Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Roger Ebert, Fanboy

Critic Roger Ebert paid his dues and got his start as a writer of science fiction fanzines. He’s got a most interesting guest editorial in the January 2005 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, where he tells some of his story and gives us a history of that now-abandoned medium. Before the Internet, fanzines and their subversive virtual subculture provided an escape valve for many people: “Fanzines were not offensive in any way—certainly not in a sexual way . . . , but I sensed somehow that they were . . . dangerous. Dangerous, because untamed, unofficial, unlicensed. It was the time of beatniks and On the Road, which I also read, and no one who did not grow up in the fifties will be quite able to understand how subversive fandom seemed.” Ebert draws a connection between fanzines and the culture of the Internet: “Someday an academic will write a study proving that the style, tone, and much of the language of the online world developed in a direct linear fashion from science fiction fandom—not to mention the unorthodox incorporation of ersatz letters and numbers in spelling, later to influence the naming of computer companies and programs.” Good stuff.

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