The Good Old Days

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Nostalgia and invoking The Good Old Days has been a favorite past-time of fans since day one. So too, is speculation about what constitutes their fandom's Golden Age.

The Golden Age of Specific Fandoms

Every fandom seems to have what is considered a Golden Age. Often, this coincides with the time a tv program is on the air, the time between movies or books in a franchise, or the time shortly after the release of a standalone movie.

a 1980 flyer for the zine Menagerie. The ad copy says this fanwork is "one of the Golden Oldies of Star Trek fandom."

The Past is Relative

In 1970, just a year after the original Trek was off the air, a fan thanks:
...two anonymous friends who loaned me their collections to study. And their old memories of those forgotten days of yesteryear when all the universe of the Federation and Vulcan was new. Those days when fields were green and Star Trek was on the brink of reality. [1]

The More the Better

One fan writes:
I think the decrease of a golden age in any fandom is shown by a decrease in the amount of fiction being written as well as a decrease in the standard of stories. [2]

Less is More

In 1996, a fan in Germany writes that to her, the good old days meant there were fewer fandoms to distract:
Fandom has changed. In the good old days, Star Trek was synonymous with Classic Trek. Kirk and Spock were the stars and K/S was a topic. People either loved it or hated it. And they discussed it. Today, being a Star Trek fan in Europe means to love TNG, DSP, and of course, Voyager. Many are also fans of Babylon 5 and The X-Files. Only a few still care about Classic Trek. [3]
A fan writes that the good old days had less fannish material and that equaled more appreciation:
I too feel lost in this new SW galaxy ... I am partially envious of those with time and will power to read the pro-novels. Sometimes I feel I'm being left out of the loop, wondering if I'll end up a grumpy old dinosaur lamenting for the good old days of fandom when we had only the novelizations and 'Splinter' ["Splinter of the Minds Eye"]. [4]
A fan comments that fans today have too much information:
I had just been thinking with nostalgia about the good old days when we found satisfaction with less. It's this way in all of life these days -- a glut of everything makes us want more and more faster and to be satisfied... [5]

Cliques, a Feeling of Control, and the Underground

A comment in 1989:
A really good convention committee can help make the con a great one. There was a time when we fans had some control over this: 90% of us knew, at least by reputation, 90% of the others -- and we had a pretty good idea of the interests, attitudes, capabilities, and dependability of most of the people... Fandom was a whole lot smaller than. Now, I'm surprised if I even recognized one of the names on a bidding committee... [6]
A comment in 1999:
I'm finding it difficult to make up my mind if slash on the Net is a good or bad thing, but I suppose if pushed I'd be inclined to say it has been Our Little Secret for so long now, perhaps it is time we stopped being so paranoid about it and welcomed others to the enjoyment of it. [7]
A comment from the mid-1990s:
Fan fiction isn't so special any more. It's everywhere, it's acknowledged by television producers, we're no longer the underground. [8]

People Like Me Were Smarter Back Then

A fan grouses in 1989:
Ever since I returned to fan activity a year ago, I have been carping about the way media fandom has brought about the deterioration of Fandom As I Know It... I am... unhappy about the number of 'media' fans who come passively to conventions to be entertained, and who are rarely capable of stringing ten words together in a sentence -- much less of combining two ideas and getting a third/better one, and who seem incapable of doing anything beyond the level of superficial sociality. I still think there are too many of them underfoot... [9]

Innocence and a Disillusionment with the Present

A fan comments on a Star Trek story called "First Contact":
This is a very short dialogue piece which I found to be especially endearing. I wished it could have been longer. It's simplicity and innocence somehow brought back the mood of the old K/S fiction. [10]
In 1987, a fan proposes a zine, "Return the Day", that was to be full of Star Trek; TOS death stories:
A new K/S with an old idea. Remember the classic days of K/S? Remember all that hurt and comfort and death? Well, here's your chance to return to the good old days. [11]
In 1999, a fan complains about the Sentinel fandom, one that had only been around a few years:
Kass is a new TS writer and I'm really glad she's here. Many TS stories being written and posted these days have a slick or superficial feel to them -- all slash, no emotion. Kass breaks the trend with sweet, warm, human first-time stories. These make me feel like I did when I first found Sentinel fandom, lo these many moons ago -- kind of warm and fuzzy and glad to be here. [12]
In 1984, a fan writes expresses dismay over emerging trends in K/S fiction:
First is the recent trend toward graphic violence; a new wave obsession with savage sadism and the rapture of gore…. Give me the good old Contact days of back-to-basic hurt/comfort…. In h/c, pain always had a purpose; it sanctioned the need for touch. And we all know where that eventually led to… [13]

Missing a Fannish Medium

In 1982, a fan complains about the quality of paper zines:
Not long ago, it was suggested in these pages that maybe they don’t make zines the way they used to. [14]
Shootin' in the Crick was a gen Houston Knights anthology of fiction by Catherine Schlein previously published in other zines.
This zine was published back in the days of the dot matrix printer....the good old days! [15]
From an ad for You & The Zine You Wrote In On:
This is a fiction zine devoted entirely to Hardcastle & McCormick! You won't have to pay for fancy graphics or silk-screened covers, because Rolling Thunder Press is going back to the good old days when you only paid for plain and simply good fiction!

