Saturday, January 20, 2001

In The Many Eyes Of Fans

This article about the way the Internet is affecting the voice of fans comes from the November 13, 2000 issue of The Wall Street Journal. It speaks of John Bellairs as an author who wrote "pioneering Gothic-suspense novels targeted to young-adult readers, but followed cultishly by grown-ups too." Don't have a clue what they mean by that. What next Jonathan Abucejo? The New York Times? Keep up the good work!

Excerpts follow.

The Internet has turned our private obsessions over artists into public ones
By Robert J. Toth

Then the Internet turned everything upside down. Or, rather, inside out.

Simply put, the private world of the enthusiast -- which is to say, nuts like me -- is now public. The Internet offered fans the forum they never had, and they jumped at the chance to thrust their obsessions out into the world. Ambitious heads set up newsgroups, mailing lists and Web sites to create a central clearinghouse for information and to connect with other people who share their passions. It's the ultimate validation of obsessive fandom: Go online and you'll find that not only are you not alone, you're jammed cheek to jowl with other people who know all the words to the "Land of the Lost" theme song and won't rest until they can do a little Lacanian analysis. Why do you care so much? Take a look out there -- who doesn't?

I have mixed feelings about this new state of affairs. On the one hand, it's hard not to get excited about the sheer volume of stuff that's finally available. But part of me is concerned about the long-term implications of putting fandom on display. If you drag people's deep-seated passions into the light of day, you're bound to pull up some pretty ugly stuff, too -- and I think that's already begun to happen online.

I stopped being shocked about what's out there when a friend told me to type goldmonkey.com into my browser. I was rewarded with an exhaustive guide to the short-lived and largely unlamented TV series "Tales of the Gold Monkey." Another site, which appeared to be down for construction at the time of this writing, contained one of the greatest labors of niche love I've ever seen: an in-depth timeline of the "Planet of the Apes" universe, spanning several thousand years and culling dates from not only the movies but also such obscure sources as the "Apes" TV and comic-book series. If those seem a little frivolous, consider the Compleat Bellairs site (www.compleatbellairs.com), devoted to the works of the late author John Bellairs, who wrote pioneering gothic-suspense novels targeted to young-adult readers but followed cultishly by grown-ups, too.

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