On women’s voices in Jewish textual tradition and fanworks

Those of us who came of age fannishly in late twentieth-century Western media fandom grew up fannishly in a paradigm wherein fandom as practiced by boys and men tends to mean consuming, collecting, and indexing, whereas fandom as practiced by girls and women tends to mean interpretive and transformative storytelling (fan fiction, fan vids, fan art, and so on). The classical (male-authored) midrashic tradition disrupts that gender binary somewhat, though midrashic texts written by women in the late twentieth century and beyond are even more firmly akin to late twentieth-century media fandom in their centering of (so-called) feminine concerns such as emotion, relationship, internal motivation, and connection.

Barenblat, Rachel. “Gender, Voice, and Canon.” In “Fan Fiction and Ancient Scribal Cultures,” edited by Frauke Uhlenbruch and Sonja Ammann, special issue,Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 31. https://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2019.1589.

On fanfiction’s beginnings…

“It may not be coincidental that the spectre of authorial intention, cast out with the rise of poststructuralism and postmodernism, coincides with fanfiction’s beginnings.”

Hellekson, Karen, and Kristina Busse, eds. 2014. The Fan Fiction Studies Reader. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press.

Bisexual erasure in queer sci-fi “utopias”

After this canonical expression of Lexa’s homosexuality, fans began to ask Rothenberg to confirm Lexa’s sexual orientation, even though such labels are not permitted in canon. Why were fans so insistent on a label? With so little representation in the media, queer women constantly search for any possible representation, and they engage in subtextual femslash to make up for this lack of canon representation. Thus, when asked by a fan whether Lexa was a lesbian, Rothenberg tweeted, “That’s what we’d call her in the real world. In #the100 we just call her HEDA [Commander]” (Twitter, @JRothenbergTV, July 28, 2015).

This example illustrates the struggle between the dystopian world of The 100, the utopian ideals set by the producers, and the struggle for positive queer representation sought by fans of the show. The 100′s utopian premise falls short when fans and producers on social media sites cannot avoid the imperative to put labels on supposedly labelless characters.

Serafini, Victoria. 2017. “Bisexual Erasure in Queer Sci-Fi ‘Utopias.'” In “Queer Female Fandom,” edited by Julie Levin Russo and Eve Ng, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 24. http://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2017.1001.

How early soap opera fans used letters to engage with creators and build community

Internet fan studies foregrounds the immersion of activities such as shipping and community building into a spaceless and timeless virtual life, as well as the importance of social media in closing the gulf between fan and creator. My work here aims to uncover the tools circa the 1970s and 1980s that enable television fans—via pen, paper, scissors, glue, or typewriter—to live their engagement and pull creators within arm’s reach.

Steuer, Leah. 2019. “Structural Affects of Soap Opera Fan Correspondence, 1970s–80s.” Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 30. https://doi.org/10.3983/twc.2019.1735.

A Note on the Internet

“The Internet is a stage that allows all users to perform to other users, through text posts or images  or videos or songs, through sharing playlists or liking others’ posts or publishing remixes or founding digital archives.”

De Kosnik, Abigail. 2016. Rogue Archives: Digital Cultural Memory and Media Fandom. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

On femslash’s representation in scholarship about fandom

“Somewhere in the ever flowing tide of social media, a fan of femslash (female-female couples) tweeted about feeling ignored and erased by the field of fan studies. Fans have had a complicated, ambivalent, often conflicted relationship to the academic study of their texts and communities. That history was part of the impetus for this very journal, as a flagship project of a fan advocacy organization. But femslashers, at least since the era of Xena: Warrior Princess (Renaissance Pictures, 1995–2001) fandom on the Web, have been perhaps uniquely attentive to the public face of their activities.” – starts the editorial of the Transformative Works and Culture’s Queer female fandom issue. ” As we might glean from the primacy of slash as the unmarked term (denoting same-sex couples in general and male-male couples in particular), F/F remains underrepresented not only in scholarly research but also arguably in fandom overall (compared to M/M and also to het [heterosexual] and gen [nonsexual] fiction and art).” The text goes on to examine the relationship between queer female literature, queer scholarship, queer female fandom and scholarship about the latter: “(Scholars of queer media) have analyzed with great nuance the irreducibly queer language of mass media, but they rarely examine practices or texts produced by queer or slash fans, and consequently they have figured little in fan studies approaches to the topic (…).”

The issue then goes on the examine the complexities of queer femal fandom: “(i)t would therefore not be inaccurate to affirm that femslash fandoms do engage with multiple dynamics between female characters and, in doing so, expand the ambit of what could be considered homoerotic and subversive expressions of queer female desire.” – says Rukmini Pande and Swati Moitra. Their paper highlights the intersectionalities of gender, sexuality and race in fandom.

Femslash is still an overlooked part of fandom scholarship. There is more scholarship on femslash than this one issue of Transformative Works and Culture and if the issue has sparked your interest in the topic, you can try searching our bibliography.

