The Comic Market was dominated by women from the beginning (90 percent of its first participants were female), but in 1981, thanks to lolicon, male participants numbered the same as female participants for the first time in Comike’s history. With almost ten thousand participants, Comic Market was now Japan’s biggest dōjinshi event and the center of dōjinshi culture. It grew big enough that the nineteenth Comic Market, in the winter of 1981, was held in the International Exhibition Center in Harumi. A year later, a convention catalogue was sold for the first time, both to help visitors to find their favorite circles in the crowd of almost a thousand circles and to help finance Comic Market’s expansion. Comike also encouraged the many fan-related companies to include advertisements in the catalog.
Internal conflicts on the Comike planning committee underlay some of these developments: they marked the ascendancy of the faction led by Yonezawa Yoshihiro, who favored Comike’s unlimited expansion. Though he was criticized for purportedly selling dōjinshi out to commercialism, Yonezawa couched his plans for Comike in terms of a collective organization of the convention by all participants, including staff, circles, and visitors. Whatever the underlying reality, these public principles remain little changed today.
Fanfiction sits at the margins of mainstream creative endeavour, and interrogates established views of what it means to be a writer; the meaning of intellectual property, creativity, originality, ‘ownership;’ and traditional boundaries surrounding these concepts, as well as the whole vexed issue of international rights. As a publishing person and daughter of an artist, I have an uneasy relationship with how fanfiction steps on these well-established fences, particularly with regards to the fanfiction based on novels, rather than TV or films. (The latter seems more ‘legitimate,’ but that might just be justification for my own interest.)
In many ways, fanfiction is, and has been for many years, ahead of its time in terms of its embrace of the possibilities and potential of digital technology, of community and niche interests, its very questioning of established domains of knowledge and ‘right/s,’ and its acknowledgement of the role reading plays in writing. As Saul Bellow said, “A writer is a reader moved to emulation.” The leaching of boundaries described above is exemplified by the infinite trail of hyperlinks on the web (Derrida anyone?). It is therefore apt that fanfiction should exist online, and make use of the technology that allows deferment of meaning and certainty; a metaphorical and literal leaking of content from the container (…).
Anna von Veh, What Can Trade Publishers Learn from Fanfiction?
This is the second in a series of posts by Emma England on fannish issues surrounding Worldcon, the longest running science fiction and fantasy convention in the world. Emma is the 2014 Worldcon academic track organizer and is currently researching the history of conventions. The first post introduced Worldcon; this post debunks the myth that “traditional” conventions are only about literature.
Fan history is a disparate venture, with fans and scholars often limiting their explorations to that which interests them, as everyone does. A result of this is that many (but by no means all) people believe that media fans have never been welcome at Worldcon and that media was never a part of it as a traditional con. There may be a predominance of literature Guests of Honor, but the historical records prove that film and TV are part of Worldcon history (with comics getting their first dedicated panel in 1966). Worldcon is part of media fandom history. Some significant examples demonstrate this:
- There was a screening of The Lost World followed by a Masquerade Party (costuming, early cosplay) at Denvention I, the 3rd Worldcon, in Denver, 1941.
The Day The Earth Stood Still had an advanced screening for attendees of Nolacon I, the 9th Worldcon in New Orleans, 1951.
Star Trek screenings were included on the Tricon program at the 24th Worldcon in Cleveland, 1966.
Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, gave a talk entitled “To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before” at Baycon, the 26th Worldcon in Oakland, 1968. In the program book there is a full-page ad “from Roddenberry” thanking Worldcon attendees for their support of Star Trek. Amusingly, there is also a quarter-page ad claiming “SPOCK is a bad lay.” With the words: “This ad was sponsored by the committee to nominate Patrick McGoohan and ‘The Prisoner’ for a HUGO.”
Ray Harryhausen, the groundbreaking Visual Effects Designer, was a Guest of Honor at Conspiracy ’87, the 45th Worldcon at Brighton, England, 1987.
Roger Corman, the famous horror movie director, was a Guest of Honor at L.A. Con III, Anaheim, 1996.
J. Michael Straczynski, the creator of Babylon 5, was Special Guest at Bucconeer, the 56th Worldcon in Baltimore, 1998 and the following Worldcon, Aussiecon Three in 1999 in Melbourne, Australia.
Frankie Thomas, the actor in the early science fiction series Space Cadet, was Special Guest at L.A. Con IV, Anaheim 2006.
