caitri: (Printer)
All Star Trek stories are Kirk/McCoy unless otherwise stated.
All Avengers stories are Steve/Tony unless otherwise stated.
Read more... )
caitri: (Status Not Quo)
I just had a eureka moment about why purity wank (whether political or fannish) bugs the crap out of me: It's pretty much always, *always* about kicking down, about how the author gets to or justifies feeling superior, and never ever about actually doing something constructive or actually helping any one person or group.
caitri: (Screw Subtext)
My essay was just posted at PopMatters as part of their Star Trek issue:

The Continuing Voyages

'Star Trek' Reboot Fandom and 'Prime Universe' Canon


28 September 2016


The 2009 Star Trek film’s introduction of the Kelvin Timeline and its canonical “Alternate Universe” offered a plethora of possibility to fans old and new. While Trek fandom has never gone away, the new film invigorated it with its fresh take on beloved characters, and new fans came to the numerous digital platforms of fandom in droves. Almost immediately various resources were organized and created for the benefit of the new fans, not just to entice them to watch The Original Series (TOS) and its fellows, but so that they would have references useful for their fanfic and fan art.

What was the name of McCoy’s ex-wife? Why was Tarsus IV seminal to Kirk’s development as a leader? Where are all the characters that aren’t white guys or Uhura? Reboot fandom drew strongly on these resources, adding canonical characters that were functionally deleted from the first film (like Kirk’s older brother) or exploring the new ones that were introduced (Gaila, who may well be the first Orion woman in Starfleet). With the newest film just out, a new series in the wings, and the franchise’s golden anniversary at hand, how do we make sense of 50 years of adventures?

Fans of TOS in the ‘70s kept fandom alive through numerous fanzines that collected fan fiction, critical and speculative commentary, the occasional poem, checklists of episodes with summaries and character information—resources that were incredibly useful when the shows was in syndication but there were no VHS recordings, let alone the possibility of binge-watching. (Fun fact: TOS’s popularity in syndication trumped the usual model for re-airings; even today, a television show usually needs 100 episodes to be re-aired. The Original Series consisted of only 79 episodes, plus the unaired pilot “The Cage”.)

In 1975, Bantam Books published Star Trek Lives!, a collection of nonfiction fan writing that included a primer on fan fiction. It was followed in 1976 by Star Trek: The New Voyages, the first of two volumes that collected fan fiction pieces in whole rather than just excerpts. Shortly afterwards, Pocket Books licensed media tie-in novels for the series, which in the early days included work by numerous fan authors who turned pro (like A.C. Crispin) or up-and-coming pro writers (like Joe Haldeman). None of these works were considered canon per se, but they explored the possibilities of life in and outside of the Federation. After the conclusion of the last television series, Enterprise, in 2005, and a change in editorial apparatus, the novels created a more coherent and canonical “world-picture” of the stories of various characters.

Unfortunately, this has led to something of a tamping-down in certain lines, such as the brief Reboot-era Starfleet Academy series that included only four volumes published between 2010 and 2012. The reason put forth for the suspension of this particular line was that certain plot elements in the books hinted too much towards the story of what would become Star Trek Into Darkness, which in retrospect was either wishful thinking or a red herring altogether.

The lead-up to the 2009 Star Trek film (alternatively referred to as XI, NuTrek, AOS for Abrams’ Original Series, or simply as the Reboot) included a four-issue comic entitledCountdown that took place entirely in the “present” of the Prime Universe. Here, Ambassador Spock is still working to reconcile Vulcan with Romulus (as seen in the two-part episode “Unification” in Star Trek: The Next Generation all the way back in 1991) and prevent its star from going nova with red matter; appearances are made by Data, who is now Captain of the Enterprise-E; Picard, now the Federation Ambassador to Vulcan; Geordi LaForge, who designs and builds Spock’s ship, the Jellyfish, that is seen in the film.

Nero is introduced as a Romulan who wants to assist Spock’s efforts to save his planet, but the loss of his homeworld, wife, and unborn child drive him to madness, and to attacking the Federation vessels that arrive to assist refugees. General Worf of the Klingon Empire arrives to render assistance, and in the events that ensue, both Nero and Ambassador Spock inadvertently time-travel—and from there, the new reality is born from the ashes of the Kelvin Disaster, in which George Kirk sacrifices himself to save his family and crew from Nero.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Reboot fandom is how it’s not a “true” reboot—the Prime Universe still exists. All of the events of TOS, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine,Voyager, Enterprise, and all of the films—they still happened. The Kelvin Timeline is distinct, with connections and callbacks to the other universe, and as such, presumably all of the characters we have seen will be seen again in other iterations. As a simple example, most recently in Star Trek Beyond there was a very brief scene with Sulu’s partner and daughter; Demora Sulu was introduced in the 1994 film Star Trek: Generations.

It’s seemingly small “seeds” like this that provide not just fan service to viewers, but more food for thought for the serious fans (and fan writers). The ongoing Star Trek comics, recently retitled as Star Trek: The 5-Year Mission, published by IDW flirt with canon in both universes, introducing alternative takes on classic episodes that are accordingly different from the original. For instance, in the retelling of “Operation—Annihilate!” Kirk’s brother Sam and his family are rescued from Deneva, with a familial reconciliation being reached. In the original episode, a reconciliation between the brothers is not needed, but the colonists all perish except for Sam’s son. Other stories in the series push forwards arcs like the Vulcans’ recovery from the destruction of their homeworld, while special issues take on favorite fan tropes, like a story told in the Mirror!universe, or a peek into yet another universe where the characters are gender-swapped.

