Transformative Works and Cultures

Published by Organization for Transformative Works
he technology used to create early video games allowed only for simple graphic displays. However, gamers vividly experienced an immersion in a fictional world through an interpretation based on detailed cover art, familiar elements of storytelling, and the gamer’s own memories of similar landscapes, much as one interprets a poem.
This essay explores writing practices in a fan community having to give life to a story deprived of an "official" version: the television series Earth 2. I argue that fan fiction writing for this prematurely canceled series exhibits peculiar features in comparison to fan writing for established series: for example, temporality, choice of protagonists, character pairings, and challenges to the original conception(s) of the series. Writing fan fiction for a canceled series is not about creating alternatives to an existing story, but about filling in gaps; it brings to light the ways in which fan fiction deals with closure. I take as a case study Earth 2, a series aired by NBC in the United States in 1994-95, whose first and only season ended in a cliffhanger episode hinting that a mysterious ailment had struck the main and most popular character. Shortly afterward, a significant number of Earth 2 Web sites, online conventions, and especially fan stories started developing; they explored what could have happened next and bore nostalgic but combative mottoes and titles such as "May the Journey Continue." I explore the specific features of Earth 2 fan fiction production and sharing by analyzing the main Earth 2 fan fiction archives on the Web and the responses to my email interviews of fan writers. Exemplars of the Earth 2 case are compared to those of other science fiction TV series, both prematurely canceled (Firefly, Space: Above and Beyond) and long-lived (Babylon 5, Star Trek: Deep Space 9).
An analysis of the body of supplements and continuations written during the first half of the 17th century around Sir Philip Sidney's romance, The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia, may usefully be approached as a precedent for fan fiction practice. The incomplete nature of the Arcadia as published left a number of textual gaps that were filled by later writers, with many of their works coming to be included within subsequent reissues of the Arcadia itself. The texts discussed include William Alexander and James Johnstoun's supplements to book 3, Richard Belling's Sixth Booke, Anna Weamys's Continuation, Gervase Markham's English Arcadia, and an anonymous Historie of Arcadia in manuscript. Like contemporary fan fiction, these works adopt Sidney's characters and setting in order to fill apparent gaps, propel the story toward a happy ending, or recast it in an altogether different mold. Moreover, the paratextual materials surrounding these texts—including prefaces, dedications, and commendatory poems—provide important evidence about early modern conceptions of authorship, originality, and literary property.
Review of Jonathan Cranfield, Twentieth-century Victorian: Arthur Conan Doyle and the "Strand Magazine," 1891–1930. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016, hardcover, £75 (256p) ISBN 978-1474406758; e-book, £75, ISBN 978-1474406772.
I examine how industry and fans reassessed the value of TV promotion in the form of activations—branded pop-up in-person experiences that promise immersion into storyworlds—as they transformed into online events during Comic-Con@Home in 2020 and 2021. I highlight the industry's expansion of first-party data collection from and tracking of fans in virtual activations.
Some initial findings are presented from a media monitoring project on the Covid-19 pandemic's impacts on comic cons and other fan events during 2020. We analyzed a sample of 77 items from a corpus of 813 articles, identifying story lines and themes that framed this moment of upheaval and uncertainty.
We in the United States are living in the midst of two pandemics: Covid-19, which is affecting communities of color at an absurdly disproportionate rate, and a renewed spate of murders of Black people at the hands of police. They reveal the depths of racial inequity and injustice in our country. This is a crisis—a turning point where many of us are wondering what we can do better and how we can be better. For us in fan studies, will we finally face the white supremacy embedded in our discipline and take steps to become an antiracist discipline?
