OTW Fannews: Explaining Fandom

  • Writing for Novis, a “Journal of Communication, Culture & Technology”, Sara Levine looks at the PBS OffBook video “Can Fandom Change Society” and focuses on the importance of fanworks. “If I were hired to create a seven minute video explaining fandom to the general public, I would focus on notable examples of the impact that these passionate communities have on their members and, increasingly, the world outside of fandom. Fanfiction would be the first feature because I believe it is the easiest concept to comprehend.” More importantly, “[a]n introduction to fan communities would be more effective if it showcased the excitement and creativity fandom can inspire in its members.”
  • From communication and cultural studies to philosophy, Mark Linsenmeyer at The Partially Examined Life speculated on “the existential weirdness of being a fan.” “Sartre’s concern in all this would be what this says about me, the person who feels this way. By treating celebrities like toys, I exert imagined power over them. By denying their reality I deny my own basic humanity, as a person among other, ontologically equal persons, meaning that the celebrity’s social status, or wealth, or fame is all irrelevant to the moral facts relationship between us. Being star-struck is existential because it makes a claim (a wrong claim) about my position as a human being in the world.”
  • A new book of essays tries to explain one specific fannish creation, Fifty Shades of Grey. “Editor Lori Perkins collected writers from all walks of life to pen the essays on debate. Romance novelists, BDSM dungeon masters, matrimonial lawyers, and professors are just a few examples of those contributing to the collection.” The essays aren’t all positive. “While several topics — including sexual empowerment and pop culture influences — are included in the upcoming book, [Jennifer] Armintrout’s viewpoint is that of an author and it is a negative one. “It’s the writing, the content, and the ethical violation of taking someone else’s work to sell and make a heap of money,” Armintrout said of her troubles with “Fifty Shades.”
  • A more supportive view of fanfiction appeared in The Huffington Post where writer Peter Damien discussed the importance of it in his life. “This, then, is the purpose of all my rambling: to show that my own roots run deep as anyone’s, but they begin in other people’s worlds, in fan-fiction. It’s not evil, it’s not dangerous. It’s unoriginal true enough, but so what? Fan-fiction is the equivalent of a group of teenagers working hard as they can to play covers of Metallica songs. Eventually they’re good enough to play in bars, and maybe beyond…Writers becoming snotty, or hostile, or even actively aggressive against fan-fiction is, to my mind, the equivalent of a big rock band showing up in a tiny town bar with a SWAT team to stop a group of teenagers from playing an off-key cover of one of their songs. It’s not only stupid and pointless, it’s petty, mean, and probably more harmful to the major rock band than to the bar band.”
  • One of the more interesting examinations of fanfic appeared on Buzzfeed, looking at deathfic in pop star fandoms and it cited Journal Committee staffer Kristina Busse’s work for Transformative Works and Cultures. “But Busse says that these morbid fanfics are a drop in the bucket compared to the larger genre of stories of the writer’s imagined trauma and recovery, like the ones where Bieber saves a girl from self-harm. “[Deathfics] are few and far between compared to the much larger and more popular ‘hurt/comfort’ genre,” Busse says, “where the pain and suffering functions as a way to bring the characters together, like a cancer victim meets Justin and they fall in love, or as a way to test their love.” Fan fiction of this stripe can even have a therapeutic effect. “[In fan fiction], tragedies that are then survived and overcome are actually much more common,” says Busse. “They’re a very safe way to work through imagined or real trauma.”

If you cover rock tunes, enjoy deathfic (pop stars optional), or have an academic take on fandom, why not put together an entry on Fanlore? Contributions are welcome from all fans.

We want your suggestions! If you know of an essay, video, article, podcast, or link you think we should know about, comment on the most recent OTW Fannews post. Links are welcome in all languages! Submitting a link doesn’t guarantee that it will be included in a roundup post, and inclusion of a link doesn’t mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

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