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[QUOTE] From Review of Playing fans: Negotiating fandom and media in the digital age, by Paul Booth | Gregory Steirer | Transformative Works and Cultures

Less a form of antisocial (or subsocial) behavior, fandom is shown as a way for individuals to creatively manage, at both the personal and the interpersonal levels, the “rules of play” imposed upon them by a variety of social institutions (economics, education, family, etc.). At least, this is what the episode itself suggests has happened for the protagonists Dean and Sam, who are depicted leaving the fan convention with a new appreciation not only for Supernatural fans, but also (…) for each other.

Review of Playing fans: Negotiating fandom and media in the digital age, by Paul Booth | Gregory Steirer | Transformative Works and Cultures ift.tt/2eSabXq

[QUOTE] From Hoarding and community in Star Wars Card Trader | Jeremy Groskopf | Transformative Works and Cultures

The behavior is a blur between punk fashion and commune. Like punks, mass hoarders implicitly critique capitalist values by inventing a playstyle that elevates self-expression, personal goals, and nontraditional desires. But this practice is communally rather than rebelliously focused: they create a mutually supportive subculture in which the profit motive is derailed in favor of a rigorous sense of fairness. Through this combination, the fans turn an app designed to stress profit and acquisition and to minimize personality into a space where both clear identities and fair play can rule. They create pockets of humanity and humane behavior in a digital world where those sentiments were (perhaps intentionally) omitted.

Hoarding and community in Star Wars Card Trader | Jeremy Groskopf | Transformative Works and Cultures ift.tt/2dnIxye

[QUOTE] From A connected country: Sweden—Fertile ground for digital fandoms | Christina Olin-Scheller and Pia Sundqvist | Transformative Works and Cultures

In Sweden, older siblings are generally the ones who introduce younger siblings to various fandoms, such as digital games and fan fiction sites, thus further conflating online and real-life relationships (Swedish Media Council 2013a, 2013b; Olin-Scheller 2011).

(…)

Technological advancement, English proficiency, and fandom activities are all closely interrelated. However, being connected to the Internet and being heavily involved in digital fan activities do not necessarily imply that one’s main focus is international. Instead, digital activities are associated with closeness, both in terms of relationships (friends sitting on the same couch when going online) and geographical locations (attending local cosplay or gaming conventions). This way of being and acting as a fan is likely not limited to Sweden or Swedish fan communities; it is probably also the case in other areas with ubiquitous Internet access and English-language proficiency.

A connected country: Sweden—Fertile ground for digital fandoms | Christina Olin-Scheller and Pia Sundqvist | Transformative Works and Cultures ift.tt/2cBHqK4

[META] a-tmblr-book: CALL FOR CONTRIBUTIONS: A Tumblr Book co-editors: Allison McCracken, American Studies, DePaul University; Louisa Stein, Department of Film and Media Culture, Middlebury College; Alexander Cho, University of California Humanities Research Institute We’re putting together a book to identify ways in which Tumblr has had an important social and industrial impact, both as a digital platform and a cultural forum.­ This volume will be multi-vocal and accessible to a broad audience, representing a variety of Tumblr users and commentators, including scholars, public intellectuals, activists, and fans. We are particularly compelled by Tumblr’s status as a social media platform known for fostering spaces for socially marginalized users, including youth, people of color, queer people, the disabled, and the poor. This publication will be in English, but we are committed to exploring non-Western perspectives and others beyond the US/UK. We are soliciting contributions that focus on various aspects of the platform, including any combination of: Tumblr’s affordances and limitations as an interface/platform and as a cultural space Aesthetic and linguistic traditions on Tumblr, including hashtags, gifs, images, and notes History and development, including the Yahoo acquisition Industry presence, marketing practices and goals Creative production and/or critical analysis Intersections of race, gender, sexuality, class, age, and ability Community development and support Politics and activism (including the “social justice warrior” discourse) Identity formation and affirmation Education and mentoring networks Transnational/transcultural studies Tumblr within the transmedia landscape Fan cultures and activities The centrality of sexually explicit content (“nsfw”), pornography, and pleasure Teaching, therapy and other professional uses (such as “social media director”) Ethical concerns Contribution Guidelines: We welcome proposals that address any of the aforementioned topics of analysis, and we are looking for work in a range of formats, including traditional academic essays, shorter think pieces, personal testimonies, interviews, video essays, art, GIF essays, and group discussions. This book will combine hard copy and digital components in order to incorporate multimedia contributions. For example, we are interested in community histories and activities (written by individuals or groups), critical discourses and discussion (including specific examples of such), and creative production we can reference in the book and publish digitally (such as fan art). We will use both illustrations and written excerpts with artist and author permission. It is very important to us to feature a variety of voices; please feel free to contact us for help in developing a proposal, especially if you are not familiar with the publication process but have an idea of something you’d like to contribute. Written work should generally fall between 2,000 and 7,000 words. Inclusion in the book will be based on abstracts of between 300-500 words and, for full consideration, they should be received by September 30, 2016. Contributors can use their tumblr or public names or remain anonymous. Please send this abstract and any questions or concerns you have to atumblrbook@gmail.com. Visit http://ift.tt/2bH0Krl for more information.

