Karen Hellekson

August 5, 2015

From Hartwell, Age of Wonders

Filed under: Uncategorized — Karen Hellekson @ 2:53 pm

Fandom is the loosely organized realm of the science fiction fans. “Fan” has a special meaning when applied to the science fiction field, where it is not to be taken in the loose sense of the aficianado, although that is an original synonym. A science fiction fan is not merely one who observes, who watches, no matter how worshipfully and attentively, as may be the case with a sports fan or a fan of popular music or a devotee of the works of Agatha Christie. SF fandom is made up of people engaging in one or more of the following activities: participating in local science fiction clubs or discussion groups; writing letters to magazines that publish SF; writing letters to other SF fans; attending regional or national SF conventions; collecting SF or related materials; publishing or participating in amateur publications about SF; publishing or participating in publications about SF fandom (not necessarily about science fiction directly).

A person who reads only SF, even if he or she reads a great deal of it, but does not engage in any of these activities is not part of the world of fandom and for the sake of clarity will be referred to as an SF reader rather than a fan. The great majority of SF readers—including most omnivores and chronics—in this strict sense are not fans.

Fans make up only a small part, perhaps 5 percent, or the SF audience. However, they play a central and crucial role in making the SF field what it is. Without fandom, SF might never have established itself as a genre, might well have perished long ago. The activities of fans have kept it alive and vigorous. (147–48)

What motivates the fan, the point of fan activity, is the construction, finishing, and exhibiting of a fan persona through collecting, convention appearances, and writings and other active contributions to the publishing of fanzines. What makes the development of this persona possible is the fact that fandom is a microcosm, a private, limited world with its own rules and mores, small enough so that some sense of belonging is within the reach of every fan who wants to be a part of it. (167)

—David Hartwell, Age of Wonders: Exploring the World of Science Fiction (New York: Walker, 1984)

From Moskowitz, Immortal Storm

Filed under: Uncategorized — Karen Hellekson @ 12:41 pm

The first president of the [Scienceers sf fan] club was a colored fan whose hobby was rocketry, and the Scienceers met at his Harlem home. The willingness of the other members to accede to his leadership, regardless of racial difference, has never had an opportunity for duplication, for James Fitzgerald was the first and last colored man ever actively to engage in the activities of science fiction fandom. It is an established fact that colored science fiction readers number in the thousands, but with the exception of Fitzgerald, the lone Negro who attended the first national science fiction convention in 1938 and the single Negro members [sic] of the later groups, the Eastern Science Fiction Association and the Philadelphia Science Fantasy Society, they play no part in this history.

—Sam Moskowitz, “The Beginning of Organized Fandom,” The Immortal Storm: A History of Science Fiction Fandom (Westport, CT: Hyperion, 1974), 10

October 22, 2014

Doctor Who talk at UMF!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Karen Hellekson @ 12:05 pm

I’ll be presenting my Doctor Who fan video talk at UMF, Emery Community Arts Center, Performance Space, on Wednesday, October 29, 2014, from 11:45a to 1p.

Check out the great poster! Hope to see you there.

 photo hellekson-doctor-who-talk_zps2d8aeaa7.jpg

August 19, 2014

Worldcon talk 2014-08-18

Filed under: Uncategorized — Karen Hellekson @ 6:14 am

Thanks to all who attended my Worldcon keynote, “Affirmational and Transformational Doctor Who Fan Videos.” I promised to link to the videos I showed, so here goes.

Censor clip

From “Fury From the Deep” (1968), with Oak and Quill launching a toxic gas attack against Maggie Harris. It may be found on the DW BBC DVD Lost in Time: Collection of Rare Episodes (2004).

Fan-created reconstructed videos of missing eps (recons)

  • Clip from 2000 Loose Cannon colorized recon of “Marco Polo” (1964) on YouTube (my clip was the start of “The Wall of Lies”).
  • Clip from 2008 WhoSprites recon of “The Smugglers” (1966) on YouTube.
  • Clip from drwhoanimator recon of “The Smugglers” (1966) (same bit as above) on YouTube.
  • “The Omnirumour: I Want to Believe” by Leon Hughes (2014) at YouTube (fan vid regarding rumors swirling around the 2013 finding of missing eps).

Titles and trailers

  • “Doctor Who Original Concept Peter Capaldi Intro” by Billy Hanshaw (2013) on YouTube (credited by BBC as inspiring Twelve’s opening titles).
  • “50th Anniversary BBC One Trailer” by VG934 (Dom) on YouTube.
  • “Rain” trailer by John Smith (2014) on YouTube.
  • “Rain” trailer VFX breakdown by John Smith (2014) on YouTube.

