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‘Art Happens not in Isolation, But in Community’: The Collective Literacies of Media Fandom



When the Archive of Our Own (AO3) received a prestigious Hugo Award from the World Science Fiction Convention in Dublin the summer of 2019, this moment represented a recognition by the literary science fiction community of an alternative model of authorship – one which operates outside the publishing world or academia, one where authorship is collective rather than individual, and one where artworks are appropriative and transformative rather than “original.” Using this occasion as my starting point, I will discuss here the ways that the literacies associated with fandom may be understood as illustrative of the new forms of expression that have taken shape in a networked era.
Jenkins, H. 2019. ‘Art Happens not in Isolation, But in Community’:
The Collective Literacies of Media Fandom.
Cultural Science
11(1), pp. 78–88. DOI:
‘Art Happens not in Isolation, But in Community’:
The Collective Literacies of Media Fandom
Henry Jenkins
University of Southern California, US
When the Archive of Our Own (AO3) received a prestigious Hugo Award from the World Science
Fiction Convention in Dublin the summer of 2019, this moment represented a recognition by the
literary science ction community of an alternative model of authorship – one which operates
outside the publishing world or academia, one where authorship is collective rather than individual,
and one where artworks are appropriative and transformative rather than “original.” Using this
occasion as my starting point, I will discuss here the ways that the literacies associated with
fandom may be understood as illustrative of the new forms of expression that have taken shape
in a networked era.
Keywords: fandom; literacy; mentorship; science ction
All fanwork, from fanc to vids to fanart to podc, centers the idea that art happens not in isolation,
but in community….all of our hard work and contributions would mean nothing without the work of
the fan creators who share their work freely with other fans, and the fans who read their stories and
view their art and comment and share bookmarks and give kudos to encourage them and nourish the
community in their turn. – Naomi Novik on behalf of the Archive of Our Own at the Hugo Awards,
Aug. 18 2019
When the Archive of Our Own (AO3) received a prestigious Hugo Award from the World Science Fiction
Convention in Dublin in the Summer of 2019, this moment represented a recognition by the literary science
fiction community of an alternative model of authorship – one which operates outside the publishing world
or academia, one where authorship is collective rather than individual, and one where artworks are appro-
priative and transformative rather than “original.” Using this occasion as my starting point, I will discuss here
the ways that the literacies associated with fandom may be understood as illustrative of the new forms of
expression that have taken shape in a networked era.
What, you ask, is the Archive of Our Own? Launched in 2009, AO3 is an online platform for fan works –
creative work based on existing media including novels, films, television series, comics, and video games
(Romano, 2019). To date, AO3 has hosted more than 5 million fan works representing almost 2 million
registered users who have written about more than 30,000 fandoms. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has
alone inspired more than 340,000 amateur stories and novels. Entirely fan owned and operated, A03 has
become the major hub for fan fiction. Now one of the top 200 most visited websites globally, AO3, alongside
Wikipedia, represents one of the great landmark accomplishments of participatory culture in a networked
Across this essay, I address what fandom and fandom studies can teach us about what it means to think
of literacy as a social skill and cultural competency rather than as an individualized accomplishment. I want
to trace academic responses, particularly from the learning sciences, to the alternative models of mentor-
ship through which fandom in general and fan fiction archives in particular have supported diverse forms
of learning – from technical skills to critical reading, from the writing craft to vernacular theory, from sub-
cultural capital to the civic imagination. And I will close with some reflections about how the MacArthur
Foundation has drawn on insights from fandom and other sites of participatory culture to inform the
cultural science
Jenkins: ‘Art Happens not in Isolation, But in Community’ 79
redesign of schools, libraries, after school programs, and other institutions in order to support connected
learning and open literacy.
Fan Publishing: A Quick and Dirty History
To understand the importance of the Hugo Award recognition, I need to quickly trace through some of the
history of science fiction fandom. Hugo Gernsback, widely considered the father of modern science fiction,
was a Belgian born inventor who is best known for creating the Walkie Talkie and who was a major advocate
of amateur radio as a participatory medium. He saw science fiction as a means for popular science education
at a time of rapid technological change and scientific discovery. He began adding science fiction stories to
his popular science magazines and eventually broke off Amazing Stories as a home for a genre he was in the
process of identifying and defining. His columns for this pulp magazine outlined a vision for science fiction
as a place where new ideas could be explored, pushed to their breaking point, and debated from diverse per-
spectives. He felt it was through the debates amongst fans that the public might come to better understand
the implications of what was happening in what we would today call STEM research.
Many young writers, often students from top technological institutions, began writing within this genre,
attracting an army of teenage fans across America, who wrote into the letter columns to Gernsback’s maga-
zines. And when he started to publish their addresses, they reached out to each other and started to organize
a network of fan-publications, building on the infrastructure of the Amateur Press Association, which traced
its own roots back to the mid-19th century, as young men and women began creating and trading publica-
tions using toy printing presses (Petrik, 1992).
The fan-run Worldcon (or more formally, the World Science Fiction Convention) was first held in 1939.
Alexandra Edwards (2018) stresses that Gernsback was not the only magazine of the period to foster large
fan communities through letter columns or to inspire organized fandoms, but my claim does not rest there.
From the first, Gernsback saw science fiction fandom as a pedagogical space, not simply a consumer base for
his pulp magazines. Among other things, this conception encouraged (mostly) young men to write, inspir-
ing a network of amateur zines, published mostly via mimeograph, which circulated across the United States
and elsewhere. Much (see, for example, Carrington, 2016) has now been written about the intense debates
(and the identity play) which took place within this social network, as participants wrote both lengthy essays
and (mostly) original fiction or parodies of pre-existing works. Michael Saler (2012) has coined the evoca-
tive term “Public Spheres of the Imagination” to describe the ways groups of people became intellectually
invested in imaginary worlds as a platform to debate alternative visions for their own societies, seeing these
fan practices as an extension of the kinds of literary publics which Michael Warner (2002) has identified
around other periodicals. Science fiction fandom also became a training and recruiting ground for future
professionals, with most of the major science fiction writers, artists, agents, and publishers first getting their
experience working on these zines. And there was considerable blurring of the boundaries between fandom
and the professional realm.
