From time to time, the OTW will be hosting guest posts on our OTW News accounts. These guests will be providing an outside perspective on the OTW or aspects of fandom where our projects may have a presence. The posts express each author’s personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. We welcome suggestions from fans for future guest posts, which can be left as a comment here or by contacting us directly.
Cecilia Aragon is a Professor of Human Centered Design and Engineering at the University of Washington, and a long-time science fiction, fantasy, anime, and manga fan. She teaches and studies human-centered data science, computer science, and data visualization. Katie Davis is an Associate Professor at the University of Washington Information School and a founding member and Co-Director of the UW Digital Youth Lab. Her research explores the role of new media technologies in young people’s personal, social, and academic lives, with a particular focus on the intersection between networked technologies, identity development, and well-being during adolescence and emerging adulthood. Today, Cecilia and Katie talk about discovering fandom and their research on fanfiction communities.
How did you first find out about fandom and fanworks?
Cecilia: I wrote my first fanfic when I was ten years old, but as an isolated first-generation Latina growing up in small-town Indiana, I had no clue that’s what I was doing. I’d read The Lord of the Rings and fallen in love with Tolkien’s world, but was upset that there were so few female characters. I thought, couldn’t girls have adventures too? So I rewrote the story in a spiral notebook, re-gendering a few of the main characters and adding some adventures I thought were missing. But I never
showed that notebook to anyone, and it didn’t occur to me at the time that anyone else might enjoy doing the same thing.
I first became aware of fandom as a community in the mid-1970s when I became a teenager and an avid fantasy and science fiction fan. Unfortunately, I was an extreme introvert, too shy and anxious to go to cons. Fanfics weren’t posted publicly in those days (at least nowhere I knew of), so I never read fics or got involved in any of the communities where fics were shared. It’s really too bad for me the web didn’t exist at this time, because I know now that online fandom communities would’ve helped me through an extremely difficult adolescence.