Additionally, the Hugo Awards have given awards for Best Dramatic Presentation, in various formats, every year since 1958 (except 1964 and 1966). Winners have included episodes of The Twilight Zone, Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica (reimagining) and movies such as A Clockwork Orange, Star Wars, and Inception.
It is also worth noting that Worldcon has, in most programs throughout its history, included plays, ballets, bands, and numerous other art forms based around science fiction and fantasy.
If Worldcon has historically included media, why is there an apparent separation in contemporary fandoms and fan analysis? Why did Star Trek fans start their own conventions, with many claiming that they no longer felt welcome at Worldcon and other traditional cons and club meetings? A common answer is “gender and snobbery,” but there are alternative answers, although these are not mutually exclusive. Reasons for the separation may include the idea that types of fannish activities are valued differently; a critical mass of fans for one specific show/author/medium leads to a separation (as well as Star Trek conventions, Tolkien, comics etc had their own meetings and events) to maintain pre-existing diversity of the original event while enabling more focused activities around the new fandom; and some fans are more interested in going to conventions only of their specific subject.
Whatever the reasons are for the seeming separation of fandoms, it is true today that it is possible to be in a fandom for one specific TV show, book series, comics franchise, and so on without having much, if anything, to do with other fandoms. In reality, however, it is rare that fans only enjoy one text, or even type of work. Few fans are only interested in reading books or watching movies.
A challenge for Worldcon today is what direction to take the convention in: should organizers expand and overtly reach out to fans who would not normally attend a traditional con and who may bring their own “non-traditional” fan practices and (fan-)demographics; should Worldcon stick with the current attendees and format, thereby maintaining traditions; or is there a middle way that encourages media fan attendance by acknowledging the traditions of Worldcon and, perhaps, media’s place within it?
Currently, site-selection is in progress for Worldcon 2015 and the three options could be seen as representing different approaches to the challenge of identity and the marketing of Worldcon. This challenge will be discussed in the next post in this series.
If you’re looking for a place to read academic research on fans, or a place to publish your own research, check out this list of journals compiled by the Fan Studies Network. The list is handily divided into open access journals (journals that can be read for free online by anyone) and non-open access journals (journals that can generally be read only via a university library, or by paying for access).
The list is updated regularly. If you have any recommendations for journals that should be added here, for instance non-English language journals, mail Lucy Bennett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fan Art Law at Comic-Con (by deviantart)
From a review of the video by Boing Boing:
Here’s an hour-long presentation on copyright law and fan art from San Diego ComicCon 2012, presented by a lawyer from DeviantArt who once worked as a copyright enforcer for Paramount. It’s a pretty good overview, though — predictably enough — the presenter waits until quite late to talk about fair use and other public rights in copyright, generally downplaying them and omitting the de minimis exemption to copyright (the idea that it’s not infringement if you take a small enough piece, for reasons that are separate from fair use) altogether.
During the Q&A, he also mischaracterizes SOPA and PIPA as having been concerned with “mass-scale” infringement (the laws allowed for censorship if there was a single link to a website that infringed), but makes up for it somewhat by plugging EFF, Public Knowledge and other public interest groups.
I’d like to draw your attention back to an image I had used in another context, namely about boys/girls and the assumptions about/representations of in manga, and talk with y’all a little about Zolo. Now, you have to bear in mind that my first encounter with One Piece was a non-licensed translation dub of the TV anime. After that, I began to regularly follow the series while living in Japan, so I mostly read it in the weekly Shōnen Jump‘s I would dig out of garbage cans and recycle piles on Tuesdays (for the trash cans) and Wednesdays (for the recycling piles). At no point was it ever unclear to me that ゾロ was a take on the Johnston McCulley character Don Diego de la Vega, aka Zorro. I was a huge fan of the 50s Zorro television show that ran on syndicated TV when I was growing up. There was no mistaking: ゾロ was Zorro.