The most recent—and concluding—arc of the series this summer was entitled “Connection” and drew together both the TOS and Reboot crews in a lovely rumination. Rather than being a straightforward crossover, the characters only meet mentally, with an interesting use of visual art to render the effect as puzzle-pieces that fit into a whole rather than only a divergence. A final connection brings us full circle, as the Enterprise’s databases now contain information from both universes.

It is this element of connection—pulling together information and stories across generations, that ultimately speaks to how fan writers and readers work: putting pieces together to create new wholes. We see this most clearly in fanon, or fannish canon, which pulls from all of the stories told officially, and unofficially. Fanon runs the gamut from character names or alien biology to the interpretation of events in characters’ lives. Indeed, Uhura’s first name, Nyota, which was first used on screen in the 2009 film, originated from William Rotsler’s 1982 tie-in book Star Trek II Biographies; it was also used in a number of other works, licensed and fannish. Similarly, Sulu’s first name, Hikaru, was first used by Vonda N. McIntyre for her 1981 tie-in novel The Entropy Effect; it was not adopted on screen until the film Star Trek VI.

For another example, in the TOS episode “The Conscience of the King” we find that Kirk is the survivor of a eugenics-related genocide. The colony governor, Kodos, who perpetrated the murder of over four thousand civilians escaped justice and has always been a ghost of Kirk’s past that he must reckon with when it seems that Kodos has resurfaced. The “Tarsus IV Disaster” is meant to recall elements of the Holocaust; it also implies strong psychological links between Kirk’s belief in no-win scenarios and this formative childhood experience. Interestingly, while only a few (comparatively) fan stories examined the event in the period of zines, in the time of digital circulation it’s a well-known trope, with tags and even a community dedicated to sharing stories that expand on this element of fictional history.

What we might take from these volumes and volumes of licensed (there are quite literally hundreds of novels and comics) and fannish works (hundreds of thousands of fanfics online and in print) is fandom’s deep interest in exploring the possibilities of the worlds ofStar Trek in all its iterations. Just as there’s no beginning or ending to works of the imagination, the possibilities of story cannot be exhausted. Whether it’s fannish writing on page or screen, or officially licensed material, there’s always room for expansion and possibility.

Fifty years on we can still see this the most clearly through a vision of diversity: not until this year and the new Sulu has Star Trek had an onscreen gay character (though there have been gay characters in the novels, and they are abundant in fan fiction). There’s been a recent pushback on the “faux progressivism” of slash writing in fandom (which boils down to queer romances, most famously in K/S or Kirk/Spock stories), but I would nonetheless argue that decades of slash writing effectively normalized the ideas of gay relationships for a number of readers whom I have met—and many of whom also recognized and learned to celebrate their own queerness because of it. Roddenberry’s famous Vulcan principle of IDIC, or Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, remains something to aspire to, both onscreen and in the real world. As in fandom, it’s a place we can get to by joining together in celebration of one.

Cait Coker is a genre historian specializing in science fiction fandom and women’s writing. Her essays have appeared in The Journal of Fandom Studies and The Journal of Transformative Works and Cultures, among others.

caitri: (Tony OCD)>Fan is a Tool-Using Animal, a transcript of a talk by Maciej Cegłowski from 2013 on fans, tags, the Delicious blow-up, and how his perception of fans changed over time. Basically he created Pinboard and reached out to fans after Delicious died so that they could use the tagging system there, and then fandom did.

In 2009, when I started my own bookmarking site, called Pinboard, I really wanted to lure over fans with their amazing tag collections.

But fans are loyal people. And they were really attached to Delicious, especially to a very elaborate Firefox plugin that made life a breeze for people with thousands of tags. I didn't have much success in getting them to cross over.

Until in 2010 Steve Chen and Chad Hurley, the founders of YouTube, came along and made my career. I don't know them personally. Maybe they're lovely people in person—kind to animals, beloved by children.

But they bungled their way through acquiring Delicious so badly that the site never recovered.

Chad looked at Steve and was like:

“Bro, you want to buy Delicious?”

And Steve looked at Chad and was like:

“Bro let's totally buy it!”

And they high-fived and that was it.

A few months after the acquisition, there was a grand uncloaking of their new design, much of which involved destroying features of Delicious that fans were utterly dependent on.

The new Delicious removed the ability to see your full list of tags, which as you can imagine for someone with an intricate tagging system is the end of the world.

They got rid of tag bundles, a crucial feature for fans.

And in an inspired stroke, they took down their support forum, so no one could complain about anything on the site itself.

But the single change that killed fandom dead on Delicious was no longer being able to type "/" into the search box.

There is no God, life has no meaning, it's all over when you can't search on the slash character. And fandom started freaking out on Twitter.

Being a canny businessman, I posted a gentle reminder that there was still a bookmarking site that let you search on a slash tag.

So fandom dispatched a probe to see if I was worth further study. The emissaries talked to me a bit and explained that my site was missing some features that fans relied on.

In my foolishness I asked, "Could you make me a list of those features? I'll take a look, maybe some of it is easy to implement."

Oh yes, they could make make a list.

I had summoned a very friendly Balrog.

For three days, I watched this collaborative Google doc grow and grow before my eyes. It ended up being fifty-two pages long. I want to show you some of the highlights.

At times, there were so many people editing the document at that it tucked its tail between its legs and went into a panicked ‘read only’ mode. Even the mighty engineers at Google couldn’t cope with the sustained attention of fandom.

My favorite bit:

Here I've shown a paragraph where someone asks me if I can build a user search feature, and I reply at length about why that's not trivial. At that point someone decides that it's easier for them to just go build the feature on the spot. They set up a little app in Heroku that mapped Pinboard usernames to Delicious usernames.

