Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with SH

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with SH
Interviewer: Morgan Dawn
Interviewee: SH
Date(s): January 3, 2013
Medium: telephone interview
External Links: Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with SH (interview and transcript)
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

In 2013, SH was interviewed over the phone as part of the Media Fandom Oral History Project.

Interview length: 47:34

For more information about the origins of this interview, where it is housed, contact information, suggestions regarding future interviewee candidates, and how to become volunteer interviewer, see the Media Fandom Oral History Project page.

Some Topics Discussed


I sorta knew fandom existed, but it was about Star Trek, and I seldom saw Star Trek and didn't care for it when it did. However, on New Year's Eve, 1989, I was at home watching Carmina Burana on our local PBS station, and after it came on this science fiction thing. Which looked kind of interesting, so I continued to watch it. And I was entranced. It turned out to be episode eleven of the first season of Blake's 7, which I'd never heard of. I loved it. It talked about things that you never really saw in the science fiction TV stuff I was used to. There was a rather long discussion about the value of political action. Jenna was a much more interesting, and seemed to be normal female, not a girlfriend female, which was such a treat, and Avon was a fascinating character. Couldn't figure out much about him, but oh, man. So, I had Blake, Avon and Jenna already as interests, so I watched the next week. And two, three weeks later I was recording it. And I was looking desperately to find out how I could see the parts I'd missed. And I really couldn't find anything....

Net action was very, very limited, and I didn't have real access at the time. This was, like, January 1990. It was a whole different world for so many things. I did, however, work at a major research library, so I was hunting up British TV program guides to read the little, tiny paragraphs that they printed each week, when it was first broadcast. I was researching the actors' names to see if there was any mention of anything more about the series in it. I was going to town. Then I recalled fandom. Fandom. There is fandom. So I went out to the magazine stand and bought, rather furtively, a Starlog. Hah.... In the back of the Starlog, there were all these ads, including things for Blake's 7. Nobody— Again, it was difficult to get programs, so I still wasn't finding anyone with copies of the program. But, I did find these mysterious things called zines. Well, they were about Blake's 7. People would send them to me for money, so I ordered some.
I don't remember [the first slash zine I received]. It had pictures. And it came just— I looked at it— "Oh, now this is unusual." And I began reading, and, well, it all made sense to me. I had— It had never occurred to me before that this would be a possibility. What I was hitting was the Blake/Avon stuff, of course— But it made sense. It was reasonably good writing, some carefully thought-out character stuff, and, along with the porn part. And the porn part was probably less detailed than you often find now on-line, which enabled me to get— move into it with a— through the character interest. And, hey, it worked. It worked. The pictures were a little shocking, but I got over that pretty quick. Had to make sure my husband was not confronted with them, on a regular basis.... I lived in this, we lived in a small apartment, and so the stuff was stacked around. He didn't want to come across a picture. Y'know. He was not anti-it, or me doing it, but he preferred to pretend it didn't exist.

[Usenet] was pretty much what was available at the time. There wasn't a lot of other stuff around. And a guy named Calle Dybedahl started this on a server in Sweden. And so I began posting. And I connected with a lot of people there, including a few people I still know. And we talked about stuff. Slash got discussed, and I apparently, although I wasn't really a huge talker about it at the time, came across as slash friendly, because Sandy Hereld was looking for people for Virgule. And she invited me. It must have been very early, 'cause I think there were only seven or eight people on Virgule when I came on. It was very small....