In 1953, the attendees of Worldcon began voting for the Hugo Awards, named after Gernsback, and given
in recognition of outstanding contributions to the speculative genres (science fiction, fantasy, horror, and
comics), including from the first, awards given for fanzines and their editors. By 2019, the WorldCon, held in
Dublin, drew 8748 attendees representing 64 countries, a merger of science fiction fans and professionals.
By this point, the Hugo Award has become the most prestigious award given for speculative fiction, with
this year’s winners including The Calculating Stars, Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse, “Janet” (The Good Place),
and the Archive of Our Own.
Some women participated in science fiction fandom from the first and gained some begrudging respect
and acceptance, including gaining some opportunities for professional publication (Merrick, 2009). The big
expansion of female participation came with the 1960s and 1970s. Women faced several obstacles: on the
one hand, there are vivid accounts of the sexual harassment they faced from the old boys’ club associated
with science fiction fandom, and on the other hand, there are accounts of the ways that the pipeline which
helped young men gain professional opportunities did not function in the same way for these women.
When Star Trek came along, many women broke with science fiction fandom and began to publish their
own zines, which mostly focused on the crew of the U.S. S. Enterprise and its five year mission “to go where
no man has gone before.” Spockanalia, credited as the first Star Trek zine, was published in 1967 when the
program was still on the air (Verba, 1996) but this grassroots movement expanded in the 1970s when the
series went into syndicated reruns across America. Blocked from access to the ranks of media professionals,
most of these women saw their zines as serving a subcultural audience, one which actively supported their
efforts to reimagine and remix the series’ gender politics. The male science fiction community dismissed
Jenkins: ‘Art Happens not in Isolation, But in Community’80
these women as “Trekkies,” that is, “groupies” obsessed with Star Trek’s male performers, whereas the women
tended to describe themselves as “Trekkers,” active participants in the world of Star Trek.
Over time, this female-dominated zine community expanded outward to encompass more and more differ-
ent media properties as Trek fandom evolved into “media fandom.” The male science fiction world prided itself
on creating “original stories,” though often building on broadly shared genre conventions and sometimes the
works of beloved writers (Isaac Asimov, for example, largely defined the ways several generations of writers
thought about the laws of robotics.) The female science fiction writers largely focused their energies on creat-
ing “more of” and “more from” specific media franchises (Pugh, 2005), actively bending the fictional universes
towards their own politics and pleasures. By the early 1990s, fandom began to attract the interests of academ-
ics, myself among them, who, in many cases, were deeply embedded within these creative communities.
Around that same moment, fans began moving from print-based publications – by this point, mostly
photocopied works – and towards digital circulation. At a time when there was concern that the internet,
having started on military bases and in research institutions, was itself a mostly male technoculture, these
fan women were helping each other learn how to access and tap the power of the online world, often pass-
ing along their old computers to other fans whose work they wanted to help transition to the web. Many
of these works were aggressively policed by media companies who saw these texts as infringing upon their
intellectual property rights and many leading science fiction authors were outspoken in condemning fans
who built on their stories as “infringers” who lacked “originality.” Women who did make it from the world of
fan fiction into media and literary professionals were urged to destroy all traces of their earlier fan identities,
often resulting in even more hard feelings between media fans and the professional community.
As we entered the era of Web 2.0, so-called user-generated content was seen as producing value for those
platforms which could capture and commodify the output of grassroots communities. Several startups,
including Fandom Inc. and FanLib, saw fan fiction writing as a space ripe for corporatization, while fans
decried the lack of female representation in their leadership, the limits they placed on grassroots expres-
sions, the heightened visibility they would bring to fan fiction writers still skittish about copyright enforce-
ment risks, and more generally, the ways these companies aligned themselves with mass media companies
(Jenkins, Ford, and Green, 2013). Many fans recognized that the moment for creating their own grassroots
platform for publishing fan fiction was now or never, and so they circled the wagons in order to develop the
strongest possible protection from the dangers they saw in the way Web 2.0 was operating (Romano. 2019).
The Organization for Transformative Works was formed in 2007. The OTW’s peer-reviewed journal
launched that same year and remains the most important joiurnal in the expanding field of fandom stud-
ies. Transformative Works is a concept in American Intellectual Property Law that describes works that
build on pre-existing texts but “add something new” – an original interpretation, for example. Fans argue
that fanworks might gain greater protection if the legal community more fully embraced the concept of
“transformative works.” The OTW sought to organize fandom so that fan lawyers would defend fan fiction
writers, academics would research the community and its practices to foster greater public understanding
and fan coders would develop an autonomous platform where fans could publish their works without fall-
ing under the constraints imposed by Web 2.0 platforms. Fan communities that organized around a range
of other social media platforms – from LiveJournal to Tumblr – have been censored, uprooted, and dis-
placed. Archives of fan works disappeared from the web without warning because hosting companies went
under during the dotcom bust. So, above all, they wanted an Archive of Their Own, where they could come
together to share and debate stories that spoke to their own interests in popular media. The platform would
expand as new fandoms and fan objects emerged and its capacity to embrace new users has been tested over
the past decade plus of its existence. The platform’s continued existence depended on fandom’s collective
energies, but not on commercial motives. During this same era, the fandom network has expanded transna-
tionally, with fans around the world discovering fan fiction, writing stories in their own languages but also
primarily in English, and sharing them both within other local platforms as well as through the AO3.
In the meantime, corporate interests in fan fiction only increased with the success of Fifty Shades of Gray,
which had originated as fan fiction based on the popular Twilight franchise but became a huge best-seller
and a blockbuster film series; the characters were revised (slightly) so that the novel could be published as
an original work. When its author E.L. James “came out” about its origins within fandom, other fan-women-
turned-professional followed her example. And publishers began to seek out fan fiction as a source for new
writers, finally starting to build the pipeline from fan to professional that male participants had enjoyed for
decades. But they also began to create sites like Kindle Worlds, which many fans felt was bringing fan fic-
tion more deeply under commercial content regulation while also creating ways that amateur writers could
receive modest compensation for their works (Stanfil, 2018).
Jenkins: ‘Art Happens not in Isolation, But in Community’ 81
Francesca Coppa, One of OTW’s founders, reported, “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” ( Banet-Weiser et al., 2014). OTW became
the most important advocate in this struggle, with its lawyers helping to, for example, achieve an exemp-
tion from federal copyright restrictions in order to protect the production and circulation of fan videos as
transformative works.
