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

Vulnerability and emotional hurt in h/c fanfiction

Hurt/comfort fanfiction can build vulnerability and the pain inflicted on the body might stand in place for abstract hurts. This creates the tension, in this case, the hurt part of the story structure. In identifying the release or comfort part, it might be useful to look at an interpersonal and intrapersonal answer.

Rachel Linn defines the horrifying h/c that focuses on the body in pain and a sense of self, this is a story about

the hurt character coming back to themselves.

Linn, Rachel. 2017. “Bodies in Horrifying Hurt/Comfort Fan Fiction: Paying the Toll.” Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 25. http://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2017.1102.

In other stories, the character’s journey might not change but the focus is on their relationship with a comforter character. In this interpersonal story, the vulnerability serves not only the hurt character getting to know themselves better but deepening their relationships.

The comforting character acts as an anchor through which the hurt character can recognize how pain is shaping their world and change that power’s direction. 

Linn, Rachel. 2017. “Bodies in Horrifying Hurt/Comfort Fan Fiction: Paying the Toll.” Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 25. http://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2017.1102.

In h/c, transmission is unnecessary—the comforting character understands, though no one else does.

Fathallah, Judith May. 2011. “H/c and Me: An Autoethnographic Account of a Troubled Love Affair.” Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 7. https://doi.org/10.3983/twc.2011.0252.

These moments of vulnerability and connection are sometimes in direct answer to hurt inflicted in canon. Fandom is certainly uniquely equipped to pair the hurt we see with the comfort we create.

The multiple influences in Chinese speaking online BL-fandom

The tropes, jargon and conventions of Western slash fandom have also been imported via the Internet and begun to merge with those of the Japan-originated BL fandom in the Chinese-speaking cyberspace.

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, XVIII.

Despite the fact that queer fan practices have enjoyed a long local tradition in China, contemporary Chinese-speaking queer fan cultures have also been shaped by the incessant and complex transregional, cross-cultural, and transnational cultural flows among East Asian cultures and between the East and the West – as well as positionings vis-á-vis official culture and traiditonal norms.

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.

How fan studies researchers center whiteness as normative

Because of their status as minorities within Western media fandoms, nonwhite fans are seen [by fan studies researchers] to interrupt normative operations of such structures only in specific contexts when they make themselves visible. What I mean by this assertion is that race is only seen to be a relevant factor for theorizations about Western fandom communities when it is seen to be specifically interpolated by the presence of a significant character or issue that explicitly foregrounds the operations of nonwhite racial identity. In this construction, because whiteness is not considered a racialized identity with specific effects, its operations on fandom structures can be presented as normative.

Rukmini Pande. Squee from the margins: Fandom and race. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2018. Kindle edition, location 183.

Time travel and fan fiction

For this FandomFirstFriday, let’s talk about time travel and how it might – if – it relates to fannishness. I was actually surprised to find literature on this relationship so I definitely have learned something new thanks to this month’s topic. It is interesting to see that even though the timeline and events are fixed in Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveller’s Wife, fans have found that time travel created space for their fannishness.

Moreover, in talking about why she thinks The Time Traveller’s Wife is good canon, Bobcat Moran believed that the story’s jumping back and forth in time allows her the freedoms to insert additional events, and also facilitates futuristic writings that continue and/or expand the canon. (…) Nevertheless, it appears that the way Niffenegger deals with time travel, the very nature of all the ’gaps’ int he chronology of the narrative, is one central element that is appreciated and celebrated int he fandom of The Time Traveller’s Wife. – The desire, as well as ease, to ’fill in the gaps’.

Lee, Angela 2011. Time Travelling with fanfic writers: Understanding fan culture through repeated online interviews. Participations 8 (1)

Podcast episode: Dr. Alfred L. Martin on ballet fandom, Tyler Perry, and cultures of race in fandoms and fan studies

“It’s a Thing!” is a podcast about fan studies hosted by Dr. Lori Morimoto. In this episode, Dr. Alfred L. Martin, assistant professor at the University of Iowa, discusses ballet fandom, Tyler Perry, and cultures of race in fandoms and fan studies.

The link includes a transcript of the conversation and links to relevant articles and resources, including Dr. Rukmini Pande’s Decolonising Fan Studies bibliography.