In the time it took me to explain why I couldn't build the feature, someone did it for me and stuck a hyperlink into this document that is spiraling out of control.
caitri: (fandom is like rl)
So through happenstance I've recently read several novels in which fandom takes on a large role, so I have some random thoughts on it.

1) Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. (This one is actually a reread because I like this book.) Main character is a fangirl who writes slash for the not!Harry Potter of her universe as she navigates her first year of undergrad. Fannish interactions--excerpts from fic, fan sites, fan conversations--all ring pretty true, but the "great leap" is at the end when she writes and then publishes her own original short story that echoes all her growing pains heretofore. So fandom is great but something that must be grown out of.

2) Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson. I had high hopes for this one when I read about it and largely enjoyed it. The entirety of the story is told through online postings and comments (mix of pseudo-lj and pseudo-Tumblr), IMs, texts, fan art, etc. Two fangirls bond over their favorite show and flirt with becoming more, and then not-quite-implode. The two main characters go from the "gosh it's so weird talking to someone real on the internet and having feelings" (which I'm not sure people still have those? it being 2016?) to "I can't live without you I might break up with my boyfriend over you" stage ~really quickly. Spoiler alert, they don't end up together, which makes me sad. One of them has a mental illness that really explodes when a traumatic event happens; anyway, she starts the book with her rl friends and family AND DOCTOR saying "you should be off drugs by now" and then when she goes off the drugs she absolutely relapses, and this affects her relationship with her fellow fangirl who decides she probably wants the bf after all. Which I also thought was too bad, and almost flirted with biphobia? Like, sure you can "like" girls, but boys are what you settle down with for "real life." Ugh. Ditto the ableist aspects of "you can love someone with mental illness BUT IT IS SO HARD." Which, yes, but also? Ugh. So I have very mixed feelings about it.

3) Scarlet Epstein Hates It Here by Anna Breslaw. High school fangirl dealing with high school and her fav tv show being cancelled. Also the former best friend/boy she's had a crush on forever dating a popular girl and acting like a tool. She decides to cope with both by writing a spin-off fic with OCs--because ~as we all know~ fandom gets really excited about fic with all OCs *snort*--that are also, functionally, RPF AUs. Hijinks ensue when because reasons the real kids find out about this and are justifiably hurt...and then the dude eventually ends up dating her anyway because reasons. So fandom is a high school thing that is fun and verges into creepy and is then abandoned for Real Life. Ugh.

4) Arkwright by Allen Steele. So this one is a bit different but I actually quite enjoyed it. It's a series of linked novellas; the first being about a granddaughter finding out about her grandfather's legacy and his story told in fun fan history flashbacks to the "First Fandom" of the 1930s. Lots of rl fan history cameos by guys like Sam Moskowitz and Forry Ackerman; one token woman fan who ends up being an agent rather than a writer, so, could be worse. Anyway, the guy writes a series of highly popular sf novels--sort of Star Trek meets Foundation etc etc--that inspire the later generations of his family, who end up in other stories building an interstellar spacecraft that goes to another planet and settling it. So it's about how fandom effects science effects real life, which was a lot of fun. But--notice how because white boys and science fandom is treated as much more useful and "normal" and even, dare I say it, worthy? That's kind of...not cool.

Anyway, so I'm fascinated by this new trend of representation in pop culture. Anyone else have any observations? recs?
caitri: (chris vocabulary)
There's an increasing pushback against slash in acafandom that I have mixed and, increasingly, uncomfortable feelings about. On the one hand, I totally get the comments about how slash valorizes white male cis-bodies at the expense of, uh, pretty much everything else, and how it acts as a misognizing and internalized misogyny factor. But there's also a wave of calling it faux progressive and falsely subversive that bugs me, because 1) it contributes to an erasure of fan history and 2) presents an ahistorical view of queer relationships as being always accepted, especially in fandom, which, no. I wish, but no.

For instance, I've been rereading Melissa Good's Dar and Kerry stories. I've been purchasing them in hard copy too, because it occurred to me (duh) they might not always be online, and I really loved them back when I was a 90s brat. But once upon a time, when Xena: War Princess was my Friday night staple and also not dunked in Judao-Christian whateverthefuck, it was one of my favorite fandoms because femmeslash was more or less the norm--and even the canon. Good/Merwolf's fics were epic, and her Dar & Kerry stories had an uber-setting--contemporary AUs before AU was the common term. Dar & Kerry were pretty clearly Xena and Gabrielle in the tech industry (and rereading them, they are so cute and 90sriffic! Pagers! Mobiles! Laptops being serous tech!), and one thing I had forgotten until rereading was how their lesbianism was an ACTUAL ISSUE. The baddies in the stories often tried to use it as a lever against the characters; the issue of being out and WHERE to be out (at work, with family, with friends) was very much a thing.

And here's the thing--that still is. There was a great panel about queerness and sexualities with an emphasis on trans at the Star Trek Celebration, and the speakers were upfront about the spaces of their queerness: Some were out all the time, some were out in Chicago but not in their hometowns, some were out to their friends but not their families, etc. etc. Acting like this isn't a thing, as if there are no such things as safe spaces (this came from a fan podcast I was listening to yesterday), is absolutely bullshit, disrespectful to people, and frankly rather dangerous.

Similarly, up until about, what? Ten, fifteen years ago or so, fandom was similarly an issue. People didn't want it known they were active and fandom and being outted/doxxed by other fans/anti-fans was a thing, and a scary one. It was the sort of thing people would use to get people FIRED from their jobs and similar shit. Acting like this didn't happen, or is part of a distant and archaic past is BS and just as problematic as the other shit we face, like erasing POC and women from our texts and from fandom, facing the problematic intersections of race and class and sex and all those other things.

