Memories by vass
|April 2, 2012
|Memories WebCite; archive link
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
- Reminisce With Me (2008)
- The good old days before google were dark and involved horses (2010)
- Fandom 1994-2000-ish (2012)
- Memories by vass (2012)
- A brief history of fandom, for the teenagers on here who somehow think tumblr invented fandom (2014)
- Was Fanfic Any Different in the Olden Days? (2015)
- The three generations of fanfic (2015)
- I feel like fandom generations are both very specific and easily conflated. (2018)
- Historical trends in fanfiction? (2019)
Some Topics Discussed
- how slow-moving fandom access was in the past
- Pocket Books guidelines
- meeting fans in real life
- Greywolf the Wanderer
- Stephen Ratliff and alt.startrek.creative
- Jen Chapman, Charlene Vickers, and Fuh-Q
- John Ordover Wars
- fandom as "much more a white straight girl hobby"
- fangirl meetups
- being underage in fandom
- changing norms in fanfic: things that weren't written but are now
I first got online in 1995, and my parents got dialup (28.8K, baby!) in 1996. I was fifteen. I used Netscape Navigator, and also whatever Netscape's Usenet client was called. And I was on lists once my parents allowed me to have an email address to communicate with strangers, so long as I used a pseudonym. I remember how the dialup connection would suddenly hang up for no reason, often when you were downloading a 300K fic (i.e. about 30K words.) Or the download would stall, and you'd have to start again from the beginning.
I first dared to meet a Person from the Internet in RL in 1999, by which time I was 18 and at university. As it turned out, the small blonde female 17-year-old Star Trek fan I was expecting... actually was a small blonde female 17-year-old Star Trek fan. Very generously, she didn't kidnap or murder me. It was merrinan, and we've been friends ever since.
I had KS Nicholas's site bookmarked, along with the alt.startrek.creative archive and R'Rain's slash archive. And Prospect 525, of course. I remember some amazingly terrible Jim/Blair, which I totally ate up with a spoon. Really dire h/c. Actually, that reminds me of how I moved from gen to slash. I was reading all this gen Kirk&Spock h/c (yes, smarm, although I didn't know that word then) and I noticed a trend: the stories were getting more and more violent and traumatic to get the same effect (no, I had not read Leslie Fish's The Hurt/Comfort Syndrome, but I know what she was parodying.) It was squicking me. I discovered that by stepping over to the gay side, I could find fic with just as much emotional impact with much fewer missing limbs, avulsed eyeballs, etc. For a while I had to engage my suspension of disbelief as to whether Kirk and Spock would 'really' have a relationship, but I got used to that. And eventually figured out that I'm a lesbian myself.
There were huge slash wars on alt.startrek.creative. It seemed like every week you'd get some newbie delurking with "Why is there all this disgusting K/S crap? What ever happened to Picard/Crusher?" Sometimes we'd feed the troll and argue about the validity of slash, sometimes a helpful person would direct them to whatever Picard/Crusher had been recently posted, mostly we'd all refer them to the FAQ, in particular the part that suggests that rather than whining about the prevalence of a pairing you don't like and the dearth of a pairing you do like, you should instead write more of the content you wish to see. The FAQ maintainer was Stephen Ratliffe, famous for his colossal Mary Sue, Marissa Picard, and for being a very good sport about having her mercilessly MiSTed. This was back when MiSTing was an art form, but posting one without permission from the target was considered mean, and no one wanted to be mean.)
[Then Jen Chapman and Charlene Vickers founded Fuh-Q, and managed somehow to establish a Cult of Nice and a Mean Girl Clique superimposed on the same physical location. No one knows how they did it. Possibly a transporter accident? That list was for the most part a fun place to hang out pretty much precisely until 9/11. It hung on a few months after that as we all tried to keep making it work, but yeah. Fortunately, LiveJournal was on the rise at this time, and a listsib (yes, we called each other listsibs! /o\) gave me an account creation code. (Thanks, Basingstoke!)]
John Ordover, the Star Trek editor at Pocket Books, kept posting to a.s.c. to tell us all that we were Doing It Wrong and that surely we wanted to be Real Published Authors and instead of writing this fanfic crap should be submitting novels to Pocket Books. There was a whole list of requirements for a Star Trek novel to be accepted by Pocket Books. No permanent changes (like character death) no slash (in particular, it was specifically laid out in the Pocket Books Guidelines that Kirk and Spock are JUST FRIENDS and WILL NEVER BE MORE THAN FRIENDS. Unsurprisingly, not many fans wanted to give up their creative freedom in this way. John Ordover found this completely baffling, and expounded at length on how baffled he was. (Years later, thanks to Fanlore, I discovered that the XF fans had the same experience with him.)
arduinna mentioned that RPF and chan were near-universal squicks, punishable by shunning. She was absolutely right. Some more social mores from back then:
- rimming was very, very taboo. Jen used to say "remember, kids: crack kills," and everyone would laugh and agree. - oral sex was considered not 'real' sex like anal (one finger, two finger, three finger, cock!) and other kinds of m/m sex like intracrural or frottage or mutual masturbation basically didn't exist. - bondage existed, but was fairly rare. Basically there was Ruth Gifford and there was Atara Stein, and they were married and co-authors. (Acres and acres of Picard/Q. I remember Ruth's post about how they got married, and how, not being at all politically well-informed at the time, I simply assumed that same sex marriage must just be legal in California. In 1997.)- kinks other than BDSM as such did not exist. There was nothing like the kinkmemes. People didn't post anonymously except to troll (which was considered much worse those days than it is today) and saying exactly what turns you on in a story would have been considered way TMI. Also, asking people to write your fantasy for you would have been very, very gauche.
