Spaces for danmei fans in the age of Internet

Early danmei forums and websites were usually run by students, who had neither money nor experience, and often suffered from funding shortage and unstable servers. After the rise of big commercial websites like Jinjiang Literature City (jjwxc.net, 2003- ), Liancheng Read (lcread.com, 2007- ), and Danmei Chinese Web (52blgl.com, 2008- ), those self-owned noncommercial websites gradually went into decline.

Ling, Yang; Yanrui, Xu. Chinese Danmei Fandom and Cultural Globalization from Below=LAVIN, MAUD; YANG, LING; ZHAO, JING JAMIE 2017. BOY’S LOVE, COSPLAY AND ANDROGYNOUS IDOLS: QUEER FAN CULTURES IN MAINLAND CHINA, HONG KONG AND TAIWAN, HONG KONG UNIVERSITY PRESS, HKU, XII.

Apart from commercial websites, Baidu Post Bar, the biggest Chinese communication platform provided by the search engine company Baidu, offers ample space for danmei fans to set up open-access “bars” or forums at no cost.

Ling, Yang; Yanrui, Xu. Chinese Danmei Fandom and Cultural Globalization from Below=LAVIN, MAUD; YANG, LING; ZHAO, JING JAMIE 2017. BOY’S LOVE, COSPLAY AND ANDROGYNOUS IDOLS: QUEER FAN CULTURES IN MAINLAND CHINA, HONG KONG AND TAIWAN, HONG KONG UNIVERSITY PRESS, HKU, XII.

GL fanfic as bildungsroman

GL fanfic functions as bildungsroman and as self-help books for these young women to learn to love, to live (…) The friendship, intimacy and homosociality that the fan community offers construct these women’s gender and sexual subjectivities that in many ways refuse the normalization of gender, sexuality and social relations.

Ling Yang & Hongwei Bao (2012) QUEERLY INTIMATE:, Cultural Studies,
26:6, 842-871, DOI: 10.1080/09502386.2012.679286

Sharing knowledge about psychology and sexology in fandom

In fandom, participants can gather cultural capital either related or unrelated to the text the fandom is centred around. One, marked space of this cultural capital is psychology and sexology.

(Fandom) has a high percentage of disabled participants, and is concerned with issues of accessibility (both digital and meatspace) and positive disability representation in a way that is still not mainstream.

Coppa, Francesca (2014). Fuck yeah, Fandom is Beautiful, Journal of Fandom Studes 2(1), 78.

This personal and creative interest then translates into the shared knowledge of the community.

At a New Year fanfic writing competition held in the bar, the bar managers (bazhu) listed 10 different kinds of diseases, including mythomania, topoanaesthesia, antropophobia and borderline personality, many of which are highly specializedterms borrowed frompsychological literature and Japanese fanfics. GL fans seem to have a broader knowledge of psychology and sexology than the general public.

LING YANG & HONGWEI BAO (2012) QUEERLY INTIMATE:, CULTURAL STUDIES,
26:6, 842-871, DOI: 10.1080/09502386.2012.679286

Do you have experiences of how knowledge in these areas appears in fannish spaces?

What academica can learn from fandom

Thus rather than trying to create a homogenous reading or attempting to essentialize fandom and the artworks that spring out of it, we hope to mirror the discussions and vitality of differences that characterize fandom.

Hellekson, Karen; Busse, Kristina  2006. „Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet” McFarland.

(…) we use our fannish knowledge and values and apply them to academic practices. Rather than privileging a particular interpretation as accurate, we have learned from fandom that alternative and competing readings can and must coexist. We thus use fannish practice as a model for academic practice.

Hellekson, Karen; Busse, Kristina  2006. „Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet” McFarland.

Identifying main influences in Chinese fanfiction trends

I have quoted articles talking about the Japanese and Western influences on Chinese fandom and this paper talks about a third main influence.

The emergence of Chinese fanfic is linked to the rise of online ACG forums and popular access to the Internet in China in late 1990s. While in the main heavily influenced by Japanese ACG and increasingly by Western popular culture such as the Harry Potter series, Chinese fanfic has also followed the indigenous Chinese tradition of writing sequels to well-known classical novels. Many fanfic stories which are set in premodern China, draw on classical literary references and narrative traditions (Wang 2008).

