and gay) viewership to re-interpret the text created by the male (and straight) dominated media industry for a male (and straight) audience and completely ignoring the female/gay viewers to give us what we want. Or should I be happy because the media industry is finally no longer ignoring us and giving us what we want. [54]

The Perils of Fandom's Increased Visibility

The Pluses of Fandom's Increased Visibility

Meta/Further Reading


  1. ^ from Alderaan #5/6 November 1981
  2. ^ Personal communication to Arduinna, March 28, 2009. Material quoted on Fanlore at Klangley's request.
  3. ^ from 1985, Not Tonight, Spock! #7
  4. ^ from Discovered In A Letterbox]] #14 2000
  5. ^ from Simon and Simon Investigations #3 1986
  6. ^ S and H #26 (October 1981)
  7. ^ from The K/S Press #19 1998
  8. ^ In which I get rather meta? by sapote, posted October 2nd, 2008, accessed February 21, 2012
  9. ^ from Interstat #60 1982
  10. ^ from A Short, Spotty History of S&H Fan Literature (1985)
  11. ^ from The K/S Press #9 1997
  12. ^ from The LOC Connection #54
  13. ^ a fan comments on The Great Australian Radio Show Fiasco in Not Tonight Spock! #9 1985
  14. ^ rsadelle has things to say (about hockey) tumblr post dated 2012 (Reblogged from dexwebster (Originally from dragontearsandcoversongs); reference link.
  15. ^ from The Who Do We Trust Times #4 published in August 1986
  16. ^ from Immeritus Interview with Tarafina 2007
  17. ^ Chronicle X Interview with Analise, 1999 or 2000
  18. ^ from S and H #26 (October 1981)
  19. ^ from Winterfest Interview with Marina Broers
  20. ^ from A History of Russian-Language Fanfiction in the 1970s and 1980s in regards to bootleg media from the West
  21. ^ from Come Together #17, 1995
  22. ^ 1992 from Comlink #53
  23. ^ The K/S Press 38 (October 1999)
  24. ^ from Charisma #17
  25. ^ from DIAL #14 2000
  26. ^ from Legacy Interview with Suzan Lovett 2007
  27. ^ from Thinking About Slash/Thinking About Women, a meta article by Edi Bjorklund in Nome #11. 1988
  28. ^ from Ruth Kurz in S and H #26 1981
  29. ^ regarding the display of K/S materials at Creation Con and the decision to start the fan con, Koon-ut-Cali-Con. From from On the Double #9
  30. ^ from A 1999 Interview with Judith Gran
  31. ^ from a fan DIAL #21 (2002)
  32. ^ comments by two fans at Failfandomanon (July 13, 1912)
  33. ^ regarding Maya's fan fiction
  34. ^ from Gerry Downes in 1976 in The Halkan Council 20/21
  35. ^ from Interstat 12 (1978)
  36. ^ from Scuttlebutt #5
  37. ^ from the 1979 essay Who Comes With Summer
  38. ^ from Alderaan #7 1980
  39. ^ comments by Leslie Fish, from Interstat #45, 1981
  40. ^ from Hanky Panky #2 1982
  41. ^ from Jundland Wastes #7 (1982) regarding Open Letter to Star Wars Zine Publishers by Maureen Garrett
  42. ^ from Not Tonight, Spock! Interview with Carol Frisbie (1984)
  43. ^ from Datazine #37
  44. ^ comments on Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (March 25, 1993)
  45. ^ by Charlotte Frost from Names I Have Been Called, posted November 23, 2012, accessed December 12, 2012
  46. ^ from COCO CHANNEL Interview with Killashandra 1999
  47. ^ The LOC Connection #34 (June 1999).
  48. ^ The LOC Connection #36 (August 1999).
  49. ^ from The K/S Press #57 1997
  50. ^ The K/S Press 35 (July 1999)
  51. ^ from Censored, a 1999 essay by Judith Gran
  52. ^ Yahoo Group, founded 27 July 1999. (Accessed 02 July 2011)
  53. ^ Scuttlebutts - Disclaimer, 2001. (Accessed 02 July 2011)
  54. ^ Slashwink. It's a Thing, Archived version, post by Teacosy, August 20, 2012