Fast forward a few years, and I am picking out the books for my “What is Manga?” class, for which I decide to use Oda’s One Piece as representative of the shōnen demographic. A few days before class, I sat down to read the licensed translation, so as to refresh my memory, and I come across the follow anachronism: Zolo. After a few minutes of obligatory “wat”s, I finally came around and tried to think why it was they would have done this. When One Piece was scanlated, the name was at least translated as Zoro, so the similarity would be apparent. Was this an attempt to bring back Rolo’s, which, while delicious, I don’t see flying off shelves nowadays awash in candies more flashy marketing than chocolate and caramel? It was actually just before–or perhaps even in the midst of–the class in which we discussed One Piece that I realized there was a very simple reason why you would translate ゾロ as Zolo: licensing. Zorro, like Mickey and Donald and Superman and Kitty-chan, is a diligently guarded media commodity, so, while one might conceivably be able to get away with aping Zorro in Japan, it would be much harder to get away with this in the US and the larger English language market, where Zorro media are still being produced to this day.
Fan creativity is as old as storytelling. Distribution is a lot wider these days, though. If you want a live singalong of Once More with Feeling you may need to inquire about rights. (…) Legal concepts of transformativeness have broadened over the past 15 years, but there’s still a lot of confusion and paranoia—in part because fanworks are created by 12-year-olds and 90-year-olds with different levels of knowledge.
Heidi Tandy paraphrased by Rebecca Tushnet, Penn symposium: fan fiction
Both websites are primarily concerned with the history of long-term “traditional” science fiction fandom, such as that associated with Worldcon.
In their own words, “The Fanac, The Fan History Project” is:
devoted to the preservation and distribution of information about science fiction and science fiction fandom. Here you might find your favorite fanzine, pictures of Walt Willis in Ireland or Harlan Ellison at the 1955 Worldcon. You can also find the words to an early filk song, information about an SF con near you AND all sorts of strange and wonderful information about fandom’s past. And the present, too, because that’s tomorrow’s past.
Fancyclopedia begins with:
Science fiction fandom began in the 1930s, when readers of the pulp magazines began to write to each other. While fandom can be a very loose association, its members identify with fandom and with each other, and know many other fans.
Fancyclopedia 3 is a collective enterprise of all of fandom. Based on the previous works by Jack Speer (Fancyclopedia 1), Dick Eney (Fancyclopedia 2), and Rich Brown, it is written by fans who want to contribute.
It continues with:
Like most encyclopedias, Fancyclopedia contains articles on people, events and organizations. It has a Fanzines category. It contains a glossary of fanspeak which is referenced by any articles using fannish terms…
Articles should be relevant to science fiction fandom as such. While comix fandom, animé, and the Society for Creative Anachronism (as examples) arose from science fiction fandom, they are now largely independent. Articles on other fandoms should note their relationships with science fiction fandom and provide links to sites concerned with those fandoms.
Both resources offer a wealth of information to researchers of science fiction and fandom. They are particularly good at providing essential background information on the development of the diversity of contemporary fandoms.
The OTW Events Calendar for May includes a call for participants for a survey by researcher Lucy Neville. Here Lucy gives some more background about this survey and the research it will be used for.
I am a Lecturer in Criminology and Sociology at the University of Middlesex (this is me: www.mdx.ac.uk/aboutus/staffdirectory/neville.aspx – you will find an overview of my qualifications, research interests and links to previous open-access research reports). I am also a writer (and appreciator!): of prose, poetry and slash (this is me: pouxin.livejournal.com/ – if you want to read any more of my writing, please send a friend request). I am currently carrying out an academic study into women’s involvement in sexually explicit m/m slashfic and gay erotica/pornography more generally. I would really appreciate it if you could take the time to complete the below survey.
What’s the research for?
The purpose of this research (both earlier focus groups I conducted and the survey) is to gain a better understanding of what appeals to women about (male) homosexual erotica, and how this sits within their wider thoughts and feelings around romance writing, erotica, pornography, gender and sexuality. As such, from a slash perspective, it is specifically looking at women who produce and/or consume explicit m/m slash. I see this very much as an exploratory piece of research, and have no expectations per se as to what I might ‘find’, I am just very interested in hearing about the diversity of experiences people have had, and their own reflections on their enjoyment of homosexual erotica. I think this is a very nuanced and complex area, and I don’t expect to find any ‘one size fits all’ theory at the end of this. But I would like to produce a piece of research that can act as a stepping stone towards a better understanding of how and why women interact with gay erotica, and, hopefully, will reflect a lot of your own experiences back at you, offering an opportunity for interesting future discussion.
For a detailed description of how I came to do the research and what my research philosophy is, please see this post.
Who is the questionnaire for?
