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.

The queerness of fandom spaces

 Thus, we see fandom itself as queer in essence, as it has positioned itself as a „heterotopia” – a social and communal space that has been in constant exchange and contestation with mainstream society and cultures.

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, XIV.

On Asian Americans and video game representation

I love first-person shooters such as BioShock, Halo 3, and the Half-Life series. But shooting aliens, cyborgs, or demons is one thing. Shooting at people who look like you, and who curse at you in your mother tongue, in a game that is supposed to reenact an actual war that happened in your lifetime that tore apart your country and your people and your family, is quite another. I actually found that out the hard way when I started renting Vietnam War–themed video games for the purpose of writing this essay. Honestly, as a Vietnamese refugee child of a 10-year Southern Vietnamese soldier, it was not a video game genre that I really wanted to explore. But at the time I started on this project, there were no fewer than a dozen Vietnam-themed games on the shelves or in production, and as grotesque and perverse as the idea was to me, I started to play them.

Phi, Thien-bao Thuc. 2009. Game over: Asian Americans and video game representation. In “Games as Transformative Works,” edited by Rebecca Carlson, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 2. https://doi.org/10.3983/twc.2009.084.

On the legitimization of fic and romance

The transparency of fan fiction and romance as repetitions, as proliferations of shared sources, permits texts in these genres, so frequently disparaged for being all the same, to register greater differences between them than texts that purport to stand alone. In a given fandom, the preponderance of versions of a single pairing’s story will yield depictions of gender, sexuality, power, and agency that diverge greatly from one another. Across one hundred fan fiction stories, the same pair of characters will be used to play out scenarios of total equality between partners, of dominance or submission (it is likely that each character will have multiple turns, in multiple stories, at being the dominant), of betrayal and abuse, of hurt and comfort, of sacrifice, of redemption, of missed opportunities, of cooperation, of severe illness, of death.

De Kosnik, Abigail. 2015. ‘Fifty Shades and the Archive of Women’s Culture’. Cinema Journal 54 (3): 116–25. https://doi.org/10.1353/cj.2015.0037.

Queer fandom and queer movements in China

Fandom as a subculture is usually have a close relationship with queer subcultures. We can see this relationship in Chinese fandoms, too.

Reading (the main character in a television adaptation) as a gay man, thus, could result in either criticism about gay representations in mainstream TV media or articulations of public awareness of tonghi movements in the contemporary Chinese cyberspace.


Egret, Lulu Zhou 2017. Dongfang Bubai, Online Fandom, and the Gender Politics of a Legendary Queer Icon in Post-Mao China=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, 117.

What complicates this relationship is the censorship around the portrayal of LGBTQ relationships and the regulation of LGBTQ spaces in the country as we can see it in the next quote.

Notably, because of the stringent censorship regime in mainland China, belonging through participation to queer fandoms involves some risk – and it arguably offers a strong alternative to public spaces marked as more normative and officially sanctioned.

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, XIII.

The concept of “quality” fan communities

It is assumed that fans of poorer works will automatically be low-quality fans (…) but in 3n5b’s case, the belief is reversed—the quality of the community dictates the quality of the fandom. As a female-oriented community within the male-dominated field of ACG, 3n5b stands out as one of the more disciplined communities, ironically a stereotypically male-oriented quality. But this demand for quality is possibly one of the ways 3n5b protects itself from unwanted attention and criticism. 

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.