OTW Guest Post: Tanisha Rao

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. Tanisha Rao is a London-based published poet, fanfic writer, and social researcher with a recent MA in Cultural Studies from Goldsmiths, University of London, who loves reading and talking about DIY, urban sociology, nonfiction essays, social connection, zine-culture, artistic forms of political organising and creative participatory methods on the internet. Most recently, she gave a lecture at her alma mater, KC College (Mumbia, India), on ‘the Role of Celebrity, Authenticity and Self-Branding’ and is currently working on entering the socio-cultural public policy sector in the UK.

Today, Tanisha talks about her MA thesis and the role the OTW played in it.

How did you first find out about fandom and fanworks?

I was introduced to fanfic very early, around the time that I was 12. I discovered Harry Potter fanfic on Wattpad first before realising that the writers were cross-posting on AO3 and FFnet. I used to read on FFnet predominantly, and I think it took me a while to learn how AO3 works. At 17, I was active on Tumblr and making friends there really made me deep-dive into fandom and the HP fandom on AO3, specifically.

I just loved the idea of reading about my comfort characters in settings and situations I wanted them in, and I had the sheer joy of having thousands of fics at my fingertips. When I was pursuing my BA in Sociology, I had difficulty writing for fun and I found creating fanfics (mostly one-shots and drabbles) to be the safe creative practice it is. And then in 2018, I began writing fanfic by myself – one-shots, self-inserts and yes, a lot of angsty fluff and smut! It honed my writing skills, allowed me to be playful and imaginative and brought me great comfort in emotional times.

Even now, when I am facing a particular difficulty in my personal life, I take to writing fanfiction about it. I put a comfort character in a similar position and it helps me get perspective.

Tell us about the Teratophilia thesis you wrote for your Cultural Studies MA.

My thesis started off once I discovered teratophilia as a transgressive and curious phenomenon I noticed on AO3 and Tumblr. I was fascinated by the romantic stories of human-monster pairings. I noticed that the monstrousness of the non-human character wasn’t the only thing that made the character attractive. In fact, when I read deeper into the monstrous character in these stories, I noticed that the genre could be seen as communicating vulnerabilities, the kind that were loved rather than scorned.

My thesis then grew from there to explore the role of the romanticised monster in popular film and fiction. I wondered whether a fannish creation of a romantic and monster pairing expressed transgression and desire far beyond the mainstream representation of supernatural romance. I looked at the romanticised monster in pop-culture iterations across Twilight, Rocky Horror and Shape of Water and investigated the cultural meanings of the romantic monster in popular fiction through theories on colonialism, race, queer temporality, queer failure and acceptable monstrosity. I then performed a close read of romantic teratophilic stories to explore the transgressiveness of the monster in them.

Doing this thesis helped contextualise and historicise the cultural idea of the monster, as an object of both fear and desire, replete with possibilities for the expression of emotion, internalised notions of otherness, and selfhood.

Why did you find the Fan Studies Bibliography we maintain on Zotero helpful?

It’s such a treasure trove! The Fan Studies Bibliography was of incredible help in the early days of my thesis writing process. Relevant material on fannish practices are hard to come by and the Bibliography was an incredible resource when I chanced upon it. It opened the doors to fanfiction studies for me and helped me follow reference trails across different papers and ideas.

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

I discovered OTW when I did a deep-dive one day to see who ran AO3 (in the hopes of getting a dream job working at AO3!). That is when I came across OTW and was immediately floored by the aspirational undertaking of a volunteer organisation dedicated to preserving fannish practices.

I think it is incredibly important to have an organisation such as the OTW, as the digital is, in fact, the main medium and platform of a lot of our creativity. Having an organisation that defends the rights of fanwork creators is what we need today, in the face of capitalist agendas and a commercialised publishing industry.
What fandom things have inspired you the most?

Ah so many! I love the participatory nature of AO3, the ability to be inspired by other writers and write your own story whilst doffing your cap at them. I love the sense of community, of beta-readers who volunteer their time to read chaptered works and fic writers who devote so much of their time, on a consistent basis, to their creations. Most of all, I am deeply inspired by the playful nature of fandom. I mean, the fact that crack fics exist, as does Crack Treated Seriously!

I am inspired by fandom in the way that it’s about creating something into existence, for the sheer joy of writing and sharing it with others. As a fic writer, I can’t tell you how much it means when I get kudos on my own fics!

There’s a certain infectious devil-may-care about fanwork creation which I use in other aspects of my life. It’s so important to know that you ought to say your piece for its own sake, but also for the one person who’s going to be incredibly excited to read it.

In the spirit of sharing and being truly participatory, I would love to be contacted by anyone interested on the topic of monsters, vulnerability and fanwork, and find ways to collaborate! You can reach me at {tanxshaa_} on Instagram.

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.

Guest Post
  1. 棠 commented:


  2. Tanisha Rao commented:

    Thank you so much for this opportunity to talk about my research and love for all things fannish, OTW!

  3. Xi commented:

    This is so exciting!! Proud of you Tanisha!!