So TL;DR: Maybe slash is "safer" than it used to be, but that doesn't change its historical contexts. Acting like it wasn't a thing isn't making an argument for making more progress, it's contributing to the erasure of the successes we've had.

ETA: On further reflection, I do think it should also be considered how slash fiction effectively normalized queer relationships for at least two generations of readers (the generation that had the Internet in the 90s when they were teenagers, followed by millenials who always had Internet). Given the minimal presence of positive queer relationships in literature and media, this is a not insignificant population reading a body of work that was otherwise not present.
caitri: (Badass)

So I went to DePaul University's Celebration of Star Trek symposium this weekend, which was lovely: It was one day and basically half academic conference and half con. So, you know, there were serious panels about stuff and also cosplay and a vending area.

I spoke on two panels, both about Trek fandom; the first on Trek fan history and the second on Reboot fandom. Anyhow in the fan history one I mentioned slash and then another presenter was focused exclusively on the history of K/S, and during Q&A a student said very seriously, "I don't understand slash. Why do people do it? I find it disturbing. Like, is it meant to be funny or what?" To which my immediate response was "No, it's just that women like to get our rocks off too. ... sorry not sorry."
caitri: (books)
No, J J Abrams – Star Wars was never “a boy’s thing” by Elizabeth Minkel

Women who like things such as Star Wars, or comics, or anything else that leads journalists to write those painful “not just for boys anymore” trend stories, have had to take it from all sides. Enthusiasm for something seen as the province of men clashes with mainstream perceptions of femininity. Even women liking this stuff in the context of traditionally feminised fan spaces, like fanfiction, find themselves fending off assumptions from men and women alike, perhaps the accusation that they are sexualising something too much, or they are placing too much weight on the emotional elements of a storyline. Basically, that they’re liking the thing the wrong way.

But women’s enthusiasm for perceived “male” spaces is always liking the thing the wrong way. The plainest illustration of this is the Fake Geek Girl, in meme and in practice: the barriers to entry are raised immeasurably high when women try to join in many male-dominated fannish conversations. The wonderful Noelle Stevenson illustrates this beautifully – and then literally, when a guy challenges her on her work. I’m sure that just by writing about Star Wars, I’m opening myself up to the angry gatekeeping-style pissing contests that men like to toss at women who claim to like the things they like. (Let’s get it all out in the open here: Star Wars isn’t my fandom. I saw the three original films on dates with my first boyfriend – our first date: Star Trek: First Contact, because we were clearly the coolest kids in town – and upon rewatches as an adult nothing grabbed me. But I am also a fandom journalist, so that’s kind of how this works.)

There’s a persistent myth – and I say persistent because I keep seeing these deluded boys get mad in new viral posts – that women who claim to like geeky things are just pretending, the somewhat confusing notion that they are doing it for attention. (And then there’s the inevitable anger that in this supposedly desperate plea for attention – why else would a woman claim to like their beloved characters?! – these women still don’t want to sleep with them.) And what never seems to occur to any of these gatekeepers is that these women were there all along, liking these things just as much – and are finally being given the cultural space to be open about their interests and passions. But that space is given haltingly; plenty of women, tired of waiting, are going out and taking it. The result is the tension (and, at times, outright hostility) that has marked certain corners of the fannish world in the past few years.
caitri: (Cait pony)
*waves* I am so discombobulated this Fall. My summer was ridiculous and Fall is not any less so. ANYWAY. Stuff to share:

"The misogyny towards fanfiction: she, her, hers" by Nandhini Narayanan

I am concerned about this social inclination to dismiss or trivialize fanfic works. The implication is that something written by women and read majorly by women is somehow less important and unworthy of respect. There was a loud and angry twitter campaign a while ago called #fakegeekgirls. The premise was that several women were attending comic conventions in costumes in order to “seem nerdy and pick up the interest of men.” Female cosplayers were specifically picked on and accused that they were dressing up to get attention. Yes, I saved up for weeks, tailored my own spandex outfit and took a nine hour flight to trap you in my romantic clutches, dear stranger. ...

Consider how, by trivializing and marginalizing an entire body of work as unimportant, we are not paying attention to the trends that are manifesting in fanfiction. Think about the profound space fanfiction provides for representation of minority communities. Canonical books, comics and TV shows revolve around the white male. Fanfiction provides the space for a gay Clark Kent, a genderqueer Sherlock Holmes, a lesbian Nancy Drew or an asexual Harry Potter. Most mainstream blogs are cis-gender owned, but Tumblr has more out and proud gender-queer writers in fandoms than any other social media site.

A short, superficial piece, but it's a relief to have someone somewhere calling these shenanigans what they are.


PBS Idea Channel gets it Absolutely Right about Trigger Warnings in the Classroom:

My favorite quote is "Academic trigger warnings aren't a shield or armor, they are a horn announcing the charge is coming." Yes. This.


I got a paper on recovering the history of women in the book trades accepted into next year's ASECS conference, which is back-to-back with PCA. This is only the second book history paper I've had accepted and the first one in the US, so I feel very happy (and relieved) about it.


Other news: I've joined a local writing group with some of the cool Tolkien people I met back in April, and we're meeting for the first time in a couple of weeks. I'm also very excited about that, though I haven't written anything creative in way too long. (I feel like a slacker, while fully aware that I have, in the past month, sent off two sets of book chapter revisions, finished half of a book chapter, and revised two outlines.) Because I like books on writing, I started reading The Maeve Binchy Writers' Club this afternoon to start thinking. That totally counts, right?
caitri: (Charles mouse)
So all I could think of while watching the livestream was Love>Hate. This was fandom bonding together over our love of genre and belief in the actual literature of ideas and of believing in the best of each other, even despite of each other.