"Water buffalo youth," "mixed-race," and "out of control" are notable mainstream terms publicly used to refer to Korean popular music (hereafter "K-pop") fans in Vietnam. In a de-Westernization of fandom studies via a Vietnamese case study of the complicated relationship between nationalistic discourses and transcultural fandom, a cultural frame surrounding mainstream online news representations and public reception of young K-pop fans may be constructed, specifically the dominant shift in the mainstream narrative about Vietnamese K-pop fans between 2011 and 2019 in relation to politicized notions of shame and pride. These findings reveal and complicate various cultural, political, and ideological subjectivities of contemporary Vietnam that are similar to China's ambiguous reception of the Korean Wave. Studying a global and transcultural phenomenon like K-pop in different national contexts remains relevant and important.
Connected learning is a valuable tool that may be used in China to mitigate the stigma of fan activities, as a case study of Chinese celebrity fans' activities during the coronavirus outbreak in China illustrates.
Fan history remains a neglected subdiscipline of fan studies, in part because of the methodological complications in dealing with a community of fans who may be deceased. Fan magazines, and particularly fan magazine letter sections, are a way for fan historians to access the views and opinions of classic Hollywood fans of the 1920s and 1930s—a community otherwise largely lost to history. Judicious use of the freely available 1920, 1930, and 1940 US census records helps researchers establish which letters were written by real, existing fans; further census information can help establish a demographic profile of the fan magazine community as a whole. Content analysis of fan letters illustrates the preoccupations of particular fans, as well as the way they established and negotiated particular codes of behavior within their fandom. A focus on particular fans who wrote to the magazine repeatedly over the course of multiple years can help historians recreate the fannish journey traveled by now-dead fans over the course of years or even decades.
This article explores the Beat music scene in Hamburg, West Germany, in the early 1960s. This scene became famous for its role in incubating the Beatles, who played over 250 nights there in 1960–62, but this article focuses on the prominent role of fans in this scene. Here fans were welcomed by bands and club owners as cocreators of a scene that offered respite from the prevailing conformism of West Germany during the Economic Miracle. This scene, born at the confluence of commercial and subcultural impulses, was also instrumental in transforming rock and roll from a working-class niche product to a cross-class lingua franca for youth. It was also a key element in West Germany's broader processes of democratization during the 1960s, opening up social space in which the meanings of authority, respectability, and democracy itself could be questioned and reworked.
Paper correspondence between fans and creators/producers is a sort of historiographic challenge to the imagined shift from so-called analog to digital fandom. It opens the possibility of applying digital methodologies to archival objects as researchers continue to historicize fan practices, identities, and cultures. Using the archival papers of soap opera showrunners Frank and Doris Hursley, and Bridget and Jerome Dobson as a case study for this structural-affective analysis, I draw data and metadata from approximately three hundred fan letters and responses. Trends of emotion across the letters figure prominently in an analysis of the affective strategies used by both fans and creators to create an intimately collaborative televisual experience. The letters contain layers of valuable metadata, including filing conventions, typography, and collage; these permit identification of negotiations of power over the televisual narrative, and they provide valuable insights into the affective textures of the soap fan's everyday life. Digital fan studies foregrounds the integration of fandom into one's online life, as well as the importance of social media in closing the gulf between fan and creator. This praxis expands on the value of analog tools—pen, paper, scissors, and typewriter—to the predigital television fan's virtual life. Material communication played and continues to play an important role in fomenting fannish identity, exercising industrial literacy, performing affective engagement, and navigating an enduring, affectionate tension between author and audience.
The technology used to create early video games allowed only for simple graphic displays. However, gamers vividly experienced an immersion in a fictional world through an interpretation based on detailed cover art, familiar elements of storytelling, and the gamer’s own memories of similar landscapes, much as one interprets a poem.
An exploration of digital anime music videos created by Western fans from the 1990s to the early 2000s. [Videos were reuploaded on January 9, 2020.]
By comparing how businesses and fan communities conceive of, foster, and manage participation, I outline the tensions that reveal the emerging shape of fan practice in the era of Web 2.0. The producer-consumer relationship does not map neatly onto the producer-fan relationship. The more that media companies integrate fans into the process of producing and developing content, the less agency fans actually feel.
