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poster: Lisa Schmidt

[META] Teaching Fandom, Revisited

Time to post! But I’m afraid that my brain is full of nothing but teacherly thoughts and I apologize for this. Once again, I am dwelling upon the challenge of bringing folks to acceptance of the fact that we are all fans. As some readers of this blog may remember, I set myself the task of teaching about fandom for the first time last semester. An entire course…but not a graduate or even upper level course. So there were limits to the depth of theorizing that could be accomplished.

Briefly put, there were times when I felt quite certain that I had made a mistake. I had endeavoured to get students to reason through things, to see what they have in common with those “other” people, the fans, the weird ones. I’m still not confident that I pulled it off. Some came in as fans and left as fans. Others…not so much.

But some amazing things happened towards the end of last semester. When I asked them to create a fanwork for their final project, there was love suddenly pouring out of them. Not all, of course. There were still a few resistant ones, but most of them astonished me. One girl painted a large, elaborate image based on the television show V. If I ever needed proof that every text has a fan community around it…!   Some kids made their first fanvids. Others did animations. One kid brought me a painted skateboard covered in images from his favourite bands.

In short, I was amazed by the degree of creativity and passion these kids could bring to a project. And it seemed to confirm what people like Henry Jenkins have been writing about participatory culture. He/they have been arguing that people, particularly youth, are increasingly accustomed to living their creative lives through media. Media are the matter and the tools that surround us, and we use them in the same way that someone generations ago would pick up a stick and whittle something out of it.

On the whole, I must say it was a rewarding experience. Well, it had better be, because tomorrow I begin teaching the same course again…to three more sections of 40 students each. I know one thing I have learned: keep the fanwork assignment, and make it earlier in the semester so these young fanlings can share and enjoy each other’s works!

[META] Fans and their Failure of Whiteness

The “Race and Ethnicity” issue of the Journal of Transformative Works and Cultures is live! The subject of race represents a critical yet still under-developed area within fan studies, so kudos to the editors of the Journal for bringing us this issue.

Perhaps a part of the reason for the neglect is that fans are more or less seen as white – a situation discussed in a really wonderful essay from the Journal titled “Doing Fandom, (Mis)doing Whiteness: Heteronormativity, Racialization and the Discursive Construction of Fandom”. As its author Mel Stanfill points out, fans tend to be constructed as a failed kind of whiteness. This in turn reinforces the centrality (or “hegemonic” nature, to get academic) of whiteness as a symbolic category. If “whiteness” (which has just recently begun to receive critical attention itself) holds within itself assumptions about maturity, rationality and heteronormativity then fans, at least in popular discourses, fail to achieve it. They are whiteness gone wrong — out of control, dysfunctional, sexually deviant and usually single. Just think about every stereotypical fan you’ve ever seen on TV or in the movies – The Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy, the main characters of Big Bang Theory, the dueling Trekkers and Star Wars fans of Fanboys… and who could forget Barbara Adams in the documentary Trekkies, who wore her Star Trek uniform to jury duty and called herself “The Commander”? (My students certainly won’t let that go any time soon).

Stanfill’s is an essay about representation… but what about fans in reality? Granted, it is unlikely that we will ever have a complete grasp on who, where and what fans are. I think I can say, though, just from having been in fan gatherings, both on-line and in real time, that, in reality, fans are a reasonably diverse bunch. In reality, we are of different colours and from different countries. In reality, many are invested in marriages and families; many do identify as heterosexual. Many have girlfriends, boyfriends, lovers. Still others are single and looking for the right person.

