This project focuses primarily on four aspects of fan fiction and fan fiction networks: 1) forms of participation (the ways fan fiction readers/writers participate in their fan networks), 2) story types (some of the popular fandoms and stories of the past), 3) romantic storytelling (the connections between fan fiction and commercial romance), and 4) the demographics of fan fiction communities. There are still so many different aspects of fan production and fan communities we could talk about, but I'd like to focus on three particular questions that emerged for me as I was working on my project in 2008. These are questions that future researchers may also want to pay attention to.
Traditional print romances are often celebrated for their focus on women. Commercial romances generally focus on a female protagonist and, in moments of intimacy, often emphasize female sexual pleasure. In contrast, m/m stories focus on male protagonists. As discussed in the demographics section of this site, it has become somewhat cliché to turn to homoerotic fan fiction and ask about the ramifications of women taking themselves out of the picture and focusing on relationships between men. Rather than asking this question, I'd like to look at the issue from a different angle. Why does this concern regarding women writing about men keep coming up? Is a preoccupation with representing women distracting us from other important aspects of fan writing involving gender, sexuality, fantasy, and identity? Do women need to be in the picture? Is excluding women automatically problematic and should we worry about it? Why or why not?
Labels like romance, pornography, erotica, and fan fiction can be activated to serve strategic purposes. They allow us to set up boundaries and police borders. They also give interested readers keyterms to search for and a means for them to identify content they might be interested in. There are contexts and histories producing distinctions between these categories, but there are also many areas of overlap. What's your reaction to these different terms? Are you comfortable with pairing focused fan fiction being considered romance? Porn? Erotica? Do certain genre labels for fan fiction appeal to you more than others? Do you think fan fiction shouldn't be categorized as romance, porn or Erotica? Why? What about fan fiction makes you want to associate or disassociate these terms with it?
Within the field of fan studies, fans and academic researchers have often had a fairly cooperative relationship. Many fan studies scholars identify as "acafans" and try to take a more immersive approach with their research. Not all researchers are acafans however, and fan communities have had painful encounters with researchers in the past. If you could share one concern with researchers (either acafans or non-fan academics), what would you want them to know or think about as they do their work?
Share your thoughts on these issues in the comments section below.