The Times They Are A' Changing (meta)

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You may be looking for the Real Ghostbusters zine The Times They Are a-Changing.

Title: The Times They Are A' Changing
Creator: K.S. Langley
Date(s): June 19, 2003
Medium: online
Topic: Fanfiction
External Links: The Times They Are A' Changing, Archived version
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The Times They Are A' Changing is an essay by K.S. Langley.

This column is revised and expanded from a Letter of Comment posted to FCA-L.

It is part of the Fanfic Symposium series.

The essay is a long one, focusing on all the changes in fandom regarding technology.

Some conclusions:

  • The impact of technology regarding hardware/computers/VCRs of has been good.
  • The impact of technology on personal communication between fans has been good.
  • The impact of technology on group communication has been a mixed bag.
  • The impact of technology on fan artwork has been a mixed bag.
  • The impact of technology on fan fiction has been a very mixed bag.


When I was a kid, we had to walk to conventions. Through 15 feet of snow. Uphill. Both ways. Fanzines were scratched onto buffalo skins and delivered by pony express. When we wanted to replay a favorite show, we got together in the barn and acted it out for each other. Okay, I'm being facetious. But there is no doubt that the advances in technology we have experienced over the last few decades have had a tremendous impact not only on society and culture in general, but on culture and process in fandom as well. Just thinking about the changes I've seen in my own lifetime of fannish participation . . . well, it makes me feel old.
Fandom today most definitely is not an intimate community. Fans no longer share the same fannish languages and references in the way that they could in the early days. Now fandom is composed of many, many (many) smaller neighborhoods set against the much larger background of fandom. Fans are still as helpful and friendly as they ever were, ready to chat, dupe tapes, share fiction recommendations and stories, welcome and mentor neofen into their particular fannish neighborhoods, etc. But fandom is also reflecting negative trends that can be seen in society at large, including issues of entitlement, instant gratification, and increasing illiteracy.

So, yes, expansion and technological advances have had a significant and inevitable impact on fandom down through the decades. Whether the impact has been positive or negative will be viewed by everyone differently, of course, based on individual perceptions of and experiences in fandom. (This essay represents mine, although it does not cover everything that I think about the cultural changes I have observed in fandom. I was trying not to stray too far from the framework of fandom and technology that I was responding to initially.)

It is also expected that, at some point, current fans will have a historical context, more changes and advances will occur, and these fans will find themselves reminiscing about the Good Old Days.

Note: Organized SF fandom has been around since the 1920s and established the structure of fan activities (conventions, fanzines and fiction written by fans, filking, letter-writing, public discussion forums, etc.) upon which we still hang our hats.

Fan Comments

That post was really interesting! And it was even more interesting reading it in the context of today, and how fandom has evolved since you penned that response. It was noteworthy that some things held true, while others did not; I kind of thought to fanart, and digital art by way of tablets, and how (primarily) tumblr has contributed to the rise of some truly incredible digital art, and, simultaneously, the suppression of dismal art. You're much more likely to see exceptional art roll across your dash than anything crappy.

And then how, these days, it's much more easy to sort fan fiction by (potential) quality, by means of ordering stories by numbers of reviews/likes/kudos/follows. Digression: And yet, there is so, so much more crap present than good. Even on AO3 a few years ago, you were much more likely to find amazing stories than not; but as the archive grew, the ratio of amazing:mediocre-terrible just kept growing. I struggle through sludge to the point where it gets discouraging and I waste more time trying to find something good than actually reading. Sure, rec lists can help with that, but even that can lead to dead ends as people's taste differs.

Back on topic though, I it really was cool to get a solid perspective on the positive and negative impacts of technology on fandom, and how even now it's still evolving. In recent years, you could say from interactive livejournal, to impersonal tumblr, and, if this site takes off, back to more interaction.

But we'll see what happens as this site grows, too. So far things are friendly and fun, but as the good grows, so does the bad. Optimistic though! [1]


  1. comment by lellowyellow at What was your first fandom?