Rantings of an Online Newbie

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Title: Rantings of an Online Newbie
Creator: Mary Jo Fox
Date(s): winter 1995
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Wars
External Links:
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Rantings of an Online Newbie" is an essay by Mary Jo Fox.

It was printed in Blue Harvest #5, a zine in which she was one of two editors.

Topics Discussed

  • her experiences with rude fans online
  • fandom online
  • not wanting to be like Trek fans
  • a plea for better behavior


On January 1, 1996, I signed upon America Online, mainly to establish a mail address, but also to take advantage of the opportunity to see all of this wonderful Internet stuff I keep hearing about. Some of it is pretty neat, it's a lot easier to keep in touch with James and I can just e-mail him all of the material I work on for BH instead of using the snail mail system. I can "talk" to you guys in between issues of BH. I've met some really nice people, including SW fans in Italy and Mexico, and I've "visited" many amazing Web sites (wisely using my dad's internet service provider -- $33 per year for unlimited use!) I'm even considering doing a Leia Organa Solo home page (as far as I know she doesn't have one yet...)
Using the Internet reminds me of my thrift store days. .you do have to wade through a lot of junk to find the good stuff! Naturally, I spend most of my online time (admittedly I'm not what you'd call an Internet junkie) lurking the SW areas on AOL and elsewhere. I like reading people's thoughts and opinions on SW, and I even appreciate the fact that guys like Steve Perry, Andy Mangels and Bantam editor Tom Dupree are "conversing" with fans (you can Find Andy all over any Boba Fett folder). But I confess that I'm a little more than bothered by the kind of exchanges I've seen. Wading through the "Wedge Sux" postings and the nitpicking over how many hairs grow out of [indecipherable's] ears is bad enough. What I find truly disturbing are incredibly vicious comments aimed not only at "pros" like Kevin J. Anderson, but also other fans! All you need is an unpopular opinion, regardless of how that opinion was actually expressed, and you're a target. Let me give you a true-story example. A couple or months ago, a letter appeared in SW magazine expressing the author's disappointment in the lack of meaningful discussion of SW on the Internet. He wasn't attacking anyone in particular; he didn't even mention a specific newsgroup or bulletin board. While his letter was emphatic, it certainly wasn't angry or mean-spirited. He included his e-mail address with the letter, and within days of the mag hitting the stands, he was getting an "earful" from folks who didn't agree with him. Not all of them were mean, but he had become the Target Du Jour of some very nasty and cruel fans on a certain popular newsgroup. As he told me, "I've become the Energizer Bunny ad, if you know what I mean."
Where there's anonymity, the less-mature and irresponsible among us feel free to abandon all pretense of civility, and you end up with "flame wars" and what-have-you. People who do this are utter, complete cowards. That's right, cowards. Most of these goobers wouldn't have the guts (among other body parts) to say what they say on the computer to anyone in person. They do it only because they can.
"Sure, Mary Jo, of course these jerks are just that...jerks. But what has that got to do with us?" you might be asking. The deal is these jerks represent only a fraction of SW fandom, but they reflect on all of us. If online fandom gets a bad rep, SW fandom overall gets a bad rep. Unfair? It sure is. But that's the way life is. Look at the nerd image associated with Trek fans.
The Internet is wonderful tool, out we got to make the best use of it. We might have the freedom to express whatever we want, but we also have to be responsible, not just for your own sake, but to uphold all the ideals expressed in SW.