Never simply a personal or interpersonal affair, romance is a multifaceted cultural formation that comes to us through a bewildering array of texts, voices and discourses. The struggle against love involves wrestling not just with the poetics of individual attraction, but also with the complex inheritance of received opinion that defines amorous relations. Hollywood itself has played a crucial role as part of the apparatus of intimate culture, its widely disseminated fictions translating affairs of the heart into accessible conceptual and emotional forms.

Frank Krutnik, “Conforming Passions?: Contemporary Romantic Comedy” (138, in Neale’s Genre and Contemporary Hollywood, 2002)

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)

Industry Studies and/as Audience Studies #scms14 (with images, tweets) · melstanfill

Nice overview of the “Industry Studies and/as Audience Studies” panel at SCMS this year. My favorite new terms from this panel included Suzanne Scott’s fantrepreneur and Mel Stanfill’s fangelism.

One of the interesting things I noticed about the panel was the way the panelists focused on child and adult audience communities. I talked about this during the Q&A, but that morning on NPR there had been a whole report about Young Adults as the “hot” new audience to sell products to. And, here we were as a group seemingly (strategically?) avoiding this exact demographic. Something about that keeps itching in my brain. It seems worth pondering further. 

Fifty Shades of Remix: The Intersecting Pleasures of Commercial and Fan Romances by Katherine Morrissey

Fifty Shades of Grey’s past as a work of Twilight fan fiction has turned a spotlight onto the conversion of fan works for the commercial romance market. Fifty Shades reminds us of the increasing flow of texts, readers, and writers across these two categories of storytelling. Blurring traditional genre categories, stories like Fifty Shades represent a challenge for fan and popular romance studies. While scholars need to be attentive to medium specific contexts, the impulse to deny intersection may signal problematic assumptions and artificially segregate these storytelling forms. This paper reexamines past work on the differences between fan fiction and romance, arguing for greater attentiveness to the ways these two modes of storytelling intersect. Focusing on the importance of intertextuality and play with form in romantic storytelling, the paper argues that greater attention to these qualities offers new ways for us to study texts like Fifty Shades of Grey and may help scholars reconceptualize the relationship between fan and commercial work.

My article on Fifty Shades came out in the Journal of Popular Romance Studies this week. :)

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.

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