The questionnaire is open for both readers and writers of male homosexual erotica. I am interested in exploring all forms of gay erotica, from m/m slashfic with a sexual content, to wider gay (male) erotic literature, and gay (male) pornography. Some questions will only be applicable to respondents who are either readers or writers (or both), so if a question does not apply to you (e.g. you do not write fic, only read it, and the question is asking you about writing), please leave it blank.
This survey is specifically interested in looking at women’s production and consumption of gay erotica, pornography, and m/m slashfic with a sexual content. As such it is only open to those who identify as women. However, if you’re a man involved in the slash community and you would be interested in sharing your opinion around any of this, please do get in touch. I see this very much as exploratory research and welcome all dialogue!
Due to issues around consent, the questionnaire is only open to those aged 18 and over.
What will you do with the data?
For your protection, I have sought and obtained ethical approval for this study from the Research Ethics Committee of the University of Middlesex, and in accordance with the recommendations of the British Sociological Association. All research (and data collected from it) will be conducted according to the University’s ethical guidelines and the British Sociological Association statement of ethical best practice. All data is untraceable back to you, will be stored securely (on a password protected computer), and will be treated as anonymous. Only I will have access to the full dataset. Nothing you say will be attributed back to you personally.
I will make all aggregate data available to participants through my LJ page, and by informing other relevant organisations (e.g. the OTW). If you have any feedback on any of the findings, please don’t hesitate to get in touch – a lot of my previous research within social sciences has adopted an ‘action research’ philosophy (where participants are actively involved in how data are used and interpreted to form a community of best practice), and as such I welcome opinions, feedback (and constructive criticism) that can help me to design better research going forward, and get the richest interpretations from the findings themselves. As an academic, I also see this as a really fantastic opportunity for me to receive informed feedback on my work before sending it off for peer-review!
I will also link to any publications that arise from the data, and, while I won’t always be able to post completed articles on my LJ page due to copyright issues, I will happily email full articles to anyone who is interested.
Filling in the questionnaire
If you are at all uncomfortable with any of the questions, please don’t feel under any obligation to answer them – just leave them blank. Any data you provide is useful, so please don’t feel that you need to answer all the questions if you don’t want to.
I’ve constructed the questionnaire to enable participants to give lengthy responses if they want to, as from my experience in the slash community I know a lot of us have a great deal to say. However, if you don’t want to provide additional information (or are in a rush!) please don’t feel obligated to give lengthy text box answers.
The questionnaire should take 10-25 minutes to complete, depending on the length of your answers.
If you have any further questions about the research, please feel free to contact me: email@example.com
I have already carried out focus groups with women who are involved in the production and consumption of gay erotica, but am interested in conducting more interviews and focus groups in this area. If you are local(ish) to London and would be interested in participating, please contact me via email or through my LJ.
Thank you for your time.
UPDATE: Thanks so much to all participants so far for feedback on the q’naire, it’s incredibly helpful, and while I can’t change the actual questions now I’ve started it (re: validity, reliability etc.), I will of course make use of suggestions/feedback/concrit over wording when I analyse the results etc. Keep it coming!
Can Fandom Change Society? (by PBSoffbook)
Before the mass media, people actively engaged with culture through storytelling and expanding well-known tales. Modern fan culture connects to this historical tradition, and has become a force that challenges social norms and accepted behavior. Whether the issue is gender, sexuality, subversiveness, or even intellectual property law, fans participate in communities that allow them to think outside of what is possible in more mainstream scenarios. “Fannish” behavior has become its own grassroots way of altering our society and culture, and a means of actively experiencing one’s own culture. In a sense, fans have changed from the faceless adoring masses, to people who are proud of their identity and are stretching the boundaries of what is considered “normal”.
When I first read this article titled “Russian Orthodox Priest Starts a vKontakte Group to Battle Slash”, thanks to a tip from from teddybearsandspaceships, I clicked straight to the vKontakte group in question (vK is generally known as “the Russian facebook”) and at first was convinced the page had to be a none-too-clever satire.
I mean, “battling slash” using internet memes? Earnestly explaining that an overinvestment in fictional characters screwing each other would lead young girls to ignore boys their own age who were trying to court them? A genuine attitude of “slashers are wonderful people! We only want to save them from the evils of this terrible hobby”? It had to be a joke, right?
But no, according to the article – posted originally on a news site covering the southern regions of Russia – it was all completely serious.
