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[META] Seven new essays on transcultural fandom

Via @tea-and-liminality: “For anyone interested, there’s a new themed section on transcultural fandom up at the online journal Participations, with the following essays:

Chin, Bertha & Lori Hitchcock Morimoto:

Driessen, Simone:
Larger than life: exploring the transcultural fan practices of the Dutch Backstreet Boys fandom

Devereux, Eoin & Melissa Hidalgo:
“You’re gonna need someone on your side”: Morrissey’s Latino/a and Chicano/a fans

Noppe, Nele:
Mechanisms of control in online fanwork sales: A comparison of Kindle Worlds and

Ryan, Ciarán:
Music fanzine collecting as capital accumulation

Promkhuntong, Wikanda:
Cinephiles, music fans and film auteur(s): Transcultural taste cultures surrounding mashups of Wong Kar-wai’s movies on YouTube

van de Goor, Sophie Charlotte:
“You must be new here”: Reinforcing the good fan

[META] Artistic Freedom, or This Is Not a Review of The Hobbit

This is not a review of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, but I’ll share some impressions for context. Though it kept me entertained, I didn’t think it was very good. The story felt padded; the implausible action scenes lacked tension; the moralizing was often forced. But for all that, I’m glad the movie was made because it means that the narrative of Middle-earth is still alive.

Storytelling belongs to the public consciousness. All the copyright laws in the world cannot stop that being true. It is human nature to imitate: it is how we learn to talk, to dress, to be polite, to live in society. It is embedded in human nature to take in stories and breathe them out again. This is not to say there is no place for copyright. As long as we live in a nominally free market society, artists must be able to make money from their work for art to flourish, and copyright (ideally) gives them control over distribution of their work to prevent market saturation and grant them remuneration. But if copying must be restricted, the creation of art itself is naturally free: the mind flies to it as it flies to love, and no prison nor prison sentence can stop it.

One common complaint about derivative works is that they are often bad quality. And this is true. (It’s true of original works just as much.) I would argue that The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, despite a great deal of talent and effort, is bad quality in many ways. It’s a legal, licensed work, but aside from giving it a big budget, that doesn’t affect whether it’s good or bad art. Likewise, some still claim fan fiction has dubious legality, but that has no bearing on whether it is brilliant or painful to read. Art is speech, and democratic society has long understood that respecting freedom of speech exposes us to reams of stupid speech. That is a very small price to pay for the freedom to share thought and learn and grow as individuals and cultures.

I don’t doubt that Tolkien would be rolling over in his grave at the excesses of the Jacksonverse. In this particular movie, I suspect he’d find the Elf-Dwarf romance ridiculous, the sex joke appallingly inappropriate, the fight scenes mostly absurd and undercutting of the quieter narrative of Bilbo’s clever heroism—and that’s just for a start. I wouldn’t be surprised if his heirs have similar feelings. I have many of the same feelings myself.

Who cares? We don’t really deserve any say in how others choose to retell a tale. I mean this as a statement about natural rights rather than gracious conduct. A gracious standard of conduct might well choose to consult with a respected original author or their heirs, might make an effort not to bruise their feelings, might listen to critiques and revise accordingly. But a narrative belongs to the mind of every person it has touched. And no one has a right (regardless of the current law of the land) to tell any person not to re-envision that narrative however they wish.

Without such re-envisioning, The Hobbit is just a novel, a good novel, written in the 1930s in Britain, growing slowly more remote from the language, tastes, and customs of the new century. Without this re-envisioning, one day it will die. And so we create new versions, and they have women and more action and additional tie-ins to The Lord of the Rings and sex jokes and a younger, sexier Thorin and a scarier Ring. And out of what might be considered the mess of this particular version, out of the sloppy, poorly paced, bad taste et cetera comes a new perspective on an old story.

I liked the scarier Ring, the almost-heavy handedness in showing its immediate hold on Bilbo, the changes in his behavior when he fears he’ll lose it. I liked the general tone of foreboding, the sense of social breakdown among the Wood Elves and the Lake Men that presages the cataclysmic War to come in The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien could not have done this for the simple reason that he hadn’t yet written The Lord of the Rings when he wrote The Hobbit. Whether or not he would have done it if he had already developed the full history of the War of the Ring is moot (as an Ent would say). The story left Tolkien years ago. It is our story now. It is Peter Jackson’s. It is mine. It is yours. And as the years pass and its iterations continue to ripple out—a cartoon here, a CGI-heavy trilogy there, a radio drama, a few thousand fan fics, and who knows what—it will be reshaped by the minds it meets, often badly but perhaps one day with hammer-blow of genius that will truly reinvent it. Perhaps Tolkien has yet to meet his Shakespeare. But the tale will always be reshaped to meet the changing world it continues to speak in. And it will keep living, as art has to if the human spirit is to thrive.

