fandomthennow:

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For many people, fan fiction is as much a part of their reading as commercial literature. Fan fiction websites and archives provide readers with novels, serials, novellas, romantic and erotic stories, non-romantic stories, experimental literature, video and visual art, etc. While fan writers and readers are certainly not exclusively interested in romance, fan writing frequently explores the romantic potential between two characters and fan fiction is often built on romantic foundations. The shift to digital publishing and reading is having a dramatic impact on commercial romance literature. However, what about the kinds of romantic and erotic stories fans produce? How is fan work being affected by the rise in digital publishing? The Fandom Then/Now project is designed to facilitate fan conversations and collect ideas from fans about fan fiction’s past and future. 

What do you notice in the data from 2008? What do you think about the intersections between fan fiction and romantic storytelling? Now, in 2015, what has and hasn’t changed about fans’ reading and writing practices? 

Please visit the Fandom Then/Now website to look at the project and share your thoughts. 

You can also follow the project on Tumblr at fandomthennow.tumblr.com.

fandomthennow:

I hope everyone is having a lovely spring!

As the spring semester winds down I’m getting ready to start up another round of fandomthennow posts. I’m going to jump back into posting excerpts from the project website. As in the past, these posts will be made on Tumblr, Twitter, LiveJournal, and Dreamwidth. Please feel free to comment, reblog, and share in any of those spaces.

First, I’m going to repost some important details/background information about the project, just to refresh everyone’s memories.

As transformative work, fan writing always, in a sense, begins in the middle of a relationship, a conflict, or a world. Even in fan fiction where the story depicts characters meeting for the first time, those characters have a pre-existing relationship in the source-text and in the minds of readers.

Within commercial romance, a similar process occurs. In commercial romance, genre archetypes also serve as pre-existing types of characters and worlds for an individual story to build on. As with all literary genres, each romantic hero or heroine’s story leans a little on the ones that came before it. Like fan fiction, commercial romance sub-genres are also organized around common story-worlds and motifs (the regency, the paranormal, the contemporary western, etc.). Both commercial and fan authors rework these archetypes and storytelling traditions, contributing their own ideas about romantic conflict and their individual voices into these larger connected pools of stories. In this way, both styles of writing engage in the practice of remixing and transforming pre-existing work.

From Fandom Then/Now: Romance & Fan Fiction

What do you think? Do you buy the idea that the production process for commercial romance has such similar properties to the production of fan fiction/transformative work? Comment at Fandom Then/Now.

fandomthennow:


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Fandom Then/Now presents research conducted in 2008 and uses to facilitate fan conversations about fan fiction’s past and future. In my last two posts I’ve been talking about some of the different tendencies I’ve noticed between fan fiction and romance novels. Now I want to talk a little more about some of the overlap.

What do you think of my findings? Read the full write up on fan fiction and romance here. Share what you think about this on the Fandom Then/Now website or respond here using the #fandomthennow tag.

Here are a few core tendencies I noticed as I read:

Two: Character & Relationship Development (continued…)

Commercial and fan romances both play with different types of encounters and different levels of dramatic tension. [While a charged first meeting may be more common in commercial romance,] many works of fan fiction also rewind back to a first meeting and re-develop the protagonists’ relationship from the beginning.In particular, alternative universe stories often require more traditional romance elements to introduce the characters to each other, develop the new story-world, build conflict, etc. There are also many commercial romances where two characters simply meet again after years apart or learn to see each other in a new way. Today, as the serial becomes increasingly popular with romance readers, many popular romance serials return again and again to the same set of characters and story world, similarly building on pre-existing worlds and characters.

Ultimately, these [examples of similarities], coupled with the serial’s rising popularity across media, underscore the links between fan fiction and commercial romance as two modes of writing particularly interested in exploring romance, partnership, and sexual attraction. 

