The internet was just beginning. The technological revolution had started. And at the same time came what was soon to become a legend; Star Wars IV : A New Hope, the definition of perfect film making. It was obvious that these two were to combine, and in the early 80s, soon after the completion of the Star Wars trilogy, a humble newsgroup was set up to cater for the needs of hungry fans (apparently called net.movies.sw). It was the only Star Wars newsgroup on the internet..

The group thrived and many people claim to remember posting there during its early days. However, no one seems to recall its name. But suddenly Star Wars' popularity was in the decline. There was no more new material. Very few Star Wars books were written, and George Lucas had stated that he wasn't sure if he was ever going to make the following trilogy. Because of this, the newsgroup became redundant in the mid-eighties. Certainly the sudden interest in Star Trek and its cascade of movies tempted many fans away from the Force. It also didn't help that many people regarded Star Wars as "a kids flick with ray-guns".

But suddenly, at the beginning of 1990, Star Wars' popularity suddenly picked up with the re-release of the films on video. They were the re-mastered videos, with slightly improved sound and special effects. People flocked to buy them, and the videos success brought about the additional videos; the THX trilogy. These videos were even more improved, the sound being the highlight.

The reason for this, at the time, was somewhat of a mystery. Why re-release Star Wars after so many years of it gathering dust? We were soon to find out. In 1993 Lucasfilm announced the re-release of the trilogy in the cinemas, to be known as the Special Editions. These new versions would replace the old stop-motion special effects with computer generated images, and some newly shot footage was to be added to all three movies. But why? There were two main reasons: one was that George Lucas had always wanted to improve on the trilogy when he had the technology, and the second was that a year later he was to announce the planned production of the prequel trilogy, which would tell the story of Ben Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker's relationship. The Special Editions would act as perfect advertisments and would resurrect the fans' interest in Star Wars as a whole.

By this time the internet had grown at an enormous rate, and the Star Wars newsgroup was now under the title Rec.Arts.Sf.Starwars. The news of the Special Editions and the prequels reached old Star Wars fans, the group increased in numbers as more people decided it was worth returning to chat about what the prequels could possibly be about.

Outside the world of the internet, Star Wars had suddenly become a phenomenon, and new literature, starting with novel trilogies by Kevin J. Anderson and Timothy Zahn, saw the beginnning of an increasingly large Star Wars merchandise market. This spread as far as RASS, and the members soon found themselves flooded with thousands of messages every day. As Star Wars' popularity grew, so did the price of mint original Kenner action figures, and a lot of RASS was taken up by advertisments and auctions for these figures. By 1994, the group was so huge that the members had no choice but to split RASS up. This happened in the usual democratic manner, and within a few months Rec.* found itself with four new Star Wars newsgroups: RASS.Games, RASS.Info, RASS.Collecting and RASS.Misc. They were all pretty straight forward; the titles spoke for themselves.

RASS.Misc is still the most popular, with up to 300 posts a day to the group. Most of them are simple questions and debates, but some go a little further than that....


The very first Gonk post was one of those innocuous things that happens every day on the newsgroup. Someone decided they were going to try and be funny, and posted something to the effect of "I just watched ANH again last night, and I noticed a major character I'd never seen before. He was a boxy 'droid in the Sandcrawler, and he said 'gonk gonk gonk.'" A short and simple post, no more ridiculous than some other things that get posted there... but for reasons no one can fathom, people latched onto this and started transforming him into a deity (this followed a few days of debate about what he actually said -- there was the "Gonk" camp but there was also the "gob" camp and the "gorf" camp and so on...). It's one of those things no one could possibly have predicted in advance, and it must have surprised the original poster as much as anyone else. But he never returned to take credit for it... No one seems to know who it was, but at the time it must have seemed so insignificant. Now it's getting mention in national magazines.

But it didn't end there. Now we must look at the Gonk War. The Gonk War was an argument between the Gonkites and the Heretics about how significant Gonk was to the outcome of the trilogy. The Gonkites claimed Gonk had been responsible for the destruction of both Death Stars, and also Jabba's sail barge. The Heretics argued that Gonk was simply another 'droid who had no bearing what-so-ever on events concerning the trilogy. This went on for a while with the Gonkites making the situation worse with their infuriating stubbornness.

According to sources, at one point posts to the Gonk War alone reached 200 - 300 a day. The Gonkites were originally led by Lemming, who was often ordered to leave RASS. Lemming was a clever, rude individual and wrote from the standpoint of total anonymity, going so far as to try to hide his/her gender until one more clever RASSer found out his real name. Apparently some nastiness followed in both electronic and snail mail. No one has claimed to have seen a post from Lemming since 1993.

Soon the war slowly fizzled out after the majority of RASSM got irritated by the amount of arguing and excessive posts (caused mainly by Lemming!).

Did we say that no one had heard from Lemming since 1993? Well, that isn't entirely true. The ORHP heard from Lemming back in July 1997 and he told us his version of events--

I'm always astonished when people claim that I started the whole thing. I suppose I might have. I'm notorious for not remembering what I've written, and that was a long, long time ago.

I'm also quite glad to see that I'm clever. I always knew that I was rude. In hindsight, it would also appear that I'm obsessed with Thomas Pynchon. No matter. They got him the exact same way, though I doubt the GONK wars compare to Gravity's Rainbow. I'll point out that I didn't hide my gender, though, I simply didn't post it and wouldn't tell anyone when they asked. There were no tinfoil hats involved.

So, if you'd like the rest of the story...well, I can't exactly give it to you. I can't remember what the hell I wrote or why (would it surprise anyone to find that I was undergoing major surgery at the time of the War?), and I can't figure out how to get DejaNews to bring archives from that far back. It amuses the hell out of me that people still remark upon it; that means, to me, that I did my job.

But no, I didn't quit Usenews, nor was I forced to leave (there was some nonsense about my account being suspended, which was immediately resolved when my webmaster saw that I wasn't cursing, and the wars proceeded apace). What happened was (in this order) I lost my left hand, discovered legal drugs, discovered illegal drugs, and dropped out of college. Then I got my hand back, and I just didn't care much anymore. With the exception of the rerelease I haven't seen Star Wars since 92, and I don't particularly plan to ever watch it again. Gonk was a writing exercise, theoretically, my attempt at a broad-based parody of catholocism and a little media terrorism (again, I don't know how well any of this came across). I'm kind of sorry I slacked off now, because I could have been truly notorious. But such is life.

....I wasn't forced to leave, and I was ordered only by other posters -- no one, as you know, can make you get off the net unless you're a pornographer or a victim of typing Tourette's. I just found other things to do, and when I got back into the internet I wandered over to the comics group, where I'm a fairly major poster (and incredible asshole). I don't think I was leading anything, but apparently I'm on the minority in that. I did write two or three dreadfully amusing things (the Dark Lord of the Sith Entrance Exam, what of it I remember, was chucklesome. Unfortunately, I don't have a copy so it might be misty memories.), and if you know where I can find copies I'd like to see them.

This wasn't all he had to say either.

You do realise you could be a celebrity, don't you?! After all, Gonk is a world-wide term for that box droid. Even official SW magazines refer to it as Gonk.

I'm aware, and astonished, and amused. The look on my face when I realised people were writing fanfic with me as a character (even an evil character) was priceless. My friends are already tired of me babbling about my net.sainthood. I see it as one more example of my mutant ability to impress teenagers (you should see me at shows).

....As I recall it, Julie Lim was one of the major people I was arguing with, along with Lukas Kendall (who promised to strangle me if we ever met. I wonder if that still stands). I had always made a big deal about my anonymity, much like Pynchon, and who I "really" am was rooted out by wonks, much like Pynchon. Around January of 1994 three people sent a request to my webmaster to cancel my account. They included letters edited and completely taken out of context as support. Since WKU was blanketed by an ice storm, my webmaster could not get in touch with me, so he suspended my account just to be sure. The second I saw him and assured him that I wasn't swearing he reinstated it and I trundled through the rest of the war without difficulty (although, by that point, I was getting pretty bored anyway). Meanwhile, a lot of people were posting about how they had my home address and name, and someone decided to play a snailmail prank on me by sending me a complimetary subscription to "Out," the magazine for gay men. This lead, as I said, to a wonderful conversation with my parents where they confronted their liberal feelings and decided they really -didn't- want a gay son, but they loved me anyway and always would and wanted me to know I could trust them for anything...

....meanwhile I was laughing so hard Franco-American spaghetti was coming out my nose...

The only other person who did anything was Julie Lim, who sent me a Akbar and Jeff postcard. We got to talking, went to MoMA once to hang out (the only time I've ever met a fellow Usenetter), corresponded for a while, and then I lost her address. So the reports of nastiness are greatly exaggerated.

The Dark Lord of the Sith Entrance Exam was a minor piece of fan parody I wrote. I thought it was really funny. But I didn't keep a copy, and DEJANews doesn't go back to the GoNK!!!!wars, so I can't reread it. I thought some people kept copies (I know one person plagarized it), so I was hoping the ORHP knew where I could find one.

After the Lemming fiasco, James Trory started THE REVOLUTION. It began when the Heretics attacked the Gonkites. James had only just begun reading RASSM, and was fascinated with the argument. He decided to get involved and at one point said aimlessly that THE REVOLUTION had begun. It carried on from there, with nearly every post on RASSM consisting of the Gonkites and the Heretics hurling moral garbage at each other. James unwillingly found himself the leader of the Heretics.

But like the previous battle, RASSM soon got tired of the new Gonk War, and e-mails to James from irritated posters forced him to declare THE REVOLUTION redundant, meaning a truce between the two parties. Since then, nothing has happened. But RASSMers now know from experience that these things never die....

For more information on Gonk, visit Gonkite's Groovy Grotto



This is probably the most common of threads on RASSM, and also the longest. It has been estimated that the debate about which universe is better, Star Wars or Star Trek, has continued for over three years, and it's unlikely that it will ever end in the forseeable future. But it is not the only thread in which comparisons between the two science fiction worlds are made. Many other debates are conducted about the intricacies of the seperate universes. Here are but a few:

The most common of the individual debates is the "Imperial Star Destroyer vs. Enterprise-D". This argument is conducted over virtually all the current Star Trek newsgroups and of course RASSM. It is a prime example of spam.

Second comes the "Hyperdrive vs. Warp Core" debate. This of course argues which of the two modes of lightspeed is the best. Warp Cores have the ability to gauge the speed of hyperspace whereas hyperdrives either hit lightspeed or they don't (as Han Solo will tell you)!

Third is the individual character debates. Amongst the most common a few months ago was "Chewbacca vs. Worf". This was in fact quite a reasonable argument, with little conclusion reached. Other similar debates included "C-3P0 vs. Data" and "Vader vs. Picard" which just appeared to be for the sake of it. Unfortunately, because of the spam involved, RASSM did on occasions have to suffer "Kirk vs. Picard" which was hardly relevant to a Star Wars newsgroup.

Finally, we have "Stormtroopers vs. Redshirts" which was also a favourite a few months ago. This was an obvious debate about who would win in a battle. Some in fact viewed this as a facical argument because of the images we all have of both parties. Stormtroopers can't shoot straight and redshirts are wimps! An alternative to this debate was "Bespin Guards vs. Redshirts" which was even more ridiculous.


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