To sum up what I’ve said so far, female media fan fiction writers follow a different set of norms and values
than those associated with science fiction fandom (which historically was overwhelmingly male but has
itself become increasingly diverse, if not without some intense internal struggles). The female fan fiction
community stresses the value of creating within a subculture rather than using fanworks as a stepping stone
into professionalization. They have, in fact, been major critics of both copyright law and the corporate poli-
cies that impact social media companies seeking to profit from their works. More closely aligned with the
professional realm, male fan culture has long made fun of this alternative model claiming that fan fiction is
unoriginal and without literary value as well as overly sentimental or eroticized. So, the Archive of Our Own
receiving an award from the World Science Fiction Society represents a significant thaw within this history
of hostility and contempt. And a meaningful moment came when the people accepting the award on behalf
of AO3 asked those in the audience who had published fan fiction on their site to stand up, with some pro-
fessionals coming out as fan fiction writers for the first time. On Twitter, fans began describing the stories
which won “them” a Hugo Award, since the OTW’s leadership has encouraged participants to read the award
as a collective recognition for fan fiction writing as a whole.
Fandom’s Multiple Literacies
What does this event mean for those of us who are interested in “open literacy”? The Archive of Our Own and
fan fiction writing communities more generally represent a distinctive space which fosters a broad range
of contemporary forms of literacy. Indeed, as this broad strokes history already suggests, science fiction
fandom was from the first intended to foster popular science literacy and knowledge, and it became a train-
ing ground and recruitment hub as a significant number of writers and artists were fostered and supported
on their path to professionalism. But the female fan fiction writers who contribute to AO3 have a more
expansive notion of literacy. In their book, Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet, Karen
Hellekson and Kristina Busse (2006) write that all fan fiction might be understood as “works in progress,
emphasizing the process of fan fiction over the products:
The appeal of works in progress lies in part in the ways fans engage with an open text; it invites
responses, permits shared authorship, and enjoins a sense of community… When the story is nally
complete and published, likely online but perhaps in print, the work in progress among the creators
shifts to the work in progress among the readers. In most cases, the resulting story is part collaboration
and part response to not only the source text but also the cultural context within and outside the
fannish community in which it is produced. (p. 6)
Thinking of fan fiction as “work in progress” stresses the collaborative nature of the writing process (See also
Busse, 2017). When E. L. James revealed the fan fiction origins of her novel, many professional writers were
concerned about the ethics of building on another author’s work, while the fan community were bothered
by the ethics of not acknowledging the help and support James had received from fan mentors along the
way. Fan fiction is dialogic at its core, encouraging others to write responses and keep the process of remix-
ing and retelling going; many of the stories took shape in social settings where multiple would-be writers sit
around, “talking story” and bouncing ideas off each other (Jenkins, 1992). One fan fiction writer explained
her pleasure in this process:
What I love about fandom is the freedom we have allowed ourselves to create and recreate our charac-
ters over and over again. Fanc rarely sits still. It’s like a living, evolving thing, taking on its own life,
one story building on another, each writer’s reality bouncing off against another’s and maybe even
melding together to form a whole new creation… We have given ourselves license to do whatever we
want and it’s very liberating. (Jenkins, Green, Jenkins, 2006, 35)
It’s striking that this quote begins and ends with a statement of self determination – “we have allowed
ourselves… We have given ourselves license,” reflecting a more open attitude towards culture as a shared
Jenkins: ‘Art Happens not in Isolation, But in Community’82
community resource, rather than private property. And it is also important that the passage uses the collec-
tive pronoun “we” to discuss the ways that fan fiction can be understood as collective cultural production
rather than simply the self expression encouraged by commercial platforms in the individualistic world of
neoliberalism. Fans are willing to fight to protect their rights – both individually and collectively – to build
their own story from raw materials appropriated from the culture around them. And, as we will see, fan-
dom builds into its practices mentorship and scaffolding so that newcomers feel some degree of support as
they produce and share their first works. There is an ethos of self-care and community building that makes
fandom a unique space for thinking about the pedagogies required to enable open literacy and connected
learning within a participatory culture.
My appreciation of fandom’s support structures informed my 2009 white paper, Confronting the Challenges
of a Participatory Culture, which I wrote to accompany the launch of the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital
Media and Learning initiative, a decade-long commitment by a major American foundation to research
informal learning (including in games and fandom) and reshape those institutions – schools, libraries, muse-
ums, youth programs – that most directly touched the lives of American youth. I described the forms of
literacy I associated with the emerging participatory cultures on the web:
We must push further by talking about how meaning emerges collectively and collaboratively in the
new media environment and how creativity operates differently in an open-source culture based on
sampling, appropriation, transformation, and repurposing. The social production of meaning is more
than individual interpretation multiplied; it represents a qualitative difference in the ways we make
sense of cultural experience, and in that sense, it represents a profound change in how we understand
literacy. In such a world, youth need skills for working within social networks, for pooling knowledge
within a collective intelligence, for negotiating across cultural differences that shape the governing
assumptions in different communities, and for reconciling conicting bits of data to form a coherent
picture of the world around them (Jenkins, Purushatma et al., 2009, 32).
A decade plus later, it is even clearer now that a site like the Archive of Our Own facilitates both collective
meaning-making and socially-based literacies, or what this conference is calling open-literacy. In Writers
in the Secret Garden: Fanction, Youth, and New Forms of Mentoring, Cecilia Aragon and Katie Davis (2019)
describe the informal mechanisms that fan fiction sites – in this case, – have deployed to
encourage and sustain participation (and learning):
We discovered a new kind of mentoring, which we call distributed mentoring, that is uniquely suited to
networked communities, where people of all ages and experience levels engage with and support one
another through a complex, interwoven tapestry of cumulatively sophisticated advice and informal
instruction (2).
They are referring, in large part, to what fans call the Beta-Reading Process, where more experienced (not
necessarily older) fans volunteer to work with newer writers to help them to improve the stories they post
(Karpovich, 2006; Jenkins, 2006).
Across the book, Aragon and Davis identify seven traits of the distributed mentorship that emerges in fan
networks. First, distributed mentorship is characterized by abundance, allowing authors unlimited space
to share their work, and equally unlimited opportunities to find exemplars from which to draw inspiration.