The Good Old Days Weren't All that Good

In 1989, Pat Nussman and Jacqueline Taero wrote an article called Shaking the Bones which started with:
Remember the good old days? True, they may not have been so good in all ways. There were times when arguments became too impassioned, when controversy incited bloodletting, when fans may have cared a little too much and lost the ability to see things in perspective. But would anyone really deny that there was a time when SW fandom was more vibrantly alive than it is today? [16]
A 1991 comment:
[My] friends and I got to talking, wondering if-once-upon-a-time fandom had really been so very troublesome, or so very much better. Force knows, I've been one to bitterly complain that no one wants to get involved anymore... Still, the more we talked, the more I became convinced that this nostalgia for the "good old days" can be as destructive to fandom as any other more obvious events, such as public personal fights or rampant dogmatism. Both the good and the bad seem to get exaggerated in memory. Even after having many of my old, hot emotions rekindled by reading all the old ALDERAANs and JUNDLAND WASTES very recently, I'm inclined to murmur, no, it really wasn't all that bad. [17]
Zine ed Beth Blighton announced she was ceasing publication and was leaving fandom. The July 1994 issue of The Helpers Network Gazette reported:
In the most recent issue of Lionheart, she ascribes her decision to the backbiting, divisions, and general decline both in numbers and highmindneess in this fandom...However, it's unfortunate that Beth felt she had to publicly do the equivalent of stomping off in a huff, blaming her departure on the fact that the good old days, when everybody was loving and numerous, are now gone. I'm afraid I have news for Beth and for anybody else who's convinced things are going downhill at a breakneck pace. The good old days are a myth. [18]
A 2001 comment:
Looking back on my 5 or 6 years in fandom I'd have to agree that the best I read was early on. If I say that though I need to take into account that I was in the obsessive part of my career in Pros fandom, where almost everything was new and wonderful and even bad first time stories appealed to me. With the passage of time I discovered that lo and behold there were good and bad stories, even some of the ones I really liked at the beginning were only middling. [19]
In 2002, a fan jokes about being set up with mIRC
...in the good old days when I had 90 minutes of online time allowed per day. [20]
A fan comments in 2007:
So, yes, I *would* say that "things were better in the good old days," and I believe my glasses are still my normal prescription and not particularly rose-colored.... [21]

The Cyclicness of the Fandom

In 1981, a fan writes:
For a about the past year many fans have been clamoring for the Letterzine to return to the ‘fun’ and ‘good spirits’ of the early issues… Well, the first dozen issues weren’t really all that halcyon… But is it true that the 1-12 were relatively friendlier in tone than 13-23. In my experience, this is a natural, if regrettable, development of fandoms. If one looks back at Trek, most of the letter-and-service zines tended to last no more than 2 to 3 years. The Halkan Council, Scuttlebutt and Universal Translator [are examples]. Interstat seems to be the exception… Both in Halkan and Interstat the same phenomenon occurs: arguments get stronger and bitterer until either the zine folds or the most contentious fans leave. There’s a turnover in active fans that seems to occur over two to three years. This is so regular that at least twenty years ago, sf fandom declared a ‘new generation’ of fandom every two years; concurrently we are in 22nd Fandom. Some fandoms are more spectacular than others – 16th and 17th Fandom saw the establishment of Trekdom, 20th the splintering of Trek into ‘media’ fandoms. 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… [22]
A 2001 comment:
Maybe it is simply the case that for every golden age that passes a new one arrives. [23]

Some Conclusions

A 1991 comment:
In many ways, those of us around in the first ten years of Trekdom and at the beginning of SW fandom were pioneers. If we demand those who follow to do the same as we did, we'll be no different than old city-founding pioneers sitting around, complaining that the kids don't haul water and use outhouses or sew their own clothes like in the Good Old Days when Things Were Better. Different, yes; better, who can say? Each of our experiences of time is unique to itself.... [24]
A 2001 comment:
I think that the whole concept of a past golden age and a present decay is bogus, a conceptual errot deriving from the failure to account for the observer's personal perspective. Let me explain by asking first: what is a golden age? I think it is nothing but our fictional, reconstructed memory of a happy past that never was. It's not an objective measure, it's a nostalgic wish-turned-memory of a time we can safely embellish in recollection, since it's gone forever. It is a powerful concept, and it has a very strong appeal, that makes it easy to believe it... But a myth it is. The golden age fallacy is just a fond wish for a better age, and it is based on the idea that history goes in one direction only: always and only towards the good, or always and only towards the bad. Such an absolute sense of purpose and direction is not realistic: history dances a much more complicated dance, often retracing its step, confusing people, mixing good and bad moments in a jerky, meaningless moment... In fannish terms, I think the truth is that we have, and we always had, a mixed bag of good, mediocre and bad... but there is no finality, no steadily marching towards better or worse times. It's just random, like throwing dice. It is only our wishful thinking that makes random chance into a linear and meaningful progression. [25]

See Also

Further Reading

References

  1. from Pentathlon #1
  2. from DIAL #19 (2001)
  3. from The K/S Press #1
  4. Southern Enclave #48
  5. The K/S Press #56
  6. from Comlink #40 (1989)
  7. from DIAL #8 (1999)
  8. from Too Much Fanfic? by Nic (mid-1990s)
  9. from Comlink #40 (1989)
  10. from a review of As I Do Thee #8 in Datazine #49
  11. submission request for a zine that never got off the ground, from Datazine #49
  12. Radio Free Old-Recs, 1999
  13. from Not Tonight, Spock! #3
  14. from S and H #32
  15. from the zine's foreword
  16. from Southern Enclave #22
  17. a 1991 comment by Maggie Nowakowska in Southern Enclave #29
  18. from [1] the final 1994 issue of the Beauty and the Beast newsletter, Lionheart
  19. from DIAL #19 (2001)
  20. from Lois & Clark Nfic Archive Interview with Jen Stosser
  21. comment to the difference between fanfic and profic, dated April 6, 2007, accessed Feb 9, 2011; WebCite.
  22. from S and H #26
  23. from DIAL #19 (2001)
  24. from Maggie Nowakowska in Southern Enclave #29
  25. from DIAL #20 (2001)