AngiePen (angiepen) wrote,

Some Fanfic History

Wow, an update! :D

I just posted a comment in greedy_dancer's journal about some fanfic history, and I thought it'd be interesting to other people so I'm posting it here too. She's got a very interesting discussion going over there, though, about non-native English speakers reading/writing slash in English rather than their native languages, and I recommend it to anyone who feels like heading over to read.

Anyway, someone there mentioned that slash is an internet phenomenon, and of course, being the old biddy that I am, I had to jump in....

Actually, no, slash is not a product of the internet. Fanfiction has been around much longer. The earliest written slash fanfiction that I know of (not definitive, but I've never heard of anything older) was based on the original Star Trek series, and was usually Kirk/Spock. Early fanfic was typed on a typewriter and copied somehow onto paper -- you know, that pulpy stuff? [grin] And mind you, this was before photocopying was common. Some people owned or had access to mimeograph machines; if you're old enough you might remember getting blurry, purple mimeos in school. You had to carefully type a stencil, no error correction at all, and then the duplication process worked sort of like silkscreening. Even older (and cheaper) was the hectograph, where you made up a pan of gelatin-stuff, used a stencil to put down a page's worth of inked words, then carefully laid blank paper, one piece at a time, pressed it and peeled it off with an impression on it. The first one was okay, and you could get three or four basically readable copies. Some people doing fanzines went to five or six just 'cause... well, imagine doing even twenty copies of a fifty-page zine this way. [shudder] Cheap photocopies were a godsend to fandom -- four cents per copy in the early 80s when I first needed it, three if you shopped around, and fast, and easy.

Most people who did fanzines bought one of those staplers that does the extra-long staples. Some had saddle-staplers, the ones used to staple in the middle of a page, on the fold. Occasionally you'd get a zine that was saddle-stitched; you had to get that done at the printer's, or at least I never heard of anyone who could do it at home.

Cardstock covers were common, in various colors, some not very well chosen. Ever try to read something printed in black on dark green...?

If you wanted fanfic and didn't know anyone who was personally producing it (which was probably the case -- how many of your realspace friends write fanfic?) you went to a science fiction convention and looked up the fanzine dealer in the dealers' room and bought some. A fanzine was usually centered around one particular fandom (by the time I started going to conventions in '80 there were quite a few fandoms being written) and might be further sorted by general vs. adult vs. adult slash, or they might have several kinds of stories in one zine with ratings indicated in the table of contents. One might also find badly drawn illustrations, worse poetry, and the occasional word-search puzzle or something like that. A new zine would run you between five and twenty dollars or so, and I saw older zines going for nearly a hundred once or twice. A few were up to an inch thick, usually with GBC (comb) binding, but most were more like a centimeter with staples. The cheapest fanfic I ever bought was a six page story with a staple in the corner for like seventy-five cents.

The internet was around back then, but it was ARPANET, run by the US Department of Defense, with no sign of the web until much later, and only very few people had access to it. I took a programming class in the 80-81 school year and neither e-mail nor the internet were even mentioned.

The book, Star Trek Lives, by Sondra Marshak, Myrna Culbreath and Joan Winston, published in '75, talks about the Star Trek phenomenon, and has two chapters which might interest you -- one's about fandom in general, and the other is about fanfiction and includes a discussion of slash. There are summaries and excerpts from a number of stories in here which will make you wish they (the stories) were still available. :D That book is what got me interested in fanfiction; I was twelve when it came out and started my first fanfic at thirteen, a blatant Mary Sue story which I no longer own, thank you very much. ;) But I just checked Amazon, and although Star Trek Lives is out of print, they have a bunch of used copies available VERY cheaply. I highly recommend this, even if you only read those two chapters I mentioned.

Tags: fandom, fanfic
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