How We Lost Our Fanfic Virginity

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News Media Commentary
Title: How We Lost Our Fanfic Virginity
Commentator: Pamela and many commenters
Date(s): March 11, 2015
Venue: online
Fandom:
External Links: How We Lost Our Fanfic Virginity, Archived version
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

How We Lost Our Fanfic Virginity is a March 11, 2015 article by Pamela for "The Discriminating Fangirl."

It contains 61 short testimonials of fans describing their fannish journey.

Introduction

We asked you to share stories about how you lost your fanfic virginity, and holy crap, did we get a huge response! Sixty-one of you awesome people sent us your stories, so this is going to be a very long post. But it is really great to read everyone’s very different experiences with discovering fanfic, and some of you have really hilarious stories. I laughed a lot putting this post together, and I’m also overcome by fits of nostalgia for Usenet and mailing lists and eFiction archives.

Excerpts

[Pamela]: Once upon a time, when I was a teenager back in the 90s, a coffee shop opened in my hometown. This was a momentous occasion, as my friends and I had decided that we loved coffee and these were the days before there was a Starbucks on every corner.

And the best part? This coffee shop had The Internet.

By which I mean it had computers connected to the internet. There were tables with glass tops, and the giant CRT monitors were suspended underneath the glass so you could browse the wilds of the world wide web in relative privacy. You bought a card and loaded time onto it, then inserted your card and the internet was at your feet.

So my friends and I, being completely and utterly obsessed with The X-Files at the time, went searching for stuff.

In one night, we had discovered shipping, fandom, and something that would be a big part of the next nineteen years of my life: fanfiction.

Specifically, fanfiction that was rated NC-17.

The first story we read was called “31 Flavors,” which you can still read on Gossamer. It was titillating, but the next fic is the one that really stuck with me (and probably influenced my writing habits the most strongly): Second Skin Satin. We promptly saved it to a floppy disk (which quickly filled up with X-Files fanfic), printed it out, and read it aloud to each other backstage during theater class.

And I’ve been writing smutty fanfic ever since.
[anonymous]: What I’m saying is, I lost my fanfiction virginity to terribly written 2nd perspective Harry Potter marauders quizfic. With OCs. Like, this was not that far off from My Immortal. There was also no ratings system (quizzes) so you had no way of knowing what you were in for ever with these things. But my first one was pretty innocent, so it was all good. I can’t link it because quizilla doesn’t exist anymore. Conveniently that also means no one can find my early publications without a lot of work.
[j puffly]: The first piece of fanfiction I ever read that I didn’t write was a second-person, reader-insert RPF of the New Kids on the Block, published in Bop Magazine around 1989. I was 11 or 12 at the time and considered it the absolute stupidest, most ridiculous thing I’d ever read. It involved going to the mall and probably to a concert, though the only specific memory I have is the secondhand embarrassment I got from the idea of being serenaded in a clothing store. I didn’t encounter fanfiction again until 1998, when I joined the online fandom for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. At that point it was all message boards, private archives, and Geocities/Angelfire sites. (Coincidentally, that was also when I was taking a grad-level sociology and media class that discussed the original Star Trek slash fiction.) I wrote my first story that summer and uploaded it to the Buffy Fanfiction Archive, which I’m pretty sure no longer exists.
[Clever Manka]: I watched due South back in the 90s and thought then that Ray Kowlaski and Benton Fraser sure seemed like they had something going on, but I didn’t know anyone else who watched the show and so I never had an opportunity to talk about that. Reading Kylie Lee’s fic, though, I realized I was probably Not Alone and I started looking for due South fic. Through miraculous good fortune, I first stumbled across Speranza’s fic, and then Resonant’s, and I realized that fic was the most wonderful rabbit hole I would ever find. I’m now in a few different fandoms and although I’m still not a terribly active fan, I love having the connection of fanfic with so many people all over the world. Bless the internet. Bless fic writers. I love you all.
[Frea O’Scanlin]: My first experience with fanfic involved my best friend, tiny dragons, Star Wars, and the greatest lampooning of Phantom Menace I have ever seen. I didn’t know it was fanfiction or even what fic was, at the time. All I knew was that I enjoyed the fact that she’d turned Luke Skywalker into a tiny, whiny dragon. It had to be at least 40 pages, single-spaced, in script format. I think I still have it somewhere.
[Lisa Shininger]: I want to say I’d logged in to the X-Files forum on AOL before the first episode had even aired. It was 1993. I was almost fifteen. Quickly became a lurker, and at some point in that first season people started talking about the new Usenet group people were using to discuss the show–away from the official forums and eyes. I was already using Usenet for celebrity gossip (most of which went right over my head), so I added alt.tv.x-files to my reader and transferred the bulk of my lurking there. When alt.tv.x-files.creative spun off, I either didn’t notice or didn’t think I’d be interested. About a year later, I don’t even remember how now, I was forwarded a fic from a friend – Mulder and Scully on a case somewhere, not an episode fic, something totally original where they also made out whenever they weren’t doing official X-Files-y things. So much kissing and other adult activities!

