OTW Signal, March 2024

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

Before OTW’s Open Doors began importing at-risk digital archives to AO3, they were already working to preserve physical fan creations. These were recently featured in an article about The University of Iowa’s Special Collections and its ties to fandom.

A lot of students don’t know that the University of Iowa is a hub of fan fiction,” Balestrieri said. The Organization for Transformative Works, the parent company of Archive of Our Own, has partnered with the UI since 2009 to form a preservation alliance. The UI provides a physical space for the OTW to house its historic collections of fanzines and fandom content. “Through our partnership with the [OTW], we’ve received hundreds of collections of historic fan fiction,” he shared.

The article discusses the influence of fanfiction on creative writing students and includes an audio segment. ““We bring classes [to Special Collections] every week. I love watching young writers look around a classroom and realize they aren’t the only ones involved in fandoms,” Balestrieri said.”


Fandoms that thrived in the internet’s early days helped to pioneer and reshape how fans interact, creating the online fan communities we know and love today. The linked article focused on the importance of the X-Files fandom, but many more were active and scattered across online locations. Their existence was recorded by fan studies scholars:

Of course, Philes weren’t the only ones to discuss their favourite shows online; Nancy Baym details the r.a.t.s. newsgroup, dedicated to the discussion of soaps fandom, which has its origins in the net.tv Usenet group in 1984 while Francesca Coppa points out that the Forever Knight fandom can lay claim to having the first online mailing list, started in December 1992.5 Crossover also existed between fan groups online. As Susan J. Clerc highlights, “DDEB was created by a member of two similar Star Trek groups, the Star Fleet Ladies’ Auxiliary Embroidery and Baking Society and the Patrick Stewart Estrogen Brigade,” and actors in science fiction shows were known to discuss their internet fans in interviews.

From Usenet groups and mailing lists to message boards, fans active on the internet in the 1990s shared their works in popular platforms of the day. But these became less accessible and even endangered over time.

The Open Doors project is dedicated to offering shelter to at-risk fannish content. Whether it’s moving at-risk archives to the Archive of Our Own or digitalizing stories that was initially circulated in printed format, the project aims to make early fan creations available for new generations of fans.


OTW Tips

If you want to publish your work and change the posted date on it, you can use the backdating feature. This allows you to post or import works from different sites with their original posting date (from 1950 onward). You can also set publication dates for individual chapters.

AO3’s FAQ offers directions on how to backdate a work but as always, if you have further questions, you can contact our Support team.

We want your suggestions for the next OTW Signal post! 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.

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