(Note: We are aware of the DOI links not working. We are on it.)
March 15, 2011, sees the release of a special issue of Transformative Works and Cultures, guest edited by Nancy Reagin and Anne Rubenstein, focusing on the intersection of history and fandom. The title of the special issue, “Fan Works and Fan Communities in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” refers to Walter Benjamin’s famous 1935 essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Benjamin’s essay placed ordinary people’s engagement with mass-produced culture in a historical context, and that was also the goal of this special guest-edited issue. TWC No. 6 is available here.
“We didn’t plan it this way, but we are alternating between special guest-edited issues and regular nonthemed issues,” Karen Hellekson notes. Her TWC coeditor, Kristina Busse, adds, “Themed issues appeal to different groups of readers and authors and allow us to expand the notion of fan. We’ve gotten a lot of interest in all our various special issues, especially the upcoming fan advocacy and fan/remix video issues.”
The History issue exemplifies this wider definition of fan. The research articles that appear in the special issue move past TWC’s usual fare, which focuses on media fandom, instead contributing to a wider-ranging notion of fandom. Guest editors Reagin and Rubenstein have deep ties to fandom, and both are writing books that explore fans (and audiences more broadly) as historical actors. Reagin’s research focuses on literary fandoms in Germany, Great Britain, and the United States, while Rubenstein investigates movie fans and the experience of moviegoing in Mexico. Reagin, with 35 years’ experience in the fan world, migrated from SF fandom to media fandom. Rubenstein was a member of her home town’s science fiction club while in high school and has been, more recently, an active Harry Potter fan.
The research articles in this issue range widely in geographic and chronological focus. Courtney A. Bates discusses fan letters written to American novelist Willa Cather; Stacey Pope and John Williams address gendered and classed responses to British football (soccer) fandom; Julia Sneeringer talks about rock-and-roll fans’ relationships with musicians and club owners in the Beat scene in Hamburg, Germany; and Lisa Rose Stead discusses fan letters published in Picturegoer magazine from 1913 to 1928. As Reagin and Rubenstein point out in their introduction, fans forged communities within a context of a shared activity or simultaneously consumed artwork.
In the non-peer-reviewed section of the issue, edited by TWC staffers rather than Reagin or Rubenstein, the Symposium section likewise addresses historical concerns. Catherine Coker recaps the famous 1992 Contraband Incident involving Marion Zimmer Bradley, while Mark Soderstrom explicates the relationship between historical reenactment and fandom. Three essays discuss historical preservation—that is, archiving: Regina Yung Lee, who describes the holdings at UC Riverside and interviews Melissa Conway, the library’s head of special collections; Versaphile, who talks about archives and the preservation of fannish history; and Alexis Lothian, who addresses archiving of fan works at the multifandom archive associated with OTW, the Archive of Our Own.
Finally, some interviews round out this issue. TWC has long wished to host video, and the time has finally arrived, launched with five videos of fans: superfans Paula Smith and Rusty Hevelin; fan vidders Sandy and Rache, who vid as the Clucking Belles; Robert DeSimone, a Lucas-sanctioned Darth Vader; and fans associated with The Bronze, the now-defunct official site for Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. These personal histories are a pioneering effort at making the fan experience available to a wider audience.
TWC No. 7, a general, nonthemed issue, is slated for release on September 15, 2011.