March Drive – Spotlight On Open Doors!

Open Doors is about heartbreak.

No, really. Bear with me for a minute. Remember that first ‘zine you picked up at a con, the first fansite you discovered, the first archive you gained access to. The first time you thought, “Hey. This speaks to me; these people are like me.”

It’s an important moment: that revelation that there exists a community of fans, a culture that we create — the revelation of what we are and what we become when we are doing what we love.

Does that ‘zine still exist? That fansite? That fanwork that defied expectation and dared you to do the same, that archive that defined a moment in your fannish life, that resource you used to build a world — are they still there? Or have they been washed away by moves and deaths and apathy, by belt-tightening and corrupted files and lack of spoons?

It’s one thing if we make these decisions ourselves. It’s another entirely to not have a choice, and to watch our work — our words and art and resources, our collaborations and experiments and conversations, the proofs of our existence as communities — be erased.

Open Doors is about creating a refuge for those works, about helping fans who want to preserve those ‘zines and collections and con programs and archives and resources. Those moments of fannish epiphany. It’s about keeping our hearts unbroken.

Supporting the OTW means support for Open Doors, and Open Doors, in turn, supports fandom. Donate, and keep the decisions in the hands of the fans. Help us help to preserve endangered fanworks. Help fight the battle to keep your heart safe.

“Fan fiction” added to Merriam-Webster

[no-glossary]Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary recently released its new additions for 2009 (you can see them here), and for those of us who work on OTW’s academic journal, Transformative Works and Cultures, one new term stands out: fan fiction. You could hear our whoops of joy across town. Language geek that I am, I immediately tweeted and e-mailed all my friends in a frenzy of happiness. Not only had MW finally added the term to their lexicon, thereby acknowledging its importance to popular culture, but the styling I preferred was confirmed!

It’s taken awhile (the term has been around since 1944, MW informs us), but at long last, fan fiction has been defined by an authoritative source—and for those employed in the U.S. publishing industry, it is the authoritative source; no other dictionary will do. MW defines the term as “stories involving popular fictional characters that are written by fans and often posted on the Internet.” The entry concludes with the note that it is “called also fan fic,” which is intriguing because this term is also styled as two words, although it does not have its own entry.

When I wrote the first style sheet for TWC, I struggled with the styling of this common term. I really, really agonized about it. Ought it be fan fiction or fanfiction, the latter a styling that certainly got plenty of usage? In the end, I styled fan fiction as two words, precisely because it was not in MW. (If a potentially compound word is not in the dictionary, then it is styled as two words rather than solid.) I saw the term as two words in print but as one word on the Internet—but online, it seemed to always end up referring specifically to fanfiction.net rather than just being a generic version of the term.

In addition to fan fiction, TWC (against OTW’s house style, you may have noticed) styles most fan words as two words rather than one: fan art, fan artwork, fan vid, fan film. Mostly this is a result of the two-words rule, as none of these other potentially compound words is in the dictionary. But mostly TWC decided to treat fan terms as two words because fan is not a prefix. Turning the two words into one elides the active work of the fan by making the entire word about the artwork: it’s fan fiction, a piece of fiction actively created by a fan. Styling fan fiction as two words foregrounds the active process of creation and keeps us—writers, artists, vidders, fans—in the linguistic picture.[/no-glossary]

Help Us (and the AO3) Grow!

Open Beta for the Archive of Our Own is entering its third week of booming growth, and we’re all very excited by the positive, thoughtful, and constructive feedback we’ve been receiving from all of the new users. We’ve also been incredibly gratified by the groundswell of excited volunteers, eager to help us to make the Archive even better!

Happily, volunteer opportunities abound – particularly filling jobs in the infrastructure supporting the AO3. Organizing and communicating with our new volunteers is how our Volunteers & Recruiting Committee makes all our other work possible. Our Financial Committee makes sure the bills get paid, assuring a secure, stable home for all of that work. Both are vital to AO3 growth and sustainability.

If you’re inspired by the AO3 project, and are moved to help us make it better, you may have just the sort of enthusiasm we can use! Volunteering in other capacities doesn’t mean you can’t also test code (banging on new features) or wrangle tags (helping to improve searchability) – many of us do both. Please take a look at the opportunities listed in our Willing to Serve post and help us to build stronger support for the AO3 by strengthening our organization. Send us a message to volunteer or to find out more!

As always, if you don’t have the time or energy, but feel the impulse to be a part of what we’re accomplishing, you can donate in support of our servers and our continued self-sufficiency – or just help spread the word to your friends and fannish communities!