Rhiannon Bury. Television 2.0: Viewer and Fan Engagement with Digital TV. New York: Peter Lang, 2017, paperback, $48 (147p) ISBN 978-1-4331-3852-2.
A compilation of politically subversive remix videos published between World War II and the launch of YouTube in 2005.
The 2016 US presidential election was marked by the extensive role that social media played in the construction of the candidates as well as by the growth of a number of forms of digital political rhetoric, including memes. The subgenre of popular culture–based political memes that draw on well-known entertainment media, particularly those with large fandoms like Star Wars and Harry Potter, reveal inequities in gender representation in entertainment media that are subsequently virally deployed. Memes based on popular culture that are designed to celebrate female candidates are disadvantaged by having a more limited popular culture lexicon than do memes featuring male candidates. This imbalance is compounded by the ways negative stereotypes of women already present in popular culture can be deployed in these memes, often in ways that align with the framing of news that works to police female politicians. The popular culture materials deployed by memes work to exacerbate existing prejudices and inequities.
In an analysis of sports fans activism and theoretical approaches to understand experiences of mediatized political play, we address groups of activists who protested using fan usual resources and repertoires. We focus on some episodes of protests performed by casual sports fans against the then acting Brazilian president, Michel Temer, during the Rio 2016 Olympics. The category of fan must also be further discussed when applied to sports and political fandoms, considering the disputes and competition background for which they are not only fans but also rooters.
A close reading of an exemplar femslash fan fic, chainofclover's "Done with the Compass, Done with the Chart" (2017), demonstrates that the language of desire it narrates for canonically heterosexual female characters is anchored by a lesbian (para)textuality. Chainofclovers takes a line from Emily Dickinson’s poem "Wild nights—Wild nights!" for the title of her fan fic for the Grace and Frankie (2015–) TV series. The author enters literary critical discourse and demonstrates feminist models of citation. The use of Dickinson, paired with similar references to the Mojave lesbian poet Natalie Diaz in the chapter epigraphs, provides a new map for the characters to follow, allowing them to travel beyond the canonical confines of compulsory heterosexuality. Just as the canonical characters Grace and Frankie refuse the requirement to cite the men in their lives, instead choosing to cite each other, chainofclovers cites lesbian poetry to imagine a narrative of female desire that is not defined by men. The story thus reflects the feminist citational model that both fan fiction and fan studies can enact, challenging traditional networks of property and ownership by producing a work founded on sustenance and gratitude.
Overview of Multimedia section in TWC No. 35, "Fan Studies Pedagogies" (March 2021).
This editorial gives background and context on FanLIS, a symposium series and research project run by CityLIS, Department of Library and Information Science at City, University of London, which seeks to explore the liminal spaces between fandom, fan studies, and Library and Information Science (LIS). It also introduces papers from the inaugural FanLIS symposium, which took place online on May 20, 2021.
Review of Kristin M. Barton and Jonathan Malcolm Lampley, eds. Fan CULTure: Essays on participatory fandom in the 21st century. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2014. Paperback, $40 (212p) ISBN 978-0-7864-7418-9, E-book ISBN 978-1-4766-0459-6.
The last decade has witnessed a proliferation, both online and off-line, of films produced by amateurs inspired by mainstream films, TV shows, and novels. As with much other fan production, fan films exist in, at best, a legally gray area since they are produced by amateurs, rather than by the media companies that own the copyrights to the films and novels that provide both their inspiration and settings. I examine the phenomenon of fan filmmaking, focusing on films produced by fans of the Warhammer 40,000 (W40K) tabletop battle game. In particular, I examine the case of Damnatus: The Enemy Within (Damnatus: Feind Im Innern, 2005), a German-made fan film set in the W40K universe, which was banned from release by the game's rights holder, the UK company Games Workshop, in 2007. Damnatus offers an interesting case study in both the ongoing struggle between rights holders and textual poachers and the tensions that can exist between different legal understandings of copyright in an increasingly globalized world.
