Mar. 31st, 2012

arduinna: a tarot-card version of Linus from Peanuts, carrying a lamp as The Hermit (Default)
(If you want to link to these and keep the cut tags intact for people, link to my front page or link to this archive page)

(disclaimer in part 1)

Time to talk about actual mailing lists!

Mailing lists changed over time; in a lot of ways, this goes back to "the medium defined the message" again.

(I'm going to caveat here and say: some of this information is 18 years old and got dug out of very dusty corners of my mind. This is all to the best of my recollection, but take that with a grain or six of salt, please.)

A brief history of lists )

General list etiquette )

Gen v Het v Slash )

Public and private lists )

What did people talk about, anyway? )


Spoilers )

Posting fanfic )

TPTB on the lists )

Getting/trading source )

So I will wrap up with:

Getting to know people on lists )

And that is my incredibly long, yet incredibly brief and incomplete, look at fandom on mailing lists.


part 1
part 2
arduinna: a tarot-card version of Linus from Peanuts, carrying a lamp as The Hermit (Default)
(If you want to link to these and keep the cut tags intact for people, link to my front page or link to this archive page)

(disclaimer in part 1)

Finding fandom

It wasn't easy to stumble over fandom in the 1990s if you didn't have a specific interest in it. Which doesn't mean it was hard to find!

But fandom wasn't being talked about on tv, or in random newspaper/magazine articles, or being linked to off mainstream sites. Media companies weren't hosting forums to try to corral people's fannishness into appropriate venues, where like-minded people could easily find each other and link off to other more fannish sites; mostly TPTB were sending C&Ds to people who posted pictures of their show, and being very wary of this whole "world wide web" thing that was taking control away from them.

(source: a 1997 cache of the page X-File Fan Fiction Links, found on Wayback If you click that link, it will look different than my image; I made my browser's background black before I took the screenshot, so it would look the way it did originally. There were an awful lot of black-background XF sites around then...)

Most fans were careful never to publicly link back to (or even mention) fan sites, to protect each other. If there was a newspaper article about us somewhere, it got talked about and linked (or quoted, if it wasn't online) all over the place, as something rare and strange and worrying (journalists almost always got it wrong, for one thing).

(Fifteen years later, I still twitch when I see people linking to archives or vid sites or individual fanworks in public forums, particularly media-controlled forums. The instinct to hide was instilled that strongly.)

And really, everything, not just fandom, was out of sight in the very early days. The web was brand new, small, and scattered, and consisted of lots of little pockets of interest that weren't very well connected. Search engines were in their infancy, as well, and not everything was indexed.

But pretty much, all you had to do was look around on the web or Usenet for your preferred source's title, and you would manage to find something that would point you in the right direction.

Online services companies )

Links pages )

Webrings )

Fanlistings )

Where the fans were talking

Discussion was the primary function of fandom in the 90s, at least in my corners of it; fanfic was great and got devoured, but it was secondary to talking about the show. (Although for that matter, we also talked about the fanfic.) While there were people who only wanted the fic and ignored the discussions, there were also people who only wanted the discussions and ignored the fic. And where today someone watching an episode might think "I wonder what would have happened if he'd accepted the coffee?" and write a 600-word snippet about it, back in the day they were as likely to post the question to their preferred discussion place and start a conversation about it that could last for days. (Or vanish without a ripple. You never knew.)

So fans were talking all over the place, and there was a good chance you could find a format that worked for you; if you didn't want to talk, you could lurk and watch other people talking. Like anything else, it was 5-15% of the people doing the talking in most places, while everyone else lurked.

Newsgroups )

Mailing lists )

Message boards )

IRC and other forms of chat )

Personal websites and archives for essays and reviews )

Where the fans were reading fanfic

To start with, if you were on newsgroups, mailing lists, or message boards, you were very probably reading fanfic there as well, either mixed in with regular discussion or on separate fic-specific groups/lists/boards.

Beyond that, the two main ways to find fanfic was on archives and on personal web sites.

Archives )

Personal webpages )

Newsletters )

Monofannish or Multifannish

There's a myth that it was hard to be multifannish in the heyday of mailing lists. It wasn't hard at all, even before Karen's site; it was just that if you didn't have multifannish tendencies to begin with, it was easy to be monofannish and just play in the one sandbox that interested you. You could ignore anything that wasn't relevant to your own personal interests.

Looking for more fandoms )

Spreading the cross-fandom word )

part 1
part 3
arduinna: a tarot-card version of Linus from Peanuts, carrying a lamp as The Hermit (Default)
(If you want to link to these and keep the cut tags intact for people, link to my front page or link to this archive page)

For the Meta Month of March thing ([community profile] month_of_meta), someone asked for "Tales of fandom past. Anyone who was around in the mailing-list era or before...I want to hear How Things Were Different Back In The Day."

Which made me feel both really old and like a raw newbie again (there were so many days before The Day! so many people have been around so very much longer than me!). But I also thought to myself, well, this is something I can do. I was there, I really enjoyed it very much, and it won't be that hard. It'll be a little bit long maybe, but not too bad.

Then I started writing. I wasn't entirely sure where to start it, or what angle to approach it from, so I had five or six different starts written out. And then I just started writing, and writing, and writing.

Yeah, this got ridiculously long, even for me, so I'm breaking it out into three posts.

First the disclaimers and caveats: This is what my experience of mailing-list-based fandom 10-18 years ago (oh dear god) was like, to the best of my recollection. Other people had different experiences, sometimes hugely different, depending on when they came into fandom, what fandom was their gateway, whether they were monofannish or not, whether they were into slash or not, whether they lurked or were active, etc. The only thing that would be mostly the same for everyone is that posts were made, distributed, and read via email.

I had written up a giant step-by-step explanation of my fannish background for context, but it boils down to this: I started out in SF fandom in 1980, found a few slash zines in a dealer's room around 1985, and then totally failed to connect further with media and especially slash fandom until around 1994, when I got on the internet through work and discovered Forever Knight mailing lists. I knew about newsgroups but for some reason they intimidated me, and I stuck to lists; looking back, I regret that, as the newsgroups were hugely active and I probably would have had a lot of fun if I could have adapted to the way they worked.

My personal experience is with Western, tv-based fandoms that revolved around discussion of the source, producing fanworks (which wasn't a word yet - we wrote fanfic, drew art, made vids, tribbed to or edited or published or agented zines), consuming fanworks (likewise), and to some degree attending (or putting on) cons. If you came in through SF fandom, you might say all of that, including the participation in lists/newsgroups/cons/APAs/zines, was your fanac, a term that I wish had gained as much traction as fanworks, because it doesn't narrow down the field of "people who actively create fandom" to people with creative urges.

As time went on I slid more and more toward slash-based fandom, but with the same emphasis as before on discussion, fanworks, and interaction.

Okay, so, with all of that out of the way, here's my take on what mailing-list fandom was like, from about 1994 to the early/mid-2000s.

The medium defined the message )

Signal-to-noise: bandwidth and storage )

Size limits: text, images, video, music )

Things were pricy )

Looking back on it, it all looks sort of wretched, no? Slow, creaky, limited, expensive.

But at the time, it was amazing. $3,000 for a 4 G system sounds like a lot of money 15 years later -- but 10 years earlier, I'd've paid $3k just for a 15 MB hard drive and installation kit, plus another $2k if I wanted a second unit. My computer had a graphical user interface! It had a web browser! (I didn't have one at work; we didn't need them. We had email, and if you knew enough to ask, you could get a newsreader, too. What else could you possibly need?)It had an internal modem!

We were living the good life.

ascii art )

part 2
part 3

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