Ling Yang & Hongwei Bao (2012) QUEERLY INTIMATE:, Cultural Studies,
26:6, 842-871, DOI: 10.1080/09502386.2012.679286
Wang, Z. (2008) Tongren De Shijie: Dui Yizhong Wangluo Xiaozhong Wenhua De
Yanjiu (the World of Do¯jin: A Study of a Minority Online Culture), Beijing,
Xinhua chubanshe.

Proposed methodology based on researching Hungarian Harry Potter fans

In reality, we feel that instead of trying to gauge the level of fandom and the fans’ (presumed) internal motivations, it is more appropriate to use an approach that looks at the variety of fan practices as a complex system. Thus, instead of examining the level of involvement or the creative practices of the fans in the Harry Potter universe, we propose to reconstruct and interpret the complex patterns of public affairs-related activities among them. To put this more simply, what motivates our research is not a desire to separate the simple spectator, the lurker, from the fanatical fans, but to look instead at the variety of follower (fan) practices and how they overlap and intersect with an interest in public affairs. These considerably more mundane, everyday reactions tend to be delimited by the preset options that Facebook provides its users with. These mundane online activities, reactions, and digital footprints are substantial not only in terms of their sheer numbers but also in providing a more comprehensive overview of the characteristics of a decisive portion of the audience, thereby giving the observer a more accurate picture of the fanbase.

DESSEWFFY, TIBOR, AND MIKES MEZEI. 2020. “FANS AND POLITICS IN AN ILLIBERAL STATE.” IN “FANDOM AND POLITICS,” EDITED BY ASHLEY HINCK AND AMBER DAVISSON, SPECIAL ISSUE, TRANSFORMATIVE WORKS AND CULTURES, NO. 32. HTTPS://DOI.ORG/10.3983/TWC.2019.1757.

Alienation in filk

The bankrupt values and lack of imagination filkers recognize in media producers and literary hacks get mapped onto the larger social order through an evocation of a long-standing distinction between fan culture and the mundane world. This distinction is partially one between the fannish and the nonfannish, a contrast essentially reversing the normal-abnormal dichotomy drawn in journalistic accounts of fan culture (…) Fandom becomes the standard against which consumer culture is measured, thereby expressing both the pleasure fans find within fan culture and the displeasure they feel toward many aspects of their everyday life.

JENKINS, HENRY (1992) TEXTUAL POACHER, ROUTLEDGE, 268.

It is also interesting that the Weber song, like „Escape from Mundania” characterizes mundanes through their consumer choices and cultural preferences, just like fans themselves are characterized through their tastes and leisure acitvities

JENKINS, HENRY (1992) TEXTUAL POACHER, ROUTLEDGE, 269.

It vividly expresses the profound alienation many fans feel in a world whose values are fundamentally at odds with their own and where they enjoy limited creative freedom within fairly menial jobs. Mundania contrasts sharpy with the sense of community, creativity, and intensity they find within fandom.

JENKINS, HENRY (1992) TEXTUAL POACHER, ROUTLEDGE, 269.

Transtextuality and transtextuality in relation to fanfiction

Transtextuality, to understand it, is a relevant concept when it comes to fanfiction. We can talk a lot about if fanfiction’s relationship to canon text is transtextual, in what way and why, but it’s worth to look at transtextual relationship between fanfictions, too.

Because so many A/B/O stories are in dialogue with each other as well as the particular canon they are based in, the Omegaverse can be treated as a single body of work collectively created by the fandom community, rather than individual, unconnected stories. (…) There is a kind of second-order intertextuality here, not just between different Omegaverse stories, but also between these works of fanfiction and the dominant western sexual scripts. Readers and writers in the fanfiction community are able to interpret the small differences between variations in the Omegaverse, or between fanfiction stories and the originary texts.

Popova, Milena (2018): ‘Dogfuck rapeworld’: Omegaverse fanfiction as a critical tool in analyzing the impact of social power structures on intimate relationships and sexual consent, Porn Studies, https://doi.org/10.1080/23268743.2017.1394215

If we continue with the example of Omegaverse (which might be similar to soulmate AUs but slightly different from, let’s say, noncon/dubcon), these stories might include what Genette calls intertextuality: quoting and allusion. Of course, in the case of fanfictions, it might be something beyond quoting or plagiarism as these sentences are not placed outside the texts but are neither plagiarised.