Submission by Arwen Spicer

Issue 14 of Transformative Works and Cultures is out!

Congratulations to the editors and writers! Links to all articles below. As usual, we’ll be posting some good quotes from these in the coming days, and you’re very welcome to submit your own.


Spreadable fandom - TWC Editor


Metaphors we read by: People, process, and fan fiction - Juli J. Parrish

Sub*culture: Exploring the dynamics of a networked public - Simon Lindgren


A Japanese media pilgrimage to a Tasmanian bakery - Craig Norris

Trans-cult-ural fandom: Desire, technology and the transformation of fan subjectivities in the Japanese female fandom of Hong Kong stars - Lori Hitchcock Morimoto

Fannish discourse communities and the construction of gender in “The X-Files” - Emily Regan Wills

Capital, dialogue, and community engagement: “My Little Pony—Friendship Is Magic” understood as an alternate reality game - Kevin Veale


So bad it’s good: The “kuso” aesthetic in “Troll 2” - Whitney Phillips

Translation, interpretation, fan fiction: A continuum of meaning production - Shannon K. Farley

Fan/dom: People, practices, and networks - Katherine E. Morrissey

Fandom, public, commons - Mel Stanfill


“Spreadable media: Creating value and meaning in a networked culture,” by Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green - Melissa A. Click

“Reclaiming fair use,” by Patricia Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi - Josh Johnson

“Genre, reception, and adaption in the ‘Twilight’ series,” edited by Anne Morey- Amanda Georgeanne Retartha

[QUOTE] From Jonathan Gray, Show Sold Separately, location 944

Annette Kuhn’s work with “enduring fans” of 1930s films is illustrative. Kuhn interviewed numerous women in their seventies who still enjoyed watching and talking about the films and stars of their twenties, and who still found new meanings in them. She argues, “For the enduring fan, the cinema-going past is no foreign country but something continuously reproduced as a vital aspect of daily life in the present.” As these women grew older, watched different films, and gained new experiences, they were able to return to their beloved texts with new interpretive strategies or nuances, hence keeping the texts alive and active for decades. “As the text is appropriated and used by enduring fans, further layers of inter-textual and extra-textual memory-meaning continuously accrue.”

Jonathan Gray, Show Sold Separately, location 944

[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 Bertha Chin, The Veronica Mars Movie: crowdfunding – or fan-funding – at its best?

This also brings to light some people’s uneasiness and concern that money raised through this (Veronica Mars) Kickstarter project is not going towards an indie project, but instead towards a studio film that Warner Bros is essentially too cheap to finance. It obviously brings up question of fan labour and the monetisation of fans, which big conglomerates (such as the Disney-backed Fanlib years ago) have been trying to tap into. And it’s precisely why this post is being written.

While I think it’s a valid point to bring up the issue of fan labour (or investment in this case?), and whether the success of this funding campaign [1] might prompt other media conglomerates to start seeking funding for other ventures this way, we must not forget at the very core of this, is the fans. EW is currently running a poll asking fans which other TV series they would fund for a film, while X-Files fans are asking if 20th Century Fox is paying attention to this campaign, and if a similar thing can be done to get a 3rd film green-lighted. Ultimately, fans choose to fund this project, and this is the voice that’s missing in some of the concerns raised; that somehow fans need to be educated that they’re financing a studio film, so they’re not actually doing anything for the so-called greater good.


Frustratingly, fan agency always gets left out in arguments which purports concern that fans are being duped by studios and networks. Perhaps, rather than assuming that fans are being duped into donating towards a studio film, thought should be given to implications the success of this campaign might bring to Hollywood’s system; or more importantly, the power fans can wield if they decide a Veronica Mars movie is deserving to be made.

[QUOTE] Fifty Shades of Grey in Public Domain?



So Universal is suing Smash Pictures, a porn company who’re making a “parody” of 50 Shades, which they are, uncreatively, calling “Fifty Shades of Grey: A XXX Adaptation”.  (Obvious trademark issues, hence the suit.)

