It was an oddly fannish history type of day...

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Title: It was an oddly fannish history type of day...
Creator: cschick
Date(s): March 23, 2011
Medium: journal post
Fandom:
Topic:
External Links: It was an oddly fannish history type of day ...: cschick, Archived version
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It was an oddly fannish history type of day... is a 2011 essay by cschick.

Some Topics Discussed

From the Essay

So, Castle tweaked the shippers on Monday. And suddenly, there's discussion everywhere about shippers. What shippers are, how shippers and shipping came to be called such.

See me standing here, my hand raised like a teacher's pet. Ohhhhh!! I know the answer to that one. Shippers were called relationshippers (obvious term) for several seasons in X-Files fandom. Eventually, the xf-romantics list was formed on the chaos mailing list server. In April-May 1996 (I believe) the romantics list and alt.tv.x-files (not alt.tv.x-files.creative) engaged in what came to be called the great shipper wars. During that flamefest, the xf-romantics list embraced the term shipper for themselves. I also think there was something to do with some song with lyrics related to a ship (yeah, actual boat type of ship).

Go over to Google groups and search on alt.tv.x-files, and you'll find references to relationshippers prior to May 1996, then 'shippers proceeding to shippers starting in May 1996. But, my recollection is that while atx may have provided some of the catalysis for the change, xf-romantics embraced the change. And xf-romantics has vanished into the ether, right?

Not really. Somewhere in this house, somewhere, there are cds with backup files of chaos. Somewhere in those backup files are message archives for most of the lists that chaos hosted over the years. I posed the question to C tonight, and he confirmed that xf-romantics was one of the lists archived from its first day of existence.

Now this post is going to go wandering off into a far different track--a question I've struggled with for years, and still struggle with. What is my responsibility to this data?

Another meta fannish discussion in the past 24 hours lead me here from a different direction. I don't think that people who are in fandom now process how small online fandom actually was during the mid to late 1990s. It was gigantic and active compared to what had existed before. It was teeny-tiny compared to what fandom has become today. Once upon a time there were four largish fandoms, with four largish archives (for their time). There was X-Files, with Gossamer. There was Star Trek, with the ASC Archive, now Trekiverse. There was Forever Knight, with their archive. And there was Babylon 5, with their division into the gen/non-adult archive, the adult mailing list, and a couple of large relationship archives.

All these fandoms were pretty contained across a couple of limited spaces. All these fandoms had crossovers (authors, readers, and those who discussed) with one another. All these fandoms affected one another in a way that was pretty direct and quick compared to today.

I look back and ask myself: why in hell didn't I download the John/Delenn ftp archive one of those many times I was there? Why did I delete my personal archive of unrestb5 that one day I was cleaning up my e-mail? Babylon 5 fan fiction, once a major fandom, has all but vanished off the face of the Internet. That was something that has hit home more than once over the years, like when I was chasing down the XF "author" who appeared to be plagiarizing most of her work from a personal copy of either John/Delenn or unrestb5. You have a personal copy of a missing fannish archive and you PLAGIARIZE from it? What kind of person are you? And I only caught you out because I KNEW those stories. I only tossed you on a technicality because I couldn't prove crap about your real plagiarism. I think I still have some plagiarized work from one of your identities on my archive and it pisses me the hell off, how ever many years later.

What responsibility do I have to those stories?

Many discussions which affected all fandoms, and in some ways shaped future fandoms, took place on the chaos lists. How much terminology originated on Fictalk? How much discussion about what fan fiction archives should be and should become took place on the archivists list? Maybe less than I remember, maybe more.

So little, and so much. So much fannish history I could have saved if I'd just thought about it. So much fannish history that should be gone, but doesn't necessarily have to be. But can we or should we make it public? The gaps in Google Groups are extreme, why are they there? Is it just really data that was missed, is it data that was removed by choice?

Hell, I'm in a foul mood.

Fan Comments

elfwreck:

I look back and ask myself: why in hell didn't I download the John/Delenn ftp archive one of those many times I was there? Why did I delete my personal archive of unrestb5 that one day I was cleaning up my e-mail?

Because until damned recently, file storage space was a real concern. That's another thing newer people online aren't aware of... that a 10gb hard drive used to be BIG. And even if there's space, those of us who got into the internet early (erm, relatively early) have habits of "better clear out what you're not going to use so you've got space for the stuff you need."

(There was also Middle Earth fandom back then. Of which I know damn near nothing, but had a boyfriend who was into it; he used to borrow my computer & internet to spend time at the Tolkein-ish newsgroups. I suspect those didn't crossover much with the tv-show fandoms.)

But can we or should we make it public?

I don't know about public, but it should be preserved.

It's been pointed out that, in the UK, website owners were given the choice to opt into the nation's digital archiving system, unlike archive.org. And most of them don't opt in; it's not so much that they don't want to, but they think it's not relevant or they don't know it's an option. As a result of this--less than 1% of the UK's online activity is being officially recorded.

That's less info than we saved during the Dark Ages. We are losing access to our cultural heritage, one wiped server at a time.
cschick:

The sad thing is, even back then, storage space wasn't really an issue for me. Fan fiction simply doesn't really take up that much space, especially when stored as text. Gossamer's at about 45,000 files and I think we finally passed it taking a gig of space for the pure text storage in the past few years.

Just not thinking about it was the issue. Even back then there were signs that Internet data wasn't as ephemeral as people hoped, but that was partly because we had people running about trying to collect it. But when those people fall by the wayside, we head back toward it becoming ephemeral again. I think that fandom is even more ephemeral in some ways today than it was 15 years ago.
jedinic:

(here via MF, hi!)

It really makes me sad that so much of "Babylon 5"'s fannish history/fic has been lost. I wonder, where did we (the authors) go? Are we all in different fandoms now?

I still hope that people kept personal copies of their stories and that a concerted push could be made to recreate archives as much as possible. Or at least encourage uploading to something like AO3.
snorkackcatcher: If it's only a small number of CDs worth of data (and they're still readable), it would be well worth digging them out and archiving them somewhere, even if it's only a case of sticking them on some fileserver and saying "download if you want a copy". With fandom history becoming a more popular topic, someone, somewhere is surely going to want to consult that data at some point, even if they don't know it themselves yet. :)

References