Some background on Russia and Fan Cultures
The thing I find particularly fascinating about this is that in all of this it seems like the article finds the priest and his focus on fighting slash a bit odd but what the article doesn’t find odd is, for example, fanfiction. Or slash itself.
As a Russian speaker who grew up on the fringes of the Russosphere, the way the article described fan culture was emblematic, to me, of how I’d always experienced it within my community. I never had any trouble telling my parents or friends that I wrote fanfic or made vids or graphics or anything of the sort. There was no shame in creativity and devoting my time to science fiction in particular was always considered a worthy intellectual pursuit. This wasn’t because my parents were “geeks” (indeed, I never identified as a geek despite being actively in fandom since I was 13), but because of the different status of both science fiction as a genre and creative spare time pursuits in general in the post-Soviet Russian speaking world as opposed to the English one.
To put it simply, in a country where the overwhelming majority of college graduates were engineers, everyone had a hobby. People sang, acted, wrote, composed, all in addition to their day-jobs. Many authors, poets, musicians of the Soviet era were scientists by trade.
The starkest example, to me, of how differently fanfiction was treated in my world as opposed to the English speaking corners of the internet I inhabited, was this: my parents bought me printed, illustrated, hardcover fanfiction when I was in middle school, without even bothering to tell me that it wasn’t canon.
Having read Lord of the Rings in Russian (highly recommended, by the way, but that’s a different post), I was delighted to discover that Frodo’s adventures had sequels, past “Return of the King”. Under the New Year tree, one year I received all six of Nick Perumov’s books – the first three set in Middle Earth.
It took me a very, very long time (since I was never active in LotR fandom) to discover that in the English speaking world, no one knew that Tolkien’s work had sequels. Where to me it was so obvious – all my friends had read Perumov’s books, I had them up on the shelf, in beautifully illustrated hardcover, right next to the original trilogy.
On How Slash is Perceived
This general disregard for copyright, prevalent in Eastern Europe to this day in every major industry (film, music, books) and a much more favorable attitude to fannish pursuits in general, brings us back to the priest, father Alexei, who’s decided to fight slash on the internet.
As the article states, father Alexei originally came to meetings of a Sherlock Holmes fan club in Moscow, where most fans were into the recent BBC version. He was surprised when one of the first questions he got from the audience was “will we be discussing slash themes?” It was then that slash was explained to him.
It’s amazing to me, after reading article upon article in English over the past few years where fanfiction was treated as inferior, threatening, weird, illegal or amoral, how completely neutral and nonchalant the Russian description here is and how accurate, considering some of the ways I’ve seen slash characterized elsewhere.
“Slash is a genre of hobbyist creations (“fanfiction”) which depicts sexual relations between same-sex characters of well known works where said characters had no homosexual feelings for each other in the original. Among the most popular examples – homosexual fantasy about the characters from the Harry Potter book series.”
The entire article takes a somewhat amused tone at the priest’s preoccupation with slash and his attempts to “eradicate” it, all while never classifying slash readers as exclusively women nor characterizing slash as a genre concerned only with male characters. (I also love that they used Sherlock BBC fanart for the cover photo).
In fact, in the priest’s description of the group of slash fans he originally encountered male description words are used. Of course Russian, a gendered language, has a tendency to use male words to describe a group even if it has a female majority, but I still find it interesting that slash is not perceived automatically as the interest purely of women, in the same way that gendered perceptions of literature (Jane Austin wrote “girl books”, for example) are different in different cultures. In Israel, the media used to refer to the “Twilight” series as “teen fiction” until the books became so popular in the US that the coverage started to reach over oceans and seas. Eventually “Twilight” was re-branded as “books for girls”, because of the influence of the US market.
In the vKontakte group there’s mention of the fact that slash is “particularly popular with young women and girls” but then, the explanation given for why “fewer boys are into slash” is that they feel like the genre “steals the girls’ attentions from them.”
Fighting the Battle Using Internet Memes
Lastly, the group itself is almost too surreal to be believed.
The logo itself is a crossed out “/”, the posts consist of internet memes such as an old Russian lady yelling “why don’t you try making your father and your neighbor into a ‘pairing’?” as if trying to emphasize the inappropriateness of doing this to fictional characters, joke graphics of BBC Sherlock dreaming of moving to Russia – to have a wife and child (and lots of borscht at last!). There are stills of Sherlock with the anti-slash sign photoshopped in to warn viewers “not to speculate too much” about Sherlock’s precarious lying-down-like position, advice posts on living a “healthier” life that includes riding bicycles and going to sleep early instead of staying up late on the internet. As a sign of achievement the group even posted this graphic, ostensibly created by slashers, with an anti-slash symbol painted on Batman’s chest and the words “they got in the way of our fapping”.