What do you think? Do you notice this overlap between relationship-focused fan fiction and commercial romance too?

fandomthennow:


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Fandom Then/Now presents research conducted in 2008 and uses to facilitate fan conversations about fan fiction’s past and future. In my past few posts I’ve asked what similarities/differences you see between commercial romance and fan fiction. Now, I’m going to start talking through the things that I noticed in 2008 as I read different works of fan fiction and commercial romance. 

What do you think of my findings? Read the full write up on fan fiction and romance here. Share what you think about this on the Fandom Then/Now website or respond here using the #fandomthennow tag.

[With] fan and commercial romance authors producing so many stories each month, it is not possible to definitively map out either writing space. Instead, I decided to think about these things as tendencies within each zone of production, rather than story elements that “define” either commercial romance or fan fiction… These patterns help us better understand the role that production environment can play in the construction of erotic and romantic stories, as well as how production environments organize different communities of readers.

Here are a few core tendencies I noticed as I read:

Two: Character & Relationship Development

In [fan fiction’s] approach to character and relationship development, attraction often emerges out of an existing partnership rather than hitting like a bolt of lightning at the first meeting. This, in turn, opens up the possibility of shifting some of the emotional intensity of the story from one aspect of the narrative (the meeting) onto other kinds of interactions. Preexisting characters and story-worlds may also impact the ways that romantic or sexual tension is established. By shifting away from that charged first meeting and with the characters already acquainted, the author potentially needs to spend less time introducing the characters to each other and rapidly escalating their relationship.

I hesitate to go so far as to call one approach more realistic than the other. It’s hard to think of Hogwarts, Atlantis or Mordor as particularly realistic settings. However, this shift away from a charged meeting may lend itself to different narrative foundations for relationships. It may also allow authors to experiment with different and potentially more mundane relationship conflicts. (For example, ‘You didn’t pay the electric bill!’ versus ‘You were kidnapped by werewolves!’.) This leads me to suspect that both the preexisting relationships/storyworlds fan fiction is typically built on and the prevalence of stand-alone stories within commercial romances are facilitating some of the variations between these two storytelling forms.

What do you think? Do you notice relationship-focused fan fiction using different types of narrative conflict or developing tension differently than a classic romance novel might?

fandomthennow:

Apologies for going quiet for the past few weeks. I needed to pause for a moment or two in order to pack, move, start a new teaching position, prep classes for the fall semester… all the fun stuff that happens in August. :)

I’m going to jump back into posting excerpts from the project website now. We’re about halfway through the overall website. As in the past, these posts will be made on Tumblr, Twitter, LiveJournal, and Dreamwidth. Please feel free to comment, reblog, and share in any of those spaces. 

Also, this would be a great time to ask you if you’d like to ask some questions too! Are there any issues related to the Fandom Then/Now project that you are curious about? Anything you would like to hear from other fan fiction readers/writers about?

fandomthennow:

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Over the next few weeks I’ll be crossposting pieces of the Fandom Then/Now webproject here. I’ll be moving in order through the site, starting with information about the project and ending with some of my ongoing questions. I’ll link back to the site in each post. Please consider commenting here using the #fandomthennow tag or posting on the site to share your thoughts and ideas. This week we’re onto popular fandoms and stories.

In the past few posts I’ve been talking about popular stories from the 2008 survey and the fandoms they were connected to. Today, I want to continue discussing some issues I had when I began compiling popular stories by individual fandoms.

[This post picks right up on my previous one which you can read here.]

[My previous post] gets at an issue I struggle with in Fan Studies and part of the reason why my research is interested in looking beyond individual fandoms themselves and looking instead at the romantic and thematic connections in fan fiction. When talking about fans and fan practices, we often use a show, film, game, or franchise as the label for fans. (And, of course, fans self-identify in this way as well.) However, when we do this we are prioritizing the product in how we organize and conceptualize fan activities. This has the effect of positioning consumption as the organizing principle for fan culture. A move which may limit our view of fan networks.