a-tmblr-book:

CALL FOR CONTRIBUTIONS: A Tumblr Book

co-editors: Allison McCracken, American Studies, DePaul University; Louisa Stein, Department of Film and Media Culture, Middlebury College; Alexander Cho, University of California Humanities Research Institute

We’re putting together a book to identify ways in which Tumblr has had an important social and industrial impact, both as a digital platform and a cultural forum.­ This volume will be multi-vocal and accessible to a broad audience, representing a variety of Tumblr users and commentators, including scholars, public intellectuals, activists, and fans. We are particularly compelled by Tumblr’s status as a social media platform known for fostering spaces for socially marginalized users, including youth, people of color, queer people, the disabled, and the poor.

This publication will be in English, but we are committed to exploring non-Western perspectives and others beyond the US/UK. We are soliciting contributions that focus on various aspects of the platform, including any combination of:

Tumblr’s affordances and limitations as an interface/platform and as a cultural space

Aesthetic and linguistic traditions on Tumblr, including hashtags, gifs, images, and notes

History and development, including the Yahoo acquisition

Industry presence, marketing practices and goals

Creative production and/or critical analysis

Intersections of race, gender, sexuality, class, age, and ability

Community development and support

Politics and activism (including the “social justice warrior” discourse)

Identity formation and affirmation

Education and mentoring networks

Transnational/transcultural studies

Tumblr within the transmedia landscape

Fan cultures and activities

The centrality of sexually explicit content (“nsfw”), pornography, and pleasure

Teaching, therapy and other professional uses (such as “social media director”)

Ethical concerns

Contribution Guidelines:

We welcome proposals that address any of the aforementioned topics of analysis, and we are looking for work in a range of formats, including traditional academic essays, shorter think pieces, personal testimonies, interviews, video essays, art, GIF essays, and group discussions. This book will combine hard copy and digital components in order to incorporate multimedia contributions. For example, we are interested in community histories and activities (written by individuals or groups), critical discourses and discussion (including specific examples of such), and creative production we can reference in the book and publish digitally (such as fan art). We will use both illustrations and written excerpts with artist and author permission. It is very important to us to feature a variety of voices; please feel free to contact us for help in developing a proposal, especially if you are not familiar with the publication process but have an idea of something you’d like to contribute.

Written work should generally fall between 2,000 and 7,000 words. Inclusion in the book will be based on abstracts of between 300-500 words and, for full consideration, they should be received by September 30, 2016. Contributors can use their tumblr or public names or remain anonymous. Please send this abstract and any questions or concerns you have to atumblrbook@gmail.com. Visit ift.tt/2bH0Krl for more information.

[REQUEST] Fandom and the Internet

Hello,

As part of my geography project, I am looking at factors of change in a community. I’m looking at the effect of Internet on the fandom, but I’m not old enough to know any fandom pre-Internet.

I’m hoping for some information on how fandom has been shaped and is being shaped by the Internet, whether it be higher visibility, easier access, different forms of fanworks gaining prominence, archives and more gathered communities etc.

I have looked at Fanlore, but since for this project I need primary as well as secondary sources, I was hoping to fulfil that requirement here.

Thank you so much.

Aileen Wang

Hi Aileen, do you mean you’re looking to hear from fans about their own experiences?

By the way, there are also a lot of other good secondary sources on this topic besides Fanlore, for instance academic work. Are you looking for that sort of thing as well?

Crosspost: ift.tt/2b8zuUQ

[QUOTE] From Fan-Yi Lam, Comic Market: How the World’s Biggest Amateur Comic Fair Shaped Japanese Dōjinshi Culture, p243

Upon the appearance of Web 2.0 sites like YouTube or DeviantART (and especially their explicitly Japanese counterparts NicoNico Dōga and Pixiv) one might think that Comic Market as a physical and costly event would suffer from losing its monopoly on being the center of Japanese fan art. But once again Comike was the beneficiary of a new fan praxis: attendance reached new heights in 2007 (well over 500,000 people), a year without any outstandingly popular property to attract new visitors. It seems that dōjinshi circles are not switching entirely to the Internet but rather are using it as an informational and marketing platform for themselves and their creations, spreading the knowledge of and fascination with Comic Market to new spheres. The best example of this phenomenon is the already-mentioned Tōhō Project, which became popular mostly through Web 2.0 outlets.

Fan-Yi Lam, Comic Market: How the World’s Biggest Amateur Comic Fair Shaped Japanese Dōjinshi Culture, p243 ift.tt/2b3bhsP

[QUOTE] From Casey Fiesler, Everything I Need To Know I Learned from Fandom: How Existing Social Norms Can Help Shape the Next Generation of User-Generated Content, p173

The idea of fan cultures, or “fandoms,” cultivating fan fiction writers began at the earliest in the 1920s with societies dedicated to Jane Austen and Sherlock Holmes, but took off in the late 1960s with the advent of Star Trek fanzines. The negative stereotype of“fans today is that of obsessed geeks, like “Trekkies, who love nothing more than to watch the same installments over and over…” However, this represents a core misunderstanding of what it is to be a fan: that is, to have the“ability to transform personal reaction into social interaction, spectatorial culture into participatory culture… not by being a regular viewer of a particular program but by translating that viewing into some kind of cultural activity.” Henry Jenkins, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor and expert on fan culture, likens fan fiction to the story of The Velveteen Rabbit: that the investment in something is what gives it a meaning rather than any intrinsic merits or economic value. For fans who invest in a television show, book, or movie, that investment sparks production, and reading or viewing sparks writing, until the two are inseparable. They are not watching the same thing over and over, but rather are creating something new instead.

Casey Fiesler, Everything I Need To Know I Learned from Fandom: How Existing Social Norms Can Help Shape the Next Generation of User-Generated Content, p735

Update: Now with link to an open access version of the paper and correct page, apologies for the typo.

[QUOTE] From Anna von Veh, Kindle Worlds: Bringing Fanfiction Into Line But Not Online?

So if being online is so important to fanfiction, why has Amazon not adopted this central mechanism which could have drawn millions of views to its own online site? One reason may simply be that they are relying on sites like Wattpad to generate the traffic to Kindle Worlds. The other may have to do with content control. The plural “Worlds” in Kindle Worlds marks a clear separation between the different fanbases; there will be no boundary crossing here. For fanfiction, boundary crossing of various types is the point. Trying to constrain the unconstrainable is an inherent paradox in a model based on content control. Of course, one way to attempt to control content/text is to contain it in a book rather than have it online where control is always subject to slippage. However, the existence of Fanfiction itself undermines this attempt. Amazon and the licensors have a difficult balancing act. Most licensors would want to retain control over the content that appears online and therefore restrict official content, whether it be original or fan-generated, to their own fan sites; it might indeed be very difficult to keep the licensed Worlds separate in one online environment. So one could argue that the “form” of the ebook in this case, where online would normally be the “native” medium, answers primarily the needs of the licensors rather than those of the fans and readers. This is not to say that Kindle Worlds shouldn’t have ebooks; even in the fanfiction communities, people create ebooks of fanfics for free download. It is the fact that Kindle Worlds appears to be only about ebooks that is the issue in the context of fanfiction. Anna von Veh, Kindle Worlds: Bringing Fanfiction Into Line But Not Online?

[QUOTE] From Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, Joshua Green. Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture

(…) fans who create new material or pass along existing media content ultimately want to communicate something about themselves. Fans may seek to demonstrate their own technical prowess, to gain greater standing within a niche community, to speculate about future developments, or to make new arguments using texts already familiar to their own audiences. As the Mad Men Twitter example proves, content often gains traction when people are given the latitude to use “official” media texts to communicate something about themselves.

Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, Joshua Green. Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture

[QUOTE] From Jane Davitt on her transition from fandom to professional writing. Read the full interview at the Verse Versus Versus website.

I’m not as involved as I was and I miss it, but it can’t be forced. It’s a combination of things; I wrote myself out of Buffy, Stargate and then The Sentinel; when you’ve written hundreds of fics based on a set amount of episodes, eventually you run out of ideas or just feel you’ve said all you want to say. But nothing has piqued my interest the way those shows did. […]

Add that to the slowly shrinking pool of friends on LJ as people leave for other sites, and I feel that my door into fandom has narrowed to a crack. I can still get through, I still belong in there — but it’s somewhere I visit, not somewhere I live.

Jane Davitt on her transition from fandom to professional writing. Read the full interview at the Verse Versus Versus website.

[QUOTE] From tishaturk, fandom: best vs. favorite

One of the things I love about fandom is that fandom, for the most part, operates not on a “these are the best things” model (where the criteria for “best” are typically undefined yet implied to be shared by all right-thinking people) but on a “these are my favorite things” model, which can be frustrating but is also wonderfully democratic.

[LINK] New fan-themed issue of the journal Participations

The tenth issue of Participations, an online open access journal for audience studies, has a section full of new articles about fan culture. The section was put together by the Fan Studies Network, a network for fan studies researchers.

I haven’t had time to read any of the articles yet, but it sounds like there’s some very interesting stuff in here about many fandoms and fan practices – from Doctor Who, Glee, and Star Wars to Tumblr, kink memes, fandom and politics, and dojinshi. Here’s a list of all the fan-themed articles in the issue (all links go to PDFs):

Bennett, Lucy & Tom Phillips: ‘An introduction: The Fan Studies Network – new connections, new research’

Booth, Paul & Peter Kelly: ‘The changing faces of Doctor Who fandom: New fans, new technologies, old practices?’

Busse, Kristina: ‘Geek hierarchies, boundary policing, and the gendering of the good fan’

Chin, Bertha & Lori Hitchcock Morimoto: ‘Towards a theory of transcultural fandom’

Ellison, Hannah: ‘Submissives, Nekos and Futanaris: a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the Glee Kink Meme’

Hills, Matt: ‘Fiske’s ‘textual productivity’ and digital fandom: Web 2.0 democratization versus fan distinction?’

Lamerichs, Nicolle: ‘The cultural dynamic of doujinshi and cosplay: Local anime fandom in Japan, USA and Europe’

Pett, Emma: ‘”Hey! Hey! I’ve seen this one, I’ve seen this one. It’s a classic!”: Nostalgia, repeat viewing and cult performance in Back to the Future

Proctor, William: ‘”Holy crap, more Star Wars! More Star Wars? What if they’re crap?”: Disney, Lucasfilm and Star Wars online fandom in the 21st century’

Sandvoss, Cornel: ‘Toward an understanding of political enthusiasm as media fandom: Blogging, fan productivity and affect in American politics’

Whiteman, Natasha, Joanne Metivier: ‘From post-object to “Zombie” fandoms: The “deaths” of online fan communities and what they say about us’

Bury, Rhiannon, Ruth Deller, Adam Greenwood & Bethan Jones: ‘From Usenet to Tumblr: The changing role of social media’

McCulloch, Richard, Virginia Crisp, Jon Hickman & Stephanie Jones: ‘Of proprietors and poachers: Fandom as negotiated brand ownership’

Freund, Kathrina & Dianna Fielding: ‘Research ethics in fan studies’

Jones, Bethan & Lucy Bennett: ‘Blurring boundaries, crossing divides: An interview with Will Brooker’

Delmar, Javier Lozano & Victor Hernández-Santaolalla & Marina Ramos: ‘Fandom generated content: An approach to the concept of ‘fanadvertising”

Sturm, Damion & Andrew McKinney: ‘Affective hyper-consumption and immaterial labors of love: Theorizing sport fandom in the age of new media’

 

[QUOTE] From Anna von Veh, What Can Trade Publishers Learn from Fanfiction?