In order of mention:

  • Ng, Eve, and Julie Levin Russo. 2017. “Envisioning Queer Female Fandom” [editorial]. In “Queer Female Fandom,” edited by Julie Levin Russo and Eve Ng, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 24. http://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2017.1168.
  • Pande, Rukmini and Swati Moitra. 2017. “Racial dynamics of online femslash fandoms.” In “Queer Female Fandom,” edited by Julie Levin Russo and Eve Ng, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 24. http://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2017.908.

On hierarchies in online danmei fan communities in China

Many scholars see the BL community as a queer space that has the potential to subvert existing expectations about gender or sexuality (Stanley 2008; Wood 2006) and the capitalist system itself (Donovan 2008). In the case of China, the BL fan community can also provide a public sphere for female participants to discuss social issues such as governmental policies and writers’ ethics (Yang and Xu 2016a). However, due to the sensitive nature of their subject matter and its sexual content, BL and danmei communities in China can be quite secretive and restricting: registration is often difficult and requires prior approval, and certain materials are only accessible to high-level members who have spent a lot of time and effort obtaining their status in the forum. This article is a case study that explores the limiting side of a BL fan community 3n5b in China and how the community creates a hierarchical system of membership.

Wu, Xianwei. 2019. “Hierarchy within Female ACG Fandom in China.” Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 30. https://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2019.1456.

The most wonderful time of the year

Or at least one of the biggest annual fannish events, Yuletide. For those unfamiliar, Anna Wilson describes it as follows in her paper: “Yuletide, an annual fan fiction gift exchange that has been running since 2003, is a festival for “rare and obscure fandoms” (http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide). Participants fill out a form indicating the rare fandoms that they are willing to write for and are assigned a recipient; they then write a story tailored to this recipient’s request and upload it to a central archive (previously a dedicated archive, now the Archive of Our Own) where it is made public on December 25. They also fill out a form indicating the rare fandoms for which they would like to receive fan fiction and can give a number of further details about the kind of story they would like; participants often supplement these brief request forms with Yuletide letters, hosted publicly on their LiveJournal, Dreamwidth, Tumblr, or other social media space, which their assigned writer can seek out in order to glean details with which to write the best possible gift for their recipient. Thus each participant usually writes a story for one person and receives a story from another. ” (You can read more on Fanlore.)

Kristina Busse states that “(it) showcases the central quality that distinguishes a fan-created Lizzie who runs off with Mr. Darcy against her parents’ wishes from, say, Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary (1995) (…).”

Shannon K. Farley talks about how “Yuletide in particular and fandom, in general, are their own subcultures, their own systems, and they have their own norms for both the writing and the reception of their literature. When a story is written for Yuletide, it is written as a gift, with a specific recipient in mind.”

If Yuletide indeed shows the central quality of our fannish subcultures, then maybe it is time to stop the wank for a few days and join together in a melody about queering our culture, made famous by Judy Garland.

  • Busse, Kristina 2017. “Fandom’s Ephemeral Traces.” In Framing Fan Fiction: Literary and Social Practices in Fan Fiction Communities. University of Iowa Press https://muse.jhu.edu/book/55237
  • Farley, Shannon K. 2016. “Versions of Homer: Translation, Fan Fiction, and Other Transformative Rewriting.” In “The Classical Canon and/as Transformative Work,” edited by Ika Willis, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 21. https://doi.org/10.3983/twc.2016.0673.
  • Wilson, Anna. 2016. “The Role of Affect in Fan Fiction.” In “The Classical Canon and/as Transformative Work,” edited by Ika Willis, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 21. https://doi.org/10.3983/twc.2016.0684.

Make the Yuletide gay and a fannish new year!

On monetization of fandom by big name Disney fans

The Disney lifestyler phenomenon emerged within the sharing culture of social media, and, as a result of their subcultural celebrity status, their collective discursive power has shaped what it means to be a Disney fan in the new media age through an emphasis on producing and sharing curated and marketable brand content. Today, Disney parks fandom is measured in part by the ways in which it is made visible to the community on social media. Along the way, lifestylers have found ways to monetize the practices and habits associated with Disney fandom, a trend that reached its zenith in April 2017 with the creation of the short-lived subscription platform Disflix. With the promise of original shows, live streams, and online classes curated by Disney lifestylers, Disflix was marketed as a monthly subscription service to teach fans how to build their own lucrative Disney-themed social media brand. However, even before the platform’s official launch, the company faced backlash from a large segment of the community, many of whom argued that Disflix exploited the foundation of Disney fandom.

Kiriakou, Olympia. 2019. “Big Name Fandom and the (Inevitable) Failure of Disflix.” Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 30. https://doi.org/10.3983/twc.2019.1598.

Queerbaiting: Context, Context, Context!

“Queerbaiting is a historical situated term, assuming that we live in a time and place where queer representation is possible yet constantly denied. The same people that accuse producers of TV shows from the 21st century of queerbaiting, defend TV shows from the 1990s, because
these are considered to have been produced under other circumstances that did not allow queer representation. “

Nordin, Emma. 2015. ‘From Queer Reading to Queerbaiting: The Battle over the Polysemic Text and the Power of Hermeneutics’, 13. Master’s Programme in Cinema Studies, Sweden: Stockholms Universitet.