Fan music vids

  • “Take On Me” by Greensilver (2010) (no link provided; google it to find it).
  • “Handlebars” by Flummery (2008) (no link provided; google it to find it). Part of the Test Suite of Fair Use Vids.
  • “Papa Don’t Preach” by Greensilver and Eunice (2008) (no link provided; google it to find it).
  • BONUS VID! “Wholock” by John Smith (2013) on YouTube (and VFX breakdown here).

March 10, 2014

Latest publications

Filed under: self-promotion — Karen Hellekson @ 12:06 pm

My comp copies have arrived for my two latest publications!

Comp copies of books

The reprint anthology I coedited with Kristina Busse has been released from the University of Iowa Press:

Hellekson, Karen, and Kristina Busse. 2014. The Fan Fiction Studies Reader. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press.

Kristina and I wrote the introduction and head notes to introduce each section. We have placed our texts in the public domain after 10 years’ time, so in 2024, they may be reproduced by anyone (but not the essays! those are separately copyrighted).

Here are the contents:

Fan Fiction as Literature

  • Henry Jenkins, “Textual Poachers”
  • Roberta Pearson, “It’s Always 1895: Sherlock Holmes in Cyberspace”
  • Cornel Sandvoss, “The Death of the Reader? Literary Theory and the Study of Texts in Popular Culture”

Fan Identity and Feminism

  • Joanna Russ, “Pornography by Women, for Women, with Love”
  • Patricia Frazer Lamb and Diana L. Veith, “Romantic Myth, Transcendence, and Star Trek Zines”
  • Sara Gwenllian Jones, “The Sex Lives of Cult Television Characters”

Fan Communities and Affect

  • Camille Bacon-Smith, “Training New Members”
  • Nicholas Abercrombie and Brian Longhurst, “Fans and Enthusiasts”
  • Constance Penley, “Future Men”

Fan Creativity and Performance

  • Kurt Lancaster, “Performing in Babylon—Performing in Everyday Life”
  • Francesca Coppa, “Writing Bodies in Space: Media Fan Fiction as Theatrical Performance”

In addition, I have the following essay in a book about TV remakes:

Hellekson, Karen. 2014. “Forbrydelsen, The Killing, Duty, and Ethics.” In Remake Television: Reboot, Re-use, Recycle, edited by Carlen Lavigne, 131–40. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield/Lexington Books.

August 18, 2013

Why I don’t teach

Filed under: essay — Karen Hellekson @ 9:35 am

In a June 5, 2013, Chronicle article entitled I Don’t Like Teaching. There, I Said It., the pseudonymous Sidney Perth notes, “So if you don’t like teaching, don’t worry about it. You don’t have to like it; you just have to care about it.” Naturally Perth gets some pushback in the comments, which range from “then please do something else” to “teaching is just one part of the job of being an academic.” However, reading Perth’s post, I conclude that Perth’s reasons for not liking teaching are not my reasons. Unmotivated students, boring essays that you have to grade on deadline—we pretty much all hate that stuff.

Here’s why I don’t teach: it makes me physically ill.

I was a GTA for 4 years at the university where I got my PhD, and I won a teaching award. (I like to think that means I didn’t suck at the job.) You know that feeling of slightly sick excitement that occurs when you do something novel? Some teachers feel it before the first day of class. Some people feel it so acutely that they vomit. But then they feel better and the experience normalizes.

I never normalized. I felt ill every day before I taught, and then I felt ill on the days I taught.

I could not sleep the night before I taught because I was so stressed out. During class, I was acutely aware of students looking at me. I had trouble winging it; I had to be absolutely, positively completely prepared. I wrote out 10 things to cover in each class, just to ensure I’d fill the time allotted. If I didn’t have these things, I could barely breathe during class. On off days, when I wasn’t teaching, I was busy prepping. On on days, when I had to teach, I was busy freaking out. I felt nervously ill all the time.

It was utterly exhausting.

I went to counseling to learn relaxation techniques. I compulsively researched teaching methods, pedagogy, and excellence. Because I felt terrible about every aspect of teaching, I couldn’t tell what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong; it all felt wrong. I thought all my students hated me because I felt like I hated them—because it was all so stressful. I had completely normal student evaluations, but I focused on the two students who despised me while utterly discounting all other feedback, thus creating a self-fulfilling loop of despair.

There’s a difference between Perth’s not liking teaching and my not liking teaching: Perth can tolerate it, and I cannot. My very body will not let me teach.

