Virgule Mailing List
|Moderators/List Maintainers:||Sandy Herrold, lizj, Morgan Dawn|
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Virgule ("Virgule-L") was a slash mailing list created in October 1992 by Sandy Herrold (who had no listserv-fu), and almost immediately, lizj volunteered to host the list on her private listserv on the East Coast.
The mailing list's name at this point was somewhat the unimaginative "slashfen". Some fans also referred to it as "Slashnet."
The first post was by Sandy Herrold on October 19, 1992. In that post she reviewed the slash zine Homosapien Too. At that time, there were only seven members on the list.  By December 1992 the list had grown to 11 members as the list operated mainly by word of mouth.
In December 1994, just over two years after the creation of the list, lizj announced she could no longer host the mailing list on her private server and Morgan Dawn volunteered to distribute the list from her Netcom account. The list was moved in May 1995, and the name changed to the less obvious Virgule-L.
From then on, Morgan Dawn and Sandy Hereld admin'd the list together.
There were memorable fights over membership:
- Should men be allowed to join?
- Can men be 'real' slash fans?
- Should slash fans, who are also academics, who might want to write about slash fandom, be allowed to join?
- Another joyous fight was over the creation of a second slash mailing list, CI-5, dedicated specifically to slash conversation about The Professionals. Many of the Virgule members didn't see why fandom needed two mailing lists. After all, that way lay madness.
"Virgule," itself, is the term for the punctuation symbol, the "slash" mark, between two characters names which denotes a sexual or emotional relationship.
Even when meeting in fan-controlled spaces (such as fan conventions) the mailing list room parties were advertised discreetly.
For example, at the MediaWest 1993 room party, members were directed to the "WSEWR users' group meeting" in purple letters. As more and more fans became aware of the openness of Internet communication and the increased visibility of and hostility to slash fandom, the list moderators proposed that the list be titled something a bit more...oblique. In fact, "Oblique" was the first name suggested by one of the list moderators. Still, in spite of the perceived concerns, the mailing list's name was not formally changed until 1995, when the list moved to Morgan Dawn's server. That was when Sandy Herrold's 1993 suggestion, Virgule, was adopted.
Members were asked not to mention the list anywhere online. Finally, as with any closed membership mailing list members were asked not to forward (or in later years repost to the web) mailing list emails.
However, from the start some members wanted to promote the mailing list online. On November 15, 1992 Sandy Hereld wrote:
I am *considering* posting knowledge of this list in rec.arts.tv, and
If I did, it would be worded ...for slash fans, with *no* explanation of what slash it, and the address I give would be my own, so that I could screen people before they got the slashfen mailing list address.How would you all feel about this?
Joining by Personal Recommendation
To join, you had to be recommended by someone already on the list, and you had to give your real name to the list admins (although pseudonyms were allowed on the list).
This requirement regarding member restrictions was not without controversy.
At that time, broadband at home was rare, and most of the original Virgule members joined on work accounts.
The use of work email accounts led to the first flame war on Virgule when in 1993 a disgruntled list member trolled through old archives to identify the workplace of a fellow member she was having an on list dispute with. She then posted to the mailing list that she knew where her nemesis worked (actually identifying the workplace in her post to the mailing list) and claimed she could get her fired (presumably for using work resources to receive mailing list emails). Not surprisingly, her actions led to the first mailing list member being banned from Virgule.
It wasn't the first time that a fellow slash fan threatened to out another fan, but the list began to take member recommendations more seriously and for a brief while, new members could be put on hold if a mailing list member objected because they believed the proposed member was untrustworthy or lacked integrity. Some fans felt this was the equivalent to blackballing new members but others pointed out that because the mailing list had already seen outing threats, they had little choice but to put measures in place to safeguard the existing membership. 
The objection policy was dropped in the summer of 1995 and new members were added automatically if they met the membership criteria and agreed to abide by list policies. The FAQ listed the following three criteria for admission: "interest in slash, ability to maintain confidentiality of the list, and a tolerance of others."
These altercations added to the dangers of being associated with or discussing slash, making membership originally quite restrictive.
The early 1990s were a relatively dry time for slash fandoms. There weren't a lot of slashable shows airing; in fact, it was common for fans on the list to proclaim that they didn't watch TV.