They work through aggregation, with the whole greater than the sum of the parts: any individual story
might, to use a technical term, suck, but that allows fans some sense that they can always do better than
the worst story out there. The value of the network grows through accretion so that each new story adds
value to the system as a whole, and each new voice can bring fresh perspectives to bear on the source mate-
rial. The amount of feedback received and the diversity of perspectives tends to accelerate the learning
process. Much of the feedback is publicly available, making it possible for people to go back and review it
later but also for community members to learn from each other’s process. Communication between men-
tor and mentee is asynchronous: they do not have to co-exist in the same time and place to learn from
each other. And perhaps most powerfully, the distributed mentorship of beta-reading is fueled by affect,
shared passion: members care about each other and about the work that is being generated and that moti-
vates them to put in the hard labor of giving and receiving feedback. Reviewing more than 177 million
reviews on, Aragon and Davis found that they were overwhelmingly positive and supportive
rather than negative, standing in sharp contrast with the notoriously harsh comments posted in reaction to
Jenkins: ‘Art Happens not in Isolation, But in Community’ 83
videos shared on YouTube. Here, the ethics of the fan community, which are acknowledged and reinforced
throughout the mentoring process, encourage a constructive engagement – not every time, but most of
the time.
Face-to-face contacts through the history of fanzines enabled informal mentorship arrangements of all
kinds, but with the dramatic expansion of online publishing, there were major challenges in scaling up
beta-reading, bridging between strangers who might be far apart in age and geographic location. Rebecca
Black (2008), for example, studied the forms of mentorship and cultural literacy that emerged in fan fiction
writing communities around anime and manga, as western fans learned the nuances of Japanese culture
and Japanese fans were able to practice their English skills in a context where both parties were passion-
ately committed to the exchange. In Convergence Culture (Jenkins, 2006), I described how Harry Potter fans
might receive feedback from several hundred fellow fans when they posted their stories online, compared
to the lackluster and indifference responses they might receive from their teachers and classmates in a more
formal educational setting. I shared the story of Flourish, then a high school student, who began publish-
ing her first Harry Potter fan fiction (and advising others) in her early teens. Today, Flourish Klink hosts the
Fansplaining Podcast and her job at the transmedia company Chaotic Good involves helping major media
producers to understand and respond constructively to their fan bases.
The Beta-reading process operates on multiple levels. First, of course, it provides a mechanism to improve
participants’ writing skills: fan fiction writers learn both by receiving and giving feedback. Second, these fans
are learning to engage closely with the source materials, since fans look for textual evidence as a means of
authenticating and justifying their interpretation and expansion of these shared resources (Bacon-Smith,
1991). And third, these fans are inculcating the shared values, norms, and practices of the fan community
itself, a process that once felt threatened by the rapid expansion of fandom during the early days of the
digital era.
In the MacArthur white paper (Jenkins, Purushatma et al., 2009), and later in our book, Reading in
Participatory Culture (Jenkins, Kelley et al., 2013), we made the case for understanding appropriation (and
remix) as foundational literacy skills in this age of new media literacies. Now, given current debates about the
concept of “cultural appropriation,” let me be clear in my use of the term. I take as given Mikhail Bakhtin’s
claim that authors do not take pristine words, images, stories out of the dictionary but rather that they take
them from other people’s mouths, still dripping with the saliva of their previous use. Culture builds on the
raw materials left behind by other expressive practices, and the best way to understand and appreciate those
earlier works is to muck around inside them and extract elements that speak powerfully to your own needs
and desires, that express your own identities and seem valuable in your own communities.
That said, we need to spend more time reflecting on the ethics of appropriation – the power dynamics that
determine who borrows from whom and under what circumstances. George Lipsitz (1997) has made strong
cases for the value of cross-cultural exchange which takes place through this borrowing, but we should be
concerned about what happens when a more powerful group exploits and profits from the expressive labor
of more subordinate and marginalized groups, taking credit as if they had originated everything they put
into circulation. I want to teach the controversy, to bring remix practices into the educational arena, to build
up a deeper appreciation of the learning that can occur when we build on the culture around us, but also
encouraging a questioning of the power relations which can result in more harmful forms of appropriation.
This approach to media literacy education was inspired by the life and work of Ricardo Pitts-Wiley, a black
actor, playwright, and educator, who went into prisons in Rhode Island and built a reading group where
young prisoners, who on average read well below their grade level, read and discussed the long and challeng-
ing Moby-Dick (Jenkins, Kelley et al., 2013). He motivated them by asking them to rewrite Herman Melville’s
classic as a means of telling their own stories of the gang life and the drug trade, just as fan fiction sites
encourage young fans to explore their own political agency through Katniss Everdeen.
We should not forget what originally drew feminist writers like Constance Penley (1991) and Joanna Russ
(1985) to these fan fiction writers – the idea that they offered an alternative space where vernacular theo-
ries of gender and sexuality emerged through the writing, reading, and critical discussion of these stories.
I witnessed how the fan community absorbed the queer activism of the 1980s and 1990s, rethinking its
own genre traditions, as more and more fan writers came out as LGBTQ+, helping their friends to bet-
ter understand their own sexual experiences and identities. For many queer teens, fan fiction reading and
writing allowed them a space to discover, experiment with, and express their own emerging sexualities,
trying on different fantasies and identities, to see which worked for them. And here, the adult mentorship
extends to providing a sounding board and an emotional support system for these fans as they undergo such
Jenkins: ‘Art Happens not in Isolation, But in Community’84
We might think of these fan fiction sites as an innovation commons. Just as a previous generation of fan
writers helped to model alternative constructions of male friendship, romance, and sexual relations, some
of which have since been simplified and adopted by the industry as “bromance,” the potential exists – at a
time when Hollywood is struggling to become more diverse and inclusive with varying degrees of success
– for fan writers to reimagine how racial, ethnic, and national identities are constructed within popular
narratives. The media is preoccupied with white fanboy backlash against black stormtroopers and female
ghostbusters, while many fans are pushing to “racebend” fictional characters and lobbying for more inclu-
sive casting (Jenkins 2017). Their stories experiment with new genre conventions that could help popular
fiction to escape the legacy of colonialism and white supremacy which were encoded into the pulp genres
that trace their roots back to the 19th century. Rukmini Pande (2018) has called attention to the racial biases
at play within fandom itself, sparking important debates both within fandom and fandom studies. These
debates may ultimately have a similar impact on the lives of these participants as the debates about gender
and sexuality that fandom scholars documented in the 1990s.
