The most recent issue of Transformative Works and Cultures is a special issue focused on a topic that would have been unthinkable even a few years ago, namely, Transnational Boys Love Fan Studies. Editors Nagaike Kazumi and Suganuma Katsuhiko have collected an impressive breadth of perspectives, countries, and topics under their rubric, providing a welcome complement to the diversity of fannish interaction across national boundaries that has already begun to characterize BL and fandom online.
I have sometimes felt that trying to talk about BL and slash in the same breath can be more trouble than it’s worth, but reading the articles in this issue, I was struck anew by how BL and slash have in the past few years started to find common ground online, and in particular through the astonishingly polysemic blogging platform of Tumblr. Through Tumblr, for instance, Chinese BL doujinshi artists and slash fans are discovering not only shared fandoms but shared interests, and forging cross-cultural and cross-fandom connections that would not have been possible just a few short years ago. In this issue, Keiko Nishimura documents the fascinating interactions between female BL fans and character bot accounts on Twitter in Japan, but even Twitter remains language-bound in a way that Tumblr, with its strong visual emphasis, often is not.
In such a rapidly changing fannish environment, the advantages of an online, open access journal like Transformative Works and Cultures at studying and disseminating discussion of these topics are clear. Although no academic publishing venue is truly immediate, lacking physical distribution platforms enables TWC to publish articles much more rapidly, and its open access policies mean that fans can read, discuss, and disagree or even argue back with what scholars (many of whom are fans themselves) are saying about them without having to rely on the privilege of a university library connection. And although TWC is by no means unique in this respect, digital production means that editors and contributors may come from around the globe.
Indeed, the current special issue showcases the particular strengths of TWC‘s holistic take on fan cultures and practices, particularly in comparison with a series like Mechademia, the sixth volume of which is reviewed in this issue by Samantha Close (and on which I did production work). Both venues are examples of what can be done when fan scholars, and scholars who are fans, get together and take over the means of publication for themselves without relinquishing the highest academic and editorial standards.
That said, although TWC has full editorial independence, its server space and financial support are provided by the Organization for Transformative Works, which is a 100% member-supported non-profit organization. Although the OTW’s April membership drive is winding down, donations made at any time will go to support all of the OTW’s projects including Transformative Works and Cultures. Neither the Organization nor the journal would be anywhere without fans, so let me close by thanking you.