On the mailing list's third anniversary (October 18, 1995), Sandy posted the following overview of the mailing list membership:
A lot of the early bios say things like, I knew there had to be people like me out there, but I didn't know how to find them. They sound so thrilled to be here (and we were thrilled to absorb their enthusiasm and fire). Others of us were more ho-hum; the list just complemented the many fannish contacts we already have (apas, penpals, local slash communities), but complemented them usefully, and added aspects of fun and communication that we'd miss now if we lost them....
We currently have 83 subscribed accounts (some of which are shared). We've lost 10-15 people, for any number of reasons. Some people have come and gone 2 or 3 times as they've gained and lost e-mail accounts or sufficient time in their lives.
A lot of the early bios had a variation on the phrase, 'Sandy dragged me into this list...' I've long since stopped playing recruiter, and most of the last 20 or 30 people I've never heard of before, but I'm still making new friends of the people that show up, and still having a blast with this list.I'd love a round of applause for Betsy who did all of the work for the first 2+ years of the list (I just did the fun parts), and Morgan Dawn, who shares the work with her now. 
One of the biggest growth spurt in membership came after the mailing list advertised in the Media Monitor adzine in early 1993. It would be the first - and only time - the list would publicly advertise. By February 1993, the list was generating as much email traffic as some of the larger, more established Blake's 7 mailing lists. The list which began with 7 members (plus Sandy) had over 150 members by October 1996.
There clearly was a pent-up demand for slash mailing lists. In October 1996, a fan at UC Davis set up Slashpoint, an open slash mailing list and publicly advertised it on Usenet. Within 5 days it had over 100 members with as many as 100 posts every 24 hours.
What Did Fans Talk About?
Some topics discussed in the first twelve months: RPS, Rape fic, Fan Fic Stereotypes, The Professionals Drinking Game, The Professionals FanFic Drinking Game, the history of K/S fandom, songvids, favorite zines, reviews of zines, whether reviews were destroying fandom, the dangers of the Internet, why fandom should never be publicly mentioned on the World Wide Web (and why some fans needed to stop worrying so much), the electronic circuit library, the perils of putting fanfiction into electronic form, men in slash fandom, academics in fandom, writing sequels to another fan's fanfiction....Or to put it in the words of Alexfandra, one of the list members:
Other fans appreciated the list for the amount of debate it generated:I mean, during our past year of list existence, we've pretty much covered it: How I Became a Slash Fan; What Is Slash?; What My Mother Thinks of Slash; What My SO, Boss, Co-Workers, Friends, and Pets Think of Slash; Fanfic Likes and Dislikes; Where Did Slash Come From, Anyway?; Academics Study Slash--Ooh, Ick; Actor Slash--Ooh, Ick, Where Can I Get Some; Zine Pirating Will Ruin Fandom; Diversity into Mini-Fandoms Will Ruin Fandom; Academics (Ooh,Ick) Will Ruin Fandom; Fandom Will Ruin Fandom; Why I Like Rape, S/M, Death and Mayhem; Elves Suck; No, They Don't; Bleeding Versus Sniffle H/C Versus Emotional H/C; Explicitness and Slash--Is It Sex Yet?; and My Guy's Wanger Is Bigger Than Your Guy's Wanger. 
I like Virgule, and wouldn't unsubscribe......for a lot of small reasons, and one big reason: Lots of people on Virgule disagree with me about almost everything. It is very easy for me in my local fan group (the Media Cannibals) to think that if we all agree on something, that it must be the fannish consensus. People on this list were chosen (arcanely, but so far accurately) by the list admins to be of-like-mind on at least some issues. It's easy, for me at least, to forget that people I respect in fandom often have different opinions about important fannish issues. Sure, the threads often go on long after the important points have been made, and people whose opinions I do not respect do far more than their share of posting. But Virgule is a cross-section of fandom different than any other: there are people who don't go to cons, who never belonged to an apa or letterzine, who don't write or publish, and I hear things there I wouldn't otherwise hear. 
In February 1995, a fan described this community:
Ever wondered why you never hear from someone? Chances are, if they have a modem, and particularly if they are based in the US, they are on the slash net! US readers of LfB will probably already know about it.
I've just got an account on the Internet at my university, and have been accepted onto the slash bulletin board based in the US. I thought that some of the readers of LfB may be interested to hear a bit about it, especially if they are not yet au fait with bulletin board systems (I'm not).
