Over at her blog The Literary Omnivore, my friend Clare was talking about a book she'd read about the early days of Star Trek Fandom. Now, I'm hardly a hardcore Trek fan, but back in the day I really loved it, as I loved all things science fiction and sword & sorcery and super hero.
As I told Clare, when I think about my early days in fandom, what I remember most is the sheer unavailability of the stuff I was geeking out over. In those pre-Internet, pre-VCR, pre-cable days the only way to even see episodes of Star Trek was to wait for them to come on whatever channel had bought the series in syndication. And there seemed to be episodes they showed only rarely, like they would constantly re-run Shore Leave and Let That be Your last Battlefield and a Piece of the Action, but Amok Time seemed a rare gem.
It was the same way with movies. Ted Turner's Superstation would occasionally rerun Forbidden Planet or The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, or This Island Earth, but usually at 1:00 am on a Saturday night. I can remember many times camping out in the living room in a sleeping bag, sitting up late to catch some fabled SF/Fantasy film. And for things like the Star Trek Blooper reel or the Fleischer Superman cartoons, I could only see those at conventions.
And books? Fugeddaboutit. I sent want lists to book dealers. I mailed away for catalogs. I haunted used bookstores on weekends. Now, between Ebay and Amazon and ABEbooks, I can find anything and have it two days later.
Comics were much the same. Conventions were my only shot at getting old or unusual comics. There weren't any comic book shops near me and any in Atlanta might as well have been in Atlantis before I could drive. Nowadays I can get pretty much any comic book I want, and most of my favorites have been collected in reprint volumes. As I've said before, I don't care about owning expensive originals. I just want something I can read.
But you know, I don't begrudge the new fans their more accessible fandom and I don't think it's dulled the excitement of being a fan. I certainly take advantage of the new technology every day. I've met so many great folks through the internet that I never would have known otherwise. The internet has broadened fandom in so many ways.