To that extent, it might be said that many fans are invested in heteronormativity. But there is a question on my mind, especially as my first time teaching a course on fan cultures draws to a close. If you want to see the discourses of normality at work, try teaching a bunch of 18-to-20-year olds about fans. The pressure of “normal” is intense and maddening, which is why Stanfill’s section on fandom as a kind of queerness or sexual deviance resonated so powerfully for me. Supposedly fandom is becoming increasingly accepted by the mainstream yet, in many contexts, it remains a dirty little secret. It is a kind of closet, even for some who are in long-term relationships with persons of the opposite sex. It is a fetish, an interest that draws energy away from the heteronormative ideal of relationships and reproduction. And don’t get me wrong: to me this queerness is a wonderful thing. I celebrate it, because it tells the truth that no one is normal, that normal is a lie and a scary one at that. No one really wants to be “normal”, do they?

More than ever, I feel that fandom, even when not explicitly having anything to do with anything sexual, is queer. I know I can get into trouble for saying this, but after watching a bunch of teenagers leaping to reassure themselves and each other that they are “not like that bunch” [of fans], that “those people” [fans] are dangerous and unbalanced; and after having a few students confess to me privately that they are fans but who aren’t ready to talk about it in front of their peers… I think that the notion of fandom as queer might have some potential.

Of course, this is not really the point of Stanfill’s article. Indeed, because fans are represented as white, they are, in Stanfill’s words, “still recuperable”. They can still reclaim their privilege as white folks. Perhaps by trying to argue for the queerness of fans, I am turning attention away from the real point of the essay which is that whiteness remains the normative category against which all other categories are measured. If nothing else, fans should be able to understand how such insidious ideas as the “normal” and the “centre” create prejudice and do real harm to people. Fans have every reason to be open, tolerant and accepting of every kind of difference. At our best, we can and have achieved that ideal. But we are not always at our best, and one of the best arguments for studying whiteness is that it can force us to think about what we unconsciously believe to be normal, central and mainstream.

[META] Dear Supernatural

When you first began this whole “meta” experiment, I applauded you. I thought the premise of “The Monster at the End of This Show” was brilliant: there’s this hack writer (who turns out to be a prophet) who has written The Dean and Sam Story into a series of books. Each book written by the prophet is an episode of Supernatural. And the books have “fans” who just happen to closely resemble the actual fans of Supernatural the TV show. You poked fun at us but you also poked fun at yourselves, so it was okay (although some fans didn’t like it). You even publicized the existence of Wincest. Okay, fine. I thought it was bold and ground breaking. And “The French Mistake”, last season, was thoroughly brilliant.

But then there was Becky. You wrote a slash fan into your own canon. And even though I was initially offended by her, I forgave you eventually because I still think that you were doing something kind of inventive and groundbreaking. I tried to believe that you didn’t mean to offend me by making the only known representation of a slash fan on television into a ridiculous, over-sexed girl/woman with no sense of boundaries.

Then, in last Friday’s episode, you went too far. I don’t know how or why you thought it would be a good idea to make a good portion of your viewing audience believe that you have nothing but contempt for us. I understand that once you’ve become known for your meta episodes you have to keep trying to push the boundaries, but this?

Yeah, Becky is back. This time she gives Sam a supernatural roofie, basically tricking him into marrying her. When he figures it out, she hits him over the head with a waffle iron and ties him to her bed.  She persists in trying to get him to like her even after this.  She nearly sells her soul in exchange for his love.  She is literally presented as a loser in life, desperate to prove to the shallow, popular folk from her high school days that she is good enough to marry a hot guy. She is depicted as quasi-delusional, criminal and pathetic.

How offended am I? Let me count the ways.

One. Let’s get something on the table here. You don’t know slash, Supernatural. (You don’t even particularly understand fans, apparently, but that’s for another point). We do not write slash because we can’t have Sam-Dean-Cas-Kirk-Spock-whomever in our bed. This is a much more complicated fantasy. We are not hanging about or showing up at conventions out of the vain hope that maybe, just maybe, we’ll run into our boy at the bar and it will be love at first sight and a whirlwind wedding.

