fandomthennow:


image

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:

image

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:

image

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.

image

[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:

image

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. 

image

[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:

image

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. 

image

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.

fandomthennow:

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. First up! Fan engagement and reading habits from 2008 and today…

image

image

The image above shows the number of survey participants who were participating in a single fandom or multiple fandoms in 2008.

In the past, stories were often distributed within a fandom for a show, a pairing, a character, actor, etc. For example, stories could be shared on a fandom list-serv, in an online community dedicated to a specific pairing, posted on a dedicated fandom archive, etc. However, as media fandom increasingly used LiveJournal, this may have facilitated more long-term social links between fans across a variety of fandoms. In 2008, survey participants were almost evenly split between fans that engaged with more than one fandom at a time (54%) and fans who stuck to one fandom at a time (46%).

Today, I’m not sure what the trend is. With more media fans spread across sites like Archive of Our Own, FanFiction.net, Tumblr, and Twitter, LiveJournal, Dreamwidth, etc., I wonder if this is something that is enabling any different or new reading habits. Finding stories about a particular character or a certain pairing of characters doesn’t necessarily require joining one specific journal community or mailing-list any more. Instead, sites like Archive of Our Own, FanFiction.net, Tumblr, and Twitter allow fans to access many different fandom tags within a single website. This makes me wonder. Is it possible fans are reading a broader mix of fan fiction today? Are fans able to be more “multi-fannish” than they used to be?

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.

The Organization for Transformative Works was founded six years ago, because fans realized that owning the means of circulating and distributing fanworks—the servers, the interface, the code, the terms of service—would be essential to the long-term health of fan creativity, and so we created the nonprofit, donor-supported Archive of Our Own. Today, when I talk about the importance of fan writing, I don’t just mean fiction and nonfiction: I mean contracts and code. In the old days, fans self-published their fiction (and put it under copyright, asserting their ownership in their words), they distributed their own VHS cassettes and digital downloads, and they coded and built their own websites and created their own terms of service. Today, enormous commercial entities—YouTube, Amazon, LiveJournal, Wattpad, Tumblr—own much of this infrastructure.

This is a very mixed bag. On the one hand, these companies’ products and interfaces have made it infinitely easier for the average fan to connect with other fans and distribute fanworks. Now you only need a username and a password to get started, where before you needed access to server space, a knowledge of HTML, how to use FTP, and so on. However, there are also various dangers, including not only capricious or exploitative terms of service but simple market failure. None of the companies I just listed has anything like the track record of the average fandom or fannish institution; consider how much younger they are than Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Who, or even Supernatural fandom. In the best case, these companies may fail and become a disruptive force in relatively stable and long-term communities; in the worst case, they may exploit and betray their users.

In the past few years, the nature of the arguments I have been having as a fandom advocate has changed: In the past, I found myself arguing for the legitimacy of our works; now, I find myself arguing against their exploitation. The commercial ownership of the infrastructure means that money has now complicated fandom’s gift culture, and, like it or not, we now have to think about who should benefit. Here, too, there is a spectrum: Some grassroots creators don’t want to engage with the commercial world on any terms (and they should have the right not to); others feel that if someone is profiting from their works, it should be them, and it should be a fair compensation. If the relationship between fans and the commercial world is being renegotiated, we’re going to have to apply some of our creative energies to writing contracts as well as fanfiction, rather than let unfavorable or disrespectful terms of authorship be handed down to us by corporate owners.

Francesca Coppa, in Participations: Dialogues on the Participatory Promise of Contemporary Culture and Politics (via fanculturesfancreativity)

Much of the literature on fan fiction sees slash fiction as transformative because of its imposition of a queer framework on heteronormative texts. While I do not disagree that this is one way fan fiction can be transformative, it is a mistake to believe that slash is inherently more transformative than het or gen fic just because of its queering of canon.

Much of the literature on fan fiction sees slash fiction as transformative because of its imposition of a queer framework on heteronormative texts. While I do not disagree that this is one way fan fiction can be transformative, it is a mistake to believe that slash is inherently more transformative than het or gen fic just because of its queering of canon.

Emily Regan Willis, Fannish discourse communities and the construction of gender in “The X-Files” (via fanhackers)