OTW Signal, September 2020

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

In fannish history news, StarTrek.com released an interview with prominent Star Trek fans Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Jean Lorrah. The interview covers both fans’ experiences as fanzine contributors and convention-goers during a pre-Internet time when learning about and connecting with fellow fans was more difficult. When asked how Star Trek Lives!, co-written by Lichtenberg, influenced modern fandom, she and Lorrah responded:

Jean Lorrah: It showed people all over the U.S. who loved the show that they were not alone — that there were organized fans, and that they could join them. It was just an interesting read for many people, but for the double-dyed fans it opened a world of connections to like-minded people at a time when such books still were found in libraries, so every copy reached many readers. For the first time [it] showed them how to find one another.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg: I’ve often said — and I think it’s still the most important thing we did—we blew the lid on fanfic. In doing that, in telling the world that they can’t do this to us; they can’t take Star Trek away from us; they can’t cancel us; they have no power over our imagination; we tore down walls for several generations to come to the gymnasium of the imagination where we share visions, articulate emotional wisdom, and become strong enough to “make it so” in everyday reality.

The OTW is committed to preserving the history of early fan cultures, ensuring that the existence of early fans and the effect that their efforts had on shaping modern-day fandom are not forgotten. For example, Fanlore, the OTW’s fan-centered wiki, contains a page detailing the contents and legacy of Star Trek Lives!, as well as pages about the fannish activities of both Lichtenberg and Lorrah.

Moreover, the zine culture they helped create is preserved through Open Doors’ Fan Culture Preservation Project (FCPP). The FCPP allows fans to donate analog fanworks such as zines and other fannish memorabilia to the OTW’s partners at the University of Iowa Special Collections department, which is open to the public to visit. Open Doors documents the collections housed by the FCPP, including four collections that feature Star Trek fanzines and convention programs, all of which are cross-referenced on Fanlore.

Following some high profile fandom controversies amidst the pandemic, Chinese fandom is facing stricter censorship than ever.

During the Two Session meetings in May, a delegate to the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s top legislature, made the culture of fan communities, or known as fànquān 饭圈, the focus of her proposal. Besides pointing out how such passion could “severely disrupt public order” in some cases, she warned that “celebrity worship should not be encouraged because it was a distraction for underage girls who should focus on school”.

In mid-July, the Cyberspace Administration of China launched a two-month special initiative aiming to tackle fandom toxicity. Areas of concern included youth induced to engage in algorithm manipulation, irrational purchases, doxxing etc.

Meanwhile, Lofter (the nation’s equivalent of Tumblr) was removed from app stores in early July and massive amount of works may be hidden indefinitely, pending approval under new, undisclosed censorship guidelines. These changes are forcing some Chinese creators to seek new sites and platforms to host their transformative works.

OTW Tips

All authors whose work appears in the OTW’s academic journal Transformative Works and Cultures have agreed to have those works licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license, which permits both noncommercial and commercial use with attribution. Learn more about how TWC makes research accessible to everyone.

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