Two. We are not a bunch of desperate single virgins. Yes, some of us are single. Some of us are not. Some of us are heterosexual, and some of us are queer. Many of us have satisfying sex lives, and yes, our slashy fantasies may play a part in that, but this makes us not much different from ninety-nine percent of people in the world. How many people out there are totally, absolutely satisfied with heteronormative gender and sexual orientation? How many people manage without fantasies? Please, show me these imaginary “normal” people.

Three. We are not losers. I am certainly not a loser, and the women I know who are into slash are not losers. We have careers and we have a life outside of our fandom. We are interested in social and political causes. We have other interests. We even have social skills.

Four. If we learned that the apocalypse was unleashed (yeah, I’m going back to a Season Five Becky gripe) we would be concerned. We would not persist in our little sex fantasy while other people ran around doing real, important things like saving lives.

Five, and this is a big one. We can and do respect boundaries. Indeed, boundaries are extremely important to us. How else could we function in this world that considers our harmless fantasies as evidence that we are mentally and emotionally unbalanced? We would never hurt our love objects. We would not violate their privacy. We would certainly not kidnap them.

I am so very, very disappointed in you, Supernatural, because you have perpetuated the classic old stereotype of the fan: unbalanced, delusional, apt to cross over into dangerous behaviour at the slimmest pretext. This is especially disappointing from you because you had led me to believe that you understand fandom. I know that your creator, Eric Kripke, is a fanboy. I am pretty sure that your current showrunner, Sera Gamble, is a fangirl. And whatever criticisms I may have had, I had persisted until last Friday in thinking of the previous “meta” episodes as love letters to us. You were playful and knowing. Or at least I thought so. Now it seems that you have absolutely no understanding of fans, even though some of you ARE fans. Don’t you realize that as a fan, you are a victim of prejudice? Well, you just perpetuated that prejudice by mindlessly revisiting the tired old image of the fan as dangerously obsessed loner.

You may think that this is me being wanky and reactionary.  It is not.  I have been the most equable of fans. I like when you change things up. I loved the Season Five conclusion. I enjoyed Season Six. I loved Soulless Sam. I thought what you did with Cas was great and that his removal from the narrative early this season was a good decision. I thought Season Seven started off with a real bang. Even after the introduction of Becky at the opening of Season Five, I still watched the show eagerly. I forgave you for the first two Becky episodes.

But this, now. I don’t know if I can forgive this, and it breaks my heart.

[META] Wankety Wank

In the wake of the announcement from Jared Padalecki that his wife is pregnant, let us here consider the nature of wank. If you want to look into the wankfest to which I refer, you can go here. I don’t want to make this post all about Supernatural or the specifics of this one incident of tinhat craziness. If you’ve spent any time at all in fandom, you have probably encountered this sort of madness. You know how it goes – “X doesn’t love his wife REALLY, he has a secret gay relationship with his co-star Y, so the marriage is a sham arranged by their publicists, to protect their careers”. My understanding is that the most infamous case of tinhattery to date was (is still?) to be found in LOTRips and was centred on the Domlijah (Dominic Monahan/Elijah Wood) fandom. I’m sure that this plot unfolds with varying levels of intensity in many fandoms and, lately, SPN fandom has been carrying the tinhat banner.

I’m fascinated by the tinhat phenomenon. Now, please don’t think this is me trying to set myself apart from those OTHER, crazy fans, but I sincerely wonder why it is so important to some fans to believe that two men who have been slashed in fantasy MUST BE together in reality. It is as though they find it necessary to read the text of these two celebrities as having a slashy subtext in order to justify writing stories about them. And I don’t understand why that would be necessary. Fanfiction is fantasy. It is made up. I really do believe that the vast majority of people in fandom understand this. And RPS, despite being about two ostensibly “real” people, is also fiction. It has its own characters and themes, drawn from publicity material and gag reels and photos, yes, but still it is fiction. So what does it matter, as long as we keep it quiet and don’t push it in the actors’ faces at a con?