The Hypercrisis—an online attempt by fans of DC Comics to create an overarching story across the entirety of the history of the comic company's line—provides insight into online comic book fandom. Comic fans on 4chan ( began noticing connections between this overarching story and the canon of comics writer Grant Morrison's work. However, the Hypercrisis is entirely fan made; it is not a part of DC Comics's continuity and not necessarily a part of the possible published futures of the comics; nor is it officially part of Morrison's work. However, the fans continue to create and discuss the developing Hypercrisis, providing deep analysis and intricate images. Part of what makes this process interesting is that it is developed and maintained entirely by an anonymous Internet group. Further, it focuses on the work of one particular creator, Grant Morrison. Because of the brief display time, no one on 4chan knows or is able to maintain any consistent relationship to any other user. Yet the Hypercrisis has remained a prominent and powerful part of this particular Web culture. The group has maintained this theoretical event, exhibiting remarkable consistency and a nuanced understanding of the texts. The group's analyses explore important aspects relating to Morrison's work and to DC Comics.
Review of Aaron Schwabach. Fan fiction and copyright: Outside works and intellectual property protection. London: Ashgate, 2011. Hardcover, $89.95 (184p) ISBN 978-0754679035.
US television network ABC developed their "Thank God It's Thursday" (TGIT) programming block in 2014 as a prime-time schedule composed of three back-to-back dramas produced by well-known TV showrunner Shonda Rhimes. From its initial development, ABC intended TGIT to be a three-hour live viewing event, encouraged by a multipronged #TGIT Twitter campaign. I consider the industrial and cultural significance of marketing the TGIT block of programming together as a cohesive block of social TV in order to encourage and structure audience participation in live television viewing. #TGIT's form of social television developed as a result of the rise of multicultural market research. The reemergence of serialized melodrama on network television functions culturally to commodify Black femininity in order to appeal to a transracial upscale female audience.
Review of Abigail De Kosnik. Rogue archives: Digital cultural memory and media fandom. New York: MIT Press, 2016. Hardcover $45 (440 p) (ISBN 9780262034661); e-book $26.49 (7092 KB) (ASIN B01M1HQ1MK).
The "abridged series" is one of the more recent genres to come out of the fan culture of anime fan subs. An abridged series is a form of fan parody in which some of the peculiarities of fan subs are mixed with the more general conventions of Internet parodies to produce a shortened version of an anime series with edited video and original dubbed-in dialogue. The abridged series is not just a form of fan translation or a humorous recap of an existing work; rather, because they are engaged in significant textual criticism, construction of independent narratives, and interaction with greater fan communities, they should be considered a unique creative genre of transformative work.
Meyer's Twilight series has been criticized for its regressive gender representations. To understand its continuing appeal, we problematize the messages of abstinence and romance in the series, and contextualize fans' response with a discussion of postfeminist culture.
In this comparison of portraits of authorial anxiety, I focus on contemporary attitudes to fan fiction and on discussions of authors in Imperial Rome (notably Galen and Martial) to consider the assumptions of textuality that frame imagined textual abuse. Revealed are parallel discourses for different concerns—for the reader as a potentially ill-educated consumer and the text as an object in the ancient world; in the contemporary world, for the author's personal violation and the text as an agent within readerly experience. I discuss how fan fiction's lack of commercial publication is used to distinguish it from other contemporary literature within this framework. Fan fiction's noncommercial publication can thus be appreciated as a marginalizing act in itself.
Editorial for Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 1 (2008).
Researchers, universities, and academic libraries develop a range of tools and platforms to make scholarship more accessible. What could these scholarly communications and open access projects learn from examples set by fandom and fan activists, for example, the fan works platform Archive of Our Own (AO3)? This conceptual paper, the result of a brainstorming session by scholars and librarians, proposes that a Fantasy Research Archive of Our Own should excel at making scholarly knowledge production into a visibly, enthusiastically collective endeavor that recognizes many kinds of contributions beyond the publication of traditional research papers.