When I found out it came from atxc, I was completely hooked. Totally obsessed. Read everything I could. Neglected homework in high school. Sometimes I even skipped drinking at college a few years later to hike across campus at eleven at night when no one would be on the console in the basement of another dorm so I could print stories to read in my room. Made abortive attempts at writing my own. I’d already roped most of my friends into watching the show, but for whatever reason never tried to get any of them interested in fic writing or reading.

Bless whoever it was who started archiving the fics to Gossamer. Bless them forever.
[stonewar]: The X-files fiction fandom seemed pretty linear and it was easy to find a lot of fic. It was originally posted on Usenet which was automatically archived to ephemeral and then individual writer’s had their own sites to bundle their series together and rec other writers fics.

As the output slowed down in the X-files fandom, I jumped into the Buffy the Vampire Slayer fandom and discovered it was not as organized. There was no master archive, only a small percentage posted to usenet and stories could be found in very specialized pairing archives. There seemed to be way more output but it was harder to find. Especially since I didn’t involve myself in show discussion much as I found it distracting from the canon material and blurred the line between canon and fanfic too much for me. Crossovers galore (Twisting the Hellmouth) Willow-centric stories both het and femslash, Xander-centric post-show and YAHF (Yet Another Halloween Fic).

Since I read offline in ebook format, cut-and-paste into a document or saved html pages, I unfortunately never got into the habit of not leaving comments or feedback regularly because it inconvenient to go online and search for the story all over again. Now that I read live on broadband/cable internet I try to leave feedback more often but it’s fighting a twenty year habit.
[lemonsharks]: I picked my college because I had a fandom friend in my school’s city (this was a mistake). I fell into my career because of who I knew in fandom (one of the best choices I’ve made yet). I’ve watched my IT manager block-unblock livejournal-dreamwidth-tumblr in a period of about 20 minutes when we changed net nannies, warned her that I’d posted porn under my ravelry name, so don’t go looking if you’re not up for what you’ll find there. A fandom friend from Star Trek invited me to stay with her while my mom was missing, suicidal, and armed.

I picked up gaming because of my friends from Tortall, spent ten bucks over Christmas on a discounted copy of Dragon Age: Origins, and am sending out tender shoots of friendly overture toward people I think are nifty. Because fandom’s not *all* about the stories. It’s mostly about the people telling them.

But if you’re looking for the first story I remember, the first one to stick with me, well. Kaprice’s Tears, by Krizsta. She’s what I found when I went looking for more stories with the flavor of Tortall; she’s the reason I will go to battle over fourteen-year-old-girls’ right to write the mary sue of their heart, of the complicated-realistic OC they can’t help but love a little too much.

So that’s my story, for what it’s worth. I’ve been here since the middle, and I’ll stick around, most likely, until my end.
[kattahj]: As I entered my teens, the World Wide Web was becoming a thing. I didn’t see the point, really. In school, we tried it out, and it was fun enough, but nothing I felt a need to try on my own.

Not until I was 17-18 and down in the basement computer room with my friend, who was playing a MUD, and I needed to spend the time somehow while I waited for her. So I tried searching for Road to Avonlea, and found a fanfiction site. The story I read was called something like “Then Comes Felicity With a Baby Carriage”, which rather tells you the plot, though I can’t remember any details. I can’t even remember if it was good, but I remember being mesmerized that it existed.