It was much more a white straight girl hobby than it is now. POCs and queer folk still existed, but if they were organised and vocal, it wasn't anywhere I could see them (although I was a lot less informed back then, so maybe I just didn't notice.) On the other hand, there were quite a lot of genderqueer individuals using pronoun sets of their own choice, particularly sie/hir and zie/zir, although I think there might have been some xe/xir and Spiewak pronouns here and there. And they were pretty well respected. They were called 'entities', as in 'men, women, and entities'.
Also, Greywolf the Wanderer was an extremely well respected member of the ASC community, and he was a gay male furry. I didn't even know what a furry was back then, I just knew that this dude roleplays as a wolf online, but hey, he writes really awesome K/S fic, and is very kind and welcoming to newbies. I think maybe the nature of the internet back then worked in Wolfie's favour: there was no expectation that you present yourself online as your 'real' self, and therefore no need for Greywolf to justify to us that he was actually a wolf. He called himself a furvert, and I for one never actually considered what that might mean in practice. Despite the slash habit, I was still very innocent.
Oh yeah, and speaking of fangirl meetups, I distinctly remember the first time I met another slash fan by accident. It was at my university's science fiction club, and I'll let her identify herself if she wants to, but what I remember is that I was such a horrible stereotype of a fangirl that I'm amazed she still talks to me. I was way too loud, and way TMI, and I distinctly remember saying the word 'threesomes' and having everyone else in the room turn around and stare at us. It was one of those moments when you remember that this is not just ordinary fannish activity, it is actually porn we're reading too. I kept forgetting that because, then as now, I read fanfic for the ~~feelings~~ and often skipped the sex scenes altogether.
Comments at the Post
OMG the Muldertorture archive! With its ten-level rating system! So many happy hours I spent there.
I wandered here from arduinna's post -- I'm revelling in everyone's nostalgic memories right now -- and had to say how much I agree with this. For all that fandom feels less cohesive now it's not on mailing lists and more clearly governed by community expectations, it is a lot more open and there's a great deal of variety.
It was much more a white straight girl hobby than it is now. POCs and queer folk still existed, but if they were organised and vocal, it wasn't anywhere I could see themThat feels true to me too. Or, hmmm. With journaling, the fannish interraction became less strictly about the media/fandom, and more individually focused on the fan. There feels like less acceptance/expectation that who you are online isn't who you are in "real life" and more blurring of the two lines. Previously, fannish friends would know this stuff if you emailed/chatted; these days, it gets mentioned on your journal in a non-personally-identifying way and it's become apparent that fandom isn't only made up of white, straight girls -- we can see the differences and by seeing them, we're more open to acknowledging/mentioning where we're different too.
Also, Greywolf the Wanderer was an extremely well respected member of the ASC community, and he was a gay male furry.
Fascinating. I wonder if he went by a different name over in furry.And yes, lovely to newbies. I have a piece of feedback I got (I think as a newsgroup post, but it might have been direct email) still saved in a text file somewhere.
The (partial) decline of "one finger, two finger, three finger, dick" and "only groinal intercourse is real sex" and all the homo/biphobia and just general heteronormativity is my favorite thing by FAR about new fandom. Yeah, sometimes there's too much obsession with sex and not enough discussion, but I've reread a lot of that old stuff and much of it is just outright offensive, sometimes really poisonous. I loved it and I still treasure it, but good lord, it was anti-queer sometimes.
You hit on stuff I meant to add to mine and then either forgot or didn't have room for, and more stuff on top of that -- this is awesome.
Ruth Gifford and Alara, man; I wasn't even in TNG (or online Trek at all) and I knew about their stuff. In Sentinel we had Alexis Rogers, who was, er, terrible; she was very earnest about the scene, but she called it *bdsm* (always with the asterisks), and her stories were instruction manuals.
And yes, to bdsm being the only real kink around, at least till mpreg came along, and mpreg was side-eyed really, really hard. (Well, domestic discipline was kink, too, but the people writing it refused to admit it, and kept claiming it was a purely gen lifestyle choice, and there was nothing sexual about the endless spanking.)
Also yes on the ax-murderer fears -- and yet somehow, everyone I met from the Internet was exactly who they said they were. I met several in person for the first time when we all went on vacation together, and a waitress at a restaurant we were at asked how we knew each other, because our accents were all radically different from all over the country, and the look on her face when we told her we'd met on the Internet, man. Heh.
(yes, we called each other listsibs! /o\)
Ahahaha I meant to mention that -- listmoms and listsibs. It didn't get creepy till people started believing it, and thinking that somehow liking the same tv show or whatever meant we should actually regard each other as siblings...
There was lots of hooking up at SF cons, then and now, but the media cons I went to in the 90s weren't about that (at least not that I noticed). It may have been a self-fulfilling thing, though; I know one fan who looked at how fans behaved together online, with the smooching and hugging and cuddling and whatnot, who went to her first con fully expecting that behavior to carry over into in-person meetups, only to discover that the fans in person were more restrained -- lots of hugging, sure, but the vast majority of the behavior was more friendly than sexual. It really startled her.
So it could be that as younger fans came in, they just expected more of the online behavior to translate, so they went expecting hookups, and if enough people are expecting that, that's what happens.Or not! Who knows. I still don't really see it when I go to cons even when it's happening all around me, apparently, because I'm there for the conversations. *g*