Four authors representing disparate disciplines recount their experiences meeting each other through Glee (2009–15) fandom via Tumblr, with an exploration of the popular microblogging site's utility as a platform for fan scholarship. This aspect of the site has been understudied; we thus explore the ways that Tumblr's particular culture and features support professional networking, facilitate the researching of fandom practices, and provide support mechanisms for scholars. In discussing the pleasures and challenges that Tumblr provides the acafan researcher, we weigh whether academia needs to rethink its own paradigms for audience engagement and professional development.
Contemporary academic debates about online publishing raise important questions about the future of scholarly writing practices as more academics begin to explore the multinodal and participatory digital environment, seeking not only to study it but also to engage in the praxis and community building it makes possible. Through exploring why media studies scholars might choose to participate in online endeavors like In Media Res, I want to show how digital interactive technologies might enable a rethinking of the forms and functions of scholarly writing.
An academic dialogue between PhD candidate joan miller (University of Southern California) and associate professor CarrieLynn D. Reinhard (Dominican University), conducted via Twitter direct messaging over several weeks, illustrates that academic dialogues do not have to occur in person at universities or conferences. Social media provides a forum for scholars around the world and in different disciplines to consider a topic from a new perspective. Such dialogues provide a fertile ground to develop new insights, theories, and even research projects that can further our understanding of the topic and perhaps push the entire field into new areas. The conversation here explores the topic of how fandom and politics intersect to consider the issues involved in such intersections. The conversation—a journey two people take to come to understand each other—considers what fandom is, what the intersections of fandom and politics are, and whether we should be applying fan studies concepts, theories, and methods to understand politics.
In a conceptualization and critique of the implications motivating a set of teaching and learning sessions designed to introduce undergraduate students to the professional role of location scouts and managers, two main interventions are offered. First, discussion of acafan identities is advanced by considering how this subject position applies to teaching and learning contexts rather than individual research dispositions, with acafans transferring competencies developed through fan practices that appropriate industry-located forms of knowledge to inform pedagogical design. Second, the concept of vocational poaching is applied as an alternative of fannish appropriation that acafans can engage in when designing teaching and learning sessions. Vocational poaching involves individual acafans performing tactical raids on industrially located forms of knowledge via fan practices such as location visiting and using these to satisfy the requirements of neoliberal teaching policies.
In this article, I examine how my visibly pregnant body influenced my experience as a field researcher at a fan convention, interviewing amateur fan fiction authors who write Harry Potter male-pregnancy fan fiction. Despite my efforts at carefully cultivating an identity as an acafan (a researcher who identifies as both a fan and a scholar of fandom), my identity as a pregnant woman was most salient throughout my fieldwork. I argue that because of the particular genre of fan fiction, male pregnancy (mpreg), which my participants engaged with, my status as a normative, heterosexual, publicly pregnant woman negatively affected the research process: my interactions with my interviewees deviated from my expectations in ways that shaped the data I collected. When I analyzed my field notes, I found a strong correlation between interviewees' recognition of my pregnancy and interviewees' experience of stigma associated with authors of mpreg. This research contributes to several bodies of work: the interplay between online and real-life identities, the role of the researcher in field research, and the role of pregnant researchers.
I here reflect on my first forays into fan studies, two separate projects on fans' reactions to Tom Hiddleston's short-lived relationship with Taylor Swift. After discovering live tweets of my 2018 Fan Studies Network presentation that included yet-to-be-published survey research I collected on post-Hiddleswift fannish behaviors, some fans turned to the Anonymous Ask feature of a Hiddleston-focused Tumblr blog to interrogate the results, an article I had recently published, and me. I highlight this experience as a way to reexamine my methodological choices going forward when working with fan populations while writing for academic audiences. Ultimately, I realize future misinterpretations might be prevented by transparency as an acafan on Tumblr and more consistent interaction with fans across social media platforms.