To say that the tinhat fringe consists of fans who simply possess a few more emotional tics than the rest of us (and by this I mean “who are nuts”) seems to me too easy. We all have our neuroses and our scars, and for all of our varied reasons, we find something therapeutic or comforting or exciting or fulfilling about exploring our fantasies in an on-line, anonymous forum. I really wonder if the folks engaging in the tinhatting are simply indulging another kind of fantasy, kind of “live roleplaying” a melodramatic RPS story with evil publicists and downtrodden gay actors and self-serving producers. I guess I want to believe that they are fans just like me – a bit eccentric but more or less ordinary.

From the tinhat phenomenon is inevitably derived the wank. The anthropologist in me observes wank – and wank about the wank, and the wanky wank report – with still more fascination. I wonder, if I observe fans being a little “nuts” and I decide to step in and let them know it, am I then joining in the wank? At what point does an intervention in the name of sanity become wank?

I wonder, if I met a wanker in real life, would they seem like a pretty average human being? If that is so, what emotional needs are being satisfied by wankery?

[META] Ah! Hurt/Comfort!

So, Volume 7 of the Journal of Transformative Works of Cultures is up. I must admit I have not had a chance to read it all, but I would like to point you to this article which is in the Symposium section and is about an acafan’s ambivalent relationship with the hurt/comfort genre: “H/C and Me: An Autoethnographic Account of a Troubled Love Affair” (journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/252/206)

My heart and brain were crying out “yes, yes!” as I read this piece. How many of us have wondered alone why we obsessively searched for stories full of pain and suffering? I know that I recognized this longing in myself by the time I was in my early teens, and thinking back, I know the taste was formed well before then. The novels that drew me in and consumed me always featured a young man who suffered and suffered… and the stories I wrote, too. And I wondered and worried a bit about this.

Or I used to. I don’t worry so much anymore, because I discovered online fandom and realized that not only am I not the only one, but in fact the taste for this genre is fairly common.

I am still curious, though. I think we all understand (those of us who are fans of the genre) how important the comfort side of the equation is…oh, the fantasy of being understood and cared for, of being the focus of everything! It is like ice cream and cake, pizza with extra pepperoni and cheese, fresh bread and cold butter. It’s pure therapy.

And this essay by Judith May Falhallah really hits the mark. I think there is really something to the connection between being “tough” in real life and finding deep satisfaction in the h/c genre. I wonder how many of us who love hurt/comfort are people (women) who are highly independent, strong, determined, people who do not easily show any vulnerability. I’ll bet that number is pretty high.

[META] The Encounter

Don’t you love when this happens? A person you had heretofore known merely as an acquaintance, possibly-maybe a friend but it’s too soon to tell is suddenly revealed to you as a fan of your show/movie/book.  And you are revealed to them.  In that instant you are no longer strangers but in some strange and entirely impactful way you achieve an instantaneous, intimate understanding of each other.  You may still not know much about each other in a lot of ways; you don’t know where she lives or if she has children, when her birthday is, her favourite foods, and on and on.  But you know something very important.

Case in point:  I have been easing (read:  plunging head first) into the institutional culture of my new teaching gig.  Not surprisingly, I am sharing an office.  The woman with whom I am sharing seems quite nice, and quite well-installed in her space, having attempted to make it more homey by bringing in candles and posters and other personal items.  I like this approach – so far, so good.  We have been in the space together a few times this week,tentatively feeling around each other, not yet sure if we will be friends or just colleagues.  We’ve spent virtually no time talking about our personal details other than to establish What You Teach and What I Teach and Where We Went to School.  Today we were chatting and discovered that we both long to paint the office red, hate beige and consider pastels to be failed colours.  Thus a tentative bridge of understanding was formed.

Then she saw that my computer desktop image is the cover from this year’s winner of the Fan Favourite TV Guide poll, the one featuring Sam and Dean from Supernatural.  “You watch Supernatural?” said she, and this was all it took for us to catapult past all our mutual reserve.  Within five minutes we had established that we were both Deangirls (important information within SPN fandom) and I had invited her to my apartment to marathon seasons five and six.