NGL, I damn near cried a few times. I *definitely* shrieked with delight several times. But I am happy and proud to be an SFF fan.
caitri: (books)
"The Poet Laureate of Fan Fiction" by Adam Carlson

In which a poet writes a book, the internet assumes it's about Supernatural fanfic, he thinks it's cool, and it becomes a transformational lovefest on both sides.

My 20th-century intention was to make a place where I could articulate my thoughts and feelings. I thought it would be a place where the reader and I could meet. That’s no longer the way storytelling works. Now readers enlarge the places an author has made, include themselves in this larger space, and meet with each other without the author. ...

In the driest language possible, I would say that fan fiction successfully undermines the traditional American heteronormative dynamic in ways that can’t be undone. In wetter language, fan fiction sexualizes. It’s transgressive because it suggests the possibility of the erotic. It’s political, because it complicates power structures. And it’s personal, because it grants permission for range of previously unacceptable expressions and interactions. I think my poems enact a space for complicated, multivalent relationships. I think that’s the draw.

And yet, the Wincest and Johnlock fandoms put their attention to very different kinds of interactions. In Wincest fanfic the relationship is aggressive and incestuous, forged in life-or-death battles with angels and demons. The brothers are young, handsome, similar, fated to be together, and on the run. In Johnlock fan fic, the relationship is tender and between friends. They are older and dissimilar. They don’t share a common history. They are not fated to be together. Instead, they choose each other.

Here’s the biggest question and the biggest problem: What are the consequences of sexualizing these relationships? The possibility of erotic desire may or may not be hinted at in the original work—but ignore that. The probability of romantic love could be low or high—but ignore that. The suggestion that these partnerships are necessarily monogamous, supersede all other potential loves or lovers, and could be considered a type of marriage—ignore that. The question, the problem: How can I possibly convince anyone that I could like my best friend for non-sexual reasons? How do I make room for the possibility of deep care and tenderness between men who aren’t fucking if I sexualize every male/male relationship I encounter? Perhaps the subtleties come later. Perhaps we need to push all the way into highly erotic realms to allow ourselves the room to pull back into places of possible non-sexual tenderness.
caitri: (Gamora)
"Flipping the Script: 4 Reasons Fan Fiction Is a Feminist Pursuit" by Ally Boguhn

Although it’s often ridiculed as nerdy and those who are into it are often written off, fan fiction makes some serious progress when it comes to empowerment of marginalized people.

It allows us to call out problematic media elements of the texts we love and subvert those narratives – leaving space to reclaim the stories and characters we treasure and make them into something even better.

Now, fan fiction isn’t necessarily inherently a political act – there are plenty of entries into the genre that are problematic in many of the same ways traditional media is (or more so – Fifty Shades of Grey, anyone?).

But it does also allow for some seriously wonderful exploration of feminist ideals like equality and empowerment, as well as representation in media depictions and voices. ...

1. It Helps Young Women Explore Identities and Create Communities ...

2. It Allows Us to Interrogate Texts ...

3. It Centers Diversity ...

4. It Provides a Space for Perspectives That Are Ignored by the Media ...

Fan fiction is a genre that literally anybody can create and distribute. Within fan fiction, there are infinite opportunities for marginalized people to express themselves, share their own experiences, and create a sense of community.
caitri: (Cait Yatta!)
Sooo PBS has a webshow that sometimes talks about fic and pop culture? Whaaaaaat?

Bonus, "How Sherlock Paved the Way to FSoG":

caitri: (books)
"What is an @uthor?" by Matthew Kirschenbaum

But there is also a new kind of archive taking shape. Today you cannot write seriously about contemporary literature without taking into account myriad channels and venues for online exchange. That in and of itself may seem uncontroversial, but I submit we have not yet fully grasped all of the ramifications. We might start by examining the extent to which social media and writers’ online presences or platforms are reinscribing the authority of authorship. The mere profusion of images of the celebrity author visually cohabitating the same embodied space as us, the abundance of first-person audio/visual documentation, the pressure on authors to self-mediate and self-promote their work through their individual online identities, and the impact of the kind of online interactions described above (those Woody Allenesque “wobbles”) have all changed the nature of authorial presence. Authorship, in short, has become a kind of media, algorithmically tractable and traceable and disseminated and distributed across the same networks and infrastructure carrying other kinds of previously differentiated cultural production.

Let me be clear: I’m not referring to “ebooks” here — that is, to literature as content or commodity. I’m referring to authorship itself as a category of cultural authority. If works and texts have become licensed properties subject to DRM and the strictures of the DMCA, and if readers have become self-enlisting data handlers by contributing ratings and other forms of reporting on sites like Goodreads (purchased by Amazon), then authors, I would argue, have become vectors for media diffusion, both in the mass proliferation of the authorial image and the power or authority channeled through their individually authenticated social media presences. Moreover, all of this also generates new kinds of authorial metrics and measures, new nodes of critical data that make pattern recognition possible amid our contemporary networks. While some scholars may shun such developments, others are embracing them, leveraging analytical tools and techniques to account for a landscape of authorship and reading that is no longer confined to simple geometries and lines of influence, and no longer served by the established critical schools.