The New Media Consortium defined 21st century literacies as:
the set of abilities and skills where aural, visual, and digital literacy overlap. These include the abil-
ity to understand the power of images and sounds, to recognize and use that power, to manipulate
and transform digital media, to distribute them pervasively, and to easily adapt them to new forms
(2005: 8).
Others, such as Gunther Kress (Bezemer and Kress, 2015), cite multimodal literacy. Here, again, fandom
offers a rich model, since fan works almost always involve the translation of characters, worlds and stories
from one medium to another. As Camile Bacon-Smith noted as early as 1992, fans, watching television
together, started to share semiotic practices, recognizing certain gestures or looks as communicating more
about the emotional and erotic lives of characters than might be said overtly on the screen. Francesca Coppa
(2006) extends this idea, applying performance theory to fan fiction, suggesting that words on the page seek
to evoke those impressions and shared interpretations in the heads of their readers, offering interpretations
of the characters that build on the original performances. These acts of translation take on new significance
in a transmedia era as the fans may be acquiring cues and clues across works that tap the affordances of
different forms of media representation. And in turn, fanworks may require collaborations between fan
writers and fan artists, who work to illustrate their stories or express their own autonomous interpreta-
tions of these stories. Vidding may re-edit the original footage and set it to music to make these shared fan
interpretations visible and tangible. Cosplay (Lamerichs, 2018) returns these interpretive practices to the
realm of physical performances as fans interpret and perform the characters, still on their own terms. Early
cosplayers valued the authenticity of trying to perfectly reproduce the original character as seen on screen,
while more recently, fans have adopted a more expansive conception of these characters through practices
like gender-bending and race-bending, which allows fans to reimagine the originals to better reflect their
own lived experiences as women or people of color. Here, again, fandom represents a public sphere of the
imagination, as racial issues are more overtly surfaced and negotiated, sometimes heatedly contested, within
the shared space of these fan networks.
My own recent work (Jenkins, Shresthova et al., 2016; Jenkins, Shreesthova et al., 2020) has stressed
the civic literacies that also emerge within these fan communities. My co-authors and I speak of the Civic
Imagination, which refers to the ways that civic beings use their imaginations to propose alternatives to
current political realities, to recognize themselves as agents capable of making change and as members of
communities that may work together to pursue shared interests, to develop new strategies for changing
the current structures of their society, to foster solidarity and empathy for others whose experiences and
perspectives differ from their own, and to anticipate what freedom, democracy, respect, and equality might
feel like before the most marginalized and oppressed experience them directly. These skills are fundamental
to any democratic culture. Around the world, young activists are developing new political vernaculars, new
modes of protest, new ways of imagining the future, as young people who grew up as participants in fandom
and other participatory culture communities find their civic voices. Here, fans have always rallied to save an
endangered series or to defend themselves against attack from copyright holders which has allowed them to
rehearse skills they now are deploying to challenge right wing governments around the world. They are tap-
ping into the shared images offered by popular culture texts, ranging from Hunger Games and Harry Potter
to Handmaid’s Tale and Game of Thrones, as a shared mythology allowing them to form collaborations and
partnerships between diverse populations working for social justice.
Jenkins: ‘Art Happens not in Isolation, But in Community’ 85
Abigail DeKosnik (2016) has documented the work of what she calls “rogue archives,” recounting the ways
that fans teach each other how to code in order to build up the infrastructure required to support all of this
fan production. This transfer of technical skills between women commands attention and respect at a time
when women are still greatly outnumbered in the STEM fields and professional organizations are seeking
ways to turn this situation around. The shared concerns of this female-centered community have resulted in
significant innovations around the tagging and filtering of content (Fiesler 2016), as fan writers voluntarily
place content warnings (for example, signaling stories which may deal with rape, incest, or sexual violence)
and genre markers (indicating the specific themes and conventions deployed) so that fans can find works
that satisfy them and avoid works that might trigger painful reactions. Other online networks are now study-
ing how this system works so that they, too, can help negotiate diverse content and readership within the
online space (McCulloch, 2019).
Put this all together and the Archive of Our Own and other fan fiction sites offer an impressive model
for informal learning, one which taps the affordances and opportunities of a more participatory culture in
order to foster a broad range of contemporary literacies. This model of open literacy with its strong focus
on appropriation and collaboration, on building on and providing feedback for each other’s work, contrasts
sharply with the competitive and individualistic models of authorship which shape commercial publishing
and media production, including those traditionally rewarded by the Hugo Award. As this discussion has
suggested, these practices have been closely monitored by educational researchers over the past several dec-
ades along many different axes in hopes of identifying features or practices that might be exported to other
learning and creative communities.
The MacArthur Foundation made a multi-million dollar gamble that insights from participatory cultures
could inform more formal pedagogies, drawing insights from work on fandom and gaming communities to
inspire the reinvention of public institutions. These intellectual partnerships sometimes produced spectacu-
lar results, such as the YouMedia Center at the Chicago Public Library, which was inspired by Mimi Ito and the
Digital Youth Project’s large-scale ethnographic investigation of young people “hanging out, messing around,
and geeking out” within local and networked communities (Ito, Horst et al., 2013). The YouMedia model,
which has since been replicated at libraries across the United States, provided opportunities for young peo-
ple to socialize, experiment with new tools and programs, and receive expert mentorship as they launched
their own creative projects, all within the informal learning context represented by the public library. The
results of these MacArthur Foundation-funded experiments have led Ito and her collaborators (Ito, Gutierrez
et al., 2013) to investigate more fully the concept of connected learning, exploring the ways that learning
outside the classroom – in peer groups and families, in after school programs – connects with, reinforces,
and re-energizes the formal learning that takes place in schools. As Ito and company (2019) explain:
As a model for design and social change, connected learning focuses on connecting young people’s
interests and peer culture to opportunity and recognition in academic, civic and career-relevant set-
tings. Connected learning strives for equity by embracing the cultural identities of diverse young peo-
ple, meeting them where they are in their communities of interest, and building points of connection
and translation to opportunity in schools, employment and civic and political institutions (3).