There is intimacy here, is there not?  Is it not real intimacy but of a very special kind?  In some ways we remain entirely strangers to each other.  But we have discovered that we each have this secret, intense love, a love that is with us virtually every moment yet we know better than to speak about.  Work and life have to be gotten on with, after all.  Unexpectedly, we have had this chance to reveal a huge piece of our inner world, and that is not to be taken lightly.

Critics of fandom question the substance of the relationships formed through fandom, especially the relationships maintained through web-based social networking technologies.  It is only a tv show, they would say.  It isn’t real.  They would say that, like my unexpected connection to my office-mate, my relationship to my show is not a thing of any substance.  And okay – fair enough.  Speaking as an academic, I understand why we need to question the social, economic and emotional nature of our investments but, speaking as a fan, it seems like those relationships are the most real, the most important.

And here’s a question:  If a relationship feels real, doesn’t that, by default, make it a relationship?

I’m not psychotic, by the way.  I’m not talking about the imaginary relationships that some infamous characters have had with celebrities like Jodie Foster or Monica Seles.  That is something entirely different in kind than what I’m talking about.  I am quite aware that I have not met either Dean Winchester or Jensen Ackles in the flesh.  I’m also quite aware of the difference between fantasy and reality.  But I do have relationships with them, of a sort.

(Jensen, if you should happen to stumble across this, don’t be alarmed.  I’m not coming after you and I don’t believe we’re secretly married).

My point is, maybe the criteria for a “real” relationship have a lot to do with the meaning derived from that relationship.  In the case of fans, the quality of meaning we find in our shows, our stars, our interactions with our fellow fans, is very high.  What more do we need to prove that these relationships are real?

All of which is to say, I think the new job is going to work out just fine.

[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.

[LINK] A Thoughtful and Well-Researched Article About Fanfiction

Yesterday a story by Lev Grossman appeared on the Time Magazine website, titled “The Boy Who Lived Forever” (soon to be available in print). The occasion of the story, of course, is the imminent conclusion of the Harry Potter saga, at least in movie form. However, the article is really all about fanfiction. Grossman is amazingly thorough. In his five pages he covers the various genres of fanfiction – including some of the ones that aren’t always mentioned in articles sympathetic to fanfic, like hurt/comfort, noncon, mpreg and incest – the breadth of fanfiction, the legal status of fanfiction, and even the occasional rants from published authors who feel offended or violated by the existence of fanfiction. He also touches on the aspects of fanfiction that express diverse sexualities and obsessions, and he manages it with wit and aplomb. It is obvious that Grossman did his homework and I really must commend him for it. Best of all, Grossman touches on the fundamental issue raised by fan fiction: What does it mean to be creative? He is aware (perhaps coached by some fannish informants, hmm?) that many more accepted and prestigious forms of literature resemble fanfiction in their taking up of previously existing characters and worlds to create a new work. I was very pleased to see him mentioning the fact that until the era of Romanticism in the 19th century, the prevalent cultural definition of “originality” had nothing to do with the creation of something completely new. In other words, the idea that valid artistic expression must aspire to complete originality is one of recent coinage – at least in the western context. Reading Grossman’s piece recalled the satisfaction I felt when reading a certain essay by Thomas Sobchack; how enlightening it was to learn that, before the Romantics, it was not only permitted but expected that a writer would work within previously formulas, structures, storyworlds, myths and histories! The artist’s goal was an original restatement, not a discrete new world. I’m pretty sure that if you look it up in the dictionary, the definition of creativity is “original recombination”. Sure, Grossman acknowledges the deep emotional connection an author may have with his/her characters. He can understand and appreciate the perspectives of the Anne Rices and Robin Hobbses and Orson Scott Cards out there – and so can many fanfiction authors. As someone who has written an original character now and then, I can also appreciate that rather irrational feeling of ownership. But as Grossman perceptively points out, if an author is like a parent to their characters, it is the wise parent who realizes that their children are going to go forth into the world to have lives, connections, even identities apart from them. In our current age convergence and participatory culture, this is not just a possibility – it’s a guarantee. “There may be hurt in that,” Grossman concludes, “but there is a great deal of comfort as well.” And it is a comfort to know that our stories go on and on (neverending, maybe?) – that Harry Potter will live and live forever, as will Frodo and Luke Skywalker and Buffy and the Winchesters and so many others. Note: Thanks to Baranduin for bringing this article to my attention