This model seems to become particularly strained when it comes to certain forms of fan fiction. What the 2008 survey results tell me is that while many fans use fandom titles as a keyterm they can tag content with, input into user profiles, and search databases for, fans do not cohesively and harmoniously organize themselves within these clusters. Some fans of Supernatural may read slash, gen, het, and RPS fic interchangeably, but many of them stick to the story category they are most interested in instead. Indeed, fans of one type of story may have no interest at all in other types of stories within that fandom.

More than half of the 2008 survey respondents were participating in multiple fandoms at a time. This raises the possibility that many fans are seeking out various types of stories across multiple fandoms. Each time we identify one of these “multi-fannish” fans as solely a Harry Potter fan, a Doctor Who fan, etc. we’re framing the fan experience in a way that a) risks distorting how certain individuals are participating in fan cultures and b) leaves us blind to the broader and highly complex networks connecting fans to each other and to fan works.

Since fans often rely on their social networks to help them find new stories, many fans’ social networks are built around broader cross-fandom interests, in addition to any preferences specific to a single fandom. In terms of a fan’s overall experience, the “-dom” in fandom may be far less tied to a media product/franchise and far more tied to a character archetype, a kind of relationship, a mode of content, etc. Clearly, slash is one example of this broader view of fan culture, one that fans are well aware of. Slash has long operated as both a pairing category within individual fandoms and a larger interest area organizing fans socially across fandoms. But, here’s where this might get more complicated: Slash fans have had sense of a larger group identity for some time, but slash itself has experienced a great deal of stigma over the years. It is a reading category that, until recently, was harder to find in commercial literature. These are some of the many reasons why being a “slasher” might carry a stronger sense of cross-fandom group identity in ways that other reading interests do not.

What do you think about fandom labels? Do you prefer to identify your interests by fandom? Pairing? Favorite character? Do you find yourself sticking to one fandom at a time or do you seem to seek out similar types of stories, characters, or relationship dynamics across fandoms?

Read the full write up on popular fandoms and stories here. Share what you think about this on the Fandom Then/Now website or respond here using the #fandomthennow tag.

fandomthennow:

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Over the next few weeks I’ll be crossposting pieces of the Fandom Then/Now webproject here. I’ll be moving in order through the site, starting with information about the project and ending with some of my ongoing questions. I’ll link back to the site in each post. Please consider commenting here using the #fandomthennow tag or posting on the site to share your thoughts and ideas. This week we’re onto popular fandoms and stories.

In the past few posts I’ve been talking about popular stories from the 2008 survey and the fandoms they were connected to. Today, I want to bring up an issue I had when I began compiling popular stories by individual fandoms.

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[larger version of image]

Tallying the Supernatural recommendations was a challenge and this set a precedent for how different fandoms and sub-fandoms are organized within the survey results. Participants used a variety of key terms to identify their fandoms. For example, terms like “Supernatural,” “Supernatural RPS,” and “CW RPS” were all used interchangeably on the same stories. A similar pattern occurred with fan fiction related to J.R.R. Tolkien, various Joss Whedon shows, Queer as Folk, and the many celebrities/musical groups associated with Bandom.

As much as possible, the categories I’ve used to organize stories here follow the lead of the survey participants. If fans saw these stories intersecting as part of a larger fandom, the categories have been merged accordingly. This has the curious effect of linking readers who may not want to be connected. For example, in the case of Supernatural fans, different reading interests now overlap under the umbrella of “supernatural fandom.” The actual readers of these different sub-categories may not want to be associated. In the Supernatural fandom, some fans enjoy stories about the show’s two lead characters being in a relationship together (Dean/Sam or Wincest). However, since these two men are brothers, Sam/Dean is a reading category that not all Supernatural fans are comfortable with.