My biggest fear is that something will happen and I will be forced to teach for a living. I realize this is irrational: I have a deep skill set in other fields, notably publishing, and I could easily find a job in that field if I was willing to move. My PhD is now too old for me to get work as anything other than an adjunct. Plus, what if the MA program in science fiction at Liverpool phones me up and asks me to teach a module in, say, the alternate history? Because that sounds really cool. (Although I’d be better at administration. I’m just saying. In case Liverpool reads this.)

I fully understand that this physical dislike of teaching seems irrational in light of things that I do that seem similar but that do not generate the same anxiety. For example, I can get up in front of people at an academic conference and deliver a paper. And I can wear skimpy clothing and jump around teaching aerobics. Maybe it’s because these activities feel like one-off performances to me, rather than consistent pedagogical engagement.

I do know this: students deserve an instructor who rolls out of bed thinking something other than, “Oh, please, god, NO. NO.”

May 23, 2013

Kindle Worlds and fan fiction

Filed under: essay — Karen Hellekson @ 10:53 am

The Internet (and my inbox) has exploded over the last day or so as people took notice of Amazon/Kindle’s latest venture: Kindle Worlds. Amazon says excitedly, “Get ready for Kindle Worlds, a place for you to publish fan fiction inspired by popular books, shows, movies, comics, music, and games.”

What have we here? Why, it’s the latest attempt* by content providers to monetize fan labor. As far as that goes, it may be the best deal I’ve seen. Wannabe writers may write in one of three fandoms/properties: Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and The Vampire Diaries (more are promised). All these are owned by Warner Bros. Naturally the requirements are pretty stringent: no explicit sex, no crossovers, etc. (author guidelines here).

I’m not exactly filled with horror about this, because if you define fan fiction as “derivative texts written for free within the context of a specific community,” then this isn’t that. True, they are fans. And they write… fiction. But what Amazon Worlds is doing is extending the opportunity to writers to work for hire by writing, on spec, derivative tie-ins in a shared universe, under terms that professional writers would be inclined to reject. However, “work for hire, on spec, for certain tie-ins” doesn’t really have the ring of “fan fiction,” does it? By using the term fan fiction, they are shorthanding their future writers as well as their perceived audience.

Fans rightly look askance at content providers who extend such opportunities, because usually the content provider offloads all the risk and takes all the revenue. So Kindle Worlds, by getting the content providers on board, explicitly setting out the rules, and stating the royalties up front, is already doing some things right. In addition, the “Worlds” thing is key to Kindle Worlds:

Kindle Worlds is a creative community where Worlds grow with each new story. You will own the copyright to the original, copyrightable elements (such as characters, scenes, and events) that you create and include in your work, and the World Licensor will retain the copyright to all the original elements of the World. When you submit your story in a World, you are granting Amazon Publishing an exclusive license to the story and all the original elements you include in that story. This means that your story and all the new elements must stay within the applicable World. We will allow Kindle Worlds authors to build on each other’s ideas and elements. We will also give the World Licensor a license to use your new elements and incorporate them into other works without further compensation to you.

One traditional aspect of fan fiction is its place within an active community. Amazon taps into this by explicitly permitting authors to riff off each other’s work. I like that they get that.

Fans won’t stop writing fan fiction: the restrictions for writing for Kindle Worlds may be too onerous for what many fans wish to write. The joy of fan fiction is that you can write whatever the hell you want, and someone is there to read it and love it. In addition, many fans are already professional writers, and they may not want to write tie-ins under terms that they would not accept for their professionally written work. And lots of fans are simply not interested in going pro; they are happy to write works to distribute for free to their community, and they don’t see writing fan fiction as something they want to monetize.

But that said, for those fans who do wish to give this a go (I would be interested myself, except… then I’d have to watch the shows), yes, you’re being exploited, but I anticipate that Kindle Worlds (if it doesn’t fall under the onslaught of fan fury†) will end up with a stable of steady writers who create their own (gated) fannish community, with cross-references and cross-writing. That would be interesting to see. But those who wish to break into freelance writing ought to brush up on what terms the industry thinks are acceptable. And maybe they should join a union.


* Remember FanLib?
† Remember FanLib?

January 2, 2013

Upgrading to Windows 8

Filed under: lifehack — Karen Hellekson @ 3:37 pm

I bit the bullet and upgraded my Windows 7 laptop to Windows 8, seduced by the promise of faster boot times and more security, not to mention its decent price. I downloaded the installer, had it check my system for compatibility, paid my money, and let the OS install. I did not bother backing up or migrating any info, because everything I care about is in my perfectly synced Dropbox account.