In some ways, it is similar to LfB, in that it is a forum for anyone with an Email account to write to other slash fen. It is not direct communication, there is no direct talking with any other members like some chat boards, but rather a posting of informal electronic letters which reach the board in seconds and can be answered daily.
The main pro of the board is speed. The main con of the board is, also, speed. You can send a query to the board and have rt answered immediately, and news and titbit's reach the whole group of 80+ members immediately. . Unfortunately, if you miss posting on a day (and I generally miss a week at a time), then that's just tough. It isn't topic of the week, but topic of the day, or even of the hour. With a letter zine such as LfB, tribbers have time to compose their messages and consider what they wish to say. The slashnet doesn't give you that time.
Messages need to be kept very short or they are only skimmed by readers, who may have to deal with over a 100 messages every time they log on, and don't want to read dissertations. In fact, it seems that the majority of messages consist of "Did you see so and so an episode last night? Wasn't whats-his-name a spunk?".
There are a number of reasonably famous slash type people on the board. Gayle F is a regular poster, along with Mysti Frank. It is also a very quick way of tracking down people in the US who may be able to tape shows, or share a common interest, or get an opinion on a zine. I did see one tribber ask for a pirate copy of a zine though, and she went down in flames. That's another problem with the speed of the board messages, if anyone says something that another takes exception to, there is no cooling off period. Say something wrong and the flaming can be acid.
If you thought that LfB often had things in it that you were not interested in, you aint seen nothin'!. The sheer amount of chat that goes through this board means that 80% of it is rubbish. Certainly, there are some very interesting items posted though, enough to keep me looking in, but I get approximately 100 messages every time I log on, and only reply to three or four. It may sound rude to ignore all of those people, but that is the only way to deal with it all.
The latest talk that has been dominating the Board is the possibility of Ezines. There is already an electronic Professionals library available, with about 119 stories that can be posted to your Email address. (This is fabulous - totally free stories that just come down the phone line and print off your own machine! Although etiquette is that you type one in return). No real agreement was reached, with everyone saying they preferred paper zines, but agreeing electronic zines would be a lot cheaper than buying paper zines. The main consensus was that like the Professionals (paper) stories circuit, there just isn't enough feedback to help it compete against zines, and no rewards for editors either, so that it may be a long time before Ezines become a reality.
It is an expensive option, if you want to trib to the net from home. Take into consideration the costs of setting up a modem, a carrier, account maintenance, and phone calls, but it is cheap, (albeit time consuming) if done from a university if you are a student.I cannot give out the address, as it is a strictly private board, but if anyone has a modem and is interested, if you write to me, via CARLA, I'll give the board your Email address. You have to apply to the board, all members are asked if they have any objections to your joining, then you are sent your first lot of messages. There are quite a lot of rules to follow, but it is certainly an enjoyable way of killing time, but be prepared to loose many hours in front of your screen. 
As early as 1996, some fans mourned the loss of intimacy of the initial mailing list:
Virgule list was a remarkable experience for me -- my first exposure to slash fans en masse. The fact that there's more diverse a masse than there was when I first joined is probably a good thing, at least in theory. In practice, the feeling of community that was there when I joined is mostly gone. 
After the CI-5 list, other specific fandom lists spawned, encouraged by free list software offered by ONElist/eGroups/YahooGroups until every possible splinter of fandom had its own list, and the need for a rather controlled private list grew less. The Virgule Mailing List ceased operating sometime on or around October 1, 2003.
Controversies, Dangers, and Perceived Dangers
Beware the Acafan
In June 1994, fans discussed Henry Jenkins and whether he should be allowed to be on the mailing list.
One fans stated that she'd met him once, read his book, and was a member of the apa Strange Bedfellows (as was Jenkins). The fan stated that she had reservations about Jenkin's membership:
1. Jenkins was studying fandom and was going to use information he gained through fandom in his professional work. 2. She wasn't going to argue about his ethical practices, his personal sexual orientation, as they were not the point. 3. She no more wanted Jenkins on the list than she would invite a news reporter into her living room as she didn't want to be studied, didn't want her perceptions, feelings, thoughts, etc. stored up in Mr. Jenkins memory bank for later use, didn't want to be put into the position of being asked for permission somewhere down the line, for something I said to be used in a chapter in a book. 4. She was also very much against the possibility/likelihood that his presence on the list would turn the tone of the conversation on the list to be "elevated", "sanitized", or generally "carefully thought through". She stated that he would created an observer effect, and that this would change the behavior of those being observed.
