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.
Bridget Liang is a mixed race, queer, transfeminine, neurodiverse, disabled, fat fangirl. They’re a PhD candidate in the Gender, Feminist, and Women’s Studies Program at York University, a community researcher, workshop and group facilitator, performance artist, and fiction writer. Catherine Duchastel de Montrouge is a PhD student in Science and Technology Studies at York University in Ontario, and a research assistant in the PiET (Practices in Enabling Technologies) lab in the Lassonde School of Engineering and Computer Science. Cath is interested in how technosocial practices influence disability discourses in fanfiction spaces. Today, Bridget & Cath talk about their work on disability and fanfiction research in the issue they edited of the Canadian Journal of Disability Studies.
How did you first find out about fandom and fanworks?
Bridget: I was 14 when I first discovered fan fiction. Some of the girls I knew at school were talking about it and I thought I’d check it out. And of course, the first thing I did was go to the R rated section of fanfiction.net. I still remember the first fanfic I ever read. It was about Yami Yuugi from YuGiOh being made pretty and feminine for a date with Seto Kaiba. I didn’t like the ship so I became a puzzleshipper (Yami Yuugi x Yuugi Mouto). And I also quickly jumped into the Beyblade, Pokemon, Digimon, Harry Potter, Fire Emblem, Golden Sun, and David Eddings fandoms. And funnily enough, I didn’t even fathom the possibility that I was even gay even though I read only m/m and the odd f/f pairing. I was actively disinterested in m/f pairings.
I lived in my own little bubble of shipping feels. It didn’t occur to me that there was anything wrong with my fic reading practices or how I thought that, “oh hey, this is interesting, these guys are hot and it’s hot when they are having sex with each other”. When I was 16 it suddenly hit me. “I want to engage in the romance and the sex with the guys around me, wah?” But instead of spiraling into internalized homophobia, I accepted myself as gay pretty quickly. I just was and that was the end of it. I believe this is partly because of fandom, and partly because I’m the kind of autistic that isn’t affected by social pressures or norms. I was also the weirdo freak that no one really paid attention to as well. But it was through growing into my sexuality that I was able to make friends. My first friends who were genuine friends with me were queer identified fans — some of whom I’m still friends with today.
Cath: My very first encounter with fandom was in the late 1990’s when I was working night shift in a call centre: one of my co-workers would write Star Trek fanfiction during our down time, but I’m not even sure she used the word fanfiction to describe it. I know she sent it to the writers of the shows, which would indicate a different type of fanwork from fanfiction.
I didn’t quite understand what made her do it then, and although I looked up Star Trek stories written by fans online, I somehow did not get into it then. It wasn’t until a few years later, during the summer of 2002, when I was coming out to myself as queer and found Chimera Bloom’s original fiction and femslash fanfiction, mostly Janeway/Seven of Nine (ST:Voyager) and Buffy/Willow (BTVS) AUs. I remember reading a Janeway/Seven of Nine lesbian smut fanfic and having my mind blown by it. Although Chimera Bloom disappeared shortly thereafter, I had found the Xena Warrior Princess fanfic archives, and just went from there. I read as much as I could on those archives! For the longest time I associated fanfic with femslash, and it’s only when I started reading fics on fanfiction.net that I realized slash was much more popular.