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Over the next few weeks I'll be crossposting pieces of the Fandom Then/Now webproject here. I'll be moving in order through the site, starting with information about the project and ending with some of my ongoing questions. I'll link back to the site in each post. Please consider commenting here using the #fandomthennow tag or posting on the site to share your thoughts and ideas. This week we're onto popular fandoms and stories.

In the past few posts I've been talking about popular stories from the 2008 survey and the fandoms they were connected to. Today, I want to continue discussing some issues I had when I began compiling popular stories by individual fandoms.
[This post picks right up on my previous one which you can read here.]

[My previous post] gets at an issue I struggle with in Fan Studies and part of the reason why my research is interested in looking beyond individual fandoms themselves and looking instead at the romantic and thematic connections in fan fiction. When talking about fans and fan practices, we often use a show, film, game, or franchise as the label for fans. (And, of course, fans self-identify in this way as well.) However, when we do this we are prioritizing the product in how we organize and conceptualize fan activities. This has the effect of positioning consumption as the organizing principle for fan culture. A move which may limit our view of fan networks.

This model seems to become particularly strained when it comes to certain forms of fan fiction. What the 2008 survey results tell me is that while many fans use fandom titles as a keyterm they can tag content with, input into user profiles, and search databases for, fans do not cohesively and harmoniously organize themselves within these clusters. Some fans of Supernatural may read slash, gen, het, and RPS fic interchangeably, but many of them stick to the story category they are most interested in instead. Indeed, fans of one type of story may have no interest at all in other types of stories within that fandom.

More than half of the 2008 survey respondents were participating in multiple fandoms at a time. This raises the possibility that many fans are seeking out various types of stories across multiple fandoms. Each time we identify one of these "multi-fannish" fans as solely a Harry Potter fan, a Doctor Who fan, etc. we're framing the fan experience in a way that a) risks distorting how certain individuals are participating in fan cultures and b) leaves us blind to the broader and highly complex networks connecting fans to each other and to fan works.

Since fans often rely on their social networks to help them find new stories, many fans' social networks are built around broader cross-fandom interests, in addition to any preferences specific to a single fandom. In terms of a fan's overall experience, the "-dom" in fandom may be far less tied to a media product/franchise and far more tied to a character archetype, a kind of relationship, a mode of content, etc. Clearly, slash is one example of this broader view of fan culture, one that fans are well aware of. Slash has long operated as both a pairing category within individual fandoms and a larger interest area organizing fans socially across fandoms. But, here's where this might get more complicated: Slash fans have had sense of a larger group identity for some time, but slash itself has experienced a great deal of stigma over the years. It is a reading category that, until recently, was harder to find in commercial literature. These are some of the many reasons why being a "slasher" might carry a stronger sense of cross-fandom group identity in ways that other reading interests do not.
What do you think about fandom labels? Do you prefer to identify your interests by
fandom? Pairing? Favorite character? Do you find yourself sticking to one fandom at a time or do you seem to seek out similar types of stories, characters, or relationship dynamics across fandoms?

Read the full write up on popular fandoms and stories here. Share what you think about this on the Fandom Then/Now website or respond here in the comments section below.

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data point

Date: 2014-08-05 10:55 pm (UTC)
derien: It's a cup of tea and a white mouse.  The mouse is offering to buy Arthur's brain and replace it with a simple computer. (Default)
From: [personal profile] derien
I'm definitely the type of person who seeks out similar types of stories, characters and relationship dynamics. I'm a complete magpie about fandoms. I start with something I have some knowledge of - there's no sense in listing all my fandoms, I read a LOT and will read fanfic based on almost anything I have read - but will follow a favorite fan author if they write something in a fandom I know nothing about. (I have read a lot of Daegaer's Weiss Kreuz stories despite never having seen any of the shows.)

It might be much more useful to me if I could search stories by qualifiers like "first-time-friendship-based" or "established relationship", "Older guys", "warts." (I hate overly perfect looking descriptions.)
Edited Date: 2014-08-05 11:00 pm (UTC)

Re: data point

Date: 2014-08-12 01:32 am (UTC)
derien: It's a cup of tea and a white mouse.  The mouse is offering to buy Arthur's brain and replace it with a simple computer. (Default)
From: [personal profile] derien
That's a hard question! I like the characters to be equal in their own eyes, although it's more interesting if society does not view them as equal. I like them to have complimentary personalities and differing ways of looking at the world, but both be capable, in their own ways or fields.

Story types - longer stories, mysteries, adventures, with a lot of humor. The romance should happen naturally and not be sticky-sweet. Sex is only good if it's part of the bigger picture, and it's not really necessary to see it on screen.

Date: 2014-10-26 05:53 am (UTC)
makoyi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] makoyi
I agree with what you have to say about the way conceptualizing fan activity as organized by fandom prioritizes the source material too strongly.

It seems to me, in my totally unscientific experience, that most fans start out in one fandom that they're really into and they stay devoted to it for some time before many branch out to other fandoms (fandoms which get a lot of people to start in fandom are called gateway fandoms). And I think that that journey is really important to understanding fandom. When you become a multifandom fan, you're no longer a "fill-in-the-fandom-here fan"... you're a fan who likes A, B, and C... you're fannish. A fannish fan creates, first and foremost, and they do it with a palette of fandoms.

