OTW Signal, December 2021

Every month in OTW Signal we’ll take a look at stories that connect to the OTW’s mission and projects, including legal, technology, academic, fannish history, and preservation issues that are important for fandom, fan culture or transformative works.

In the News

This month we’re looking at work being done by OTW volunteers in the news! Fanhackers staffer Milena Popova has written a new book on fanfiction, an excerpt of which was published at LitHub.

The book focuses on issues of sexual consent in fanfiction, and the excerpt focuses on how changes in fanfiction communities may be changing the impact of fandom activities.

The impact of the mainstreaming of fanfiction on its activist potential, however, is a potentially thornier issue. The external pressures that made fanfiction a clandestine activity were also key enablers of its subversiveness. There is a reason the Omegaverse arose where it did: in anonymous online communities on the margins of the margins of fandom. Some fanfiction communities continue to resist cooptation and commercialization by rightsholders. Others are happy to settle in the walled gardens provided by the cultural industries and abide, for instance, by restrictions on sexually explicit content. The recent demise of Tumblr as a viable social media platform for sexually explicit material has fragmented and dispersed fanfiction communities. This highlights the importance of the OTW as a fan-owned, fan-run space.

While the OTW as a whole helps preserve fannish connectivity and fanworks, our Fanhackers project works to connect fans to academic work being done about fandom and fanworks, including that being done by one of our other projects, Transformative Works and Cultures.

Yet another project, Open Doors, was in the news for its announcement earlier this year that it was working to move the Kirk/Spock fanfiction archive to AO3.

Yrindor is hoping they will be able to semi-automate the process of moving over the Archive’s approximately 6000 works, since eFiction is a standardized system. But this isn’t always the case. Some archive backends require Open Doors staff and volunteers to manually carry over every piece of work. And some of the archives they have rescued have had tens of thousands of stories posted. The process can take years — Harry Potter site Fiction Alley’s rescue was announced in July 2018, and is still ongoing despite using some automation.

The Kirk/Spock Fanfiction Archive isn’t the first piece of Star Trek fan history that Open Doors has saved. In 2020, for example, it rescued most of the zine Side by Side, the online Kirk/Spock zine that published 23 issues between 2001 and 2007. Unlike the Kirk/Spock Fanfiction Archive, its focus wasn’t on tagging and searchability, but taking submissions from authors and artists and gathering them together for publication as an offline zine would.

If you are interested in knowing which works Open Doors is helping to preserve, you can check out its earlier announcements or follow OTW News.

OTW Tips

Our Legal Advocacy team participates in different user education opportunities elsewhere, such as this Reddit AMA event at the end of October. But fans can ask questions directly to our Legal team through their contact form at any time. Please be aware that communicating with Legal will not create an attorney-client relationship unless Legal explicitly says otherwise in writing. But they’re happy to provide information regarding copyright and fair use.

We want your suggestions! If you know of an essay, video, article, podcast, or news story you think we should know about, send us a link. We are looking for content in all languages! Submitting a link doesn’t guarantee that it will be included in an OTW post, and inclusion of a link doesn’t mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

OTW Signal

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