If this was just a suit filed by Universal to block distribution of this porn film, it’d be relatively run-of-the-mill, but because of the absolute ridiculousness of Smash’s lawyers – or possibly their PR flacks nudging their lawyers to ridiculousness – it’s becoming interesting!


[META] Flow Conference 2012: Let the Conversations Continue

I returned last night from the Flow Conference, which exceeded my high expectations, and, of course, left me with an overwhelming list of book and article recommendations to sift through now that I’m back at home and within walking distance of my university library. The great thing about media studies is that much of this material is available online, and without any particular subscriptions or memberships. For example, just on the online schedule for the conference, you can read over 150 position papers by conference participants on such a wide variety of topics as Twilight anti-fandom, NASA technology and video games, and public television in New Zealand. I made it to five panels throughout the conference, and, at every single one, I learned something memorable from every single panel participant, as well as an audience member or three. It was the most genuinely interactive academic conference I’ve ever attended, and I was delighted to be a part of it.

It’s something I wouldn’t have thought possible ten years ago, and one particular experience from this weekend brought that fact home to me. (It’s also worth noting that the conference did not begin until 2008, so it would not in fact have been possible for me to attend ten years ago.) While preparing for my panel, on the future of queer media studies, I ran into someone I knew from the past, and who I didn’t quite recognize at first. I knew that I knew him, which was confirmed by his personal greeting to me, but I couldn’t quite put together from where. It turned out to have been my very first film professor, Jim Roberts, who was at the conference with his colleagues. I took his evening film history and theory class in the winter of 2001, when I was a junior in high school, and he was teaching at Penn State. He reminded me during our conversation at Flow that I had written a memorable evaluation for him in that class, which made me laugh nervously. I wondered what my sixteen-year-old self could possibly have had to say on a teaching evaluation, and hoped I had not embarrassed myself too much. I remembered the first comment he raised, which was that I had learned from the instructor that you should not begin a sentence with the word “this” when it does not appear to modify any particular noun. Secondly, and I have no recollection of having left this comment, I said that I liked that the instructor “didn’t take the films too seriously,” and that he would fast forward through scenes that didn’t seem to matter, even making funny comments about the extended depictions of people walking down hallways. “I was so happy to be in college,” I exclaimed on hearing this story, marveling at the extent to which I’ve been desensitized to the pleasures of the media studies classroom.

I learned so much in that first film class I took. I learned that there were a lot of different versions of Dracula, for example. I learned that Hal Hartley was a person who existed in the world, and who said smart things that were worth quoting in my LiveJournal. I remember those. What’s harder to remember is a moment as simple as the fast forward revelation — what I must have seen in that moment was that academic analysis did not have to entail a comprehensive interpretation of every second of a film. Instead, it was a process that necessitated making choices about what seemed really important, and gleefully discounting the parts that didn’t help to build an interesting argument. I had never really gotten that experience from my English classes in high school. I had always assumed that everyone else in the room fully understood, and even cared about, what was going on at all times in the books we read, and that strategic reading, as I would come to know it later, was flawed and lazy.

Looking back to that realization helps me to contextualize the many other realizations that led to my ability to appreciate the Flow conference as deeply as I did. I first had to learn that you could pause and fast forward. I then learned that, if you wrote a compelling enough paper proposal (or were in your instructor’s good graces by virtue of being a high school student), you could write your final paper about the movie Heathers. The next year, when I started college full time, I learned that you could read graphic novels as literature. The next summer, I learned that you could quote Ani DiFranco in your final exam. (On Felicity, the titular character’s best friend Julie experiences a similar thrill when her stodgy-seeming freshman English professor “[gets] her Liz Phair reference.”) In my senior year, I learned that television could constitute a section of an English class at the college level. In my final year of coursework during my PhD program, I learned that you could take an entire seminar on HBO series (okay, and Victorian novels). It’s worth remembering this series of developments, because I still get frustrated when I meet people who simply laugh at the idea of working on television in an academic capacity. It makes us laugh because it is a delight. Reading media texts strategically in order to form academic delights is, in the best of circumstances, a genuine delight. The Flow Conference reminded me of that, and I’m deeply grateful for it.

As fans know, one doesn’t need a university classroom or official institutional approval to read strategically and experience pleasure from it. However, the university is an important space where many people do get access to that kind of reading for the first time, and it’s nice that scholars who continue to work in fields of textual analysis are making more and more of their texts accessible to everyone. There is much more to be done, but I think that the Flow schedule site offers an exemplary model for sharing the most current work in media studies. Check it out!