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 "Dead Alive" - by The Extremist


        I started calling bulletin board systems around 1992, I believe.

        Bulletin boards were an obscure thing, and although millions of
 people were on them, BBSers were a small, invisible minority of the
 population, no matter where they lived.  I think that that fact alone
 tainted most of the writing that was done at that time.  The audience for
 our writing was this underground society in which we had some high amount
 of respect.  Even some newbie calling a Public Domain board was already
 somewhere beyond mere mortals, although not terribly so.

       The BBS scenes, both public and underground, thrived on the
 constant influx of new people coming in, trying to integrate themselves
 to these communities.  In the underground scenes, people were looking up
 at the legacy that the high figures from the past had left behind them
 and trying to follow their steps into the elite, whether this was serious
 or not.  The old timers would bash on the new people, and those hardcore
 enough would rise and take their place among the great.  The particular
 thing about bulletin boards is that, due to long distance charges, there
 would only be a handful of people in any given area.  A local community
 would form out of the available people. That community would be tightly
 knit together, since there weren't that many other freaks like us that
 would call bulletin boards.  Tons of little villages were created.  Some
 boards gained notoriety over larger areas, and the most elite people
 would call Long Distance to get on them.  Some of these boards, their
 users and the groups they were in had so much status in their scenes that
 BBSers knew them all across the continent.

      At some point, the internet came.  Following its arrival, there
 was a huge effervescence in all of the scenes that were transposed on
 there.  It was like a giant virtual convention that would never end.  The
 ANSI art scene, for example, greatly profited from this and severed its
 ties with the warez scene, on which it was dependent for the diffusion of
 art releases across the continent.  All of the villages could gather
 together, all the time, exchanging local productions all over the place.
 Mega groups came out of the best elements of the smaller villages.  In
 fact, the BBS scenes where the precursors of the wave of giant mergers
 that's going through the business world today.  Technology brought us
 together, and bigger entities came out of it.  We just were there
 earlier.

        Conventions are usually yearly events that last for a few days.
 After every has done their share of drinking and PPV porn watching in
 their hotel rooms on the company's bill, everybody goes back to their
 "village" and keeps working on whatever they are doing, be it writing
 software or reading comic books. For the BBS scenes, the internet was a
 convention.

        The big problem is that BBS users never went back home.  We kept
 on getting the free porn in our hotel rooms and getting drunk on company
 pay.  We didn't bother going back to the village, where we had to keep on
 evangilizing the incoming masses about the glorious past of the scene.
 After a short while, there were no newcomers to the village.  People went
 straight for the convention and got all the free porn, without having
 toiled away on obscure local bulletin boards.

        The media thought that our virtual convention was cool, convinced
 half the planet that they had to be there, AND IT CAME.  There is no way
 in which we could handle that influx of newcomers.  To top it off, they
 had the gall of forming their own lame and boring scenes, on which they
 could revert back if we were too harsh on them.  So in short, they came
 to our convention, and they took it over.  To keep our integrity, we had
 to wall our scenes up in a corner of the convention floor.  But since
 BBSes died, there were no more villages from which new members could come
 from.

        So eventually the convention theorically became the village.  But
 the thing is, there is no such thing as a Global Village.  It's just a
 mess of smaller villages badly together.  And instead of having a
 hierarchy of villages like we used to have, we have a general anarchy.
 It's not as glorious as it used to be.  There is no more top to be at.
 The people yearning for the past are often looking up to the big groups
 of yesterday, complaining about how there is no such thing today.  The
 truth is, the elite groups of the past were small communities like the
 rest, except that they were idolized.

        So what we must now concentrate on is not on having a large
 community which can be hierarchized give elite status to a few, but
 survive, live as a small community in a sea of other communities.  There
 is no group towards which we stand in awe anymore.  Is that bad?  I don't
 think so.  If we look at the zines scene, I think we have brilliantly
 passed the obstacle.  We have a nice community of people bitching at each
 other, and I love it.  I was always on the very outskirts of it, but now
 I have decided to come in and live in there. This is the new age of the
 zine community.  Looking back at the past, today's scene seems just as
 big to me.

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