Take a trip back in time with me to the mid-90s
- if you were up to date your computer was probably running windows 95
- there was no standard word processing application (I used Word Perfect, who remembers that one?)
- “the internet” was usually synonymous with “AOL” (although some folks used Prodigy or Compuserve)
- AOL had a lot of content, including message boards, chat rooms, IM, etc.
- fandom existed primarily on newsgroups, mailing lists, and message boards
- if you were on AOL, you might find fellow fans by SEARCHING THE PROFILES OF ALL AOL USERS FOR INTEREST IN YOUR FANDOM AND THEN RANDOMLY IMING THEM CAN YOU BELIEVE WE USED TO DO THAT AND IT WORKED JFC
- chatting for non-aol users was accomplished with IRC and ICQ (uh oh!)
- the best web browser was Netscape Navigator
- you paid for internet BY THE MINUTE and it was a great day when AOL changed to a flat monthly fee for unlimited access
- you didn’t use the internet for too long at a time anyway because you were tying up your phone line. Or, you got a second line for your computer.
- websites involved lots of tiled backgrounds, flashing text, and marquees. Most had a single banner image because graphics took forever to load.
- the word “blog” did not exist
- fanfiction was hosted on your own personal website or on an archive website someone in your fandom set up. You might have fic in multiple archives.
- to share fanfic with people IRL you either had to save to a floppy for them or print it out.
- the bulk of mailing lists were on egroups which later was purchased by yahoo and turned into yahoo groups
- website hosting services included GeoCities, angelfire, Xoom, and others I feel like I’m forgetting right now
- web search was ineffective and fairly useless. You had to search multiple providers (yahoo, alta vista, lycos) which would each give vastly different results, until metasearch came along and consolidated them for you
- to find sites in your fandom you would go to one site and see which webrings they were a member of, then look through the webrings. Some people wouldn’t let you into their webring if they didn’t think you were cool enough.
- every website with fanfic had layers and layers of disclaimers and if applicable adult content warnings you had to click through to get to the content
- we have come a long way in the past 20 years (also jfc I’m old)
There are so many more fandom knitters floating around, in fandoms that I am in, than I thought.
It’s delightful. :D
And yet fanfiction is an inherently transformative work which, by its very nature, strives to address or change some flaw that exists in canon, even if that flaw is “why isn’t there more of this thing?!” Fanfiction has addressed the lack of gay men by making straight characters gay; it’s addressed countless cultural misappropriations with wildly varying AUs; it’s addressed canon plot holes and timeline issues with fix-it fics and crossovers. Fanfic is the show your show could be like, if only you dared to dream.
But for all its transformative nature, fanfiction and fandom still suffer from a real dearth of femslash. Beyond the simple fact that very few girls exist in canon materials, the societal emphasis on the male gaze seems to have affected fanficcers’ creativity to such an extent that even in our own fantasies, we cannot give women a fair shake. Just as the answer to “Why is there so much slash?” cannot be boiled down to “ Well, straight girls are horny”, the answer to “Why isn’t there any femslash?” cannot be boiled down to “Well, straight girls don’t care.” The bias against female characters and female pleasure is an ingrained, institutionalized problem which won’t go away on its own.— Conclusion of Lady Geek Girl and Friends’s fascinating article on femslash and fandom (do give it a read if you’re interested!)