A long time ago, in at a convention far away, fans used to gather to share their love of reading, science fiction, story ideas and each others' company. Now, sadly, with the advent of the Internet, cell phones, Instant Messenger, and other cheap and immediate methods of communication, the need to actually be in the same location has gone away. Attendance at conventions has been dropping and fan publishing, on paper at least, seems to be dead.

I began attending Science Fiction convention in the early 1980's and consider the times I spent there to be some of the most stimulating of my life. For those of us who believed no one else was interested in the sorts of things we found fascinating, finding a huge group of people with similar interests was nothing short of miraculous. We met, we talked, we laughed, we analyzed. We had fun. Home computers and the Internet were toys for the privileged few, and we had few privileges in those days! Most of us couldn't afford the cost of a single hotel room, so we packed 4 - or often more (once 13!) - people into rooms to cut costs. We dragged huge coolers of food and drink behind us, along with our hall costumes and books to be signed. We hung on the words of the featured speakers and we shopped, shopped, shopped! What did we buy? Books, of course, D&D dice, costumes and weapons, and of course, fanzines! How wonderful it was to be able to read about the "secret lives" for our favorite media and literary characters! We bought our 'zines, we traded for new ones, and sometimes we wrote our own. It was a heady experience and boy, was it fun!

Since then, times have changed. The Internet has brought all of us closer, just a click away. Production companies have loosened up their strangle holds on media characters, allowing whole series of books to be published, and allowing some of our best fan writers to realize their dreams of having legitimate books published. It's made publishers rich and writers famous. Good for them! It has, however, taken away something from fan writers. No more bins of well-loved 'zines for sale in the Dealers' Room. No more giggling, gasping discussions over the latest slash 'zine or artwork. Yes, I know that fan writing is alive and well on the Internet. I've read it and it's very good. But somehow it's just not the same as cracking that highly-coveted and newly-purchased copy of the latest offering by your favorite fan writer.

I don't go to many conventions anymore. They just don't have the magic they once did. The emphasis no longer seems to be about reading or writing, and the tracks of programming are so specialized that few people seem to crossover from their safe little areas of interest into something new. Gamers run off to the gaming rooms, SCAdians are off discussing corset construction and the science people are well, crowded into a small room in the back somewhere. And no one seems to be able to find the filk room. I just don't feel the sense of community anymore. I miss fandom and I miss fan writing. Maybe a new generation with stir up the embers. I don't think they're dead. I sincerely hope not.

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