And of course, my favorite part is that despite being a product of the Russian Orthodox Church (which frowns on homosexuality) many of the arguments posted in the group are the same sort I’m used to seeing around fandom. For example, the claim that slash appeals to women who hate weakness, politeness, emotional-ness, and other typically “female” characteristics and slash is so popular because it allows women to pretend they’re straight men – tough, quiet, strong – while still maintaining their own heterosexual interest, and so making these straight men be interested in other men, instead of women. The argument is that to love slash is to hate femininity and that a real “pro woman” stance would mean embracing the qualities that slash seeks to erase.
Other arguments include the claim that slash is simply unbelievable and that it’s ruining the depictions of friendship in media. “First male-female friendship was undermined to such a point that any two characters of the opposite sex in a story are assumed to have sexual tension and now male-male friendship is being undermined…”
None of these arguments hold much water, but they do touch on issues of gender and sexuality and representation that I think are present in slash, and academic and fannish discourse on slash, and taken together with the way the page seems completely fluent in fandom terminology I’m impressed at how well organized this effort is, how well it knows the phenomenon it’s fighting.
Of course, all of this does tie into anti-gay rhetoric used by the Orthodox church in Russia – the possibility that slash could be appealing to anyone but straight teens is never even mentioned – and the attitude is very much that of “saving” slashers from themselves, steering them away from this harmful hobby and into a healthier way of life.
It’s tough to say how many of the “anti-slasher” vK group’s followers (379, as of this writing) are there because they sympathize with the cause versus how many are there for the lolz. The original article quotes father Alexei saying, “Slash groups on vK consist of hundreds of thousands of members. Every fandom-related group has slash stories, slash graphics, video, audio. We’re just a handful of people. But thousands will agree with our thinking and together we can make a difference on social networks.”
Whether or not the effort to eradicate slash is successful (my money is not on father Alexei, I’m afraid), I find it interesting, yet again, that the struggle here is occurring on the Russian version of facebook – not an arena anyone wanting to confront English speaking slash fandom would have likely chosen.
Over the past decades of sharing their transformative works, fan fiction readers and writers have generally felt wary of commodifying a form of cultural production that is essentially derivative and perhaps subject to copyright infringement lawsuits.
Digital appropriation artists have developed a number of monetization models: royalties, distribution agreements, reasonably priced licenses that permit remix practitioners to sell their appropriations legally, and small-scale compensation intended only to reimburse remixers for their outlay. Although fan filmmakers and game modders have experimented with these models, fan fiction writers have not conducted similar experiments in marketing their works.
Fanfic authors who think that selling appropriative art is always and absolutely against the law are mistaken. No such case law exists, and many appropriating artists make money from their work today without constantly encountering legal trouble.
Why, then, do fic writers resist earning income from their output? Many scholars of fan studies claim that fan fiction is, and must remain, free—that is, “free of charge,” but also “free of the social controls that monetization would likely impose on it” —because it is inherently a gift culture, as Hellekson describes in this issue. In fact, even the fan organization, the Organization of Transformative Works, one of whose goals is to redefine fan works as transformative and therefore legal, states: “The mission of the OTW is first and foremost to protect the fan creators who work purely for love and share their works for free within the fannish gift economy.”
(…) writing fan fiction for personal gain —financial, psychological, or emotional— aligns with the fact that self-enrichment is already inherently an important motivation for women to produce and consume fanfic. For some women, belonging to an affinity group or discussing stories with fellow writers and readers is not the primary reason for engaging with this type of fiction. The rewards of participating in a commercial market for this genre might be just as attractive as the rewards of participating in a community’s gift culture; and the existence of commercial markets for goods does not typically eliminate parallel gift economies.
If fans successfully professionalize and monetize fan fiction, the amateur culture of fic writing will not disappear. Although fans have legitimate anxieties about fan fiction being corrupted or deformed by its entry into the commercial sphere, I argue that there is far greater danger of this happening if fan fiction is not commodified by its own producers, but by parties foreign to fandom who do not understand why or for whom the genre works, and who will promote it for purposes it is unsuited for, ignoring the aspects that make it attractive and dear to its readers.