Yes, much of fanfiction revolves around romance and ‘M-rated’ stories (and there’s a whole book to be written about that). However, focusing only on the subject matter and traditional boundary issues obscures what fanfiction has to offer us as publishers: a model for community engagement, online interaction between readers, writers and publishers, and a new way of thinking about and doing business.

Anna von Veh, What Can Trade Publishers Learn from Fanfiction?

[META] Worldcon, Not Just Literature

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.

[QUOTE] From Heidi Tandy paraphrased by Rebecca Tushnet, Penn symposium: fan fiction

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

[META] Can Fandom Change Society? (by PBSoffbook)

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”.

(more)

[QUOTE] From How author Sam Starbuck shapes online fandom (and vice versa)

We tend to see fandom as a single cohesive unit, because we are part of a unit within fandom, and we think fandom is our unit—and some people think fandom reflects the real beliefs of people who aren’t in fandom, as well. But I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. Without even touching on the world outside of fandom, fandom itself is wider and louder and more diverse than any one person generally suspects.

www.dailydot.com/culture/sam-starbuck-copperbadge-fanfiction-author/

[META] Bringing Fandom to the Classroom

Most fans know how it feels to contemplate sharing their fandom with the outside world.  You dwell, you ponder, you cogitate and you finally decide that you are not gonna hide, dammit!  You are gonna fly your geek flag, because this is important to you and you have nothing to be ashamed of.  (Or maybe you decide for very good reasons not to reveal yourself, but let’s assume otherwise for the purposes of the moment).

So you “come out” to someone.  You tell them about your love.  You explain all the ways that you express your love and you brace yourself for judgment.  You are ready with your arguments:  You do know the difference between fantasy and reality.  You do have a life.  You are a contributing member of society and it isn’t just a tv show/movie/book/game, it brings you meaning and pleasure and friendship.  It allows you to express parts of yourself that wouldn’t see the light of day otherwise.

Except, to your surprise, the judgment doesn’t come.  You get vague, puzzled expressions and shrugs but little more, and you leave the encounter feeling oddly disappointed and maybe just a tad uncomfortable, as though you just tried to write a really cracky crossover fic and the characters just refused to exist in each other’s worlds.

Bringing fandom into the classroom is a lot like this – except entirely different.

I write on this topic today in the genuine hope that other acafen might have wisdom to impart.  You see, I just finished teaching an introductory level course called Media and Society.  On the whole, it was a great experience.  The students were engaged and talkative.  They were full of opinions, so I imagined that when we got to the section on fandom there would be a plethora of exciting conversation.  Some might react, others would challenge the reactions…. or if not, I would intervene gently but firmly.  Perhaps some would admit to being fans themselves, even talk about their own transformative works.  We would debate whether or not fans are harmless, folksy innovators  or the dupes of capitalism.  If nothings else, we would have fun.  I brought to class some great examples of fan vids, fan films, machinima, fan art.  I told them about slash, yaoi, hurt/comfort, and I waited for the questions.

The party was a bust.  Just as with my more generic revelation fantasies, I got silence and blank faces.  There were the occasional giggles and expressions of shock but otherwise the galvanizing encounter that I had expected did not materialize.  (I did have a bunch of athletes in the class who quite willingly owned up to being sports fans, but in this sport-centric society who would feel the need to hide it?)  At the very least I expected the subject of slash to inspire curiosity or outrage – but no.  The void I that I contemplated in response to slash was particularly gaping.

The way I see it, there are four possible explanations for this.

One:  I was too obvious and the students didn’t want to risk getting on my bad side.  Now, I did not make a secret of the fact that I am myself a fan, but I did not name outright my fandom, nor did I tell them that I have written fanfic and slash.  Still, they may have been able to figure it out.  I did show an excerpt from an episode of Supernatural and followed it up later with a Supernatural fanvid.  But this only made sense, didn’t it?  I had discovered early on that I could make no assumptions about them having seen any show or film, regardless of its popularity, and if I was going to show a vid then they ideally needed some context for it.  It’s not like it was all-Supernatural-all-the-time.  In fact, I thought I had done a good job of being not-too-overly-enthusiastic when I mentioned the show, using it as just one (very apt) example of what Sharon Marie Ross has called “participatory viewing”.

However, it is entirely possible that I was not as inscrutable as I had hoped.