One of the most important such vectors are the lines of interaction between literary and fan culture. The question of whether The Peripheral can be regarded as a sequel to the Blue Ant novels — a question seemingly definitively answered by Gibson, as we have seen — is emblematic here, more so than whether or not the novel has a “happy” ending. This is because sequels raise precisely the kinds of conundrums about storyworlds, continuity, and canon that often loom large in fan circles, where vast storytelling universes (Star Wars say, or the Harry Potter series) spawn hundreds or thousands of derivative works, some licensed, some not, all of whose relationship to the original franchise must be adjudicated for internal self-consistency (not unlike the genre problems of time travel fiction that Gibson, like any author who experiments with that device, must confront). Here the existence of a controlling authority over a given creative property is both a legally binding fact and the ultimate arbiter of arguments on forum threads. Even for more prosaic literary fiction, where transmedia franchises and fan fiction are unlikely to develop, I predict that the conventions and expectations from fan communities will cross over and mediate (literally) the authority of authors on a variety of critical questions.
caitri: (Mochi rockets)
A Better Way to Think of the Genre Debate

It’s hard to talk in a clear-headed way about genre. Almost everyone can agree that, over the past few years, the rise of the young-adult genre has highlighted a big change in book culture. For reasons that aren’t fully explicable (Netflix? Tumblr? Kindles? Postmodernism?), it’s no longer taken for granted that important novels must be, in some sense, above, beyond, or “meta” about their genre. A process of genrefication is occurring. ...

The modernists saw, correctly, that novel-writing, once an art, had become an enterprise. More fundamentally, it had internalized a mass view of life—a view in which what matters are social facts rather than individual experiences. It had become affiliated with manufactured culture, with the crowd, and with the sentimentality and repetitive stylization that crowds, in their quest for a common identity, often crave. In reaction, they created a different kind of literature: one centered on inwardness, privacy, and incommunicability. The new books were about individuals, and they needed to be interpreted individually. Instead of being public resources, novels would be private sanctuaries. Instead of being social, they would be spiritual.

Something of that spiritual aura still hovers around our sense of what it means to read and write “literary fiction.” And there are some ways in which the modernist critique of mass literature is just as trenchant today as it was back then. (The modernists never got to see “fandom”; if they had, I doubt they’d be pleased.)

I feel as though I should be grudgingly pleased that the freaking New Yorker acknowledges the existence of fandom--and yet, it's also this offhand dismissal of an entire MEDIUM (I'd argue that fandom is a medium, not a genre itself) of work that is produced by women and esp. queer women is so. freaking. telling.
caitri: (books)

You can buy it here.

Lone Wolf is one of those m/m romance novels that is evocative of fanfic—in a good way. More than once I’ve had conversations with fannish friends about how we wish that finding books we want to read were as easy as finding fanfics that suit our mood; the “coffeehouse” and “bookstore” stories that are the literary equivalent of hot chocolate or ice cream to comfort and soothe. Lone Wolf evokes both of these tropes, adds some meta discussions about writing and fanfic, and provides the obligatory steamy sexy and happy ending (pun not intended at first, but now it is) that will please many a reader.

The novel is part of Riptide Publishing’s “Bluewater Bay” series, a set of (so far) five novels by ten writers set in a shared universe. The eponymous bay is home to author Hunter Easton, famous for his Wolf’s Landing paranormal novels that are being adapted for a popular television series that is also being shot in the small town in northwest Washington. The popularity of the books and television series is meant to evoke Twilight and Game of Thrones—and does so in a way that encourages even more nods and winks to the audience. After all, it is the vast popularity of rewritten fan novels of Twilight that have given mainstream audiences a knowledge of contemporary fandom that makes a lot of the discussions in Lone Wolf accessible to the reader in a way that they wouldn’t have been even five years ago.

You see, Hunter Easton, famous author, also likes to hang out in his own fan forum using the pseudonym Wolf Hunter, and his best friend in fandom is Lone Wolf. Lone Wolf has just finished his long-awaited fan novel—one that Hunter has been waiting for as eagerly as the other fans online. Disobeying his editor’s injunction to never read fanfic, Hunter has read everything by Lone Wolf, but nothing by anyone else. (This is how we know they have something **special** together.) Hijinks ensue when Hunter finishes the fic, absolutely has to meet Lone Wolf in person, finds out that he is gorgeous, gay, and single, and online friendship quickly becomes in person romance. In the meantime there are discussions of fandom, the writing trade, the con circuit, and all of those things that are one part wishful thinking to three parts absolute accuracy. (Ever been in a miserable writing critique circle when you know you’re a great writer? Yeah, those scenes are here. Ever had long, in-depth conversations about fictional people as if they were real? Those too. Love the perfect coffee shop setting with the elaborate descriptions of delicious caffeine? Oh yes.)

Lone Wolf is a quick, easy read, and the perfect thing to relax with when you’ve had too much “real life”—online, or off.
caitri: (Cait Yatta!)
If there isn't a full essay on this in the inevitable volume on Hobbit fanworks, I will cry.

I particularly like how it's a "Who's Who" of popular fandoms in 2014: Hobbit, Marvel (esp. Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man, Captain America), Batman, Game of Thrones, Star Trek, and Sailor Moon.
caitri: (books)
So earlier this morning I sat down to read Sidney's "The Defence of Poesy" and was reading the introduction and there was a really interesting bit on Renaissance writing and imitation. English Renaissance literature--prose and poetry--grappled with imitation as they came out of the Continental European Renaissance and its preoccupations with classical culture; you can see this particularly in the concurrent shift in reading practices (intensive to extensive) where you go from reading the Bible and Aristotle to reading the Bible, Aristotle, Cicero, Herodotus, contemporary pamphlets, etc. etc. etc. You have a shift not just in texts but in how to *read* the texts: from memorization to being able to crossreference or gloss.

There's three forms of imitation: Greek mimesis, which is imitation of representation (drawing an apple, say); Latin imitatio, which is literary and stylistic imitation from a model (an argument using Cicero's rhetoric); and emulation, what is believed to be readerly imitation (reading Sidney and then writing an essay).

