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Anime and Manga

[META] What I Write About When I Don’t Want to be Writing

I am behind on a blog post–this blog post, in point of fact. Being behind is nothing new for me; it’s a consequence, in part, of my chronic habit of taking on too many obligations while trying my darndest to also have that thing we are pleased to call, nebulously but certainly, “a life.”

I’ve been pondering that thing called a “work/life balance” and its role in my program and career, particularly as, this summer, I will be embarking on a significant research project focusing on fandom as part of a team headed by Prof. Abigail de Kosnik. Like my friend Prof. Sandra Annett, whose recent post on the subject got me thinking about this, I’ve found that my reading and relaxation habits have changed as I’ve shifted my academic focus more to anime and manga and as my work with the Organization for Transformative Works (I’m a committee chair for the 2012 term) has come to take up more of my attention. I watch much less anime; even as I’ve gotten better and quicker at reading manga, having to sit down with a dictionary at my elbow feels a lot like work. I daydream less about writing fiction, fannish or original, than I do about making vids. True luxury seems to be lying on the couch with a work of fiction, and I read way more manga in translation and English language comics than I ever did before.

Prof. de Kosnik recently remarked to me that in her experience, of any three things you’re fannish about, you can definitely teach classes about two of them in your academic life. I think, though, that as much as I like history, and came to it via my deep interest in narrative, which I think underlies all of my interests to some extent, I don’t really want to think of myself as “fannish” about history. Moving the focus of my professional life over to the “fandom” side of the line seems to me to be courting burnout, which, given my aforementioned tendency to do too many things at once anyway, I also want to avoid.

I suspect this is something every acafan has to negotiate for herself, but for me, I do know that as much as I like writing about fandom, and as much as I believe that it’s important for fans who are academic to write about fandom to the rest of the academy, in the end there’s a degree to which I don’t want to take that analytical step back about every aspect of my fannish life. At some point I just want to do fandom; I want fandom to continue to be a place that, for me, isn’t dominated or constrained by my academic concerns or habits of thought (even as, being a whole person, I do bring those academic habits of thought, certainly, to my fannish activities).

As usual, I don’t know that I have a larger point tying these thoughts together. I’m really excited to participate in Prof. de Kosnik’s research project (about which much more will be said anon; we’re currently waiting for final IRB approval). I’m really excited to start doing research that will have a genuine place in my dissertation project this summer. I’m excited to have a little more free time to, hopefully, read and watch and vid things, anime and manga and cartoons and novels. I’m excited to talk about fandom with some of my good friends on several panels at Wiscon 36 next weekend. But as much as I do believe that fandom is a way of life, and as much as fandom has had a hugely positive impact on my life, it can’t be everything. It isn’t necessary or good for everything I do to be something I’m fannish about, and that’s okay.