Two:  I was not obvious enough.  In my desire to not seem too partial, to have a balanced dialogue about fandom, perhaps I undersold fandom.  I did not express how I adore the unquenchable, idiosyncratic, joyful creativity of fans.  I did not manage to make my students understand the depth of feeling that we fans invest in our loved objects, how strange yet ordinary that emotion, how necessary and yet how secret.  And even though I touched on the gender divide in fandom, I did not adequately convey my wonder at women all over the world turning media to our own purposes the way that we do.  I did not advance any arguments about slash being more than just gay sex.  Perhaps I should have told them how slash is so much more than dirty stories, how it is an entire woman’s genre built from our desires and fantasies – exciting, mundane, cute, sentimental, passionate, sometime violent.

Maybe I failed in all this because still, after everything, there is something about fandom that is embarrassing to me.  I don’t care if people know that I read and write sexy man-on-man stories but I do mind people knowing about all the sentiment.  There is something squirmful about the fact that I need a fix of emotional goop every day.  Even if I know cognitively that there is nothing wrong with it, I still find it hard to face the discomfited sniggers when displaying a piece of fan art that depicts excessive tenderness between two naked male characters.

Third:  Fandom is no big deal.  Maybe these kids are just too accustomed to the idea that people are entitled to their pleasure as some inalienable right.  Maybe they secretly think “Yeah, total geek…but hey, to each his own” along with “I like my shows/games/movies too.  I’m not going to wear a costume though…I’m not a fan like that.”  Maybe they figure there’s nothing much to argue about and that, again, would be my failure.

Fourth:  Now I’m going to make a confession.  I’m exaggerating a bit.  My students did ask some questions.  There was even a group of four or so who stayed after class one day (I had just shown the first 30 minutes of Trekkies), to argue about the meaningfulness of fandom relationships and the ethical implications of spending thousands of dollars on collectibles.  It was an energetic, intellectually satisfying discussion that we never had the chance to resume.  I had hoped to pick it up in class but the same students didn’t seem interested anymore.  So I was disappointed, and that just may be my problem.  It is possible that the “fan” in “acafan” will never be able to find the experience of teaching fandom satisfying, either because her students are not fans and don’t quite get it, or because her students are fans and they do get it but, like her, they aren’t willing to expose their quivering, emotional, fannish self.  Perhaps there must always be a limit on how much of the fannish experience she can reveal, not because there is anything inherently wrong about what she does and feels and believes but because it will simply never translate into the classroom.

Am I once again being the idealist, comparing my imagined experience with reality and finding reality wanting?  And wouldn’t that just be typical of me.

[ADMIN] Dana says farewell

It’s been exactly a year since this blog was launched, and I am proud and pleased to have helped get it started. Thank you, Nina and Karen, for inviting me to the party! This will be my final regular post — I’m handing off blogging duties to what feels, to me, like the “Next Generation” of acafans! Andrea, Lisa and Alex will keep you thinking and entertained as our Symposium blog marks the beginning of its second year.

Back in 2007, when the founders of the Organization for Transformative Works announced the goals for this new group, I was immediately an enthusiastic supporter, and I remain a believer and a dues-paying member. No organization or group can speak for all of fandom, of course, but the OTW is doing things in regard to fandom that I completely support. The OTW and the journal with which this blog is affiliated are examples of the fact that fandom appreciates its own history and recognizes its importance, and that our fan works aren’t merely disposable scribblings, but worthy of celebration, preservation and study.

A formal affiliation with an organized group, or volunteering with the OTW or the journal, is by no means necessary to doing fandom, of course, and there are pretty much as many ways of doing fandom as there are fans.

That said, here are some things fandom has done for me personally — some benefits and some gifts I have in my life because of fandom.

–Friends around the world, mostly women, including some awesome and inspiring creative collaborators. (My touchstone here is the quote by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich: “Well-behaved women seldom make history”!)
–An appreciation for a bunch of shows and movies I would never have discovered any other way, and the discovery of the myriad joys of fan fiction, vids and art inspired by those shows and movies. (I knew about The Lord of the Rings and Star Trek way before I found fandom, but there are a baker’s dozen of new-to-me fandoms I would never have discovered without the squee of my friends-lists.)
–An outburst of creativity unprecedented in my life before fandom, and a serious recommitment to fiction writing. Related to this: If I had not discovered fandom, I doubt I would have had the experiences that led me to volunteer for teaching creative writing at my university.
–Knowledge and growth in a range of subjects I would never have researched, studied or even cared about without being exposed to them through fandom, and the opportunity (and a platform) to share and discuss my learning.
–A sharpened commitment to feminism and minority issues, including LGBT issues, a heightened attention to media depictions of same, and also, new appreciation for how far we’ve come and how far we have to go.
–An internet community that’s helped me feel less isolated, particularly when my kids were in diapers and face-to-face socializing and support was hard to find in the almost suburbia/almost rural area where I live. Anyone who thinks online friendships aren’t real? Has never had one.
–New and amazing flavors of joy, fun, and humor.

