I don’t understand how anyone can take AO3 for granted

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Title: I don’t understand how anyone can take AO3 for granted
Creator: fanfichasruinedmylife
Date(s): September 6, 2018
Medium: Tumblr
Fandom: Fandom History
Topic:
External Links: Fanfiction Addiction, Archived version
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I don’t understand how anyone can take AO3 for granted is a tumblr essay written by fanfichasruinedmylife.

Topics

Essay

I don’t understand how anyone can take AO3 for granted

But then I remember what it was like trying to find fic back in the day.

Back in the early 00s, I used to maintain a site called Farscape Fan Fiction Links. It was an offshoot of something I’d started on the Farscape Bulletin Board called “The Church of Fanfiction Appreciation” where I’d begun trying to collect links to Farscape fanfic sites for other people to use.

As I did this, I developed the following process:

1. Click on a link provided by someone on the Board. This would take me to their site which I would then classify by pairings and whether or not it was Gen, Adult (Het pairings only), Slash, or a mixture of any of these.

2. Check to see if the site had its own links page. Follow these links to see if there were any sites on there that I hadn’t previously discovered.

3. Check to see if the site was a member of a Web Ring I hadn’t come across before. Click on those links to see if there were any new sites in there.

4. Check out the site’s Guest Book to see if anyone had left a site link in their sig. See if the site contained any fic.

And so on. If I hit a dry period where nothing new appeared on the Board, I’d use a search engine. This was before Google had conquered the Internet, so I used a search engine called Dogpile. It would search the other search engines like Alta Vista and Yahoo and give a much larger grouping of results.

This went on for a few years until two things happened at once:

1. Farscape was canceled.

2. I got accepted to grad school.

So, I stopped maintaining the site, and I have to admit that I felt a little guilty about it. Fortunately, this was about the time LiveJournal's role in fandom was kicking into high gear, and with the advent of LJ Farscape Fic communities, I no longer felt like my services were going to be missed.

Oddly though, I found myself actually missing the process. There was a certain amount of satisfaction involved in finding new sites, especially ones that weren’t linked anywhere else. It felt like I was planting my flag all over the Farscape fandom, and it didn’t matter how small your site was. I would find you in the end.

Still, I’d be lying if I said I wanted to return to those days. Because Farscapewasn’t my only fandom, and I’ve always been a multi-fandom shipper. So, even without working on the site, I spent years doing the following:

1. Fall into a new fandom.

2. Find all of the major fic archives in a fandom.

3. Read them dry.

4. Hunt for individual author sites.

5. Read them dry too.

LJ made this process easier, as more and more people brought their work over there. But you still had to do a certain amount of searching, for like-minded accounts and communities. And if the fic you wanted to read was “friendlocked,” well, then you were just SOL, if you know what I mean.

Fanfiction.net was always an alternative, of course, and I’m not saying there aren’t good fics over there. But the ones you found in individual fandom archives were often better, mostly because this was where the hardcore fans went to bleed all over their words.

AO3, thankfully, was built by those hardcore fans, so it’s been full of quality writing pretty much from the start. It paired that quality with Fanfiction.net’s “one stop shopping,” and slowly but surely, has been developing filters that make it easier and easier to find what you want.

Which for someone who used to have to click on a site and then read stories that didn’t even have their pairings marked is amazing. Stories that didn’t come with warnings, or tags, or author’s notes, or any of the things we take for granted these days.

I remember having to blindly click and pray.

And as much as I miss the thrill of discovery, I don’t miss the trauma of screaming “EW! Back Button! Back Button! Back Button!” at the top of my lungs.

I was willing to suffer so my fellow fans didn’t have to. But there’s no longer any need for that.

Now, we have AO3. A place where we have quality fic that’s clearly marked, and maintained by our fellow fans who have been with us through all the wars, through things like Cease and Desist letters and Takedown notices, through Strikethrough and the Purge.

It’s amazing to me that anyone could take this for granted.

Because speaking as someone who has traversed the jungle, I know how bad it can be, and more importantly, how bad it could someday be again.

Responses

[huzzlewhat] wrote:

That was you!!! You did yoeman’s work, absolutely invaluable. And no, I don’t want to go back to those days either, but do think of them fondly. :-)

[fanfichasruinedmylife responded to huzzlewhat​]

First of all, thanks! It was my pleasure. Secondly, I don’t want to go back either, but there was something sort of thrilling about having to work to find each other the way we did back then.

[olderthannetfic reblogged this from savedmeta and added]:

I remember this era of fandom! This is a painfully accurate writeup! So much Wayback Machine…

[fanfichasruinedmylife reblogged this from olderthannetfic and added]:

Yes! If you had a site you liked to go back and read again and again, only for the author to leave fandom and delete...

[tisfollytobewise reblogged this from olderthannetfic] and added the following tags:

#can someone please write a book about this? i would totally love to read it in a historical kind of way #we younger folks will proba never appreciate what we have with ao3 unless we know how it’s been #fandom history

[flexiblefish reblogged this from olderthannetficand added]:

We were lucky in the X-Files fandom that the Gossamer Project archive quickly became a hub for all XF fanfiction. We also had major rec fic websites like The Annex that everyone knew and visited. And then we had Alt.TV.X-Files creative on Usenet. AO3 centralised everything and made it much more user friendly and easier to access, but we’ve lost so many stories in the process. What is on AO3 is only the tip of the X-Files fanfiction iceberg.

References