Some fan response:
I have to say this: I am not an academic, but I am just as dangerous as one given this explanation. I think about this stuff and talk about it to non-fans, including my family. Some of it winds up in church, at my writer's group, our local slash-bash and Virgule con-com meetings. Some of the ideas expressed may end up in an editorial or a letter to the editor, not as a quote, but as an idea or paraphrase.
I may even have mentioned some of the list's ideas when I was on the polyfidelity panel last month, discussing my three-person marriage.
We talk a lot about some very interesting stuff; it cannot help but affect my life, what I think, feel, and say.
To claim that I am 'safe' while an academic is not is rather naive. You really don't know who your neighbors are on this list.
I have some of the same feeling of unease as [L]; it seems to me that someone who makes his living by writing about fandom gives up any status as a common or garden variety fan. While many list members are academics, or students, they are here in their private capacity; they are not 'professional' fen.
Yes, but you are not publishing these things for all the world to read and comment on. You are also identifying yourself as a participant. I suspect most of us discuss bits of the list with like-minded or sympathetic friends, and discuss the ideas out of fannish context and identity. I see a big difference between this kind of discussion and the kind engendered by academic publication. Academic writing takes a distant stance, trying for that impossible objectivity. With that comes a sense of 'difference' superiority and judgement. While HJ would possibly wish to avoid this kind of stance he's going to find it hard to write acceptably for his colleges if he does. Some of the criticism CBS got was because she presented her personal fan odyssey as objective observation. HJ's book was less emotion-laden, but by writing that way he also distanced himself from his fan persona.
Talking about ideas from the list is very different from talking about ideas from the slash list in a book or chapter on slash fandom.
You directed this at [L], but I'd like to reply. No, I don't know all or even most of the people on the list, but I do trust that they are here because they are women who have some sexual and emotional reactions similar to mine. This list is one place where we can drop the facade a bit and know we will not be rejected for our taste in reading material and our acknowledgement of lust after tv characters. I've no real objection to HJ as a person, although I really don't think a bisexual man is going to have the same reaction to slash that we do. After all, we've spent time trying to define the difference between sexual material written by and for gay men and slash. I am concerned that HJ will not be able to stop his academic brain from operating in this context.I'm also a little worried that academic-type discussion might come to dominate the list. I like the analysis that goes on here and try to do a bit myself, but I'd hate to see the list turn into a slash seminar. 
Beware the Men
Beware the Outing and Visibility
Don't mention it to anyone.
Don't talk about it to anyone.
The mailing list advertised in the Media Monitor adzine in early 1993. It would be the first - and only time - the list would publicly advertise.
Beware the Competition
List Surveys and Notable Discussions
- 1993 Virgule-L Fan Fiction Survey
- 1994 Virgule-L Memorable Songvids Survey
- 1994 Pros Fanfic Angst Viewed As a Five-Star Thai Menu
- 1994 Christmas Wish List For The Mailing List
- Sandy Herrold's 1996 Slash Fandom Survey
- 1996 Role of reviews on the mailing list
- 1997's Internet Fans Controversy Du Jour (Sandy Herrold)
- from a reposted email sent to the mailing list on October 31, 1996, accessed with permission. A copy of that first email can be read here; reference link.
- November 15, 1992 email posted to the mailing list, accessed May 22, 2021, quoted with permission
- Source: Sandy Herrold personal recollections, accessed May 25, 2011.
- comments by [[Sandy Hereld, quoted with permission.
- Source: Sandy Herrold's email to a private mailing list. She wrote: "For reference, CI5 has about 95, and Virgule has 150 [members]...Lots of familiar faces from Virgule and others, but lots of people I've never heard of, and some people I know through fandom, but never knew were online..." (quoted with permission).
- posted December 1993, quoted with permission.
- Sandy Hereld posting to a private mailing list on Sept 30, 1996, quoted with permission.
- by Ferret in Late for Breakfast #24 (February 1995)
- Post by Jan Levine to the mailing list dated Mon 9/30/1996, quoted with permission.
- The last list message is dated September 27, 2003. By October 6, an attempt to renew a subscription to Virgule-L resulted in this message: "No LISTSERV list by the name of "VIRGULE-L" is known to exist." Saved email, accessed April 18, 2010.
- quoted anonymously from Virgule-L with permission, June 16, 1994
- comments by Susan H., quoted with permission (June 16, 1994)