As this work has progressed, there has been a number of important cautions about whether these kinds
of affinity-based informal-learning communities can be easily replicated in the schools. In my MacArthur
White Paper (Jenkins, Purushatma et al., 2009), I raised the question of how many of these practices and
logics might be absorbed into formal educational institutions. I warned:
While formal education is often conservative, the informal learning within popular culture is often
experimental. While formal education is static, the informal learning within popular culture is inno-
vative. The structures that sustain informal learning are more provisional, those supporting formal
education are more institutional. Informal learning communities can evolve to respond to short-term
needs and temporary interests, whereas the institutions supporting public education have remained
little changed despite decades of school reform. Informal learning communities are ad hoc and local-
ized; formal educational communities are bureaucratic and increasingly national in scope. We can
move in and out of informal learning communities if they fail to meet our needs; we enjoy no such
mobility in our relations to formal education (11).
Jenkins: ‘Art Happens not in Isolation, But in Community’86
Above all, the processes of distributed mentorship discussed here work because they are unregulated – by
educational institutions, by governments, by corporate rights holders, all of whom have largely stepped back
and allowed these informal learning communities to do their work.
Craig Watkins and his collaborators (Watkins, Cho et al., 2018) has stressed the often subtle barriers to
entry that persist even within seemingly more open forms of participatory culture. Others (Gee, 2018;
Jenkins 2018), discuss the ways that the regimented curriculum of schools and formal learning institutions
may squash what makes spaces like AO3 work in the first place. James Paul Gee describes the exchange of
resources within what he calls affinity spaces, exchanges that do not necessarily require a strong sense of
community. For me, the core is a sense of affiliation with affect-driven communities and the social norms
that ensure supportive and collaborative engagement. Fans are willing to give each other intensive feedback
because they see themselves as fans and that’s why it matters that open literacy is a social skill and not
simply a means to personal self-expression, which is more often the way voice is understood within the
schoolhouse gates.
The Archive of Our Own is only one of a broad range of thriving participatory communities/affinity spaces
operating within today’s networked culture. These sites allow peer-to-peer support for the learning of a
broad array of literacies. We certainly know more today than we did in the past about the constraints and
inequalities within such spaces, so we should not idealize them, and they exist in a context where social
media can become a toxic environment, especially when it has intensified the century old rivalries between
male and female fans. But we also should be studying what works in such spaces when they do work, as AO3
clearly does, and how we might abstract from these spaces a participatory ethics that might allow us to build
better learning environments elsewhere.
All of this might bring us back to the quote with which I began this essay, a quote I hope you will now read
with deeper understanding, as we pay tribute to what the Archive of Our Own has accomplished and its role
in fostering the multiple literacies of fandom.
All fanwork, from fanc to vids to fanart to podc, centers the idea that art happens not in isolation,
but in community….all of our hard work and contributions would mean nothing without the work of
the fan creators who share their work freely with other fans, and the fans who read their stories and
view their art and comment and share bookmarks and give kudos to encourage them and nourish the
community in their turn. – Naomi Novik on behalf of the Archive of Our Own at the Hugo Awards,
Aug. 18 2019
Competing Interests
The author remains an active participant in the fan communities which he discusses and has been a central
participant in the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning/Connected Learning initiatives. The
MacArthur Foundation currently funds the Civic Imagination Project, for which he is the PI. He acknowledges
the financial assistance of Tencent Research in the preparation of this article.
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of Media Fandom.
Cultural Science Journal
11(1), pp. 78–88. DOI:
Submitted: 12 November 2019 Accepted: 12 November 2019 Published: 10 December 2019
Copyright: © 2019 The Author(s). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative
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... According to Jenkins (2019), this idea comes in a two-way cycle. The creator provides the content to the audience, and the audience will recommend it to others if they receive gratifications. ...
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Music has become a part of everyone's lives, and as the years pass, it starts to adapt, develop, and evolve because of changing times. Eventually, it developed into a variety of genres, and Korean Pop Music (Kpop) was one of the genres that had emerged and became known throughout the world. Kpop music was performed by Korean idols trained in dancing, singing, speaking different foreign languages, etc., by their agencies where they have signed a contract. With the growing popularity of Kpop, it cannot be denied that it seemingly made its way to digital media, and with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – the utilization of digital media was crucial in promoting and catering to Kpop. This research sought to determine how the Kpop industry influenced local advertisements in digital media. In this study, the researchers distributed online survey questionnaires to selected young adults in Metro Manila, ranging from 15 to 30 years old. Also, this research sought to look at the factors of Kpop that significantly influence Filipino audiences’ preferences to local advertisements. Based on the results of this research, most of the respondents discussed the influences and impacts of Kpop idols on local advertisements through means of digital media platforms specifically social media platforms such Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
... Ahora bien, en la sociedad de la convergencia (Jenkins, 2019) donde se fusionan espacios y momentos de aprendizaje, donde se habla de aprendizaje ubicuo y de aprendizaje invisible (Romaní y Moravec, 2011), donde es prácticamente imposible mantener la tradicional división entre educación formal, no formal e informal, donde converge lo aprendido en los libros con lo visto en la televisión, lo escuchado en clase con lo consultado en internet, se hace imprescindible dirigir el discurso hacia una transdisciplinariedad ampliada que reconozca y conecte la diversidad de redes, actores y actrices que participan de la producción y circulación de saberes. ...
