The Hive: Exploring an Online Community

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Title: The Hive: Exploring an Online Community
Creator: LS
Date(s): 2003
Medium: online
Fandom: Mary Russell, Sherlock Holmes
External Links: The Hive: Exploring an Online Community
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The Hive: Exploring an Online Community is an essay by LS.

Some Topics Discussed


Modern storytellers now have modern technology to aid the creative process. Fan fiction and The Hive fit primarily into the genre of the internet culture. The internet has fast become the best communication resource for scattered fan groups around the world. Before the internet, "Zines (at first called "fan-zines") emerged in the sixties as fans [...] used typewriters, stencils, staplers, and the post office to create small groups around shared interests" (Brown and Duguid 193). Physical isolation and lack of a fan base to unite writers made the growth of fan fiction difficult. The genre of fan fiction has grown dramatically, however, with help from the web as fans are now able locate each other and keep in touch despite geographical separation, as discussed by Sue Hazlett: "The internet has given rise to literally thousands of newsgroups devoted to particular programs, characters, and actors. Fans can go online and discuss their interests with other fans without regard to boundaries of time or geography. [...] [the internet has] brought fandom into a public place where it can be more easily accessed by both potential fans and researchers."
The establishment of the fan fiction genre yields a process of refinement by the types of sites available on the internet, and the culture that accompanies those sites both individually and as a whole. Specialized terminology forms an aspect of fan fiction culture which writers and readers of fan fiction have adopted to create mutual understanding of story content and form. Stories marked as "Mary Sue," for example, mean that the author has placed himself or herself as a character in the story, while stories mentioned as "slash" contain some form of sexual content. Likewise individual fan fiction pages contain their own lingo. On The Hive, for example, many of the book titles of the Mary Russell novels are shortened into four letter phrases such as "BEEK" for The Beekeeper's Apprentice, or "MOOR" for The Moor. Classification of the stories themselves also aids in refining the culture and genre of fan fiction. A fan fiction story cannot be posted on any web page. "In order for a story to be circulated among other fans, it must go on a site that specializes in fan fiction," must be on the appropriate fan fiction site, and must abide by the rules of that site for story writing (Hazlett). For example, Mary Russell fan fiction would not belong on a Harry Potter fan fiction site, and some fan fiction sites have guidelines on how to use specific characters or what direction the plot must take at certain parts of the story. These specific categorizations of communal environments and regulations within the genre of fan fiction attract different audiences to different collections of stories, and encourage additions which correspond to the established collection guidelines. Collections of fan fiction stories "help structure society, enabling social groups to form, develop, and maintain a sense of shared identity [...] [even] though most of the people in these '[social] worlds' kn[o]w little of one another directly" (Brown and Duguid 189-190). From these facts about fan fiction as a genre, we can observe that The Hive is part of a larger culture, yet also maintains its own unique collection content, audience, and community.
The Hive is a unique fan fiction site due to the ease and few requirements by which stories may be posted. Russell fan fiction writers have free reign of the entire Mary Russell universe and may introduce any new elements they desire into their stories. The only requirement is that the stories have some connection to the Russell novels, or the "kanon" as RUSS-L members prefer to call the books. Fan fiction about the Holmes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle belongs on Holmes fan fiction sites rather than The Hive. Stories are submitted to Foxhound via email, and he welcomes all submissions: "I will accept anything from 4th grade book reports to actual published articles (with permission of both publisher and author, of course), so submit! If you have anything you'd like to send, just e-mail it to me along with any special requests you might have" (Foxhound Sherlockian). Foxhound surprised me in his email when I asked about how he decides which stories to post versus those which do not meet the criteria of the collection or have inappropriate content: "I have never turned down a story, although I do edit them for grammar, punctuation, etc. One or two stories were real bodice-rippers, so I put warning labels on them. I find total censorship repugnant." With his open posting policy, Foxhound leaves most of the power related to expanding The Hive's collection with the authors. Since he has promised that "[stories], once posted, will never be altered or removed except at the author's request," all of the stories on The Hive will remain in the collection for as long as the collection itself exists (Foxhound Sherlockian). The Hive has no method of destruction or alteration for its collections. Keeping the layout and links current without changing its content is The Hive's biggest priority outside of posting new stories. It is a collection that only keeps growing.
Overall, The Hive represents the very best of the modern fan fiction online collections. Like many other fan fiction collections, it takes a commonly shared work of art, the Russell novels, and brings those who appreciate the art together to share and explore their passions and creativity. Unlike other fan fiction collections, the environment of The Hive is supported by respectful and energetic users who contribute their time and talent to keep the stories of The Hive at a high level of excellence. While The Hive's distinctive atmosphere is considered unusual in comparison with other fan fiction sites, its consistency of quality within its own realm is worthy of praise, and hopefully, worthy of many years of enjoyment