But what did occur was a person, who on Virgule, was working four buildings down the quad from me.... I think we were a lot more open then because it was so enclosed and so small, and because most of the people knew each other outside of the list. That made, I think, a huge difference. That's one of the things that I think is now in some ways limiting some fan connections, is, everybody's a little more wary for quite a while. At this time we were pretty open. Didn't last, but it was great for me, because I met Sharon, who writes as Madelein Lee.... And she invited me to her house, where I met — ahh, one, two, three — at least four other local fans. Not all of them were into slash. Sharon was really the only one who was, but they were very open, very talkative. And at this point, I got drawn into The Professionals, because this was their fandom of the time. (laughter)

Sharon was certainly a slash fan. Lois and Mary Lee were not really slash fans in a way, but they weren't anti-it. It just wasn't something that they wrote, or— They read some of it, not all of it. The other two people, Ruby and Diana, were not really slash fans, and they had also come into Pros through this little group of three. So, what I'd hit was a local fannish network. And that was absolutely wonderful. From them, I got taken to MediaWest, and later to Zebracon, because they were both active, had rooms there. My first MediaWest trip, their room section was full, but Judy, whom I had met earlier through writing, had a room there, and I went there, and shared it with her, and was— had my first con.... I think especially then, fandom was much more open. Once you got in the network, and people knew people knew people, there was an enormous amount of both openness and trust. And that was a real benefit for me.
But yeah, I bought tons and tons of Blake's 7 zines. Blake's 7 was— had ended in many ways as a fandom due to a big fight issue that had taken place before I got into it. But that meant that people were selling off their zines. And I could buy all this stuff. And I just pretty much did. (laugh) I took up a great deal of the space on the car home with my zines bags.
Nothing was about [AOL fans was] particular was bad, it was just that they were uncontrolled. With the early Usenet stuff, most people who had access were through universities, as I was. And their accounts were controlled. If they misbehaved, if they behaved badly, if they caused trouble, and somebody would point this out to their administrator, they could be banned. They could be closely controlled. There was a huge fuss at one point because a couple of lawyers somewhere started running ads for themselves on a Usenet site. And there was hysteria about this all over the place.... This, once AOL was opened up to Usenet, you had a bunch of people both who did not understand the culture at all, and who could not be controlled if they misbehaved. And you began getting people on the Usenet sites, because a lot of personal attacks, a lot of general just annoying postings that just went on and on about nothing — a lot of misconnection. It became more unpleasant, and it was the lack of control. It wasn't horrible in many ways, but everybody was unhappy with it, and it was the tip of the iceberg, because as Usenet opened up more and more to the public from other sources, there was no control.... [Mailing lists were a] place where somebody could control the activity. I would say, certainly the mailing lists I was on, which were Blake's 7-related, and Virgule, nobody was rigidly controlling it, but there was— A certain culture of expectation developed. And that made it— You knew what you were getting into on the list. You knew what people were going to post, and if people posted something outside of that, somebody would talk to them about it.
What was important to me always was the ability to discuss in detail, with other people. That keeping it just to myself, or just reading, or— was never enough. That what I needed to do was talk. Particularly when I— early into fandom. That our corner of fandom has a— There's a huge range of stuff. Slash always covers everything. But there's a huge range of slash. And that from my view the slash interest developed as a way of strengthening character bonds and giving you another way to describe character connection. And, that that has never gone away, even with the plot-what-plot and the slot-A and slot-B action. It is still a way to connect your characters. We're all character sluts.
... the anonymity of the internet. I know in Virgule, most of us met each other face to face at some point. And some people knew each other for years in that way. And that is certainly not a factor in so much of it. I do have a couple of people that I discuss with, one of whom I've never met face to face. But we've had some serious private discussions, started over her writing and moved on from there. And there are a couple of people that I talk with some about personal life that I met at conventions. But making those connections was not simple. Today, yeah. It's not as easy today. I'm so glad I came into when I did, because it was just the beginning of the net connection, so I had the old and the new, and I was able to combine them and use them in a way that really gave me a lot. And I'm not sure it's as easy to do that kind of thing now. For— Especially for someone like me coming in from the outside, who is not, well let's see. I'm not unsocial, but I'm not one of those driven, social people who's going to jump everybody all the time. Someone who has a little more restraint is gonna have to be lucky to make good connections.