A few months later, I found a fansite for Quest for Camelot, and took the whole thing a a steps further: I made friends with the webmistress, and actually started writing fics in English to be published online. After Q4C it was The Young Riders (I still keep in touch with some of those friends), and then Angel, and X-Men… at which point we’re up to the year 2000 and my fannish life was in full bloom.
[Bethany the Martian]:The friends I made there were my first exposure to fanfiction. The website that hosted the forum also hosted some fanfiction, and was part of a larger webring of Animorph fan sites. This would have been about 96 or 97, back in the wild west days of Geocities, in the days before fanfiction.net was a Thing, and so one had to do broad internet searches or go through webrings and recommendations for friends. The first fic I remember reading was a Rachel/Tobias songfic, and I believe the song used was “Take These Broken Wings”. It was angsty and ended sadly, but I remember feeling like there was a sudden surge of possibility, and there were all these new avenues open to read about characters I loved. I had sort of looked down on fanfic before this, and I can’t say that this fic immediately changed my mind, but I can say that it opened me up to having my mind changed. (This led down the road to a Janeway/Chakotay I can’t find at the moment, and writing my own secret NG and Labyrinth and Dragonriders of Pern fanfics, and into more and more fandoms. I still don’t publish my fanfic, but I have written it since I read that first fic.)
[Emily]: So I went to ff.net and started browsing. I think the first story I read on the website was for Holly Black’s novel Tithe (there were maybe 7 fics total in the category), because I was also obsessed with that. A few days later I went into the Harry Potter category and was blown away. There were so many things to read that I had never even imagined could exist (what the fuck is a lemon? a lime? severitus???)

I had a sudden burst of inspiration and realized “Holy shit there’s probably gay stuff on here.” Lo and behold, there was. I think the first slash fic I read was Ron/Harry (I have no idea why; I’ve never shipped it). It had one sexy scene involving a blowjob in a bathtub and I think I died a little I was so embarrassed.

I started to read really long slash fic (Checkmate, a Drarry story is a prime example of this), that were like 200k words long and not even very smutty. Slowly as I got older I read more and more fics with actual sex in it and moved away from what was on ff.net.

I spent 5 years of my life reading only Harry Potter fic, and I still read Teen Wolf and other fic on AO3. But it all started with Tithe and that Harry/Ron bathtub blowjob fic.

Ironically enough, I have Anne Rice’s hatred of fan fiction to thank for all of this.
[TC]: I was a young little thing, I think 13 (and for reference I’m 23 now so its been a decade) when I started reading fanfic. I found it on livejournal. It was hetfic with an OFC and it was in the Fall Out Boy fandom. I don’t even remember the original fic I read but I was entertained because it was about my favourite band and it kind of gave me the ability to imagine myself in the story cause the main character was a young girl. This led me to my journey to finding m/m fics and changing my life forever. My first gay fanfic was a Panic! at the Disco fic, pairing Brendon/Ryan obviously but again I don’t remember the fic specifically (I would’ve been maybe 15 at the time). I was young and discovering my sexuality and this opened me up to a new world of masturbation material
[Telesilla]: I was a 15 year old American Star Trek fan living in Iran in the mid 70s (because my dad had a job there) and I found copies of Star Trek: The New Voyages and New Voyages 2 in one of the English language bookstores. They were authorized anthologies of Trek fanfic published by Bantam and included plenty of what we now think of as cliched tropes – there was more than one Mary Sue for example. And I can remember at least one story where it was kind of obvious, even to a 15 year old who didn’t know what slash was, that some m/m scenes had been cut out. I read those books to pieces.
[Elizabeth Culmer]: It was February 2002. I had just turned twenty and was in the middle of a depressive episode, which meant I was spending most of my time online trying to find anything that pulled me out of myself. Somehow or other — I think I may have been looking for LotR movie art or reviews — I stumbled across Cassandra Claire’s “Very Secret Diaries” and thought they were funny. In her notes at the end of one installment, she mentioned she was also writing Harry Potter fanfiction. I had never heard of fanfiction before, but the idea didn’t seem weird to me. I mean, who doesn’t wonder what happens to characters before and after their published adventures, or speculate about turning points that might have gone differently? So I went off to investigate whichever installment of her Draco trilogy Cassandra Claire was writing at the time… and fell down a rabbit hole from which, thirteen years later, I have yet to extricate myself. (Not that I’ve tried very hard. *wry*)
[Anon Older Than Dirt]: I don’t know the name of the first fanfic I read. It would have been in a Star Trek fanzine in the very earliest days of Trek fanzines. One of us found a flyer for fanzines at a science fiction convention. And which story it was doesn’t really matter. The concept of fanfic was a blissful revelation that had a profound effect on me and my friends. More stories! Stories the shows didn’t tell! New things to discuss with friends! I could tell new stories. We all could.

My three best friends and I were in high school together all three years of Star Trek in the sixties and we watched every episode and discussed them in detail for days. One episode was also a class discussion when my English teacher brought in an audio recording of The Galileo Seven the week after it aired for a discussion of the choices made by the characters.