Abigail De Kosnik, Should Fan Fiction Be Free?, p120-123
This is the first in a series of posts on fannish issues surrounding Worldcon, the longest running science fiction and fantasy convention in the world, by the 2014 Worldcon academic track organizer Emma England. First up is an intro to Worldcon and its fans.
The World Science Fiction Convention is the longest running SF convention in the world. The first Worldcon, retrospectively known as Nycon I, was held in New York in 1939 with an attendance of 200 people. The Guest of Honour was Frank R. Paul. The convention has taken place every year except during the Second World War, usually around American Labour Day weekend. By the mid-1970s attendance rose to about 4,000-5,000 fans, with more or less attendees depending on the host city.
Traditionally, Worldcon is a space for fans of literary science fiction, although in recent years media in all its forms has been popular. Chicon 7, the 2012 Worldcon in Chicago, had panels on The Walking Dead, Firefly and Torchwood to name but a few. Increasingly, there are panels, talks, and workshops on Anime/Manga, costuming (barely, if at all, distinguishable from cosplay), academic criticism, the history of fandom, gaming, and most other topics of interest to the wider “geek” communities.
There are only three essential requirements of a Worldcon:
(1) administering the Hugo Awards,
(2) administering any future Worldcon site selection (and if Worldcon is being held outside of North America, NASFIC, the North American Science Fiction Convention), and
(3) holding a World Science Fiction Society Business Meeting.
In reality, Worldcon has developed many traditions which fans expect to see. These include a Hugo Awards Ceremony, the Masquerade, Opening and Closing Ceremonies, a Regency Dance, signings, readings, the art show, exhibits, dealer’s room, guests of honour speeches, 15 tracks of programming (all running parallel to the permanent exhibits, hospitality suites, signings, readings and other activities), children’s activities, many parties every day and more.
The events are all included in the membership fee. This also includes the souvenir programme book, which has been known to be a hardcover and slipcased tome, as well as the Hugo voting pack. Members of each Worldcon get to vote for the Hugo Awards, the world’s most prestigious science fiction award, which has been held every year since 1955. People who cannot attend Worldcon can still vote by buying a supporting membership which entitles them to all of the publications including the Hugo Awards voting pack. This pack is an electronic collection of all of the nominated works and is worth considerably more than the price of membership (attending or supporting).
The location of Worldcon changes every year and with it so to does the name. In 2013 Worldcon is called Lonestar 3 (Texas, USA) and in 2014 it is Loncon 3 (London, UK). The site for each Worldcon is voted for at the convention two years prior. At Lonestar 3, the site selection for 2015 will be made and the choices are between Spokane (Washington, USA), Orlando (Florida, USA), and Helsinki (Finland). All Worldcons are organised on a not-for-profit basis by volunteers. Although there is some continuity as people volunteer for many Worldcons, each convention is organised by different people. The staff alone, without onsite volunteers acting as gophers and stewards, can number 200 people.
Fans who attend Worldcon can be broadly categorised in three ways. They are:
1) the regulars, people who go most years and who may have been going for sixty years already,
2) the irregulars, people who consider themselves part of fandom and who may go to other events and happen to go to a particular Worldcon because of the location, the guest of honours, the cost etc., and
3) the walk-ins, people who go because it is local to them, they may only go for the day to visit the dealer’s room and get some books signed.
All of these groups of fans are important to the continuing success of Worldcon. The event has a unique place in fan history and for scholars of fans and fandom, or fans who just want to try something different or meet a specific guest, Worldcon is an institution not to be missed.
Fanfiction as digital Text also embodies a paradox: it harks back to the days of Dickens in the way it is written and ‘published,’ and it shows a potential path for mainstream trade digital publishing.
Fanfiction shows that the web need not be just a technology for making or distributing books (e-books and print), or for social marketing, but a home, distribution and communication technology for long-form narrative content itself. Fanfiction and its fans take the web seriously; it is the default mode, not an afterthought. The online platform means that readers can be based anywhere in the world and are defined by their interest in the particular fandom and genre, rather than by their own geographical or political location. Might is not right in this environment. The idea that someone might limit the right to read a fanfiction to a particular region or country would be regarded as ludicrous and tantamount to abusive behaviour towards readers. There is a lesson here too for publishers.
Anna von Veh, What Can Trade Publishers Learn from Fanfiction?