Clumping all Supernatural-related fan fiction together under the umbrella of one fandom combines readers of gen fan fiction along with the readers of Sam/Dean, heterosexual romances involving Sam and/or Dean, as well as mixing in readers of real person fiction focused on the actors (i.e. J2 or CWRPS). Clustering these different reading interests together and identifying them as one unified fandom (in this case, Supernatural) may create links between fans who do not actually share the same reading interests. It’s possible the same phenomena is occurring in many of the various fandoms listed here.

If you were sorting the data, how would you have organized the fandoms? Do you object to these sub-groups or sub-genres of fan fiction being connected together as a single fandom? Should the fandoms be separated out into more specific clusters? Or, do you see these more specific collections of stories as part of one larger fandom?

Read the full write up on popular fandoms and stories here. Share what you think about this on the Fandom Then/Now website or respond here using the #fandomthennow tag.

fandomthennow:

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Over the next few weeks I’ll be crossposting pieces of the Fandom Then/Now webproject here. I’ll be moving in order through the site, starting with information about the project and ending with some of my ongoing questions. I’ll link back to the site in each post. Please consider commenting here using the #fandomthennow tag or on the site to share your thoughts and ideas. This week we’re onto popular fandoms and stories. Last post we looked at the fandoms that were represented in the survey’s most popular stories. Today, I want to talk a little about content. 

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[see full chart here]

Generally, while dozens of fandoms are represented in these survey results, a heavy amount of reading consolidated around certain authors and works of fan fiction. There were several overwhelmingly popular stories and authors, many of stories written by authors who are prolific writers, often producing work in more than one fandom. The majority of popular stories (the pieces of fan fiction which participants identified as their favorites) were almost all focused on romantic relationships. Significantly, most of these stories featured slash pairings. This differed somewhat from the broader reading practices reported by fans (see the engagement section for more). When asked about their reading generally, most participants reported that they read a combination of hetslash, and gen stories, with a smaller group of readers expressing interest in femslash. While fans may be open to reading across pairing categories, the most popular individual stories, the ones readers identified as stories they return to and remember, generally included or focused entirely on male/male (m/m) romantic pairings.

What do you make of these results? Check out the full list of popular stories here and let me know what you see in these numbers. Is there anything I might have overlooked? 

Read the full write up on popular fandoms and stories here. Share what you think about this on the Fandom Then/Now website or respond here using the #fandomthennow tag.

fandomthennow:

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Over the next few weeks I’ll be crossposting pieces of the Fandom Then/Now webproject here. I’ll be moving in order through the site, starting with information about the project and ending with some of my ongoing questions. I’ll link back to the site in each post. Please consider commenting here using the #fandomthennow tag or on the site to share your thoughts and ideas. Today, one last post about fan engagement/reading habits. Tomorrow, we’re onto popular fandoms and stories. 

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In the not-so-distant past, fan fiction about real people was a pretty controversial topic in media fandom. In 2008, 34% of the survey participants read some kind of real person fiction (RPF). The majority of participants (67%) said that they did not read stories about real people.

When this survey went out in 2008, many popular boybands were going on hiatus and the size of the celebrity-focused Popslash fandom had begun to decline. For a time however, Popslash was a large fandom with a heavy presence on LiveJournal. As popslash’s popularity faded, a new music-celebrity related fandom, bandom. began to develop. Today, interest in real-person related fan fiction continues. There are fandoms for athletes, actors, musicians, news anchors, and more. While the ethics of writing and reading real-person fan fiction is still debated among some fans, the controversy it used to provoke seems to have faded.

Again, however, I’m basing this on what I’ve observed. As fans continue to spread out across different social media sites, perhaps there are webspaces where fans go to either find or avoid more controversial types of fan fiction. What do you think? Do you visit or avoid certain websites because of the types of fan fiction they make available? Are there types of stories today that are still taboo or has a more “live and let live” approach become the standard? Why? What might be fueling either the taboos or their reduction? 

Read the full write up on fan engagement here. Share what you think about this on the Fandom Then/Now website or respond here using the #fandomthennow tag.