OTW Guest Post

OTW Guest Post: Sharon Marcus

From time to time, the OTW will be hosting guest posts on our OTW News accounts. These guests will be providing an outside perspective on the OTW or aspects of fandom where our projects may have a presence. The posts express each author’s personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. We welcome suggestions from fans for future guest posts, which can be left as a comment here or by contacting us directly.

Sharon Marcus is the Orlando Harriman Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, and editor in chief of Public Books. Today, Sharon talks about the book she published this year, The Drama of Celebrity, from Princeton University Press.

How did you first find out about fandom and fanworks?

I became a fan long before I knew what a fan was, and my initial experiences of fandom were very out of phase with those around me. When I was around six, in the early 1970s. I saw Errol Flynn on television in the movie Robin Hood (1938) and developed a crush on him. No-one else my age even knew who he was, and my parents mocked him, but I liked his insouciance, his bow and arrow, and the fact that he wore tights.

A few years later, I developed an interest in Vivien Leigh, who died in 1967, a year after I was born. None of my friends had heard of her, either. My earliest experiences of fandom were solitary, mediated, and nostalgic –- the celebrities I became obsessed with had long departed this world. Perhaps as a result, I never thought of myself as a fan, at least not the way my friends were fans of David Cassidy, Farrah Fawcett, or John Travolta. (I did, however, develop an opinion about Charlie’s Angels: Jaclyn Smith was my favorite.)

The first times I heard the word “fan” used, it was associated with violence. Irving Wallace’s novel The Fan Club became a best-seller in 1974: the plot focused on five male fans who kidnap an actress they’re obsessed with so that she’ll have sex with them. In 1980, Mark Chapman murdered John Lennon; in 1981, John Hinckley tried to assassinate Ronald Reagan to get Jodie Foster’s attention. Fandom seemed excessive, criminal, pathological.

In college and graduate school, I studied nineteenth-century literature and learned that fandom had a long and complex history. The young Charlotte Bronte wrote a fan letter to a favorite poet and asked him for advice about her writing. Charles Dickens’ readers felt a personal connection to him that he fostered by addressing them directly in prefaces to his novels and by giving live readings from his works.

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OTW Celebrates

International Volunteer Day 2019

Since 1985, December 5th has been designated International Volunteer Day by the United Nations. It’s a day to honour and celebrate volunteerism around the world. Everything the OTW does is made possible by the work of volunteers, and today we’re saying thank you.

The OTW currently has 812 volunteers across 18 different committees. (That’s 101 more than this time last year!) They’re located all over the world, working countless unpaid hours to keep the OTW’s projects going. It’s thanks to volunteers that we have Archive of Our Own, Fanlore, Open Doors, Transformative Works and Cultures, Legal Advocacy, and more.

The work of volunteers is what makes the OTW’s mission–to provide access to and preserve the history of fanworks–feasible on our limited budget. To all our volunteers, whether brand new, or with us since the beginning twwelve years ago, we are so grateful, and we couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you for making all of this possible.

Interesting in learning more about what volunteering for the OTW is like? Check our our Five Things an OTW Volunteer Said series!

This Week in Fandom by Olivia Riley

This Week in Fandom, Volume 127

Welcome to This Week in Fandom, the OTW’s roundup of things which are happening! Before we dig in, isn’t baby Yoda so cute? He’s been all over the internet since The Mandalorian introduced him and he’s just too adorable. Feel free to gush and squee in the comments!

Who’s excited for Star Wars episode IX, The Rise of Skywalker? As fans all around the world are preparing for the last film of the trilogy, several trailers have dropped to tease us with new footage: an international trailer, a TV spot hinting at a spectacular duel between Rey and Kylo Ren, and a film clip where our heroes are in a frantic chase with Stormtroopers. A nostalgic and touching featurette was also released, reminiscing about the previous trilogies and discussing how everything will come full circle with this last opus. It’s a real emotional rollercoaster spanning from 1977 to 2019. You might want to have tissues nearby while watching, especially with the footage of our favourite rebel princess and space mom Carrie Fisher. Read More