So we have this entire humanist vocabulary for dealing with adaptive texts. This is why you also have the rhetorical devices of "I heard this story" or "I found this source" for wholly fictional works, because that was what was respectable for a lengthy period of time. It wasn't until we got to the Romantics with their emphasis on valorizing self-expression--and of course, the accompanying image of the heroic (dare I say Byronic? I dare! I dare!) and struggling author--that we truly shift to the modern preoccupations with "originality." It is also worth noting that this is concurrent with the development of copyright culture; where print culture is truly modern in that only printed books are "published" and the circulation of written material is directly tied in with ideas of professional authorship and ownership and livelihoods.

And so OF COURSE I had to tie all this in with our contemporary attitudes to adaptation and, of course, fan works. I recently picked up Diana Gabaldon's newest book; she had a rather famous spat with fandom a few years ago (I'm linking to the Fanlore wiki because a lot of the original stuff has been scrubbed from the internet); the gist of which is that she felt that fanfic was like raping children (yep, actual words) and then she backed off only slightly when people called her on her crazy. Anyways, in her newest book, there's a cameo with Natty Bumppo, you know the hero of the Leatherstocking Saga, or, if you prefer, young Daniel Day Lewis in The Last of the Mohicans (y'know, either/or). And what I find continually interesting is how the use/re-use of famous characters becomes imminently respectable if done in a "literary" fashion--eg. legit publication, the bigger the author and the publishing house, the more legit it is.

I mean, when we quote Henry Jenkins, we always talk about "textual poaching" in the context of fan writing, but what about the textual poaching in publication? I mean, sure, Fifty Shades of Grey and other Twifics began life as fic, but once they got bought up and published by various presses, they become (magically!) adaptive texts, in dialogue not only with Twilight but with the other texts. (Archontic literature at its finest?) Once it's been bought and paid for, it's no longer "fan" writing; it's legitimizing bastard texts, if you will. And people complain about all this, rightly or wrongly, but that doesn't change you have an entire body of work in conversation with each other and with a clear line of descent. In comparison or contrast, you can look at Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments books, which originated in Harry Potter fic--and her HP fic that, itself, quoted extensively (and some places where it wasn't quoting so much as cutting and pasting...) a number of other media texts including Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (I maintain a major weakness of the film version was there were no Whedon actors involved; imagine if Jace had been played by a CGI de-aged James Marsters, and how much more sense everything would have made then!!!)

In conclusion: the cultural capital we assign various works varies greatly depending both on time period and material, and--at least seemingly--happenstance.
caitri: (fandom is like rl)
So I spent last week at the Popular Culture Association's National Meeting, which is always basically like nerdy braingasms. I gave a paper on Pacific Rim, spoke on a roundtable about Tolkien and derivative works, and ran a panel and roundtable on vampire literature. I also sat in on papers on comics, audience reception, adapting Sherlock, and a bunch of other things, and had some really great conversations, and then on the plane started sort of writing the following in my head:

Okay, so one of the ways to look at book history is how production and readership ties in with class: Today we refer to this (rather obliquely) as highbrow (Shakespeare), middlebrow (Tolkien), and lowbrow (comics? WWE?) culture. Now, what sort of came up in conversation at lunch one day, as happens, was the discussion of fandom as middle class activity. We like to think of the internet as freely available, but let's face it, it requires a computer and a connection, and any fanworks require software for images and wordprocessing. They also require time. This can also be tied into the assumption that fanworks are all by (middle class) teenage girls, because who has more leisure time for fan creation and media consumption, etc. etc.

Then you backtrack to the days of zines etc. You could obtain fic by either sending through the mail through ads in magazines (somewhere I have a 70s Star Trek mag that has one of those ads in the back for zines, with that old "- /" coding to denote whether it was gen or slash material) or by attending cons and acquiring them in the dealer's rooms (note: I know cons today often have a discounted charge if you want to go to the dealer's room and not the whole con--anyone know how far back that goes, or was it always the case?). So it would have been possible to have gone to buy zines but not shell out for actor photos and whatnot; not sure how many would have done that, but it would have been *possible*, I think.

But then in terms of actual zine production, back to the 1930s, there would still have been costs for paper, mimeo equipment, etc. etc. One of the fun things in my private collection is a short pamphlet by Don Wollheim from around ~39-40 where he is arguing against the US going to war because of the effect that will have on fan/SF culture: paper prices will go up and so will the cost of the magazines AND the fan pubs. (There's a paper in that, sometime.)

So backtracking even more, I'm thinking of Wilkie Collins's essay on the "Unknown Public" that was thousands of women buying books and serials back in the 1800s; his argument, as I recall, was about how they were buying all this lowbrow dreck (of course) and that someone (he) should *really* be teaching them to read properly. (Another note, there's been this preoccupation with "reading properly" back to the 16th and 17th c., and that too is tied in with class and also gender lines. Basically, men worrying about what women were reading goes way the hell back.)

Richard Altick in The English Common Reader actually did a fair bit with crunching numbers on publications and readers and such. I'm not sure if I'm relieved or not that he got kicked off my prelims list cos now I want to go back and look at it, though of course I need to focus on the books I already have. Altick was fairly seminal in shifting the discipline of book history from "how books were produced" to "who was reading them."

Anyway, fan histories/criticism tend to be written to focus on ethnography ("lookit what these people are doing! who are they?"), sociology ("look! it's women! *why* are they doing it??), and only now (like, literally, less than ten years) into literary critique ("this fan novel does x, y, and z."). I'm thinking if you apply book history practices to fandom, how we'll reveal things at a new slant: Not *why* women read and write slash, say, but what fans are really doing with their cultural preoccupations and so forth.