[META] I Am Acafan, Here Me Roar?

“I”, meaning whom?

I am Lisa Schmidt, writer, thinker, debtor, and life traveller, and this is my introductory post.   I’m very pleased to be joining the Organization for Transformative Works, truly.  I am one of those academic types who was a fan first, always and forever a fan.  I was a fan — for a very long time! — before I knew there were other people like me, people who shaped themselves into groups and found ways to communally refine their gorgeous obsessions.  Some of us even thought to harness our emotional and intellectual energies and fashion them into a career — thus was born acafan.

So, I think it important to begin with a sort of fannish curriculum vitae.  As with any C.V., one picks and chooses a little, lining up the major entries for maximum effect.  In other words, this is only a partial list.  It goes:  Star Wars, Remington Steele/Pierce Brosnan, Johnny Depp, Star Trek: TNG, Star Trek: Voyager, The Sentinel, LOTR, OMG LOTR!, Everything-Associated-With-Elijah, Supernatural, Stargate Atlantis, did I mention Supernatural/Dean Winchester/Jensen Ackles? In between and during all of these, I’ve had my various obsessions with films, books, shows, topics and personages ranging from T.E. Lawrence to Kate Bush to the Dragonlance novels.  I don’t just like Bette Davis; I WORSHIP her.  I think that Joss Whedon is a true genius and if I could I would throw myself at his feet and ask him to hire me.  I think that Bjork is a GODDESS.  I don’t how to NOT be a fan.

I have to say this because it such a huge part of the picture:  I love fanfiction.  I love it as an academic and as a human being and as a reader of fanfiction and — oh, yeah, as a writer.  I’ve been a writer my whole life.  I have boxes of unfinished fantasy novels, most of them written in my teens.  They shall probably never see the light of day, and that is just as well.  The point is, my blogging may skew towards fanfiction, particularly slash.  To me, fanfiction is a particular formation of a very basic sort of human creativity, an activity that pre-dates the Internet and electronic media and even the novel.  It is not something that supposedly uncreative people do because they don’t know how to do REAL writing…. but I digress.

So as I was saying, I am Lisa, and I am a fan.  I am also an academic.  As I write this, I am sitting in my apartment in Sherbrooke, Quebec, home of Bishop’s University.  I just finished teaching one course (Hitchcock) and will begin two more next week (Media and Society, Sex and Gender, whee!).  I did my Ph.D. at the University of  Texas at Austin, which means that you may hear me rant about the weather in Texas, or American politics, or grad school, or all of the above, at some point.  But I am a Canadian girl, born and bred. I went to McGill and the University of Toronto.  I like to think that being Canadian makes me cool, but I’ve never really been cool, to tell the truth.

Because I am an academic, I can’t bear the thought that anyone might have read the title to this post and said “Hmm, can’t she SPELL?”  I can spell, I promise you.  I thought I would try for a clever sort of double meaning with “HERE”, as in this blog.  In this blog, I will roar.  Why ROAR?  Because I am a fan.  I think I’m pretty darned rational most of the time, but I can get very passionate about certain subjects (Hello?  Fan here).  And on the subject of fandom, I do feel like roaring sometimes.

Of course, being Canadian, I try to remain polite even as I roar.