Another reason I agree is that I follow a couple of fandoms pretty devotedly that I've hardly touched the source material for... like The Sentinel - I am totally too young to have seen that when it first aired and I haven't been able to find anywhere that streams it or any libraries that have the DVDs. Also, Marvel/Avengers... I'd seen bits of Iron Man 1 when I started reading Avengers fic but nothing beyond that. I got into both of them from reading amazing crossover fic with other fandoms I was interested in (believe it or not, it was a Downton Abbey crossover that finally convinced me to give Marvel a try). From crossovers and the highest rec'd fics in a fandom, I can get a pretty good idea of the characters and plots and the more I read in the fandom, the more I get about what its all about and if I'm baffled by something, I can always try googling it. Sometimes I go out and buy the source material only because I loved its fic - that's why I bought book one of the Jonathan Swift series and why I jumped at the chance to see The Avengers when it turned up on Netflix even though I'd passed on seeing it in theaters.

And another reason --- fans are social creatures and in flocking together, there is a lot of 'fandom-adjacent' activity that has little or nothing to do with fandom but wouldn't happen without it. Like Copperbadge's Radio Free Monday where you can find a roommate that doesn't think you're lame for watching My Little Pony or you can be inspired to help a pet cat who lives hundreds of miles away whose owners you'll never meet to get life-saving surgery because it's a good thing to do... and this works because it reaches a lot of people because Sam's so well known in so many fandoms. Or the author's notes of ysabetwordsmith where, in the course of a single Avengers fic, you can find links to learn about useful and interesting things like de-escalation techniques, how to make a good apology, what some big issues in the ethics of Artificial Intelligence are, that Macaws live as long as humans, some of the ways to escape if you're tied up with rope, and many more things besides which have nothing to do with fandom or the Avengers really, but happened to come up in the course of that one fic so there they all are for you learning pleasure. Or there's the fact that I went out and taught myself a markup language, how to use GIMP, and techniques of matte painting which aren't actually fannish activities themselves, but I learned markup to write novel-length fic that looked like a novel in, and I learned the digital art stuff after being inspired by the artists of the film industry and then went on to use it to make cover art for fanfics and original fics.

As for my own cross-fandom reading habits... I started out from 2006 to about 2008 exclusively in the Harry Potter fandom. I made the change to being multifandom when/because... well, it's hard to remember exactly what went into it, but of it all, two things stand out - one being that I joined AO3 after seeing it mentioned on the Nanowrimo forums and AO3 has this page where it lists the top four fandoms in each media type just sitting there tempting you with counters in the tens of thousands --- just think of all the delicious reads!... and the second was that around the same time, I discovered Supernatural on Netflix and saw in its canon the same kinds of things that made me want to read and write fic in Harry Potter - its canon had characters you could get emotionally invested in and plots that could have gone any which way and big important issues that didn't get screen time because there was so much else going on... so I started reading. Once I worked my way through a lot of the back catalog of great fics in the Supernatural fandom (aided by rec lists and such created by other fans), I really started jumping around to all sorts of fandoms. I do like slash as a cross-fandom interest and am more likely to read a slash romance than a het romance by a considerable margin, but I'm not really a romance fan persay and certainly have no interest in buying a published romance novel. That said, one of the first fics I read that was neither Harry Potter nor Supernatural was a well-rec'd slash romance for a fandom I knew nothing about - when I turned around and reviewed it, I started it off by admitting that the sum total of everything I knew about the fandom (Generation Kill) was that it was a show about US Marines but I loved the slash ship fic - it was sweet, with lots of feels and zero smut which is very much my type when I do read romance and I liked it for its own sake, as its own story with its own characters and its own tropes that obvious did not appear in the canon and so I rec'd it on. And as you pointed out, recs from other fans are a huge part of how I chose what fics I read (and I read A LOT - I could never afford to stay in reading material if I didn't have free fanfiction). When I first started out in fandom, I used Fictionalley's fic finder forum - which is organized by trope because people posted requests and then filled those requests, so I would look for tropes I liked and then read everything that was suggested (and stop reading a fic if it turned out to be awful or bookmark it to suggest for future queries if it was good). More recently, I've gotten more into the rec-ing side of things with a rec journal and some fic rec and finder communities and also with sites about fandom like Fanlore and TVTropes. At the moment, my TVTropes watchlist has 7 fandoms and 12 tropes (though of course TVTropes is geared more towards helping you find new canons than new fics, but that's always good too). My rec journal has tags for 53 fandoms plus a miscellaneous category, though I should clarify that they have different levels of interest from me so there are only about 20 or so that I follow regularly and the others are fandoms I like and will read if I happen across a rec for a fic but I won't actively go searching out fics in that fandom (actually, I'll read most anything if the rec is glowing enough, thus the miscellaneous category, but its more like if a rec'd fic is in one of my fandoms of interest then it doesn't have to be quite as glowing a review to capture my interest, if that makes sense). For another count, which might actually be more useful to my point, let me pull up my current browser quick dial where I keep the AO3 tags I care about enough to check several times a week... okay, so: 8 are fandoms, 9 are tropes, 1 is for a multifandom rec community (I also have fanlore and tvtropes on my bookmarks toolbar - both have fic recs and are multifandom and organized by both fandom and trope/theme). I will read almost anything regardless of fandom in probably 3 or so different tropes/tags atm, and absolutely anything even in fandoms I know absolutely nothing about in 1 or 2 more. I'm really, really not a romance fan, but give me a families of choice, time travel fix-it, or a case story in any of my fandoms and I'm sold).

And I have to stop typing now :( - I could probably ramble for ages about the anthropology of fandom but I was intending to go to bed 2 hours ago... oops. Um, reply if you particularly want me to ramble further on anything specific. I don't mind if you associate my fandom username with any of these comments (just please don't openly attach it to an IRL identity via IP address or whatever).
Edited Date: 2014-10-26 06:00 am (UTC)

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