This can also be tied into romance studies, in a way. (Also, at PCA, I kind of wish I cared more about romances because what panels and scholars I have dipped into always seem to be consistently deep and well thought out. This year I attended a panel on gay romances and there were a couple of papers that were just really great histories of the emergence of those genres and how they were coded back in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and it was *fascinating.*) Janice Radway's Reading the Romance basically focuses on the issues of women readers and writers, the patriarchy, and the middlebrow. Since a lot of fanworks are romances and erotica, a lot of this criticism and scholarship also applies. For instance, she has an essay about the supposition that romances are primarily lowbrow reading, except, of course, in terms of consumption and leisure time, a lot of romance readers are also middle class women.

Anyways, these are just so preliminary thoughts. So.
caitri: (books)
Previously I had a long and rambly post about women's writing that I want to bring up again because I found a lovely nugget in Joad Raymond's Pamphlets and Pamphleteering in Early Modern Britain. He reprints a comic poem by John Taylor (cited in The Penguin Book of Renaissance Verse 1509-1659, selected by Norbrook, ed. Woudhuysen (1982), p. 740) that talks about pamphlets, which was also apparently yet another word for prostitute:

For like a Whore by day-light or by candle,
'Tis even free for every knave to handle:
And as a new whore is belov'd and sought,
So is a new Booke in request and bought.
When whores wax old and stale, they're out of date,
Old Pamphlets are most subject to such fate.
As whores have Panders to emblazon their worth,
So these have Stationers to set them forth.
And as an old whore may be painted new
With borrowed beauty, faire unto the view,
Whereby shee for a fine fresh whore may passe,
Yet is shee but the rotten whore she was.
So Stationers, their old cast Bookes can grace,
And by new Titles paint a-fresh their face.
Whereby for currant they are past away,
As if they had come forth but yesterday.

*NB. All italics are represented as in the text, as they were presumably printed in the 16th c. Also, "Stationers" is a catch-all term for those in the booktrades, so printers, engravers, binders, and even booksellers.

I'm finding it increasingly fascinating and creepy how there is a consistent language connecting women's writing with women's bodies, especially with regards to being read and consumed. I suppose an analog is the "Biblical" (can someone correct me here--I'm thinking this is KJV and therefore 1611 language) phrase "to know" someone ie. "to have sex with them," knowledge/"carnal knowledge" etc.


Other interesting things:

Genre Wars: SFF at the AWP Conference

Both women fielded questions about breaking into science fiction as a male-dominated field. Le Guin’s response—that she “didn’t care what men were doing,” that it wasn’t a feminist movement, but “just taking over,” was patently great. Gloss was quick to point out, though that the question had disregarded the masculinity of the literary canon. Their “take-over” was not of an inherently misogynist genre, but of a larger, male-dominated publishing industry and culture.


Mamatas went a slightly different route, tracing the history of publishing to highlight its economic divisions. The pulps, produced for and by the working class, and the “slicks,” which paid their authors and were only accessible to the middle and upper class, is just one example of this phenomenon. If the middle class is in charge of schools, he said, the schools will work in the mode of the middle class. Like Wonders and Kanaka, though, Mamatas spoke in terms of the larger picture—it’s high time that we stop pretending that the literary world’s dialogue about genre has anything at all to do with “bad writing” alone. Surprisingly, art doesn’t exist in a vacuum—economic or otherwise.

The article also references a panel on teaching SFF in creative writing classes, but doesn't discuss the panel in depth, which is too bad. Of the six university-level creative writing courses I've had in my life, not one taught SFF, and not one of the teachers was prepared to provide feedback on SFF material. I say this with the nota bene that I was always told I could write SFF but the profs couldn't help me with it--which, fair enough, but how is it that genre does not seem to come up at all as a topic of discussion in writing courses?

Smuggler’s Ponderings: History, Fandom and Masters of Science Fiction

It seems to me that there’s this idea that Science Fiction – as genre and as fandom – has a “history.” And that (real) fans should know this particular history.

My main question when hearing this argument is: “history” as perceived by whom? As defined by whom?

Why is it that this early history of Science Fiction fandom is presented as “idyllic” when we know for a fact that large groups of people stood outside looking in? Isn’t that history being rewritten in front of our very eyes? Try this: when you Google “best Science Fiction of all time” or “essential Science Fiction novels,” you almost invariably get lists featuring works by the same group of people. Very few contain writers who are not white and male. The narrative that chooses this subset of people as the only worthy “masters” of the genre? Isn’t that, too, rewriting history in front of our very eyes?

It is obvious to me that this idyllic period of Science Fiction “history” is told largely from an American, white, male perspective. It might be an important part of a historical narrative, but it is not the whole narrative. Surely, it can’t be. If we choose to brand only those works “masterful” and “classic” and “essential”, what are we saying?

This article connects a few different dots in recent goings-on, including the Ross-Hugo flap and by Baen editor Toni Weisskopf's piece on "true" fandom/SFF readers.

How to Stage Your Show Without Being Super Racist

In Philadelphia, the Lantern Theater Company is currently wrapping up the run of its annual Shakespearean offering, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. This time, they've put a twist on the great tragedy by changing up the Roman Republic and setting the play in medieval Japan. That's great, except there isn't a whole lot in this production that's legitimately Japanese -- most notably, a glaring lack of Japanese actors.

Dance theater artist (and actual Japanese person) Makoto Hirano saw the play, and it did not sit well with him. So he drafted a letter to the Lantern Theater Company outlining some "friendly unsolicited pointers" on How to Stage Your Show Without Being Super Racist. PROTIP: "DON'T say you were inspired by feudal Japan and then not cast any Japanese actors." Seems like that should have been a big one.

His full, gorgeous letter is reproduced in toto at the link.


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