Notes about the fannish and the academic

A few months ago, in one of these posts i wrote about my experience at a conference where scholars of literature failed to engage in a discussion about the theory presented in the talk but got stuck at the existence of fanfiction – which they learned of then. I expressed my grief with this attitude and described it as a block in the open discourse between fandom studies and other disciplines.

Probably, everyone who would claim themselves to be “in fandom” in any way had this issue: how do i even begin to explain?

When i posted that question, i did so in this context because i see the answer somewhere here: acafans have to explain scholarly methods and framework and the basic existence of fandom, too, all the time. We talk about the identity of acafans a lot but another relevant framework is not of a person but of dicourses: fannish discourse and academic discourse are both languages that talk about themselves in different ways. Talking about fandom studies is, therefore, a series of decisions about what to use of one and what to use of the other language, while constantly being aware of both of them.

I see that as our mission and is what i am going to strive towards in my writing.

What do YOU think?

Naatu Naatu–Not My Oscar Win

Much before Naatu Naatu won the Oscars for Best Song, Screen Junkies made an honest trailer for RRR. It was the first time I’d seen an Indian film—a non-Bollywood, South-Indian film at that—take up western media attention, at least on YouTube. It was a fun trailer for a fun movie; it would not be a stretch to say I enjoyed it. Then, Naatu Naatu was nominated for an Oscar. The director of the film, S.S.Rajamouli, went on Late Night with Seth Meyers, and very gently corrected the very white host when he called the film Bollywood, because it is not. The Oscars happened, Naatu Naatu won, and India—the pan-India upper-caste crowd—rejoiced for taking the global stage, never mind that “pan-India” is a contentious term that flattens out the regional diversity present in India.

As of today, there are 269 fanfics on AO3 for RRR, of which 252 are written in English. To be sure, that is more than a lot of fandoms produce on AO3 for desi media. I would not personally categorize RRR as a desi film, but it’s not not desi either. It was representation on a global stage; for a moment, the desi identity, held up against that of the Western gaze, burned bright, and a lot of desis, both in India and the diaspora, felt seen and perceived. 

In her introduction to the edited essay collection, Fandom, Now in Color, Rukmini Pande talks about the ways in which race becomes an issue in fandom and fan studies only in so much as we talk about racialized media: 

“…the discipline of fan studies itself has constructed a default referent for that term [fandom]—mostly white fans located in the US and UK and organized around categories like transnational and global fandom and seen to be somewhat othered by language, geographical location, or media text—K-pop fans in Brazil or fans of Star Trek in Russia, for example (Madrid-Morales and Lovric 2015; Mikhaylova 2012).”

Pande, Rukmini. “Introduction.” In Fandom, Now in Color, 1-13. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2020. 

RRR, as a film, was a story about two freedom fighters who fought against the British rule in India—two very real freedom fighters, whom the director has admitted the film is not historically accurate about. The optics of it stand out; that, at a moment where anti-racist work seems so imminent, the award went to a song from a movie about a colonial struggle, without truly dealing with the after-effects of such a struggle on most “third-world” countries.

I don’t honestly know what connections I am drawing with this. I’ve been using Pande’s work as a way to reframe my own complex feelings about RRR winning, given the accusations of casteism S.S.Rajamouli has faced across his career, the ways in which the pan-India films have often been repackaged Bollywood, and the internal politics of South-Indian (here, specifically Telugu) identities getting melted into a singular Indian identity on a global stage with no context for the histories of these lived experiences. I’m not quite sure where I’ve arrived, but what do you think?

Is internet archiving a specific problem of fandom?

Recently, I attended an internet archiving vocational training held by our National Library. Most of the other attendees came from libraries – I did, too. We all had somewhat different experiences regarding internet archiving. The National Library is doing complete harvests: they download everything from a website in a way that makes it possible to reconstruct later. The practices of a public archive like that differ from those of the Open Doors which again differs from the efforts of volunteer groups. That is partly because even the internet is such a new thing, internet archiving is only experimenting with a mix of methodologies. But it is also because they all have different considerations.

What considerations do you think can shape these practices? Have you been part of any archiving project?

Aca fan discourse, fandom academic discourse

Fan criticism is the institutionalization of feminime reading practices just as the dominant mode of academic criticism is the institutionalization of masculine learning practices.


If Jenkins already saw fandom as a type of criticism parallel to literary criticism, we might have an understanding of parallel fandom studies: the ones inside academia and the ones surrounding it. There are already spaces in fandom where these parallel stories meet, Fanhackers aim to be such a space for us.