Another kind of transtextuality these text display is paratextual.

(…) a title, a subtitle, intertitles; prefaces, postfaces, notices, forewords, etc.; marginal, infrapaginal, terminal notes ; epigraphs; illustrations; blurbs, book covers, dust jackets, and many other kinds of secondary signals, whether allographic or autographic.

Genette, Gérard (1997) Palimpsests, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London, 3.

There are certain paratexts unique to fandom that will mark for the reader familiar with them, not only that the text is a fanfiction, but specifically which archive it belongs to: tags, author’s notes, comments etc. These paratexts also create transtextual relationships between certain type of fanfictions: it can tie together every fic tagged with Omegavers or A/B/O dynamics, for example.

Metatextual relationship can be between the comments and the fanfiction they are commenting on.

Finally, architextuality is what ties Omegaverse fanfictions together. It can also tie together Enemies to Lovers fics, drabbles, angst or PWP stories. There can be an argument made for the arhchitextual relationship between Canon Divergence stories or ones tagged with Under-negotiated Kink.

Would you argue that these tags create an architextual relationship? Do you agree with how I classified the transtextual relationships between fanfictions? Are there any other examples that I’ve missed?

Mainstream ideologies and transformative works

In fact, much of the interests of fans and their texts for cultural studies lie precisely in the ways the ambiguities of popularly produced meanings mirror fault lines within the dominant ideology, as popular readers attempt to build their culture within the gaps and margins of commercially circulating texts.

Jenkins, Henry (1992) Textual Poacher, Routledge, 35.

RPF and the student activists of the Umbrella Revolution

Alexter is the fan name for the fictional pairing of two actual Hong Kong Umbrella Revolution student leaders, Alex Chow Yong-kang, 24, and Lester Shum, 21, a relationship that has an ardent following on popular social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Lavin, Maud; Xiaorui, Zhu (2014.) Alexter: Boys’ Love Meets Hong Kong Activism. F Newsmagazine

Alexter wasn’t the first RPF based on activist as there was at least one earlier case related to the Sunflower Movement in Taiwan. It was, though, one of the more documented and researched one.

But this Alexter event was unique in its ability to transgress the boundary of fandom, and it became a festival for this political movement.

Laikwan, Pan (2020) The Appearing Demos. Hongkong During and After the Umbrella Movement. The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor.

This transgression was visible in the content fandom generated about the pairing and in fans’ attitude.

Fans keep their participation up-to-date by frequently posting fictional reprises of actual events that feature the Alexter characters. (…) Posts in the Lester Alex He He Group, like the unknown poster posing as “Alex Chow”, often use these fictional descriptions of events to express developing political ideologies and personal sentiments about current social climates.

Lavin, Maud; Xiaorui, Zhu (2014.) Alexter: Boys’ Love Meets Hong Kong Activism. F Newsmagazine

During the occupation, an active Alexter fan explained to a reporter that most fans considered the movement more important than the fandom. (Ka 2014). To her, the fandom was only a by-product of the political events, and most fans did not confuse that order.

Laikwan, Pan (2020) The Appearing Demos. Hongkong During and After the Umbrella Movement. The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor.

So, in theory, Alexter could have become a vessel for the political ideologies the Umbrella Movement itself represented, too. But this potential wasn’t picked up by the censorship as the following quote shows.

Also, while the Umbrella Movement has been entirely censored in mainland China, and no keywords have been able to pass through the iron curtain to enter the vast Chinese cyberworld, the Alexter fandom seems to have escaped censorship and landed on Baidu tieba, which was the largest Chinese communication platform at that time, although its Alexter forum attracted only a few followers.

Laikwan, Pan (2020) The Appearing Demos. Hongkong During and After the Umbrella Movement. The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor

Obviously, the Alexter sexual economy and the Umbrella Movement political economy were more intertwined than that, as evidenced by how the fans invested their libido to compensate for their anxiety and dreadfulness.

Lavin, Maud; Xiaorui, Zhu (2014.) Alexter: Boys’ Love Meets Hong Kong Activism. F Newsmagazine