In fan studies, researchers are encouraged to share their research with the fan communities they study, with some even suggesting that such a practice can be a way to ethically give back to the community. During a multiyear study of adult fans of Lego, several different ways to share research with the fan community were trialed and evaluated for their relative strengths. Community responses to these projects determined that both academic and creative practices for sharing research can successfully engage the community. Creative practice can capture the spirit of giving by making a contribution to the community by using its own modes of community participation.
Fandom Secrets ( /fandomsecrets). [View larger image.]
Full text also available at Transformative Works and Cultures (TWC), ISSN 1941-2258, is an online-only Gold Open Access publication of the nonprofit Organization for Transformative Works copyrighted under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.
Because scholars have paid insufficient attention to race in fan studies, a new genealogy of fan studies is needed, one that includes different kinds of primary and secondary texts that have explored responses of black fans. There is a rich history of black fan criticism and acafandom that has never been seen as such but that both complements and complicates current definitions and paradigms in fan studies. Discussions of fan otherness, antifandom, and fan ambivalence explore the difference that the inclusion of African American cultural criticism would make to both canonical scholarship and more recently published work in the field.
This reflection on positionality draws on experiences from undertaking an undergraduate writing research project involving a series of email/chat server interviews with fan fiction authors active on Archive of Our Own. The identity of the acafan is a negotiated spectrum that relates to positionality and knowledge production.
For nearly three decades, the field of fan studies has helped to shift the conversation on fandom from a study of pathological individuals to exploring how groups make use of and transform the contemporary media landscape. Fandom itself is also changing. What was once a niche subculture is now a way for us to make sense of the mediated world around us. As the concept and structures of fandom expand, we as fandom researchers must broaden our methodology to analyze fans who aren't like us while also keeping the empathetic understanding of fandom that has made the field what it is. One attempt at this project is the modified acafandom approach developed as part of the Locating Imagination project. In researching film tourism, something I had little interest in personally participating in, I needed to go beyond the traditional autoethnographic acafan approach and develop my skills as a social sciences researcher. However, it was important to me to foreground the perspective of fan studies as a field throughout the project. The result shows how the modified acafandom approach can be useful in both qualitative media research and fan studies. The research modalities of the social sciences can usefully broaden the field of fandom research.
Editorial for Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 25 (September 15, 2017).
An autoethnographic view of the hurt/comfort genre, its significance, and its appeal.
This case study focuses on a Chinese female-oriented ACG fan community, 3n5b, with an eye to studying how this community creates a sense of exclusivity and hierarchy through the discourses of copyright infringement, fan labor, and quality membership. Through controlling the distribution of rare resources, 3n5b creates high demand for their manga scanlation, and this demand is translated to a highly restricted membership. Membership is valuable because it is closely related to individual member's social and cultural capital, as well as their access to forum resources. Well-behaved members can slowly gain entry into more restricted forums, while members who violate forum rules are punished with loss of forum status or even membership revocation. This hierarchy seeks to raise the forum's overall quality and to wall off unwanted members, but it also replicates offline power relations that inevitably place people of lower social status at a disadvantage. Free full text:
With the widespread diffusion of the internet and online archives, fan fiction is increasingly consumed by fans who do not speak English as a first language. It is therefore relevant to argue that fan fiction, especially as found on the fan-run Archive of Our Own, may work as a space for second language vocabulary acquisition. The high motivation and extensive engagement with forms of reading of fans who read and write fan fiction helps with vocabulary acquisition.
Review of Liza Potts, Melissa Beattie, Emily Dallaire, Katie Grimes, and Kelly Turner, Participatory memory: Fandom experiences across time and space. Intermezzo, 2018, online at (ISBN 978-0-9864333-6-8).
Many in the gaming community argue that video gaming has enhanced the RPG experience, allowing for ever more immersive experiences for players. The live-action aspects of LARPing anticipated the movement toward virtual play that video games have worked to create.
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