OTW Guest Post: Alpha

Every month the OTW hosts guest posts on our OTW News accounts to provide an outside perspective on the OTW or aspects of fandom. These posts express each individual’s personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy.

Alpha started out in fandom in the Spanish-speaking community as the moderator of a manga shonen forum. She has been writing fanfiction for ten years and editing Fanlore, the OTW’s wiki documenting fannish history, for two years. Today, Alpha talks about preserving Spanish-speaking and pre-Internet fandom history on Fanlore.

How did you first find out about fandom and fanworks?

When I was in elementary school, I had a friend who could make really amazing drawings. She’d draw My Little Pony and Lion King characters and later she’d move on to draw anime characters like Dragon Ball and Sailor Moon. We would take turns buying a monthly manga/anime magazine named Minami, and then we would lend it to each other. She used to send drawings, and we’d also get penpals from all over the country through the magazine’s contacts section.

When the first cyber cafe opened in town, we found out that people were scanning their drawings and posting them on personal pages for all the world to see. I helped her make a website for her drawings. It was a chaotic website, with a gaudy background, strange fonts and random animated GIFs all over the place.

What made you decide to get involved in editing Fanlore and participating in the community?

I found out about Fanlore when they announced it on AO3 for the 2022 International Fanworks Day (IFD) Fanlore Challenge. I checked whether my OTP had a page, but it didn’t, so I started planning to make one. I also found out that someone had started an article about a ship week I host every year. It was a stub back then, so I fleshed it out. After that, I created my OTP article.

Initially, I wasn’t planning to stay on Fanlore beyond that, but then the IFD started, and I decided to participate. When it ended, I realized that some of the fandoms I had been in were lacking information. I also spent a while un-orphaning articles, fixing doujinshi categories, and adding information I know about the Spanish-speaking fandom. There always seems to be something to do. It’s been two years since then, and I don’t think I’ll run out of things to do anytime soon.

What’s your favorite thing about Fanlore editing?

Contributing to archiving and documenting your favourite fanworks is satisfying. Once I read a tweet that said whenever they got a new interest, the first thing they did was to check the Fanlore article because the fanwork examples tend to be of good quality. This made me realize how important Fanlore is for fans. If you’ve first arrived at a fandom, you can have an overview of incidents and events that happened before your arrival.

Fanlore is an amazingly useful project for many other things as well. Fandom stuff can be fragile. Your favourite fanfic can disappear at any time. Websites open, close, and change their terms of service often, fandoms rise and fall, and Fanlore is there to document that. It’s also a way to bring pre-Internet era fandom for all the world to see. I’m just happy to be part of it. I also nominated one of the articles I worked on for Featured Article. When it was approved and displayed on the front page for a week, I felt proud!

It’s really easy to be carried away and lose track of time while reading fandom history articles. In particular, articles about fandom controversies that happened more than twenty years ago are terribly entertaining.

What advice would you give to a fan thinking about getting started as a Fanlore editor?

I’d recommend starting with what you know best, like your OTP or favorite character. Add fanworks you love and any information you think is missing. Then, gradually expand to cover broader topics, such as other aspects of the fandom. As you become more familiar with editing, you’ll discover other ways to contribute, such as wishlist items, FanloreProjects, and wanted pages.

You can also vote on the Featured Article nominations post or have your favourite articles nominated. When I was a new editor, I found it intimidating to edit well-established articles, as if I were interfering with someone else’s work. But the truth is, it’s a collaborative effort, and every contribution matters. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes; other editors are there to guide you and help you learn. Even a small addition, like a single sentence, can prove useful to someone else.

Getting started during a Fanlore event can be a nice way to learn how to edit Fanlore. The Fanlore Bingo is usually held around June and gives you a list of simple tasks to learn as you fill your card, like leaving a message on someone’s Talk page or adding a link to an article. The IFD Fanlore Challenge is similar, and there’s also Stub September, which focuses on fleshing out stub articles. Also, as you complete tasks, you can earn cool badges to show off on your user page! Last Stub September, Fanlore gave out dinosaur-themed badges.

There’s also a Fanlore Discord server where you can ask for advice or have your questions about editing answered quickly by other editors (or simply chat about anything, fandom-related or not). Sometimes there are themed chats to suggest edits or articles about a certain topic. Recently there was a themed chat about Fandom in Color and another one about Link Archiving. It’s fun to organize with other editors to edit Fanlore together.

How did you hear about the OTW and what do you see its role as?

I think it was when I donated for the first time during the April 2018 fundraising drive. I saw the banner on AO3 and decided to donate. I had been an AO3 user for a while, but I had no idea what and who was behind it, so I had a look at the budget post and how the donations money is used. This made me realize what a precious service the OTW provides for fans, giving them a volunteer-run, ad-free space where their fanworks will be safe. Over time, I also found out about other OTW projects, like Open Doors.

What fandom things have inspired you the most?

Headcanons! I love reading about other people’s headcanons and also coming out with my own. There’s something I find fascinating about picking up someone else’s character or universe and adding my own personal touch. I know of cases where headcanons have survived for decades. Even when the people who came up with them left, other fans keep them alive. I’ve started reading stories sometimes just to find out that someone else had adopted my headcanon, and that makes me incredibly happy.

We encourage suggestions from fans for future guest posts, so contact us if you have someone in mind! Or you can visit our Pinboard account to catch up on earlier guest posts.

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