An update from the blogger

I apologise for being absent for so long. Funnily, neglecting this blog resulted from the work needed for preparing for a conference. So I thought, why not talk about our conference experiences.

This was a multidisciplinary conference for students and young researchers but the audience for my presentation was almost full of philosophers and literary scholars. My presentation was, as you can guess, about examining fannish texts with the tools of literary theory. Given that the research method was the same, I did not prepare for there to be a barrier between my subject and audience.

The professors could not remark on anything besides how there can be such a thing as fanfiction. Among the other presentations, there were ones about unfamiliar works, including an entire wave of cinema, yet these remarks were different in nature. I certainly expected to profit from insights from those literary scholars but we could barely talk.

It was only a fifteen minutes long talk with a few minutes for discussion. This experience doesn’t make me believe that discourse is impossible but it did highlight how I underestimated the barriers that do exist. Here, at Fanhackers, we enjoy a mix of academic and non-academic discourse on fandom. But it appears, a conversation between fandom studies and other scholars is not a given without bridging the gap the unfamiliarity of our subject presents.

Do you have good practices for that? How do you start conversations with people unfamiliar with fandom that goes beyond its mere existence? What are your experiences with encouraging conversations?

There is something queer here

The question of queerness in fandom is as old as fandom studies itself. It can be said that

The queerness of podfic exists in the text itself, because the stories are about queer characters and relationships, and in the reader’s literal performance of queerness in the act of reading these stories out loud.

Riley, Olivia Johnston. 2020. “Podfic: Queer Structures of Sound.” Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 34.

This line of questioning suggests that when examining fannish culture as writing, it can not only be done in the framework of queer literature or queer art.

(Slash) in particular raises particular issues of identity and sexualities: women writing fantasies with and for another projected through and by same-sex desires that fandom may be a queer female space – if not at the level of the text and the writers, then at least at the level of their interaction.

Busse, Kristina. 2006b. “My Life Is a WIP on My LJ: Slashing the Slasher and the Reality of Celebrity and Internet Performances.” In Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet, edited by Karen Hellekson and Kristina Busse, 207–25. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Fandom as a queer space in these descriptions mean more than spaces where queer people are or spaces where queer acts happen.

All the participants share a romantic, sexual space that attaches fluctuating gender and sexual identities to their roles as reader and listener, which may or may not align at any given time with the reader or listener’s own. This highlights the messy queer potential that fans enter into when they become part of this desire-filled narrative space, where the abundance of shifting gender positionalities and desire lines encourages unique formations of identity and sexuality that run obliquely to normative male/female heterosexual ones.

Riley, Olivia Johnston. 2020. “Podfic: Queer Structures of Sound.” Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 34.

There is something queer in here and it’s more than the sum of its very queer parts.

Boundaries of fannishness in yaoi fanzines

When theorizing fanworks as a genre of its own, it is always interesting to look at works that are not transformative in their nature but they are related to fandom in some way. That’s why I was excited to find this remark in this 2003 work about the history of yaoi:

These amateur fanzines (sold at Tokyo Comic Market) include both ani-paro (…) and original compositions, despite the fact that the English term “fanzine” may suggest only the former.

Mizoguchi, Akiko. 2003. “Male-Male Romance by and for Women in Japan: A History and the Subgenres of ‘Yaoi’ Fictions.” U.S.-Japan Women’s Journal, no. 25, pp. 55. JSTOR, Accessed 10 Jun. 2022.

This section refers to a connection in publication (the same zines, the same convention) and in genre. There is a presumption of interest of the ani-paro fans in original yaoi works implied in publishing them together and there is a recognition of similarity implied in grouping them under the same genre names (yaoi, BL etc.)

What kind of paratext makes you recognise an original work as part of fannish culture? What are your thoughts?

Signal Boost: A Survey About the Tag Exclude Function

Our last drive is over, Election is upon us soon, k-pop groups are making their comebacks left and right, Star Wars released a truly marvel worthy material (pun intended) and it is time for another survey. Sarah Bieletzki is working on a Bachelor thesis about if and how the exclude tag function is used and its potential for other applications. 

The survey is anonymous and should take no more than ten minutes to complete. Participation is open for all ages and no prior knowledge is necessary. You can access the survey here.

The survey will stay open until June 14th 2022.

If you have any other question, be encouraged to reach out: