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Many fountain pen lovers around the world are on intimate terms with the Fountain Pen Network (fpn). For a number of years, this online forum has been the dominant source of pen-related information and community. Currently some 78,000 members strong, it has hosted discussion threads on countless topics, provided a source for buying and selling information and reviews, and provided a true social network for many lonely pen lovers. Sadly, for some weeks fpn has been recently plagued with various issues rendering it variously unreliable or completely unavailable.
What is a poor, bored, lonely pen-lover to do?
Fortunately, there are a few other online options out there. While not as populated, or perhaps as well known, they are high-quality and constructive alternatives for anyone facing the recent fpn famine.
Fountain Pen Board was launched in 2010 by Dr. David Isaacson, of Vacumania fame. Intended specifically as an alternative to fpn, this forum has a population of around 1,300 of the most dedicated fountain pen afficionados.
Isaacson is very much the guiding force behind this board, and it shows. The majority of sub-forums and threads are related to his great love: vintage pens. However, there are few, if any, rules & regulations, and everyone is quite easy-going, so modern pens are quite happily tolerated.
Commercial activity is encouraged, and pens both fine and humble have been offered. Also, if you want freely-given qualified opinions on any pen-related matter, you will find them here. Historians, plastics experts, and decades of experience can all be found at fpb.
Fountain Pen Geeks should actually rate two mentions: an excellent community forum, and a very geeky podcast, now on episode #68.
The fpg forum is the fastest-growing of the alternatives to fpn. Established in 2010, it boasts just under 2,000 members, and seems to be where many fpn castaways are coming ashore.
The sub-forums range widely in topic, and include commercial postings in a classified section. The community is warm and welcoming, and a wide variety of interests are represented. Moderation is minimal, as are rules & regulations (noticing a pattern here?)
This speed of this forum is slick to use, and a pleasure to look at, expecially after a few days of the fpn turtle-at-the-races experience.
fpc, like Fountain Pen Board, is a forum whose genesis was dissatisfaction with fpn. In this case, the issue was commercialization, and the board was established in 2011 with a specific mission statement: come here to buy, sell, or trade pens.
No rules & regulations, just capitalism; and it works. Over 1,300 members carry out a brisk trade in all sorts of pens. Your particular interest will be easy to find, as the sub-forums are well-organized and specific. Not only are there the eponymous classifieds, but sub-forums include information on all aspects of buying and selling, including real-world information, dealers’ announcements, pen shows & clubs, and more.
So fear not, lonely pen lover! While the Fountain Pen Network is down (or as good as down, or nearly down, or nsfw), there is still hope. Good alternatives are out there, and they are healthy, happy, and full of pens and pen-lovers.
Who knows, you might find you don’t miss fpn nearly as much as you thought you did.