Was the upgrade worth it? After 2 solid days of attempting to tweak everything to permit functionality and productivity, I’d have to say no. My recommendation: only bother with Windows 8 if it is preinstalled on your new computer or if you have a touchscreen device. Things may get better when there are more Win 8 apps, but right now, the biggest flaw is the system’s inability to play nice with Google. If you’re waiting for official Google apps—keep waiting. Google has announced that for now, they will not be making apps for Win 8.

After 3 solid days of tweaking, I finally have things how I want them. Yet why was it so hard? I googled questions I had and followed the directions once it became clear that I could not possibly work with what came natively with Win 8. The two biggest weaknesses of Win 8 apps are the failure to include any kind of simple, light photo editor (I installed Gimp) and the failure to include software to play CDs/DVDs (I installed VLC Media Player). I had the most trouble getting the Calendar app to work usefully.

When working properly, Calendar will show me upcoming events on its live Start tile. Its biggest weakness is that if you sync it directly with Gcal, it will only sync a single calendar, the main one. There’s a hack for this, but confusingly, Calendar is tied to Mail to update and a sync may not be forced. After several false starts, I managed to sync all five calendars with the Calendar app by pushing all the calendars to my Hotmail account following these instructions. The push works one way: I update my Google calendars in a browser, and it gets mirrored everywhere else. I also have my Google calendar as a shortcut (via Chrome) on the Start menu so I can access it with a single click.

The main criticisms of Win 8 are its nonintuitive Start screen interface and its insistence on making app screens full screen. Both of these are the result of the OS’s optimization for a touchscreen device. There are many shortcuts, both with mouse and keyboard (I can’t assess touch). In general, I have no problem with the interface. The Alt+Tab shortcut still works to flip between screens. The Charms menu (Win+C) is context sensitive, so the function of the five icons differs depending on where you are. Right clicking, dragging, tabbing, using arrow keys with Ctrl or Alt modifiers, hitting return—all of these (mostly) make sense to people used to keyboard shortcuts.

The hardest part was getting Calendar to work. The easiest part was editing the Start screen to look like I wanted. Adding and grouping tiles is simple. I also love the instant search: to boot a program, flip to the Start screen and start typing its name. When the program you want comes up, hit return and it launches. Easy. Another nice surprise: I use a heavily modified version of Word, and although I had to reinstall Office 2010, the system remembered all my Word preferences. My templates and remapped shortcuts were still there.

My Win 8 Start screen
My Win 8 Start screen

Programs I installed: CCleaner, Chrome (must use as default for Google functionality), Defraggler, Dropbox, Filezilla, Firefox, FreeStudio (file conversion), Gimp, iTunes, MakeMKV, Merriam-Webster, Microsoft Office 2010, Revo Uninstaller, VLC Media Player, Windows Media Player

Free Win 8 apps I installed from the Store: Facebook Touch, Google, Multimedia 8 (does not play DVDs), password manager, Photobucket, Skype, To-Dos

Win 8 tiles I created: Computer, Control Panel, Google Calendar, My Clients, Shutdown, Videos

Built-in Win 8 tiles I kept: Calendar, Contacts, Mail, Messaging, Photos, Social, Weather

Most useless Win 8 tiles: Photos (view only), Music (actually a marketplace), Video (actually a marketplace)

October 8, 2012

Fan Culture, ed. Larsen and Zubernis

Filed under: self-promotion — Karen Hellekson @ 9:38 am
Fan Culture book cover

Fan Culture book cover

Kristina Busse and Karen Hellekson. 2012. Identity, ethics, and fan privacy. In Fan culture, edited by Katherine Larsen and Lynn Zubernis, 38–56. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

May 1, 2012

Creating a fandom via YouTube

Filed under: self-promotion — Karen Hellekson @ 7:54 am

I just got my copy of the book my Verbotene Liebe essay appears in! Check out the pretty cover.

Book cover

My article is in part 2, “Constructing Identity in an Online, Cross-cultural World.” Here’s the full citation info.

Hellekson, Karen. 2012. Creating a fandom via YouTube: Verbotene Liebe and fansubbing. In New media literacies and participatory popular culture across borders, edited by Bronwyn T. Williams and Amy A. Zenger, 180–92. New York: Routledge.

Alert readers will remember that I wrote a blog post about this topic ages ago, in 2009: Verbotene Liebe, soap operas, fansubbing, and YouTube.

Alas, although I submitted images to go with my essay, in the end they could not be used. So hit the blog link if you want to see pictures and maybe watch a video or two.

A big thank-you to Bronwyn and Amy for being so great to work with! The book turned out beautifully and it’s an honor to be in it.

Naturally you can score this awesome book from Amazon.com.

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