For the next round of posts, I’m going to focus on some of the ways fans described themselves in 2008. In order to get a sense of who was participating in the 2008 Fan Fiction survey, the participants were asked for some general demographic information. At the time, I wanted to get a sense of the mix of fans taking the survey. Now, I’d love to know what you make of this data.


2) gender and sexuality

The vast majority of fans participating in the survey (96%) identified as female. Many participants identified as heterosexual (68%), but a significant portion of participants (32%) identified as non-heterosexual, including the 23% of participants that identified themselves as bisexual. That’s roughly a third of participants identifying as something other than straight.

I’ve got a few different things I’m wondering about this and I’d love to get your thoughts. 

  • First, what do you make of this data? Is there anything else you think we should pay attention to here? 
  • Also, how much does this match with your experience of fans and fandoms today?
  • Finally, how do you feel about surveys collecting this kind of information about fans? Do we need this kind of data? Is it useful? 

Share your ideas by replying to this post or by posting comments on the Fandom Then/Now website.


For the next round of posts, I’m going to focus on some of the ways fans described themselves in 2008. In order to get a sense of who was participating in the 2008 Fan Fiction survey, the participants were asked for some general demographic information. At the time, I wanted to get a sense of the mix of fans taking the survey. Now, I’d love to know what you make of this data. 


1) ages

First, in 2008 the participants skewed younger. The survey was only open to participants 18 or older, but the vast majority of survey participants were under thirty years of age. These numbers may also imply that there is significant participation in fan culture from individuals younger than 18. However, since younger fans were excluded from participating, these fans and their reading practices are not represented by the 2008 survey results.

What do you make of these numbers and the ranges of ages represented? Is there anything else you think we should pay attention to here?

Also, how much does this match with your experience of fans and fandoms today? Do you think most fans are 30 and under or have things changed?

Share your ideas by replying to this post or by posting comments on the Fandom Then/Now website


I hope everyone is having a lovely spring!

As the spring semester winds down I’m getting ready to start up another round of fandomthennow posts. I’m going to jump back into posting excerpts from the project website. As in the past, these posts will be made on Tumblr, Twitter, LiveJournal, and Dreamwidth. Please feel free to comment, reblog, and share in any of those spaces.

First, I’m going to repost some important details/background information about the project, just to refresh everyone’s memories.



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 using the #fandomthennow tag.



For many people, fan fiction is as much a part of their reading as commercial literature. Fan fiction websites and archives provide readers with novels, serials, novellas, romantic and erotic stories, non-romantic stories, experimental literature, video and visual art, etc. While fan writers and readers are certainly not exclusively interested in romance, fan writing frequently explores the romantic potential between two characters and fan fiction is often built on romantic foundations. The shift to digital publishing and reading is having a dramatic impact on commercial romance literature. However, what about the kinds of romantic and erotic stories fans produce? How is fan work being affected by the rise in digital publishing? The Fandom Then/Now project is designed to facilitate fan conversations and collect ideas from fans about fan fiction’s past and future. 

What do you notice in the data from 2008? What do you think about the intersections between fan fiction and romantic storytelling? Now, in 2014, what has and hasn’t changed about fans’ reading and writing practices? 

Please visit the Fandom Then/Now website to look at the project and share your thoughts. 

Please help me spread the word about this project. I’m also happy to answer questions if you want to send them my way. 

The Organization for Transformative Works was founded six years ago, because fans realized that owning the means of circulating and distributing fanworks—the servers, the interface, the code, the terms of service—would be essential to the long-term health of fan creativity, and so we created the nonprofit, donor-supported Archive of Our Own. Today, when I talk about the importance of fan writing, I don’t just mean fiction and nonfiction: I mean contracts and code. In the old days, fans self-published their fiction (and put it under copyright, asserting their ownership in their words), they distributed their own VHS cassettes and digital downloads, and they coded and built their own websites and created their own terms of service. Today, enormous commercial entities—YouTube, Amazon, LiveJournal, Wattpad, Tumblr—own much of this infrastructure.

This is a very mixed bag. On the one hand, these companies’ products and interfaces have made it infinitely easier for the average fan to connect with other fans and distribute fanworks. Now you only need a username and a password to get started, where before you needed access to server space, a knowledge of HTML, how to use FTP, and so on. However, there are also various dangers, including not only capricious or exploitative terms of service but simple market failure. None of the companies I just listed has anything like the track record of the average fandom or fannish institution; consider how much younger they are than Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Who, or even Supernatural fandom. In the best case, these companies may fail and become a disruptive force in relatively stable and long-term communities; in the worst case, they may exploit and betray their users.

In the past few years, the nature of the arguments I have been having as a fandom advocate has changed: In the past, I found myself arguing for the legitimacy of our works; now, I find myself arguing against their exploitation. The commercial ownership of the infrastructure means that money has now complicated fandom’s gift culture, and, like it or not, we now have to think about who should benefit. Here, too, there is a spectrum: Some grassroots creators don’t want to engage with the commercial world on any terms (and they should have the right not to); others feel that if someone is profiting from their works, it should be them, and it should be a fair compensation. If the relationship between fans and the commercial world is being renegotiated, we’re going to have to apply some of our creative energies to writing contracts as well as fanfiction, rather than let unfavorable or disrespectful terms of authorship be handed down to us by corporate owners.