The four of us were thrilled when one of our families got a color TV. The first TV program I ever saw in color was Journey to Babel the first time it ever aired.
[Joan A. Miller]: I don’t remember my exact first fanfiction but it was definitely X-Files and definitely centered around shipping Mulder/Scully. I remember I used to often frequent a site called gossamer.org (it’s still active!) and I particularly enjoyed christmas challenge fics which involved taking quotes from christmas songs and working them into the fic. My favorite was one with the lyric “everybody knows a turkey” from the Christmas Song (everybody knows/ a turkey and some mistletoe/ help to make the season bright…) at the same time I started writing my first fanfiction that was just 200+ pages of self-insertion fic on loose leaf notebook paper in a binder that I carried with me EVERYWHERE. 15 years later and now I’m an aspiring fandom scholar!
[a.]: Since I was a feral fan back then who never discovered that there were Star Trek fanclubs even here in Austria, I had no idea how to find fanfiction.

It wasn’t until 1994 that I managed to get internet access via university. I had in the meantime read about the internet, and knew that there were newsgroups and so I hopped right into the newsreader and found alt.sex.fetish.startrek (this was before spam, the group later became alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated) and alt.startrek.creative.

I also went into alt.books.anne-rice, and that is where I first made contact with other fans, by sending feedback on their “specs” (their term for fanfic back then).

I read everything I could get my hands on, but eventually tended towards mainly slash.

Usenet, the alt.startrek.creative archive (via FTP!) and some personal websites were my main sources until mailing lists became more established.
[tenshinochouwa]: So: there I was, holding it all in, losing my head a bit. Trying hard to hang on.

I went out onto the Internets in the hopes of finding distractions. My brother and I were huge Starsky & Hutch fans in our youth, and I had bought us each copies of the DVD set of the first season. We hung out after chemo and watched episodes, and it seemed to cheer him up. So, after we’d finished watching the first season, I went online to see when the second season would be released, and that led me to the “Starsky and Hutch Virtual Season,” which in turn led me to Flamingo’s Starsky & Hutch Archive, a treasure trove of SH fanfiction.

I’d never heard of fanfiction before — in fact, even fandom as a concept was alien to me — but I started reading it all. It was the perfect distraction. The boys had adventures, and many happy endings and, to my very great surprise, lots of hot sex. This startled me at first, but I’m extremely adaptable.

And then I ran into a death story. I was deep into it before I realized what it was. It’s a good thing I was alone in my apartment, because suddenly, for the first time in that dark, dark period, I started crying. Spectacularly.

Poor Starsky had lost someone closer than a brother. I could weep for him, because it was beyond horrible; at the same time, it was distant enough. It was safe. It was only a story. And then I found a nice Charlotte Frost story to soothe myself afterwards. See? There the boys are, back together and having all sorts of nice, comfortable angst and hot sex.

This may sound very silly to you, but I think Flamingo’s site saved my sanity. There’s only so much pressure a girl can take before kablooey, brain cells splattering all over the landscape. And that’s so unsightly, don’t you think?
[anonymouse]: I didn’t really dive deep into LotR, or Lotrips (though I read a fair bit of the latter, and somehow managed to entirely skip the “you shouldn’t think such things about real people”-mess), I think I found the canon too overwhelming, but once I discovered HP fanfic, that was it for me. I only lurk these days (I’ve pretty much always been a lurker, but I was better about commenting when I mainly read fic on lj), but it’s so comfortable and easy to read fanfic, especially since sometimes I want to skip the entire world building thing, and just read about familiar people doing unfamiliar things. And kissing. And pining.
[cricri]: Using Kirk/Spock (who I had already been slashing) and Starsky & Hutch (who i didn’t know then) as an example. It’s hard to describe what I was feeling. In a way it felt like I imagine it has to feel if you’re queer and discover you’re not the only one. (I know you can’t really compare this but to me it really felt as important.) I had been dreaming up fanfiction all my life and especially slash since my early teens but I never even asked myself if there could be anyone doing the same. To know that I was not alone was incredible. To have words to say what I was doing was incredible. Luckily, the internet was already around when I had my great revelation (2000), and finally knowing what terms I had to look for I searched and I found. And man, did I read a lot of fanfiction … I started with Star Trek TOS, reading stuff from kira-nerys and greywolf the wanderer. Many old places to find fanfiction are meanwhile gone (anyone remember geocities?) but many storys are still online. I don’t remember THE first story but one of the first stories I read (which I printed out so I still have it) was "Illogic“ by Anne-Sigrid.

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