Spotlight on Transformative Works and Cultures

Today we’d like to shine a spotlight on Transformative Works and Cultures (TWC), the OTW’s international peer-reviewed academic online journal focused on media studies. In September, TWC will be publishing its 14th issue for its 5 year anniversary. A summary bibliography of all essays published by TWC can be found here on Fanlore, and a more comprehensive list of fan studies research is here on Zotero.

TWC’s co-editors Kristina Busse and Karen Hellekson kindly agreed to an interview about the journal’s activities and goals, which you can read below the cut.

Who is behind TWC?

Our editorial team roster can be found here at TWC’s Web site. We have a slate of volunteers who work on production, some of whom are OTW staffers in other contexts. We have volunteers who copyedit, HTML code/lay out the pages, and proofread.

For the journal itself, we have prominent scholars on the Editorial Board; scholars, grad students, and acafans who peer review; and book review and Symposium editors. Kristina works on the front end (solicitation, trafficking peer review) and Karen works on the back end (production-related stuff).

How do you get material for TWC issues?

We solicit all the time for all aspects of the journal. If we hear an interesting paper at a conference, meet an interesting person, or read an interesting blog post that we hope might get expanded, we e-mail the writer and ask her to consider submitting a piece. With the journal established after 5 years and 13 issues, we also get unsolicited essays. We also slate guest-edited special issues, which bring new readers and reviewers to the journal who may consider submitting.

Once an essay is submitted for the double-blind peer-reviewed sections (Praxis or Theory), we read through it to ensure it’s appropriate for the journal and has a chance to make it through peer review. Sometimes we reject it at this point, but more often, we return it to the author with specific editorial suggestions for revision. If the essay is ready for double-blind peer review, we ask someone from our editorial board or someone in the field for a review. Once their reviews are submitted, we use these as a basis to either accept the essay, ask the author to revise, or reject it. An essay that has been accepted by two peer reviewers independently is accepted and sent into production.

Not all articles are double-blind peer reviewed. Interviews and most multimedia pieces are editorially reviewed; book reviews are reviewed by the review editor; and Symposium essays are reviewed by the Symposium editor and one or two internal reviewers.

TWC does not hold a backlog; all papers are published.

What’s the production process like for a typical issue?

The production process, run by production editor Rrain Prior, begins 6 weeks before the publication date. First the essays are copyedited to our style (Chicago 16). The author reviews the copyedited file, and then the layout team tags the RTF file to HTML. This file is uploaded into our online publishing system, and galley pages are created by the software. These galley pages are read by the proofreader and again by the author. Karen also proofreads every issue. Rrain then inputs all the corrections at once. As a final step, Rrain assigns every document a unique DOI number and makes a DOI deposit (this ensures that the URLs will persist). Then the issue goes live.

A plug for our software: we use Open Journal Systems (OJS), an open source software that keeps track of absolutely everything for us, from submission to print. It’s crucial to our process. The author uploads her paper into the system; the peer reviewers get their assigned papers from OJS and then type their responses into a field that OJS provides; OJS inserts the peer reviewer’s remarks into the letter we write to the author; and the system logs all the e-mails. Every aspect of production happens through the system. It doesn’t let you skip steps, and it honors the blind peer review process.

TWC ostensibly publishes twice a year, but you’ve published quite a few bonus third issues. Can you explain how these special issues come about?

TWC publishes a general issue every September. The other issues are special guest-edited issues that focus on narrow topics. For instance, we’ve published special issues on games (2009), fan activism (2012), and comics (2013), and forthcoming are issues on fan labor (2014) and performativity (2015).

These special issues are usually pitched by the special issue guest editor; there’s info about this on our Web site so the guest editors know what they’re in for, because they are in charge of solicitation, and they have to do quite a bit of peer review and other work.

We help the special issue guest editor write and disseminate the call for papers. Usually the deadline for receipt of articles is about a year before the issue is supposed to come out. During that year, the essays go through peer review and then into production. The special issue editor writes an introduction/editorial and may also participate in soliciting and reviewing the non-peer-reviewed items, such as interviews, multimedia, and Symposium, as well as suggest relevant books for review.

You’re planning to release a fan fiction studies reader. Could you talk a bit about that?

For years, we have talked about the fact that fan studies is missing an actual reader—something that collects the essays that many of us repeatedly cite and reference. Worse, many of the essays are difficult to access—they are parts of monographs or essay collections, and some are long out of print. Two years ago, the University of Iowa Press started a fan studies line, and we proposed our reader. It’s a reprint anthology and it includes essays by people such as Camille Bacon-Smith, Henry Jenkins, and Joanna Russ.

The Fan Fiction Studies Reader contains 11 essays in four sections, ranging from Fan Fiction and Literature to Fan Creativity and Performance. The essays are meant to provide a theoretical grounding so that readers can then continue with further essays in their area of interest, many of which are available online—for example, in TWC! We offer a general introduction on the history and state of the field as well as more specific introductions to the four sections, each of which covers the research in a specific field. The collection should be available by the end of the year, and all royalties will go to OTW.

When you’re not working on TWC, what do you do professionally and fannishly?

Karen: I work full-time as a copyeditor in the scientific, technical, and medical market; mostly I edit medical journals and scholarly books. I present at scholarly conferences in the fields of fan studies and science fiction. This year I have given two talks about Doctor Who, one about the Big Finish audio alternate history Unbound line and another about fan-created Doctor Who vids that seek to recreate the missing eps. Alas, I’ve stepped back from fandom, in part because of TWC! It takes all the time and energy I formerly used writing fan fiction.

Kristina: I teach in the philosophy department at the University of South Alabama and raise two teenagers. I am in the early stages of a book for the University of Iowa Press on the ethics and aesthetics of fan fiction. I’m in a bit of a fannish return to lurking, because I can’t write short enough for Twitter and miss the back and forth in comments on Tumblr. Instead I read a lot on AO3.