I look forward to continuing to participate in fandom (and you might very well see guest posts from me here in the future), so this isn’t really goodbye. Keep misbehaving, fandom, in all your multifaceted identities and ways! And do keep in touch. You can find me on Dreamwidth at sterlinglikesilver.

[META] Fannish trees in a really big forest

Fans, of course, get intense about what they are fannish about. To use a cliche that Tolkien has already masterfully embroidered upon in his fable “Leaf by Niggle”, fans intentionally and gleefully lose sight of the forest in favor of the trees, or even one tree, or even a single leaf.

And yet it’s sometimes extremely educational and even inspiring to try to get a view of the forest — even, when possible, a bird’s eye view. Or a Time Machine view.

This is what Nancy Reagin and Anne Rubenstein urge in their detailed tour of historical fandoms in the last issue of Transformative Works and Cultures,, which they guest edited. Their opening editorial is humorously called “I’m Buffy, and You’re History”, and they give a tour of fan communities, broadly defined and extending back through time much further than I’m usually accustomed to thinking about.

This issue wanted to focus on fan communities before network TV and certainly before the internet, and the articles focus on things like female fans of British movie stars and the people who wrote fan letters to Willa Cather. And yet Reagin and Rubenstein want to show there is a historical continuity between these groups and Star Wars or Doctor Who buffs.

They write, “This special issue of TWC represents, as far as we know, the very first published collection of historical studies of fan communities and activities…. When we discuss ‘fans,’ we are referring to people who were active participants in popular culture, often decades earlier than is often acknowledged in modern fan studies.”

The questions they are interested in are fascinating: “How did changes in the material conditions of leisure, entertainment, and play relate to changes in ordinary people’s worldviews? What difference did the rise of mass media make in everyday life? How did changes in seemingly trivial everyday practices connect to larger social and cultural transformations? What was the relationship between participation in leisure activities and participation in politics? How did communities of fans contribute to historical change?”

I know I’ve been very prone to try to use fandom as a refuge from the stresses and challenges of “real life,” but they remind me that fandom and fan activities are definitely part of real life, part of history, and furthermore, worthy of study: “[A]cademic historians can offer … research and narratives that enable fans to connect their own particular fandom’s story to much broader changes over time, locating themselves and their communities in a global history of culture. We can trace important social, legal, and economic changes that set the stage for the emergence of fan communities and show how fans participated in and had an impact on broader cultural change.”

Sometimes, fannish metadiscussions trace these changes in detail — I’ve read and even been part of many fascinating and inspiring discussions about how fans, in grappling and rewriting our canons, can advance agendas of social change.

And so, Rubenstein and Reagin point out, “Historians are interested in the ways that communities develop over time. We study individuals’ struggles for survival and their efforts at making more interesting, exciting, or satisfying lives for themselves, because we understand that these efforts can add up to or reflect transformative changes in the world. ”

Their introductory editorial briefly discusses things like the impact of copyright law, mass media, professional sports and the cultural appropriation that happens in a century like the 19th, which was full of immigration and global migrations.

And they urge researchers and fan scholars to look beyond the 20th century and especially the focus on internet fandom: “This sometimes narrow focus has led scholars to ignore well-organized fan communities that indeed contested cultural authority, especially if these originated outside of the United States and Western Europe.”

So in the end, what might we learn from a birds-eye view of fandom? “We’re confident that this [historical type of] work will offer fans a broader context for their own communities and can demonstrate that fan communities have always contributed to cultural and social change. Participatory culture is, in fact, a deeply rooted phenomenon—more than today’s fans might realize—and historically grounded research can uncover how fans’ participation helped shape the world we live in.”