OTW Signal, December 2022

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

Back in October a post at Book Riot drew attention to the various projects OTW is responsible for, specifically the academic journal Transformative Works and Cultures.

Transformative Works and Cultures (TWC) publishes articles that examine media studies as well as fandom and fan works. While they are at it, the journal really challenges what is and is not academic writing. As an English master’s student in the academy, TWC is who I want to be when I grow up.

The article looks at the variety of content that can be found in TWC, and also offers some love for TWC’s sister project, Fanlore.

From early zines in the 1960s, fans have created their own media about fan properties distributed to other fans. Unsurprisingly, Fanlore has a wonderful history of the creation and distribution history of fanzines in the 1900s. Fans have been shipping and writing about their ships for a long, long time. It was typical to find fanzines that offered nonfiction fandom articles. Other zines shared fan fiction, fan art, and other fan works. By-fan-for-fan content is not new. It is only natural to assume that moving into the internet era, fandom and the study of fandom would take place online.

After 15 years, founding editors Kristina Busse and Karen Hellekson have passed the torch to incoming co-editors Poe Johnson and Mel Stanfill. Kristina and Karen have given academics and fans alike a great home for fan studies research, and have developed a remarkable project that has been a credit to the OTW’s legacy.

Several OTW volunteers were interviewed as part of an article about fan and creator interaction in regards to fanfiction. Casey Fiesler, Heidy Tandy and Francesca Coppa discussed specific incidents and fandom attitudes regarding sharing fanworks with canon creators.

After the Organization for Transformative Works was founded, creating the open-source nonprofit Archive of Our Own (colloquially known as AO3) in 2007, the fear of litigious creators subsided, in large part thanks to the reassuring presence of its volunteer legal committee. But many in fandom still resisted the idea of being dragged into the light.

“Fans told us, ‘We don’t want a big front door [to fanfiction],’” recalled Francesca Coppa, a professor at Muhlenberg College who helped found the OTW…And our argument was, by putting the AO3 out there, it didn’t stop you from keeping your fanfiction on a little list or staying in the dark. If anything, shining a light over here meant it was actually darker over there, you know?”

In October AO3 passed 10 million fanworks on the site, representing over 50,000 fandoms. Visibility of fanworks at large archives and throughout social media platforms has made clear the scope of fanwork participation. But as the article discussed, the social norms surrounding fanwork sharing and discussion are still very much a matter of debate.

OTW Tips

If you are a budding academic or are a longtime meta writer, TWC offers a place for fans to contribute work – the Symposium section. Each issue also offers book reviews and sometimes interviews that explore fannish topics. So if you’ve ever considered contributing, visit the site and take a look at past works that have been accepted!

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
  1. Emily Boucher commented:

    speaking of ‘small front doors’ – any word on OTW’s response to getting scraped by Sudowrites to train their AI? I woke up this morning to learn that everyone was locking their accounts down, but for all I know it’s too late for that

  2. Charlie commented:

    I’d also like to know more about what’s going on with the Sudowrites thing, it’s pretty concerning and I don’t want to hurt readers or the site by locking fic down unnecessarily.