Resumen: El objetivo de este artículo es compartir el proceso que se ha realizado para diseñar el ecosistema curricular del grado de Educación Infantil en Gestions Creatives (Gestiones Creativas) de la Facultad de Educación, Psicología y Trabajo Social de la Universidad de Lleida. Este ecosistema curricular, que articula de forma innovadora competencias, objetivos, contenidos, metodologías y evaluaciones, se ha construido a través de un proceso de investigación cualitativa sociocrítica, y tiene la finalidad de impulsar un proceso de transformación pedagógica en la formación de maestros/as y cuestionar los modelos pedagógicos de la Universidad. A través de este artículo, no obstante, no solo pretendemos compartir procesos y resultados. El diseño del currículum que presentamos pretende problematizar, desde la acción y no solo desde el discurso, la relación entre la transformación pedagógica y las políticas de evaluación de la actividad científica del profesorado impulsadas desde la institución universitaria. Visibilizar, por tanto, un proyecto de investigación socio-crítica centrado en un diseño curricular y, como consecuencia, contra hegemónico (en tanto en cuanto desobedece las leyes de la productividad tal y como se entiende en estos momentos), nos parece una bonita forma de ir avanzando hacia la construcción de una Universidad más abierta, más diversa, más crítica y más comprometida. Abstract: The aim of this article is to share the process that has been carried out in order to design the curricular ecosystem of the bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education, in Gestions Creatives (Creative Management) at Lleida University of Education, Psychology and Social Work. This curricular ecosystem, which articulates in an innovative way competences, aims, contents, methodologies and assessments, has been constructed through a process of qualitative socio-critique, and has the purpose to uplift a process of pedagogical transformation within teachers training and to question the pedagogical models of the University. However, this article does not only intend to share processes and outcomes. The design of the curriculum we are presenting, aims to problematize from the action, not just from the discourse, the relationship between the pedagogical transformation and the politics of assessment of the teachers' scientific activity, driven by the academic institution. Making visible, therefore, a project of socio-critical research focused on a curricular design and, as a consequence, anti-hegemonic (in that it disobeys the laws of productivity as it is understood in current times), it makes us think it is a beautiful way to move forward towards the construction of a university that is more open, diverse, more critical and committed.
... Antes de explicar por qué las comunidades de fan fiction online se consideran facilitadoras de la adquisición de competencias transmedia orientadas a la lectoescritura y educación literaria, es necesario plantearse lo siguiente: por qué los adolescentes aprenden más, participan más y están más involucrados con el contenido de los medios que con lo que aprenden en clase. Desde el campo de los estudios de fans (Booth, 2012;Lachney, 2012;Jenkins, 2019;Lacasa, 2020), las investigaciones sobre juventud y medios digitales (Ito et al., 2010;Ito et al., 2013), los estudios de las nuevas alfabetizaciones o new literacies (Lankshear;Knobel, 2006;Lluch, 2014), la digital literacy (Buckingham, 2007;Hartley, 2009); y más recientemente, el alfabetismo transmedia (Lugo, 2020; Gil-Quintana; Camarero-Cano; Osuna-Acedo, 2020), se ha criticado la incapacidad de las instituciones educativas de incorporar las "prácticas letradas vernáculas" (Cassany, 2013), como el fan fiction, que los adolescentes realizan fuera de las aulas, en sus ratos de ocio dentro del maremágnum digital. ...
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... These montetization attempts have largely failed, in part due to the work of fandom activist group the Organization for Transformative Works 1 , which formed in the aftermath a particularly prominent period of fandom censorship [43]. The development and impact of their Hugo Award Winning fanfiction hosting site, Archive of Our Own 2 , has enabled additional avenues of research on collective means of engaging in creative work [57]. ...
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Online creative communities are increasingly a space for marginalized groups to build solidarity and engage in activist work, encouraging the exploration and articulation of intersectionally-marginalized identities through processes of creative production. One such context for creative production includes community-driven sites such as Archive of Our Own, which by their design are intended to leverage and effectively support voices that are marginalized on other social platforms. In this paper, we build upon work on creative production and fan communities to further describe the work of fanart and fanzine collectives. We share the results of 1) an interview study with fanzine producers and 2) a two month remote co-design study where we further explored fanzine culture and the potential of future archival support. We used a range of qualitative methods to investigate themes of activism co-production in relation to the fanzine work of these producers, seeking to identify characteristic barriers and opportunities for community support as these artists seek to promote their work, encourage the co-production of work with other artists, and navigate the constantly shifting legal landscape associated with fanart. We conclude with implications for creative community support that amplify marginalized voices and facilitate archival work at the intersection of visual art, folksonomy, and legality. CCS Concepts: • Human-centered computing → Collaborative and social computing design and evaluation methods; Empirical studies in collaborative and social computing.
This article is concerned with the fanzines published within science fiction fandom from the 1930s onwards. Its focus is on the “amateur press association” (or “apa”) an organizational form for the distribution of fanzines among member-publishers. One variation of the apa is the club-based amateur press association, which emerged in the 1960s as a way of joining fanzine publishing to the in-person sociability of the science fiction club. The status of apa relative to other forms of communication within science fiction fandom is analyzed.
The fans, as the most ardent admirers of organizations or public figures, are a hyperactive part of the audience and an important source of influence and marketing resource. The essence of fandom is communication, therefore, finding out the peculiarities of communication behavior of fans determined the relevance of the research. The main objective of the study is to find out the main models and the mechanisms of fan communication, which is the basis for building the effective marketing strategies of business companies. Methodology. The work uses the method of anonymous online questionnaires in order to ascertain the communication features of fandom phenomenon; the method of expert interviews to obtain the answers to the questions about the peculiarities of communication between the fans and the fandoms. The method of secondary analysis of the results of all-Ukrainian research on values, identity, and motivations of Ukrainians, which made it possible to formulate the conclusions about the opinion leaders who gained high audience loyalty. The method of comparison is used to clarify the differences between the obtained results and the results of all-Ukrainian research, as well as to compare the scientific views of theoretical base. A comprehensive theoretical basis for own search was built using the systematic method. The results of the study. The study revealed the heterogeneity of communication behavior of fans in terms of intensity of loyalty, frequency, and form of contacts with the fans and willingness to invest in their hobbies, etc. The main models of communication behavior of fans were identified as: online fans, party fans and inert fans. The mechanisms of activation of loyalty to the fans were traced: the falling in love mechanism, the mechanism of emotional contagion, the mechanism of social modeling, the mechanism of identification. Conclusions and suggestions. The recommendations have been developed on how to use fandoms as brand ambassadors in marketing communications. The approaches to activate brand loyalty and audience expansion have been identified. The engagement strategy depends on the brand characteristics, the existing community of fans, as well as the resources invested in the interaction.
Since the proliferation of the Internet in the early nineties and mobile technology in the early noughties, reading and authoring have become networked, intersubjective practices that take place across multimedia storyworlds that are open-ended and connected. Taking the fantasy genre as a case study, this article shows that in the digital age readers do not simply replay or subvert fixed codes of meaning-making established by authors and publishing/production houses. Rather, they engage with metaleptic strategies of reading. They use transliteracy skills to produce creative interpretations of the storyworld. The result of this deeper engagement shifts the cultural function of reading back to a performative and social one. It also obliges authors and publishers to consider processes normally associated with production and curation as integral to their work.