Francesca Coppa, in Participations: Dialogues on the Participatory Promise of Contemporary Culture and Politics (via fanculturesfancreativity)


Since a lot of tumblr users may not be old enough to remember, I’d like to remind fandom that the ability to write what you want about whatever characters you want was something that we fought for, not something that was ours by default. It was stigmatized, threatened with legal action, and mostly carried out in secret. You are living in a golden age of fandom, of AO3 and and tumblr. Fanworks are actually entering mainstream awareness and becoming more culturally accepted. But let me give you a blast from the past, a look at what fandom looked like when the content owners decided what kinds of content they would and wouldn’t tolerate. From Fanlore, on the subject of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series:

From Southern Enclave #30 (Autumn 1991): “She [McCaffrey] has her guidelines (no sport dragons; no using her characters in our fiction; no men on golden dragons or women on bronze dragons), and a couple of Weyrs that violated her tenets were closed down because of that (and those Weyrs that allowed silver dragons were told to get rid of them— except for Ista 9)” [1]

In the FAQ list of the newsgroup is the following statement by Anne McCaffrey herself (dated October 8, 1992):

“The rules are that my characters may be referred to but not used. BUT there can be no adventure/stories set on Pern at all!!!!! That’s infringing on my copyright and can bear heavy penalties – particularly right now when there’s a film deal (yet another) which has bought and paid for the right to use the material – which, I fear, e-mail users have not. On CIS, I have asked people to limit Pern material to a discussion of their persona and dragons, fire-lizards, etc., in a diarist form. Fanzines have slightly more latitude as the zine is usually mailed only to members so that’s limited publication, and a due copyright notice is included. As there is no such protection on electronic mail, we authors have to be insistent on these safeguards. I know this can be confusing since Paramount and Star Trek are handled differently, but that’s the point: they are, and have been. Individual themes and characters of s-f/fantasy novels are not. And such indiscriminate usage of our characters, worlds, and concepts on a ‘public’ media like electronic mail constitute copyright infringement AND, which many fans disregard, is ACTIONABLE! Both the e-mail company AND the person. My publishers are most insistent on that point! So it’s to safeguard the interested e-mail user that I make these very strong, and perhaps unpalatable points.” from the Pern Encyclopedia

Initially, McCaffrey set out the following guidelines:

  • Fanworks are strongly discouraged outside the approved “fan Weyr” clubs.
  • McCaffrey’s characters are off-limits without prior approval, as main characters, minor characters, or even as background.
  • McCaffrey’s primary setting, Benden Weyr, is also off-limits, as a story location, or even as a point of origin for original characters.

Eventually, however, she relaxed those restrictions, and, after 2004, only insisted on:

  • Fanwork being non-commercial
  • Trademark and copyright notices
  • No pornographic sites “based on [her] literary works”. [5]

When content creators can decide what is and isn’t acceptable in fandom, it can be “no rape jokes” or “no noncon/weird kinks,” or “no porn whatsoever” or “no slash” or “no using my characters.” They are not required to be sex-positive, non-homophobic, or even reasonable. When one content creator gets that power, they will all want it. And they will not all use it in the same way, because our content is created by many different kinds of people. Would you trust Orson Scott Card to have the final say on what should be okay in the fandom for his works? How about Terry Goodkind? J.J Abrams, Steven Moffat?

Fandom as we know it cannot exist with restrictions on what kind of content is acceptable to the rightsholders. That’s never been how we rolled.

Fan/dom: People, practices, and networks | Transformative Works and Cultures

Fan/dom: People, practices, and networks | Transformative Works and Cultures

A focus on fandom from multiple perspectives is critical, given ongoing challenges in conceptualizing what it is to be a fan. How do we attempt to process a concept that is simultaneously claimed as an activity, an identity, and a connection to others? Rather than seeing this confusion as a problem, perhaps it is more useful to see it as precisely the point. In trying to understand an aspect of media culture that we all, to some degree, engage in, the field of fan studies needs to approach fans and fandom in a variety of ways: at the level of the individual, at the level of practices, and as a framework in which the self encounters media culture. In our current moment, the media environment is undergoing dramatic changes. It is critical that fan studies continues to question the control of cultural production and consider the ways that today’s media industries are working to accommodate both fans and fan practices.

[ read more ]

Totally forgot to post this back when it was published in TWC. Oops! 

From audiences sitting in the dark of the theater, to impassioned fans at conventions, there are many ways for us to engage with media. Popular culture inspires our passion, our anger, and sparks public conversation. 

This class explores different ideas about audiences, viewers, and fans. The class will look at a variety of film, television, and digital media texts, including: Hard Days Night, The Blair Witch Project, Battlestar Galactica, and the Harry Potter franchise. We’ll also check out what’s happening on YouTube, play digital games, and look at remix projects like Wizard People Dear Reader

The class asks students to take an active role in discussions by reflecting on their own experiences as viewers and by producing their own creative/critical digital projects in response to different media texts.

more info & registration ]