Un écrivain ne construit jamais seul son œuvre. En transposant le concept de Becker en sociologie de la littérature, l’écrivain a besoin de « mondes » (1982), de personnes qui collaborent à la réalisation de l’œuvre. Cette thèse vise à démontrer que de nombreux acteurs ont joué un rôle dans la fabrication de celle de Charles Bukowski, mais aussi dans la fabrication de son image. Il s'agit d'une étude pluridisciplinaire, en trois axes. À travers sa publication, son image et sa réception, cette thèse met en lumière les parties prenantes à la transformation de Charles Bukowski en un mythe. Ces divers agents ont contribué à créer et à entretenir l'ensemble de son œuvre, du début des années 1960 jusqu'à aujourd'hui.Le premier axe est une étude paratextuelle (Genette, 1980) qui confirme l'impact des éditeurs, des agents littéraires, des traducteurs et des illustrateurs sur l’œuvre livresque de Bukowski. Cette partie compare l’édition de Bukowski dans son pays, les États-Unis, et son édition en France, où il connut le succès rapidement. L’étude paratextuelle a permis des échanges productifs avec des éditeurs, traducteurs, et une étude des couvertures de livres, en abordant l’évolution de l’image d’un titre sur le marché international. Cette étude des couvertures permettait une transition vers l’axe visuel de l’œuvre et le mythe Bukowski, son image de « vieux dégueulasse », de poète alcoolique, construite dans, mais aussi autour de ses textes, par ses photographes, ses réalisateurs, suivis d'autres artistes qui ont réutilisé, remédié cette image, particulièrement après sa mort. Notre hypothèse est que sans la création de cette « posture » (Meizoz, 2007), Henry Charles Bukowski Jr. ne serait pas devenu le Charles Bukowski désormais connu dans le monde entier. Cette persona est aussi étudiée sous forme intermédiée. Ces autres médias sont mis à l’honneur du dernier axe, qui s'intéresse à la réception de l’œuvre et de l’image de l’auteur, que ce soit par des lecteurs professionnels comme les journalistes français ou américains, ou la réception de son œuvre par des lecteurs sur Internet, dans un monde globalisé. La communauté de lecteurs créée autour de l’œuvre de Charles Bukowski sur le nouveau médium Internet permet sa survie et sa protection, à l’aide de discussion dans des forums, d’un travail d’archivage ou de « remédiations » (Bolter, Grusin, 1999) de son image et de ses textes. En effet, de nos jours, il est difficile de délier l’image d’un texte, particulièrement sur Internet, où tout est remédié, adapté, discuté, à l’aide d’images. Les transferts d’image vers d’autres médiums s’emparent de la persona de Bukowski et lui donnent une forme nouvelle, qu’il est intéressant d’aborder. Ainsi, tous les intermédiaires, de la publication à la réception, ces agents ayant pris part à la mise en page, à la mise en image, et à la lecture de l’œuvre de Charles Bukowski, font partie de ce monde bukowskien.
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El monográfico!La ficción televisiva latinoamericana en tiempos de cambio (2015-2021) pretende ser una mirada plural y crítica sobre la ficción televisiva latinoamericana, que se articula en dos segmentos. El primero alude a las narrativas y está integrado por tres artículos, que exploran otras tantas dimensiones de la producción chilena (la recuperación de la memoria social), mexicana (el postfeminismo) y brasileña (los cambios inducidos por Netflix) respectivamente. Los artículos del segundo grupo giran alrededor de la nueva ecológica digital de los medios, que de manera sistemática ha tenido un impacto en las dinámicas de produccion, distribución, pro moción y consumo de la ficción en la televisión.
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This book offers a media ethnography of the digital culture, conventions, and urban spaces associated with fandoms, arguing that fandom is an area of productive, creative, and subversive value. Download at:
To dismantle negative stereotypes of fans, this book offers a media ethnography of the digital culture, conventions, and urban spaces associated with fandoms, arguing that fandom is an area of productive, creative, and subversive value. By examining the fandoms of Sherlock , Glee , Firefly , and other popular television-based franchises, the author appeals to fans and scholars alike in her empirically grounded methodology and insightful analysis of production hierarchies, gender, sexuality, play, and affect.
The fast‐growing field of fan studies has a literary history problem. Fanfiction, the prevailing myth tells us, owes its creation to the male‐dominated world of the 1930s science fiction pulps. As an origin story, this tale consigns fanfiction to the genre scrapheap—a by‐product of the lowest of lowbrow literary productions. But this history neglects the bigger picture of American fan writing in the early twentieth century, which was shaped by the literary popular press to an extent not yet acknowledged by scholars. Fandom, and its attendant practices, have always been caught up in the literary marketplace, and not just on its fringes. This chapter examines a few of the textual traces of literature fandoms and literary fans of the early twentieth century—the very historical moment that printed media circulated the concept of the “fan” as an articulable identity.
Gathering some of Kristina Busse’s essential essays on fan fiction together with new work, Framing Fan Fiction argues that understanding media fandom requires combining literary theory with cultural studies because fan artifacts are both artistic works and cultural documents. Drawing examples from a multitude of fan communities and texts, Busse frames fan fiction in three key ways: as individual and collective erotic engagement; as a shared interpretive practice in which tropes constitute shared creative markers and illustrate the complexity of fan creations; and as a point of contention around which community conflicts over ethics play out. Moving between close readings of individual texts and fannish tropes on the one hand, and the highly intertextual embeddedness of these communal creations on the other, the book demonstrates that fan fiction is simultaneously a literary and a social practice. Framing Fan Fiction deploys personal history and the interpretations of specific stories to contextualize fan fiction culture and its particular forms of intertextuality and performativity. In doing so, it highlights the way fans use fan fiction’s reimagining of the source material to explore issues of identities and peformativities, gender and sexualities, within a community of like-minded people. In contrast to the celebration of originality in many other areas of artistic endeavor, fan fiction celebrates repetition, especially the collective creation and circulation of tropes. An essential resource for scholars, Framing Fan Fiction is also an ideal starting point for those new to the study of fan fiction and its communities of writers.